God's Law; "You have just been murdered"

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posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 05:13 PM
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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Which gives us a new reason for reading this collection even if the laws themselves have been superseded.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 his law says about murder
Of course the fundamental principle is declared in the ten commandments- “You shall not kill”.
This is the first of the five commandments dealing with treatment of neighbours.

The practical application, as part of the legal code, is found in the next chapter;
“Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death”- Exodus ch21 v12.
But the law makes a distinction between murder and what we would now call manslaughter
This distinction, and the different ways of treating the two, is outlined in three chapters- Exodus ch21, Numbers ch35, and Deuteronomy ch19.

The most unambiguous form of outright murder is when “a man wilfully attacks another to kill him treacherously” – Exodus v14
That is, “if any man hates his neighbour and lies in wait for him, and attacks him and wounds him mortally so that he dies”- Deuteronomy v11
Numbers is very circumstantial in covering all the possible weapons; “If he struck him down with an instrument of iron…if he struck him down with a stone in the hand…or if he struck him down with a weapon of wood in the hand…and if he stabbed him from hatred, or hurled at him, lying in wait, so that he died, or in enmity struck him down with his hand…” -Numbers vv16-21
But the key point is the same, that murder is found in premeditation and ambush.
In such cases, there is to be no reprieve and no sanctuary- “You shall take him from my altar, that he may die”- Exodus v14

Yet the event may not be murder if there was no deliberate purpose in the act.
Deuteronomy thinks in terms of complete accidents;
“If any man kills his neighbour unintentionally without having been at enmity with him in times past- as when a man goes into a forest with his neighbour to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbour so that he dies…” –Deuteronomy vv4-5
(Axe-heads were not very secure in those days. That’s how one of Elisha’s comrades lost an axe in the water- 2 Kings ch6 v5)

But again the most circumstantial definition of “manslaughter” is to be found in Numbers;
“If he stabbed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled something on him without lying in wait, or used a stone, by which a man may die, and without seeing him cast it upon him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm…”-(Numbers vv22-23
This sounds like a description of a free-for-all brawl, or a sudden burst of anger.

If there was no premeditated attack, the killer may be protected from family vengeance;
“But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint to you a place to which he may flee”- Exodus v13
This promise is elaborated in Numbers. Six cities are to be assigned to the Levites, three on each side of the Jordan, which will also be “cities of refuge”, to which the accidental manslayer can escape.
At the probable time of the writing of Deuteronomy, the land beyond the Jordan had been lost, so there are now three cities set apart, with a promise of three more “if the Lord your God enlarges your borders”.

By making his escape there, the culprit will escape the “hot anger” of the “avenger of blood”, who will probably be the nearest member of the victim’s family.
There will then be a trial.
“The congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood”, to decide if the manslayer has a genuine claim to protection.
If they assess the act as murder, “then the elders of the city shall send and fetch him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die”- Deuteronomy v12
But if they judge that the act was unpremeditated, then “the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hands of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge”- Numbers v25
He must stay in refuge, though, until the death of the High Priest.
If he leaves the city before then, the “avenger of blood” is still entitled to kill him.

What can these laws tell us about the God who endorses them?
It’s worth remembering what the alternatives were.
In many societies, dealing with murder was the concern of the victim’s family.
They might look for vengeance.
Or they might look for compensation in the shape of a fine, perhaps graded according to the social status of the victim.

In comparison, these laws are shifting the emphasis.
The key principle is that murder is an offence against God and the community at large.
“Blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land…except by the blood of him who shed it” -Numbers vv31-33
So control of the response is taken out of the hands of the victim’s family.
The shedding of blood is so serious that it requires the exchange of “life for life”.
There is still a place, then, for the family’s “avenger of blood”, but his right to act is regulated.
While the alternative of taking money in compensation is banned outright- “You shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer…but he shall be put to death”.
Nor can even the accidental killer be allowed to pay for the right to return home before the death of the High Priest.

The regulation of vengeance has two important benefits.
It dampens down the danger of perpetual feud, so that speaks of a God who wants his people to live at peace with one another.
The exile of the accidental killer contributes to this, because it allows time for the vengeful passions to die down.
It also allows room, once more, for the protection of the innocent, that is, those without harmful intentions.
These laws are directed against bloodshed in hatred and enmity.
This is already moving towards the teaching of “love”.

But if the shedding of blood pollutes the land, an effect which can be expiated only by another shedding of blood, why is the accidental killer allowed to return on the death of the High Priest?
The implication is that when the killer takes refuge with the Levites, and the High Priest takes him under his protective wing, there is a sense in which the High Priest identifies himself with the killer.
Therefore the death of the High Priest is enough in itself to supply the exchange of “life for life” which the law demands.
In effect, his death takes the place of the killer’s death.
Once again, we find in the law the figure of one who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
This then prompts the reflection that the same description might be applied to God himself.

The foundation of these laws is the high value which God places on human life.
For this reason, we may think it a fault that the law against killing requires the offender to be killed.
If it is a fault (and the point needs to be argued out) it shows 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, 11 2014 @ 05:16 PM
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The death-penalty?


The shedding of blood is so serious that it requires the exchange of “life for life”.

However, modern society has decided that the death-penalty itself is a form of murder, and needs to be abandoned .
So it’s worth considering how much a death-penalty, in cases of murder, might be
a) compatible with the principles taught by a Biblical God, and
b) demanded by the principles taught by a Biblical God.

Is it compatible?

The wrongfulness of murder is expressed in these laws by the idea of “blood-guilt”; “the shedding of blood pollutes the land”.
This in turn rests on the understanding, which runs through the Old Testament, that the blood of any living creature is its life, and its life belongs to the God who gave it life.
He has given us permission to take the life of animals, but even then the Israelites are expected to leave him the blood, to acknowledge his prior claim.
But anyone who takes human life is trespassing, in principle, on what belongs to God.

However, the Old Testament does not see “murder” in every act of taking of life.
I’ve already quoted passages which treat the act as a lesser offence if it happened accidentally or otherwise without malice.
Another law allows a man breaking into a house in the middle of the night to be killed without any blood-guilt.

Similarly, these laws prescribe the death-penalty in certain cases.
They are obviously taking for granted, then, that carrying out the death-penalty is one of the forms of taking life which does not constitute murder.
The death penalty may be carried out by a stoning, but that’s not enough, in itself, to make it an acceptable act.
When Bishop Odo of Bayeux fought at the Battle of Hastings, he thought he was not guilty of “shedding blood” because he was using a mace.
But this literalistic evasion of the command was invalid; the law found in Numbers ch35 covers all the possibilities and makes it clear that even stoning a man, if done in malice, counts as murder.
You do not need to be shedding literal blood in order to be “shedding blood” in the eyes of God.

The real explanation must be that the man who carries out the death-penalty is acting under command, not acting out of malice.
And if he’s acting under God’s command, then he cannot be guilty of trespassing upon God’s prerogative, which is the real point of the Biblical law on murder.
That’s why there is no conflict between the specific instruction to carry out the death penalty and the more general prohibition against taking human life.

Is it demanded?

This God’s view of murder, like his view on marriage, is fundamental enough to be included in the text of Genesis.
“For your lifeblood I shall require a reckoning;…of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.”- Genesis ch9 vv5-6
If a man takes a life which belongs to God, then God takes back (through the executioner) the life which the man has already received from him.
Thus God demands the death-penalty for his own sake.

He also demands the death-penalty, in cases of murder, for the sake of the victim.
This can be seen from the later laws dealing with compensation for injuries.
The penalties work up from “an eye for an eye” and “a tooth for a tooth” until they reach “a life for a life”.
In each case, the penalty has the same value as the injury.
So the basic principle which underlies the death-penalty is evidently that nothing has more value than human life, and therefore nothing less than human life can be accepted in exchange for the loss of life.
Presumably this is the reason why the authorities or the victim’s family are explicitly banned from accepting money as a substitute for the death penalty.
If we were living in Anglo-Saxon England, my life would be worth 200 Wessex shillings, which would be the appropriate wergild for a ceorl such as me.
That’s how much the man who killed me would have to pay my family.
But the Israelite law gives my life a much greater value, by insisting that it cannot be exchanged for anything less than another life.

Therefore, on the Biblical principle that human life has greater value than anything else, in God’s eyes, it did make sense to get rid of the death penalty for lesser offences like theft.
When it was possible for a man to be hung for a sheep or for a lamb or even for picking another man’s pocket, the penalty was disproportionate.
But what is the result of abolishing the death penalty in the event of murder itself, replacing it with some less drastic punishment, such as a term of imprisonment?
It could be argued that a lesser penalty undervalues the life of the victim himself.
It says, in effect, that the victim’s life is less valuable even than the life of the man who killed him.
It might be seen as a reversion to the days of “wergild”, when the value of human life was low enough to be measured in monetary terms.

So it’s possible, perhaps, to put forward a case that the abolition of the death penalty for murder is a retrogression from Biblical principles rather than a progression.



posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 05:20 PM
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People who critize the OT laws, I find are akin to people who say the Constitution is outdated or outmoded for the modern world, and than point to the in-equality of it at the time it was made.

The problem is, that is taking an Idealized veiw of the world and the law.

"All men are created equal"

"Yet Women and blacks couldn't vote?!?!?!"

That sort of thing.

The Problem is, the Constitution, like the Declaration of independence, is a High minded Ideal to strive for in the real world.

The writers knew, the reality of the world they lived in, and proposed documents and structures to create a "better" way.


I take the Same view on OT laws,

Do you make laws that are what you want, no matter the reality of the world around you.

OR,

DO you make laws that take into account the world in which the people actually live.

OR, do you aim for both, a Higher Ideal, with Practical implication for the times you live in.


THe NT would argue, you deal with the world you live in, and try to be better, it is not a "revision" but a "refining" of mans understanding of the will of god.



posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 05:24 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 




So it’s possible, perhaps, to put forward a case that the abolition of the death penalty for murder is a retrogression from Biblical principles rather than a progression.


As my father always used to say, "Anything is possible".



posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 05:31 PM
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reply to post by benrl
 

Yes, that's exactly the view of the laws which I've been proposing all through this series.
They start at the level which the people of the time can understand, and then get modified.
This is an exercise in trying to discern God's part in them, the basic principles, and the New Testament is an advanced version of the same thing.
Thank you for those comments.



posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 05:33 PM
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reply to post by combatmaster
 

IN that case, what I suggested must be among the things which are possible.

edit on 11-4-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 07:18 PM
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I find the idea of a God who created such a wondrous thing as an intelligent, living planet so far removed from someone sitting down, cogitating, and then insisting on the laws you specify above - it literally is too bizarre to be believed by people today unless they are indoctrinated into religious dogma during their formative years.

I have trouble with the concept of the God of the Old Testament. God is supposed to be a wondrous, brilliant creator far above the lowly passions of bad temperedness and jealousy - these are man's traits.

The last thing concerning murder is that God gave man the law 'Thou shalt not kill". Then goes on to arrange the training up of the Israelites into an army with the specific instruction to go on a killing spree to steal land from other people who are literally their neighbours. He has given such detailed instructions about not killing one's neighbour or a man by waiting in ambush with a weapon in order to kill him or worse to compound the sin of killing to stealing from his his goods, wives and land. So how does mere man settle in his mind the act of war, which is not only in the literal sense against God's instructions but also against the spirit of the moral code God appears to have considered so carefully. Urging warfare is somewhat out of kilter, especially so when people insist in taking the Testaments literally.

Of are we in truth looking at a list of laws, a group of men decided to impose on their group of people to ensure safety and civilised behaviour; in fact behaviour of people living together safely and honourably in large groups and which has simply grown and grown down through the generations? It seems to me to come from the period before kings were set up to govern when there would have been no 'laws or police equivalent/enforccement', just families and groups travelling and living together, when a code of behaviour became necessary in order to literally sleep peacefully in one's bed.

Have we come to the stage where books from prehistory and the Dark Ages have served their purpose and are becoming a danger to the public especially from religious zealots.



posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 07:43 PM
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Shiloh7
I find the idea of a God who created such a wondrous thing as an intelligent, living planet so far removed from someone sitting down, cogitating, and then insisting on the laws you specify above -

That is not what I'm proposing.
I propose that these people had made laws for themselves, along with all the other peoples of their time, and the contribution of their God was to prompt them to modify their law in a more spiritual direction.
It's a gradual process of education, which culminates in the more spritual teaching of the New Testament.

Warfare would have to be considered as a separate topic.
Societies have always distinguished between war and "peacetime" murders for individual ends, and warfare in the Old Testament would be a big enough subject to demand being treated on its own.


Of are we in truth looking at a list of laws, a group of men decided to impose on their group of people to ensure safety and civilised behaviour;

As I suggested above, instead of choosing between "human origin" and "divine origin", we can consider a mixture of the two, in the shape of human laws leavened and modified by divine influence.
Alll the way through this series I've been comparing and contrasting these laws with the laws of other contemporary societies, which demonstrate what men produce when left to their own devices. There are some very interesting and suggestive differences.

edit on 11-4-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 11 2014 @ 08:17 PM
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Shiloh7
I find the idea of a God who created such a wondrous thing as an intelligent, living planet so far removed from someone sitting down, cogitating, and then insisting on the laws you specify above - it literally is too bizarre to be believed by people today unless they are indoctrinated into religious dogma during their formative years.

I have trouble with the concept of the God of the Old Testament. God is supposed to be a wondrous, brilliant creator far above the lowly passions of bad temperedness and jealousy - these are man's traits.

The last thing concerning murder is that God gave man the law 'Thou shalt not kill". Then goes on to arrange the training up of the Israelites into an army with the specific instruction to go on a killing spree to steal land from other people who are literally their neighbours. He has given such detailed instructions about not killing one's neighbour or a man by waiting in ambush with a weapon in order to kill him or worse to compound the sin of killing to stealing from his his goods, wives and land. So how does mere man settle in his mind the act of war, which is not only in the literal sense against God's instructions but also against the spirit of the moral code God appears to have considered so carefully. Urging warfare is somewhat out of kilter, especially so when people insist in taking the Testaments literally.

Of are we in truth looking at a list of laws, a group of men decided to impose on their group of people to ensure safety and civilised behaviour; in fact behaviour of people living together safely and honourably in large groups and which has simply grown and grown down through the generations? It seems to me to come from the period before kings were set up to govern when there would have been no 'laws or police equivalent/enforccement', just families and groups travelling and living together, when a code of behaviour became necessary in order to literally sleep peacefully in one's bed.

Have we come to the stage where books from prehistory and the Dark Ages have served their purpose and are becoming a danger to the public especially from religious zealots.


The Jewish concept of God is not that He is so far above and removed, but very near also. That's why He is a far-near God.

And if you are cognizant of God, then you do realize that there is something higher and greater than just the human emotions and actions, and it is realizing those human actions that are addressed in the OT. Do you imagine that the kingdom of God must be like it is on earth?

Why do you feel that civil laws are an imposition toward you? No one is permitted to break into your house and steal things from you, but if you say it is unlawful, because you have determined what is lawful, then you are imposing your law onto someone else who chooses not to trust in your benevolent wisdom. Is it an imposition or a defense of your rights as a citizen or have you evolved to become higher than your neighbors?

Would you like my imposition of civil laws onto you? I say that you may not break into my house and steal my things. Would you call 911 if someone were threatening your life or would you say that 911 is an imposition on your civil rights to be protected and recompensed?



posted on Apr, 12 2014 @ 01:02 PM
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This thread is the continuation of and sequel to;

Fighting your neighbour



posted on Apr, 13 2014 @ 12:10 PM
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One indicator of the seriousness of the act of muredr is the law which makes the local community collectively responsible for bodies found in the field;

“Your elders and your judges shall come forth and they shall measure the distance to the cities which are around…and the elders of the city which is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer which has never been worked…and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley”.
Then, in front of the priests, who are also judges concerning disputes and assaults, “All the elders of the city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer…and they shall testify “Our hands did not shed this blood, neither did our eyes see it shed”- Deuteronomy ch21 vv1-9

(This is lenient treatment, though. In some societies, the local community would have been punished collectively if they could not produce the culprit)



posted on Apr, 13 2014 @ 05:04 PM
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In case anyone was puzzled about the title;

"You have just been murdered" was the title of an episode of The Avengers, starrring Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg as John Steed and Emma Peel (the plot imvolving intimidation and extortion).



posted on Apr, 21 2014 @ 05:48 PM
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But if the shedding of blood pollutes the land, an effect which can be expiated only by another shedding of blood, why is the accidental killer allowed to return on the death of the High Priest?
The implication is that when the killer takes refuge with the Levites, and the High Priest takes him under his protective wing, there is a sense in which the High Priest identifies himself with the killer.
Therefore the death of the High Priest is enough in itself to supply the exchange of “life for life” which the law demands.
In effect, his death takes the place of the killer’s death.
Once again, we find in the law the figure of one who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Easter is an appropriate time to draw out this point more explicitly.
For this is another place where the Law is obliquely pointing towards the New Testament understanding of God.
According to these laws, the killer's return to the land cannot be accomplished without a death.
His own death would normally be required.
However, the Law allows the death of the High Priest to be accepted, in effect, as a substitute for the man's own death.
No Christian, especially at Easter, could fail to spot the signficance of that parallel to what the New Testament teaches about the death of Christ.
Once again, then, the Law is anticipating Christian theology by embedding one of its most important concepts.



posted on Apr, 22 2014 @ 05:11 PM
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For information; I've already given notice that there will be an Index thread at the end of this series.
However, there's been a late addition to the original plan.
The current thread will now be followed by one discussing Paul's claim that Christians are "discharged from" obedience to the Law of Moses.
Consequently, the Index thread will be postponed for a few days.
edit on 22-4-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 4 2014 @ 02:38 PM
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The Index thread for this series can now be found at the following location;

Your patient teacher






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