What is oppression?

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Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Since one reads a lot about Judah and Israel being judged for oppressing the poor, fatherless and the widow I am wondering, what exactly did this oppression look like? Not associating with or helping them out due to a shame factor? As we know its been utilized by the left who reads any notion of difference or lack of egalitarianism in money equals oppression.
Perhaps @iainduguid could help?


Staff member
Part of what the left calls oppression is oppression. We need to own that. Of course, Scripture speaks of external oppressors like invading pagan nations. But oppression comes from within, too.

"For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.."
Isa. 5:7 NKJ

When those in power abuse power to their benefit, that is oppression.

In Matthew 23, Jesus gives out specific examples of oppressors. They relate to those in power burdening others, devouring widows' homes, ignoring the weighty matters of law and justice, etc.

None of this has to do with egalitarianism, but rather using position, power, and law unjustly and to the harm of others.


Puritan Board Sophomore
What Victor said.
In America, we live in large measure in a society where the law exists to protect people equally, and those who are wronged have access to recourse (not always, of course, but as a general rule). It can be hard for us to imagine what it was like (and still is in many countries) to live in a society where the judge and the law enforcement are entirely in the pockets of the powerful. People must necessarily depend on family connections that are able to bring pressure to bear to get justice done. If you have no power or family connections (poor, fatherless or widows), there is no justice. The same was often true in Israel, in spite of the laws against it. Even those who were not poor, fatherless or widows (like Naboth) could have their property stolen and their lives taken on a whim of the king. There are probably times when similar things happen here, but (like Israel) we have laws against it, so long as those are properly enforced.

It is true that the societal structure assigned by God to Israel as they entered the Promised Land was very "flat" - no royalty, no nobility, no peasants, just regular citizens, led by elders, chieftains and judges (with probably a fair amount of overlap among these groups). Land was to be returned to families regularly to ensure no build up of wealth and power among the few (though the Jubilee laws were probably never observed). Samuel warned the people that their desire for a king would lead to a much more hierarchical structure, with a few (the king's appointees) governing the many, often ion their own interests. The prophets attest to the accuracy of that claim. Exactly how those political lessons should be worked out in a modern context is (in my view) a general equity question, in which people will come to different conclusions, but the design doesn't seem to resemble exactly either communism or complete free market capitalism. We may be thankful for the ways in which our system is strongly influenced by the Biblical vision, while recognizing that there are many ways in which we still fall far short.
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