Monday, May 1, 2017

Day 90: Warfare against Women and Blessings vs Woes

Deuteronomy 20, 21, 22 and Luke 6:1-26

Trigger Warning: These verses depict violence, violence against women, rape, and other horrific things.

I will honestly tell you that my blood boils reading some of these passages. I may have called out to God that these passages are not only awful for the women of antiquity, but that they perpetuate some of the injustices women of today face.

Deuteronomy 20:

This text reflects the conquest era of the Israelites. The idea that God was with them helped calm the fears of those going into battle. There is an odd course of events laid out for going into battle. The priests speak an oracle declaring God’s favor. Then the officials speak and give every man any reason they can possibly think of to stay home from war. If you have built a house, but not dedicated it, stay home. If you are engaged, but not married yet, stay home. If you have planted a field but not tasted the first fruits, stay home. I guess this leaves only men who feel they have nothing to lose entering battle.
They are told to first offer peace to a city they come to attack. If peace is accepted, the people in that city will become Israel’s slaves. So basically, slavery or warfare. After they are defeated, all men are too be killed, but the women, children and livestock can be kept as spoils of war. Again, the thought of people as property is greatly disturbing to me.
Then we learn that these good terms are only for people in cities far away! The residents of Canaan are not to be given such luxury as lifelong slavery. They are told to kill everything that draws breath so that they cannot be corrupted by their influences.
But here we get this odd note to save the trees, or at least the ones that bear fruit. Ecology in the midst of mass murder. Interesting.

Deuteronomy 21

This chapter begins a list of rules for community and for specifically the male head of household. Rules regarding a rural homicide are discussed in detail. If the murderer cannot be found, the nearest city or town must kill a heifer in a non-sacrificial manner (break the neck instead of killing at the tabernacle) and wash their hands over it to remove blood guilt. Admittedly this blood guilt, blood sacrifice stuff is odd to me, but this just seems super odd.
Now we get to the really fun part of you are a woman. If a man sees a woman of a conquered people and he desires her to be his wife he can take her captive, force her to shave her head and remove all signs of her ethnicity. Then have her mourn for her mother and father one month and after that he can “come into her.” Basically this allows a man to take a woman, strip her of her cultural and personal identity, and make her cover and mourn in the way the Israelites do, and then rape her. If that’s not bad enough, if she doesn’t “please him” he can let her go. Basically discard her into t a world where she has no rights and no family to care for her. This does not seem like justice to me and an argument that it is better than being a slave will not convince me otherwise.

Deuteronomy 22

This chapter gives more rules for interaction within polite society. Don’t take things that are not yours and return lost things to your neighbors. Good rules to live by. There is a prohibition against cross-dressing which seems very odd and out of place here. Some scholars say that this would have been a characteristic of some of the cults of the time and that is why the word abhorrent is used. There was great pressure to keep the cultic practices of Israel pure and unchanged by the society around it.
There is a long section about the accused bride. I can only assume that these words were meant to protect women from being unjustly divorced and set aside, but their words and methodology are abhorrent! If you hated your wife and wanted to set her aside you could claim that she was not a virgin when you wed. If her family can prove that she was a virgin, by producing the wedding night sheet with the required blood stain, then her father is paid twice amount specified for rape and she gets to stay his husband for life. What a joy that would be! (Sarcasm font here). If they cannot prove that she was a virgin then they will take her to the entrance to her father’s house and stone her. Public execution.
Let me just say that men do not seem to have been held to the same virginity expectations as women. Not that any of us should be surprised as that carries over to our own day and age.
Then we get the rules about how to punish someone who is raped. Yes, you read that right. If an engaged woman is raped in the city she shall be stoned because she didn’t cry out loud enough for someone to hear and come to her aid. I can’t even!!!
If she, again an engaged woman, is raped in the open, where no one is living, she will not be stoned because no one was around to hear her cry out. If a single unengaged woman is raped and he is caught in the act, she is to be married to him and he has to pay her “bride price” for violating her. He cannot divorce her ever.
Once again, I cannot begin to imagine such rules and regulations being around to help women. Our own American Society has been effected by these rules, the stigma of blaming the victim is only one of the legacies.

Luke 6:1-26

Jesus and his disciples pluck grain with their hands to eat on the Sabbath, a practice allowed in Deuteronomy 23:25. However, Exodus 34:21 expressly forbids harvesting on the Sabbath. Enter the dispute about what is lawful and what is not. Jesus says life giving things are allowed, food, healing, etc. The leaders disagree.
Jesus then calls the twelve disciples. The number twelve reminds us of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus is reclaiming the children of Israel as God’s people.
Jesus gives his sermon on the plain. It has some similarities to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus lists blessings on those situations we normally find less that good. He then pronounces “woes” or judgement upon things that the world values. Jesus is good at turning tables.

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