However, 20th century scholars such as Solomon Zeitlin and Ephraim Urbach, examined Jewish slave-ownership practices more critically, and their historical accounts generally conclude that Jews did permanently own Jewish slaves, and that Jewish slave-owners were no more compassionate than other slave owners of antiquity.
Historian Catherine Hezser explains the differing conclusions by suggesting that the 19th century scholars emphasized the humaneness of Judaism in order to facilitate the assimilation of Judaism into Western society.
The laws include punishment for slave owners that mistreat their slaves.
In the modern era, when the abolitionist movement sought to outlaw slavery, supporters of slavery used the laws to provide religious justification for the practice of slavery.
Hebrew slaves, in contrast to non-Hebrew slaves, became slaves either because of extreme poverty (in which case they could sell themselves to an Israelite owner) or because of inability to pay a debt.
One scholar suggests that the distinction was due to the fact that non-Hebrew slaves were subject to the curse of Canaan, whereas God did not want Jews to be slaves because he freed them from Egyptian enslavement.
Jewish views on slavery are varied both religiously and historically.