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The Law God Gave to Moses Thus far, this book has spoken repeatedly about Gods standard

of justice and righteousness revealed in the Old Testament. The next few chapters expound these principles of justice and righteousness by examining: 1. The law (or, more accurately, instruction) given to the Israelites through Moses. What prescriptions did God give for the ordering of Israelite society? 2. The practical implications of the law in Israelite society. Taken together, what would have been the whole effect on society had the Israelites followed the law? What does the whole picture of justice and righteousness in society look like? 3. How God held the Israelites accountable for following the law through approximately 1,500 years of prophetic ministry. How do these divinely inspired messages provide insight into Gods concern for social justice? Deriving Principles from the Old Testament The Old Testament reveals the nature of God and His expectations for societal interactions. Spanning more than a millennium, the Old Testament is an amazing, coherent narrative showing how God chose one nationthe Israelitesout of many nations to demonstrate to all people who He is, who humans are, and how God and humans relate to one another. Gods dealings with the Israelites in the Old Testament are for our instruction today. Paul used examples from Israels history to warn the church in Corinth against idolatry, and then explained, These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings to us, on whom the fulfillment 1 of the ages has come. Following the example of Paul, Christians today can examine the history of Gods relationship with the Israelites and derive principles that are applicable in modern situations. Identifying the principles taught in the Old Testament does not require extraordinary spiritual insight. There is no secret Bible code that Christians must learn before interpreting the Bible. Ordinary Christians endowed with discernment by the Holy Spiritand, perhaps, some basic historical context provided by a study Biblecan understand and apply the principles laid out in the Old Testament. However, Christians must read the scriptures responsibly, just as they would read any other text responsibly: in context and faithful to the authors intent. For example, when reading correspondence between two people, one would first want to understand who is writing to whom, the occasion of the letter, and the intent of the author before trying to discern the meaning. The same diligence is required when reading the Old Testament. Unfortunately, many Christians skip the work of reading the Bible responsibly and jump straight into interpretation and application devoid of context. Doing so, they derive meanings that neither the author nor the 2 recipients of the book would ever have imagined. To properly interpret the Old Testament, we must understand that its authors, although inspired by God, were not mindless robots taking divine dictation. They always had a purpose for writing, an intended audience, and a message to convey. Even in the case of the prophetic books, we can safely assume that the prophecies and historical interludes were recorded in the books with a specific audience and message in mind. Sometimes the audience and message were roughly contemporary to the events described, as with Deuteronomy, Nehemiah, or Ezra. Other times, such as with Chronicles, the author and audience lived and wrote centuries after the histories

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1 Corinthians 10:11 The exception is the New Testament authors who were inspired by the Holy Spirit in a unique way, or when the Holy Spirit reveals personally applicable messages to Christians in a way that is consistent with the rest of the Bible message.

recorded, compiling existing written or oral accounts. But, in general, the authors were Israelites writing to other Israelites about what happened in the past, with the aim of helping the audience understand the character and requirements of God for their contemporary situation, especially in light of Gods special promise to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Acknowledging the author, audience, and message of the Old Testament does not diminish its divine message, but instead clarifies and even elevates it. Taken together, the Old Testament is extraordinary in world literature, with a consistent theme that stretches across a millennium. The Old Testament begins with Moses, who recorded the history of mans beginnings, the relationship between God and Abraham, the lives of the other patriarchs, and the law (or, instruction) given by God. Moses aim in recording all this was to remind the Israelites of their special role in history and of Gods expectations for them as they established their new nation in the Promised Land. Many centuries after Moses, after the Israelites had been carried into exile by the Babylonians, the authors of Kings and Chronicles compiled histories of the kings of Judah and Israel to help Israelites understand their national tragedywhy God allowed the scattering of the Israelite nation. Finally, the books of the prophets before and after the exile recorded Gods direct messages to the Israelites, reminding them of His covenant with their nation, the disastrous ramifications for their breaking that covenant, and the promises of mercy and blessing to come. With a perspective that takes into account the author, audience, and message, every Christian today can read the Old Testament expecting to learn something about who God is, how He wanted the Israelites to relate to one another, and how He responded when they failed to follow His commands. And, once the Christian understands what a particular Old Testament book meant for the original audience, they can then begin to answer the question, What does this passage mean for me today? By studying the examples given in the Old Testament in this responsible manner, Christians can derive principlesunderstood in the light of teaching in the New Testamentthat they can then apply to current situations. Child Sacrifice as Analogous to Abortion For example, a study of child sacrifice in the Old Testament yields some basic lessons that Christians can apply to the modern debate surrounding abortion. The Old Testament repeatedly conveys Gods abhorrence of child sacrifice. God commanded the Israelites through Moses, Do not give up any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech [a Canaanite god], for you must not 4 profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. God says that child sacrifice is antithetical to true worship, and that the Israelites profane His name if they practice it while claiming to be His specially chosen people. Despite this clear command, the Israelites did eventually sacrifice their children to Molech. The author of Chronicles, writing centuries after the fact, condemns various Israelite kings for sacrificing their own children and for allowing their subjects to do so as well. The prophets repeatedly warned the Israelites against child sacrifice, reminding them of Gods command given in Leviticus. The command is clear, yet the Israelites repeatedly fall into this sin. The Book of Jeremiah provides a glimpse into the possible motive for the Israelites murdering their own childrensomething contrary to nature. Influenced by their Canaanite neighbors, the Israelites had begun sacrificing their children to idols in the hope that they would receive good

Take Chronicles, for example. Eight generations of descendants are listed after the post-exile governor Zerubbabel in 1 Chronicles 3:19-24. That would indicate an authorship for Chronicles around 400 B.C., whereas the events recorded in Chronicles occur centuries before. 4 Leviticus 18:21

harvests or other favors from God. Speaking through Jeremiah, however, God denies ever asking for such sacrifice. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the firesomething I did not command, nor did it enter my 7 mind, God says through the prophet. Surrounded by Canaanites that practiced child-sacrifice and ignorant of Gods instruction, the Israelites in Jeremiahs time saw sacrificing their children as a way to make their lives better: relief from famine, victory over an adversary, or success in a business venture. It is too easy for modern-day readers to condemn the Israelites as bloodthirsty idol-worshippers. When they sacrificed their child to the gods, Israelite parents made a pragmatic decision that weighed the lives of that child against their own welfare or the welfare of their family. In the midst of a drought and looking at the child they intended to kill, many Israelite parents must have thought, What good would it be for this child to grow up in our house if we have nothing to feed them? Unless there is evidence to the contrary, the reader must assume these parents shed profuse tears of grief as their child burned. By observing the issue of child sacrifice in the Old Testament and interpreting the relevant passages in context, Christian readers today come away with a message that is tremendously applicable to the modern issue of abortion. Although people today do not abort their children in sacrifice to a physical idol, they largely share the same motivations as the Israelites did in 600 B.C. To be generous, most women who abort their children, or fathers that urge an abortion, believe it will be the best solution to what is often an admittedly difficult problem. An unplanned pregnancy in todays society can upset plans for college, family finances, or career aspirations. Weighed against these consequences, parents today may decide to abort their childcontrary to their natural instinct to protect and love a unique life bequeathed to them by God. Christians who regard the Bible as the word of God cannot question the immorality of abortion: it is directly analogous to the child sacrifice in the Old Testament that God unambiguously condemns. Every human life is a sacrosanct gift entrusted to a natural family, whether planned or not, or convenient or not. But, Christians diverge when it comes to applying the teaching of Scripture in a representative democracy. Christians that adopt the pro-life position, based on their understanding of Gods righteousness standard, believe that they must do everything they can democratically, including peaceful protest, to minimize the number of elective abortions where the life of the mother is not in danger. Christians adopting the pro-choice position agree with biblical teaching that abortion is immoral, but they maintain that the government cannot legislate morality and that abortion is a personal matter for the mother to decide. Dictates of conscience, however, require Bible-believing Christians advocate the former position, as is argued in the previous chapter. Gods Justice Includes Salvation for the Weak and Oppressed In the same way that Christians can find biblical principles in the Old Testament to answer the specific question of abortion, they can find the principles of justice and righteousness that help clarify biblical teaching on social justice. Following the pattern laid out in the preceding section, the place to start is in the law given to Moses. What the Old Testament is to the Bible, the Mosaic
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We see an example of this motive in 2 Kings 3:26-27. With his army defeated and his capital besieged by the Israelites, the king of Moab offered his firstborn son on the city walls as propitiation to the gods. 6 These Israelites still worshipped the God of their ancestors, Yahweh, but saw nothing wrong with worshiping the gods of the nations that surrounded them as well. King Solomon, who built the Temple in Jerusalem, set the precedent for this syncretistic worship several hundred years earlier. 2 Kings 11:4-5, As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 7 On three separate occasions in Jeremiah, God emphatically denies that He ever wanted the Israelites to sacrifice their children. God told them that, if they sought His favor, then sacrificing their children would by no means induce Him to bless them. Jeremiah 7:31, above, and also repeated in 19:5 and 32:35.

Law is to the Old Testament. The instruction that God gave to the Israelites in the Torah is the background necessary to understand Old Testament history and prophesy. In it, God lays out the terms of His covenant with the Israelites and the teaching to which they must adhere as a society. The law is the touchstone for understanding social morality and is replete with provisions meant to ensure an equitable society. If asked about these provisions, many Christians today would think of the commands that ensure fairness and impartiality. For example, the law not only prohibits stealing outright but even includes details such as the prohibition against moving a boundary marker between properties. In the judicial process, the law forbids both perjury and partiality. The law also includes sundry other stipulations for fair conduct between husbands and wives, and masters and slaves. Perhaps no other command sums up the fairness prescribed in the law as the phrase eye for eye, tooth for tooth recorded in Leviticus 24:17-22: If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. Anyone who takes the life of someones animal must make restitutionlife for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death. You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the Lord your God. All the provisions aforementioned describe a strict standard of justice in a purely legal sense, and for this reason the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments are displayed in courthouses throughout the United States. However, Gods standard of justice is not only characterized by 8 fairness, but also by generous mercy and grace. The social justice provisions in the Mosaic law go beyond fairness and impartialitythey teach the character of God as one who protects the weak and vulnerable from oppression and fills the hungry with good things. As Moses explained to the Israelites: For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the case of the 9 fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. Truly, God is fair and impartial in His judgments, but thankfully He is more than that. He is merciful and gracious, with a special eye for those who are desperate to receive His salvation and peace. If God was only concerned with strict justice in a legal sense, He never would have sent His Son Jesus to die as an atoning sacrifice for peoples sin. It is because of His loving kindness that He sent His Son to save needy people from their deserved punishment. Jesus Himself taught that Gods special favor was consummated in the incarnation of His Son, but that this favor was for the poor and needy, the weak and oppressed, and all who desperately hoped in Him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
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As James put it in James 2:13, Mercy triumphs over judgment! Deuteronomy 10:17-18

and recovery of sight for the blind, To release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 10 Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The year of the Lords favor in the passage refers to the Year of Jubilee, an important social justice provision in the Law of Moses that provided an economic salvation for poverty-stricken Israelites, but Jesus referenced it to describe his own ministry to the weak and marginalized. He later expanded this merciful characterization of His ministry, saying, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous [or, rather, those who consider themselves righteous], but sinners [who acknowledge themselves as such and admit their need 11 of a Savior] to repentance. The same God that demands absolute fairness and impartiality also mercifully sent His Son to die for an undeserving and wretchedly sinful humanity. Yet God is not a Janus with two natures. His justice is not in contrast to His mercy, but an integral part of it. The opposite is also true; Gods mercy is an integral part of His justice and righteousness. By examining the social justice provisions in the Mosaic Law, Christians can understand Gods standard of justice and righteousness as more than legal fairness or religious purity, but also encompassing mercy and grace. Unfortunately, many Christians miss the message of mercy and grace portrayed in the Law of Moses and instead focus on what it teaches about Gods holiness and wrath against sin. In the worst cases, Christians see the God as exhibiting different natures in the Old and New 12 Testamentspunishing sin in the Old and extending mercy in the New. But, more commonly, Christians simply do not understand the full extent to which God reveals His grace and mercy in the Old Testament, especially through the commands He gives in the Mosaic Law. As a result, they see sins of commission as clear breaches of Gods command in the Old Testament, but not the equally condemned sins of omission. Yet, in regard to justice and righteousness, the Old Testament fails to distinguish between sins of commission such as stealing, sexual deviance, or idolatry, and sins of omission such as the neglect of those in need or failure to protect the weak. As James puts it in his epistle, Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesnt do 13 it, sins. Christians living in representative democracies today must consider the totality of what the Old Testament teaches about the character of God if they are to advocate for policies that adhere to His standard of justice and righteousnessnot just fairness and impartiality in a legal sense, but also protection for the weak and provision for those in need. They cannot fulfill their unique role as salt and light to society if they advocate a lop-sided view of Gods justice that zealously protects private property while paying only lip-service to social equity. They must balance the view that God helps those who help themselves with the realization that God delights in helping those who are unable to help themselves. Notice, again, how Moses describes God at the outset of his reiteration of the Law:

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Luke 4:16-21, referencing Isaiah 61:1-2 Luke 5:31, with amplification from the author. The Second Century heretic Marcion, for example, rejected the Old Testament and Jewish elements in the New Testament because he saw them as contradictory to a message of grace. Today, some Christian grace preachers make the same mistake. 13 James 4:17

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the case of the 14 fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. Here, Moses holds God up as the ultimate arbiterand, indeed, sourceof true justice. There is no higher authority to which one could appeal, nor any need for appeal. God is, in His nature, the final and inflexible standard of justice and righteousness. Yet, in the same breath, Moses declares Gods intervention on behalf of a special segment of societya bias for the disadvantaged and marginalized. This brief statement by Moses encapsulates the essential truth about Gods justice: that His mercy is not contrasted against His absolute justice, but instead is an integral part of that justice. Christians who seek to advocate for the biblical standard of justice and righteousness need to understand how Gods justice includes salvation for the weak and oppressed. To do so, we must look back to what the Old Testament reveals of Gods character, starting with the Law of Moses. Day Laborers Compared to our modern economy of global corporations and labor markets, the economy of biblical times was relatively simple. The Law of Moses anticipated four economic classes of people among the Israelites once they settled in the Promised Land: estate owners and their families, servants who lacked freedom but were considered to be part of the family, hired workers who retained their freedom and lived on a wage, and finally foreigners who had made their home 15 among the Israelites. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the Mosaic Law prohibits employers from delaying the payment of wages due to hired workers. Lacking the property and equipment needed to operate their own enterprise, these poor but free men hired themselves out to estate owners who needed help working their land. References in Job and Isaiah indicate that hired workers agreed to contracts as short as one day 16 or as long as one year. Genesis records that Jacob agreed to seven-year labor contracts with his rich uncle, Laban. However, the provisions in Leviticus and Deuteronomy aim at protecting the former class of hired workersthe day laborers who lived a hand-to-mouth existence and who counted on their daily wage for sustenance. These men, and perhaps women, lived on the fringes of society and, lacking the security of property or stored wealth, suffered the most in times of national duress, such as famine or war. Though a New Testament example, the Prodigal Son described by Jesus in Luke 15:11-32 provides an excellent picture of this type of worker. Alone in a foreign land, his money exhausted, the son hires himself out to a local landowner as a swineherd. His position is so low and precarious that he envies the pigs for being able to fill their bellies. Another apt New Testament example is another of Jesus parables: the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16. In that parable, the owner of a vineyard hires day laborers from the marketplace and agrees to pay them a denarius (a days wages) for their work at the end of the twelfth hour, or six oclock in the evening. Indeed, nearly every society since biblical times has included some people without the property, equipment, or trade skills needed to employ themselves. In economic terms, these people lack the capital required to start their own business. Serfs in mediaeval times or Irish peasants under
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Deuteronomy 10:17-18 This list is taken from Leviticus 25:6. 16 Job 7:1-2, 14:6; Isaiah 16:14, 21:16

the English aristocracy had no access to land of their own. Instead, they worked the land of other men in exchange for a share of the harvest. Currently in the developing world, large numbers of workers from rural areas continue to flock to cities where they manufacture or assemble goods for large overseas corporations. Depressed wages and weak or unenforced labor laws make the situation of these hired workers precarious, and they are compensated only a small fraction of the value of the goods they produce. Even today in the United States, many people work to receive an hourly wage without any capital share in the company they work for. Labor-friendly laws and an economy that is driven by specialized skills and knowledge put most hired workers in the United States on equal footing with even the most powerful employers. To find people in the United States facing similar circumstances to the hired workers in Jesus parables, do not look for office-park cubicle farms. Instead, line up early in the morning at temporary employment agencies. Or, they wait in groups at the edge of the parking lots at home improvement stores. There, youll find desperate people hoping construction contractors or homeowners will hire them to work at low-skill tasks such as painting, fence repair, or landscaping. Or, look to the fields during harvest time, when entire families in agricultural areas will hire themselves out to farmers for long days of picking fruits or vegetables. Or, look in the homes of the wealthy where immigrant women work as nannies and maids. None of these people are slaves, but they are poor and desperately need work. The money they earn that day will mostly be spent within days on food, shelter, and clothing. It is about these types of people that Leviticus 19:13 says, Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight. Moses expands on the same command in Deuteronomy 24:14-15: Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin. First, Moses clarifies that to hold back wages from a hired man is to take advantage of him. Without collective bargaining and all other things being equal, employers hold an advantage over employees, especially those who have little financial or social influence and who depend on their daily wages for basic necessities. Moses indicates these people have no other support or recourse except to cry out to God. They have no money saved up, no patrons in the community to champion their cause, and would be powerless to demand justice themselves. It is for the sake of these powerless and vulnerable people that God gives the command to the Israelites. Although there is no specifically prescribed penalty for an infraction of this law, God Himself will bring retributive justice against the unjust employer. Jacobs service to his uncle Laban illustrates the unequal relationship between employer and employee. Although Jacob enjoyed some advantages compared with the day laborers referred to in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Laban had become a powerful landowner who considered everything Jacob earned as belonging to himself. Laban took advantage of his more powerful position to unscrupulously lessen Jacobs compensation ten times over twenty years. Finally, Jacob had had enough and decided to flee back to his fathers country and out of under his oppressive employment to Laban. When Laban pursues and overtakes him, Jacob finally pleads his case: I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I

bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last 17 night he rebuked you. Gods intervention and family ties kept Laban from taking from Jacob twenty years worth of labor. Many centuries later, God tells the Israelites that He will similarly intervene on behalf of oppressed workers. Where we are left to infer a moral standard in Genesis, in Deuteronomy 24:14-15 God makes it clear: He ardently desires just employment practices where employer and employee negotiate on equal terms. Jesus Parable of the Great Banquet, told in Luke 14, emphasizes Gods special grace extended to those on the lowest rungs of the societal ladder. The master in that parable, his invitation having been rejected by those of means, commands his servant, Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. As the commentator Matthew Henry notes, these people are the vagrants, or those that are returning now in the evening from their work in the field, from hedging and ditching there. In other words, Jesus implies that Gods grace is effectual for those who, because of their desperate situation, would welcome it as a day laborer would welcome a rich and free banquet at the end of the day. Jesus message reaffirmed that those who are powerful and rich in this world, as a result of their selfabsorption and self-importance, will not receive Gods grace though it is equally extended to them. Those who have little in this world, as a result of their desperate need for salvation, will receive Gods help. With this same idea in mind, James the brother of Jesus writes: The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. Recalling the provision for day laborers in Deuteronomy, James scathingly rebukes the rich landowners who have forgotten Gods defense of the needy: Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out 18 against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. Gleaning Up until very recent times, the economy in the land of Israel was primarily agricultural. This was especially true in biblical times. The Bible is replete with references to sowing, reaping, threshing, and milling; and to vineyards and olive groves. The annual harvests of grain, olives, and grapes represented a significant portion, if not the majority, of national economic production. In Deuteronomy 8:8, Moses describes the land of Israel as a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey. In addition to comprising a major part of the national economy, grain was an essential dietary staple that played an important role in peoples everyday lives. Each morning, women ground

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Genesis 31:38-42 James 5:4

grain by hand for that days bread. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Give us each day our daily bread, He used the bread baked each morning to symbolize Gods provision for His people. He emphasized the daily aspect of bread making, recalling the bread called manna that God provided for the Israelites after they escaped from Egypt into the wilderness. The Book of Exodus says manna fell with the dew each morning like thin flakes of frost, and was colored white like coriander seed, and tasted like wafers made with honey. Each morning, the Israelites gathered a daily supply of manna, which they would prepare by baking or boiling it. Any manna stored overnight would rot by morning. The Israelites who listened to Moses relay Gods instructions at the foot of Mount Sinai well understood the daily necessity of manna, the bread from heaventhey had likely gathered and baked cakes of manna that very morning and had eaten them that day. But now, looking forward to the time when the Israelites had established themselves in the Promise Land, God instructed the Israelites to provide grain and other staple crops for poor and vulnerable groups in society. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD 20 your God. Forty years later, in Deuteronomy, Moses characteristically expands on the command given in Leviticus. When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless, and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless, and the widow. Remember that 21 you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this. Moses told the Israelites not to harvest to the extreme edges of their fields, nor to go over their fields a second time to pick up what was left over after the harvesters had bundled the sheaves of grain. In the same way, Moses prohibited the Israelites from beating their olive trees a second time or returning to recover what fruit remained after picking their grapes from the vine. Moses gave several reasons for this instruction. First, the remaining grain, olives, and grapes would provide sustenance and gainful employment for people who lived on societys margins: poor immigrants, orphans, and widows. The Book of Ruth provides an imperfect but instructive example of how this worked. One of the books major protagonists, Ruth, is both a widow and an immigrant who lived in Israel during the time of the judges, before any monarchy was established. As the author of the Book of Judges repeatedly notes, In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. A cursory reading of Judges depicts a brutish, lawless, and predatory society. Fortunately for Ruth, she immigrated to Bethlehem in Judah, where some people followed the instruction that God had given to the Israelites, including a noble landowner named Boaz. She arrived just as the barley harvest was beginning and travelled out of the town and into
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This is the reason why God prohibited the Israelites from taking millstones as debt collateral in Deuteronomy 24:6, Do not take a pair of millstonesnot even the upper oneas security for a debt, because that would be taking a mans livelihood as security. 20 Leviticus 19:9-10, see also 23:22 21 Deuteronomy 24:19-22

the fields to see if she could glean from an amiable landowner. As it happened, Ruth found herself gleaning behind the harvesters in the field of Boaz. It is worthwhile to note what Boaz tells Ruth when they first meet. So Boaz said to Ruth, My daughter, listen to me. Dont go and glean in another field and dont go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men 22 are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. Boaz implies that Ruth would not be welcome in some fields, or worse, that evil men would mistreat or kidnap a lone woman found in the countryside. This was wise advice given the social degradation in Israel at the time. Ruths mother-in-law reinforces Boazs warning, saying, It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone elses field you might be 23 harmed. In the midst of lawlessness, Boaz faithfully followed the Mosaic Law, allowing Ruth to gather food for herself and her mother-in-law. And, because of Boazs obedience, Ruth had a respectable way of earning a living. The Bible says that after working from morning till evening and threshing the barely she had gathered, it measured approximately 20 quarts or 22 litersa substantial amount that would feed her small family for some time. In addition, Ruth and her mother-in-law could use the barley to barter for necessary goods, as was common in the ancient 24 world without an easily accessible standard of currency. According to Moses, the second reason for Gods instruction was to ensure Gods blessing. Leave something behind, Moses told the Israelite landowners, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. By purposefully refusing to take maximum profits during the harvest, the owner of the field, grove, or vineyard would realize even greater profitability from their enterprise. Gods message here is counterintuitive unless put into the context of Gods covenant with His people Israel. God called the Israelites out of Egypt so that He could make them a nation that reflected His just, loving, and holy character. If Israelite society functioned according to Gods moral precepts, they would receive His blessing. You have decreed this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him. And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will 25 be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised. So, although the gleaning provision was wasteful from an individual point of view, it was very efficient in terms of accomplishing Gods purposes for Israelite society, specifically His desire for justice which includes salvation for the weak and oppressed. Moreover, God promised supernatural fruitfulness for the individual landowner so that he would receive more than he gave up. As Proverbs 11:24-25 reads, One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Today, Christians can make similar economic choices that may seem somewhat inefficient from an individualistic point of view, but are efficient from the standpoint of seeing justice done in
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Ruth 2:8 Ruth 2:22 24 Israel did not use a currency until after the Exile. 25 Deuteronomy 26:17-19

society. When purchasing a product or service, we should not seek the best price and value, but also take into consideration the business practices of the companies that we buy from. We should be aware of the effects of our purchases on others, especially the poor and vulnerable. Is your laptop assembled in factories that treat their workers poorly for the sake of profit? Does the disposable electronic toy you bought for your nephew contain raw metals mined from strip mines that destroy forests and pollute rivers? In todays hyper-efficient market economy, Christian consumers need to conscientiously leave some margin for the sustenance and gainful employment of vulnerable people by purchasing products and services from companies that operate in a responsible manner. Companies exist to make a profit, not to follow ethical rules. Left to themselves, companies will maximize profits any way possible. It is the responsibility of consumers to give companies a profit incentive in operating responsibly, even compassionately. The third reason Moses gave for leaving a portion of the crop for those who needed it was because the Israelites had themselves been in a helpless, hopeless situation. Many of the Israelites camped at the foot of Mount Sinai listening to Moses likely bore scars laid on them by their Egyptian taskmasters. Because the God of justice heard their cry and saved them from oppression, they now enjoyed freedom unknown to generations before them. God also called them out into the desert where he fed them with manna each morning and quail each evening, teaching them to trust in the God of mercy and grace for everything in life. Moses reminded the Israelites of the justice and mercy they received from God: Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this. Likewise, the Israelites should act with justice and mercy toward weak, vulnerable, and oppressed people in their midst. In the same way that God saved them from cruel slavery, the Israelites could help save poor immigrants, widows, and orphans from danger and wicked people, just as Boaz saved Ruth. In the same way God provided manna for the Israelites in the desert, the Israelites could provide sustenance and gainful employment for those who needed it by following Gods harvesting instructions. Tithing The Book of Genesis records Abraham giving to Melchizedek, the king of Jerusalem, a tenth of all 26 the plunder he captured from Kedorlaomer, a Mesopotamian king. Thousands of years later, the author of the Book of Hebrews tells us Melchizedek was a type of Jesus, pointing out the meaning of his titles in Hebrew: King of Righteousness and King of Peace. In giving to Melchizedek, Abraham understood that he was offering worship to God. Abrahams act of worship was also a token of acknowledgement that God had enabled him to defeat Kedorlaomers coalition of kings, and rescue his nephew Lot, with little more than 300 men. This is the earliest biblical recording of a tithe given to God and recalled the annual tribute from a vassal to a sovereign. Several hundred years after Abraham, Moses formally instated the tithe as a lasting ordinance. Each year, the Israelites were to set aside a tenth of all their harvest, as well as the firstborn lambs, cattle, and other livestock as an offering to God at the temple in Jerusalem. There, they ate a portion of it in a feast of thanksgiving for Gods provision with the rest going to the Levites whom God had set apart for religious service. Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the
26

Genesis 14:18-20

LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may 27 learn to revere the LORD your God always. Moses said the purpose of the annual tithe was to remind the Israelites of their special relationship with God. He had chosen them out of all nations, not because they were powerful or numerous, but because of His promise to their forefather Abraham. He saved them from slavery in Egypt and provided for them while they wandered in the desert, teaching them to revere and rely on Him. The Israelites tithe, therefore, was given in the same spirit as that of Abrahams tithe paid to Melchizedekit was given as recognition of divine providence from first to last. The Israelites special relationship with God and their reverence to Him implied coordinated social action on behalf of the needy in the land. As recipients of His mercy, they were obligated to extend mercy to those in need. Moses instructed the Israelites to set aside the tithe every third year and to store it in the nearest town as a sort of food pantry for poor immigrants, orphans, and widows, in addition to the Levites. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that years produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD you God may bless you in all the work of your 28 hands. The purpose of this third-year tithe was twofold. The first purpose is obvious: that the hungry would eat and be satisfied. Moses asked the Israelites to set aside what amounted to roughly three percent of national gross domestic product, amortized over three years, to provide for the most vulnerable groups in society. Just as God provided food for all the Israelites in the desert, He would now provide for the poor and needy in the established nation of Israel through the thirdyear tithe. The second purpose was to fulfill the moral requirements of the covenant. As their sovereign and king, God commanded the people to provide for the needy. To God, giving the third-year tithe was not a matter of charity, but a matter of justice. As the Israelites obeyed God by seeing justice done, God would fulfill His promise to bless them. Sabbath Rest and Debt Cancelation After six days of creation, God rested from His work on the seventh day, establishing His pattern of Sabbath rest. Speaking through Moses on Mt. Sinai, God instructed the Israelites to follow His example by observing a day of rest on the Sabbath. This was the fourth commandment of the famous Ten Commandments. Expounding on the Ten Commandments forty years after first delivering them, Moses specifically linked observance of the Sabbath with Gods rescue of the Israelites from slavery: Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God

27 28

Deuteronomy 14:22-23 Deuteronomy 14:28-29

brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the 29 LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. Moses asked all members of Israelite society, from the highest to the lowest, and even including the foreigners who lived among them, to cease from work for one day out of seven. While an irreligious, wealthy Israelite landowner may have chafed at the cessation of work on his property, the Sabbath was a welcome respite for the slave of his household and for his hired workersnot to mention his oxen, horses, and donkeys! A believing landowner, however, would welcome the rest as a reminder of Gods pledge to provide for those who trusted in Him, rich and poor alike. As they rested from work on the Sabbath, Moses asked the Israelites to remember Gods care and attention to them in their misery. The Sabbath served to regularly remind the Israelites had time to reflect on how much God had provided for them, rescuing them from slavery and establishing them as an independent nation in a land of milk and honey. In addition, the Sabbath was a time 30 to look forward to the ultimate rest that the Messiah would bring. The Sabbath occurred every seven days, but every seventh year was also a Sabbath in an analogous sense. Teaching the same lessons of trust and salvation that marked the weekly Sabbath, the seventh-year Sabbath required Israelites to let their land lie fallow and allow it to replenish nutrients and regain fertility. Israelites that owned land and storehouses would not need to cultivate, sow, or reap during the Sabbath year because God promised to provide a superabundant harvest on the sixth year. The poor inhabitants of Israel without land or storehouses were allowed to freely pick olives, grapes, and other produce that grew unaided during this time. Observation of this seventh-year Sabbath required special trust in God. All humankind experiences and understands the need to ceaselessly work, whether out of greed for more wealth or simply to provide sustenance for ourselves and our families. This toilsome need stems from the curse that befell our ancestor Adam: By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul put it in even more simple terms: If a man will not work, he shall not eat. Because of this need, it feels unnatural to cease from our efforts to provide for ourselves. But God wants His people to acknowledge the salvation that comes from Him alone and He asked the Israelites to do this by resting on the Sabbath. King Ahaz and King Hezekiah of Judah, father and son, illustrate Gods pleasure in those who rely on Him for salvation. When the Assyrian army threatened Judah, King Ahaz sought help from the other great regional power, Egypt, instead of turning to God. Simultaneously, Ahaz offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, reasoning that those gods had helped his enemies overcome him. This complete lack of trust greatly displeased God, who spoke through the prophet Isaiah, In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. God wanted the Israelites to learn to rest in Him, to cease from their labor and trust God to provide what they needed. Ahazs faith-filled son, King Hezekiah, stood in stark counterpoint to his father. When faced with the same Assyrian threat, Hezekiah trusted in Gods salvation instead of seeking alliances or other help outside of Gods will. As a result, God sent a destroying angel into the Assyrian camp and annihilated the Assyrian army. The prophesies of Isaiah record Gods view of both King Ahaz and King Hezekiah, and instructed the Israelites and modern-day Christians to trust God and not our own efforts. Both the weekly Sabbath and the seventh year in the Sabbatical cycle taught and tested the Israelites in their trust in God. The

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Deuteronomy 5:12-15 See Psalm 72 for an example of Israels Messianic hope, and Hebrews 4:1-3 and Colossians 2:16-17 for the fulfillment of the Sabbath in Jesus Christ.

Sabbath command presented them with a choice to be feckless and faithless like Ahaz or steady and trusting like Hezekiah. The seventh-year Sabbath taught another aspect of Gods merciful salvation: debt forgiveness. While their land enjoyed a Sabbath rest, Moses required the Israelites to forgive the debts owed them by fellow Israelites. At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORDs time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but 31 you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. Because they were prohibited from charging interest on loans made to their countrymen, the Israelites already had a disincentive to lend money to those who needed it. But, the Sabbath year demanded even more, requiring the Israelites to not only offer interest-free loans, but to completely cancel the debts at the end of the Sabbatical cycle of years. From a natural, individualistic perspective, this command seems grossly unfair. Interest-free loans seem indulgent by most standards, but interest-free loans with a high likelihood of default are nonsensical in any time and place. However, as recipients of Gods abundant grace, the Israelites were obligated to extend extraordinary grace to weak and vulnerable groups in their own society. Moses continued, warning the Israelites from feigning an inability to lend. If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near, so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward 32 the poor and needy in your land. These verses reveal the moral principle behind the command to cancel debts. As with the commands concerning day laborers, gleaning, and the tithe, Moses put the command to lend freely in the context of the Israelites relationship with God. They were debtors to God, and must likewise forgive debts owed them. Rich and poor alike, all Israelites understood they were indebted to God. Not only had He rescued them from their Egyptian slavery, but He had also provided a covering for the sin that separated them from Himself. God prescribed elaborate sacrifices meant to illustrate the atonement of peoples sin. Blood, representing life, was the 33 required payment for sin in most cases. Because of these sacrifices, the sin that separated them from God was removed. Therefore, the Israelites alone among all people on earth could

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Deuteronomy 15:1-3 Deuteronomy 15:7-11 God made an exception for poor people who could not afford the more customary goat, lamb, or pair of doves: If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. A tenth of an ephah is about one-tenth of the amount of grain that Ruth gathered in her first day at Boazs field.

claim to have a God that dwelt in their midst in the form of the tabernacle, and later, in the temple in Jerusalem. All this ritual was designed to demonstrate the indebtedness of the Israelites and their rescue from that debt by God. This debtor-savior relationship required the Israelites to relate to one another accordingly, including rescuing their brother or sister who fell into poverty with free loans cancelled every seven years. More than a thousand years later, Jesus repeatedly drew the same lesson, teaching, Freely you have received, freely give, Give and it will be given to you, and Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Jesus most fully illustrated the obligation of the debtor in His parable of the unmerciful servant: A servant owed his master an exceedingly large amount of money. Graciously, the master forgave the debt entirely, saving the servant from ruin. However, the servant went on to meet one of his fellows who owed him a small sum and inflexibly demanded a prompt repayment. On hearing of this injustice, the master of the first servant grew incredibly angry and threw the first servant into prison until he should pay back every penny of his original debt. In the same way, in light of their covenant relationship to God, the Israelites cancelled loans on the seventh year out of obligation, not charity. Charity implies giving when otherwise not required. But, only God is in the position to extend that type of free grace. As debtors themselves, Israelites who skirted the command to provide for those in need practiced injustice. Failing to provide for the poor was a positive offense against God and a breach of the covenant. Moses reminded the Israelites that if they failed in this regard, the poor could legitimately expect God to take up their cause against those who did not lend, not to mention cancel debts at the end of seven years. The Release of Slaves The Old Testament mentions many individual slaves, some of whom enjoyed considerable privilege and others who suffered cruel injustice. Joseph is a famous example of the vagaries of slave life. Sold by his brothers to slave traders as a boy, Joseph rose from a common household servant to become the manager of a wealthy Egyptian familystill a slave, but one with authority and means. Hagar, the Egyptian servant of Sarah, is an example of the perils of slavery. Pressed into service as a borrowed womb, she was mistreated by her mistress and finally cast out to die in the desert wilderness with her young son. In both the cases of Joseph and Hagar, God watched over them and came to their aid when they suffered unjustly. Despite Gods obvious concern for slaves and other people of low position, nowhere in the Old Testament does God repudiate the practice of slavery outright. This omission rightly concerns many Christians and other people who are looking for a divinely ordained standard of morality that fits with modern experience. Many other aspects of the Old Testament narrative similarly cause consternation for modern readers, including what, on the surface, seem to be divine st sanctions for polygamy and genocidal warfare. For readers in the 21 century, these glaring incongruities demand answers. Unfortunately, the Old Testament offers only hints at Gods mind on these matters. Sometimes the hints are strong. In regards to polygamy, for example, we read that Adam was given only one helpmate, Eve, and the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob suffered when they took more than one wife. In the Book of Malachi, God admonishes Israelite men who break faith with the wives of their youth, presumably by marrying another younger woman later in life. God never explicitly commands monogamy, but He strongly hints at its goodness. On the other hand, the Old Testament hints that polygamy is an abrogation of Gods natural order with attendant consequences. In the same way, God never confers moral goodness to the practice of slavery. Nowhere in the Old Testament does God command slavery; the

commands relating to slavery regulate but never proscribe the practice. Instead, the Old Testament simply acknowledges the practice of slavery as a fact of life in the ancient world. In regard to the commands to wipe out nations occupying the land that God promised to Abrahams descendants, there is no good explanation that is palatable to modern readers. However, several things must be noted about this divinely ordered genocide: 1) It was never the prerogative of humans. 2) It was a divine retribution for evil. 3) It was a part of Gods plan for redemption of all humanitya plan that will not be fully understood until its final consummation. The Israelites war against the Philistines and other inhabitants of ancient Palestine was just one chapter in a long story of humanitys fall and redemption. It would not have been required except for the fall, and cannot be appreciated apart from the entire story of redemption. Not all the questions that modern readers have about the Old Testament will be answered in the Old Testament. This is because Gods plans for humanity were not completely revealed in the Old Testament. Rather, the Old Testament set the stage for the Gods salvation as revealed in the New Testament. That is why the ancient Israelites continually looked forward to the coming Messiah, and why Christians must continually look to Jesus when seeking to answer what God 34 requires. By looking at the Bible message in its entirety, including the New Testament teaching of Jesus and His followers, Christians can read the Old Testament for what it does provide and not for what it does not provide, namely answers to modern questions. In the light of the New Testament, the unsavory episodes in the Old Testament could be understood to demonstrate the utterly horrible situation of humanity that has rejected God and its need for salvation. In any case, genocidal warfare is out of the question for New Testament Christians. Like war, famine, and other oppression, slavery was a misfortunate fact of life for many individuals in Old Testament times. People fell into slavery if they were kidnapped and sold, captured in war, or forced by adverse circumstances to sell their freedom in exchange for food and shelter. In times of war, the victors took slaves from conquered peoples. God did allow the Israelites to subject conquered peoples to forced labor, though it is unclear whether this meant 35 personal servitude or temporary mass conscription. King Solomon conscripted 153,600 foreigners living in Israel to help construct the temple in Jerusalem, and it is possible they 36 remained a permanent slave labor force in Israel. The Old Testament does indicate Gods condemnation of unjust, commercially motivated war that resulted in the enslavement of entire communities. In the first and second chapters of the Book of Amos, God condemns the Philistine states of Gaza and Tyre for selling whole communities of captives, presumably captured in war for the specific purpose of commercial gain. At another point in Old Testament history, the northern kingdom of Israel invaded Judah and took captive from their kinsmen two hundred thousand wives, sons, and daughters. A prophet of the Lord and four Ephramite leaders warned the Israelites against adding to their sin by taking their fellow 37 countrymen as slaves. The Israelites who came out of Egypt with Moses knew firsthand what it meant to live in slavery. They had just escaped hundreds of years of slavery, meaning none of the people who journeyed with Moses into the desertno grandparents or great-grandparents, evenhad any memories of

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As Jesus said about His ministry, I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them, Deuteronomy 20:10-11 36 2 Chronicles 2:17-18 and 8:7-8 37 2 Chronicles 28:5-15

a free life. The Israelites had made up a slave class in Egypt, but one where they were engaged in hard labor meant to control their population. As the Book of Exodus relates: So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly. The Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses, wonders of ancient engineering that no doubt cost the lives of thousands of laborers. This was the reality that the Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai knew. God, however, had something different in mind for them. He meant to fulfill His promise to Abraham to make his descendants into a nation that would bless all nations. For this reason, God commanded Pharaoh to Let my people go, and ensured that Pharaoh obeyed through mighty signs and wonders. According to the Book of Exodus, the Israelites in generations after Joseph became enslaved 38 when a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. The experience of slavery and freedom was fresh in the minds of the Israelites as they listened to Moses give Gods instruction. Some of them were willing to trade their freedom for the comfort and prosperity of Egypt. Many slaves lived miserably while others enjoyed protection, provision, and relative freedom as long as they served their masters interests. Today, largely due to the influence of Christian abolitionist efforts, slavery is confined to illegal and hidden margins of society. In general laws generally recognize that one person cannot own another as property. In the ancient world, slavery was a different matter altogether. We talk about being slaves to something in a metaphorical sense, but that metaphor crucially falls short in that we can still determine our own future. True slavery is not about hard labor, deprivation, or mistreatment, but the denial of self-determination. The Year of Jubilee Every 50 years (or, the seventh debt-cancelling cycle), the Israelites would celebrate the Year of Jubilee, when not only would all debts be cancelled, but all land would be returned to its original family assignments. This did not apply to houses in walled towns, but only to land in the countryside that could support agriculture. I believe this provision had an incredibly powerful leveling effect in Israelite society because the ability to produce and accumulate wealth was based on the land. If someone lost their land, they would be reduced to a day laborer or tenant farmer with little hope of escaping their situation. In agrarian economy, the Year of Jubilee ensured there was not a huge gap between rich and poor, where the rich get ever richer. God did not prohibit wealth, but He did make vast inequality impossible. (Leviticus 25:8-55) See: http://library.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=103&page=645 In the Mosaic law, God included special provisions to ensure unfortunate people received care and did not fall into a poverty trap that kept them from improving their situations. The Year of
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Scholars identify this new Pharaoh was the H Dynasty, a foreign people that conquered Egypt in XXXX B.C.

Jubilee was especially important because the land was vital to peoples economic livelihood. God instituted this practice to prevent the formation of a permanent class of landless poor people who would be forever dependent on the tithe and gleanings. According to Moses words above, there is no conflict between Gods impartiality and His special care for the weak and oppressed. 1. What prescriptions did God give for the ordering of Israelite society? 2. The practical implications of the law in Israelite society. Taken together, what would have been the whole effect on society had the Israelites followed the law? What does the whole picture of justice and righteousness in society look like?