•  2 min. read  •  grade level: 9
1. The words ebed and δοῦλος (those most commonly used for “servant”) convey the idea of bondmen or slaves. Some were bought with money and some were taken in war (compare Ex. 22:33If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. (Exodus 22:3)). Such a servant, if circumcised, might among the Israelites eat of the Passover—as bought he belonged to the family; but a hired servant might not (Ex. 12:44-4544But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. 45A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. (Exodus 12:44‑45); compare Lev. 22:1111But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat. (Leviticus 22:11)). (So Gentiles, though aliens, bought with the blood of Christ, have all the privilege of grace.) Children born of these would also be the property of the master (Ex. 21:44If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. (Exodus 21:4)). This form of servitude, though a result of sin, was recognized by the Mosaic law, and rules were given respecting it, and for the protection of the slaves.
In the New Testament Paul sent back Onesimus, a runaway slave, to his master, who was a Christian, and did not demand his liberation; but he beautifully puts before Philemon that he should possess Onesimus no longer as a slave, but as a brother beloved. The effects of sin were in the world, and God did not introduce Christianity in order to set the world right; but, while shedding light upon everything, and proclaiming grace to all, God’s purpose was “to take out of the nations a people for His name.” Christianity inculcated equal treatment of slaves, as we see in several of the epistles in which masters are addressed: men-stealers are condemned (1 Tim. 1:1010For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; (1 Timothy 1:10)).
Christian bondservants are declared to be the Lord’s “freemen” (1 Cor. 7:2222For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. (1 Corinthians 7:22)), and words of encouragement are addressed to them.
Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all call themselves “bondmen of the Lord,” and Christians generally are thus designated. The Lord Himself said, “I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:2727For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:27)); and now in heaven He serves His own as Intercessor and Advocate. He speaks also of a future day when He will gird Himself, make His servants sit down, and will come forth and serve them, thus being a minister to servants! (Luke 12:3737Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. (Luke 12:37)).
2. παῖς, “a child,” irrespective of age, and hence used for servant (Matt. 8:6,8,136And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. (Matthew 8:6)
8The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. (Matthew 8:8)
13And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. (Matthew 8:13)
; Matt. 14:22And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. (Matthew 14:2); Luke 7:77Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. (Luke 7:7); Luke 12:4545But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; (Luke 12:45); Luke 15:2626And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. (Luke 15:26); Acts 4:2525Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? (Acts 4:25)). The word is applied to Christ (Matt. 12:1818Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. (Matthew 12:18); Acts 3:13, 2613The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. (Acts 3:13)
26Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:26)
—translated “Son;” Acts 4:27, 3027For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, (Acts 4:27)
30By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. (Acts 4:30)
—translated “child;” and to Israel and to David in Luke 1:54,6954He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; (Luke 1:54)
69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; (Luke 1:69)