Day 3: The Beating of a Slave

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."



Every slave, from household servant to common field hand, had assembled at the great plantation barn. Thomas (his master's favorite prior to his heinous crime) was led out to stand before the assembly while the charges of his crime were read. His hands were bound to chains that were then run through an iron ring hanging from the center beam of the barn, and the chains were pulled tight until he was literally standing on the tips of his toes. The foreman came out and slowly uncoiled the whip. Thomas' wife began to sob and she was commanded to keep silent, as were the rest of the slaves. 


And the whipping began.


The first lash hit Thomas with a crack that sounded like a pistol shot, bringing an instant welt to the surface of his back. The next two strokes opened up old scars from prior sessions, and the first sign of blood began to trickle down his back. The fourth, fifth and sixth lashes curled around Thomas' rib cage, tearing the flesh and opening up a flow of blood on his chest and stomach. Then the foreman, a master of his craft, got down to business.


On the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth blows, Thomas' little girl, Angel, could suppress her crying no more and begged for the beating to stop. The foreman smiled and continued - eleven, twelve, thirteen - the blood began to drip onto the dust of the barn floor... with the fourteenth lash, Thomas began to scream... fifteen, sixteen, seventeen... would the torture never stop?


Thomas pleaded with his master, begging him between his cries of pain, saying he was sorry for his crime... eighteen, nineteen, twenty... and finally the whipping stopped. Thomas' back and sides no longer looked like anything human, just raw patches of torn flesh and dripping blood... but the beating was over and the lesson was learned: There would be no more attempts by anyone on this plantation... to learn to read!


The account of Thomas is fictional, but is an accurate portrayal of an event that occurred with some regularity in the days of slavery. The Virginia Code of 1819 read, "That all meetings or assemblages of slaves, or free negroes or mulattoes mixing and associating with such slaves at any meeting house or houses, etc., in the night; or at any school or schools for teaching them reading or writing, either in the day or night, under whatsoever pretext, shall be deemed and considered an unlawful assembly; and any justice of a county... (is) to inflict corporal punishment on the offender of offenders , at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding twenty lashes."


Now, why even bring this up? Is it to foster mere racial disharmony in a nation that seems transfixed on crimes against humanity that were perpetrated before any of us were even born? No, the reason I bring this up is to show the lengths that slaveholders were willing to go to keep the slaves illiterate, and to show the punishment that some slaves were willing to risk in order to learn to read and write. The reason was this: Both the master and the slave knew that a literate slave would become even more dissatisfied with his bondage, and might then use his education to escape that bondage. Or, as a similar act of 1740 in South Carolina read when referring to the perils of allowing slaves to become literate: " may be attended with great inconveniences".


Now, if a slave was willing to risk unspeakable torture just to learn to read, and so many were willing to do just that, do you think that you might be able to risk the loss of a few minutes... to read your Bible?


Have you taken up the Thirty Day Bible Challenge yet? Reading through the New Testament will do something much more than give you some odd sense of bragging rights: It will put you in contact with the truth...


And the truth, will set you free.


Do you have the courage of the slaves who were willing to risk a beating in order to learn to read just for the hope of being free someday? Satan knows that those who continue to be illiterate in the Word of God will remain in bondage to him. Today's challenge is to read the 15th through the 21st chapters in Matthew. Why not take a few moments and read your Bible today? You will be glad you did!


"To the Jews who believed Him, Jesus said, "If you hold to My teaching, you really are My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

John 8:31-32, NIV