Impartiality: Protecting the outsider

When reading Numbers 15 the other day a few things caught my eye:

“‘Everyone who is native-born must do these things in this way when they present a food offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. For the generations to come, whenever a foreigner or anyone else living among you presents a food offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, they must do exactly as you do. The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the LORD:  The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.’” (v13-16)

“The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have presented to the LORD for their wrong a food offering and a sin offering. The whole Israelite community and the foreigners residing among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong.

“‘But if just one person sins unintentionally, that person must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering.  The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made, that person will be forgiven. One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner residing among you.” (v25-29)

1. There is an assumption that foreigners and aliens will be living among God’s people

2. There will be no impartiality – the same law applies to all.

3. There will be no impartiality – forgiveness will cover the entire community including the foreigners

4. Foreigners will participate in the sacrificial system and life of Israel as members of the covenant community.  It is assumed that they will bring present offerings to the Lord.  There is no space for cultural elitism that bars foreigners from participation in the life of God’s people.

5. Implicit in this is an inbuilt protection of foreigners – clearly vulnerable members of the community.  In the same way as the laws about divorce serve to protect women so these laws serve to protect the foreigner.  His punishment when guilty may not exceed that of the native-born Israelite nor may that of the native-born Israelite be less than the foreign-born simply because of status.

6. The blessings of the covenant community are clearly said to fall on the foreigner living among the Israelite in the same manner as the native-born Israelite.  Even here at the heart of God’s covenant with Israel we see that the covenant has room for those outside of the covenant.


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