“When you harvest the ripe crops produced in your land, don’t harvest all the way to corners of your field, and don’t gather the ears of grain left by the harvesters. Likewise, don’t gather the grapes left on the vine or fallen on the ground after harvest; leave them for the poor and the foreigner; I am Adonai your God.”-Leviticus 19:9-10
In preparation for Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land, in Leviticus chapter 19, the Lord is now instituting certain rules concerning the harvest of crops on the land and grapes in the vineyard.
The whole purpose of these rules was to provide a way for the poor and destitute to survive.
In my last post, I talked about the harvesting of ears of grain.
Today, I want to briefly discuss the grape vineyards which also played an important part in Israel’s agricultural economy.
Just as a certain portion of the rice crop fields were to remain unharvested, so were a certain quantity of grapes to be set aside for the poor.
Simply put, not all of the fruit was to be picked off of the vines.
Some was to be left for the poor.
There were two categories of grapes that were to be left for the poor.
Those that were still attached to the vine and those grapes that fell to the ground.
The grapes that were still attached to the vine were called ‘OLELOT in Hebrew.
These were usually the grapes that were slow to ripen.
And the grapes that fell to the ground were called PERET in Hebrew.
These grapes were to be left on the ground for the poor to come around and pick up.
Now who exactly were the poor and the strangers God is referring to in verses 9 and 10?
Or maybe a more pertinent question is why in the heck were there even poor and strangers in God’s holy land in the first place?
Given the fact that we’re living in a fallen world, there would have been a variety of reasons why some folks ended up poor.
If the father of a family died, any incoming income would immediately cease resulting in that family falling into poverty.
Or if the chief breadwinner of a family became sick or disabled, that situation could also cause poverty.
We’re talking about desperate people here, not lazy people.
The Israelites tolerated no laziness in their economy.
When talking about “the poor”, by definition, we are referring to other fellow Israelites.
However, there was another group of people who were allowed to benefit from the Lord’s welfare program.
In the Bible, they are referred to as “strangers” or GER in Hebrew.
GER is NOT referring to the mixed multitude of foreigners who joined Israel when they left Egypt.
These GER were folks who were temporary passing through Israel such as foreign merchants or traders.
Or they could have been foreign mercenary soldiers or craftsmen who had come to Israel to find work.
Basically, these folks either had no intention of becoming a part of Israel or they weren’t welcome to become a part of Israel.
But regardless, HASHEM made it clear that while they dwelt with Israel, they were to be shown mercy and at the least be provided the bare means to live at a subsistence level.