Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Deuteronomy-Part 17

The concept of Judges, Officers, Kings, Prophets and Priests applies to the nation of Israel, but can these concepts and functions be applied to an individual in their walk walk God? We believe they can and here is how. In an individual the Judge (Shophet) and the Officer (Shoter) are like two powers and abilities which are in anyone. The “Judge” adjudicates with his logic and his decisions are rendered after careful “deliberations in his chamber (intellect). He should look at the whole situation. The “Officer” executes the “Judges” decision as he acts.

A person should reign as “King” (Melek) over himself, judging between right and wrong and using common sense to decree that the right thing should be done. There are times that he serves even if his logic does not comprehend why in accordance to the Torah.

We must speak the the words of God to others like a “prophet” (Navi) and show them what pleases the Lord. We should be a “priest” (Kohen) in our houses, congregations, communities and jobs by serving and teaching the people “the difference between the holy (things with a kedusha) and the common (things without a kedusha), and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezek 44.23).

Deut 19.1-13 discusses manslaughter. Cities were to be prepared so that the manslayer can flee there. They were to be accessible and close, with roads to get there. These laws are there to prevent an innocent person from having the “avenger of blood” come after him. This teaches patience and justice. The Torah recognizes that passions exist. People are not necessarily rational when it comes to a family member being killed. Emotions dictate rather than justice. The Torah provides a way out.

However, Deut 19.11-13 says that the Law of Refuge does not apply to a murderer. The murderer is taken out and killed, and the people were not to pity them. There is an interesting article called “The death penalty and a la carte Christianity” by Marvin Olasky, World on the Web, May 13, 2000, Vol 15, Number 19. It has some interesting concepts related to this subject of manslaughter and murder. We would like to include it here as follows:
“My sense is that World us getting, from those trying to apply the Bible to news events, more thoughtful questions and fewer angry outbursts than we received a few Years ago. I’d like to address some of those serious inquiries in this space occasionally, starting with this question from one reader: ‘The issue that has always seemed contradictory to me is that the same people who are pro-life for babies seem to be pro-death for adults (the death penalty). How does this work?’

“Here’s one part of a serious answer: It makes sense to me for a pro-life person to hang tough on punishment for those who deliberately take away life. Far more important, though, is the second part: If we act as strict constructionists concerning the Bible, rather that as readers who want to make the Bible fit modern liberal thought, it’s clear that the death penalty makes sense to God.”

“The logic that makes sense for me is that abortion is about killing the innocent, while the death penalty is about killing the guilty. I see no inconsistency with opposing one and supporting the other. It’s important, of course, that capital punishment be used only on those who have committed murder beyond the shadow of a doubt. I’m for appeals. I’m for full checking and rechecking of a court record. I’m for working to see that people of favored races or genders don’t escape justice.”

“Much more important than anything I think, however, is what God says. The Old Testament prescribed the death penalty for murder not only among Israelites, but as the fitting penalty among all peoples for such a crime. Christ turned the other cheek to personal insults but upheld all the standards of justice laid down by the Father in Heaven.”

“It’s important to see that our modern tendency is different. Even some who call themselves Christians say it doesn’t matter what the Bible clearly embraces; if it reels right, obey it, and if it doesn’t, don’t. Many of us believe in a la carte obedience concerning capital punishment or anything else. The Washington Post noted earlier this year that ‘Americans write their own Bible. They fashion their own God…turning him into a social planner, therapist or guardian angel.'”

“The Post told the story of Ed and Joanne Liverani, who decided to ‘build their own church, salvaging bits of their old religion they liked and chucking the rest.’ They ended up with a god who ‘cheers them up when they are sad, laughs at their quirks.’ Lynn Garrett, a religious book tracker for Publishers Weekly called this ‘an eclectic approach. People borrow ideas from different traditions, then add them to whatever religion they’re used to.’

“We have many borrowing options in America today. Not only many variants of Christianity and Judaism beckon, but four million Muslims now live in the United States; that’s five times as many as lived here 30 years ago. The number of Hindus in America has increased during that period from 100,000 to 950,000; the number of Sikhs has jumped from 1,000 to 220,000. That’s fine, because biblical belief can stand up well to competition from other systems of belief; the greater danger lies in syncretizing or melding, as when the ancient Israelites tried to combine biblical religion with worship of Baal or some other idol.”

“Not only illogical people embrace ‘A Self-Made Deity,’ as the subtitle to The Washington Post story put it. The New York Times portrayed Steven Weinberg, a theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1979, musing, ‘Even if there is a God, how do you know that his moral judgments are the correct ones? Seems to me Abraham should have said “God, that’s just not right.”‘ Professor Weinberg is brilliant, but if God is limited to judgments with which a very bright person agrees, then God can be no more discerning than that person. A God only as smart as Mr. and Mrs. Liverani, or even Steven Weinberg, would not be much of a God to follow.”

“So how should we think about capital punishment? Here’s an analogy: As American citizens, we pledge to respect the Constitution. Because it is written by limited, fallible men, we reserve the right to amend it, yet we still respect it by agreeing not to choose unilaterally to ignore the parts we don’t like. Isn’t it surprising that some say they respect the Bible but don’t give it that much honor? If we praise the Constitution, how much more should we respect something done not by fallible man but by an infallible God? And since the Bible upholds the principle of capital punishment, shouldn’t we also, while remaining open to improving the practice?”

Deut 19.14-20 gives the laws of landmarks and the testimony of witnesses. In a dispute over whether an ancient landmark was moved, one witness was not enough. Two witnesses were required. If a “malicious witness” rises up against a person to accuse him of wrong doing, then both people will stand before the judges and priests in office at the time. They will investigate the matter, and if the witness is a false witness, they they will do to that witness what he tried to do to his brother. They were not to show any pity. Then it says, “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” This means that the judges will administer equal justice and judgment that is right, balanced and correct.

How do we deal with authority? We rebel. The following concept is critical to the Torah’s approach to justice. Circumstantial evidence, theory, logical conjecture are not permissible. These are not permitted in court “as proof” and intellect is judged as inferior to legal doctrine. In the western view of justice, the inadmissibility of circumstantial evidence is seen as foolish and illogical. But the Torah establishes the principle of two witnesses to establish fact.

There are two categories of witnesses. First, a witness who can verify facts or events are called “clarifying witnesses.” Second, a witness who themselves were part of the event is called an “establishing witness.” In the first category, an example would be a witness to a loan. They have no portion in the transaction. In another example, one who witnesses a crime has no part in the crime. In the second category, the person actually took part in the transaction or the crime. The testimony of witnesses is only important in a matter that is otherwise concealed. Something that is revealed and open to all does not need witnesses.

We will pick up here in Part 18.

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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