“Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Jews sought to kill Jesus because he miraculously cured a man on the sabbath. (John 5:8,9,15,16)
Their worship was based on a strict literal interpretation of Mosaic Law and rabbinic traditions.
It neglected the Law’s foundations: justice, mercy and faithfulness.(Prov. 21:3; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:8; Matt. 23:23)
Judging with “righteous judgment” implies not believing everything we see or hear, and treating others fairly, regardless of their social status. (Is. 11:3,4)
If we are so concerned with proving we are right that we act recklessly toward others, we could become ritualistic in our form of worship, forgetting that the gist of God’s law is to love. (Matt. 22:37-40)
“So I reprimanded them and called down a curse on them and struck some of the men and pulled out their hair and made them swear by God: ‘You should not give your daughters to their sons, and you should not accept any of their daughters for your sons or yourselves.'”
Was Nehemiah’s reprimand toward the Jewish men who had married pagan women a cruel overreaction?
To answer this question, let’s look at other Bible passages that warned the Jews against this practice.
“But if you […] form marriage alliances with them […] They will become a trap and a snare and a scourge on your flanks and thorns in your eyes until you have perished from this good land […]”(Josh. 23:12,13).
“For they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods; then Jehovah’s anger will blaze against you, and he will swiftly annihilate you.”(De. 7:4).
Because the Jews could not count on God’s protecting them as a People if they married pagan women, obedience to this particular mandate was a matter of life or death.
It implied the survival of the nation to which the Messiah would eventually be born (Luke 12:48).
This is why Nehemiah deemed it necessary to urgently carry out a form of discipline common to their day: corporal punishment.
“If the wicked one deserves to be beaten, the judge will have him lie down prostrate, and he will be beaten in his presence. The number of strokes should correspond to the wickedness of his deed,” (De. 25:2).
“Bruises and wounds purge away evil, and beatings cleanse one’s innermost being,” (Prov. 20:30).
“And everyone who does not observe the Law of your God and the law of the king should have judgment executed on him promptly, whether it is death, banishment, a fine, or imprisonment,” (Ezra 7:26).
Though this is definitely not an exercise in supporting corporal punishment toward one’s neighbor, one can understand how Nehemiah’s actions as governor of the Jews would not have been seen as extreme as a reader may find them today.
Jehovah promptly corrected His People through Nehemiah because he loved them (Heb. 12:6).
Their lifestyle would have otherwise brought about His disapproval and as a result, their own annihilation.
“Then Hezekiah appointed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, each of the priests and Levites for their service […]”
~2 Chronicles 31:2
While reading this, you might ask yourself, weren’t all the priests Levites?
How is it that they were classified into two groups?
In many Bible passages the term “priests” refers specifically to males who descended from Aaron.
Though all of these priests belonged to the tribe of Levi, the term “Levites” refers to all of the other males in the tribe, the priests’ assistants.
The Levites were therefor organized into four groups:
- The priests, who descended from Aaron, who descended from Kohath.
- The other descendants of Kohath, who were in charge of the sacred furniture of the tabernacle.
- The descendants of Gershon, who were in charge of the linens within the tabernacle.
- The descendants of Merari, who were in charge of the framework of the tabernacle.
(Ge. 46:11; Nu. 3:25, 26, 30, 31, 36, 37).
All the Levites had to be familiar enough with Mosaic Law to teach it to others (2 Chron. 17:7-9).
Also, their tabernacle duties transferred to the temple once it was built (1 Chron. 23:24-32).
What I gathered from this reading is that whatever my personal assignment is within Jehovah’s organization, I should cherish the privilege of serving him and collaborating with brothers and sisters working in different capacities.
Our spiritual work should be free of envy or resentment because we are all working for the same God and the same cause.
“Then Uzziah was laid to rest with his forefathers, and they buried him with his forefathers, but in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said: ‘He is a leper.'”
~2 Chronicles 26:23
Kings were traditionally buried in tombstones between the rocks.
Though Uzziah had been a good king, he became haughty toward the end of his life and so God struck him with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16, 19, 20).
As a leper, he lived out his days in isolation, cut off from his palace and reign (2 Chron. 26:21).
When he died, he was buried in the cemetery belonging to the kings, but not in a tombstone between the rocks.
He was buried in the ground, most likely on account of his leprosy and the Mosaic Law’s strict quarantine rules (Nu. 5:1-4).
A plaque was even found in Jerusalem containing the inscription: “Hither were brought the bones of Uzziah, king of Judah. Not to be opened,” (“Uzziah 3.” Watchtower Online Library. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, June 2015. Web. Jan. 3, 2016).
Such relatively extreme measures protected the people from likewise contracting the disease.
They also highlighted the need to respect that which is holy.
God no longer strikes his earthly representatives with ailments when they sin, as he did in this rare case.
It is still important, though, to serve him with a modest attitude and a pure heart (Mic. 6:8; Jas. 1:27).
Such an attitude not only protects one’s self, but the entire congregation.
“I will do for you everything that you say, for everyone in the city knows that you are an excellent woman. While it is true that I am a repurchaser, there is a repurchaser more closely related than I am. Stay here tonight, and if he will repurchase you in the morning, fine! Let him repurchase you. But if he does not want to repurchase you, I will then repurchase you myself, as surely as Jehovah lives.”
By the time the widowed Ruth approached her benefactor, Boaz to request he perform brother-in-law marriage with her, it is obvious he had already given the matter significant thought.
Through his reply, one can infer that he had taken enough notice of Ruth to ask others about her personality and reputation, and he had also taken into account her personal circumstances (Ruth 3:17).
He did not, however, rush into a relationship with Ruth, since he recognized that there was another man who legally had first choice regarding marrying Ruth and acquiring her first husband’s inheritance (Ruth 4:3-6).
Boaz, despite his power and feelings, did not overstep this law.
He took into account God’s instructions regarding the marital arrangement, setting a fine example for us, demonstrating that true love is based on principles.
“Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor should touch his head, because the child will be a Nazirite of God from birth, and he will take the lead in saving Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
When reading about Samson and how he scraped honey out of a lion carcass and how he killed 30 Philistines and then took their garments, I wondered if this was not in direct conflict with his being a Nazirite (Jud. 14:8,9,19; Nu. 6:1-7).
Nazirites were individuals who vowed special dedication to Jehovah during certain periods of their lives, and they had a set of restrictions governing their conduct .
One such restriction was that they were not to come in contact with a dead body (Nu. 6:6,7).
In Samson’s case, however, those restrictions did not apply.
Because he was divinely appointed a Nazirite since before his birth, his conduct was only governed by the restrictions the angelic harbinger had indicated to his parents (Jud. 13:3-5,13,14).
“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).