Sunday, February 7, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 21 & 22

Basically, these chapters are a recitation of god's laws. The practical application of those 10 (or 11, or 15) Commandments given in the previous chapter.

Chapter 21

Just so you know how relevant this book is to our modern society, how it's a living document, an instruction manual, the very first chapter tells you how to treat your slaves! Because slavery was so central to the Israelites' way of life, it was first and foremost in their book of laws. So, how are you supposed to treat a slave?

Well, if he's a Hebrew, you can only keep him six years, then you have to let him go. If you also bought his wife, you have to let her go, too. But if you gave him a wife, you can keep her, as well as any of her kids. If he says, no I love you, Master, my wife and kids, I won't go, you can drill a hole in his ear and keep him forever. Because 'thou shalt not mutilate thy servants' was not a commandment, see.

Next is how to sell your daughter into slavery. As Penn and Teller point out, if you believe your god is infallible, you have to follow the rules. If her new master takes her as a concubine and doesn't like her, there is no expiration date on the return policy, but he's not allowed to sell her to anyone else. If he gives her to his son, he has to treat her like his own daughter. If he marries again, he can't deprive her of clothes and food. If he fails to follow these rules, she's free. Jerry has nothing whatsoever to say about this section, presumably because he doesn't keep slaves, so these rules don't apply.

On to capital crimes, which you will note are less important than slavery.

Okay, premeditated murder is punishable by death, but manslaughterers can just leave the colony. Killing your parents, or even hitting or cursing them is also a capital crime. Well, that would cut down on toddler temper tantrums and teenage rebellion, wouldn't it? Kidnapping a man and selling him into slavery, or even intent to do so, is a no-no.

If two people are fighting and one hits the other, with a fist or a rock, but he doesn't die, there is no punishment but compensation for lost work. Nothing about malingering. If you beat your slaves with a stick and kill them right there: death. But if they die slowly, say from internal bleeding, nothing, because it's your own money you're wasting here. If two men are fighting and a pregnant woman somehow gets hurt and loses the baby, her husband can only sue for damages. Not, you will note here, put the man to death for taking a life. So clearly god himself doesn't see life beginning at conception here, because it isn't murder until the baby's outside the mother of its own accord. If the woman herself is injured, the punishment will be the same: if she dies, the assailant dies, if she loses an eye, he does, too.

Back to servants. So a couple of verses ago you could slowly beat them to death, but now if you hit them and they lose an eye or a tooth, you have to let them go.

Animals are subject to capital punishment as well, it would seem. If an ox gores someone, it must be stoned to death, and its meat can't be eaten, but the owner gets no other punishment. If this wasn't the first time the ox in question injured someone, and the owner knew but didn't do anything, then both owner and ox are to be stoned to death. Not that all that many cows kill people these days, but I'm pretty sure Jerry wouldn't advocate for punishing them that way. If the owner has money, he can buy his life back. Much like the legal system today, actually.

The ox-goring law only applies to freedmen. If it's a slave, the owner of the ox has to pay the slave owner 30 shekels and the ox gets stoned.

It gets really detailed, actually. A man who digs a pit and fails to cover it, so that an animal falls in has to pay restitution but gets to keep the meat. If an ox hurts another man's ox, the owner of the first one has to pay compensation by selling the live ox and dividing the money, and by splitting the meat from the dead one. If the ox was a troublemaker, they have to trade cows.

Chapter 22

Lots of very detailed rules on what to do for all kinds of property crimes, such as cattle rustling, when your livestock eats your neighbours' crops, petty theft, arson, borrowing a cow that then dies or is stolen. You basically get fined for all of that.

If you seduce a virgin, you have to marry her, but if her father refuses, you have to pay a dowry. Not pretend you're going to accept him as your brother-in-law, provided all the men of his tribe get circumcised, then slaughter them all? Really? That was just Simeon and Levi?

Witches and practitioners of bestiality are to be punished by death. Jerry says the Canaanites were animal lovers and the Hittites banned sheep, goat or cow sex, but were horse and mule fuckers. I think we have to take this information with a grain of salt, since this book was written by the Israelites, who won that particular battle, and may have employed some negative propaganda against their enemies. He also says this is why we shouldn't have gay marriage. That old trope again, Jerry?

People who make sacrifices to other gods are to be put to death. Another nod to polytheism, which is ignored by Jerry, who is too busy equating homosexuality with bestiality.

We do get a nice couple of verses reminding us to be kind to strangers, widows and fatherless children, which of course is ruined in verse 24, which says the punishment for failing to do so is death. Is it really free will if the choice is 'do this or I'll come after you with a sword?'

Usury is banned next, which combined with the feudal system kept our economy from developing until about oh, the seventeenth century. Thanks, god! I wanted to be a drunk, stupid, cold, midget for thousands of years because money was concentrated into the hands of a few who didn't want to lend it because there was no incentive! Of course, Jerry has nothing to say about this. In fact you can't even keep your neighbours' clothing as a loan guarantee for longer than one day.

Verses 28 and 29 are quite confusing: Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people (v. 28). So apparently there are still many gods, and slandering the rulers is a no-no. Well, Jerry's ilk ought to shut up about Obama, oughtn't they, if we have to respect our leaders? Then 29 says Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits and of they liquors: the first-born of thy sons shalt thy give unto me. So, god is a drinking man. Excellent. But giving him the first-born son? As a burnt offering? Because verse 30 says Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep. So he spared them when he attacked the Egyptians, only so they could sacrifice them? I can't help but notice that Jerry Falwell had two sons, the oldest of whom was neither offered as a sacrifice, nor even offered into the church as a pastor. Nope, he's a lawyer and chancellor of Liberty University. So much for the infallible word of god in your own family there, Jerry.

Finally, the Israelites are to be holy (v. 31) which seems to consist of not eating meat from animals that have been killed by other animals. You have to give that to the dogs. Curious.

Anyway, you can see from this that the Israelites were not all that different from modern Anglo-Saxon cultures: obsessed with property rights, fining each other, and restitution for various petty violations. The story-telling is less than thrilling, but as a window into a culture, it's interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment