In these last few posts, we’ve been looking at some of the provisions of the Mosaic Law, provisions which aren’t as familiar as the Ten Commandments. Some of these things seem strange or harsh to our modern way of thinking. The society of that time and nation was largely agricultural and rural, without any of what we consider “conveniences”. It was what we might call a “basic” society: people growing up, gettting married, having and raising kids, and taking care of their basic needs – without all the stuff we have to have today.
It gives us a much different view of “justice” than we’re accustomed to.
In our previous post, we looked at a little of what the Old Testament says about what was to happen to those who accidentally, without premeditation or animosity, killed someone. Though there were still serious consequences to such an act, care was taken to protect such persons from those who would seek revenge.
This brings up the question, “What about those who killed with premeditation and/or animosity”? The Scripture is clear. Exodus 21:14 says, “If a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, then you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.”
(“from My altar….” Though we have no Scripture telling us it was to be used like this, apparently the bronze altar at the entrance to the Tabernacle was also a place of safety, though within prescribed limits. We have an example, centuries later, of one who tried to use it illegally, 1 Kings 2:28-34. Notice there the reference to “innocent blood,” v. 31.)
Numbers 35:9-34 gives a detailed explanation of things to be considered in deciding “guilt” or “innocence,” and who could or could not claim protection in a city of refuge. Nor was there any way that a person who could live in a city of refuge would be allowed to leave before the death of the high priest, v. 32. We’ve seen what could happen if they tried.
And there was no way a person found guilty of premeditated murder could escape the penalty: you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death, v. 31.
Our culture has gone a long way from such thoughts. People who give little thought to the plight of victims will get very upset at the idea that the one who hurt them should actually pay for what he did. A few years in jail, maybe, or even a “life sentence,” but no death penalty. Of course, it’s important that the criminal show “remorse.” So the victim and their family have the privilege of paying taxes to support a bloated, over-grown penal system in which the “constitutional rights” of murderers, rapists, and other felons are of paramount importance, while they themselves suffer the results of those crimes, endure the costs of their own recovery and healing, or while they have to live with the absence or suffering of a son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, brother or sister, or other family member.
Prison is no picnic, but then neither is being a victim of someone who in a system of true justice would not live to go there.
There were no prisons in the Mosaic Law.
We’ll have some more to say about this in the next post.