Hebrew Laws

 

Justice

The same Israelite identity that was forged in years of slavery in Egypt was also supposed to inspire the Israelites to take care of the foreigners within their own boundaries. The Law is sprinkled with commands such as:

"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." (Lev. 19:34)

Throughout the Law, God outlined a society that would take care of those most in need. Strangers were given special priority, along with widows and orphans, as people who were most vulnerable. The same can be said for many immigrants today, who lack financial or legal means to demand their rights. God repeatedly commanded the Israelites not to take advantage of foreigners. Among other things, they were told:

  • not to mistreat them (Lev. 19:33)
  • not to oppress them (Ex. 22:21)
  • not to withhold justice from them (Deut. 24:17)

This was more than just a casual suggestion. Those who denied justice to the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner were given the same curse as murderers and idol-worshippers (Deut. 27:19)

Welfare

Israelites were also commanded to set up systems that would provide for foreigners in need. We complain about immigrants clogging our social services today (even though, contrary to popular belief, they are ineligible for most of them). However, thousands of years ago, to provide for foreigners in need, God mandated an ancient version of the welfare system. For the orphan, the widow and the foreigner, Israelites were commanded to:

  • leave the excess of their grape, olive and wheat harvests (Deut. 24:19-22, Lev. 23:22)
  • set aside a tenth of their crops for every three years (Deut. 26:12)
  • eventually give them and their children an inheritance among the tribes of Israel (Ezek. 47:22)

Years later, when the Israelites were reprimanded for failing to follow God's law, one of the signs of their unrighteousness was the way in which they mistreated foreigners (Ezek. 22:29). All this to show the priorities of a God who "loves the alien" (Deut. 10:18), taking up his cause against even God's chosen nation.

 

 

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