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God's Law (Bible version); Settling your disputes

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posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 04:32 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Which gives us a new reason for reading this collection even if the laws themselves have been superseded.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 settling disputes and dealing with crimes.
The local court is “the elders at the gate”.
That’s where the widow goes to claim her rights- Deuteronomy ch25 vv7-10
The town gate is the normal place for any kind of legal business, for obvious reasons.
In the absence of a market-place or a temple, it’s the nearest open space.
Every man in the town will pass through it or stop to socialise; you can find your man and gather witnesses at a moment’s notice (Ruth ch4 vv1-2).

But some cases will be beyond the skill of the elders.
So the land also needs a well-managed judicial system, to deal with problem cases and appeals.
This was neglected in the time of David, and his discontented son Absolom made political capital out of the fact;
“Absolom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate; and when any man had a suit to come before the king for judgement…Absolom would say to him “See, your claims are good and right; but there is no man deputed by the king to hear you…Oh, that I were a judge in the land! Then every man with a suit or a cause would come to me and I would give him justice”…So Absolom stole the hearts of the men of Israel”- 2 Samuel ch15 vv1-6

This was one of the prime functions of kingship; repelling invaders and responding to appeals for justice were the two ways of bringing peace to the land.
They are still the two most important tasks of government.
But David was a warrior, and sitting in judgement was probably not his strong point.
If he was trying to do the job without help, the work would have overwhelmed him.

Solomon is better known for his judgements, but he probably (as a really wise king) also took the advice Jethro gave to Moses;
“Choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves.”- Exodus ch18 vv21-22

That’s exactly what Deuteronomy prescribes;
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns…according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgement”- Deuteronomy ch16 v18
These laws also involve the priestly class, as keepers of legal knowledge, in adjudicating the more difficult cases;
“If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right or another, or one kind of assault or another, any case within your towns which is too difficult for you, then you shall arise… and coming to the Levitical priests, and to the judge who is in office in those days, you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision.”
Once the decision has been given, that should settle the matter, and the dispute should be allowed to come to an end;
“You shall not turn aside from the verdict which they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left”-- Deuteronomy ch17 vv8-11
(This implies that the king has dropped out of the task of hearing appeals in person).

Once the judges are in place, the next requirement is that they should be honest;
“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality; and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous”- Deuteronomy ch16 v19
The effect of bribery is that it favours the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor, which is why the law says;
“You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his suit”-Exodus ch23 v6
And also “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour”- Leviticus ch19 v15
The story of Naboth’s vineyard is an extreme case of this kind of corruption.

They need to judge each case, instead, in accordance with the evidence;
“A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offence that he has committed; only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained” Deuteronomy ch19 v15
This provision takes for granted the principle of “innocent until proved guilty”. The “burden of proof” is clearly laid upon the accuser.

So the law keeps coming back to address the problem of false testimony.
The basic principle is expressed in the ten commandments;
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”- Exodus ch20 v16

A false accusation might stem from the simple malice of personal feuds;
“You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbour; I am the Lord” Leviticus ch19 v16

Or it might reflect a lynch-mob atmosphere, directed against an unpopular individual.
“Nor shall you bear witness in in a suit, turning aside after a multitude, so as to pervert justice”- Exodus ch23 v2.

Whatever the reason for the false testimony, it is to be punished;
“If a malicious witness rises against any man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and judges who are in office in those days;
The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness, and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he meant to do to his brother”- Deuteronomy ch19 vv16-19
In other words, the false accuser will receive the same penalty that the accused person would have received, if he had been guilty as charged.
A law like that in the modern world would stop quite a few malicious claims in their tracks.

What can these laws tell us about the God who endorses them?
In the first place, the point of any arbitration system is to be an alternative to settling disputes by violence.
So that speaks of a God who wants his people to live at peace among themselves.

He wants the process to be organised with some efficiency, for “justice delayed is justice denied”, as the maxim says.

What little we know of procedure suggests a care to protect the innocent, with many attempts to discourage false accusation.
So that speaks of a God who wants people to be treated justly, with proceedings based upon truth.

This is already moving towards the teaching of “love”.

If these are procedures which would have grown up naturally, or if they resemble the laws of other societies of the time, that’s instructive in itself.
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.

posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 04:35 PM


posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 04:38 PM
reply to post by Indigent

The doors are open wide.
"The feast is set, the guests are met,
Mayst hear the merry din".

posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 04:41 PM
I should explain that I'm expecting this to be one of a series looking over different aspects of Pentateuch law.
Next time, burglary and stolen property.

posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 05:16 PM


posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 07:49 PM
settling disputes is a toughie as it involves acting against other wills, it also means stopping people getting the justice they think right.

this is definitely a social issue to be decided by the ruling authority. the strongest always settle disputes.

religion surely can only teach the benefit in forgiveness and encourage people to avoid disputes. to ensure the strongest are also compassionate and fair.

posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 07:55 PM
reply to post by guidetube

Those are good points.
Yes, it is true that secular justice has always depended on appealing to people who have power in the locality.
Hence from earliest times there was the right to appeal tp the king, or whoever the ruler was.
You can see in the book of Judges how the strong men (or sometimes the prophets like Deborah and Samuel) are adopted as "judges" of the people.

And yes, one of the commandments in the Pentateuch is that you should not hate your neighbour or seek vengeance against him, which covers your other point.

edit on 17-1-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 08:38 PM

this is definitely a social issue to be decided by the ruling authority. the strongest always settle disputes.

I do not wish to appear flippant, arrogant or...insensitive but I find this sentence alone to be extremely disturbing. THankfully I am travelling at high speed and am gone before you see me coming and have quite possibly missed much of the context. Just something I clicked on a Friday night that scared me.

posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 08:53 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI[/url]

Its very hard to argue against the moral teachings of the bible.

Judges should be fair
False testimony also should be punished
Try and be understanding if in dispute
Do not seek excessive retribution out of revenge
Accept decisions made by your elders (stronger)
Do not take action into your own hand unless absolute necessary and understand doing so will put you to judgement

Example setting should not be overlooked either. You need to discourage people who do not obtain to the same values not to cause similar disputes.

As a society we have listened to religious teachings and demanded more fairness from the strong.
We should not think that God will judge us on what we or others think right only doing what we know is wrong.
If society disagrees with you that is for you to accept but that is why we shouldn't ignore future needs just as the past (Pentateuch? for example) didn't ignore ours.
We have to accept that the strong will rule judgement on earth and make sure they answer to us not themselves.
We should encourage the strong to live by such moral standards taught, accepted and practiced by us.

By teaching good based on God and afterlife it encourages people to think of the bigger picture. By teaching no God it gives the powerful carte blanch. I mean what does it matter if you know its wrong if it benefits you?

posted on Jan, 17 2014 @ 09:13 PM
reply to post by LightSpeedDriver

Fact though no? Powerful rule societies. Sometimes we let them (we are part of their power then), sometimes we up rise to become the powerful or set a new understanding of who holds the power. Who ever settles the dispute is deemed the powerful.

How can we trust disputes to be settled by a weaker party? That would always lead to the most powerful in the dispute coming out on top and of course in turn becoming the powerful as they settled the dispute!

Another thought is we have to be careful when we talk about giving all people the power. Whilst its in the hands of the few we have always been able to take it back (difficult granted) but if its in the hands of many who is to guide them, demand fairness for the less, for the future? For example we have been giving good chances and we (hopefully) will leave world that ensure people fairness, better living etc. What if then a social society ruled by everyone starts to become selfish. It would be very hard to stop them. They would be slapping us in the face.

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 11:18 AM
Well, money talks these days. Yesterday I lost my house because my lawyer clearly sold out.

I spent a year and a half gathering police reports, witnesses, receipts, government documents etc.

My lawyer went in there with a tiny binder and 20 bank statements, while my exes lawyer, who was having an affair with another ex for a year and a half when we lived together walked in with 20 huge binders full.

My lawyer didn't use one witness or affidavit. He basically crapped the bed on my case.

He had assured me all along we would be fine, and to go ahead with renovations etc on my house, and then as we walked out of court he said sorry, you aren't getting anything, and the verdict is in, and if I were the judge I would have made the same ruling based on the shoddy evidence presented.

Basically my lawyer used up all of my legal aid twittling his thumbs, while leading me on and wasting my time.

I have lost all faith in any modern judicial system.

I KNOW I had a great judge, but my lawyer crapped out.

In his closing argument he said the word "UMM" 27 times in 3 minutes.


thanks for the vent

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 12:20 PM
reply to post by hidingthistime

I'm not sure whether your troubles have come by the system, or by the people in the system.
No system will work well without good people.
Your story illustrates what Deuteronomy is saying, that it's not enough just to appoint judges (or other people); they need to appoint honest and upright ones.

edit on 18-1-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 02:00 AM
reply to post by DISRAELI

People in the system.

My lawyer sold out, he knew my exes lawyer had an affair with my other ex, and had a vendetta for years etc, he caved and let her dismiss everything I had to show. (He didn't even put most of it in his binder, and he never got one police report or witness) WHO does that???

He told me he didn't want to be kicked out of the "lawyers club" . They both socialize together regularly. Conflicts of interest all around.

They don't care though because they know appealing this garbage is too much hassle for a single mom with a special needs child sick losers.

I KNOW I had a good judge too, I KNOW he tried his best with what he had to go on. He was just given nothing.

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 11:59 AM
For comparison, these laws are to be found in the Code of Hammurabi.

1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.
2. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.
3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.
4. If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.
5. If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge's bench, and never again shall he sit there to render judgement.

Code of Hammurabi

On the question of testing accusations, we may think that the Pentateuch demand for extra witnesses is preferable to the “ordeal” (jumping in the river) assumed in this code.

The threat of the death penalty for unsuccessful accusation is balanced out by the promise of material reward for successful accusation, which treats the detection of crime as more important than the protection of the innocent.

However, Hammurabi is commendably stern on the subject of corrupt judges.

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 02:26 PM
It's interesting to discuss a judicial system that had no jails, the closest thing to them were the cities of refuge for instances of manslaughter. For example a drunk person attacks you, you push him away he falls and strikes his head on a rock killing him.
Now you had to flee to one of those cities, they would conduct a case review and if it was judged to be true manslaughter you had to stay in the city until the death of the high priest then you could leave.

An interesting topic.

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 03:17 PM
reply to post by Blue_Jay33

Yes, indeed, you're left with fines or physical punishment (beating is mentioned in one passage).
This is the first in a series, and i'm planning to look at the whole question of murder and manslaughter in the climax to the series.

posted on Jan, 20 2014 @ 05:01 PM

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.

I am the son of two schoolteachers and the grandson of a third.
I may have mentioned this before.
This provides me with a very accessible analogy for the way God approaches the question of giving laws to the people of Israel.
He behaves like a teacher.

A good teacher is always conscious of the capabilities and limitations of his pupils, and he tries to give them teaching at the appropriate level.
He talks to them in terms which they will be able to understand, and sets out to improve their understanding in gradual ways.
If their reading abilities have taken them to the end of the first of the “Janet and John” books, then he offers them the second book.
If their mathematical skills have taken them as far as adding up and “taking away”, then he might begin showing them how to multiply and divide.
What he’s not going to do is start scribbling Einstein’s equations on the blackboard.
Teaching is not about “zapping” people with instantaneous advanced knowledge (except in science fiction stories).
It is the slow and patient work of gradual training.

We find a similar patience in the way the God of Israel deals with his people.
He finds them naturally loving their brothers and other kinsmen and encourages them to treat the rest of the nation in the same way.
However, they are not yet ready to extend the concept of “brothers” to the world at large, so that part of the training is postponed for a later stage.
So what we see in the laws of the Old Testament, and in the overall history of the Old Testament, is the slow and patient work of gradual training.
God does not “zap”. He teaches.

This has a bearing on the question of whether these laws can be changed.
We find in the classroom that lessons vary according to the age and circumstances of the pupils.
The books used in the infants’ class are not the books used in the university lecture hall.
In the same way, the guidance which God gives to his people might be expected to change according to the level of their understanding and the condition of their society.
The details of the laws might be variable, as long as the principles which lay behind them were respected.
Such as, in this case, the principle that disputes should be settled peaceably and justly.
In other words, as Paul might put it, the letter of the Law would be less binding than the spirit of the Law.

posted on May, 3 2014 @ 08:28 AM
The Index thread for this series can now be found at the following location;

Your patient teacher

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