Poverty Prevention: Three Commands God Gave Israel

…there should be no poor among you,  for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.

-Deuteronomy 15:4

Many see the Old Testament law as a nitpicky list of don’ts birthed from a primitive society. However, if one delves deeper into the context of ancient times, he will see a social structure promoting purity and promising overwhelming blessing. There are hundreds of decrees outlined for the good of God’s people, but as I was reading Leviticus and Deuteronomy the other day, three God-given commands caught my eye.

  1. 1. Every seven years, Israelites canceled debts owed to their brothers. -Deuteronomy 15:1-6
    Imagine America’s relief if that law was in effect in our nation today! This command had obvious freeing benefits to those financially bound.
  2. 2. Every 50th year (the year of Jubilee), Israel freed slaves and all properties reverted back to the original owner. -Leviticus 25:8-13
    This protected people who had lost their inheritance or sold themselves into slavery.
  3. 3. During harvest time, leftover sheaves were left ungleaned in order that foreigners, orphans, and widows could gather. -Deuteronomy 24:19, Leviticus 19:9,10
    We see this demonstrated in the book of Ruth when Ruth gleans Boaz’ field. Without this law in place, Ruth and Naomi likely would have starved to death as they were widows and Ruth was a foreigner with little money.

Through commands like these, God created a system free from poverty. This system, as stated many times throughout the Old Testament, was contingent on obedience. When disobedience occurred, the system became unbalanced. Unfortunately, we witness this occurrence many times in the Bible. In fact, a constant theme of Christianity in general is man straying from God’s original intent, thus creating his own flawed system.

Still, I can’t help but think what the world would look like had Israel been a completely obedient nation. Is it even possible for a contextually appropriate equivalent to develop in modern times?

What would America look like if we used simple commands like the three above to serve those in need?


Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
-Deuteronomy 15:11

2 thoughts on “Poverty Prevention: Three Commands God Gave Israel

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love this idea of giving and wish people more readily gave of their possessions. I would love to see middle-class and upper-class (and even lower-class) families step up by making sacrifices for the poor, of whom it is so evident Jesus loves. My understanding of the Old Testament is that the Israelites were really quite bad at keeping these sabbatical laws. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Israel never actually observed the year of Jubilee.

    Sometimes I wonder if Israel were a completely obedient nation, would there even be a need for Jesus? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the New Covenant we have in Jesus Christ was brought about by God’s grace to both Jew and Gentile because the Israelites broke the Sinaitic Covenant. Maybe Jesus would have still been a Messiah for the Gentiles, but if the Israelites were keeping the Law perfectly, I question whether his redemption would be necessary. That said, his redemption IS necessary, and we all DO need him. He has come to set the captives free! He is the Sabbath of the New Covenant, for in him alone do we find our rest, our food, our harvest!

    Great article!

    1. Tiffany Harris says:

      Great observation! I completely agree with you. Israel had such a hard time following these laws, that we see the rabbis in Jesus’ time creating even more laws to protect people from breaking the “big” laws. Obviously, that didn’t even work, and it created a heavy yoke that the people could not bare.

      Thank God we are under grace now, because I can easily see the corruption and abuse some that could occur in our country today. I love the idea of being debt free after seven years, but can you imagine how that would effect our economy? I wrote this article, because I’ve been spending time in the Old Testament during my personal reading, and I saw a pattern of God’s character that really desires his people to be cared for. Many people think of God (especially in the Old Testament) as a disciplinarian who is constantly mad at them for their shortcomings. I wanted to show that God never changes. He is a God a love by nature, therefore his love is shown even throughout these books of the Bible full of laws and regulations.

      Ultimately, the Old Testament points to Jesus as our redeemer. Thanks so much reading and for your insightful input! I appreciate it!

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