Is the Old Testament Moral? – Part 2

please see our part 1 if you are interested in a complete review of the Ten Commandments

Our current series is looking at the laws and ordinances of the Old Testament in light of our modern perspective on ethics and life in general.

Commandments 6 through 10

6. “You shall not murder.”

Most people think the sixth commandment says “thou shall not kill.” This is because the King James Version says exactly that. But the Hebrew verb for “kill” is ratsach and it mostly implies murder. This makes sense because the very next chapter in the Old Testament (Exodus 21) talks about an offense whose punishment is death. Most modern English translations agree that it leans towards villainous death and therefore say murder instead of kill. murder

If we currently live in a world in which we feel it is wrong to be against murder, well, let me off this planet. It is essentially universally agreed upon in all societies. All societies however, allow the killing of others in specific instances. The Old Testament Jewish nation being one of them. The individual instances in which Jews were permitted to kill will be evaluated as we move through the Old Testament in this series. Muslims still have the death penalty for specific infractions such as adultery or apostasy (leaving the Islamic faith). There is also permission for a Muslim father to perform an “honour killing” on his daughter if he deems her as behaving blasphemously according to Islamic law. North American and European cultures previously allowed a man to kill his wife and her lover if he caught them in the act of adultery. These same Western countries also gave individuals rights to enter into duels to the death if both parties agreed to engage.

What is universally condemned however, is the act of taking another person’s life for any reason that could occur in the imagination of a human being. When we see people within a society lose restraint and begin taking human life for more and more frivolous reasons we are witnessing a culture in the late stages of a death spiral. No other continents in the world are more politically, economically and socially unstable than South America and Africa. According to a 2017 list on Wikipedia, of the world’s 219 countries, those in Central and South America as well as Africa lead the world in murder rates. For example the total collapse of the Venezuelan economy has occurred in the past few years and its city of Caracas has the highest murder rate in the world. Acapulco in Mexico comes in at number 2 and is a symptom of that country’s worsening drug cartel problem.  This is tragic and very sad. But it shows how murder is a marker of human decency and restraint. If your culture is having trouble containing the urge to kill indiscriminately, than the rest of the society is sure to be in shambles as well. And giving in to the urge to snuff someone out is a watershed event in a society that pushes it into the lowest levels of depravity. It therefore makes sense that the Old Testament would make this act a forbidden one.

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7. “You shall not commit adultery.”

Besides child rape and rape in general, I feel that adultery is the most damaging sexual sin. Especially when a couple has children. Few acts of betrayal will cut as deep and have as many repercussions as when a married person decides to soil the marriage bed. adulteryThe breaking of the family unit has long term negative consequences on children. In the black community in the United States 78% of households have no father. As a consequence, the juvenile crime rate in this community has sky rocketed. Not because of ethnicity, but because of fatherlessness.

Since the famous “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s it has become progressively more acceptable to get a divorce. And the reason for many divorces has become more and more frivolous. On an American television program called “Divorce Court,” a woman sought a divorce from her husband because she claimed he was “too nice.” As evidence the woman stated that he told her “I love you” too often and that his cooking was so good she was gaining weight. As we become more and more self focused as a society, we will start being annoyed to greater degrees by secondary issues. In the Word War 2 generation divorce was considered a great taboo. According to a 2012 report by England’s Office for National Statistics, there were 13 divorces per hour in Queen country. One in seven of which were due to adultery. This means that enough adultery occurs in England to cause 2 of the dozen-plus divorces every hour. So at least 48 people cheat on their spouse every day in one country alone. According to the report there were approximately 26,000 divorces in England in 1955. In 1996 there were about 157,000 divorces.  This is a 600% increase in about 40 years.

American divorce rates have not fared much better showing a very steep increase since the 1860’s:

divorce-rate-ww2
chart based on a report entitled: Mintz, S., & Kellogg, S. (1988). Domestic revolutions: a social history of American family life. New York: Free Press

The crime rate in England started rising dramatically from the 1920’s onward, around the same time that divorce rates began sky rocketing. According to a United Kingdom government report, in 1898 the total prosecuted crimes in the U.K. was 82,426. By 2002 it had jumped to 5,525,024. This is an astronomical increase of 67 times the 1898 levels. Considering that the population of the Kingdom has not yet even doubled since the late 1800’s (from 30 million in 1901 to 53 million according to a 2011 census) it is a tremendous increase in per capita crime rates.

crime stats
The Politics of the Rising Crime Statistics of England and Wales, 1914-1960. The Herman Diederiks Prize Essay for 1997 / Lauréat du Prix Herman Diederiks 1997 Howard Taylor

Now adultery is not the only a proposed factor for the rise in crime. Yet many sociologist have long tracked the direct influence on crime — especially youth crime — in cultures where broken families are on the rise. According to British researcher Duncan Smith, 7 out of 10 youths presented before British court are from broken homes. Crime rates in black American communities are much higher than for other ethnic groups. Black youths comprise about 5% of the U.S. population and white youths are roughly 25%. According to the 2016 FBI crime statistics report, 419,393 white juveniles were arrested in that year compared to 234,092 black juveniles. Because white youths out number black youth by 5 times, when we factor the per capita rate of arrest for black youths it is almost 3 times that of whites. This is not meant to blame crime rates on ethnicity! It is to show that a community — not a race — that has the staggering rate of fatherlessness of nearly 80% is suffering from what sociologists have long known: the high crime rates of youths from broken homes. In fact, a 1990 study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that after controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rates disappeared.

As you can appreciate, adultery rates will only cause more break down of an already weakened marital tradition in Western society. It is very difficult for marriages to survive this type of betrayal. As marriages break down, youths suffer the effects and are far more likely to grow up and remain in poverty as well as to commit crimes. Not to mention the psychological devastation a spouse feels when they are betrayed this deeply. Many unfaithful spouses whose marriages are destroyed by their infidelity will themselves describe being greatly harmed by their own actions and are often regretful. Especially when children have been created by their marriage and their unfaithfulness has destroyed their children’s nest. There is no such thing as a light-hearted death of a marriage.

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8. “You shall not steal.”

Dennis Prager’s Youtube channel has an excellent review of this commandment:

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9. “You shall not bear false witness.”

Often translates as “do not lie” by pastors and lay people, the ninth commandment encompasses all forms of misrepresentation. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no'” says Jesus in Matthew 5:37. Simple honesty. How many law suits would we avoid if people stuck to this simple but fundamental principle?  Fraud cases cost U.S. citizens more than $1.6 billion in 2013 according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission. In that same year, more than 2 million cases of fraud took place. On average, there were 500 complaints per 100,000 residents in the 50 states. Lying is an expensive sin in the world’s most prosperous country. And considering how little need of food and shelter the average American has  compared to other countries, it shows how little sin has to do with actual need. It has to do with wants. Illicit wants.

“Bearing false witness” implies someone lying to a judge or jury in a courtroom. Perhaps nowhere else could a lie be as damaging as in a court room.

Jemma Beale
Jemma Beale made 4 false rape accusations from 2010 to 2013

An English woman by the name of Jemma Beale was recently given a 10 year jail sentence for making 4 false rape accusations. One of the accused was serving a seven year jail term before being set free. Even though the falsely accused man is free, his peers and potential employers may forever hold some level of suspicion over him. He has perhaps suffered irreparable damage. “After all,” many will think, “how innocent could he be if he went to jail?” Further, this will cause the courts to increase their burdens of proof for genuine rape cases, perhaps resulting in guilty parties being harder to prosecute. Which can intimidate genuine rape victims from making claims in the first place.

Glenn Ford
Glenn Ford is longest held U.S. death row prisoner to be exonerated

In Louisiana in 2014, Glenn Ford was released from death row after 30 years because it was discovered the lead witness in his trial admitted to having “lied about it all.” Although free, Ford has lost most of the productive years of his life and will probably be haunted by the public’s suspicion for the remainder of his life.

Not all lies are created equal, when some German citizens during the Nazi regime lied to SS soldiers about harbouring Jews, they were making a triaged decision. Their intent was not to deceive for evil purposes but to save lives by deceiving an evil authority. God knows our deepest motives and I would much rather head to God’s Judgment Seat having lied to Nazis in order to save innocent lives than having given up my countrymen to be brutally killed.

Most of us will only struggle with “white lies.” A little twisting here and there in order to keep life smooth. And in the field of business, this is perhaps the greatest and most common temptation. Why not over state the value of a service or a good in your store. Why not tweak your resumé to embellish your standing and further your career? Almost nothing in life that starts small stays small. If you don’t start lying, it will be a lot harder to tell big fat lies. It is a mistrust of God to practice the art of “white lies” at the workplace. As Jesus Himself said, you either “serve God or money, not both.”

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10. “You shall not covet your neighbour’s…”

Coveting. Perhaps our Western society’s favourite pass time. For those of you not familiar with biblical language, “coveting” means to desire. To lust after. And the above passage goes on to list a number of prized possessions people have. Wives, servants, homes, etc. In modern parlance this verse could be translated as “stop trying to keep up with the Jones.” Everything starts in the heart. By looking sideways at someone’s stuff and feeling that pang of burning desire we are beginning to stoke the embers of a heated passion that could grow up to be a wildfire.

Someone you meet will always have something you don’t. The more you look and long for these things, the more destructive your mind will become. How many divorces come from one spouse being chronically unsatisfied with what their spouse can bring them. Women may start to ponder too much the rich, handsome husbands of her friends or co workers. She then return home and finds her husband too bland to stay married to. A husband may think too much about a neighbour’s wife and her desirability. This dampens his enthusiasm for his own bride and the dessert of affection begins to wear his spouse down. 

How many crimes are committed by people trying to make more money in order to afford the things they see in advertisements? When your heart is engulfed in the desire for that bigger home, that nicer car, that greater vacation. You will become more and more desperate to possess these. For the majority of people, coveting will not push them over the edge into adultery or robbery. It will simply rob their lives from fullness of joy. It may make them, their spouse and their children miserable. 

And if you think you need that extra money or status to be happy, remember that rich, young and highly attractive celebrity couples divorce the most and the quickest. Depression and suicide rates are highest amongst the wealthier classes in wealthy countries. Substance abuse is rampant in celebrity circles precisely because fame and fortune are unable to provide what the human heart desires most. Coveting is, after all, chasing your own tail. God is saving you from enslaving yourself to a dead end pursuit. Happiness is in Him and Him alone.

All sins begin in the heart, which is why Christ reminded those religious leaders that just lusting after another woman was considered as grave as the sin of adultery. He also said that harbouring hatred for another person was seen as murder in God’s eyes. If you don’t covet you won’t deplete your tank of gratitude. Your joy won’t be leaked into the drains of illicit passion. You won’t begin your journey down a dangerous road. 

Image result for do not covet

please continue with us in PART 3 of our series…

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