From Slavery to Freedom: B’nai Yisrael Becomes a People BUT WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE? WHO EXACTLY ARE WE?
Tomb painting from Hierakonpolis, Egypt, Predynastic, ca. 3500-3200 BCE.
The Palette of King Narmer , Predynastic, ca. 3200-2920 BCE
Is Might Only Right in Egypt? No, the Egyptians had sophisticated beliefs about justice, fairness and truth!
What about other parts of the ancient world? <ul><li>Mesopotamia was very interested in kittum , truth and right, and mesarum , equity and justice </li></ul><ul><li>But, like Egypt, the ancient Near East compartmentalized dinu , law; kihsu , moral rules; and parsu , religious orders </li></ul>Cylinder seals were common in the ancient Near East
EPILOGUE OF THE CODE OF HAMMURABI <ul><li>I WROTE MY PRECIOUS WORDS ON A STELE, AND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE STATUE OF ME, THE KING OF JUSTICE, I SET [IT] UP IN ORDER TO ADMINISTER THE LAW OF THE LAND, TO PRESCRIBE THE ORDINANCES OF THE LAND, TO GIVE JUSTICE TO THE OPPRESSED . . . . </li></ul>
Hammurabi’s Concern for Justice is not New <ul><li>Sargon of Akkad, who ruled in the 3 rd century BCE, created the world’s first empire </li></ul><ul><li>His goal, he said, was to establish justice in the land, especially for widows and orphans </li></ul><ul><li>He also tried to keep the rich from abusing their power and beating and mistreating their slaves </li></ul>
ANCIENT LAW SHOWS US A HIGHLY STRATIFIED SOCIETY <ul><ul><li>ALL ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN AS WELL AS EGYPTIAN LAW SPEAKS TO A HIEARCHICAL SOCIETY, ONE IN WHICH THE LOWER CLASSES AND SLAVES DO NOT HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS: </li></ul></ul>THE LAWS OF ESHNUNNA AND HAMMURABI HAVE DIFFERENT PENALTIES ACCORDING TO THE SOCIAL STATUS OF THE VICTIM. IF A MAN HITS A PREGNANT WOMAN OF THE UPPER CLASS, FOR EXAMPLE, AND CAUSES HER TO MISCARRY, HE PAYS A HIGHER PENALTY THAN IF HE HAD HIT AND CAUSED A MISCARRIAGE IN A WOMAN OF THE LOWER CLASS
B’NAI YISRAEL’S NEW STATUS <ul><li>We’ve been slaves and fully understand the feeling of oppression </li></ul><ul><li>In fact, God constantly reminds us that our religious, legal and moral obligations stem from the fact that He took us out of Egypt in order to do His bidding, and that includes being religious and moral by following God’s laws </li></ul>אָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ , אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים : לֹא - יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים , עַל - פָּנָי . Exodus 20:2
THAT WAS FROM VA’YIKRA , 25:35-42 <ul><li>35: If your kinsman, becoming poor, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side: </li></ul><ul><li>36: do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, but fear your God. Let him live by your side as your kinsman. </li></ul><ul><li>37: Do not lend him money at advance interest, or give him your food at accrued interest. </li></ul><ul><li>38: I the L-rd am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God. </li></ul>
WAIT, THERE’S MORE! <ul><li>39: If your kinsman under you continues in straits and must give himself over to you, do not subject him to the treatment of a slave. </li></ul><ul><li>40: He shall remain with you as a hired or bound laborer; he shall serve with you only until the jubilee year. </li></ul><ul><li>41: Then he and his children with him shall be free of your authority; he shall go back to his family and return to his ancestral holding.--- </li></ul><ul><li>42: For they are My servants, whom I freed from the Land of Egypt; they may not give themselves over into servitude. </li></ul><ul><li>43: You shall not rule over him ruthlessly; you shall fear your God. </li></ul>
וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ - לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ And you will be for me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation -- Shmot 19:6 וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה , וַיְסַפֵּר לָעָם אֵת כָּל - דִּבְרֵי יְהוָה , וְאֵת , כָּל - הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים ; וַיַּעַן כָּל - הָעָם קוֹל אֶחָד , וַיֹּאמְרוּ , כָּל - הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר - דִּבֶּר יְהוָה , נַעֲשֶׂה Shmot 24:3
Conclusions: <ul><li>Nowhere else in the ancient world is religious practice, morality and law combined. </li></ul><ul><li>Combining these areas establishes an unprecedented type of treaty, or covenant, one between man and God. </li></ul><ul><li>Because God (and not a ruler) is the lawgiver and has combined all areas of life, He introduces a democratic spirit and a regard for the sanctity of life that is unparalleled in the ancient world. </li></ul><ul><li>His laws refine our character and make each person worthy to be God’s servant. </li></ul>