A few years ago I reviewed Reid Litchfield’s book Enslaved to Saved. The key insight was how the initial translators of the Bible text into English obfuscated the prevalence of slavery in biblical times by using the term “servant” for the Greek term δοῦλος, widely known to scholars as referring to slaves.
This struck me recently when I read of Nephi’s interaction with Laban’s “servant,” Zoram. Given how we now know the Book of Mormon text was transmitted into English, it appears the Stuart-era Bible translators were somehow involved. So I wondered whether Zoram was not merely a servant, but instead the kind of enslaved steward that was common in the ancient Western world.
if Zoram was slave rather than servant, Nephi’s offer to Zoram is stunning.
I posited this reading to family, and one relative pointed out that when the converted Lamanites offer to become slaves to the Nephites in Alma 27:8, Ammon said it was against Nephite law to own slaves.
I hypothesize that in the schism following Lehi’s death that Nephite society rejected the practice of slavery while Lamanite society saw no reason to abandon this familiar and “useful” practice. This would explain the cultural differences that are exposed by the passage in Alma 27:8. It could also explain why Zoram and his descendants chose to align themselves with Nephi.
I now return you to your own efforts to study the Book of Mormon in this bicentennial year of Joseph’s initial vision.