The Ethics Of Inclusion: The גר And The אזרח In The Passover To YHWH -- By: Joseph Ryan Kelly

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 23:2 (NA 2013)
Article: The Ethics Of Inclusion: The גר And The אזרח In The Passover To YHWH
Author: Joseph Ryan Kelly

The Ethics Of Inclusion:
The גר And The אזרח In The Passover To YHWH

Joseph Ryan Kelly

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

When YHWH instructs Moses on how the Israelites are to keep the Passover to YHWH in Exod 12, YHWH commands the inclusion of the גר in the cultic celebration. This article explores the ethical dimensions of this instruction, identifying two cooperating ethical principles—the Golden Rule analogy and the imitation of God. The Passover to YHWH in Exod 12 encourages Israel to recall and reflect on their experience as גרים in Egypt and to imitate the divine patronage of YHWH toward those who live as dependents among them.

Key Words: ethics, imitation of God, Golden Rule, Passover


Scholars have long explored the moral dimensions of social justice in the Hebrew Bible.1 Within this discussion, the גר (variously translated “[resident] alien,” “sojourner,” “stranger,” “foreigner” and “non-indigenous resident”)2 is one among many social subsets in Israelite society about

whom concern for their socioeconomic vulnerability is prominent in the legal and prophetic texts.3 According to Harold Bennett, however, moral concerns are not always at the root of texts in the Hebrew Bible putatively promoting the cause of the underprivileged, and many of the texts concerning the גר ultimately serve a radically different purpose.4 Granting that sociopolitical interests, or “ideologies,” play a role in the development of the biblical literature, Walter Houston counters that “knowing the social roots of the Bible’s ideas and language of social theology and morality and the social ends which they serve enables us to discriminate among them, and to recognize those with roots deeper than the needs of the moment and the interests of the hegemonic class. These cannot be falsified by the uses to which they are put.”5 Regardless of whether or not social policy in the Hebrew Bible perfectly embodies the moral causes it champions or whether those in power in ancient Israel were truly committed to those causes, this instruction remains a valuable window into the ancient past of Israel’s moral reflection and a stimulus to moral thinking...

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