22 March 2010

Mar 22

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we finish up the travel log. Then God tells the Israelites (via Moses, as always),
When you cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molten images and demolish all their pagan shrines. Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy.
Let's assume, for the moment, that God exists and is not the moody, violent being that he has appeared to be so far. Even given that and even accepting that this God is the creator of all humanity, I do not think that he really has any right to tell the Israelites to drive people out of their homes and cities and to take possession of it. Having created self aware beings, even a creator God has certain responsibilities not to destroy or order the destruction of such beings, in my opinion.

We read a description of the boundaries of the land that God gives to the Israelites followed by a listing of the current tribal leaders and a description of the towns to be given to the Levites (since they do not get land of their own).

The reading ends with a description of cities of refuge. We first read about those way back in Exodus, and now we get a lot more detail. Cities of refuge are places where one can flee after accidentally killing someone else.
designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community.
After describing, by example, types of killings which constitute murder and types of killings which do not. If the community determines a death to be murder.
In such cases, the avenger [the victim's nearest relative] must put the murderer to death when they meet.
I still think that a system where murders have to be killed by a family member of the person they murdered is kind of disturbing. I think it probably does produce a more realistic understanding of the death sentence for the community as a whole, but it seems rather bad for the avenger's state of mind.

Obviously, in a system where murderers are killed, you want to be pretty sure the death was actually a murder.
All murderers must be put to death, but only if evidence is presented by more than one witness. No one may be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.
And why must murders be killed? Because God lives among the Israelites.
And no sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder. You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel
That's right. Murder is wrong not because people are inherently valuable or anything like that, but because God thinks murder makes the land unclean. Now, I know pretty much nothing about theories of morality beyond that they exist, but I am pretty certain they can do better than "murder defiles the land".

If the community decides the death was accidental, the killer still faces punishment, but they also receive some protection.
The community must protect the slayer from the avenger and must escort the slayer back to live in the city of refuge to which he fled. There he must remain until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the sacred oil.
If the slayer leaves the city, he forfeits that protection.
But if the slayer ever leaves the limits of the city of refuge, and the avenger finds him outside the city and kills him, it will not be considered murder. The slayer should have stayed inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.
So pretty much, accidental killers are sent to prison for some time dependent on the life span of the high priest.

New Testament

Repeat stories. Jesus heals a man with leprosy, and tells him to keep the deed quiet, but the man lets people know. Jesus heals a paralyzed man after shocking the crowds by telling the man that his sins have been forgiven.

The bit of new material we get today is Jesus calling Levi (Matthew) as a disciple.
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
Psalms and Proverbs

I like today's psalm because it's half about growing things, and I like growing things
You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!