This is a verse in the Bible which is used routinely to taunt believers: the Bible says you can sell you child as a slave:
7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
Exodus 21:7(AV). Newer translations have the word “slave” in place of maidservant. For instance, the television show the West Wing, the President character says: “I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21 : 7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?”
Admittedly, selling a child sounds horrible to an affluent, well fed family. So let’s think about this for a moment: if we assume that Israelites loved their children as much as we do, we must assume that sending a child out of the home would be only undertaken in the most extraordinary circumstances.
Remember that there was no welfare state at that time. Most people lived in subsistence agriculture. The threat of starvation was real and likely constant.
But someone will say, that is just unrealistic; that does not happen. But today I read this:
Julian Pitt-Rivers, a British anthropologist who published a classic study of a traditional Andalusian community in the early 1950s, wrote that it was common in the rural south for children from impoverished families to be sent to the mountains to look after sheep and goats in exchange for money.
Let us consider again the passage in Exodus 21:7. First, we must remember that the covenant promised material wealth — if the people of Israel fulfilled their requirements under the covenant. Thus, poverty was the result of sin. We must also realize that there was a framework of kinship and other mechanisms built into the law to prevent poverty. Thus, for any family to become so destitute that Exodus 21:7 was a reality spoke to a serious degradation of society overall.
The law was not given to save anyone-Israel was never a kingdom of saints. The Bible makes it plain the people were repeatedly in vicious, sinful rebellion.
Next consider that the purpose of the passage is not approve or condone selling one’s children as slaves/servants (in a subsistence economy even the well-off live miserable lives). The purpose of the law was alleviate the damage which could come even in this wretched state. This passage is a matter of protection, a command to stop the sin and brutality. It was a limitation not a grant of authority.