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Parashat Mishpatim: You Will Always Have the Poor

by Muriel Stern

Compared to some of the other Torah portions this one does not have a whole lot of action.The people of Israel were still camped out by the mountain of the Lord. God called Moses to come up and take Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and 70 of the elders with him. He alone could approach the Lord, the others must not come near but worship from a distance. The people had to stay at the foot of the mountain.

But first Moses built an altar and set up 12 stones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Young men prepared sacrifices and burnt offerings of young bulls. Half of the blood was splashed against the altar. The book of of the covenant was read and all the people said they’d obey the Lord. The blood of the covenant was sprinkled on the people.


The 74 men made their way up to the mountain. They saw the lord, ate and drank.

The Lord called Moses to come up to the mountain again, this time to receive the stone tablets with the law and commandments written into it. Moses and his aide, Joshua, went up. A cloud covered the mountain for six days and on the seventh day Moses entered the mountain after the Lord called him from within the cloud. He stayed there for 40 days and 40 nights.

But while this portion doesn’t have as much happening as others, it has a lot of the Lord’s instructions. The Lord spoke, a lot. And it is very relevant for us today to read what the Lord told the Israelites many, many years ago.

In addition this passage that stood out to me.

Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering you neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. (Exodus 22:22-27)

Widows and orphans? Needy from among the people? Wait a minute, why is the Lord given instructions on how to deal with this? Did the Lord anticipate that the people would turn away from him and gave laws on how to deal with the consequences? Maybe? Later on the Lord says he’ll bless the people with a full life span (Exodus 23:26), so how can there be needy widows? And were they not on their way to the Land of plenty, how can there be needy?

Later on in Deuteronomy 15:7-11 we again read about how to be generous to the poor. Yeshua referred to this verse after Mary poured perfume on his feet.

You will always have the poor among you (John 12:8)

The simple and most logical explanation is indeed that the Lord knew what was coming. The people would disobey, and as a result they’d have these kind of issues to deal with. Better to give them instructions now, so they’d be prepared.

But I want to offer up another thought.The people were going to the land the Lord had promised to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. It was the promised land, but it was not heaven. And in real life there is suffering and hardship. The Lord foretold that the people would be slaves for 400 years, he told so to Abraham. It was part of His plan. It is a part that I don’t understand, but I trust that the Lord knows what He is doing. The people who received these instructions first hand were the actual ones who suffered because the Lord had a bigger plan.

There was going to be more suffering. There would be widows and orphans, and needy people. Life was going to have hardships. Not because of anything they did wrong or sin. But because the Lord, in His wisdom, and for reasons beyond our understanding, allowed it. And He gave instructions on how to deal with it in a way that would bring glory to His name.

Our purpose here on earth is to bring glory to God. We do so in victory as well as in times of trouble. We do so when our prayers for deliverance are answered, just as we do in a season of waiting. Hardship is part of the plan, part of our lives here on this earth. The Lord told us how He would like us to deal with the difficulties, the ones we see and the ones we experience. May we chose to do so in a way that honors the Lord.

About Muriel Stern

Muriel Stern has a lifelong love affair with words, specifically with the Word. It is her hope that with her writing she does honor to the Author and inspires others to fall head over heels for the Creator as well. Muriel & her husband Daniel reside in the City of the Great King. Their four children love books as much as their parents.

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1 Comment

  1. Christian on February 2, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for these mind opening thoughts. It just came into my mind, that God reminded His people of their experience as slaves and oppressed while in Egypt when giving instructions about how to deal with foreigners in their midst. Also about Jeshuah is written that he may well know how to deal with our weaknesses and fears because He was tested in this himself (Heb 2,17-18; 4,15). The promised land may not have been meant to be the heaven on earth, but the land of fullness anyway. Beside the word of God that sin would lead to poverty and deprivation, there would probably have been a possibility that all the people would have had enough for living, if only the people would have shared their “milk and honey” with their needy brothers and sisters.

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