Study Guide

Leviticus Foreigners and the Poor

Foreigners and the Poor

This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. (NRSV 16:29)

And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you. (KJV 16:29-30)

Mandatory vacation days—not just for Israelites anymore!

And say to them further: Anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to sacrifice it to the Lord, shall be cut off from the people. (NRSV 17:8-9)

And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering of sacrifice, And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the Lord; even that man shall be cut off from among his people. (KJV 17:8-9)

One of the purposes of the ritual rules is to get rid of sacrifices outside the control of the Tabernacle's priests. As for foreign tourists who want to offer sacrifices somewhere else, Leviticus doesn't have a First Amendment.

All persons, citizens or aliens, who eat what dies of itself or what has been torn by wild animals, shall wash their clothes, and bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening; then they shall be clean. But if they do not wash themselves or bathe their body, they shall bear their guilt. (NRSV 17:15-16)

And every soul that eateth that which died of itself, or that which was torn with beasts, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean. 
But if he wash them not, nor bathe his flesh; then he shall bear his iniquity. (KJV 17:15-16)

The ceremonial cleanliness rules apply to Israelites and foreigners alike. Which makes sense, given the land's nasty habit of throwing people up because of what they do.

You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. (NRSV 19:10)

And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God. (KJV 19:10)

In ancient Israel, winemakers have to leave some grapes behind for the poor, homeless, and tourists because there's always the possibility you'll get to see a juicy foodfight.

You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. (NRSV 19:15)

Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. (KJV 19:15)

God's a big believer in treating everyone equally—rich or poor, local or outsider. It's a concept that gets a big-time callback in the New Testament book of James.

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (NRSV 19:33-34)

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (KJV 19:33-34)

"Love your neighbors as yourself" also applies to foreign immigrants. While the U.S. Supreme Court isn't in the habit of applying principles of Leviticus in its opinions, it came pretty close in its 2012 decision to strike down the Arizona immigration law.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God. (NRSV 23:22)

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God. (KJV 23:22)

Clever lawyers who think the vineyard-gleaning rule in Leviticus 19:10 leaves a loophole for keeping all other crops get a smackdown in this verse.

A man whose mother was an Israelite and whose father was an Egyptian came out among the people of Israel; and the Israelite woman's son and a certain Israelite began fighting in the camp. The Israelite woman's son blasphemed the Name in a curse. And they brought him to Moses—now his mother's name was Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. (NRSV 24:10-11)

And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan). (KJV 24:10-11)

By an amazing coincidence, the blasphemer in this story just happens to be the product of a mixed marriage. To quote the immortal words of Giles the Librarian, "the subtext here is rapidly becoming, uh, text."

You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God. Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel; and they took the blasphemer outside the camp, and stoned him to death. The people of Israel did as the Lord had commanded Moses. (NRSV 24:22-23)

Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God. And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses. (KJV 24:22-23)

Don't worry about being treated differently, foreigners who worship other gods. You'll get the same death penalty for blasphemy that applies to his faithful followers.

Um, hooray?

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...