The Mark of Slavery


Then Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.” But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days’ respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you.” When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the ears of the people, and all the people wept aloud. I Samuel 11:1-4 ESV

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV


In times and places where there are slaves, one cruel thing that is sometimes done to slaves is to brand them. This means to permanently burn some kind of mark into their skin. It’s a way to keep a slave under control and show that he or she is owned and can never be free. Slaves were sometimes branded in the United States. For example, a slave owner in North Carolina placed this notice about a runaway slave: ” . . . a few days before she went off burnt her on the left side of her face with the letter M.” Another slave in St. Louis named Reuben was branded with the words, “A slave for life.”

When Nahash the Ammonite conquered the city of Jabesh, the people of Jabesh knew that they would have to become slaves to the Ammonites. But Nahash wanted to do something very cruel to show he owned these people and to disgrace them. He wanted to gouge out each person’s right eye. This way everyone would see that the people of Jabesh were humiliated slaves and would never have any hope of rescue or freedom. They would always have the mark of slavery.

We were all once in hopeless slavery because we fell into sin and were separated from God. We were marked by sin, death, and the devil. There was no way we ever could have freed ourselves from this slavery, but God came to us in Jesus, and Jesus conquered all the powers of evil that held us by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. When we believe in Jesus and when we are baptized into him, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a new mark, a seal put on us by God. We are marked for life with God, now and forever.


Dear Jesus, thank you for winning eternal freedom for me with you. Amen.