Love and Justice in Ancient Israel – (Part 1 of 4) – Study 2019/09
“He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is filled with Jehovah’s loyal love.”— Psalm 33:5
[From ws 02/19 p.20 Study Article 9: April 29 – May 5]
Unusually there are many good points in this article. A read of the first 19 paragraphs is beneficial to all.
However, there are some points made in paragraph 20 that need discussing.
Paragraph 20 opens with “Jehovah has compassion for his people, so he put safeguards in place to prevent individuals from being treated unfairly.”. No quibbles here.
Next, the paragraph says, “For example, the Law limited the possibility that a person would be falsely accused of a crime. A defendant had the right to know who was accusing him. (Deuteronomy 19:16-19; 25:1)”. Again, a fine point on the surface.
However, this is an important point, that in the quasi-Judicial system the Organization has created, many elders/older men do not rule for justice itself. Furthermore, unlike the arrangements under the Mosaic Law where any accusations and judgements were dealt with in public at the city gates, judicial hearings are in secret, often with only the accused and 3 elders present. Do such cases of miscarriages of justice occur? More frequently than the Organization will admit. Sometimes the accusers are the elders themselves. No prizes for guessing the judgement they will make. For a recent shocking example watch this interview of a 79 year old sister who was recently disfellowshiped in absentia, without the opportunity to know who her accusers were, nor the specifics of what she was alleged to have done.
The second point the paragraph makes is “And before he could be convicted, at least two witnesses had to give evidence. (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15).
A question we do not know the answer to is whether there were two witnesses in this sister’s case. Additionally, important points are that Deuteronomy 17:6 is discussing accusations which if proved true would result in the death penalty. Furthermore, the context of Deuteronomy 19:15 shows there were arrangements to handle serious accusations by one person. Verses 16-21 deal with this and shows the accusations would be thoroughly investigated in public by many, not by a few in private. This gave the opportunity for other witnesses to come forward. The accusations of one person would not be ignored and swept under the carpet. This context was obviously overlooked by the article writer as he next offers this opinion “What about an Israelite who committed a crime that was seen by only one witness? He could not assume that he would get away with his wrongdoing. Jehovah saw what he did.” While this is true, according to Deuteronomy 19:16-21 discussed above, he might have been convicted because of evidence discovered in the thorough investigation. Surely a more satisfying outcome for all.
Paragraph 23 goes on to say “The Law also protected family members from sex crimes by forbidding all forms of incest. (Lev. 18:6-30) Unlike the people of the nations surrounding Israel, who tolerated or even condoned this practice, Jehovah’s people were to view this type of crime as Jehovah did—as a detestable act.”
Sexual abuse of a child is a serious crime, whether incest or rape. An allegation of sexual abuse should be taken very seriously, whether by one witness or not, just as any allegation of murder or serious fraud. Such allegations of serious crimes should be reported to the superior authorities today, as per the principle in Romans 13:1, just as required in the time of the Mosaic Law. An allegation does not need to be proven. If the allegation is subsequently proved false, the superior authorities can take action against the accuser as can the accused. These allegations should only be handled at all within the Christian congregation after the secular authorities have been informed and have ruled on the case. Trying to draw comparisons between the present elder arrangement in the Organization today and the older men of the Israelite villages and towns is not valid. The older men were not spiritual guardians, rather they were civil appointments. The role of spiritual guardian was handled by the priests, who were only called upon in exceptional circumstances. (Deuteronomy 19:16-19)
Finally, in paragraph 25 we read “Love and justice are like breath and life; on earth, one does not exist without the other”.
If true Christian love does not exist, there cannot be justice. Likewise, if justice is missing then the identifying mark of love for all, will also be missing. Isolated incidents can be ignored because there will always be isolated wicked individuals. However, evidence of a large amount of injustice cannot be so easily explained away and indicates true Christian love is not present.
In conclusion, for the majority of this article we can benefit from the review of the positive benefits of the Mosaic Law. However, the final paragraphs from paragraph 20 onwards should raise serious questions in our minds about whether or how any aspects of the Mosaic can be or should be or really are, applied today within the Organization.
- The NWT reference edition says, “With the loving-kindness of Jehovah the earth is filled”. ↑