“Slave” or “bondsman”. The distinction between indentured servitude and the ownership of one human being by another is a contentious subject among the Sages and made all the more complicated by our modern-world sensibilities. The Jews were captive slaves in Israel, but may biblical figures themselves are said to have owned eved. Within the confines of the English language, “bondsman” is the closest description of one who is below a servant in status or liberty, but is not bought and sold as chattel. Instead, the buying and selling of eved is the buying or selling of the debt a man owes – his bond of debt, which forced him into indentured servitude as a means of paying that debt.
An eved ivri is a Jewish slave, and an amah ivriyah is a female Jewish slave.
For a more full discussion on slavery and slaves in the Jewish tradition, refer to the Jewish Encyclopedia.« Back to Glossary Index