Monday, July 9, 2018

Strangers In The Land: Ger 013

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-10, 33-34
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
...
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the ger: I am the Lord your God.
....
‘And if a ger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The ger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were ger in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

What Does It Say?

Leviticus 19 is another list of various laws and regulations, mostly about how the Israelites are supposed to treat each other. There are a few various laws regarding sacrifices (v. 5-8; 20-22)), idol worship/divination (v.4, 26-28, 31) and a few kosher regulations (v. 19, 23-25), but the overall theme of the passage is how to maintain holiness. As verse 2 says, "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."

Part of holiness is how we treat the ger, the ethnic outsider. One of those ways is by providing a form of charity for the poor and the marginalized. By not harvesting the entirety of the field, we leave a small portion for those who have no land of their own (the book of Ruth shows and example of how this works out). By not being greedy for everything that is "ours" by right, we show holiness.

Now, notice that God doesn't require us to give all that we have to the poor (though those that do are called blessed in the New Testament). And also notice that the poor and the ger still have to go and gather the crops we leave for them. But the principle of leaving a way for the poor and the ger to take care of themselves is still there.

Verses 33 and 34 are even more intense in describing the type of love we are supposed to have for the ger. The ger, the non-Israeli who lives in the land is to be treated "as one born among you." While they are often marginalized, needing to glean the leftovers from the field, they are not second-class citizens. Moreover, we are to love them in the same way we love ourselves.

The word translated here as "love" is ahab, and it covers a wide variety of 'loves.' It describes everything from the romantic love that Jacob felt for Rachel (Gen. 29:18) to Issac's love for a good stew (Gen. 27:14) to the love that God has for His people (Deut. 4:37) and the love that we are supposed to have for God (Deut. 6:5, "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might").

And while we're not called to love the ger will all our hearts, souls, and might, and while the ger are expected to live by the same civic and religious laws as the native-born, there is absolutely no room given here for hating them or driving them out solely on the basis of ethnicity. This too, is part of being holy as God is holy.

Next: Leviticus 20

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