How did people end up as slaves? The word translated “slave” can refer to several types of persons. Debt was the most common reason that people became slaves. The security provided by a good employer led some slaves to choose to remain in that status permanently. In ancient times, people could generally not be bought and sold at will, unlike much of the more horrific slavery in recent centuries around the world. Slavery has continued even to the present day, as vulnerable men, women, and even children are often forced into various kinds of unjust slavery.