Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Warning Against Idolatry, Part 2

The following quotes are taken from

"Death to Followers of Other Religions - "Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed."  (Exodus 22:20 NAB)

"Kill Nonbelievers - "They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman."  (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

"Kill Followers of Other Religions - 1) "If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.  Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you.  You shall stone him to death, because he sought to lead you astray from the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.  And all Israel, hearing of this, shall fear and never do such evil as this in your midst."  (Deuteronomy 13:6-11 NAB)

2) "Suppose a man or woman among you, in one of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, has done evil in the sight of the LORD your God and has violated the covenant by serving other gods or by worshiping the sun, the moon, or any of the forces of heaven, which I have strictly forbidden.  When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then that man or woman must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death."  (Deuteronomy 17:2-5 NLT)

            I have already discussed this topic in my earlier article, "A Warning Against Idolatry", so I'm only going to briefly reinstate what was said in that article. 
            The charge of idolatry is a very grievous sin, which God does not take lightly (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God warned the Israelites on several occasions that if they committed idolatry, it was a crime that warranted the death penalty.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV). 
            Why is idolatry considered such a serious crime?  The severity of the judgment, capital punishment, is due to the severity of the sin.  God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god or idol, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit.  "I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).  The crime of idolatry was so serious that it was often referred to as adultery against God (Ezekiel 6:9).
            Again, it is important to note that capital punishment commands such as these were given specifically to the nation of Israel during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  All of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, condemns idolatry; however, the capital punishments prescribed do not apply in our time period and culture (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:24-26).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12, 21:15; Leviticus 20:9; Proverbs 20:20)

The following quotes are taken from

"Death for Hitting Dad - "Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death."  (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

"Death for Cursing Parents - 1) "If one curses his father or mother, his lamp will go out at the coming of darkness."  (Proverbs 20:20 NAB)
2) "All who curse their father or mother must be put to death.  They are guilty of a capital offense."  (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)
            Why would capital punishment be prescribed for dishonoring one's parents?  In considering these texts, we must consider what a great responsibility has been placed on parents.  Being a parent entails the enormous tasks of birthing a child, caring for that child's physical needs until they reach adulthood, and raising them to be responsible adults.  Being a good parent requires a great amount of love, sacrifice, time and effort.
            All of Scripture reaffirms God's command to honor and obey one's parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20).  God has directly placed our parents in a position of authority over us, and we are directed to respect the position that God has given them. 
            In light of God's command to honor one's parents and also in light of the fact that good parents do so much for their children throughout their lives, it would do parents a great disservice for their children to curse them.  We must also take into account that the meaning of the term "curse" carried a much greater weight in the Ancient Near East than it does in our modern Western culture.  To curse someone meant to call on an outside power to cause them misfortune or harm.  This directly goes against God's command to honor, respect, obey and love our parents.
            In the case of Exodus 21:15, many English translations render the Hebrew word nakah as "to strike" or "to hit".  However, the word can also mean "to kill" [1].  In either case, to strike one's parent or kill them is a direct affront not only to their authority, but to God's, who placed them above the child.  And if, in the opinion of the author of, it is such a terrible thing for capital punishment to be given to someone who cursed, struck or killed their parents, why then is the act of killing a parent not worthy of the death penalty?    
            Again, it is important to note that capital punishment commands such as these were given specifically to the nation of Israel during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  All of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, stresses the importance of honoring one's parents; however, the capital punishments prescribed do not apply in our time period and culture (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:24-26).

[1] Gesenius's Lexicon, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (translated by Samuel P. Tregelles), 1847

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unlawful Sexual Relations (Leviticus 18-21; Deuteronomy 22:13-30; Romans 1:18-32)

The following quotes are taken from

"Kill Homosexuals - "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives."  (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

"Death For Adultery - "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death."  (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

"Death For Fornication - "A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death."  (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

"Kill Women Who Are Not Virgins On Their Wedding Night - "But if this charge is true (that she wasn't a virgin on her wedding night), and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father's house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father's house.  Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst."  (Deuteronomy  22:20-21 NAB)

"Infidels and Gays Should Die - Romans 1:24-32"

You can read the full Bible chapters concerning sexual laws here:

            Basically, all sexual laws were created for one purpose: to keep sex as God originally designed it, between a married man and woman (Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:3-9).  The Bible forbids sex with close relatives, sex with in-laws, adultery, sex with someone of the same gender, sex with animals, sex between unmarried people, and prostitution.  Any and all sexual acts outside of marriage are prohibited, according to the Bible.   
            Why is this the case?  God takes the sexual relationship very seriously.  Jesus emphasized this when he discussed the topic of divorce with the Pharisees: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (Genesis 1:27) and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24)? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6, see also Matthew 15:18-20). 
            When a man and woman come together to be "one flesh" in marriage, it is a sacred union, created and upheld by God (Hebrews 13:4).  Sex was created by God for this purpose.  It is a gift given by God to humanity for the marriage relationship, and should never be treated casually or flippantly.
            Again, it is important to note that capital punishment commands such as these were given specifically to the nation of Israel during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  All of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, condemns sexual immorality; however, the capital punishments prescribed do not apply in our time period and culture (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:24-26).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Occult Practices (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27)

The following quotes are taken from

"Kill Witches - "You should not let a sorceress live." (Exodus 22:18 NAB)

"Kill Fortunetellers - "A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death." (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

You can read the full chapters containing these laws here:

            The question that has been presented is this: Why was capital punishment prescribed for those who practiced sorcery/witchcraft, mediums, fortunetellers, etc.?  Later in the Law (Torah), in Deuteronomy chapter 18, God gave the reason for the death penalty in this instance - it matched the severity of the crime. "When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there.  Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.  Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you" (Deuteronomy 18:9-12, NIV).
            In this passage, we learn that the reason that God expelled the inhabitants of Canaan from the land that they were living in was because of the things that they did.  One of their practices that God referred to as "detestable" was sorcery, fortunetelling (divination), and consultation of the dead.  God forbid these occult practices on multiple occasions (Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6).
            The reason that God calls these practices "detestable" is because they encourage people to reject God, seeking answers and power apart from him. God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god/idol, worships any created thing, or seeks to utilize powers of demonic nature that are not from God, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit. 
            It is important to note that capital punishment commands such as these were given specifically to the nation of Israel during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  All of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, condemns occult practices; however, the capital punishments prescribed do not apply in our time period and culture (Acts 19:13-20; Romans 6:14).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Law Courts (Deuteronomy 17:8-13) labels the next section of their website "Murder in the Bible".  In that section, they give a list of verses in which the death penalty is the punishment for a crime committed, or instances in which God took the life of a person or people.
             The following quote is taken from
            "The act of murder is rampant in the Bible.  In much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons such as working on the Sabbath, being gay, cursing your parents, or not being a virgin on your wedding night.  In addition to these crazy and immoral laws, there are plenty of examples of God's irrationality by his direct killing of many people for reasons that defy any rational explanation such as killing children who make fun of bald people, and the killing of a man who tried to keep the ark of God from falling during transport.  There are also countless examples of mass murders commanded by God, including the murder of women, infants, and children.
            The following passages are a very small percentage of the total passages approving of murder in the Bible.  They are divided here into three parts: 1) Capital Punishment Crimes, 2) God's Murders for Stupid Reasons, 3) Murdering Children, and 4) Miscellaneous Murders.  This list is long, but it barely scratches the surface of all the murders approved of in the Bible."

            First, we need to define our terms here.  "Murder" is defined as "the premeditated, deliberate, unlawful taking of a life with malice aforethought".  This is known as first-degree murder.  Second-degree murder is defined as "taking a life intentionally, but without deliberation or premeditation".  To "kill" is to deprive of life or cause the death of someone.  We can find a distinction between the two acts in Exodus 22:2, where a person who kills another person in self-defense is not guilty of murder.
            In the case of God, can it be said that he is a murderer because he takes life?  The truth is that God is the originator of all life.  Without him, there would be nothing.  He is the creator of all things, and all living creatures (Genesis 1-2; Deuteronomy 32:6; Job 33:4, 38; Isaiah 40:28, 42:5; Nehemiah 9:6; John 1:3; Romans 1:18-20).
            Therefore, God is sovereign over all life.  Only God alone can give life, and God alone has the right to take it when he chooses.  This is why a human being murdering another human being is such a serious crime.  When a human being murders another human being, they take a life that they do not have the right to take. 
   has listed a number of passages that describe instances of killing in the Bible.  I will address them in the order that the website has listed them, sometimes grouping similar verses together to avoid redundancy.

            The following quote is taken from

"Kill People Who Don't Listen To Priests - "Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death.  Such evil must be purged from Israel."  (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

            What this chapter is describing is various laws concerning the rule and judgments of kings, judges and priests.  You can read Deuteronomy 17 here:

            For society to function, there must be laws to govern and keep people in check.  Otherwise, there would be anarchy and chaos.  Many of the law codes of ancient civilizations have survived, such as the Code of Hammurabi (written circa 1772 BCE).  The book of Deuteronomy contains the Law that God gave to Israel after rescuing them from slavery in Egypt.
            To uphold the Law, priests were anointed to serve God at the Tabernacle.  Judges were also appointed to settle disputes between people, as is the case today.  The issue being described here is concerning a blatant disregard of God's Law.  God had freed the Israelites from a lifetime of perpetual slavery in Egypt, where they had been enslaved for 400 years (Genesis 15:13).  In response to his covenant of love and protection, along with his promise to give them the land of Canaan as their own, the nation of Israel entered into a covenant with him, promising their allegiance and obedience to his Law.
            In light of these circumstances, every Israelite person was bound to keep the covenant and follow God and his Law.  To show contempt for God, his covenant, his appointed leaders and his Law was to break the covenant and act in an incredibly disrespectful and ungrateful manner to the one who had saved them from slavery and mistreatment. 
            What is being described here is a person who defied God's Law and showed contempt for those upholding it: " Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict.  You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the Lord will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do.  Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left.  Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death" (Deuteronomy 17:9-12, NIV).  This wasn't just about not listening to a priest.  It was about open rebellion against God, his Law and his representatives.  As such, it had to be dealt with quickly and decisively, so the entire nation would not be adversely affected by the rebellious actions of one person.  "All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again" (Deuteronomy 17:13, NIV).
[1] "Murder", "Kill",

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Prophecy About The Lord's Future Reign (Zechariah 14)

The following quote is taken from

"God Assists Rape and Plunder - "Lo, a day shall come for the Lord when the spoils shall be divided in your midst.  And I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle: the city shall be taken, houses plundered, women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be removed from the city."   (Zechariah 14:1-2 NAB)
            You can read Zechariah chapter 14 here:

            The book of Zechariah is one of the books of prophecy in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament).  In chapter 14, the final chapter of the book, there is a prophecy concerning the great tribulation of Israel during the time near the end of the world.  During this tribulation, there will be great suffering.  The description is of a conquered Jerusalem, with houses plundered and women raped, and half of the people exiled.
            Keeping in mind that this is a description of future events, we must consider the question posed by Is God assisting nations to attack Jerusalem, or is he allowing these things to happen?  The reality is that God has given human beings free will, and human beings use their free will to commit acts of evil (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23).  Sometimes God allows it, but he does not approve of it.
            This is evidenced in the verses that come directly after the passage that quoted above.  Shortly after the description of Jerusalem being conquered, God defeats those who conquered them: "Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle" (Zechariah 14:3, NIV).  The rest of the chapter goes on to describe the nations that plundered and raped being defeated, and stricken by plague.  The survivors of those nations will worship God, who will reign over the entire world, and Jerusalem will never be attacked or destroyed again (Zechariah 14:3-21).
            God does not ignore evil.  He responds to it, and a day will come when every person will have to give an account to him for the evil acts they have committed (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:10-12; Hebrews 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5; Revelation 20:11-15).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hebrew Servants (Exodus 21:1-11)

The following quote is taken from

"Sex Slaves - "When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment."   (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
            This quote is part of the larger chapter of Exodus 21, which deals with fair treatment of slaves and compensation for personal injuries.  You can read the whole chapter here:

            In the Ancient Near East, the class system was very different from most cultures today.  Many people, when becoming poor, destitute, or overly in debt, would have to sell themselves and their children into slavery in order to survive [1][2][3].  With this in mind, part of the Law concerned the fair treatment of slaves.  For example, a Hebrew who sold himself into slavery to another Hebrew could not be enslaved for more than 6 years (Exodus 21:2).
            This passage concerns a very specific instance in which a Hebrew man purchased the daughter of another Hebrew man.  The Hebrew word used for her is 'amah, which refers to a female servant who would eventually become a concubine or wife.  The price at which she was purchased included the bride price.  "The arrangement recognized her honor as an Israelite woman, one who could be a wife, even though she entered the household in service. The marriage was not automatic, as the conditions show, but her treatment was safeguarded come what may. The law was a way, then, for a poor man to provide a better life for a daughter" [4].
            Far from making her a "sex slave", this law protected the woman.  The man who bought her could not use her sexually without marrying her, nor could he sell her to anyone else.  If he broke the contract, that is, did not marry her as stipulated, she could only be bought back by her father.  If the man gave her to his son, she would have to marry the son and he would have to treat her as his daughter-in-law, not a slave.  If he married her and then took another wife, he could not neglect her or fail to provide for her needs.  If he did, she was to be set free.  This law prevented women from being trapped in a bad situation, and protected them from being used and abused by those who had more wealth and power. 
[1] Life and Society in the West: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Constance Brittain Bouchard, 1988.  Pg. 33.
[2] A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition), Chester G. Starr, 1991.  Pg. 43.
[3] Life In The Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell, 1997.  Pg. 35-36.
[4] Footnote on, for Exodus 21:7.