A NATIONAL LAW LIBRARY

NATIONAL LAW LIBRARY
NATIONAL LAW LIBRARY

SETTING ISRAEL APART FROM ITS NEIGHBORS

YOU ARE TO BE HOLYTO ME BECAUSE I, THE LORD,AND I HAVE SET YOU APART FROM THE NATIONS TO BE MY OWN. LEVITICUS 20:26 (NATIONAL LAW LIBRARY)

THE LAWS OF MOST NATIONS FILL A LIBRARY. ELABORATE INDEXES GUIDE LAWYER WHERE TO LOOK WHEN DEALING WITH A PERTICULAR ISSUE. NO ONE PERSON CAN KNOW EVEN A FRACTION OF ALL THE LAWS OF HIS OR HER NATION.

IF THE OLD TESTAMENT LAWS RECORDED IN LEVITICUS (AND EXODUS, NUMBERS, AND DEUTERONOMY) SEEM DULL AND LONG- WINDED, KEEP THEM IN PERSPECTIVE. THESE—-JUST OVER 600 IN ALL—WERE THE ENTIRE SET OF LAW FOR A NATION, AS FAR AS WE KNOW. THEIR MOST STRIKING FEATURE, TO A LAWYER, IS BREVITY AND SIMPLICITY. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL TO UNDERSTAND THEM.

THE LAWS ARE LISTED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. A LAW AGAINST WITCHCRAFT IS FOLLOWED BY A LAW AGAINST IMPROPER HAIRCUTS, WHICH IS FOLLOWED BY A LAW AGAINST TATTOOS, WICH IN TURN IS FOLLOWED BY A LAW AGAINST MAKING YOUR DAUGHTER INTO A PROSTITUTE. THIS MIXING REVEALS AN IMPORTANT FEATURE OF OLD TESTAMENT THINKING. LIFE IS NOT ANALYZED IN SEPARATE COMPONENTS, BUT SEEN AS A WHOLE.

FOR THE ISRAELITES EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE—POLITICS, FAMILY LIFE, DIET, ECONOMICS—CONCERNED GOD. EVEN THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (IN EXODUS20) SHOW THIS, FOR THEY INCLUDE LAWS REGARDING OUR RELATIONSHIP TO BOTH GOD AND OUR NEIGHBOR. THE TWO CANNOT BE SEPARATED. (NATIONAL LAW LIBRARY)

REMARKABLE FEATURE

IN COMPARISON WITH LAWS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES AT THAT TIME, THE OLD TESTAMENT MADE A CONSIDERABLE ADVANCE. (INDEED, THESE LAWS HAVE  GREATLY INFLUENCED LAWS FOR OUR DAY.) SOME OF THE REMARKABLE FEATURES:

.PEOPLE WERE MORE IMPORTANT THAN PROPERTY. FOR INSTANCE, THERE WAS NEVER A DEATH PENALTY FOR A CRIME AGAINST SOMEONE’S PROPERTY. ALSO, SLAVES WERE TREATED AS HUMAN BEINGS, NOT PROPERTY. THIS WAS NOT TRUE OF MANY OTHER LEGAL CODES OF THAT TIME.

.THERE WAS NO CLASS SYSTEM. IN MANY ANCIENT COUNTRIES, A NOBLE WAS TREATED FAR DIFFRENTLY FROM A COMMONER. NOT SO IN ISRAEL: EVERYBODY STOOD ON THE SAME LEVEL BEFORE THE LAW. EVEN A FOREIGNER HAD DEFINED RIGHTS.

.THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME. NO “CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHENT” WAS ALLOWED. “AN EYE FOR AN EYE” (LEVITICUS 24:20) ENSURED THAT NO PRIVILEGED CHARACTER WAS “LET OFF” FOR A CRIME, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME IT LIMITED REVENGE.

.SEXUALITY MATTERED. IN MOST CIUNTRIES, THE LAW LITTLE CARED WHETHER YOU SLEPT WITH YOUR NEIGHBOR’S WIFE. IN ISRAEL, SEXUAL IMMORALITY GOT STERN TREATMENT.

.THE POOR AND WEAK HAD PROTECTION. SPECIFIC PROVISIONS PROTECTED THEIR RIGHTS FROM THE POWERFUL AND WEALTHY. “WELFARE” OFFERED THEM A WAY TO KEEP ALIVE, SUCH AS THE RIGHT TO “GLEAN THE FIELDS.” IN LEVITICUS CHAPTER 19, VERSES 9, 13, 14, 15, 32 AND 33 GAVE PROTECTION TO VARIOUS GROUPS THAT COULD NOT DEFEND THEMSELVES. (NATIONAL LAW LIBRARY)

.ATTITUDES, AS WELL AS ACTIONS, MATTERED.

FOR INSTANCE, LEVITICUS 19:18 CONTAINS THE FAMOUS LAW TO “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” LIVING UP TO THE LETTER OF THE LAW WAS NOT ENOUGH. THE LAW AIMED TO DEVELOP LOVING RELATIONSHIPS.

.ATTITUDES, AS WELL AS ACTIONS, MATTERED. FOR INSTANCE, LEVITICUS 19:18 CONTAINS THE FAMOUS LAW TO “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” LIVING UP TO THE LETTER OF THE LAW WAS NOT ENOUGH. THE LAW AIMED TO DEVELOP LOVING RELATIONSHIPS.

.ATTITUDES, AS WELL AS ACTIONS, MATTERED. FOR INSTANCE, LEVITICUS 19:18 CONTAINS THE FAMOUS LAW TO “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” LIVING UP TO THE LETTER OF THE LAW WAS NOT ENOUGH. THE LAW AIMED TO DEVELOP LOVING RELATIONSHIPS.

DESIGNED TO BE DIFFERENT

WHILE WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE REASONS FOR SOME OF THE LAWS ( MANY MAY HAVE BEEN DESIGNED SIMPLY TO KEEP THE ISRAELITES “DIFFERENT” FROM THEIR PAGAN NEIGHBORS), THEIR OVERALL IMPACT IS CLEAR. THESE RULES WERE INTENDED TO FORM A NATION OF COMPASSIONATE, CONSISTENT, FAIR-MINDED PEOPLE. THEY INSISTED THAT EACH PERSON ACT POSITIVELY AND LOVINGLY TOWARD HIS OR HER NEIGHBOR—AND PARTICULARLY THOSE IN NEED. THE REASON? GOD LIVED WITH THEM. SINCE HE IS BOTH JUST AND MERCIFUL, HIS PEOPLE MUST BE TOO.

LIFE QUESTIONS: EVERYBODY HAS A CODE TO LIVE BY. DOES YOUR PERSONAL RULEBOOK SHOW AS MUCH CONCERN FOR THE POOR AND DEFENSELESS AS LEVITICUS’S? (NATIONAL LAW LIBRARY)

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