Israel and Oppression

I’ve been talking about oppression for a bit now. I am continuing it now. This week, we are focusing on now is in Israel in the bible. What does the bible say?

God gave Abram the call to move out of faith. Abram went Harran and then to Canaan after leaving Ur. Babylon at this time is still oppressing the nations. Before Abram moved out, God made a covenant. You will have a great nation. The country will be blessed. Other countries on Earth will be blessed through Abram’s descendants. Jesus saves lives. It is believed that God gave instructions to stay in the land God gave them before Israel migrated to the promised land. The instructions are known as the Torah, and the laws are in the first five books of the bible. The purpose of the Torah is to make the system harder for oppressors to plant roots in the land. In the end, Torah gave Israel a set of laws that can set them in sync to live in harmony with God and the land. Moses warns Israelites who oppress traditionally oppressed people groups are not in connection with their God. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19, 27:19, 27:25)

Living in harmony with God, you think, would help seek justice for the oppressed. It didn’t. People fell into the oppression systems. Torah builds to correct checks against oppression. 17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this. 19 When you are harvesting in your field and overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

When facing a situation that may involve the powerless and poverty-stricken, it may be looked upon by incompetent or lazy. Those who face this situation may be victims of oppression and circumstances. The justice here meant for the Israelites not to profit or have a quick payment from those less fortunate. the law gives the poor opportunities to better a situation. Everybody faces some sort of help in need. God reminds us to treat others fairly and do our part to meet other requirements. Ruth took advantage to be able to get food. That’s why God’s people were instructed to leave some of their harvest in the fields, so travelers and the poor get it.

Deuteronomy 15:1-11: 1 At the end of every seven years, you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner. Still, you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. 4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many countries, but none will rule over you. 7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then, because of this, the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. God told the Israelites to help the poor when they arrive in the promised land. It’s essential to do that because it is part of processing the ground. Most people came to the conclusion that people are at fault for being poor. This would close hearts and hands. We can’t find reasons not to help the poor. It doesn’t matter the reason; we help them, no matter how it happened.

Deuteronomy 15:12-15: 12 If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, you must let them go free in the seventh year. 13 And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. 14 Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today. Israelites, free your slaves after seven years. Give them as much food as possible. Do not send them off empty-handed. God recognized each person with worth and dignity. Do not forget where you came from because the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and God gave them freedom. Treat your employees with respect and economic fairness. 

Leviticus 25:10: 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and your own clan. The year of Jubilee is celebrated every 50 years. It is marked by canceling debts, freeing ALL slaves, and returning to its original owners all land that has been sold. No evidence that this is celebrated, but if carried out right and practice faithfully, they would have been a society without permanent poverty.

1 Samuel 2:12-17; 22; 8:1-4: 12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand. At the same time, the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the division brought up, the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17 This sin of the young men was very significant in the Lord’s sight, for they[a] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt. 22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Chapter 8: 1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.[a] 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. In Numbers 18:20-24, Joshua 13:14, 33, the law said that the needs of all Levites were to be met through people’s tithes. Eli’s sons were priests, so they are supposed to be taken care of by the law. But they took advantage of their position to fulfill their egos; lust, power, possessions, and control. The arrogance undermined the integrity of the whole priesthood. Now Eli knew his sons were evil but never gave them any discipline. God’s sanctuary was threatened, but Eli didn’t care. Eli being the high priest, should have responded by taking action, executing his sons. (Numbers 15:22-31) Eli is responsible for ruining his sons’ life and others, not to mention his own life. When serious problems arise, we must confront them. Even if it is uncomfortable and the consequences are painful. Samuel appointed his sons to be judges over Israel, but they were corrupt as ell, just like Eli’s sons.

It doesn’t get better. Most of the leaders of both kingdoms failed to observe the Torah, where things escalated to one king that was wicked in fulfilling Jerusalem with innocent blood. (2 Kings 24:3-4) The wealthy bribed court officials and the courts accepted bribes. (Amos 5:12-13)

Of course, this did not go unchecked. People stood up and challenged the oppressors. They made sure they reminded them of Moses’ warnings that the oppressive systems would end up ejecting everyone from the land and call those to turn away from their oppressive ways. The prophets warned them about judgment. And that God would establish a kingdom on Earth, and the whole world would have justice and peace.