Deuteronomy, chapters 7-10

“You must now cleanse your hearts and stop being so stubborn.”

~Deuteronomy 10:16

A more literal translation from the original Hebrew is: “And you must circumcise the foreskin of your hearts and not harden your necks any longer,” (De. 10:16, Reference Bible, 1984 revision).

Under Mosaic Law, Israelites were obligated to remove the foreskin of a baby boy’s penis eight days after birth (Le. 12:2,3).

It was a “sign of the covenant” Jehovah had formed with their ancestor, Abraham (Gen. 17:9-11).

However, physical circumcision was not the key to salvation.

They needed to be sincere in their dealings toward one another and accept God’s direction.

To “circumcise” the heart means to ‘love Jehovah with all your heart and all your soul,’ (De. 30:6).

This implies getting rid of immoral or arrogant attitudes which could keep God’s spirit from tapping into our thinking and motivating good deeds (Acts 7:51).

The aforementioned passage continues:
“Jehovah your God […] executes justice for the fatherless child and the widow and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. You too must love the foreign resident […]”(De. 10:17-19).

That is why the covenant Christ made with his followers did not call for a physical mark such as circumcision (John 13:35).

Rather, Christians are obligated “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world,” (Jam. 1:27).

In effect, “real” circumcision means to render sacred service with a clean heart by God’s spirit (Php. 3:3).

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).

Leviticus, chapters 17-20

If a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not mistreat him. The foreigner who resides with you should become to you like a native among you; and you must love him as yourself […]
~Leviticus 19:33

The commandment here given stands in stark contrast to the violence going on in and around present-day Israel.

History books and modern politics would lead us to believe religion and war go hand in hand.

Both political and religious leaders have used God’s word as a disguise to dress themselves “in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves,” (Matt. 7:15).

Jesus applied the aforementioned law in his parable of the good Samaritan.

He made the parable more remarkable using irony in that it was the foreigner who was kind toward the Jew, and not his own religious leaders as one would expect (Luke 10:30-37).

Jesus was essentially restating Leviticus 19:18 when he instituted the following principle as the basis of conduct for his new followers: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean,” (Matt. 7:12).

Acknowledging the hypocritical breach of integrity characteristic of many leaders, Jesus also instructed his followers: “[…] All the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but they do not practice what they say,” (Matt. 23:3).

It is important, then, to not blame God’s Word for religious or political conflict, because unlike men, God does not contradict himself.


Leviticus chapter 19 holds many interesting points relating to what it means to be a just person.
If you would like to build character, I invite you to meditate on the following:

Showing compassion toward the less materially fortunate- Lev. 19:9,10
Avoiding white collar crimes- Lev.19:11-13
Avoiding cruelty toward the disabled- Lev. 19:14
Keeping the criminal justice system fair- Lev. 19:15
Avoiding gossip- Lev. 19:16
Cultivate forgiveness- Lev. 19:18
Organic is better- Lev. 19:19
People who do not have equal rights should not be held equally accountable for their actions- Lev. 19:20
Superstitious behavior is unholy- Lev. 19:26
God’s view on self-harm/self-mutilation- Lev. 19:28
Pimping women is an abuse of power- Lev. 19:29
Honor the elderly- Lev. 19:32
Keep commercial transactions honest- Lev. 19:35,36

Exodus, chapters 23-26

If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has fallen under its load, you must not ignore it and leave. You must help him release the animal.
~Exodus 23:5

But the seventh year you should leave [the field] uncultivated and let it lie fallow, and the poor among your people will eat of it, and what they leave, the wild animals of the field will eat.
~Exodus 23:11

Six days you are to do your work; but on the seventh day, you are to cease from your labor, in order that your bull and your donkey may rest […]
~Exodus 23:12

You must not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
~Exodus 23:19

These verses are particularly moving as they highlight how Jehovah’s compassion extends to all living creatures.
His law protected even those who have no voice: animals.
Thus we humans are provided with some insight as to what he considers to be the ethical treatment of animals.
Though it is true that God put every living thing under the authority of humankind, he did not authorize us to abuse animals or expose them to cruel, anti-natural conditions, (Gen. 9:2,3).
This is why he prohibited the Israelites from boiling a goat in its own mother’s milk, for that milk was originally intended to nurture the goat, not kill it.
Truly, “the righteous one takes care of his domestic animals, even the mercy of the wicked is cruel,” (Prov. 12:10).

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).

Exodus, chapters 1-6

When she was no longer able to conceal him, she took a papyrus basket and coated it with bitumen and pitch and put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile River.

~Exodus 2:3

Moses’ mother, Jochebed, had no idea what would happen to her baby once she placed him in the water.

The instructions given to the Egyptians were clear: “You are to throw every newborn son of the Hebrews into the Nile River […]” (Exo. 1:22).

To go against Pharaoh’s orders back then would be today’s equivalent of committing a federal felony. Only Pharaoh was considered to be a god and so he had the power to execute people at will.

Still, Jochebed took her chances and concealed her baby boy for three months.

When she had done all she could, she commended him to Jehovah God and sent his sister to watch and see what would happen to him.

I try to imagine what they must have felt. Was it resignation? Fear? Firm faith? Or a mixture of all three?

Nowadays, it may happen that we are asked by an authority figure to do something inappropriate or unethical.

In those cases, it will be wise to follow Jochebed’s example and do what is right.

What happens after that may be a matter of circumstance, or if God sees it fit, He will intervene.

As we all know, in Moses’ case, things worked out, for Pharaoh’s daughter found him, felt compassion for him, and then hired his own mother to nurse him until he was old enough to be adopted by her and live among royalty.

“She named him Moses [meaning: ‘Drawn Out,’ that is, saved out of the water] and said: ‘It is because I have drawn him out of the water,’” (Exo. 2:10).

Little did they know that 80 years later, God would use Moses to intervene and save in a much greater manner.

 

Baby Moses in Nile River found by Pharaoh's Daughter.

Baby Moses in Nile River found by Pharaoh’s Daughter.

Genesis, chapters 36-39

~Genesis 38:26

Then Judah examined them and said: “She is more righteous than I am…”

Judah was pretty set on executing his twice-widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, when he found out she had prostituted herself (Gen. 38:24).

After her second husband died, he deceitfully promised her she could marry his third son once he was old enough (Gen. 38:11).

This was a common Hebrew practice, termed “brother-in-law marriage,” realized to preserve the first husband’s lineage (Gen. 38:8; Deut. 25:5,6). This arrangement also served to provide materially for women who otherwise might end up in dire poverty.

But when Judah’s son came of age, Judah was afraid he would also die so he did not keep his promise to Tamar.

When she realized she had been lied to, she disguised herself as a prostitute and had sexual relations with Judah, who by then was also a widow (Gen. 38:14-16).

Tamar was cunning enough to ask him for some of his personal belongings which she later used to hold him accountable for his actions (Gen. 38:18,25).

The lesson I wish to point out is that although Judah had acted shamefully, he readily admitted he had been wrong.

Judah was a prominent man, eventually receiving his father’s blessing. This was a privilege since only one of his father’s 12 sons could become an ancestor to the Messiah (Gen. 49:10).

Even so, he did not use his influence to hide his error or to crush the woman who brought it to light, thus setting an example for future leaders who likewise make grave mistakes.