In Deuteronomy 15, Moses outlines how the Jews are to handle the poor among them who sell themselves into bondage. Though they’re permitted to buy foreigners and treat them as property, pass them down to their children, etc., they are expressly forbidden to call fellow Hebrews “slaves.” They do not own them–the unfortunate simply serve them.
According to the Law, bondservants serve until the Year of Jubilee, then they are offered their freedom. Not just that, but the master is to give to the servant of his own flocks and property so that the servant is equipped to go into the world and make something of himself. If the servant chooses instead to serve his master forever, his ear is pierced with an awl, and he is bound forever to his master’s house. The same goes for female bondservants who sell themselves because they are too poor to support themselves.
In the event that a daughter is sold to someone else, it is considered a betrothal to her master. If her master chooses not to wed her or give her to a son of the house, then he must release her from her bonds.
I complicated matters in Stray Drop by having Abigail’s family sell her to a Roman. Technically, this would be cause for some major frowning, but I’m sure it happened on occasion. Cleopas, however, still observes Hebrew Law. Hence why he and Ester treat their servants as family, and why Andrew boasts an earring in his ear to proclaim his allegiance to the Visibullis house.
Abigail would undoubtedly have chosen to serve her for life, but that is not what Ester envisions for the girl she loves like a daughter. Instead, she would like to arrange her marriage to an upstanding citizen of Jerusalem and send her off with an impressive dowry.
When Jason comes home, thinking as a Roman–slaves are slaves forever, you can do whatever you will with them–he seriously messes up these plans. When Cleopas gives her to him as his slave, that means that she is, by Hebrew law, his wife. But according to Roman law, she is just a slave, so he has whatever rights to her he wants without the title and honor due a wife. I created this loophole and have no idea how it may have played out in the situation in reality, LOL. It’s unclear what happens when Mosaic Law and Roman law clash like this. Hence, that’s where fiction steps in.
Return to Companion Guide