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Abraham went down into Egypt because of the scarcity of bread in Canaan, that he would likely purchase servants. I therefore think that the reason why we have such an inventory of Abraham's property, is to illustrate the hospitality of Pharaoh, or, at least, his partiality for Sarah, Abraham's alleged sister-wife, that he did so kindly treat a person of such extensive property, who would of course require a great deal of food and provender for such a household and for so
Olympas. Do you, Thomas, regard men-servants and maid-servants as property ?
Thomas. If sheep and oxen, asses and servants are property, then were maid-servants and menservants, because the same word designates them all. "And Abraham possessed sheep, oxen, asses, men-servants, maid-servants," &c. But what the nature of this property was I cannot define. The fact of possession, which I understand to be the principal idea of property, is undeniable: for the Patriarch had servants as much as he had sheep and cattle.
Reuben. So he had a wife, and she was his property too.
T'homas. Property she was, but not the same property; for Abraham did not buy nor inherit his wife, nor receive her as a present. Again, Hagar was an Egyptian, a daughter of Ham, a descendant of the servant family—“A servant of servants unto his brethren."
Olympas. But do you not assume too much when you assume that Abraham's IIagar was either bought, inherited, or received as a present?
Thomas. That Egypt was a slave-market is
undeniable from the fact that Joseph, the great grand-son of Sarah, was sold to the great-grandson of Hagar!
Olympas. How do you learn that fact, Thomas ?
Thomas. Joseph, the son of Jacob, the sou of Isaac, the son of Sarah, was sold by his own ten brothers for fifteen dollars, to a caravan of Ishmạelites in co-partnery with some Midianitish merchants who were trading to Egypt. Of course they bought him, like their spices, to sell again ; and we all know that Joseph was sold for a slave into Egypt.
Olympas. Sold for a slave Joseph was, and no doubt a market for slaves had been long before established. But will the antiquity or popularity of the practice justify the moral rectitude of it?
Thomas. Then we must justify polygamy and war, for both are more ancient than any account we have of making human beings mere goods and chattels.
Olympas. But human beings were never regarded as mere goods and chattels in the worst days of slavery. The slave had rights since the days of Abraham, which were never supposed to belong to goods or chattels; and, indeed, the property held in slaves in the Abrahamic family had a peculiarity which no writers have accurately described. It is expressed in the words of the proposition which Sarah made to Abraham concerning his taking Hagar, her slave, into his bosom. - The words are, “ That I may have children by her." The logic of Sarah's language was—"Hagar is my property; her offspring will be more my own than the offspring of any free woman which you could marry: therefore, as I
have no childreu in my own person, I may, by such a marriage, have children by her who is my own property.”—That this is not an inference founded on this solitary passage, I need but to mention the cases of Zilpah and Bilhah, the female slaves of Rachel and Leah, who were given to Jacob by his Rachel and Leah as Hagar was to Abraham by his beloved Sarah.
Thomas. But is there not in the very idea of property itself a variety of meaning ? A husband has property in a wife ; parents have property in their children ; masters have property in their servants; and landlords have property in their farms and their live stocks. But no two of these is property in the same sense, or on the same terms and conditions. Consequently the property in persons
and the property in things are not of the same nature, nor do they exist under the same conditions, stipulations, and agreements.
Olympas. Certainly there is a great difference in the application of the word property, and it is a great error in our reasoning to allege that because it is applied to so many subjects, they must be homogeneous. But it is enough to our understanding the lesson of the morning, to know that while Abraham had sheep, and cattle, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and sheasses, and camels, as property, they were not held under the same laws nor subject to the same conditions; nor was there any thing either grievous or immoral under the servitude in which his servants lived.
Reuben. May I ask a question before you dismiss this subject? I read in a book at school, that the
wives of eastern princes have absolute property over their female slaves, and that therefore the husbands have no control over them. In that case the meaning of the passage might be, that Hagar being the property of her mistress, and not of Abraham, her issue would be Sarah's own, and not Abraham's.
Olympas. So some ancient writers affirm. In that view, then, Hagar's offspring would not only be rearer to her in relation, but absolutely her own; for which reason the ancient women, who loved their husbands, in many cases gave their hand-maids for secondary wives, as our Saxon forefathers were wont to call them. must ask the juniors some questions. How old was Abraham when Sarah gave him Hagar ?
James. Eighty-five years old.
James. Abraham was seventy-five years old when he left Canaan, and after he resided in Canaan ten years Sarah gave him Hagar. This makes him eighty-five years old.
Olympas. Did Sarah and Hagar continue as good friends now as before, Eliza ?
Eliza. No: Sarah was despised by her servant Hagar.
Olympas. So true it is that few servants can endure exaltation. Yet we see Abraham yielding to the difficulty, and recognizing the absolute property of Sarah in her servant Hagar. And how, Susan, did the matter end ?
Susan. Sarah dealt hardly by her, and Hagar ran away.
Olympas. Ran away! Servants, then, anciently ran away when badly used.
Thomas. But her mistress offered no reward for Hagar. She ran away with her consent it would seem.
Olympas. What, Reuben, happened to the runaway Hagar?
Reuben. An angel from the presence of the Lord hailed her.
Olympas. And what did the Angel say?
Reuben. He advised her to return to her mistress.
Thomas. And did angels advise runaway servants to return home!
Olympas. Yes; but in those ancient days it was running away from home to run away from such a household as that of Abraham and Sarah. And such was the character of Sarah that the angel added, “Submit thyself to her hands.” Humanity and mercy are twin-sisters, daughters of a divine faith, natives of the heavens, and always point to deeds of kindness and benevolence. Therefore, those who run away from the righteous, run away from home. But what farther did the angel say to Hagar, Eliza ?
Eliza. The angel of the Lord foretold her destiny, and the number of her descendants by Abraham, in these words—"I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude;" and the angel added, “Call thy
el.” Thomas. Could angels promise to multiply the seed of Hagar exceedingly, and fulfill such promises ?
Olympas. This is one of many instances, which we shall meet in the Mosaic writings, of the angel of the Lord designating the Lord, the