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Thursday, March 06, 2014

The 3 Laws and Mom With a Rock

Why stoning was seldom, if ever, used in OT times.
Interesting Bible study this morning: The Old Testament (Torah), apparently offers up three distinct types of law.

(1) Moral Law - The Ten Commandments
(2) Ceremonial Law - The Temple services, ceremonies and feast days
(3) Civil Law - The finer points of law which govern a nation-state as they are interpreted by the moral law.

The moral law represented the absolute moral do's and don't of the Judeo-Christian religion. The ceremonial law was designed to predict and remind worshipers that the deliverer was coming. Finally, the Civil Law was to be the operating system for the new Hebrew Nation. You should remember, though, that the Civil Law was just based on the moral law, but also worked out a working relationship between moral laws and deeply ingrained cultural practices of the time as well. The Civil Law is intended to handle criminal and civil issues not covered directly in the moral ten commandment law. I mean somebody needs to come up with some kind of a civil legal code or the cops won't be able to write parking tickets for people who leave their camels blocking the Temple door or allow them to poop on their neighbors' cabbage patches.

Remember that the Hebrews were coming off 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They weren't really used to all this liberty that God was offering them. The law was designed as a teaching tool to encourage them to be independent, self-actuated independent people. A quick look at the modern nation of Israel will show you how well that worked. The civil law often played justice and mercy off against one another to arrive at a more balanced legal system that might appear at a cold reading might indicate.

Case in Point: There is an Old Testament civil law providing for the stoning of sons and daughters (specifically adult sons and daughters) who disrespected their parents. Pretty brutal, huh?  This law would include all sorts of disrespecting of the parental units including abusing your parents, rendering them homeless, stealing their money, etc.. Along with this law and it's rather grim punishment for conviction, there was a provision for an extended punishment phase of the judicial process. You could only stone a disobedient offspring if you got the final approval of the child's parents. I would imagine that that particular legal requirement made for some pretty dramatic court scenes.

In other words, they could on kill you IF your Mom said it was okay. What kind of sick thing would you have to do to your mommy that would cause her to pick up a rock and bash you with it. The law, by all accounts was rather successful at deterring children from rudely shipping their parents off to Canaanite nursing homes or moving into the house and taking all their money from them. This was a rather brilliant interpretation of the fifth commandment by civil law. The consequence of this law was that there was not one single recorded case in Scripture of a son or daughter being stoned for lipping off at their mums.

This proves the adage that the best sort of law is one whose penalties need never be enforced. Wouldn't it be lovely if, instead of writing 2000 pages of laws on how close you are allowed to build your garden fence to the street curb, we put a lot more effort into making our laws simpler and wiser?

Just one man's opinion,

© 2014 by Tom King

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