1 Kings, chapters 1 and 2

“With that King Solomon swore by Jehovah: ‘So may God do to me and add to it if it was not at the cost of his own life that Adonijah made this request […]'”(1 Ki. 2:23)

Adonijah, who was apparently the eldest of King David’s remaining sons, had already tried to make himself king once (1 Ki. 1:5-10).

David, however, had promised the throne to his son, Solomon (1 Ki. 1:29,30).

Once crowned, Solomon gave this warning regarding Adonijah: “If he behaves in a worthy manner, not a single hair of his will fall to the ground; but if what is bad is found in him, he will have to die,” (1 Ki. 1:52).

Some time after David’s death, Adonijah approached Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and complained, “You well know that the kingship was to become mine, and all Israel expected me to become king; but the kingship eluded me and became my brother’s, for it was from Jehovah that it became his. But now there is just one request that I am making of you. Do not turn me away,” (1 Ki. 2:15,16).

Adonijah then proceeded to manipulate Bathsheba into asking Solomon to allow him to marry David’s nurse (1 Ki. 2:17).

At this point in the story, I thought- Did Adonijah actually deserve to die just because he wanted to marry his late father’s nurse?

Upon further investigation, I learned that David’s nurse was actually viewed more as his concubine, even though he’d had no sexual relations with her (1 Ki. 1:1-4).

There was an ancient Middle Eastern custom that the wives and concubines of a king should only belong to his heir after his death (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. I: “Abishag,” par. 2; “Adonijah,” par. 4).

That is why King Solomon viewed Adonijah’s request as yet another attempt to usurp the throne which God had rightfully given him (1 Ki. 2:24,25).

In other words, it was a deceptive scheme masking high treason, and since it undermined King Solomon’s first warning and authority, it merited death.

2 Samuel, chapters 19-21

Chapter twenty relates to us how Joab ambitiously regained the position of chief military commander and incurred God’s wrath.

After Joab disobeyed King David by killing his son, David fired Joab and gave his job to Amasa (2 Sam. 18:12-14; 19:13).

Amasa had previously served as the commander in the insurgent army (2 Sam. 17:25).

When the two men met to chase down a new insurgent, Joab tricked Amasa and ran his sword through him.

“Joab said to Amasa: ‘Are you all right, my brother?’ Then with his right hand, Joab took hold of Amasa’s beard as if to kiss him. Amasa was not on guard against the sword that was in Joab’s hand, and Joab stabbed him with it in the abdomen […]” (2 Sam. 20:9,10).

Thus, by the end of the story, we are told that “Joab was in charge of all the army of Israel,” (2 Sam. 20:23).

Joab allowed his zeal for his job as David’s right-hand man to turn into self-centered ambition.

This disproportionate ambition led him to commit at least two murders and participate in at least one other (2 Sam. 3:27; 11:16,17).

Eventually, Joab was held accountable for his evil deeds (1 Kings 2:31-33).

What we learn from this story is that while zeal for attaining greater privileges in God’s service is commendable, one should not allow that zeal to turn into selfish ambition.

An overly ambitious attitude could lead us to give priority to a personal agenda rather than to obeying God’s theocratic arrangements.

When we ignore God’s instructions handed to us through the congregation in order to protect our self-interests, we wind up hurting others and displeasing Jehovah (Heb. 13:17).

Joshua, chapters 6-8

“Israel took the livestock and the spoil of that city for themselves, according to the orders that Jehovah had given to Joshua.”
~Joshua 8:27

In God’s instructions regarding the siege of the previous city, Jericho, God had ordered Israel to devote everything to destruction.
Only precious metals were to be spared and offered into God’s tabernacle (Jos. 6:17-19).

It’s under these circumstances that the story of Achan and his household takes place.
Motivated by greed, they stole a garment and money, hiding it in their tent (Jos. 7:1, 21).
Consequently, when Israel initially attacked the neighboring city of Ai, Jehovah was not with Israel and they lost thirty-six men (Jos. 7:5, 11, 12).

It is curious that once the other Israelites removed the wrongdoers from among themselves, God proceeded to allow his warriors to partake in the spoil (Jos. 8:2).
But neither Achan nor his household saw any of it, for their sin was considered high treason and they were punished by death (Jos. 7:25).
Had they waited a few more days serving Jehovah faithfully, they would have rightfully had all the spoil they wanted.
Their impatience, however, coupled with their greed and blatant disregard for God’s explicit instructions, led Achan and his household to tragedy.

Despite enduring all the trials through the desert, Achan stands out as an example of stealing,  cheating, bad parenting and general deceit.

How sad it would be for us who serve God today to miss out on his promises because we put fleshly interests before our spiritual health.

A Thief in Israel My Book of Bible Stories

Achan stands out as an example of stealing, cheating, bad parenting and general deceit.

To listen to an Audio Play about the first few days Israel experienced in the Promised Land, click here and select “Jehovah Delivers Those Calling Upon His name.”
Achan’s story begins 39 minutes into the play.

Deuteronomy, chapters 19-22

“If someone is found slain in a field of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you to possess and it is not known who killed him, […] the elders of that city should lead the young cow down to a valley running with water where no tilling or sowing of seed has been done, and they should break the neck of the young cow there in the valley.”

~Deuteronomy 21:1, 4

To be honest, this passage shook my faith.

Why did the young cow have to suffer punishment if it had nothing to do with the murder?

Under the law, if the community did nothing about the murder, the elders of that community could be held accountable by God as having blood on their hands (De. 21:8; De. 22:8).

The ceremony with the heifer provided a concrete way of demonstrating to everyone in the surrounding areas that the murder had been officially investigated and remained unsolved.

The passage explains:

“Then all the elders of the city who are nearest to the dead body should wash their hands over the young cow whose neck was broken in the valley, and they should declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. “‘Do not hold this against your people Israel, whom you redeemed, O Jehovah, and do not let guilt for innocent blood remain among your people Israel.'”Then the bloodguilt will not be held against them.”In this way you will remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst by doing what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.”(De. 21:6-9)

If the murderer was later identified, he (or she) would still have to die on account of his (or her) actions (Nu. 35:30-33).

After discussing this bygone law with a brother in my congregation, he reminded me that sacrifices under Mosaic Law foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice: that of Christ (Heb. 10:5-10).

And like the innocent heifer whose life was taken as a result of human-spun injustice, so was Christ’s life taken as a result of humanity’s wrongdoings (Heb. 9:12-14).

The principle involved in this law is that human life is precious and its loss needs to be atoned.

We see the modern-day application of this principle when a congregation forms a committee to investigate the cause of death that was a result of one of its member’s actions.

For example, if the death was a result of a traffic accident, was the congregation member speeding? Was he (or she) distracted?

In such a case, the body of elders holds a judicial case in which they may decide to limit the member’s privilege to participate in certain activities (Matt. 18:15, 16; Gal. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:16; 5:3).

Leviticus, chapters 25-27

Furthermore, no condemned person who is set apart for destruction may be redeemed. He should be put to death without fail.
~Leviticus 27:29

When a person devoted to doing God’s will decides to deliberately disobey his concrete instructions, that person is committing spiritual suicide.

In ancient Israel, certain crimes carried the death penalty.

These crimes included: apostasy, idolatry, adultery, eating blood, and murder (De 13:12-18; Le 20:10; 17:14; Nu 35:31).

The law required for at least two witnesses to testify against the defendants and these same two witnesses had to be the ones to initiate the stoning process (De. 17:7).

Later, in first century Roman-ruled Judea, Jews were not at liberty to execute the criminals they convicted.

Instead, they had the practice of expelling someone, that is, shunning them from their community (John 9:22; 12:42).

Jesus passed this practice along to his disciples when he told them: ‘If your brother commits a sin and does not listen to the congregation, he should be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector,’ (Matt. 18:15-17).

Jews did not commingle with other races or tax collectors for they considered them unclean.

Three years after Jesus’ death, Christians went out to preach to all the nations, but the shunning-rule remained the same in regards to a person who did not repent of their serious sins (Acts 10:28; 1 Co. 5:11,13).

When someone very close to us turns their back on God, it is like a constant sting in our heart.

One wishes we could trade faiths with them, somehow warranting their salvation in exchange for our own.

This is impossible, for Psalm 49, verses 7 and 8 read:

None of them can ever redeem a brother
Or give to God a ransom for him,
(The ransom price for their life is so precious
That it is always beyond their reach)[…]”

The decision whether or not to serve God is strictly between the person, God and the ransom price he provided, Christ (1 Tim. 2:5,6; Rom. 5:8).

The only thing we can do for these loved ones is to set an example of integrity so that they may be moved to repent and come back to the congregation (2 Cor. 2:6-8).

Exodus, chapters 19-22

Exodus 21:21~
“However, if he survives for one or two days, he is not to be avenged, because he is someone bought with his owner’s money.”

From a modern perspective, it makes no sense that the law God handed down to the Israelites through the hand of Moses would regulate slavery rather than abolish it.
After all, hadn’t God just finished a series of spectacular miracles, some at a great cost to human life, with the purpose of freeing them from slavery?
Although that was part of the reason, the main reason God had freed them was to fulfill the promises he had made to Abraham, their ancestor, (Exo. 2:23-25).
The readings from the last two weeks have highlighted the lack of faith the Israelites demonstrated as a whole during the exodus process.
Therefor it is not surprising that a practice common to their times, unfair as it was, would be engrained into their culture; similar to the practice of having more than one wife, which most people in modern Western civilization find objectionable.
God’s purpose never was for slavery to exist, for 1,500 years later Peter arrived at the correct conclusion when he stated: “Now I truly understand that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him,” (Acts 10:34,35).
It would take a very long time to adjust the erroneous thinking of the people of ancient Israel, and most Jews never accepted the new law as prescribed by Christ (Matt. 22:37-40).
In the mean time, God did set forth a set of rules to regulate forced labor.
The Hebrew word e′vedh can mean slave or servant, depending on the context,(Insight on the Scriptures, volume 2).
Hebrews sold into slavery were freed in the seventh year of their servitude, or in the year of the Jubilee, which occurred every 50 years, depending on which came first, and their master had to give them a parting gift for them to start a new life (Exo. 21:2; Deut. 15:13-15).
Female Hebrew slaves were to either become concubines to their masters or legal wives to their sons with all the inheritance rights therein, otherwise they were to be set free. They could not be sold to foreigners (Exo. 21:7-11).
Adult human trafficking of others was illegal and punishable by death (Exo. 21:16).
With that in mind, I will return to the text I cited at the beginning.
Did the law give less value to the life of a slave than to the life of a free person?
If a master injured his/her slave with a non-lethal instrument and the person took more than two days to die, that would indicate the master did not have murder as an intention.
Furthermore, the master would be at an economic loss if the slave did die.
That is why the law protected the master from being avenged if the slave died under these circumstances.
However, if the slave was maimed, he was to be set free (Exo. 21:26,27).
If the slave did die within two days, the master was to be put to death without fail, (Lev. 24:17).
It is not my intention to justify slavery under Mosaic Law. I believe the law came from Jehovah and it was applicable to that culture and time. If they heeded God’s law, their community would benefit and behave more justly than other nations were behaving at that particular point in time.
After all, Jehovah’s wisdom is unquestionable, having “made out of one man every nation of men to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of where men would dwell, so that they would seek God,” (Acts 17:26).

Genesis, chapters 6-10

Genesis 9:3-6~

Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. Just as I gave you the green vegetation, I give them all to you. Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat. Besides that, I will demand an accounting for your lifeblood. I will demand an accounting from every living creature; and from each man I will demand an accounting for the life of his brother. Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image He made man.

What I learned:

Here God clearly differentiates between the value of a human life vs. animal life.
That God should ‘demand an accounting from living creatures’ means that an animal who shed human blood should be put to death.
Though it is not immoral to eat bloodless meat as a means to survive, it is immoral to take the life of another person.
The only exception to this is if the person who is being killed is in turn guilty of having killed someone innocent.
In such a case the execution of the person who has blood on their hands serves to vindicate the innocent party and thus some level of justice is attained.
However, though true Christians recognize the authority governments have to exercise their right to execute capital punishment, they do not get involved with the political matters behind these cases, as is instructed by Jesus in John 17:16.