The Hebrew word for “compulsory service” is seʹvel, which has to do with a literal or a figurative load, an enforced burden, or burdensome labor. It can apply to corvée, that is, unpaid or partially unpaid work that an authority imposes on certain people, such as residents of a particular area.
The psalmist, in reflecting on the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage, represented Jehovah as saying: “I turned aside his shoulder even from the burden [or compulsory service].” (Ps 81:6; Ex 1:11) King Solomon conscripted men for forced labor for various building projects and placed foremen over them. (1Ki 5:13; 9:15, 23) When Solomon observed that the young man Jeroboam was a hard worker, “he proceeded to make him overseer over all the compulsory service of the house of Joseph,” that is, over the men conscripted from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.—1Ki 11:26-28.
Related to the Hebrew word seʹvel is sab·balʹ, meaning “burden bearer.” After taking a census of the men who were alien residents in Israel, Solomon put them in service, and 70,000 of their number became burden bearers. (2Ch 2:2, 17, 18) Many years later King Josiah repaired the temple, and “the burden bearers” were among those doing the work.—2Ch 34:12, 13.
The Hebrew word tsa·vaʼʹ, which often applies to military service or service in war, also means “compulsory labor,” that is, to pay off debt or guilt. Thus Jerusalem was to be told that her “military service” had been fulfilled and her error had been paid off. (Isa 40:1, 2, ftn) When under test, distressed and pain-racked Job likened life to hard, fatiguing service or “compulsory labor,” asking: “Is there not a compulsory labor for mortal man on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired laborer?” (Job 7:1) With similar sentiment, he later said to God: “You will make your vexation with me greater; hardship after hardship is with me,” or “one shift of compulsory labor after another is with me.” (Job 10:17, ftn) Job evidently felt that God was adding to his affliction by bringing one new hardship after another upon him. Job also likened the time that the dead spend in Sheol to compulsory labor, a burden that is enforced; yet he expressed hope in a resurrection.—Job 14:14.