Capital Punishment: Deuteronomy 19 & Yeshua (Jesus) and the Adulteress

God is clear.  Capital punishment is to be used for certain offenses.  This is a simple fact from the Bible.  There are, however, a few things to remember to keep this in perspective.

Capital punishment was only used when there were at least two credible witnesses.

Capital punishment was only to be meted out by the leaders.  No one was to ‘take the law into their own hands.’

The witnesses were often required to be the ones to throw the first stones.

According to Jewish history, capital punishment was rarely actually used.  I realize that many think this is not so as we see talk of stoning often in the “new testament.”  That was actually quite rare, and having a crowd rise up and try to stone someone was actually against the law.   Keep that in mind when reading about Yeshua (Jesus) and the times a crowd wanted to kill him.

Speaking of Yeshua, the incident where the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to him and asked, “…in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?” John 8:1-11;  (ESV).  Most of us know Yeshua’s reply of, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  John 8:7 (ESV).  At first glance it seems that Yeshua is saying that capital punishment isn’t the right way to go.  But is he?

First, did you note that only the woman was brought before Yeshua?  If she was ‘caught in the act’ as the passage states, where was the man?  The law states that both should be stoned (see Deuteronomy 20:10).  An interesting trap was being set for Yeshua.  If he answered, “then stone her”, he wouldn’t be following the law, so the Pharisees would accuse him thus.  If he answered “don’t stone her,” they could also accuse him of not following the law.  He could of also called them out in regards to the guilty man and the lack of trial, but instead he went to the core of the issue.

He called them out on their misuse of God’s law!  He attacked their legalism, and what better attack then to point out that there is no way to be good enough in a legalistic framework.

A sure sign of legalism is the misuse of the Law of God for your own benefit, or for control and putting others down.

Yeshua was highlighting grace over legalism, not commenting on capital punishment nor on the Law itself.

As a last comment on capital punishment, I find it interesting to read about those condemned who have been waiting for some time.  Many ask for the sentence to be carried out!  Why?  Because the jail system, keeping them locked up for years, is a cruel method of punishment in my opinion.  It can destroy a person’s mind and their dignity as a human.

God’s way called for swift carrying out of the punishment, leaving no time for the society to treat the criminal as an animal or for society as a whole to start relegating even those accused of crimes as monsters.

Personally, I’d rather we do things God’s way and retain the value and dignity of human life.  Any human life.  What do you think?

Shalom,

  • Yosef

 

Misunderstood Tithing – Let’s Have a Party! Deuteronomy 14

Tithing.  An oft talked about topic.  An extensive topic.  So much so that many preachers won’t talk about it, and even more people don’t want to hear any more about it.  It’s funny that most of the “Old Testament” law is ignored (as either having been done away with or ‘fulfilled’), but tithing receives a huge amount of attention.  So I ask, is tithing being done properly (Biblically)?

Well, yes and no.  God does want us to give.  But give to what and for what purpose?

“…you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.”  (ESV) Deut. 14:23

“And if the way is too long for you [the way to Jerusalem where the tithe was to be given], so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, … , then you shall turn it into money and … go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire – oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.  And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.  And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns…”  (ESV) Deut. 14:24-27

“…you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce … And the Levite, …, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” (ESV) Deut. 14:28-29.

There is more within those verses then just what I quoted, but I want to point out a couple interesting facts about the tithe.

First, part of it was to be used on one’s own little party.  And apologies to the teetotalers out there, but wine and strong drink were allowed!  (Note: I personally don’t drink for personal reasons, but using scripture to claim that one shouldn’t drink isn’t treating scripture correctly.)  Yep, a party before the LORD!

Granted that the ‘party’ was to take place at the “place of God’s choosing,” which became the Temple, but I still find it interesting that one’s own family was to share in the tithe.

Next, note the two reasons for tithing given in these passages: “that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always,” and, “that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”  To fear Him always and to enable blessing.  Two great reasons.

I also find it interesting that the tithe is not only for the Levites (for Christianity, this would probably be understood as pastors, priests, and teachers of ‘religion’), but also for those truly in need of sustenance – the foreigners, widows, orphans, and such!.

There is much more about tithing in scripture.  This post, however, is just to show that there is more to tithing then one learns in Sunday school (presumably).  It also shows a couple very good reasons to tithe.  And lastly, it shows that following God’s commands can be fun – even a party!  A party rejoicing for all that YHVH (the LORD) has given us!  So remember that the next time you are tithing.

Perhaps one of the reasons God asks us to ‘party’ before Him is in memory of one, in my opinion, of the oddest occurrences in scripture.  Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of the elders went up to Mount Sinai (nearby), and “they beheld God, and ate and drank.” (ESV) Exodus 24:9-11.  They saw God, heard the thundering and saw the lightnings, and what did they then do?  Ate and drank!  To me, that seems an odd response to an astounding event.  So, perhaps, we are to remember that, and the giving of the Law, when partying at the Temple with some of the tithe money.

Shalom!

– Yosef

If Pigs Could Be Clean – Deuteronomy 14

In Deuteronomy 14 we are given a list of animals that God says we can eat and some general rules with which we can determine ourselves if an animal can be eaten.  This list gives rise to the ‘kosher’ food industry, but really the section is about clean and unclean animals.  Kosher takes in much more then that and isn’t the topic of this post.

In the passage, pigs are singled out as one of the animals that meet half the requirements needed to be clean (and therefore eatable).  And throughout history, eating pork has been one of the activities used as a measurement to show that one is not Jewish.  (Another is not keeping the Sabbath, but that is for a different post.)  And, judging by most Christian breakfasts or pot-lucks, I wonder if that isn’t still true today.  I digress.  Here are a couple comments on the topic of whether or not Christians should pay attention to the ‘kosher’ laws.  This is not meant as a counter argument against all the reasons Christianity has for eating pork.  Just a couple things to think about.

  • The idea of clean and unclean animals predates the giving of the ‘Law’.  Noah took on two of each animal and 7 (pairs) of each clean animal.  See Genesis 7:1-3.
  • In defense of eating anything, people like to point out that God gave ‘all things’ for food.  And this is true.  However, near the end of the ‘clean animals’ (kosher) lists (Deut. 14 and Leviticus 11), God makes the comments that we are to be holy for He is holy, and that the list is for us to learn to distinguish between clean and unclean.
  • Peter also tells us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  One way of being holy is to only eat ‘clean’ animals.
  • Learning to distinguish between clean and unclean is training for leaning to distinguish between Godly and ungodly.

I realize that the whole issue of eating clean seems an anathema to Christians as Christians are ‘under grace, not under law.’  Well, that saying will be discussed later as it is a greatly misunderstood statement.  Mostly, though, I will just point out that neither Yeshua (Jesus) nor the apostles, nor anyone in the early Jerusalem church, ate pork or taught that it could be eaten.

However, before even discussing the ‘kosher’ laws with Christians, the question, “do you eat blood?” should be asked.  And when it is asked, a reply such as, “I’m not under the law!” is inevitably given.

There is a much ignored verse in the book of Acts.  In Acts 15 there is the account of the ‘Jerusalem council.’  The results of that council is a letter written and agreed upon by all apostles, elders (of the Jerusalem church) and Paul.  It is address to all Gentile churches.  Part of that letter states:

“…but [we] should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”  (ESV) Acts 15:20

So, before even wondering about clean / unclean, one needs to learn what is meant by not eating meat from a strangled animal and refraining from blood.

  • Yosef

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 4 and 5: Hearing and Doing

In Deuteronomy 5, we have Moses retelling about both the giving of the “10 Statements” (10 commandments) and the 10 Statements themselves.  About the only time one hears about the “10 Commandments” in our culture now is when some people get upset that a government institution is removing them from public view.   Are they even important any more?  Should we pay attention to them?  Here are a couple points to ponder.

The 10 Statements themselves are the only words written by Yehovah (the LORD) Himself!

That fact should make them very, very important in your thinking.

How the 10 were given is also significant.  God’s voice was heard by several million people.  Group psychology would dictate that out of such a large group, if the event didn’t actually happen, someone would have said so.  Yet nowhere in any historical accounts is this episode doubted.  This is a powerful testimony to the truth of the Bible!

The 10 can be summed up, but not replaced, by this statement from Yeshua (Jesus). The 10 build on this statement.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)

Further on in Deuteronomy 5 we see the Israelites responding with the comment, “we will hear it [God’s words] and do it.”  This is, unfortunately, a far cry from how Christianity looks at God’s word.  If this statement were to be uttered by many in the churches today, it would read like this:

We’ll hear it [God’s words], and if we understand it and agree with it, and we don’t consider it ‘law’, then we might do it if it fits into our “statement of belief.”

When did God ever say that we had to understand and agree with what He asks before we should obey it.  Every chance we have of doing something commanded in His word is a chance to worship and love Him!  Let’s start with obeying the 10 Statements.  Read them (found in two places, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5).  Think about them!  Discuss them with others (comment in the blog)!

When we hesitate to ‘do’ the Word of God, or talk with others about it, we are robbing ourselves of a chance to worship God and of a chance to grow in sanctification. 

Nowhere in scripture, be it the “old” or the “new testament”, does God ever get upset with someone who is following His word!  Nowhere!  We do, however, find Yeshua (Jesus) getting upset at those who were ‘adding’ to His word.  What do you think Yeshua (Jesus) would say to those subtracting from His word?  Here is what God says:

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV)

I think Yeshua (Jesus) would be just as confrontational with Christian leaders who subtract from God’s word just as he was confrontational with the Pharisees who were adding to God’s word!  Christianity as a whole takes away from God’s word!  Am I wrong?  Think “Old” Testament.  Even that name, “old”, implies it should be disregarded.

… Oh, and to those protesting the removal of the 10 Statements (commandments) from public view, I ask, are they posted in your church?  Your house? Anywhere you abide?  If the answer is ‘no’, then you have no business protesting or being surprised that the government is removing them from public spaces!

– Yosef

(Okay, this post is a bit confrontational.  It’s not meant to offend, but to challenge!  If you have a different opinion on the topic, please share it!  Or if you agree, let me know!)

Yes, Yes; No, No; Men are Men; Women are Women; Numbers 30 – part 2

(Click here to see part 1).

In part 1, the topic of vows was discussed.  Now for a very short discussion on the topic of women in the Bible.  Both topics are very relevant to Numbers chapter 30.

The trouble today is that feminism today would say that men and women are the same (well, that is the end result of what they are saying).  But men and women are different.

The apostle Paul states,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, …, there is no male and female…”

What does he mean?  He goes on,

“for you are all one in Christ.”  Galatians 3:28 (ESV)

And that is the key.  Men and women are different, but in terms of God’s salvation, treated equally.

Take a good look throughout the Tanakh (“Old Testament”).  Yes, there is a definite distinction between men and women and the roles they have in this life.  Even God gives different laws to men as to women.  Traditionally, this is read as proof that the Bible demeans women.  But let’s look at one example:

In Numbers chapter 12 we read the story where both Aaron and Miriam oppose Moses, but only Miriam gets in trouble!  Why is that?  I put the following forth (my opinion):

Miriam got in trouble because, as the woman, her disobedience would affect many more people, and affect future generations.  She was the more important person there.

“But Aaron was the high priest”, you might say.  True.  God put the details and daily minutia of following the Law in men’s hands because they need it more.  Read through the law and you’ll note that much of it doesn’t even necessarily apply to women.

God gave women a special role in life (and this next statement is bound to raise some hackles).  Women’s “main” role is that of child bearing, nurturing, and caring.  Men’s “main” role is that of providing and keeping to the Law.  (Before you get really upset, remember the completely non-understandable statement from the apostle Paul, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing.”  1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV).)  And by ‘main role’ I don’t mean ‘only role’.

If you approach the Bible looking for places where women are viewed as less important, you will find what you are looking for.  Not because it is there, but because of the mindset with which you approach the scriptures.

But if you take the whole picture into account, you will see that women have a special role that only they can do, and a special status.  Think about it: women can do pretty much anything a man can do, but men can’t do everything a woman can do.  Men can’t give birth or breast feed.

The Law of God does treat women differently.  Why? They are less likely to run after other gods then men and that is one of God’s biggest hates: when we run after other gods.

To sum this up, yes, the Bible makes distinctions between men and women, not because men are considered ‘better’ but because men need more fences and guidelines to remain true to Yehova (the LORD).  Throughout scripture you will find women being elevated if you look.

Remember, though, that the Bible has many stories, showing both what is right, and what is wrong.  We need to learn to tell the difference, and when we do, you will discover that women are very highly regarded indeed in scripture, and entrusted with, but not limited to, a very important role.

In summary, to bring the discussion back to Numbers 30, it may seem that men are being put above women as they have the right to nullify a vow made by a woman.  Think again.  It is the man’s role to ensure that the Law is followed (remember, he “needs it more.”)  A ‘vow’ is a specific form of committing to do something ‘in God’s name.’  In other words, invoking the Law.  Makes sense, then, the man can nullify a woman’s vow.

Before feathers are ruffled, realize again what I said.

A ‘vow’ is a specific form of committing to do something ‘in God’s name.’ 

This has nothing to do with daily life or business.  Consider the 2nd half of Proverbs 31.  It may be interesting to note that in the Jewish tradition, the man reads that section of scripture over his wife every Friday night (at the beginning of the Sabbath) in praise to his wife, and before his children.

Scripture neither limits, nor denigrates, women.  Actually the opposite.

– Yosef