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Aid & Development in OT

Presentation focused on the place of the 'ger' in OT Law or Torah. Lecture for Aid & Development Intensive, Melbourne School of Theology, July 1, 2013.

Andrew Brown

on 1 July 2013

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Transcript of Aid & Development in OT

Aid and Development in the Old Testament?
Can we find Aid & Development in the OT?
Israel financially aiding foreign nations for altruistic reasons? Little sign.
Israel (or Israelite individuals)
money internationally? Yes, with implication of a state of blessedness (Deut. 28:12...but see v. 44!)
loans exempt from:
Debt cancellation (Deut. 15:3)
Prohibition against interest (implicit in Exod. 22:25; Neh. 5:1-13)
Foreign aid barely on the OT radar!
A Rich Lode for an OT Ethics of Aid:
The Law of the 'Ger' ( )
= Hebrew term for resident alien in Israel
As strongly present ethical category in OT Torah, can function as an intra-national proxy for inter-national aid.
I.e. the stranger
Israel may stand for the stranger
of Israel.
Time to explore semantic fields of terms...
Semantic Fields of Terms
Native-born Israelite
Further Covenant Privileges
Legal Protection (Exod. 22:21; Lev. 19:33-34):
'One law' for alien and native-born (Lev. 24:22)
Curse upon the exploiter of the alien, etc. (Deut. 27:19)
Access to cities of refuge (Josh. 20:9)

Religious Participation and Inclusion:
Passover (upon circumcision of family males)
Covenant ceremonies (Deut. 29:11; 31:12; Josh. 8:33-35)
Harvest Feast, Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 16:11, 14)
Attendant Covenant Responsibilities
Common legal obligation alongside Israelites:
Oft-repeated clause, "You must have the same regulations for the alien and the native-born" (e.g. Num. 9:14).

Economic protection in terms of gleaning still requires the beneficiary to work for his/her support, as does Ruth in Boaz' field.

Common religious obligations and prohibitions
For Passover (Exod. 12:49); Sabbath (Exod. 20:10); Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29)
Against illicit offerings (Lev. 17:8-9), eating blood (17:10-14), sexual violations (18:26),
child sacrifice
(20:1-5) or
against Yahweh (24:10-16)!
Latter laws perhaps designed with elevated risk of committal by resident aliens in view
Foreign aid is one of the 'real innovations of the modern age'.
Hans Morgenthau, quoted in Carol Lancaster, Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 62
Covenant Umbrella
The Land ( ) of Israel
Ruth 2:10; 2 Sam 15:19
Exod 12:43 (similar)
Exod 12:45
Exod 12:48-49;
2 Sam 1:13
Exod 12:49
How Does One Become a 'Ger'?
Enslavement/enforced labour ('your alien', Deut. 5:14)
Capture in war (amounting to same thing)
Mercenary/military employment (2 Sam. 15:19)
Emergency migration, i.e. refugee flight (Ruth)
Voluntary migration on account of natural attraction - eschatological hope for Yahweh's blessing, involving....
Joining oneself to the people of Israel (Isa. 14:1; Esth. 9:27)
Joining oneself to the God of Israel (Isa. 56:3-7; Zech. 2:11)
Classic Case:
"Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)
(This despite the exclusion of the Moabite from the LORD's assembly in Deut. 23:3ff.)
The Achilles' Heel of the 'Ger'?
...along with the widow, orphan, and Levite...LANDLESSNESS, in a society where access to the land was critical to well being!

Hence the frequent statement of measures of economic protection or social security for the 'ger':
Sabbath rest (Exod. 20:10; 23:12; Deut. 5:14)
Gleaning rights (Lev. 19:10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19-21)
Part of Israel's tithe (Deut. 14:29; 26:11-13)

The motivation for such economic protection is repeatedly stated:
"Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt."
(Exod. 23:9); and even:
"For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing."
(Deut. 10:17-18)
Israel herself is ultimately not so very different:
"The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants" (Lev. 25:23) !!
Some Outcomes and Implications
The Old Testament manifests little concept of international aid and development.
But the careful attention given to the 'ger' or foreign-born permanent resident provides us a model for ethical treatment of
The migrant and refugee within the nation, and
By extension, the needy person in another nation.
OT Torah is very careful to offer the 'ger' full
legal equality
and even special
, in light of his/her special vulnerability, in exchange for willing
of Israel's own
relationship with its
Full legal and significant religious
has as its flipside commensurate
A people with a refugee past themselves and, before God, no fundamentally greater entitlement to the land of residence than the stranger, should not themselves hold a superior or callous attitude towards the migrant and refugee.
An important difference between Israel's situation and that of modern Australia is??
A Few References
Corcoran, Jenny.
"The Alien in Deuteronomy 29 and Today."
Interpreting Deuteronomy: Issues and Approaches,
edited by David G. Firth and Philip S. Johnston. 229-239. Nottingham: Apollos, 2012.
Harris, John.
A Theological Examination of the Alien within the Laws of the Pentateuch.
Thesis. Sydney: ACT, 2001. (DK HAR)
Sloane, Andrew.
At Home in a Strange Land: Using the Old Testament in Christian Ethics.
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.
Wright, Christopher J. H.
Old Testament Ethics for the People of God.
Nottingham: InterVarsity, 2004.
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