05 February 2010

Feb 5

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we get more rules from God. The nature of the rules strikes me. Moses stands on Mount Sinai talking to God. Supposedly, God uses this time to tell Moses what matters most. Thus, the reading leads the reader to conclude that some of life's most important rules regulate compensation for various crimes involving sheep and oxen. This emphasis makes immense sense for a community of herdsman. It makes less sense if God intended this to be his eternal word, useful for instructing humanity through all the future.

These rules teach an interesting lesson about proportional punishment. The rules distinguish intentional and accidental crimes. They recognize the role of negligence. Punishment varies based on the amount of damage done. For example, a thief who sells or kills an ox or sheep must pay back five oxen or four sheep. If the thief still poses the animal, they pay double the value of the stolen animal (and, presumably, return the stolen animal). These punishments seem to show a recognition of the dual purpose of punishment: deter crime and compensate victims. If the victim's loss is less, the punishment should be less. One might argue that this is unfair, but as a member of a litigious society, I think a little swing in that direction would be beneficial.

Today's reading contains more rules that weaken the apologetic about slavery mentioned yesterday: God's laws about slavery were meant to make things better for slaves than they had been before because banishing slavery was infeasible at that point. Today's point against that argument is that if an ox gores a man or a woman, a boy or a girl to death, it must be put to death. If it had a reputation for goring, the owner must be put to death too unless he redeems his life through payment. However, if a slave was gored to death, the ox is still killed, but the owner of the ox only has to pay the slave owner for his loss.

If a man seduces a virgin he is not engaged to, he has to marry her. If her father does not want to let him marry her, the man still has to pay the virgin bride price. So remember boys, you cannot get around a girl's father's disapproval by seducing her. In fact, I would recommend not trying that approach.

Today's reading also teaches a an important lesson that I know has been ignored by Christians many times throughout the centuries.
Be sure never to charge anyone falsely with evil. Never sentence an innocent or blameless person to death, for I never declare a guilty person to be innocent.
New Testament

Today, Jesus tells the future! He describes the end of the world. We do not know whether or not he was right since, obviously, the world has not ended yet. The end of the world will apparently involve wars, the persecution of the faithful, rampant sin, and the Good News being preached through the whole world. People will flea Judea and many false prophets will preach that they are the Messiah.

Passages like this help explain why some Christians seem almost eager to believe that they are being persecuted. If they are not being persecuted, then the end times are certainly not near. If they are being persecuted, the end times might be near. Death and war and persecution seem like a strange cause for optimism. I am glad it seems to be a small minority of Christians who think about it that way.

We also learn that God would be willing to let everyone die in these end times if it were not for the presence of his chosen ones.
For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shorted, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God's chosen ones.
Remember folks, God is a God of love!

Psalms and Proverbs

In today's reading from Psalms, more oxen!
He makes Lebanon's mountains skip like a calf;
he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox.
The rest of the psalm is about how God's power is like causes various violent effects such as splitting cedars and lightening strikes.

Proverbs continues with the theme of immoral women and throwing in an implication that women who are "never content to stay at home" are immoral. Also, oxen come up again.
He followed her at once,
like an ox going to the slaughter.
Today's new testament reading is the only one that does not mention oxen!