How to treat the poor and slaves
Forgive debts every seven years1Every seventh year, consider all debts paid in full. 2Here’s the law how to forgive debts. Everyone who has given loans to their neighbors and fellow Israelites will forgive those loans. After six years, you can’t collect on them anymore. The LORD releases people from those debts. 3This law, however, doesn’t apply to non-Israelites. You can collect on debts you made to outsiders living among you. But you can’t do that to your fellow Israelites.
4You shouldn’t have any poor people living among you. The LORD is giving you this land and he will bless you there. 5But you’ve got to listen to the LORD your God. You’ve got to follow the laws I’m telling you about today. 6The LORD your God will bless your lives just as he promised. You’ll become a banker for the nations of the world, loaning them money. But you won’t need loans for yourself. Other nations will not control you.
Help the poor who live among you7If you come across any poor Israelites in your towns, don’t ignore them. Help them. 8And be generous about it. Whatever they need, give it to them. 9Don’t be selfish. Don’t refuse to give poor people money because the seventh year is coming soon, when debts are forgiven. That would be mean-spirited. And the people might bring their complaints about you to the LORD. 10Help people who need it. Give generously, and don’t complain about it afterward. When you help the people, the LORD your God will bless you with success in all you do. 11There will always be someone in your land who’s poor enough to need help. So, I’m telling you to help the poor Israelites who live among you.
How to treat your slave12If someone sells you a fellow Israelite as a slave, you can’t keep the slave any longer than six years. On the seventh year, free the slave. 13Don’t send the person away with nothing but a goodbye. 14Give your freed slaves something to take with them: livestock, grain, wine. Draw from whatever resources you have. The LORD your God has blessed you generously. Do the same for them. 15Don’t you forget that once upon a time you were slaves in Egypt. The LORD your God freed you. That’s why I’m telling you this.
If your slave doesn’t want to leave16It’s a different story if your slave says he doesn’t want to leave because he loves you and your family and has a good life with you. 17In that case, you should take a male slave to a door or a doorpost. With that as a brace, use a hole-punch to pierce one of the man’s ears. That tags him as a slave for the rest of his life. Do the same for a female slave. 18When you free slaves, don’t pity yourself for having to do it, as though it’s a hardship. For six years you had the help of someone who worked twice as hard as hired help. Remember, the LORD your God will reward you for what you do.
Sacrifice and eat firstborn livestock19Whenever any of your livestock produces its first male calf, lamb, or kid goat, that animal belongs to God. Don’t put that animal to work or cut off any of its wool or hair. 20You and your family will eat that animal at whatever worship center the LORD your God chooses for you in the land he’s giving you. 21But don’t sacrifice the animal to the LORD your God if there’s something wrong with it. I’m talking about a limp, blindness, or any other serious problem. 22Eat the sacrificed animal within the city limits, inside the gated walls. Anyone can eat this meal with you. It doesn’t matter if they’re ritually clean or unclean. It would be like eating any other meat, such as gazelle or deer. 23But before you eat any of the meat, make sure you drain out all the blood and pour it on the ground.
These laws are a review of those reported in Exodus 21:1-11.
Jewish families sacrificed the animal at the worship center because firstborn male animals belonged to God. Then they ate the animal nearby (verse 22), and literally “in the LORD’s presence.”
The location became Jerusalem. King Solomon built the first of several Jewish temples on that site. Romans destroyed the last Jewish Temple there in AD 70. Standing on the site now is a 1,400-year-old Muslim shrine, Jerusalem’s most famous landmark: the Dome of the Rock. There’s a huge rock inside. Legend says Abraham came there to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22).
Israelites had to be ritually clean to sacrifice animals to God. People were ritually unclean, for example, if they touched a corpse and hadn’t gone through the cleaning rituals, which included washing themselves. A woman in her monthly period was considered unclean. For more, see Leviticus 15.
The Bible teaches that blood is the source of life, and for that reason, it belongs to the giver of life: God (Exodus 12:23-27).
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