I would like have had the title read, “Whose rights?” but I don’t know if that’s possible with this platform or how to do it. The reason for the title is that our culture is very concerned about “criminal rights.” Police have to bend over backwards to ensure that anyone arrested in suspicion of a crime is “read his rights,” and probably anyone hauled in for questioning knows to ask for a lawyer right away. More than one person on trial has walked away because of some little technicality, some oversight, some “i” not dotted properly or some “t” not crossed completely.
(After I put this away last night, with just a few lines beyond this point, one of the news stations had a segment about serial rape and the problems law enforcement was having with what to do with those guilty of numerous sexual crimes. The segment showed one individual with a dozen or more such offenses. In the course of the discussion about what to do with such a person, the officer commenting on it said, “At some point, you run into the constitutional rights of the offenders.”
“The constitutional rights of the offenders.”
I couldn’t believe it.
The Old Testament solution would have been that he wouldn’t have lived to commit the second offense, let alone 11 more – and law enforcement puzzled about what to do with him.
There is no “constitutional right” to be a rapist or any other criminal.
And, yes, I know that’s not what’s really meant, though that does seem to be how some people view it.)
In all this, very little seems to be said about the “rights” of victims. Nothing was said about the victims of the above predator. What about their “rights”?
While the Old Testament is concerned about fairness and true justice, it’s also concerned about victims.
We see an example of this in Exodus 21:12-27, especially vs. 18, 19, If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die, but is confined to his bed, if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed (emphasis added).
Earlier in this description, it’s said that if the injured party died, or even, it seems to say, becomes bedridden, then the other man was to be executed. If he did not die, and became somewhat able to get up and around, then the other man was responsible to see that he was restored to health and for any wages he had lost. Not insurance, not the government, not some hospital ER having to write it off – the offender was responsible for the healing and restoration of his victim.
The offender had no “rights,” only responsibility to his victim. He had no “debt to society,” as we like to put it, but only to his victim. We wonder how things would be different if we had a similar view of crime and punishment.
We’ve already seen that the Mosaic Law was given to a specific people in a specific context. As such, it doesn’t mention situations with which we are familiar, like auto accidents or cybercrime. And it does mention situations with which we are not familiar, like harsh treatment of servants, or about which we have developed different views, like the place of a father in his family, the raising of children or the roles of men and women.
And the New Testament give further instruction. Because of this, some have said that we don’t have to pay any attention to the Old Testament at all. I disagree. While we don’t live under its precepts, and we do live under the New Testament, even the Apostle Paul said that there were some things we could learn from the Old Testament. In 1 Corinthians 10:11, he wrote, Now all these things [from the earlier part of the chapter] happened to them [Old Testament folks] as examples, and they were written for our admonition.
In other words, “pay attention.”
There are things there for us to learn.