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Welfare for Aliens in the Old Testament

이태훈 1

1국제신학대학원대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

Korea has become a multi-ethnic country, in which over million foreigners are living. Under this circumstances, it might be a shame that Korea has been commanded by CERD(Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination) to overcome the ethnocentric image. Against this background, this paper attempts to study underlying principles(or spirits) in the welfare system for aliens in the Old Testament mainly by analysing the scriptural references to aliens(ger) in the Old Testament, so as to draw lessons for our society. The Old Testament texts introduce two different kinds of aliens: (1) those who live in the land temporarily, (2) those who try to assimilate themselves to the Israelite way of life. The former are called nokri, and the latter ger. Nokri are portrayed more or less negatively on the ground that the Israelites might be wrongly influenced by them. On the other hand, ger are described sympathetically, partly because they were willing to follow the Israelite religion and culture, partly because they belonged to the needy class. Ger usually did menial works like wood-chopping and water-carrying (Deut 29: 11), otherwise they worked as hired men(Deut 24: 14). However ger were treated as a part of the Israelite people(Lev 18: 26). They were allowed to participate in the Feast of Passover(Exod 12: 48-49) and Unleavened Bread(Exod 12: 19) alongside the Israelites. Ger were taken care of in many ways on the ground that they were regarded as those needed supports as widows and orphans in the Israelite society. For example, at harvest gleaning leftovers were retained for ger, and some grapes or olive fruits were left unpicked for them to collect(Lev 19: 9-10; 23: 22; Deut 24: 19-22). Ger were allowed to reap what grew itself in the Sabbath year(Lev 25: 5-6). Although Israelites were not to eat animals improperly slaughtered, the impoverished ger were able to take them for food(Deut 14: 21). This could be an exceptional case in which life(or humanity) took precedent over the law. Ger were dependent on court justice because they were in vulnerable situation(Deut 1: 16; 24: 17; 27: 19). The Israelites should not hold payment for ger after the sunset(Deut 24: 14-15). The main reason for Israelites to take care of ger was because formerly they were ger in Egypt as well(Exod 22: 21; 23: 9; Lev 19: 34; Deut 10: 19; 23: 7; Ps 105: 23; Isa 52: 4). Israelites were responsible for helping ger, looking back the time when they were in the same situation. There are various principles in the Israelite treatment of ger in the Old Testament. And those principles are to be applied to our present situation because there exist "our ger(foreigners)" in various areas of this land.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.