Our Treatment of Outsiders Can Put Us in Some Strange Company

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-unsplash“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,” the Israelites were enjoined. “Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

Thus Moses instructed the people of Israel.


Remember what it was like to be a slave.

Remember when every day was the same—rise, make bricks all day, go to sleep at night, rinse and repeat, day after day after day.

Monday is the same as Tuesday is the same as Friday. The days don’t even need names when all days are the same.

You no longer need to live like that, Moses said. You aren’t slaves anymore.

Every seven days, take the day off. Go to worship, rest, spend time with family and friends, and live free.

Don’t live as slaves, and don’t treat anyone else as a slave.

Remember what it was like to be a slave, and don’t make anyone else experience that drudgery, that degradation, that dehumanizing animalization.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God. If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers…For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves are sold. You shall not rule over them with harshness, but shall fear your God.” (Leviticus 25:38-43)

It’s kind of the Golden Rule, to treat others as you want to be treated, and not as you were treated when you were a slave.

Pharaoh wasn’t afraid of the Hebrew God and insisted on treating them as slaves.

Don’t be like Pharaoh. Fear God.

Former slaves shouldn’t have slaves.

They should remember what it was like and not wish that on anyone, right?


But then there’s this, immediately following:

“As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.” (Leviticus 25:44-46)


Your kids can inherit them, like a necklace or a watch or an ox.

Especially like an ox.

A beast of burden. That’s what slaves are, and only that.

They aren’t human, not really. Not in the way that Hebrews are humans. That was the thinking.

Which was probably the way that Pharaoh thought about the Hebrews when he made them slaves and refused to give them up.

“These aren’t people, not in the way that Egyptians are people.”

It’s interesting that a different Pharaoh, the one who elevated the Hebrew Joseph to Chief Operating Officer, allowed Joseph to enslave the Egyptian people (Genesis 47:20-21), but by the time of the Exodus, it seems that many of the Egyptian slaves had been freed.

But not the Hebrew slaves.

They weren’t Egyptian.

Turns out that Israel’s laws concerning slavery really weren’t any different than Egypt’s. In fact, Solomon learned the practice of corvee labor—taxation in the form of required work for a set period of time—from the Egyptians.

The Golden Rule isn’t golden at all if you only apply it to your own people. Jesus applied it to the foreigner as well as the religious heretic, and you can’t get any more outsider than that.

Which is the point. For Christ there aren’t any outsiders, and a Christian who considers someone, anyone, an outsider is more like Pharaoh than Jesus.

And why would you want to be like that?

Photo by Tertia van Rensburg on Unsplash

Don't Buy My Book!!!
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
My eBook "The Essence of Jesus: A Fresh Look at the Beatitudes" sells on Amazon for $3.99, but you can get it FREE by subscribing to my blog!
I hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.