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God's Law; Your family's land

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posted on Mar, 14 2014 @ 06:02 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Which gives us a new reason for reading this collection even if the laws themselves have been superseded.

Let’s take, for example, what his law says about the the family’s land.
The story in Joshua tells how the land was divided between the tribes.
In theory the various tracts of land within the tribes remain with the families who first received them.
The main threats to this intention are the possibility that male heirs might fail and the possibility of sale.

There are laws which deal with securing the inheritance for the family.
The sons of the family have the first right of inheritance (as discussed in a previous thread).
Failing sons, a man’s land will be inherited by his daughters.
But supposing they marry outsiders and take the land outside the family?
Numbers describes how the families of “the sons of Gilead” come to Moses for a ruling concerning the daughters of Zelophehad ,because they’re concerned about this possibility.
His decision becomes a legal precedent;
“Every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the family of the tribe of her father, so that every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers”.
In the event, all five daughters married the sons of their father’s brothers, which was probably a common outcome- Numbers ch36 vv1-12

Failing children, a man’s lands will be inherited by his widow,
This leads on to the custom known as “levirate marriage”.
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, and take her as his wife…and the first son she bears shall succeed to the name of his brother that is dead, that his name may not be blotted out in Israel”.
If the living brother refuses to marry the widow, then she has the right to complain to the elders of the city, and he will be put to shame- Deuteronomy ch25 vv5-10
This was the sin of Onan, for which the Lord punished him, that he only pretended to carry out this duty; in effect, he was killing his brother’s chance of a kind of immortality- Genesis ch38 vv7-10

So the official explanation of the custom is that it perpetuates the memory of the dead man in a line of notional descendants.
It’s easy to see, though, that it also has the effect of keeping his property within the bounds of the family.
If there’s an inheritance on offer, the “obligation” would naturally evolve into a jealously guarded right, as we see from the story of Ruth.

Other laws are designed to control the sale of land.
A man might want to sell part of his land, or he might be obliged to sell part of his land because of his debts.
But this would really be a lease, because Leviticus insists that the sale cannot be permanent.
A Jubilee is to be proclaimed, every fiftieth year (or forty-ninth year, depending on your commentator).
“In this year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to your property.”
All the land-holdings return to their previous owners, or at least to their families.
So the market value of the property is controlled by the number of years that remain before the next Jubilee, and the value of the crops that can be grown in that time.

If the man was obliged to sell because of his debts, the land may be “redeemed” by his next of kin, the price being reduced by the number of years that have elapsed since the sale. This would bring it back to the family more quickly.
Or the man might redeem it himself, if his fortunes recover.
Otherwise, he must wait for the Jubilee.

This is really an agricultural law, so the terms are modified for urban property- “dwelling houses within walled cities”.
In the case of city properties (apart from the cities of the Levites), the right of redemption lasts for one year only, and then the sale becomes permanent.
The cities of the Levites are central to their inheritance within Israel, so their property returns at the Jubilee in the usual way- Leviticus ch25 vv8-24

A later passage outlines the terms of another special case, namely the land which the owner has decided to dedicate to the Lord.
If it was part of his ancestral inheritance , he can redeem it later, but the redemption price is increased by one fifth.
And if the land is not redeemed by the time of the Jubilee, it remains with the Lord.
On the other hand, if he bought the land from someone else, he has no right to dispose of it permanently, and it returns to the original owners once the Jubilee arrives- Leviticus ch27 vv16-25

The story of Ruth draws in both sets of laws at the same time.
Ruth herself is the widow of a childless Israelite, which brings her into the scope of the law of levirate marriage.
But the land she should have inherited from her husband and father-in-law has probably been sold because of debts, which brings it under the law of redemption.
When Ruth offers herself as wife to Boaz, he draws attention to the existence of a “nearer kinsman”, who is entitled to “first refusal” on both counts.
In the business meeting between them (Ruth ch4 vv1-6) the sage Boaz shows his understanding of psychology by explaining the situation in two stages.
First the good news; he tells the other man that the widow Naomi is selling or has sold the lands of her husband, which gives him the opportunity to redeem the land by re-purchase.
Then the bad news; he points out that this right of redemption goes with an obligation to marry the Moabite widow Ruth.
The other man balks at this prospect, so Boaz is allowed to marry Ruth and become an ancestor of the house of David.

What can these laws tell us about the God who endorses them?
For one thing, they’re expressing his concern for the stability of the family, because they secure the land which earns the family a living, gives them something to eat.

The law of redemption also introduces us to the concept of the “next-of-kin”, the redeemer, 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 society which generated these laws is clearly male-dominated, and in that respect it resembles other societies of the time.
So this 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 Mar, 14 2014 @ 09:28 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

If anyone understands the story of Ruth, she wasn't Jewish, but coming from Moab, therefore probably considered a Noahide through her marriage to Boaz, maybe was a convert through her conversation with Naomi. The land of Elimelek was redeemed through that Levirate marriage, so that Naomi and Ruth would not be homeless.

So we can see that Levirate, a custom in more than just early Hebrew society, was technically a protection for women, not only to preserve the male inheritance, provided a way for women to be protected. But Elimelek's land was in the country. While it is very male dominated, it was a man's world back then, not only for the early Hebrews, but the surrounding lands were as well. Hammurabbi had even more misogynist laws. At least he provided protections for prostitutes.

posted on Mar, 15 2014 @ 12:06 AM
I've always found it a little confusing why God would be concerned with land ownership. If anything, I think He would probably want us to share it all--voluntarily. Instead, here we have an ancient legal manual on estate transfer. And cousin-marrying.

I understand the message was directed at a different type of society, but some things (especially "God things") are universal. I don't think God ever really cared about money and wealth, or "Titles in Yorkshire". At least not the One I believe in...

I suppose there's something to be said for it developing strong families, but I'm reminded of a quote attributed to an Indian (American) no one seems to know who:

"Treat the Earth well. We do not inherit it from our ancestors--we borrow it from our children.
--Some Wise Indian

That makes a lot of sense to me, and I don't see how it's possible to do that when you think of land (the Earth) as a commodity. Something to be divided up, sold and exploited. Look at what we've done to it. Is that good for our children?

posted on Mar, 15 2014 @ 01:16 AM
That was actually quite an interesting post, star for you!
Obviously the bible has many laws, and philosophies that followers should interpret and adhere to.

Well i am a very kind man, and give and help people on a daily basis. I've given money to homeless people, I am selfless, kind, compassionate and all i want to do, Is help make other people's lives better.
Yet I am an atheist (borderline agnostic), and i am CONSTANTLY told i am going to burn in hell for not believing, going by the laws/interpretations of the bible.
This is not meant to antagonise anyone, i just think it's unfair, considering we're all meant to be gods children, and I constantly do the best to be kind to all people i meet. :-(

posted on Mar, 15 2014 @ 04:47 AM
reply to post by WarminIndy

Yes, presumably the "nearer kinsman" objected to Ruth as a Moabite,rather than to the marriage as such.

In most of these threads I've been quoting the laws of Hammurabi on the same topic, but in this particular case i found nothing comparable.

posted on Mar, 15 2014 @ 08:10 AM

I've always found it a little confusing why God would be concerned with land ownership.

If land ownership is a potential source of trouble, then a law-maker needs to be concerned with it.
Just as the laws of the modern world are full of regulations about the driving of cars- not because the lawmakers want to drive cars, but because the people living under the laws want to drive cars.
A God's concern on the subject of land would be
1) that his people should not fight over it, hence the need to dampen down disputes.
2) that his people should be able to eat, hence the need to spread land-holding as wide as possible. In this kind of society, one of small peasant farmers, no land = no food.

If anything, I think He would probably want us to share it all--voluntarily.

People have been mentally building utopias ever since More wrote the book of that name, or even before, but the problem in practice is that utopias only work with utopian people. Instead of starting from an ideal and working backwards, this is about starting from where we are and working forwards.
"Nobody owns the land" is all well and good as long as people are just living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and even then a group may be able to eat only if it defends its preferred foraging/hunting patch from the incursions of another group.
But crop-growing needs some kind of land-ownership. It can't be done any other way, because the farmer has to wait for the harvest. That's why land-divisions appear in history as soon as people begin planting crops. Common ownership might work at the level of a small village, as in the middle ages, but it's not workable on a larger scale.

edit on 15-3-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 15 2014 @ 09:48 AM
reply to post by NthOther

How do the Navajo and other agriculture based Native American groups view land ownership vs. exploiting it as a commodity?

As the OP states, these were laws regarding the agricultural aspect within the early Hebrew society. There were other laws in that same society that stated things such as not harvesting the edges, as that was for the stranger, and the widows, such as Naomi and Ruth were to glean, in other words the farmers were not permitted to benefit by every grain of wheat. And in the seventh year they had to let the fields rest.

The farmers also had to present offerings of wheat, or the tithable portion to Israel to benefit all of Israel and the Levites who were never paid for performing their duties, but supported by the other ten tribes.

posted on Mar, 15 2014 @ 01:29 PM
reply to post by OpenEars123

I've been an atheist myself, in my time, so I know what kind of arguments don't work on atheists, and I'm not going to use that one.
I shoiuld warn you, though, that an atheist may sometimes find his position changing unexpectedly.
See How an atheist became a Christian

posted on Mar, 15 2014 @ 03:30 PM

reply to post by OpenEars123

I've been an atheist myself, in my time, so I know what kind of arguments don't work on atheists, and I'm not going to use that one.
I shoiuld warn you, though, that an atheist may sometimes find his position changing unexpectedly.
See How an atheist became a Christian

I have to say, Disraeli, that I enjoy reading your posts. You are highly intellectual and intelligent and it shows by the amount of research and careful thought put into your wording.

People's worldviews change all the time, as does their moral relativity. So basing everything on the minds of people to be atheist or not atheist, minds change as does everything else. We seem to forget that people who were once religious can become atheist or vice versa. It really all does get down to the individual level. If one is atheist because his peers and colleagues are, then they aren't really atheist, simply a follower of consensus.

In societies where Christianity is not a major influence, some type of belief in some type of spiritual realm does exist. We might call them primitive, however, they have established societal rules they live by and has worked very well for them. So primitive does not mean superstition in any way, the accusations that superstitions are based in primitive psychology, then how does it account for the massive amount of superstition in our modern societies?

Betting on certain numbers in a lottery because you use birthday numbers, superstition. Wearing your favorite team's jersey on game day while you watch it on television, it is superstition as well because you aren't merely supporting your team, you believe that your team will win because you performed certain rituals in order that they might win, even if you aren't where they are.

We have a very superstitious society, people do all kinds of things superstitiously even if we don't believe in God. Why do people do that? Psychologically we need something to believe in. It's hardwired into us.

posted on Mar, 16 2014 @ 06:11 PM
There is now a "family law" group of threads covering four topics (which are divided in this way partly to bring each theme within the 7500 character limit which ATS demands).

Your wife
Your daughters
Your sons
Your family's land

posted on Mar, 17 2014 @ 06:06 PM

A later passage outlines the terms of another special case, namely the land which the owner has decided to dedicate to the Lord. Leviticus ch27 vv16-25

This is also, incidentally, where we get information about the value of land, at least at one stage in Israel's history.
It seems that the land which can take a homer of barley-seed, if held for the full interval between Jubilees, has a value of fifty shekels, in "the shekel of the sanctuary".
One shekel a year.
We can compare this with two other passages about the sale of property. Comparisons may be deceptive, though, because that phrase "the shekel of the sanctuary" warns us that the shekel might be measured by different standards in different settings.
Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah, for his wife’s tomb, at four hundred shekels, in “the shekel of the merchant”. Genesis ch23 v15
While David bought the threshing-floor of Araunah, the future site of the Temple, for either fifty shekels of silver (1 Samuel ch24 v24) or six hundred shekels of gold (1 Chronicles ch21 v24). The explanation for the different figures is probably that the shekel was a volume measure. Evidently silver is more valuable than gold; apparently this was the case in Egypt under the Pharoahs, because gold was so much easier to find in the Nile valley.

posted on Mar, 18 2014 @ 06:22 PM
Why did the "nearer kinsman" think that marrying Ruth would impair his inheritance.
One suggestion has been that he was concerned about the inheritance of the children he had already; their share of his estate would be diminished if they had to share it with his children by Ruth.
But in that case the fact that Ruth was a Moabite would not have been relevant, because the same objection would apply to any new marriage.
Since Ruth's foreign birth is the central fact of the book, the point of the story must be that this was the reason for his reluctance.
He must have been concerned about the status of his children within Israel, since Moabites were supposed to be banned from the congregation for ten generations. Therefore he would prefer to start his family with a different wife.
The message of the end of the book is that he was being unduly anxious, since having a Moabite great-grandmother did not prevent David being accepted and prospering.

posted on Mar, 19 2014 @ 05:49 PM

Numbers describes how the families of “the sons of Gilead” come to Moses for a ruling concerning the daughters of Zelophehad ...

The story goes that the Campbells annexed the lands of Cawdor by abducting the infant heiress, to marry her into their own family.
The abductor is alleged to have exclaimed; “The lassie can never die [that is, she can be replaced] sae lang as there is a red-headed lass on the shores of Loch Awe”.
This would not have worked under Israelite law.

posted on Mar, 20 2014 @ 05:58 PM
For information;
Once this series is complete, i will once again be capping it off with an Index thread to tie all the threads together and help people to navigate them.
Meanwhile the next thread will deal with poverty and debt, which overlaps with this one with respect to land being sold to meet debts.

posted on May, 4 2014 @ 11:18 AM
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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