05 July 2011

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--Statutes concerning fornication, sorcery, bestiality, and usury

Just to kind of give you a preview of what’s in the near future; in a couple weeks when we get to chapter 23 we’re going to skim over the three main festivals that were to be kept each year—Passover; the Feast of Firstfruits; and the Feast of Ingathering. We won’t really go in-depth; we’ll save the deeper study for when we get to those parts of Leviticus. Then Exodus 24, we will see God make His covenant with Moses and the people of Israel. Then when we get to chapters 25-28, these are the chapters that cover the building of the tabernacle and the making of the priestly garments, and for those chapters I found a really good computer-animated video of these things and we will use that rather than have me stand here and try to give you the idea of what they looked like. And then chapter 30 details the consecration, or sanctification, or the setting apart of the tabernacle for the worship of God, and we will see some really clear pictures of Christ and our own salvation through these words.

So, with all that being said, let’s read Exodus 22:16-17“16 If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.” This was the original command for the “shotgun wedding”—you want to sleep with my daughter, you better be ready to marry her. The “bride-price” was a form of what is called a “dowry.” A dowry is defined as “The money, goods or estate which a woman brings to her husband in marriage.” In the day and age we live in, guys think it’s “cool” to take a girl’s virginity. God doesn’t. And so, God gave this command that if you take a girl’s virginity, you would then pay her father the “bride-price”, or dowry if you will. That “bride-price” was fifty shekels of silver (not sure what that would be today), and you have yourself a wife.

And guess what? If you found out down the road that she ain't all you thought she would be—tough luck, you're married to her for life. Deuteronomy 22:28-29“28 If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed…and lies with her, and they are found out, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.” Sorry pal, you're stuck with her. Now, if they are found out, and daddy says, “Son, I don’t want you anywhere near my daughter ever again,” then you still had to pay the fifty shekels, and you didn’t get the girl. However, the penalty for sleeping with a woman who was betrothed to another man was much worse than if you were caught with a virgin. Listen to Deuteronomy 22:23-24“23 If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones.” Again, these acts of wickedness—whether it’s stealing or sleeping with a man’s daughter—these things get real expensive. And as we continue studying these statutes we keep seeing, over and over, just how seriously God thinks of sin. He doesn’t just say, “Well, OK, you feel bad about what you did; that’s punishment enough.” He attaches a pretty hefty price to these things.

And next we see the price that God attaches to another act of wickedness, Exodus 22:18“You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” The KJV uses the word “witch.” God says in another place, Leviticus 20:27“A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.” What do we normally think of when we hear words like ‘sorcery’ and ‘witchcraft’? We think of “Hocus-Pocus, abracadabra”. Know what the word “abracadabra” means? It’s actually Aramaic, which was another Semitic language that was very similar to Hebrew. “Abra means ‘to create’ and cadabra means ‘as I say’, ultimately when merging the two words abracadabra means in Aramaic is ‘create as I say’.” (Source: Wikipedia) So, basically, when someone says “abracadabra” they are making themselves God. Now notice how this command is worded. Most of the commands up until now have been “If a person does this, they shall be put to death” or “If he does this he shall surely die.” But listen to the words God uses here—You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” He is commanding the people that when they find a sorceress—or sorcerer, for that matter—they are hereby commanded to put that one to death.

Think about it. Where had they just spent the last 400 years? Pharaoh surrounded himself with magicians and fortune-tellers. And in fact, these magicians had power to “create illusions” of their own. Exodus 7:11-1211 But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. 12 For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. There are some who do indeed have power to create illusions, and even perform many signs and wonders, and even “read people’s minds”—but where does their power come from? 2nd Thessalonians 2:9The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders. Two examples of sorcery in the book of Acts, first we have Acts 8:9-119 There was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery…10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. Then we have the young woman in Acts 16:1616 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. So we can see, even from Scripture, that there are some who have power to do these things. BUT—we are commanded to put people like that far away from us. Isaiah 8:19-2019 And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! Keil and Delitzsch—
“What an unnatural thing, for the people of YHVH to go and inquire, not of their own God, but of such heathenish and demonic deceivers and victims as these! What blindness, to consult the dead in the interests of the living!”
Now, this could be a place to talk about the errors of the Roman Catholic system who teach that we should seek the assistance of dead saints, and Mary the mother of Christ—but we’ll save that for another day.

I do, however, want to talk about another passage of Scripture that is related to this subject, and that is 1st Samuel 28:5-125 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor." 8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you." 9 Then the woman said to him, "Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?" 10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." 11 Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me." 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. Now, three questions that have been debated back and forth for these last couple thousand years are— (1) Was that really Samuel? Yes it was. (2) Did this woman really have the power to raise the dead and speak to them? I would say no, she did not. If you look at verse 12, it says she cried out with a loud voice. This had obviously either never happened before, or she saw something completely different from the familiar spirits she had seen before. (3) How did she see Samuel? Here’s what I think happened. Saul, was being disobedient to God. Had been for quite some time. God had removed His favor from him, and God was not speaking to Saul. So Saul goes against the commands of God and consults this witch. And what happened, I think, was that God sent Samuel to speak to Saul, God bringing up the prophet to speak for God even from beyond the grave. Adam Clarke—
“Strange that a man, who had banished all witches from the land…should now have recourse to them as the only persons in whom he could safely put his confidence in the time in which YHVH had refused to help him!”
Under the Law the people were commanded to put such a woman to death.

Exodus 22:19-20“Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.” This command is repeated in Leviticus 20:15-16“15 If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them.” Bestiality is such a vile, filthy, reprehensible and wicked thing that anyone who has sex with an animal must be considered to have completely thrown off any sense of respect for the natural order of things and for the image of God in which they were created. Whomever a person gives themselves over to, they are one flesh with that person. And when a man or woman gives themselves over to an animal, they are joining the image of God to a brute beast. Not only that, but consider also the gods of the Egyptians. What kind of form did most of them have? Most of them were half beast and half human. Bestiality was a form of pagan worship at the time, and in many cases it may have been an attempt to create a living form of the images and statues that they worshipped. And it was for that reason that God ordered the person who engaged in such an act to be put to death.

Now, we’re gonna skip ahead to verses 25-27. There’s a good reason we’re doing this. I got started on verses 21-24, which deal with how the people were to treat widows and orphans, and there’s a really good lesson there about Jesus and His dealings with the Pharisees, and how they treated widows and orphans that I think it would be best if we took a little time with it next week and didn’t try to rush through it. So, Exodus 22:25“If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest.” If you lent money to your neighbor, you were not to charge him interest. Not simple interest, not compound interest—not ANY interest. Every source I've read comes to the same conclusion; that if I lend Richard $10, then all I should expect in return is $10. Not $10 plus 0.5% interest. This brings us to the moneychangers at the temple when Jesus came into Jerusalem—they were guilty of usury. This is what they did. The people would come from all over the world to keep the Passover at Jerusalem. Of course, they couldn’t carry all the animals they would need for the sacrifices, and even if they did, those who examined their sacrifice would always find some flaw with it, so just to be helpful, they would have certified, pre-owned sheep and doves to sell there.

This brought up another problem. The only currency you could use to buy these animals was Jewish currency. And it would just so happen that at the time of Passover, the exchange rate just happened to favor the moneychangers. What that means, then is they were charging their fellow Jews interest. Usury. This was in fact a violation of another command, Leviticus 25:35-37“35 If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. 37 You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit.” And what did Jesus say about these guys? Matthew 21:12-1312 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" Albert Barnes—
“It became, therefore, a matter of convenience to have a place where the Roman coin might be exchanged for the Jewish half shekel. This was the 'professed' business of these men. Of course, they would demand a small sum for the exchange; and, among so many thousands as came up to the great feasts, it would be a very profitable employment, and one easily giving rise to much fraud and oppression.”
Thus, the Pharisees, in their quest for money and luxury, were in clear violation of the very Law they were seeking to be justified by.

Now, Exodus 22:26-27“26 If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27 For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.” This command is expanded in Deuteronomy 24:10-13“10 When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge. 11 You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight. 13 You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the LORD your God.” What they would do is this: if I owed you $100, you would take my coat as a pledge. During the day, you would hold on to it, until that day when I paid off that debt. But, if it took more than a day for me to pay that debt, then every night you would give me back my coat. Now, we know it gets really, really hot in the desert during the daytime. But what happens at night? It gets really, really cold. And in order that the poor person who carries that debt would not suffer a greater imposition, it was returned to him at sundown so that he may not freeze to death out in the desert. This command is similar to one in Deuteronomy 24:6“No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge, for he takes one's living in pledge.” In either of these cases—holding their coat or taking their millstone—that was a form of holding the person hostage until they paid off that debt. The ‘millstone’ was what the family used to grind their wheat or corn to make bread to eat. John Gill—
“If his mill or millstones are pawned, he cannot grind his corn, and so he and his family must starve: and in those times and countries they did, as the Arabs do to this day, as Dr. Shaw relates, ‘…these millstones being portable, might be the more easily taken for pledges, which is here forbidden; and this includes any other thing on which a man's living depends, or by which he gets his bread.”
Next week: widows and orphans

Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.