Study Guide

Leviticus Foreigners and the Poor

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Foreigners and the Poor

Travelers, sojourners, strangers, Israelites who are poor—Leviticus has a lot to say about the so-called disadvantaged. But who are these people and what's really going on?

The reason the book lumps immigrants and the poor together is land; in particular, the fact that immigrants and poor Israelites don't have any. In an agricultural society such as ancient Israel, this means they're stuck without a way to make money. And as you might imagine, that makes them dependent on everyone else. Immigrants pose a double puzzler because unlike Israelites, they also don't have a deeper connection to the Promised Land through the divine covenant.

So should the Israelites simply let foreigners and the poor starve? Get bought and sold as slaves? Have any legal rights at all?

Questions About Foreigners and the Poor

  • God gives the Israelites rules for slaves but doesn't prohibit slavery? What's up with that?
  • Do the laws in Leviticus dealing with immigrants have any relevance today?
  • Do the rules for leaving part of the harvest behind for the poor have any relevance to a modern industrial or information-age economy?
  • Why does God seem so obsessed with the notion that lands vomit certain people out? Is there a meaningful connection to social responsibility, or should the Israelites be calling Dr. Freud?

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