posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 05:02 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Which gives us a new reason for reading this collection even if the laws themselves have been superseded.
Most of these laws can be grouped into topical themes, and that’s how I’ve been treating them.
But before I move on to the more contentious themes, I’m gathering together a number of miscellaneous laws which don’t have any other
The umbrella title “duty of care” is a catchphrase from English law.
There’s evidence, for example, of a general responsibility to act in ways which don’t injure the rest of the population;
You must not defraud them.
“You shall do no wrong in judgement, in measures of length or weight of quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a
just hin; I am the Lord”- Leviticus ch19 v35
You must not defame them
“You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people”- Leviticus ch19 v16
There are people in situations which need special consideration;
“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, to be happy
with his wife whom he has taken”- Deuteronomy ch24 v5
Other vulnerable members of society must be treated kindly;
“You shall not afflict any widow or orphan”-Exodus ch22 v23
“You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind”- Leviticus ch19 v14
That includes the people who work for you, and even the animals which are in your service.
“The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning”- Leviticus ch19 v13
(Do not delay payment.)
“You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the corn”- Deuteronomy ch25 v4
(That is, you must not stop him from eating while he works, even if it’s your own crop that he’s munching.)
“On the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your ass may have rest, and the son of your bondmaid, and the alien, may be refreshed”-
Exodus ch23 v12
(Do not overwork them.)
This care and consideration is not to be restricted to people of the same race;
“When a stranger sojourns with you in the land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among
you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord”- Leviticus ch19 v34
This also includes fugitive slaves, it seems.
Israel must be unique among slave-owning societies in having a law forbidding the return of a slave “who has escaped from his master to
you”- Deuteronomy ch23 vv15-16
Some of these laws could have been inspired by modern agencies.
Here is a regulation imposed at the request of the Health and Safety Executive.
“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone fall from
it”- Deuteronomy ch22 v8
(So negligence would count as indirect murder, which is what “blood-guilt” implies.)
There’s also a sanitary law, about keeping the camp free from excrement;
“You shall have a place outside the camp…and you shall have a stick…and dig a hole with it…and turn back and cover it up”- Deuteronomy ch23
Other laws might have been lobbied for by the R.S.P.C.A, or other bodies concerned about “the environment”.
“If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest…with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs, you shall not take
the mother with the young; you shall let the mother go, but the young you may take to yourself”- Deuteronomy ch22 vv6-7
“When you besiege a city for a long time…you shall not destroy its [fruit] trees by wielding an axe against them-“- Deuteronomy ch20 vv19-20
Both these laws are about maintaining the continuity of life; he allows his people to use the living things of the world, but not to
What do these laws tell us about the God who endorses them?
These too, in a practical way, are moving towards the teaching of love.
They speak of a God with a great care for the well-being of individuals, both human and animal.
It also shows us a God who looks after details, who concerns himself with the small things of the world.
The Epicureans thought their gods would exist, it at all, in a distant realm, taking no interest in human life.
But the God implied in these laws is neither so great nor so distant that he cannot be conscious of our smallest needs.
This is the kind of God who would be aware of “the death of a sparrow”, and would be able to count “every hair on a man’s head”.