Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Treatment of Debtors and Employees

Leviticus 25:44-55

“Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.  And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.” (Leviticus 25:44-46) 

The Jews were never to take their own people as permanent bondservants or slaves.  People of other groups could be held permanently, as part of a family’s inheritance, but their own people were never to be considered property, or treated as lesser people.  A similar principle is described for Christians in Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-4:1.

“And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.” (Leviticus 25:47-49) 

The Jews were to make a special effort to keep their people from being enslaved by the ungodly around them.   If a Jew had become indebted to a non believer, his family had the right to redeem him from that slavery, or if the person was able he could pay off the debt early and be free from the slavery.

“And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him.  If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for.  And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.” (Leviticus 25:50-52)

Payoff was to be based on how much was still owed.  If the redemption was very early they might charge the full amount, but if not, it was to be prorated according to how much time was left of the time of service.

In modern America few people realize how this relates to Christians, but Proverbs 22:7 warns, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”  Many Christians are enslaved by debt today, ignoring Paul’s advice in Romans 13:8, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another…”  In I Corinthians 7 Paul advised Christians to get free from enslavement because as h said in I Corinthians 7:23, “Ye are bought with a price be not ye the servants of men.”

“And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.  And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, both he, and his children with him.  For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 25:53-55)

While it was preferable that the Jew be free it was not a mandatory situation.  He was still to go free in the year of Jubilee,.  Even non Jewish masters were not permitted to abuse God’s people. They belong to God.

Again Paul addresses a similar situation in I Corinthians 7:21-22.  “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.  For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.”  

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