11 September 2014

Hebrew War Brides

Revealing another after thought by Yahweh, Moses accommodates newlyweds.

When a man has acquired new wife, he receives a special dispensation from having to go out to battle for the Lord for one year. Yahweh directs him to use that year to "cheer up" his new bride.

"When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken."  Deuteronomy 24:5 (KJV)

Not sure what "charged with any business" other than some contextual connection to military service.

This rule seems a sensible one that supports marriage. It also provides incentive, however, for avoiding service. For those who fear foreign battles more than domestic ones, marriage becomes a convenience "out" for them. Moreover, since the Bible condones polygamy, a wealthy man can acquire additional wives repeatedly in order to avoid participating in warfare.

                        Scenes of domestic warfare

          Scenes for foreign warfare

10 September 2014

Divine Disputation Over Divorce

 Moses turns to one of most disputed topics in the Bible-divorce.

Moses permits a man to divorce his wife if he has found some "uncleanness" in her. Moses does not explain what this is. Some commentators suggest that it implies a vice of a sexual nature. It cannot be adultery, however, because Moses already has prescribed the death penalty for that particular sin.

In addition, Moses permits remarriage of the divorced woman to another man and one must presume the remarriage of the original husband to another woman. The only state of affairs that Moses forbids in this passage is the remarriage of the woman to the original husband in the event of a second divorce.

Moses calls this an "abomination" and a "sin" in the land. He does not really explain why Yahweh permits the sexual union of a woman with a second husband but forbids her to return to a sexual union with the first one.

"When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.  And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.  And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;  Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance." Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (KJV)

This passage is a source of divine dispute, i.e. Yahweh disputing against himself, because Jesus flatly taught something different. In his famous Sermon of the Mount, Jesus directly challenges the clear teaching of Moses:

"It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." Matthew 5:31-32 (KJV)

According to Jesus, the only reason a man may divorce his wife is fornication--harlotry or adultery. In that case she would be subject to death by stoning. If a man divorces his wife for any other reason and marries again, he becomes an adulterer. If the divorced wife marries again, she becomes an adulterer.

So who are Christians to follow in this dispute between Moses and Jesus, in which both claim to speak for Yahweh? Or is it between Yahweh and Yahweh?

From contemporary Christian practices, it appears that the Christians prefer Moses because his teaching accommodates much more liberally what Christians want to do anyway. Every Christian church has members in good standing who have divorced and remarried--sometimes on multiple occasions. Pastors performing such wedding, if they acknowledge the flagrant violation of the teaching of Jesus at all, trump it with allusions to "forgiveness in Christ Jesus."

 Thirty of so years after the death of Jesus asked in a letter he wrote to the church as Rome, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid." Romans 6:1-2 (KJV)

God forbid? Not if there is a wedding to perform!


08 September 2014

The Garden of Eatin'

Moses clarifies Yahweh thoughts on property rights.

The Bible contains no systematic treatment of the origins and basis of property rights. Commandments against stealing suggest that the Hebrews recognized such rights. Because Yahweh is the maker of rich and poor, however, the disposal of every person's property seems to be more at his His discretion than that of the "owner." The property rights of Hebrews if more of a stewardship of Yahweh's property and ownership of one's personal property.

A case in point:  grazing in thy neighbor's garden.

Moses instructs the Hebrews that they may graze in the garden and fields of their neighbors. These snacking Semites just cannot harvest the produce and take it home.

"When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.  When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn." Deuteronomy 23:24-25 (KJV)

How does that work? Why would the Hebrews not just transmogrify into a swarm of locusts sweeping through and destroying the fields of the productive.

07 September 2014

Oaths and Loathes

 Moses moves on to the issue of vows.

It's pretty simple. If you make a vow to give something or do something--pay  up.

"When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.  But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.  That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth." Deuteronomy 23:21-23 (KJV)

It seems pretty clear until Jesus muddied the waters. Jesus later created confusion on this point when he said not to swear any oaths . . . sort of. He quotes this passage about performing oaths, but directs his listeners not to swear by God or earth or whatever; just say yes or no.

That does not appear to be the issue here. It is not about on what grounds one makes oaths, but whether one fulfills the promise.

05 September 2014

Yahweh and Usury

Moses addresses another matter of money.

He says that Yahweh forbids loaning money or anything else in return for interest payments:

"Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:  Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it." Deuteronomy 23:19-20 (KJV)

This pertains principally to loaning money to the poor. The idea of a commercial society, much less a capitalistic manufacturing one, seems to be a totally alien one to Yahweh.

Every seven years those any debts were cancelled.

He does not forbid, however, collecting interest from foreigners. The provision enhances the distinctions that Yahweh makes between his chosen people and the "other." In addition, failure to pay debts and interest might subject a foreigner to being sold into slavery.

This prohibition of interest might reflect the general cultural views of the ancient Semites. Their Semitic cousins, the Arabs, also forbid interest through their "revealed" Islamic faith. Religion often takes cultural norms and sanctions them with divine approval.

04 September 2014

Hebrew Whoremongers

 Moses reveals that Yahweh considers sacred prostitution an abomination.

Apparently several cultures in the ancient Near East practiced some variant of sacred prostitution, in which men and women participate in sexual intercourse as part of a fertility rite. This passage may simply serve as a warning to the Hebrews in case they encounter such practices once their invasion of their promised land commences. Or it may be written much later after the Hebrews found themselves exposed to such practices during one of their several  experiences of foreign captivity.

"There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.  Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God." Deuteronomy 23:17-18 (KJV)

According to Moses, Yahweh forbids the practice itself, although he provides no penalty. Moreover, Yahweh forbids the offering of any money dedicated to him acquire through such practices.

That bother his much more than offering war plunder after the Hebrews slaughter Canaanite men, women, and children and take their property as an offering to Yahweh.

03 September 2014

Yahweh's Fugitive Slave Law

 The Bible repeatedly recognizes the existence of several forms of servitude and outright slavery.Because Biblical writers never condemned slavery but rather provided regulations for it, one can conclude that the Bible in this way endorses slavery.

People's property rights in persons, however, were no secured by any laws.

If a slave runs away from his owner and flees to another village, Moses forbids his return.

"Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:  He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him." Deuteronomy 23:15-16 (KJV)  

This presents an interesting problem for those of my fellow conservatives who, based upon their religious faith, assert that our nation's laws rest upon a Biblical foundation.

In contrast to Moses' directive from above, our United States constitution in Article IV Section 2 requires that runaway slaves and indentured servants be returned to their rightful owners. Moreover, Congress enacted several laws enforcing this provision.

In this case, the ancient Hebrews elevated personal liberty over property rights to a much greater degree than the generation of our early republic.