Friday, May 14, 2010

Miscelaneous laws: Dt 24:7-16

"If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 24:7)
God is speaking here of more than your basic kidnapping for ransom scenario. This scripture refers to those who participate and profit from the theft, trafficking, and selling of human soles. This would include participation is activities such as slavery and the sex trade. History is replete of examples of such violence, such as when Africans were captured and sold as slaves at markets in Europe and the Americas, and such violence and slavery continues today in places like the Sudan and in the sex trade in places like Thailand and Moldova. God had determined that the just penalty for participation in such activities is death.
"Be careful against an infection of leprosy, that you diligently observe and do according to all that the Levitical priests teach you; as I have commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 24:8-9)
While Leprosy is used as a metaphor for various moral and spiritual miladies, this scripture contextually is referring to actual diseases, infections, and sicknesses, especially those that are highly communicable in nature. The goal of these laws was to prevent the rampant spread of infections that could threaten the congregation as a whole. It is within the purview of good government to enact statutes to protect the public health and to prevent the epidemic spread of diseases. This might include the passing of laws relating to the quarantining of infected individuals, the authorization of stockpiling medicine and antidotes, and various provision and regulations for mass vaccination.
"You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it become sin in you." (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)
Governments should protect the poor from the rich and the weak from the strong. The goal of such laws is not to make them equal but to prevent one from taking advantage of the other and to provide remedies when this is not the case. This particular scripture is referring to the case where an employer holds back the wages due his employees. In such cases the government may intrude into the employer/employee relationship to ensure that the worker is treated fairly and receives his just wages and receives them in a timely manner.
"Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deuteronomy 24:16)
This scripture is very clear, but it also provides the foundation for some other laws and stipulations, even within our own constitution. The US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 says, "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." Part of the reason for the prohibition of Bills of Attainder is to prevent laws from being passed that would punish the surviving family members of one who was convicted of an egregious crime. These bills were often used to punish the family members of those convicted of treason against the crown. God's law simply says, punish those who commit the crime but leave the innocent alone.

David Robison

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