The Mosaic Law and Foreign Servants

24 Dec
Green Card

from Google Images

“Membership has its privileges” was an old slogan for the American Express credit card.[1] Advertisements usually showed desirable rewards one might obtain with the use of the company’s card and name. One might enjoy an otherwise unaffordable vacation or a night out at a really fine restaurant etc. The implication was, if you had their card, they had your back. You could afford what might be otherwise unattainable for you for “cash only”. The card / membership gave you buying power when you needed it, and wherever you needed it.

Some Biblical critics try to make something out of the fact that the Law of Moses permitted Israelites to lend money to foreigners for interest, but similar loans offered to its own poor were interest-free (Deuteronomy 23:20). Would these same critics argue that illegal aliens in the United States should be given all the privileges of citizenship, even though they reside in America not having gone through the proper channels to gain the privilege of residency? Admittedly, illegal aliens in America is a complex and emotionally charged subject in our modern society, but it does impress upon us that the fact that the Mosaic Law treated foreigners residing in Israel differently than its own citizens was not done with evil intent. A line is and must be drawn in every nation as it pertains to treatment of foreigners residing within its borders.

Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, Ruth, the Moabitess, and Uriah, the Hittite, were all at one time foreigners in the land of Israel. However, they assimilated themselves into society by embracing the God of Israel and the people of the land as their own. They willingly chose Israel over their own native lands and became sojourners within the land. Certain privileges were afforded them that were not offered to aliens residing in the land. Many of the privileges given Israel’s citizens were, according to the Mosaic Law, given also to gentile sojourners, just as non-citizens of America who hold a U.S. green card are afforded many privileges possessed by American citizens, yet the same privileges are not offered to illegal aliens. For example a gentile sojourner in ancient Israel could partake of the Passover, while a foreigner in the land could not (Exodus 12:43, 48). A difference was placed upon the foreigner who had not agreed to follow the Mosaic Law and the foreigner who did embrace the Law of the land, its people and their God.

One final consideration needs to be addressed, and it concerns Leviticus 25:44 and buying a gentile servant. This subject is addressed at greater length in one of my previous blogs: What About Foreign Slaves? What I find interesting concerning acquiring / buying a servant in Leviticus 25:44 is that the same Hebrew word (qanah – H7069) used for buying a gentile servant as one’s possession is also used of Boaz acquiring Ruth as his wife (Ruth 4:10). One cannot read this little book of Ruth and believe that Boaz actually bought Ruth or considered her his property. He loved and respected Ruth and considered her choice of him, that is, that he should act as her kinsman redeemer, both of privilege and an unexpected honor (Ruth 3:10-13).

If this is true of Boaz acquiring Ruth as his bride, how should we understand an Israelite buying / acquiring a gentile servant? Was that servant considered property or does another term fit better? This question might especially be pertinent when one considers that the Law specifically states, if a slave escapes his master no Israelite was to help the former master find his slave. Rather, every Israelite was to protect the escaped slave and keep him or her from being returned to the former master (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

If find it interesting that the modern critic is so insensitive to the context of the Bible. While much of what we find in the Mosaic Law hardly concerns ideal solutions to social problems (but what law of any land does), it does provide comparatively very good solutions to those problems when other ANE codes of its day are considered. Yet, how many critics openly admit this, or how many of today’s new atheists would be willing to judge the Jew’s Torah in the light of the laws that governed ancient Israel’s neighbors?


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

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Posted by on December 24, 2015 in apologetics


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