DIGEST OF DIVINE LAW
by Howard Rand (1942)
RELATIONSHIP TO OUR NEIGHBOR
A question often asked by those who, for the first time, have come to a realization of the national need of keeping the commandments, statutes and judgments of the Lord is, What can we do about it? It is of course impossible for any individual to put into operation the statutes of national administration; but we can, insofar as national violation of such laws are concerned, point out the righteousness of the law and protest its violation, thus calling attention to the penalties being exacted from us as a nation today for such violation. Essentially it is a work of witnessing: a voice in the wilderness, as it were, calling attention to the ways of righteousness, pointing out the need of a national restoration of the administration of all His laws in order to secure the blessings of peace and prosperity.
Individually we do not have to wait until the nation makes that restoration before complying with the law and coming under its benefits. Many of the requirements of the law can now be kept by individuals, such as the rules for health as well as the required attitude towards God and towards our fellow man. Thus while it is impossible to have the perfection of administration and peace promised as the result of the nation administering the commandments, statutes and judgments as the law of the land yet, insofar as the law applies to the individual, we can conform with its requirements. It is self-evident that the keeping of every requirement of the Ten Commandments brings its specific blessing and an inward spiritual peace. This, then, is the answer for those who — having heard of the need of keeping the law and of its national administration — voice the question as to what individuals can do about it!
Already we have shown what is required of man in his relationship to God. This relationship is set forth in the first half of the Ten Commandments. There can be no orderly society where these requirements are ignored, for unless men place God first, and recognize their proper relationship to Him, men are incapable of keeping a proper relationship to their neighbor. Immediately following the requirements governing man's relationship to God the Lord sets forth the relationship of men — one to the other.
Domestic tranquillity is impossible in any community which ignores these laws. Thus, while the greatest of all commandments is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, the second is like unto it: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
The Sixth Commandment
No man can violate the last five commandments (beginning with the sixth) and love his neighbor as himself. The sixth commandment is, "Thou shalt not kill."
But there will be men who will violate this law, for unless authority is vested in some organization with power to enforce its observance, society will suffer from the result of violence and crime. Because this is so, God authorized the establishment of governments, delegating to man the power to administer His laws and authorizing the bringing to justice of the individual who violates His commandments.
Individuals have no right to set up a standard of personal conduct! That has already been done by God through the Ten Commandments. It is equally true that no nation has a right to say what type of punishment shall be meted out to those who violate any of the commandments. The punishments have already been declared by the statutes and judgments of the Lord.
Capital Punishment Mandatory
The original statute, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," was enlarged upon by a statute of judgment given to Israel at Mount Sinai. Here it is, "The congregation (i.e., the governmental assembly of Israel) shall judge between the slayer (the one who has taken life) and the revenger of blood (the executioner) . . . These things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death. . . . Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer which is guilty of death (not even the substitution of life imprisonment).... So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it." (Num. 35:24-33.)
Under this law every nation is justified in executing the murderer. This law makes such execution mandatory and the nation that refuses to carry out this law is guilty of failure to administer justice in the land. Such failure will result in a land filled with violence and crime.
In order to protect the man whose duty it is to execute the criminal, a judgment was rendered under this sixth commandment: "And the revenger of blood (the executioner) kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood." (Num. 35:27.)
Contrary to popular belief the Bible does not hold life cheaply. It is a serious thing to take life, and for the taking of life the murderer forfeits his life. But those who accidentally cause the death of another are confined in a city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. In some cases this might amount to life imprisonment. Such a law certainly produced respect for life and made a man careful of the life of his fellowman. This law in operation today would reduce automobile accidents to a minimum. A driver of a car would be as careful of the life of another's husband, wife, daughter and son as he would be of his own loved ones, for none would want to forfeit his freedom.
Swiftness of Justice
It has been a fact of our history that when crime becomes intolerable the Anglo-Saxon mind unconsciously reverts to the ancient Israel laws of administration. This was in evidence in the early days of the west, in the organization of vigilant committees to deal with crime. The swiftness with which justice was executed soon restored law and order to a troubled community. This swiftness of justice was the method God inaugurated in the handling and punishment of the criminal. The case was tried and before sunset of the day following the verdict the murderer was dead. The man or woman who feels such swiftness of justice will not have a law-abiding effect fails in an understanding of human nature. A man desires to live, not to die. God knows this and therefore gave laws and judgments which would deter men from committing crimes. In the swiftness of judgment He said, "So shaft thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
Certain cases would be difficult to decide so judgments were rendered. "Whoever assails a man and he dies; he shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait, but his stroke came from God, then you shall provide a place where he may fly. If, however, a man plans against his neighbour to murder him; then you shall take him from my altar to kill him." (Ex. 21: 12-14, Ferror Fenton Translation.)
When two men strive together, if one be injured and is in bed and the one responsible is uninjured, then the uninjured shall pay for the loss of the injured man's time and bear the expense necessary to effect a cure (Ex. 21:18-19).
If an ox gore a man or a woman the ox shall be killed and the owner be free except in the case where he knew the ox was vicious. If he had such knowledge the death penalty would be passed upon him, but in this case he could redeem his life by paying substantial damages.
When a thief is found breaking and entering at night and if killed it would not be murder (Ex. 22:2). If in the daytime the thief can redeem his blood and if he has nothing, then he can be sold for stealing. These and sundry other judgments were passed to guide in the matter of administration.
There would be cases where a murder has been committed and the perpetrator of the crime is not detected. In such cases the city in which the crime was committed, or if in the country the nearest city is to make atonement (Deut. 21: 1-9). Here we have community guilt established when the individual responsible for the crime is not detected and punished.
We cannot leave this subject without referring to the New Testament. Jesus made hatred of a brother without cause the equivalent to murder. Thus the inward desire to destroy another is murder in the sight of God.
Exclusion from the Holy City, which is emblematical of the coming new order, is pronounced upon "The fearful, and un-believing, and the abominable, and murderers, etc." (Rev. 21:8).
The Seventh Commandment
Next to murder, God condemns the pollution of the life-stream of His people. Family life was to be guarded against all such corruption, therefore the seventh commandment is, "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
A vigorous, prosperous, healthy nation depends upon healthy and virtuous family life and relationship. History has demonstrated again and again that when a people depart from the laws of decency and morality, that nation declines. The Bible is very clear in its instruction regarding proper relationships between the sexes, for ignorance of such matters is not treated in Scripture as a virtue.
Death for Adultery
Severe judgments are pronounced upon those who fail to keep these laws. Respect for womanhood, motherhood, and for the rights of one's neighbor would prevent violation of this commandment. Death is the penalty pronounced for its violation. "The man that committeth adultery with another man's wife . . . the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." (Lev. 20:10.)
Jesus cites this commandment and rendered a judgment under it when He said, "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Under such judgment thousands become guilty, for in this statement Jesus has taken this commandment from the Table of Stone and written it upon the heart. Outwardly men can appear virtuous by force of circumstances, but the man whose heart is right will not think or desire to do evil. He will in thought and deed refrain from all evil, regardless of conditions and circumstances.
Very strict rules are given under the law governing sex relations and hygiene. Close marriages among blood relatives are absolutely forbidden. Death is pronounced for the crime of sodomy and for carnal relationship with beasts.
Betrothed damsels are treated, under the law, as though they are married; with the death penalty for the man who molests them. A problem, the mishandling of which has caused untold suffering, involves young people who have been compelled to marry. Under the law it was mandatory that they marry and it is stipulated as an atonement that the young man pay a sum of money to the girl's father. In addition to this the law declares that the young man may not divorce her for any cause all the days of his life. Thus by his act he has made binding upon himself the need of keeping, supporting, and cherishing her to the end of life.
Adultery is the one ground under the law that Jesus stated was justification for divorce; He said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery." (Matt. 5:32.) The reason for this is clear. According to the law of judgment, death was the penalty for adultery. Thus under the law the one who committed adultery is legally dead and whether actual death follows or not divorce was justifiable.
There are certain cults that teach against marriage. For men to follow such teachings is declared to be giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (Tim. 4:1), for the Bible declares that marriage is honorable, but adulterers will God judge (Heb. 13:4).
Solomon said, "My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words." He also said, "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul."
(A NOTE HERE: THIS LAW OF ADULTERY THOUGH CARRYING THE DEATH PENALTY, COULD HAVE MERCY SHOWN, IF THE ADULTERER WAS TRUELY REPENTANT. THIS IS PROVED BY KING DAVID AND BATHSHEBA.....BOTH WERE SHOWN MERCY. BUT DAVID DID NOT GOT OFF SCOT-FREE. THERE WAS A PENALTY PAID AND IT IS ALL LAID OUT IN THE CONTEXT OF THE PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE CONTAINING THIS SIN OF DAVID. WE SHOULD ALSO NOTE THAT AN INDIRECT KILLING COULD ALSO BE SHOWN MERCY, FOR IN DAVID'S SIN HE WAS GUILTY OF INDIRECT KILLING OR MURDER. IN THE CASE OF DIRECT PLANNED KILLING OR MURDER THERE IS NO EXAMPLE OF MERCY BEING SHOWN. OTHER SINS LIKE HOMOSEXUALITY/LESBIANIOSM ETC. AGAIN COULD HAVE MERCY IF THE SINNER REPENTED AND CHANGED THEIR LIFE-STYLE; THOSE WHO WOULD NOT CAME UNDER THE DEATH PENALTY - Keith Hunt)
The Eighth Commandment
Having given the commandments respecting life and virtue God proceeded to set forth man's relationship to his neighbor's goods. The violation of this eighth commandment is responsible for the commitment of more violence and has caused more suffering than perhaps the violation of any of the other laws. Violence and murder and in fact the whole category of crime can often be traced to the violation of this eighth command. This commandment is, "Thou shalt not steal."
Condemnation under this law is passed upon a wide variety of activities in our modern business and financial life. Every phase of human activity that undertakes to secure something for nothing when such acquisition is a loss to others is stealing. Withholding the tithe is stealing from God, according to Malachi 3:8.
Judgments - for Stealing
The judgment for stealing varied with the type of goods stolen. It ranged from restoration and other penalties to even death. If oxen and sheep were stolen and found in the hand of the thief, he was to restore double. If, however, the thief had sold or killed them, then he was to restore five oxen and four sheep for the one ox and the one sheep which he had taken. While this law applied to an agricultural community it nevertheless sets forth a principle which can as readily be applied to a highly industrial civilization. The law of the Lord removes all profit from stealing and imposes severe penalties upon those who steal. When money is stolen, the thief must make double restoration.
In the case of kidnapping, or the stealing of a man or a woman, to sell them for ransom, the judgment required that the thief should surely be put to death.
A natural question that arises is, What shall be done with the thief who cannot make restitution? The Lord said, "If he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft." That is, he must work out his indebtedness. If such a law were in operation today, many a financier and business magnate who through stock manipulations have taken millions from the needy would spend the balance of their lives working to restore double that which they had fleeced from their victims.
Under the law of the Lord, with two, four and even five times increase in restoration over that which was stolen and with double the money taken to be returned by the thief, many would-be thieves would fear to do wrong. Manipulation of finances and reorganizations for the purpose of squeezing out the small investor; in fact, all sharp practices by which much stolen wealth has been accumulated in the past would cease under the righteous administration of such laws.
There are certain border cases that would be difficult to decide and so, under the law, judgments have been rendered. Let us look at a few of these, for the Bible definitely blesses and protects private ownership.
If a man dig a pit and an ox or other animal of his neighbor falls into it the owner of the pit or well shall make good the loss. If one man's ox shall hurt another's so that he die, then the live ox is to be sold and the money divided and the dead ox is also to be divided. But if the ox was known to be vicious, and the owner failed to keep it confined, he must make good the ox his neighbor has lost and the dead ox will be his.
If a man cause a field to be eaten he is to make restitution, while if he lights a fire and it burns his neighbor's goods he must make restoration of the goods destroyed. When a man delivers goods or money to his neighbor to be kept, if it be stolen out of his house and the thief is caught, then the thief must make double restoration; if the thief cannot be found then the judges must decide as to whether the man to whom the goods had been entrusted is himself guilty; and if the judges condemn him, he must make double restoration.
If a man deliver his stock to his neighbor to keep for him, if it die or be driven away, no man seeing, he must take an oath before the Lord that he did not put his hand unto his neighbor's goods. If it be stolen from him he must make restitution to his neighbor, but if it be torn to pieces and he brings it for evidence he need not make good.
If a man borrow anything from his neighbor and it is hurt or dies or is damaged while in his hand, the owner not being present with it, it must be made good. But if the owner is with it, he shall not make it good for it is hired and the owner being present is responsible for its care. These judgments establish principles of law that are applicable in every age.
The Lord has said, "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another."
The Ninth Commandment
Thus it is that the life, the wife and the possessions of his fellow men are to be respected by man. God now set forth the relationship of men towards the good name and reputation of their neighbors. The ninth commandment is, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
There are many ways in which one can bear false witness regarding his neighbor. It can be accomplished by word, act or deed, for often a false report can be started about another by a lift of the eyebrow, the shake of the head or the shrug of the shoulder at the mention of a name. Many times, action can be a more powerful method of circulating a false report than even the spoken word.
The making of false oaths is forbidden as well as committing any fraud. "You shall not go with the powerful to do wrong; and you shall not plead for the powerful to make excuse for their wrongdoing. And you shall not turn away from the poor man when he pleads." (Ex. 23:2.)
Examination of Witness
False witnessing in court proceedings was more readily detected under the Israel procedure than it is possible to detect it today. Each witness was examined separately and out of hearing of the others. This minimized the possibility of collaboration between witnesses as well as the opportunity to escape detection if testimony is falsified.
When the judges detect the possibility of falsification the case stops and the judges make a thorough investigation. If the testimony was found to be false, "Then shall ye do unto him as he had thought to have done unto his brother." Whatever the judgment would have been, had the defendant been found guilty, the man who testified falsely would have to bear.
If it would have been death, then it meant death for him. If it were to be restitution, then the witness had to pay the equivalent of that restitution. This would result as the Lord said, "And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you."
Bearing false testimony is greater in scope than testifying in court cases alone. The Lord said, "Thou shalt not raise a false report; put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness."
Also, "Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off."
The Bible has much to say about those who harm their neighbors by gossip. "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people." It is of interest to note that the truth or falsity of the matter is not raised, for if you truly love your neighbor as yourself you will not privately bear witness to his harm, be the gossip true or false. God only knows the untold heartaches that have resulted from the violation of this commandment and which has resulted in much suffering. James had these facts in mind when he said, "The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! " (James 3:5.)
Many otherwise respectable people look down upon an unfortunate brother who may have violated some of the other laws, while they themselves are breaking this ninth commandment. Jesus warns, "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." The violation of His laws has brought forth the statement from God of swift witness in judgment against false swearers, and against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.
The Tenth Commandment
The final and last commandment which Israel heard promulgated at Mount Sinai by the voice of God was, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbours." Jesus also said, "Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
It is worth noting that this last commandment sums up the cause back of most of the violations of the rest of the commandments. Covetousness leads men to commit murder and adultery; it is the first cause leading man to steal the property of his neighbor and often is back of the giving of false testimony. The Lord has declared, "Woe to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away; so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage."
Reason for Violence
Violence and blood have filled the earth as the result of the breaking of this tenth commandment. The desire to acquire the possessions of others has resulted in destructive competition in business, which is itself war when carried on under the Babylonian system, leading to armed conflict between nations. The desire for commercial supremacy as nations strive to destroy competition is but coveting world markets, even to the point of instituting aggressive warfare in order to take that which is coveted. There will and can always be legitimate trade in the buying and selling of goods and the exchange of one's increase, but, unfortunately, methods are such under the present system that men are not content to live and let live. Instead men covet power and wealth and in their desire to bring their plans to fruition have drenched the pages of history with blood.
God gave to men an inheritance in the land forever, but modern business and the Babylonian system of administration has denied men their God-given privilege. In a world order where foreclosure of mortgages, tax sales and interest charges can be imposed upon a people and used to acquire the property of one's neighbor, at a greatly reduced value, such has served those who have coveted their neighbor's possessions. Covetousness is the foundation of evil desires and lusts.
In these Ten Commandments God has set before His people what is required of them in their relationship to Him and to their fellow man. If these laws are kept (and they can only be kept by a people in whose heart they have been written) there will be peace and contentment in that community, with freedom from strife.
When the question is asked as to what we can do regarding the law, the answer is to keep that law insofar as it is possible for the individual to comply with its requirements. No individual can do less as he desires and works for the restoration of the Law of the Lord as the Law of the land.
We have given but a brief summary of the ten commandments, making reference to certain of the statutes and judgments which are for the purpose of forcing men to comply with the requirements of the commandments. Until our nation makes this enforcement part of their administrative activities only men of good will will strive to keep the requirements of the law.
While no honest man can deny the importance of the Ten Commandments yet they are no more important to the individual who desires to be right with God than are the God-given statutes to the nation that would have God's blessings on all their undertakings in the righteous administration of equity and justice for all.
To be continued