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God's Law; Fighting your neighbour

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posted on Apr, 4 2014 @ 05:03 PM
The social laws of the Pentateuch were not designed for the modern world,
They were clearly designed for a different kind of world, a mainly agricultural society.
But since they were published in the name of the Biblical God, they can still throw light on his nature and intentions.
Which gives us a new reason for reading this collection even if the laws themselves have been superseded.

Let’s take, for example, what God’s law says about quarrels and fights.
It’s in the nature of things that neighbours will have disputes.
One solution is to bring them before the community, for arbitration.
Even then it’s desirable that a man should have a good stock of sons to back him up, so that “he shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate [the town meeting-place]”- Psalm 127 v5
(“You can’t talk to my dad like that!”
“Who says he can’t?”)

When the dispute comes to court, it may be found that one of the parties has behaved so badly that he needs to be punished;
“If there is a dispute between men and they come into court, and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offence”- Deuteronomy ch25 vv1-2

But since men don’t have patience, quarrels may become fights.
The likely outcome is that people will get injured, and that’s where the law comes in.

The law gives penalties according to the extent of the injury.
“When men quarrel and one strikes another with a stone or with his fist, and the man does not die but keeps his bed, then if the man rises again and walks abroad with his staff, he that struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay him for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed” Exodus ch21 vv18-19

If the injury is more permanent, then a more serious penalty is required;
“When a man causes a disfigurement to his neighbour, as he has done it shall be done to him. Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured” Leviticus ch24 vv19-20

Of course a fight might involve accidental injury to a third party, who happens to get in the way.
Presumably the same rules of compensation would apply.
But what if the third party is a pregnant woman, who loses her child in consequence?
“When men strive together and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows [to the woman], the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Exodus ch21 vv22-25.

Another danger of fighting in the presence of women is that the women themselves will get involved;
“When men fight with one another, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hands and seizes [the other man] by the private parts…”
The effects of that fighting tactic could be appalling, and so the penalty is severe;
“…then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall have no pity”. Deuteronomy ch26 vv11-12
Perhaps we should blame the loose clothing of the time for the fact that this was happening often enough to attract legal attention.

In the most severe cases, quarrelling ends in the death of one of the parties.
But that’s a big enough topic to need separate treatment.

Yet there’s one instruction in the laws which could have cut off all this quarrelling at the source;
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbour, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself; I am the Lord” Leviticus ch19 vv17-18

What can these laws tell us about the God who endorses them?
Their purpose is to limit the injuries which people suffer from the violence of others, and to find ways of settling disputes, so that they do not become permanent.
They speak of a God who wants neighbours to live in peace with one another.

In fact that last quoted passage is the same command which Jesus names as the second most important commandment found in the laws, the most important of the commands dealing with human relations.
In other words, the instruction “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”, the implied foundation of the Sermon on the Mount, and central to the New Testament, is based upon the laws of the Old Testament.
Which points to the continuity between the two sets of teaching.

Admittedly, the provision of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the classic example of contrast between the Old Testament and the teaching of Jesus, because he makes a point of challenging the dictum and offering a different view.
We should remember, though, that the gospel message and the legal code have different purposes.
The gospel message is addressed to individuals, touching their relation with God and other people.
But the law is addressing the practical problem of the way the community treats misbehaviour, so that people can live together.
Individuals can try to govern their lives by love, as Jesus demands, rooting out vengeful feelings and following the injunctions of the Sermon on the Mount.
But a community which gave instant forgiveness to every act of theft, instant forgiveness to every act of violence, and made no attempt to protect itself against invading armies, would not long survive as a community, in the present imperfect world.
It would quickly degenerate into anarchy, the ultimate social evil.
That is why it becomes necessary to have restrictive laws, as a compromise with human “hardness of heart”.

This willingness to compromise shows God bringing change to the world in a gradual way.
To the extent that these laws resemble the laws of other societies of the time, they show us a God who deals with people as he finds them, starting with the customs they’ve got already and allowing time to improve them.
He is prepared to deal with people in ways that they can understand, before trying to lead them further.

posted on Apr, 4 2014 @ 05:04 PM
These are the laws about injury found in the Code of Hammurabi;

196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.
197. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken.
198. If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.
199. If he put out the eye of a man's slave, or break the bone of a man's slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.
200. If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.
201. If he knock out the teeth of a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a gold mina.
202. If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.
203. If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina.
204. If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.
205. If the slave of a freed man strike the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut off.
206. If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall swear, "I did not injure him wittingly," and pay the physicians.
207. If the man die of his wound, he shall swear similarly, and if he (the deceased) was a free-born man, he shall pay half a mina in money.
208. If he was a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
209. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss.
210. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.
211. If a woman of the free class lose her child by a blow, he shall pay five shekels in money.
212. If this woman die, he shall pay half a mina.
213. If he strike the maid-servant of a man, and she lose her child, he shall pay two shekels in money.
214. If this maid-servant die, he shall pay one-third of a mina

Obviously the principle of “compensation for injury” is common to both sets of laws.
The most striking difference between these laws and Israelite law is that the penalties imposed by these laws depend on the respective social status of offender and victim.
This is an important consideration, because there seem to be at least three different grades of non-slaves- the “freed man”, the “free-born” man, and the man of “higher rank”.
In addition, Babylon has elaborate laws providing penalties when injury has been caused by inefficient physicians, builders, and ship-builders. These professions (especially the last) are probably less developed in Israelite society, so their laws don’t need to take account of them.
Personal injury is also covered in the Roman law of the “Twelve Tables”.

Table VIII


2. – If one has maimed a limb and does not compromise with the injured person, let there be retaliation. If one has broken a bone of a freeman with his hand or with a cudgel, let him pay a penalty of three hundred coins If he has broken the bone of a slave, let him have one hundred and fifty coins. If one is guilty of insult, the penalty shall be twenty-five coins.

Code of Hammurabi
Roman laws

posted on Apr, 5 2014 @ 03:08 AM
reply to post by DISRAELI

Not much to add here except great thread, starred and flagged. Thanks for taking the time to put this together for us!

posted on Apr, 5 2014 @ 08:34 AM
reply to post by graphuto

Thank you for the encouragement.
"Murder" will be the next item in the series, an appropriate climax.

posted on Apr, 5 2014 @ 12:08 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

Is this the basis of the pro-life movement?

209. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss. - See more at:

Or did some other storybook supersede this storybook?

posted on Apr, 5 2014 @ 12:51 PM
reply to post by InverseLookingGlass

When you quoted that law, you did not look at the heading at the top of the post, which says "These are the laws of the Code of Hammurabi".
In other words, that particular law does not come from the Old Testament at all. It comes from the Babylonian law.

So that in itself answers the sneer at the end of your post.
The idea that the child in the womb is a human life, and the loss of that child is the death of a human life, is not just limited to one nation but is much more universal.
The same principle is found in the laws of the Roman king Numa Pompilius;

12. – A royal law forbids the burial of a pregnant woman before the child is extracted from the womb. Whoever violates this law is deemed to have destroyed the child's expectancy of life along with the mother.

The dehumanising of unborn children, so that they can be discarded to suit the convenience of others, is a modern innovation.

You're not safe yourself, you know. You will be subject to "voluntary euthanasia" once the modern community decides you are "unwanted".

edit on 5-4-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 5 2014 @ 03:14 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

have you done all the 10 commandments at least!?

posted on Apr, 5 2014 @ 03:22 PM
reply to post by guidetube

I wasn't directly aiming at doing the 10 commandments, because I was looking at the criminal and social laws.
But I've mentioned some of them as the basic principles behind the laws;
Not bearing false witness against neighbour came into the first one, about the judicial process.
Not stealing and not coveting was mentioned at the beginning of the next one ("your neighbour's goods").
Adultery was part of the thread on wives, honouring father and mother part of the thread on sons.
"You shall not kill" is the basis of the next and final theme.

posted on Apr, 6 2014 @ 05:04 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

I'll probably be the fool turning out for the protests when your religious freedom is outlawed.

posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 03:32 PM
This thread can be associated with the following group of threads, which also deal with relations with neighbours;

Settling your disputes
Your neighbour's goods
Your neighbour's field
Your fighting bulls
edit on 8-4-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 9 2014 @ 05:37 PM
For information;
The theme of this thread will be completed by a further thread covering the subject of murder.

After Easter, there will be an Index thread for the series, to tie the various threads together and help people to navigate them.

posted on May, 4 2014 @ 01:43 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

The Index thread for this series can now be found at the following location;

Your patient teacher

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