by Lloyd Bailey
The Bible's Legal Sections
The careful reader of Israel's legal materials will be
struck by their diversity in form, language, and content. Some of
them will be illustrative cases in the third person, for example,
"When (or if) so-and-so happens, then . . . "(Exod.21:1-22:16).
Others are direct orders in the second person, for example,
"You shall ...; You shall not" (Exod.22:18-28:19).
Some of them announce the death sentence as "shall be put to
death" while others use a variety of other expressions. Some of
them seem to presuppose settled (and agricultural) life in Canaan
(owning slaves, oxen, fields, growing grain: Exod.21:1-6, 28-32;
22:5-6), while others do not.
Such readers may also be puzzled by the fact that some of
the Bible's major characters violate its prohibitions, seemingly
with impunity. For example, marriage to one's sister is forbidden
by Leviticus 18:9 and 20:17, and yet it is done by Abraham (Gen.
20:12) and allowable at the time of David (2 Sam.13:13).
Simultaneous marriage to sisters is forbidden by Leviticus
18:18, and yet forms the core of one of the Bible's famous
stories (Gen.29:15-30). There is to be only one legitimate
sanctuary in the land of Canaan (Deut.12:1-14), namely Jerusalem
(Ps.132:11-18), and one legitimate priesthood (the Levites,
according to Deut.33:8-11), and yet we find the prophet Elijah
(not a Levite) erecting an altar and offering sacrifice on Mount
Carmel (I Kings 18).
The conscientious reader's mind will be relieved by the
knowledge that the conflicting legal materials, in their present
form, are not the product of a single mind, time, and place.
Rather, the Bible's stories (with legislation embedded),
regardless of their age, became authoritative (Scripture) in
stages, maintaining their diversity, creating repetitions, and
making some of its leading characters appear (retroactively) to
be in violation of them.
In the classic reconstruction of the growth of the
Pentateuchal literature, there are four stages. Each stage
involved the compilation and arrangement of traditional (earlier)
materials, as well as creative application to the present and
possible supplementation by the compilers. The stages have come
to he called:
1. The Yahwistic Literature.
The name is derived from the use of the divine name Yahweh
in its traditions (English Bible, "the Lord"). It is often given
the siglum "J," because of the belief that it originated in
Judah, around the beginning of the monarchical period (1000
2. The Elohistic Literature.
The name is derived from the use of the word "god" (Hebrew:
'elohim) in its traditions. It is given the siglum "E," because
of the possibility that it originated in Ephraim, sometime later
in the monarchical period (850-750 B.C.E.?).
3. The Deuteronomic Literature.
The name is derived from the fact that it consists of the
book of Deuteronomy, and thus it is given the siglum "D." It is
dated prior to the time of the reform of King Josiah (621
4. The Priestly Literature.
The name is derived from its cultic concerns. It is thus
given the siglum "P," and is dated to the exilic and early
post-exilic periods (550-450 B.C.E.).
The reasons for this classic reconstruction (sometimes
called "The Documentary Hypothesis"), as well as a
discussion of the major options, may be found in Bailey, "The
Pentateuch," chapter l.
The major sections of the Pentateuchal law are as follows.
1. The Ten Commandments (Exod.20:2-17; Deut.5:6-21) and the
related "cultic (or ritual) decalogue" (Exod. 4:14-26).
2. The Book of the Covenant (Exod.20:23-29:19), which takes its
name from Exodus 24:7.
3. The Deuteronomic Legislation (chapters 12-26).
4. The Priestly Legislation (Lev.1-27, as well as sections of
Num.1-10). Chapters 17-26, called the Holiness Code, are
sometimes considered separately.
It is common to relate these legal materials to the
aforementioned four stages of compilation of Pentateuchal
materials as follows:
J: The "cultic decalogue" of Exodus 34, which is sometimes called
the "Yahwistic decalogue."
E: The Ten Commandments as expressed in Exodus 20, sometimes
called the "Elohistic decalogue." (There are difficulties with
this source assignment, however.)
D: The Ten Commandments as expressed in Deuteronomy 5, as well as
P: The Priestly Legislation.
This leaves aside the Book of the Covenant, which seems to
have an independent origin, but belongs to the J and E periods.
One may thus understand the acceptability of the account of
Abraham's marriage to a sister (Gen.20:12, source E), since the
feeling that this was improper did not have the force of
Scripture until the sixth to fifth centuries B.C.E. (Lev.18:9,
For a helpful discussion of how to study the Pentateuchal
laws, as well as an up-to-date presentation of the background of
each section, see Patrick, "Old Testament Law."
Now, the reader has read the above, as to how so-called
"scholars" manipulate the books of Moses (and probably some
others) with their ideas. YOU CAN THROW IT ALL AWAY INTO THE
TRASH PILE AND BURN IT IN THE FIREPLACE!! It is all GARBAGE!!
The simple answer is quite simple: The laws of Moses (in his
books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) did not
come into effect until the days of Moses. Obviously the sons and
daughters of Adam and Eve got their husband and wife from
marrying each other, hence Abraham married his half-sister. The
time of Moses and Israel had not come.
And the second simple answer is that AT TIMES, after the days of
Moses, there were exceptions to the rule.
God is in charge, and He can decide what is best for any people,
any time He likes, and if He wants to make an exception, to the
norm of the rule for that age, He can do.
Keith Hunt (November 2007)
The Meaning of Mot Yumat
Ordinarily in the Hebrew Bible, articulation of a capital
offense is concluded by the phase "mot yumat," usually translated
into English as "he shall be put to death." The element "mot" is
an infinitive (of the verb m-w-t, "to die"), while "yumat" is the
so-called "imperfect" conjugation (ordinarily the equivalent of
the future tense in English), third masculine singular, of the
same verb. (The infinitive serves to express emphasis,
corresponding to the English word "surely" or "indeed.")
Such a phrase, devoid of a literary context, is AMBIGUOUS as
to its grammatical mood. That is, the Hebrew language, by the
time of its present biblical form, has ceased to express formally
what we would call "modal auxiliaries." Thus, IS the phrase
indicative (declarative, a statement of fact): "he will be"? IS
the phrase subjunctive (a demand): "(I, God, demand that) he be,"
which is better expressed as "he shall be"? Does it express a
WISH: "he should be"? Does it express PERMISSION or ALLOW an
option: "he may be"?
A few writers have opted for the last of these
possibilities. Thus Buss (p.56) remarks: "It is far from certain
that the threat is regularly carried out; the phrase mot yumat
(which can be translated, 'he may be killed') does not command an
execution." However, he ran find no clear example where such
optional leniency was exercised. He cites Ezekiel 29:25 for
"mutilation as a possible penalty" for adultery instead of
execution (along with the "wide latitude enjoyed by the husband
in [the Mesopotamian code of the city of] Eshnunna").
Note, however, that the prophet discusses the apostasy of
Israel and Judah with the Babylonians by means of an analogy with
two spouses who have turned to harlotry. In punishment the Deity
will "rouse against you your lovers ... the Babylonians.... they
shall come against you.... They shall cut off your nose and your
ears" (29:22, 29, 24, 25b). It is the Babylonians, then, in
accordance with their own customs, who exact this penalty, and
thus the text has no bearing on Israel's penal system. That is,
Ezekiel 29:25 does not support Buss' understanding of the phrase
The phrase is rendered in standard English. translation in
the following ways at Exodus 21:12:
"Whoever strikes a man so that he dies ... shall be put to death"
(RSV, NEB).... must be put to death" (NAB, NJB).... shall surely
be put to death" (NIV; compare, KJV, NASB)....is to be put to
death" (TEV).... must die" JB).
Now dear reader you have witnessed how "scholars" can DIFFER,
especially on how to translate the Hebrew into English. For
everyone that says "this" is how, you have another saying, NO
"this" IS HOW. And so the circle keeps going.
You NEVER have to stand in trembling "awe" of "scholars." God has
written His word so children can understand it, if the child is
reading from Genesis to Revelation.
Was Israel ALWAYS, with NO "EXCEPTIONS" to carry out capital
punishment - death - for the sinner who committed crimes that
carried the death penalty?
You don't have to understand Hebrew friends, just let God in his
word INTERPRET for you the answer to the above question.
Turn to 2 SAMUEL the 11th and 12th CHAPTERS!
Read chapter 11, verses 14,15. David writes a letter to instruct
that Uriah be placed in the hot-spot of the battle - THAT HE MAY
BE SMITTEN AND DIE!
Uriah did die, verse 21,24.
What David PLANNED, with calculated thought, premeditated it, not
only displeased the Lord (verse 27) but the margin of your KJV
Bible with say: "WAS EVIL IN THE EYES OF" the Lord!!
Nathan the prophet was sent to David, chapter 12. Note verse 9.
David had DESPISED THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD, TO DO EVIL IN HIS
SIGHT. "THOU" - David, "HAST KILLED URIAH ... WITH THE SWORD,
and TAKEN HIS WIFE!!
This passage is the some what famous or infamous, HUGE TWO SINS
of David - murdering and adultery!
Even David said (as Nathan gave a parable - verses 1-4) that the
man SHOULD DIE!!
The POINT IS: David was NOT PUT TO DEATH!! God SPARED his life!!
God is NO RESPECTER of persons, the Bible clearly teaches that.
Moses was so close to God that it is written, the Lord spoke with
Moses face to face! And showed him His back-parts in GLORY, when
Moses asked if He, God, would show Himself to him. It is so
written! Yet, when Moses sinned a sin that God considered not a
small sin, Moses was PUNISHED by NOT BEING ALLOWED into the
God is not a respecter of persons!
BUT, the Eternal One is also not "hard nosed" - "cold as ice" and
He IS, when He sees fit, in His judgment, able to be MERCIFUL!!
David was SHOWN MERCY! He was NOT put to death for the sins of
planned murder/death of Uriah and adultery with the man's wife -
This ONE example, and friends WE ONLY NEED ONE! When dealing with
God, when you want to see the MIND and NATURE of the Almighty,
ONE EXAMPLE is enough on an issue such as the "death penalty."
If God desired that MERCY be shown, then He was quite capable of
inspiring and telling His servants the prophets and high priest
and the judges of the time, that MERCY was to be granted to the
Israel has a "judge" system, set up under Moses. The death
sentence for capital crimes committed, was under the judge system
with other regulation to govern even how that was be to decided.
And if God wanted to speak to His servants that death was NOT to
be enacted, the Lord had the final word as we say. He was the
Many have the totally wrong impression that the God of the Old
Testament was a person of no mercy, no compassion, hard as stone,
everything written in stone, no mercy to be shown. Nothing
friends COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! If you are reading ALL
of the Old Testament, you will see a God of love, kindness,
friendliness, understanding, caring, compassion, mercy, healing,
goodness, battle fighting, protection, power and miracles for His
people. And you will see at times He's willing make exceptions to
the general norm.
This is important for you to know this God, to come to
REALLY KNOW this God of the Bible. I'm taking the time to
expound to you a little about the God we CAN COME TO KNOW, the
things He WANTS US TO KNOW ABOUT HIMSELF, things He reveals to us
so we CAN know Him.
It is written the Lord got so tired and so "fed-up" with Israel
He was going to DESTROY the whole lot of them and START OVER with
the children and descendants of Moses!
Moses was able to talk to the Lord, able to REASON with Him, have
a heart to heart TALK with this Holy One, and Moses was able to
CHANGE God's mind, have Him back down with His plan, and continue
on with the Israelites of that time.
We have friends, SOME AWESOME FATHER IN HEAVEN WHO CAN BE TALKED
TO, WHO IS ABLE TO CHANGE HIS MIND, WHO CAN IF HE IT'S WILL STOP
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN ANY SPECIFIC CASE!
Now, THAT is SOME GOD I SERVE, and I TEACH, and I PROCLAIM TO
YOU! NO WONDER HE IS WORTHY OF PRAISE FOREVER MORE!
Keith Hunt (November 2007)
The Trials of Jesus and His Followers
Perhaps, with the previous background, the capital charge
and the jurisdiction of famous trials in the New Testament will
1. The trials of Peter and John (Acts 4:1-22; 5:1741). Note that
the arresting officials are priests and Sadducees (4:1); rulers,
elders, scribes, and High Priest (4:5-6); Sadducees and High
Priest (5:21). Peter and John are brought before the "council"
(sunedrion) and "senate" (gerousia). These factors suggest that
the charges were political, although the disciples' recorded
response is in the sphere of religion. Their accusers were
"annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in
Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (4:2), but this is not a
violation of torah which should lead to trial by the (religious)
"bet-din." The accusers are further concerned that the movement
with which the disciples are associated "spread no further among
the people" (4:17), and they are worried that "they intend to
bring this man's [i.e., Jesus'] blood upon us" (5:28). Such
popular unrest should not reach the ears of their Roman
overlords, especially since these two men are speaking in the
name of "Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified" (4:10).
That crucifixion centered upon the political charge that he was
"King of the Jews" (Matt.27:87), and hence a challenge to Roman
authority. Apparently with the fear of potential rebellion in
mind, a member of the sunedrion made an analogy with two previous
rebels who incited violence and caused slaughter by the Romans
2. The trial of Stephen (Acts 6:8-7:60). The charge is that he
had blasphemed against "Moses and God," with the accusers being
members of various synagogues (Acts 6:9). Both the charge and the
accusers suggest a religious offense, which would have mandated
trial by the "small" bet-din. Apparently here it is called,
anachronistically, a "sunedrion." (This is understandable in view
of the date of the book of Acts: after the destruction of the
Temple, following which the terms "bet-din" and "sunedrion"
become identified.) Note that there is no mention of the High
Priest, whose presence would have been necessary to call a
political council (sunedrion) into session.
In his speech (7:2-53), Stephen does not use the divine
name, so that a charge of blasphemy against the Holy Name (Lev.
24:16, clarified by Mishnah Sanhedrin 7.5) could only come from
(false?) witnesses. By "blasphemy against Moses" they may have
meant that he had taught that torah was not of eternal
In any case, it is not clear that the court found him
guilty, and some interpreters have suggested that he was, in
effect, set upon by an enraged mob.
3. The attack upon Paul (Acts 21:26-32). The ground plan for the
Temple of New Testament times (the Herodian Temple) provided for
a Court of Gentiles, beyond which they could not go on penalty of
death. (The original inscription, warning to this effect, has
been unearthed.) Violators, such as Paul was accused of being,
were subject to attack and execution without warning or trial.
This may be comparable with the warning against trespass upon
sacred area in Exodus 19:12-13.
4. Paul's various trials (Acts 22:30-23:10; 24:1-23; 25:1-12;
26:1-32). That the perceived danger from this man lay in the
political sphere is clear from the fact that a Roman officer
ordered the High Priest and the sunedrion to hear the case
(22:90), from the fact that part of the council consisted of
Sadducees (29:6; they did not even recognize the validity of the
"bet-din" and hence never were members of it), from the fact that
the case was referred to the Roman governor (29:24), from the
fact that he was accused of being "a pestilent fellow, an
agitator" (24:5), and from the fact that Paul appealed to Caesar
for trial as a Roman citizen (25:12). Paul's fate was execution
by beheading (so the early Christian authorities Origen,
Tertullian, and Eusebius). He must, then, have been adjudged a
danger to the state.
5. The trial of Jesus (Matt.26:47-27:50; Mark 14:43-1537; Luke
22:47-23:46; John 18:1-19:30). With the nature of the other
trials in memory, the nature of the charges against Jesus should
now be dear. He was arrested by Roman soldiers and officials of
the High Priest (John 18:9), brought before the High Priest
(Matt. 26:57), examined by "sunedrion" (Matt.26:59), asked
specifically if he claimed to be the Messiah (Matt.26:68),
examined by the Roman governor (Matt. 27:1-2), condemned for fear
that He would precipitate a bloodbath at the hands of the Roman
soldiers (John 11:47-50), specifically charged with being "King
of the Jews" (Matt.27:91), executed with two brigands (Matt.
27:98; persons of similar danger to the state?), and had his
clothing confiscated (Mark 15:24, which was done only to
It is plausible to conclude, then, that Jesus was crucified
by the Romans and their local quislings (in the sunedrion) on
political grounds, rather than by the respected religious leaders
(the Pharisaic bet-din) on religious grounds. The relevance of
this conclusion, from the point of view of the present volume, is
this: Roman authority in civil matters (including execution) was
recognized, not merely by the religious leadership of Judah, but
also by Jesus (Matt.22:15-22) and Paul (Rom.13:1-7), the latter
giving it a theological underpinning. Rome's right to execute
Jesus, therefore, was never questioned.
END OF OUR STUDY
Entered on this Website November 2007