Ps 12:5; 41:1-3, especially cared for in the Jewish dispensation, Ex 23:6; Pr 14:31, and even more so under the gospel, Mt 25:42-45; Jas 2:5. The slight offerings required of them by the law were as acceptable as the hecatombs of the rich, Le 5:7-13; Mr 12:41-44. The gleanings of the fields, the olive-trees, and the vines, were to be left for them, Le 19:9; De 24:19; Ru 2:2. Every seventh year, the spontaneous products of the ground were free to all, Le 25:7; and in the Jubilee their alienated inheritance returned to their possession. Compare also Le 25; De 24. Neglect and oppression of the poor were severely reproved by the prophets, Isa 10:2; Jer 5:28; Am 2:6; but charity to the poor was an eminent virtue among primitive Christians, Mt 6:2-4; Lu 10:33-35; 19:8; Ac 9:36-39; 10:2; 11:29-30.
The Mosaic legislation regarding the poor is specially important. (1.) They had the right of gleaning the fields (Le 19:9-10; De 24:19,21).
(3.) In the year of jubilee they recovered their property (Le 25:25-30).
(4.) Usury was forbidden, and the pledged raiment was to be returned before the sun went down (Ex 22:25-27; De 24:10-13). The rich were to be generous to the poor (De 15:7-11).
(6.) Certain portions from the tithes were assigned to the poor (De 14:28-29; 26:12-13).
(7.) They shared in the feasts (De 16:11,14; Ne 8:10).
(8.) Wages were to be paid at the close of each day (Le 19:13).
In the New Testament (Lu 3:11; 14:13; Ac 6:1; Ga 2:10; Jas 2:15-16) we have similar injunctions given with reference to the poor. Begging was not common under the Old Testament, while it was so in the New Testament times (Lu 16:20-21, etc.). But begging in the case of those who are able to work is forbidden, and all such are enjoined to "work with their own hands" as a Christian duty (1Th 4:11; 2Th 3:7-13; Eph 4:28). This word is used figuratively in Mt 5:3; Lu 6:20; 2Co 8:9; Re 3:17.
(1) The right of gleaning; the corners of the field were not to be reaped, nor all the grapes to be gathered, nor the olive trees to be beaten a second time; the stranger, fatherless, and widow might gather the leavings; the forgotten sheaf was to be left for them (Le 19:9-10; De 24:19,21; Ru 2:2).
(3) They recovered their land, but not town houses, in the Jubilee year (Le 25:25-30).
(4) Usury, i.e. interest on loans to an Israelite, was forbidden; the pledged raiment was to be returned before sundown (Ex 22:25-27; De 24:10-13); generous lending, even at the approach of Jubilee release, is enjoined: (De 15:7-11) "thou shalt open thy hand wide to THY poor"; God designs that we should appropriate them as our own, whereas men say "the poor."
(5) Lasting bondservice was forbidden, and manumission, with a liberal present, enjoined in the sabbatical and Jubilee years (De 15:12-15; Le 25:39-42,47-54); the children were not enslaved; an Israelite might redeem an Israelite who was in bondage to a rich foreign settler.
(6) Portions from the tithes belonged to the poor after the Levites (De 14:28-29; 26:12-13).
(7) The poor shared in the feasts at the festivals of weeks and tabernacles (De 16:11,14; Ne 8:10).
In the New Testament, Christ lays down the same love to the poor (Lu 3:11; 14:13; Ac 6:1; Ga 2:10; Jas 2:15; Ro 15:26), the motive being "Christ, who was rich, for our sake became poor that we through His poverty might be rich" (2Co 8:9). Begging was common in New Testament times, not under Old Testament (Lu 16:20-21; 18:35; Mr 10:46; Joh 9:8; Ac 3:2.) Mendicancy in the ease of the able bodied is discouraged, and honest labour for one's living is encouraged by precept and example (1Th 4:11; Eph 4:28; 2Th 3:7-12).
The prophets especially vindicate the claims of the poor: compare Eze 18:12,16-17; 22:29; Jer 22:13,16; 5:28; Isa 10:2; Am 2:7, "pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor," i.e., thirst after prostrating the poor by oppression, so as to lay their heads in the dust; or less simply (Pusey) "grudge to the poor debtor the dust which as a mourner he strewed on his head" (2Sa 1:2; Job 2:12). In De 15:4 the creditor must not exact a debt in the year of release, "save when there shall be no poor among you," but as De 15:11 says "the poor shalt never cease out of the land," translated "no poor with thee," i.e. release the debt for the year except when no poor person is concerned, which may happen, "for the Lord shall greatly bless thee": you may call in a loan on the year of release, when the borrower is not poor. Others regard the promise, De 15:11, conditional, Israel's disobedience frustrating its fulfillment. Less costly sacrifices might be substituted by the poor (Le 5:7,11).
It was said in the O.T. that "the poor should never cease out of the land," and in the enactments of the law they were cared for by Jehovah. The Lord said, "Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good." Mr 14:7. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor." Ps 41:1. "The poor have the gospel preached unto them." Mt 11:5. "When thou makest a feast call the poor." Lu 14:13. "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord." Pr 19:17. Other passages show that the working of the love of God in the soul issues in a special regard for the poor. Ga 2:10. Of the Lord Jesus it is said, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. 2Co 8:9.
The general kindly spirit of the law toward the poor is sufficiently shown by such passages as
for the reason that (ver. 11) "the poor shall never cease out of the land." Among the special enactments in their favor the following must be mentioned:
1. The right of gleaning.
Le 19:9-10; De 24:19,21
2. From the produce of the land in sabbatical years the poor and the stranger were to have their portion.
3. Re-entry upon land in the jubilee year, with the limitation as to town homes.
4. Prohibition of usury and of retention of pledges.
5. Permanent bondage forbidden, and manumission of Hebrew bondmen or bondwomen enjoined in the sabbatical and jubilee years.
6. Portions from the tithes to be shared by the poor after the Levites.
De 14:28; 26:12-13
7. The poor to partake in entertainments at the feasts of Weeks and Tabernacles.
see Nehe 8:10
8. Daily payment of wages.
Principles similar to those laid down by Moses are inculcated in the New Testament, as