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God, Justice, and SocietyAspects of Law and Legality in the Bible$
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Jonathan Burnside

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199759217

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759217.001.0001

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Social Welfare

Social Welfare

(p.219) 7 Social Welfare
God, Justice, and Society

Jonathan Burnside

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the wide variety of biblical laws of social welfare, including the ban on interest, tithe and gleaning laws, and a range of sabbath institutions. There is a contrast between Pharaonic economics, which is associated with harsh working conditions, slavery, holding onto debts, lending at interest, hoarding, state rations, and exploiting people for food; and family economics, which is associated with time off for workers, Sabbath rest, releasing debts (including debt-slaves), a ban on interest, abundance, and leaving food behind for the needy. The extension of “super-sabbath” institutions (sabbath-plus, sabbath-squared, and perpetual sabbath) shows the way that the biblical welfare laws can be creatively adapted and applied to very different situations, in both the prophetic literature and the New Testament. The chapter argues that, in modern terms, biblical law presents a “third way” that goes beyond the dichotomy between equality and liberty, promoting access to the means of production, releasing creativity and preserving incentives.

Keywords:   interest, debt, perpetual sabbath, gleaning laws, Sabbath, social welfare, tithe laws, New Testament

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