extending the family
Deuteronomy 16:8-11 (JDV)
Deuteronomy 16:8 Eat matzah for six days. On the seventh day there is to be a solemn assembly to Yahveh your God; do not do any work.
Deuteronomy 16:9 “You are to count seven weeks, counting the weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain.
Deuteronomy 16:10 You are to celebrate the Festival of Weeks to Yahveh your God with a spontaneous voluntary offering that you give in proportion to how Yahveh your God has empowered you.
Deuteronomy 16:11 Enjoy the face of Yahveh your God in the place where he chooses to have his name dwell – you, your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite within your city gates, as well as the guest, the fatherless, and the widow among you.
extending the family
The festival of weeks was a celebration of the conclusion of the harvest season. This passage contains instructions as to how to celebrate that festival. It also gives us some insight into the social structure of the Israelite extended family at the time. It included the nuclear family— of course—, but the list in verse eleven tells us who would have been invited to share in the celebration. These would have been people adopted into the extended family.
Male and female slaves head the list. These were not foreigners, enslaved because of their race. They were usually fellow Israelites who had lost their ability to provide for themselves. While they worked to pay off their debts, they were considered part of the family, and thus joined in the harvest celebration.
The Levites in the local community were dedicated to serving God and their fellow Israelites, but were often dependent upon local families for their daily needs. Apparently one of the ways Levites survived was by being adopted into a local family.
A guest would have been a foreigner — a temporary resident from another nation who had attached himself and his family to that of a willing Israelite.
Orphans and widows who had no family of their own would also be adopted into this extended family.
God expected those he blessed to find others in their community and share that blessing with them. Including those abandoned by others, the Israelites were to exemplify the way God included them.
Lord, open our eyes to those around us who need a family to belong to and share life with.