613 commandments

File:Rembrandt - Moses with the Ten Commandments - Google Art Project.jpgThe books of the Law, the first five books of the Bible, contain about 613 commandments which are for all God’s people, for an indefinite period. They do not form a code of laws sufficiently complete for community life, and this is a problem, because it is an offence to add to or take away from the Torah.

The editor was not writing at the time of Moses: Deuteronomy 17 permits the Israelites to take a king, but 1 Samuel 8 shows the dangers of abandoning Communism.

They show signs of learning as you go along, rather than once for all revelation: If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, 12 you shall cut off her hand. This is a precedent, not legislation. It is unclear what to do if she hits him with a tool or a rock.

There is no criminal law against assault- of course men will fight- though you shall not shame a man might count. Now, we differentiate between civil liability to the victim, and criminal liability to the State or community, but it is not clear that they did. That the wrongdoer suffers some loss is the most important thing. Punishment is not always specified: loss of reputation, where the community knows that a member has breached the law, may be sufficient.

Philippe de Champaigne: Moses with the Ten CommandmentsI love the rule You may not withhold your help. This is an interdependent community, and when one is in trouble the others must rally round, that they may all survive and prosper. It comes in a miscellaneous section including my law, and you shall make a parapet for your roof; otherwise you might have blood-guilt on your house, if anyone should fall from it.

Where damages are ordered, it is for a specific case: When individuals quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or fist so that the injured party, though not dead, is confined to bed, 19 but recovers and walks around outside with the help of a staff, then the assailant shall be free of liability, except to pay for the loss of time, and to arrange for full recovery. Shortly after comes the lex talionis: If any harm follows [a fight], then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. We differentiate intentional, reckless, and negligent injury, and also an injury justified by, for example, being in self-defence or the course of duty. This law only differentiates premeditated killing and death by “act of God”.

Ordering them involves judgment- as does differentiating them: not to delay payment to a hired man, and to pay the hired man’s wages at the due time, are separate commandments in the version I used, Jewfaq (found through the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible). See also Wikipedia. I have no suggestion as to what benefit might come from them being in the order that comes down to us.

8 thoughts on “613 commandments

  1. Clare,
    ==I love the rule You may not withhold your help. This is an interdependent community, and when one is in trouble the others must rally round, that they may all survive and prosper.==

    You do realize that having to make this law is evidence that doing so is not natural. Leave a fool to his folly is natural. The laws of holy texts that define moral behavior are there because this behavior is not natural. There are no moral laws in holy texts that say that you shall not kill your children or starve yourself to death. In this we can see that the ‘objective morality’ of holy texts is actually in contradiction to natural behaviors.

    If you follow that thought through, the law of reciprocity comes out of it. These laws were written to give power to a select group. You and others rationalize them but think of it at the time it was written… what would it mean? It had to be written in law that you must help your neighbors. It must have been uncommon, unnatural. Certainly something not as obvious as don’t kill your children. It is in contravention of the law of reciprocity as it gives no mandate to help in the lack of possibility of reciprocity. It is socialist at its core.

    Further, its a pure shame that current ‘Christians’ don’t actually abide by this law.


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