Law of Gleanings
Moses says in Deuteronomy 24:19,
19 When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
We see this law put into practice in the book of Ruth, while she gleaned in the field of Boaz. Ruth 2:15 and 16 says,
15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. 16 And also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
Boaz was extra generous with Ruth, going beyond the requirement of the law. He actually instructed his reapers to pretend to forget some sheaves along the way. It is a good example of love, which does not violate the law but exceeds its righteous standard.
God’s Direct Covering
Gleanings were given to the alien, orphan, and widow, who all had one thing in common. They had no covering, no kinsman redeemer. So God provided such covering Himself, showing us that if believers have no “covering” in a church, God becomes their covering. He takes their case when they cry unto Him (Exodus 22:23).
And so also, when David’s parents forsook him on account of Saul’s threat, God covered him directly. David wrote in Psalm 27:10,
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.
When David was an outlaw being pursued by King Saul, his parents had to renounce him in order to protect their own inheritance in Bethlehem. As a spiritual orphan, David received special protection and training from God Himself. He was adopted into God’s household and thus became a “son of God,” and God became his covering.
When we see that all such “aliens, widows, and orphans” are adopted by God when they come into the Kingdom and join themselves to His covenant, we can then begin to understand Isaiah 56:3-8, which speaks of aliens and eunuchs being given “a name better than that of sons and daughters.”
The law of gleanings is one of God’s ways of providing for those who are under His direct covering.
Remembering Israel’s Oppression in Egypt
Moses continues in verses 20-22,
20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.
Once again, the law of gleanings is something that the Israelites ought to appreciate, having been aliens themselves in the land of Egypt. Their treatment at the hands of the Egyptians was God’s lesson to them about how NOT to treat aliens—and by extension, widows and orphans as well.
The Corners of Your Field
Moses had already established the law of gleanings earlier, with an extra detail, as we read in Lev. 19:9 and 10,
9 Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.
This gives us a few more instructions about gleanings. Not only were the reapers to leave any sheaf behind that they forgot, but they were also to leave the corners of their fields for the needy to reap. Likewise, in gleaning one’s vineyard, if they dropped some of the grapes, they were leave the droppings on the ground for the needy. This law is repeated in Lev. 23:22, but with no further details.
The corners of one’s field were devoted to God and its fruit was given to the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the aliens. The principle behind this law is also portrayed in a related law regarding the corners of a man’s beard. Lev. 19:9 speaks of the corners of the field, while verse 27 speaks of the corners of one’s beard (sideburns). These laws are found in proximity to each other for a reason.
The “face of the earth” (as in Gen. 6:1) was a Hebrew term that related one’s face to a grain field. The corners of a beard, prophetically speaking, picture the corners of that field. It was not mandated in the law that any man have a beard, for even Joseph was shaved when he was presented to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:14); but if he did, he was not to have a goatee. Cutting sideburns was the prophetic equivalent of harvesting the corners of one’s field and depriving the poor of the sustenance that God intended for them.
To fully understand this concept, one ought to study the laws regarding Nazirites, who were forbidden to cut their hair or shave their beards until the end of their vow (Num. 6:5). Such a vow was done to cleanse and purify a person, and it correlated to a field being given back to nature. As the field became overgrown with weeds and trees, it became like a jungle. While this state appeared to be disorganized and unsubdued, it also allowed the land to be replenished naturally with nutrients in order to make it productive in the future.
While the Nazirite law depicted the “face of the earth” in the sense of creating a jungle-like state, the law about beards pictures a cultivated field in fulfillment of the mandate in Gen. 1:28 to subdue the earth and put it under the dominion of Jesus Christ. No man can fulfill this mandate apart from being obedient to His will, and His will is expressed in part by the law of gleanings.
God is not as concerned with men’s beards as He is with the spiritual meaning in its connection to the law of gleanings. In my opinion no man must have a beard, unless led by the Spirit to do so.
Gleanings and the Law of Love
The law gives us the basic teaching, but how do the prophets understand it? How is the law applied spiritually and prophetically? We find the answer in Micah 7, where the prophet laments over Israel because the law had been put away in favor of “the statutes of Omri.” Omri was one of Israel’s most powerful kings in its history, and he had instituted a new Law Code to replace the laws of God. So the prophet says in Micah 7:1 and 2,
1 Woe is me! For I am like the fruit pickers and the grape gatherers [olelah, “gleaners”]. There is not a cluster of grapes to eat, or a first-ripe fig which I crave. 2 The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net [cherem, “devotion”].
To glean is alal, and a grape gleaner is olelah. The word is also used in Arabic to denote a second drink to quench the remaining thirst that one might have after his first long drink. In Scripture we find Balaam using the same word in Num. 22:29, where he accused his donkey of insulting him. The NASB reads, “you have made a mockery of me!” In other words, Balaam accused his donkey of overstepping his bounds and behaving badly.
Hence, the word alal has to do with going beyond boundaries, and when applied to gleanings it means going beyond one’s normal right to possess what one has produced. It is a law of love, expressed in one’s giving to the poor, the widows, orphans, and aliens, all of whom are under God’s direct covering.
In a more negative example of the use of this word, Judges 19:25 speaks of the wicked men of Benjamin who took the Levite’s concubine, raped her and “abused” (insulted) her that night. The word “abused” is alal, “gleaned.” So when the word applies in an evil situation, it means going beyond one’s lawful authority, taking more than what the law allows through greed or lust.
This idea is also seen when we look at the spiritual meaning of the word itself. Alal is spelled ??? (ayin, lamed, lamed). The ayin means an “eye,” and signifies seeing or manifesting something. The lamed is an ox goad, a symbol of authority. The double lamed signifies that second drink, overstepping the bounds of authority. So the word alal signifies manifesting behavior which oversteps the bounds of lawful authority.
So the prophet Micah laments over the fact that Israel had replaced the law of God with the laws of Omri and had thus overstepped the boundaries of the law of God. He expresses it in terms of grape gleanings. It is likely that Omri had abolished the law of gleanings, which then left the needy without sufficient sustenance. “The godly man has perished from the land” can mean that no Israelites were following the law of God anymore; or it can mean that the poor and needy, who are “the godly” in this case, had died of starvation or had been forced to move to another country.
Gleanings and the Elect
In a way, we are what we eat. Spiritually speaking, God’s elect are represented as the gleanings that they eat. From the standpoint of prophecy, the gleanings were given to the elect remnant, those under God’s direct covering, pictured as widows, orphans, and aliens.
Paul’s example of the elect in Romans 11:2-7 comes from the story of Elijah. And so Micah was lamenting much as Elijah had done earlier, when he complained to God in 1 Kings 19:14,
14 … the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
In other words, the lawless Israelites persecuted and destroyed God’s elect. Micah complained that the good man had perished from the earth, while Elijah complained that he was the only one left who served the true God.
Of course, God then told Elijah in verse 18 that there were yet 7,000 in Israel who were true worshipers. Paul tells us in Rom. 11:5-7 that these were the “remnant of grace” who were also called “the elect.” Whereas Israel as a whole had been “called” by God to administer the blessings of Abraham to the nations of the world, in reality only the elect remnant was truly “chosen” and obtained that promise.
Gleanings are Devoted to God
The gleaning prophecy in Micah 7:2 also brings up another law connecting the elect to the “devoted” ones.
2 The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net [cherem, “devotion”].
Micah employs the word cherem with a double meaning. They used to hunt birds with nets. They put seeds on the ground and then threw a net over the birds when they came to feed. Hence, the Hebrew word cherem had a double meaning: (1) a net and (2) devotion.
But the legal term, devotion, has a meaning that goes beyond mere commitment and focus. The Hebrew word cherem denotes a special relationship, as a wife or the temple site, or anything “devoted” to God. The temple grounds, for instance, were called cherem. Then there were also the king’s harem, (cherem), consisting of his multiple wives who had been “devoted” or “consecrated” to him.
Anything that is given to God or placed under His direct control is cherem. It denotes God’s ownership. The law of devotion is found in Lev. 27:28,
28 Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart [cherem, “devotes, consecrates”] to the Lord out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted [cherem] to destruction is most holy to the Lord.
This chapter speaks of men giving a special offering of land to God. When land was “devoted” to God, it fell into a special category of land wherein the original landowner did not have the right of redemption, nor would the land be returned to him in the year of Jubilee.
Jericho is an example of a city “devoted” to God (Josh. 6:21), in order to place all of its gold, silver, bronze, and iron into the treasury of the Lord (Josh. 6:24). In fact, all of the cities that Israel conquered were said to be “devoted” to God. Why, then, were those cities destroyed? They were destroyed because the inhabitants refused to give God that which He had claimed for Himself. But is it such a bad thing to be devoted or consecrated to God?
Being Devoted to God
The carnal mind is at enmity with God and therefore resists being given to God and placed under divine authority. Therefore, the law of devotion requires death to the carnal mind, and when we are truly devoted to God, He works in us to kill the flesh. It is only by dying with Him that we are raised in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). In fact, this is the difference between the average believer and the one who is devoted to Him. Those devoted to Him seem to be the most mistreated people of all. We all feel sorry for them, but Jesus says in John 10:28, 29,
28 and I give aionian life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
These are the ones placed into God’s direct ownership under His covering and authority. This was the way Jesus expressed the law of devotion, for no devoted thing, once given to God, could be “sold or redeemed” from God’s ownership. That is the underlying meaning of devotion, as the term is used in Scripture. In other words, they are not for sale at any price. When carnal things were devoted to God, He destroyed the flesh in them in order to consecrate them as a useful vessel in the house of God.
And so, we see that the law of gleanings speaks of a remnant, or portion of a field, vine, or tree that is devoted to God. The gleanings are identified with the remnant of grace, which God has claimed for Himself.
For those gleanings to be useful to feed the poor and needy nations of the world, He has put that remnant through a vigorous training program in order to kill the flesh and set their spirit free to walk in a new way of life in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom. The gleanings company—the remnant of grace—are called to distribute the blessings of Abraham to all nations of the earth.
Not all believers are truly devoted to God according to the law of devotion. Those who remain under the direct covering of the church, only enjoy an indirect relationship with Jesus Christ. Their primary duty is to please the church, rather than Christ. They have confidence that the church’s commands match those of Jesus Christ, so they see no reason to be devoted to Christ’s direct authority.
Yet those who have experienced the rigor of God’s training know how different it is from the way that other kinsman redeemers train those who are under them. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that those who are under the covering of men and of churches are not usually as well trained as those who are church orphans under God’s direct covering. Men are simply not equipped to train others in the divine manner.
In fact, if they tried, they would be prosecuted for abuse. I too have accused God many times of child abuse. I did not like my wilderness training from 1981-1991. But in looking back at it, I would not trade it for the world, because it has made me who I am and has made it possible for me to do the work that I am called to do. I learned that being devoted to God meant that my flesh was devoted to destruction and was to be crucified with Christ. But I also learned that whoever the Father gives (devotes) to His Son can never be plucked from His hand.
The Death Penalty
The law of devotion is the foundation of the biblical death penalty, by which those who are guilty of capital crimes are “devoted” to God.
When God set up the earthly courts to administer justice to the people of Israel, it was established upon the principle that justice is not done until full restitution has been made to all victims of injustice. The main method of justice was restitution.
However, there were some crimes where it was not possible to do justice by means of restitution payments. In such cases, such as murder and kidnapping, the penalty was death. He was executed unless the victim or his advocate saw fit to forgive his crime.
The death itself did nothing to satisfy justice, for the victim’s loss remained. The man who was murdered was still dead. The kidnapped man might be returned alive, but how does one return two men as a double restitution payment, according to Exodus 22:4? Hence, the death penalty does not administer justice, but only appeals the case to a higher court at the Great White Throne.
In imposing the death penalty, the earthly court essentially admitted that it was incapable of dispensing divine justice, and so the judge was required to appeal it to the divine court and put the case under God’s authority. All such cases will be heard at the time that the great Judge of the whole earth holds Court after a full creation week (7,000 years) have been completed.
Those who are put to death, then, are placed in a “sleep” state, as the Bible calls it, until they are summoned to the Great White Throne, where Jesus Christ Himself adjudicates their case. In this Courtroom, justice can and will be done, for He has the power to raise the dead and has the wisdom to administer justice in all such “impossible” cases.
In effect, those who are given the death penalty are “devoted” to God. They are given into the hands of God and placed under His direct authority. Although God had placed the citizens of the Kingdom under the authority of certain leaders and judges holding portions of the Dominion Mandate, those judges are not capable of dealing with every judicial case. Hence, in certain hard cases, they were to give up their right as judges and “devote” the sinners to Christ, who is able to judge.
At the Great White Throne, Isaiah 45:23 says, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Everyone will swear allegiance to Him, affirming (in verse 24) “Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.” As a result, verse 25 concludes,
25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory.
Amazingly, the death penalty puts all under the authority of Jesus Christ, and when all men see His glory, majesty, and love, they will all confess Him as Lord. They will repent and be converted. John speaks of that day in Rev. 15:4, saying,
4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; for all the nations will come and worship before Thee, for Thy righteous acts have been revealed.
Mortality is a Death Sentence
The death penalty actually goes back to Adam, who was the first to receive such a penalty. Through him, we all have been sentenced to a mortal existence. While we normally see this as “bad,” and view death as “the last enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26), it is actually death that justifies us before God. The Emphatic Diaglott renders Rom. 6:7,
7 For he who died has been justified from sin.
It is by death that we are justified, as we identify with Christ in His death on the cross. By accepting the death penalty and by crucifying the old man within, we devote ourselves to God’s direct ownership. This is the underlying meaning behind baptism (Rom. 6:4-10), wherein we comply with the death penalty in order to be raised with Him into new life.
Likewise, those who come under the death penalty in an earthly court are devoted to God, who alone can administer justice in cases that are too difficult or impossible for earthly courts to do properly.
Jericho, a Type of Beast Kingdom
We see this positive principle in the battle of Jericho, where the city was devoted to God. The walls and carnal structures were torn down, but all of the gold, silver, bronze, and iron were devoted to the treasury of God. Joshua 6:17-19 says,
17 And the city shall be under the ban [cherem], it and all that is in it belongs to the Lord… 18 But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban [cherem], lest you covet them and take some of the things under the ban [cherem], so you would make the camp of Israel accursed [cherem] and bring trouble on it. 19 But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.
The NASB renders cherem in two ways in these verses. First, it reads “under the ban,” and secondly it translates it “accursed.” Neither translation does full justice to the word. It literally means that all of the silver, gold, bronze, and iron from Jericho was to be placed into God’s treasury, because God claimed it as His own. If any man resisted and laid claim to that which had been devoted to God, he was “accursed,” that is, he too was placed under God’s ownership by means of the death penalty.
Appealing to the High Court
When we apply the law of devotion to the divine court, it applies to those who believe they are victims of injustice but can find no remedy in earthly courts, causing them to pray and appeal their case to the divine court.
One such case would be when a man believes his wife is guilty of adultery but has no definitive proof. Such a case is set forth in Num. 5:13. The man may then take her to the divine court, represented by the priest, where she was to be presented to God. The first step was for him to remove his wife from his own covering, and this was signified by loosing her hair (Num. 5:18). This put her under God’s ownership and authority.
She was then to take an oath of innocence, and her husband was to leave the case in the hands of God for judgment. Heb. 6:16 gives the principle of law, “with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.” In other words, she confirmed her innocence by an oath. He was to presume innocence and was not to judge or punish her himself, but leave it fully in God’s hands.
If he were to take the matter back into his own hands, he would be cursed under the same principle by which Achan was cursed when he took those items from Jericho which had been devoted to God.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 16:22,
22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed [anathema]. Maranatha.
The King James Version simply says:
22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha.
Many who do not understand the law of devotion have been horrified that Paul would seem to curse anyone who does not love the Lord. It seems totally out of character for him, considering the Love Chapter in 1 Cor. 13. The problem is that the translators do not seem to understand the law of devotion.
The Septuagint renders cherem with the Greek term anathema. This is the Greek equivalent which expresses the Hebrew concept of devotion. Paul understood the law, and he was using the Greek term according to the Hebrew definition of cherem. He was not cursing anyone but devoting or consecrating them to God, praying that God might take full responsibility to bring them to salvation. He devoted such people to the direct ownership of God, knowing that He has the wisdom to reveal Himself to them—if not in this life, then certainly at the Great White Throne. This is the so-called “curse” of God.
Anathema comes from ana, “up, upward, in the midst,” and tithemi, “to set, put, place.” Gesenius Lexicon defines it as “a thing set up or laid by in order to be kept, specifically, a votive offering.” In other words, the word was often applied to an offering or perhaps a lamb that had been devoted for a sacrifice to God.
Was this lamb “cursed”? Obviously not. It was sacred. Men only invited a “curse” upon themselves if they presumed to take the devoted thing for their own use or misuse. But Paul was devoting such people to the direct authority of Christ. It was another way of praying, “Lord, intervene in their lives and instruct them and discipline them if necessary to bring them to the truth.”
This is the lawful meaning of anathema. Paul couples it with the term maranatha, which is an Aramaic word meaning “The Lord comes.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says that maranatha was…
“formerly supposed by some to be an imprecatory utterance or ‘a curse reinforced by a prayer,’ an idea contrary to the intimations conveyed by its use in early Christian documents.
“As to the reason why it was used, most probably it was a current ejaculation among early Christians, as embodying the consummation of their desires.”
In other words, maranatha was an expression of encouragement in the early church to remind each other that Christ was soon coming to bring the Kingdom with its system of perfect justice.
In 1 Cor. 16:22 Paul connected it to anathema, showing that those who do not love Jesus Christ were to be devoted to Him, so that when He comes, He will resolve the problem and show them the truth.
We see, then, how the law of devotion has widespread application in biblical law. The law of gleanings is one application, for gleanings belong to God and are to be used to support those who are under God’s direct covering. This includes, widows, orphans, aliens, and even the beasts of the field. If any of these are oppressed, God takes up their cause in the divine court as the great “avenger of blood,” i.e., kinsman redeemer, for the Holy Spirit becomes their advocate in the divine court of law.
When believers appeal to the High Court, Jesus Christ judges all cases righteously and mercifully out of His character of Love. In the end, devoting such cases to Him is a victim’s right to put the sinner into the loving hands of Jesus Christ. This is the mercy factor hidden even in the death penalty itself.