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Theological Reflection and Application
God commanded His people Israel not to mistreat or oppress strangers, as the Israelites were strangers themselves in Egypt (Ex 22:21-22) and God saved and freed them from Egypt (Deut 15:15); not to afflict widows and the fatherless (Ex 22:22-23); lend to the poor without interests (Ex 22:25); to return the pledges made by the poor for their loans before the end of the day (Ex 22:26); not to claim all their natural blessings to themselves, but leave behind what they were unable to gather, so that the poor and strangers could have these leftovers (Lev 19:9); to store tithes in the form of crops in the town assigned to them by God so that the Levites, who have no property or inheritance, the orphans, the widows and strangers may take these when they came (Lev 19:10); to cancel their debtors' debts every seven years (Deut 15:1); not to charge one another on that day called the Lord's Release (Deut 15:2-3), although they could charge foreigners (Deut 15:4); to give and help the poor among them enough for their needs (Deut 15:8, 11); not to entertain wicked thoughts about not lending on the Lord's day of Release, as this is a sin (Deut 15:9); to give generously and gladly (Deut 15:10); to release a male or female slave on his or her seventh year or servitude (Deut 15:12) and with gladness for serving you for six years (Deut 15:18); to send him or her away with adequate provisions for his or her welfare and according to the blessings given by God (Deut 15:13-14); if the slave refused to leave because he or she was content, to pierce his or her ear to the door as a sign of his or her perpetual slavery (Deut 15:17); to hold a festival seven weeks from the time of harvest and as a tribute or freewill offering, according to God's blessings (Deut 15:9-10); hold the feast before God and with their family, the poor, the widows, orphans and the needy in the place given by God for seven days (Deut 15:11-15).
God commanded the Israelites to be kind and generous to the poor, needy, the widows and fatherless (Ex 22:21) because they were without the protection and support they needed; and to be considerate and merciful towards the poor who pledged their few possessions in order to borrow by returning these pledges before the end of the day (Ex 22:25-26) because they had nothing else to use. When these poor and needy cried out in prayer, God would hear them, because He is merciful and gracious (Ex 22:26).
He also commanded Israel not to take in all the heads of the grains they gathered or to go back to cut what was left after harvest in the field (Lev 19:9) or pick grapes and other crops that fell on the way or were left unpicked. These crops left by them should go to th poor, the needy and the stranger (Lev 19:10).
God commanded the Israelites, three years after each harvest, to make their crops given as tithes available to the Levites, who owned no property and did not have an inheritance, to the fatherless and to the widows (Deut 14:28-29) for their needs. He commanded them to cancel one another's debts every seven years on a day called the Lord's Release, although they were allowed to charge foreigners or outsiders. They were obliged to give and provide for the poor and the needy among them with willingness, gladness and generosity (Deut 15:8) and not to entertain the wicked intent of refusing to lend on the day of the Lord's Release (Deut 15:9). Because there would always be poor and needy people, the Israelites were to keep their hands open wide to help them.
An Israelite's male or female slave should be freed on his or her seventh year of servitude (Deut 15:12). The Israelite should not only willingly obey this command but also make sure that the slave would have sufficient provision for his or her separation, according to the blessings the Israelite received from God (Deut 15:13-14). The Israelite should also do so in the spirit of generosity and gladness. But if the male or female slave preferred to stay with his or her Israelite master, the latter should pierce the slave's ear as a sign that he or she would be the Israelite's…[continue]
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