What does Deuteronomy 24:17-22 really mean?

Deuteronomy 24:17-22 is about showing compassion and providing care for the vulnerable members of society, emphasizing the importance of generosity, empathy, and equality in caring for widows, orphans, and foreigners.

17 “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge,”
18 But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.
19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.
21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.
22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.


Setting the Scene for Deuteronomy 24:17-22

In Deuteronomy chapter 24, we find the scene set in the ancient land of Israel, where the Israelites have settled after their exodus from Egypt. The community is gathered at the entrance of the city gates, a bustling area where people come and go, conducting business, seeking justice, and socializing. The sun is setting, casting a warm glow over the scene as the day winds down.

Among the crowd are the leaders of the community, including judges, elders, and priests, who have gathered to hear a case brought before them. A widow, dressed in simple garments and with a look of desperation on her face, stands before the assembly, pleading for justice. She is accompanied by her fatherless children, who cling to her side, their eyes wide with fear and uncertainty.

The widow recounts her story, explaining how she has been wronged and oppressed by a wealthy landowner. The leaders listen intently, their faces reflecting a mix of concern and determination to uphold justice. As the widow finishes her plea, the leaders confer among themselves, weighing the evidence and considering the teachings of the law. In the end, they render a verdict in favor of the widow, ensuring that she receives the justice and support she deserves. The scene serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of caring for the vulnerable in society and upholding righteousness in all dealings.

What is Deuteronomy 24:17-22 about?

God emphasizes the importance of showing compassion and empathy towards those who are marginalized and vulnerable in society in this verse. Widows, orphans, and foreigners were often the most disadvantaged groups in ancient societies, lacking the protection and support that others might have. God is highlighting the need for justice, fairness, and kindness in our interactions with others by commanding care for them.

Think about the message behind this verse. Why do you think God specifically mentions widows, orphans, and foreigners? Perhaps it is to remind us that those who are often forgotten or overlooked are just as deserving of our love and support. We fulfill our duty to care for others and reflect God’s compassionate and inclusive nature by reaching out to these vulnerable individuals. We should always remember to extend a helping hand to those in need, just as God has done for us.

Understanding what Deuteronomy 24:17-22 really means

In Deuteronomy 24:17-22, we delve into a segment of the Mosaic Law that underscores the significance of justice, compassion, and care for the marginalized within society. These verses serve as a poignant reminder of the imperative to provide fair treatment and support for those often overlooked, such as foreigners, orphans, and widows. The phrase “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice” encapsulates the essence of equitable treatment for all individuals, particularly those on the fringes of society. It emphasizes the necessity of ensuring that everyone, irrespective of their background, receives fair and just treatment.

Furthermore, the instruction “Do not take a widow’s cloak as a pledge” highlights the need for empathy and understanding towards the specific challenges faced by widows. This directive urges a compassionate approach, recognizing the vulnerabilities of widows and advocating for their well-being. The poignant reminder to “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt” serves as a compelling call to action, prompting reflection on one’s own history of hardship and deliverance. It encourages empathy and solidarity with those currently experiencing adversity, fostering a sense of shared humanity and responsibility towards one another.

Moreover, the directive to “Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow” promotes a culture of generosity and provision for those who are unable to provide for themselves. This principle advocates for sharing resources and ensuring that everyone has access to the necessities of life. These verses resonate with broader biblical teachings, such as James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, and Matthew 25:35-40, which emphasize the importance of caring for the vulnerable and marginalized in society. They underscore the essence of true religion as encompassing acts of compassion, justice, and care for those in need.

In contemporary society, the relevance of Deuteronomy 24:17-22 is profound. These verses call upon us to actively engage in social justice initiatives, advocating for the rights and well-being of marginalized individuals in our communities. By cultivating empathy and compassion, we can bridge the gap between privilege and disadvantage, fostering a more inclusive and equitable society. The principle of leaving behind resources for those in need can be actualized through charitable giving, community support programs, and initiatives that prioritize the welfare of the vulnerable.

Consider a scenario where a community food bank embodies the principles outlined in Deuteronomy 24:17-22. Volunteers not only distribute food but also ensure that every individual is treated with dignity and respect, mirroring the call for justice and compassion. In a touching moment, a volunteer extends a helping hand to a struggling single mother, embodying the directive to not deprive the fatherless of justice. This act of kindness and generosity exemplifies how ancient principles can guide contemporary actions, illustrating the enduring relevance and impact of these timeless teachings.

In conclusion, Deuteronomy 24:17-22 serves as a poignant reminder of our duty to care for the vulnerable and marginalized in society. By internalizing and applying these principles, we can contribute to the creation of a more just, compassionate, and inclusive world. Let us heed the call to advocate for those in need, extend a hand of empathy and support, and embody the timeless values of justice, compassion, and generosity in our interactions with others.

What does it mean to show compassion to others?

Showing compassion to others, as mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:17-22, means going beyond just providing for their basic needs, such as food and shelter. It involves extending a heartfelt concern for their well-being and actively seeking to alleviate any suffering or injustice they may be facing. This could include offering emotional support, understanding, or practical help to assist them in their time of need.

Compassion also entails treating others with kindness, respect, and empathy, regardless of their circumstances or background. It means recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of every individual and showing a genuine desire to help and uplift them in any way possible. Showing compassion to others ultimately reflects a selfless and loving attitude that seeks to promote healing, unity, and understanding in the community. We can create a more compassionate and caring society where everyone is valued and supported by embodying compassion in our interactions with others. It invites us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs, and to extend a hand of help and kindness to those who are vulnerable or in need. It is a powerful reminder of the human capacity for love and empathy, and it can inspire others to do the same in their own lives.


Just as we strive to excel in our jobs and protect our loved ones, let us also remember to extend that care and support to the vulnerable in our society. God’s message is clear – show compassion to the widows, orphans, and foreigners among us. Let our actions speak louder than words as we actively seek ways to uplift and care for those in need. Will you answer God’s call to care for the marginalized and make a difference in their lives today?