Laws of the Israelites

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Paidion
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Laws of the Israelites

Post by Paidion » Mon Jul 02, 2012 8:26 pm

It seems that the laws that the Israelites followed in the days of Moses were of three types:

1. Laws given by God.
2. Laws given by Moses arising from his own thoughts.
3. Laws given by the elders of the Hebrew people.

Perhaps a clear example of laws given by God to Moses are those found the ten commandments. Moses records that God spoke these commandments to him, and then he (Moses) went down to the people and told the people the specifics of the commandments. (Exodus 20:1-17). Moses also wrote that God Himself wrote the terms of the covenant on stone tablets with His own fingers. (Exodus 31:18).

Now the 6th commandment is, “You shall not kill”. God didn't want his people to kill anyone. But then, according to Moses, immediately after he brought the 10 commandments to the people, he adds some additional commandments which he said God had spoken to him, including these ones:

Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15-17)

Now this appears problematic. First God tells them the Israelites that they are not to kill — period. (no qualifications are specified). Now He orders His people to kill those who commit particular offenses. This appears contradictory. It makes one wonder whether Moses merely THOUGHT that God told him they were to kill others under these conditions. Perhaps Moses thought that this was the best way to prevent these wrong actions from taking place, and when he thought so, he believed that God had planted that thought. But would Christ, who revealed God to man by His personal life and teachings ever require anyone to kill another? Did He ever do so?

No. Jesus said His disciples would truly be sons of their Father, if they were to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, for the Father makes his sun shine on both evil people and good, and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:44,45)

The apostle Paul understood the teaching of his Master concerning the Heavenly Father. He indicated that God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

Nowhere does Jesus or His apostles ask us to put anyone to death for their wrongdoing. Indeed, Jesus was unwilling to carry out the Mosaic law in stoning to death the adulterous woman. Rather He instructed her to go and sin no more.

Then there is an unusual rule, supposedly God's commandment according to Moses, for judging whether or not a murderer should be put to death:

Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. (Exodus 21:12,13)

So if a would-be killer lies in wait for his victim, that is, if the murder is pre-meditated, he is to be put to death. But if he simply kills him in a fit of rage (God having let the man “fall into his hand”), then God will provide a place for the killer to flee so that no one will kill him.

A woman who can find no other recourse for self-protection except to kill her husband, though premeditated, is highly unlikely to kill again. I, for one, would have no fear living next door to such a woman. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to live next door to a man who had killed his wife in a fit of rage. I would fear that he might kill me in a fit of rage if I said or did something which displeased him.

I think it most likely that this law was devised from the thought of Moses himself.Even today's law is somewhat similar to that of Moses. It labels as “first degree murder” the pre-meditated killing of a man by the wife he had repeatedly abused, but it would label as “second degree murder” the man's killing of his wife in a fit of rage. “First degree murder” merits a stiffer penalty than the other.

If Jesus had recognized as God's these commands for God's people to kill sinners or to wreak vengeance upon them, would He not have quoted at least once the many places in which Moses describes God as ordering such acts as genocide, the cutting off of women's hands, the stoning of disobedient sons, etc.? Would He not have at least once described God as a severe dispenser of vengeance in executing judgment by killing people? True, He warned people against Gehenna, and against being destroyed (“perishing”). Surely the painful process of having the dross in one's character destroyed through the fires of Gehenna is worthwhile avoiding. But the judgment of God as described by Moses and other prophets is not remedial. It seems merely retributive. Nowhere does Jesus quote these commands to execute revenge and describe them as God's.

Another law which had its origin in Moses (and Jesus recognized this) was that of allowing the separation of a married couple, providing the husband gives the wife a certificate of divorce. This contradicts God's law which Jesus quoted:

What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Mark 10:9)

So Jesus taught that the divorce law not only originated with Moses, but that God's law contradicted it.

The third type of law was that which was given by the elders to the people. Perhaps the commandment, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy” is one of the laws which the elders devised. This commandment is not found in the law of Moses. Jesus contradicted this law with the following instruction:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt 5:44,45)

Another example of a law or tradition given by the elders was described by Jesus as follows:

For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (Matt 15:4-6)

Unlike what I am doing, Jesus did not divide the Law into these three categories. He simply said, “It was said to the ancients...” or perhaps, “It was said by the ancients” as the King James has it. For though the dative case of a noun is usually translated with the preposition “to”, there is also the instrumental dative, and apparently the King James translators saw it as such. But either way, Jesus did not ascribe any of the laws to God. According to Jesus these laws were either given to the ancients (He doesn't say by whom) or by the ancients (He doesn't give their origin).

Whatever the category, Jesus either gets down to the basis or intent of the law, or else he contradicts the law.

Even the laws given by God may be divided into three categories:

1. The universal law of God
2. The laws of restraint
3. The symbolic laws

The universal law of God consists of moral principles which apply to all people of all time. Some of them can be found among the 10 commandments. Others outside of them. Jesus taught that all the commandments of God may be summed up in two:

1. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:35-39)

Or, to put this in other words:

1. Nothing shall have more importance in your life than God and His will.
2. Love and serve others to the same extent that you love and serve yourself.

But Jesus showed that even the primary laws of God were not actually followed if one only keeps them outwardly:

One may refrain from killing, but if he hates someone, his heart condition is similar or identical to that of a murderer.

One may refrain from adultery, but if he looks at a wife with desire, his heart condition is similar to that of a person who actually carries out the act.

Concerning the laws of restraint, it seems that God gave the law, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” —limited revenge in order to prevent unlimited revenge. But again, Jesus replaced it with a practice which avoids revenge. Indeed, He asks his disciples to yield to the force which anyone tries to impose upon them.

Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matt 5:39-41)

God gave symbolic laws in order to picture a practice which He had not yet revealed. For example, He required the Israelites to keep a sabbath (rest) on the 7th day of every week (from Fri. sundown until Sat. sundown) in order to picture the rest from wrongdoing which every disciple of Christ should practise. The writer to the Hebrews explains the anti-type:

So then, there remains a sabbath keeping (σαββατισμος – sabbatismos) for the people of God (Heb 4:9)

He then indicates what kind of sabbath keeping this is:

For he who has entered His rest has also rested from his works even as God did from His own.

Some in our day think this refers from ceasing from self-effort and allowing God to empower us. But Justin Martyr and other early Christians understood it as ceasing from our evil works. Justin affirmed that Christians keep “perpetual sabbath” in that they have permanently ceased from their evil works.

Other symbolic laws included the command to keep the feasts: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, etc. All of these picture some Christian practice or stage of development.

In conclusion, I suggest that it is very important to distinguish between these categories of laws which we find among the ancient Hebrews and which persist in Orthodox Jewry to this day. To ascribe them all to God is to denigrate the loving character of God, who through kindness, attempts to bring people to repentance, and if this result is not obtained, then to discipline them as a loving father would his children. But to ascribe to God acts of revenge such as killing people out of a fit of anger, or cutting off women's hands, etc. is not to do justice to His character, the One who is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance. God who is fully cognizant of the minds of people, whom He created in His image, knows what steps to take to bring people to repentance, steps which may be kind and gentle, severe, or somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes.

Jesus, the Son of God, revealed the true character of God both in His teachings and by His life of righteousness. When people understand God's loving character, they will cease blaming Him for all the unspeakable misery which some must endure, and which perhaps most endure in some period of their lives.

It is difficult to imagine Jesus carrying out the atrocities often ascribed to God. If people truly understood God's love which manifests itself sometimes in a gentle way, sometimes as tough and severe, but all for the purpose of bringing people to repentance and righteousness, they would be more likely to serve the only God who exists — the God of LOVE and GRACE.
Paidion

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Homer
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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by Homer » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:56 pm

Paidion,

Why not put Paul in there with Moses? After all Paul said:

Romans 12:19
New King James Version (NKJV)

19. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.


And Paul went on to attribute the same vindictiveness to Jesus:

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
New King James Version (NKJV)

7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.


What are we to make of Paul? Surely we can decide for ourselves which of Paul's teachings were just his own ideas, just as you do with Moses, and then we can disregard them. And come to think of it, we have nothing that Jesus wrote down for us, just stuff his followers claim he said. And are they any more reliable than Paul? After all Paul claimed Jesus said some stuff too. Hmmm....maybe Marcus Borg is onto something after all.

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by Paidion » Tue Jul 03, 2012 4:43 pm

Homer wrote:And Paul went on to attribute the same vindictiveness to Jesus:

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
New King James Version (NKJV)

7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Homer, do you seriously claim that this passage affirms that Jesus is vindictive?
vindictive (comparative more vindictive, superlative most vindictive)

Having a tendency to seek revenge when wronged
(Wiktionary definition)

Can you quote a single passage from the memoirs of Christ (the gospels) which indicate that He had a tendency to seek revenge when wronged? You know you can't. Did Jesus display vindictiveness when He was wronged more than any man at His crucifixion? Did His words "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing?" indicate a vindictive spirit? Did He go to the cross as meek as a lamb, or as raging as a lion? Was He the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Or was He the Lion of God who punishes the sin of the world?

Did Jesus ask his disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them? Or did He ask them to curse their enemies and wreak vengeance upon them?
Did He ask his disciples to turn the other cheek when some one strikes them? Or did He ask them to render that person a powerful blow to the snout? Would He ask his disciples to treat their enemies differently from the way He treated his own enemies? He spoke some strong words to his enemies, the scribes and pharisees, but did He ever make them suffer for opposing Him? They tried to kill Him on several occasions, but did He ever kill any of them?

Was Jesus different in nature after God raised Him from the dead? Some of the disciples saw the risen Lord Jesus. Did He turn into a vindictive person because of his immortal resurrection body? Did He then seek revenge upon the Pharisees who had wronged Him? Or did He have the same nature as He had on earth (without a hint of revenge against anybody)? If He was not vindictive either before or after his resurrection, why would He become vindictive after his return? Or is He covering up his vindictive spirit — perhaps delaying it until the last judgment when He will let it all out?

The only justification you provide for your view that Jesus is vindictive is a single word which Paul uses to describe Jesus' righteous judgment and God's on that great day. That one word is "εκδικησις". It is true that lexicons give "vengeance" as a meaning for the word, and translations often render the word as "vengeance". But it seems the meaning of the word is broader than that. Consider the following passage also from the NKJV, in which Paul rejoices in the change which took place in the Corinthians after they repented. After exclaiming with words such as "What diligence it produced in you!" and "What clearing of yourselves!" and "What indignation!" and "What fear!: and "What vehement desire!" and "What zeal!" would it make sense for Paul to finally exclaim "What vengeance!" The Corinthians didn't take revenge on any one. They disciplined the sinning brother in a way that led to his repentance, but this wasn't vengeance, it was for the purpose of correcting the brother. Yet many translations render it as "What vengeance!" The NKJV translators realized the problem and translated it as "What vindication!" This fits the context:

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. for you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. (II Cor 7:9-11)

Another passage where the word clearly refers to vindication (not "vindictiveness") is the following:

Then he spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ and he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’"

Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge his own elect who cry out day and night to him, though he bears long with them?
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. (Luke 18:1-8 NKJV)


Here the NKJV renders the word as "justice", actually an excellent translation. The widow is not asking the judge to wreak vengeance on her adversary who was probably taking monetary advantage of her. She was asking for fair treatment — justice.

But neither "vengeance" or "vindication" is a good translation of "εκδικησις". The Online Bible Greek Lexicon states that in 2 Cor 11, the word refers to doing justice to all parties. I fully concur. The widow had to be vindicated, and her adversary had to be corrected. If it had been a monetary issue, he had to "make good" what he had stolen from her.

In the parable, the judge says that he will avenge the widow. He's not talking about "revenge". Nor is he talking about "vindictiveness". He's talking about executing a judgment which will be just (that is "fair") to both parties. The widow would get what is coming to her; he adversary would have to pay. Jesus indicates that in the same way God will avenge his own elect who cry out to Him day and night, and that is now in this life — though such will also take place at the judgment. But "avenge' is not "revenge". When a person takes "revenge" on some one, he is vindictive as you say. His nature is to get back at someone who has wronged him. But when God avenges some one, he gives a fair two-fold judgment. He vindicates the wronged person, and He administers reformative punishment to the offender (not vengeance).

So let's look at the other passage you quoted in this light:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Justice is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19 )


Paul asks the Christians to never avenge themselves, that is, he says in effect, "Do not try to give yourself justice in a dispute with another, and make that other come good. That is God's work. God is angry at the injustice and will make sure that this injustice is rectified. He will ensure that you will be vindicated, and the one who has wronged you will be correctively punished.
Paidion

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by steve » Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:33 pm

Hi Paidion,

I don't see where you answered Homer's question (one that naturally suggests itself to any thoughtful reader of your comments here):

Why should we trust any biblical writer to be correctly representing the mind of God—or to be correctly reporting the words of Jesus?

God said of Moses that he was superior to other prophets, and that he was outstanding in his faithfulness to God's commission (Numbers 12:6-8). If a man like that cannot be trusted by us (even though he was clearly trusted by God) to pass along the Words of God as a faithful mouthpiece, there would seem to be no other biblical writer whom we would have better reasons to trust.

Your treatment of the subject of "killing" in the Old Testament (and in the New) seems uncommonly shallow for someone who can usually be counted on to present a more nuanced thought process.

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by steve7150 » Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:45 pm

Now the 6th commandment is, “You shall not kill”. God didn't want his people to kill anyone. But then, according to Moses, immediately after he brought the 10 commandments to the people, he adds some additional commandments which he said God had spoken to him, including these ones:

Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15-17)

Now this appears problematic. First God tells them the Israelites that they are not to kill — period. (no qualifications are specified). Now He orders His people to kill those who commit particular offenses. This appears contradictory. It makes one wonder whether Moses merely THOUGHT that God told him they were to kill others under these conditions. Perhaps Moses thought that this was the best way to prevent these wrong actions from taking place, and when he thought so, he believed that God had planted that thought. But would Christ, who revealed God to man by His personal life and teachings ever require anyone to kill another? Did He ever do so?








My understanding of the 6th commandment is that it is actually "You shall not murder" which is very different. Apparently if the Law of Moses is from God the commands to kill are judgments from God for certain crimes and appropriate for that nation at that time so that Israel might survive and help to bring forth the Messiah.
I think that the Law of Moses was only for Israel and for only a specific time frame as part of God's plan, therefore comparing it to laws and principals from Jesus is to a certain extent comparing apples with watermelons.

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by Paidion » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:16 pm

Steve you wrote:I don't see where you answered Homer's question (one that naturally suggests itself to any thoughtful reader of your comments here):
Why should we trust any biblical writer to be correctly representing the mind of God—or to be correctly reporting the words of Jesus?
No, I didn't answer that question of Homer's. I saw no need to repeat myself. For I expressed myself as best I know how in the following topic:

What is the Authority for the Disciple of Christ?

If the question still remains in your mind as to why I should trust the accounts of the apostolic writers, and the prophetic writings such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, I have to ask why you think I need to explain why I trust them. Why do you trust them? In your statement of faith you affirm:
I believe that the Jewish and Christian scriptures of the Old and New Testament are given by inspiration of God, and are thus, when properly understood and applied, profitable and authoritative to the disciple in all matters pertaining to life and godliness.
I could include such a statement in my own personal creed as well — if I had any reason to create one. It seems to me that creeds are a cause of division. However, that statement is an aside. The crux of your statement is in the clause "when properly understood and applied". Obviously, there are a wide variety of understandings and applications, evidenced by the pleroma of them expressed on Theos.

Given my explanation of authority for the disciple, I can only say that since I have experienced Christ and the love, joy, and enablement which flows from Him, it is only natural to accept the words which He spoke, and those of his apostles. Of course I don't know in the absolute sense of the word that the apostles correctly recorded the words of Christ. But I don't think anyone else knows either. Or do you claim to know? If so, how do you know? Many who do claim to know start with the view that "God gave us the Bible." Some think that God verbally dictated the Bible to the writers, and many think that at least it is exclusively inspired. But it seems this idea must be "accepted on faith" for there is no Biblical evidence for the concept. All through the centuries there was disagreement as to which books could be trusted, and which were pseudonymous. But now, the "canon" seems to have been settled for many people. Does the mere fact that I am uncertain as to the authorship of second and third John, 2 Peter, Jude, James, and Revelation require that I doubt the authorship of the gospels, Acts, and the writings of Paul? As for the writings of Moses, I do believe they are historical. I simply don't believe that ALL of the laws which were ascribed to God, were in fact His laws.

The idea that doubts about some statements of the Bible upsets the whole applecart does not wash unless one believes in the plenary, verbal, exclusive inspiration of the Bible. Is that your belief?
Paidion

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by backwoodsman » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:54 pm

Paidion wrote:Homer, do you seriously claim that this passage affirms that Jesus is vindictive?
I think he was just poking a little fun at your suggestion that Moses may have been a false prophet.

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by Paidion » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:02 pm

Steve7150 wrote: therefore comparing it to laws and principals from Jesus is to a certain extent comparing apples with watermelons.
Didn't Jesus compare them? Or in some cases contrast them?
Paidion

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by Homer » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:36 pm

Paidion,

You wrote:
As for the writings of Moses, I do believe they are historical. I simply don't believe that ALL of the laws which were ascribed to God, were in fact His laws.
What are you saying here? Is it your belief that Moses knowingly misled the people into thinking he spoke for God when it was his own ideas he gave as laws? Or that Moses mistakenly thought that God told him things that in fact God did not? If the first, Moses is certainly a false prophet, and if the second, where do we draw the line?

How many of the laws given by Moses were given to Him in the presence of other witnesses? We repeatedly read "then the Lord said to Moses", and it seems Moses was the only one present when the 10C were given by God:

Exodus 34:1-3
New King James Version (NKJV)

34. And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. 2. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. 3. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.”


The skeptic can just as well argue that the 10C were Moses' invention! What proof do we have? How would you refute the skeptic?

All you have to go on is your opinions and speculations based on what seems good to you. This is no different in kind, only in degree, from the policy of Borg and his wrecking crew. Surely our foundation is firmer than that.

You have denied the blood sacrifices stipulated in the LOM were given by God. The very sacrifice that foreshadowed our Lord's sacrifice. It is my belief that actual things that were commanded and took place under the LOM pointed to future spiritual realities. They were a mere shadow of that which was real and was to come.

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Re: Laws of the Israelites

Post by steve7150 » Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:48 am

Didn't Jesus compare them? Or in some cases contrast them?








Yes and did he ever imply ,hint or allude to the fact that the Laws of Moses were not from God? When a ritual was the tradition of men i believe he pointed that out. So otherwise i think we must believe Jesus acknowledged God's laws were from God not from Moses but that certain laws were meant only for Israel and only pre-Messiah.
Though we may not understand or feel comfortable with some of these laws i just accept the fact that for Israel to survive intact these were necessary during this time frame up to the anointing of Messiah. Then Jesus revealed the heart of God to the whole world.

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