Stanley Exercise 55 Read Exodus 22:16-31; Leviticus 19:1-37; Deuteronomy 24:1-22. As you read, make note of whether each law pertains to the social dimension, the ritual dimension, or the ethical dimension of the religious vision of the Torah. When you are done, look back over the list of laws in each category and summarize what is included under each heading.
In chapter 10 of his textbook The Hebrew Bible: A Comparative Approach, Christopher Stanley outlines a system of analysis that categorizes religion and religious life in terms of six dimensions. In the exercise undertaken here (from chapter 22 of the same book) Stanley asks us to examine a selection of texts from each of the three major codes found in the Torah [the Covenant Code (Exodus 20-23); the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26); and the Deuteronomic Code (Deuteronomy 12-26)] and divide up each of the laws in terms of the social, ritual, or ethical dimension.
The first thing that strikes me here is that there are so many ways to divide up the laws! Stanley uses one set of categorizations (based upon work by Ninia Smart); Dr. Lester in his podcast series and Bandstra in his text (specifically chapters 3 and 5) use a different classification, with Bandstra going so far as to subdivide various verses from these codes based upon Document Hypothesis source! It is enough to make anyone’s head spin. But taking the exercise as written I have divided each of the commandments into the ritual, ethical, and social dimensions. These lists are included at the end of this post.
As I started dividing up the laws, I realized that each code contained elements of each of the three religious divisions. Furthermore, they do not seem to be in any particular order. For example, in the passage from Leviticus, vs.2 falls under the ethical category, vs.3 under social, vs.4-8 are ritual, vs.9-10 social, etc. There does not seem to be a predictable pattern. Perhaps there is some degree of organization (?are they alphabetized in the original language), but otherwise they seem to be all mixed in. If that is indeed the case, I can imagine the original recipients of the oral and written versions of these laws would likewise have struggled keeping them straight. Stanley does point out that it is unknown how widely these would have been known and followed at any given point (pg. 292), and I can only wonder if part of that is due to the non-sequitur nature of the individual laws within each code.
It was interesting to see how much of each law code is contained in each dimension. For instance, most of the laws in the Deuteronomic Code fall into the social dimension – not something I would expect from a law code surfacing during the Josianic reform. Of course, this is only a single chapter in an otherwise lengthy code, and to that end perhaps my initial observation about mixing the laws needs to be adjusted. But both of these observations illustrate a point that Bandstra makes regarding the purpose of the law: “All this technical, legal, and ritual material is embedded within historical narrative. Biblical law does not stand in isolation but is associated with the life story of Israel” (pg. 146). Clearly the ancient Israelites were not making these minute divisions, at least in terms of their written tradition. These laws were all part of how a society functions and they compliment each other to “offer a vision of what society ought to be like under the rule of Yahweh” (Stanley, pg. 292).
Finally, I went back to Dr. Lester’s Law Part A lecture where he described some of the features of the Covenant, Holiness, and Deuteronomic Codes. Interestingly, the three passages suggested for this exercise do not always embody these descriptions. The DC, for instance, is as a whole focused on the centralization of the cult and cultic activities, yet in this particular passage there is only a single ritual law (Deut 24:8). In this particular passage the majority of the focus is on the social realm, with much of the justification for the individual laws steeped in the ethical (Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this). Likewise the Holiness Code (Leviticus) contains a large selection of social rules, although this fits well with Dr. Lester’s description of laws intended to avoid polluting the land in which they dwell.
If I survey the categories one last time I realize that the vast majority of these laws fall into the social category. In fact, most of this has little to do with cultic or what we could consider religious practices; it is focused on how we treat each other and interact in society. This does not reduce the importance of the cultic practices, and certainly the other chapters in these codes provide much more ritual detail. But Yahweh’s laws are as much about how we live among our fellow humankind. The degree to which we can still apply the specifics of these laws to our own society is difficult to determine, as Dr. Anderson so succinctly explains in her video. But if we accept that these are God’s laws for God’s people, we have an idea of how God wants us to live: acting justly toward one another; not exploiting each other; taking care of those who are in need. These general principles can and continue to be applied across both cultural and generational divides.
Below are the 3 different dimensions. Black font is from Exodus; red from Leviticus; Green from Deuteronomy.
20 Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction.
29 You shall not delay to make offerings from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall remain with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.
31 You shall be people consecrated to me; therefore you shall not eat any meat that is mangled by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.
4 Do not turn to idols or make cast images for yourselves: I am the Lord your God.
5 When you offer a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord, offer it in such a way that it is acceptable in your behalf. 6 It shall be eaten on the same day you offer it, or on the next day; and anything left over until the third day shall be consumed in fire. 7 If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be acceptable. 8 All who eat it shall be subject to punishment, because they have profaned what is holy to the Lord; and any such person shall be cut off from the people.
21 but he shall bring a guilt offering for himself to the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram as guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of guilt offering before the Lord for his sin that he committed; and the sin he committed shall be forgiven him.
31 Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
8 Guard against an outbreak of a leprous skin disease by being very careful; you shall carefully observe whatever the levitical priests instruct you, just as I have commanded them.
28 You shall not revile God, or curse a leader of your people.
2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy
12 And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
30 You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.
32 You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 You shall keep all my statutes and all my ordinances, and observe them: I am the Lord.
16 When a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married, and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17 But if her father refuses to give her to him, he shall pay an amount equal to the bride-price for virgins.
18 You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.
19 Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.
21 You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. 23 If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; 24 my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans.
25 If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; 27 for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.
3 You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.
9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.
13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer[a] among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood[b] of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another
19 You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your animals breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials.
20 If a man has sexual relations with a woman who is a slave, designated for another man but not ransomed or given her freedom, an inquiry shall be held. They shall not be put to death, since she has not been freed;
23 When you come into the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall regard their fruit as forbidden;[c] three years it shall be forbidden[d] to you, it must not be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all their fruit shall be set apart for rejoicing in the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of their fruit, that their yield may be increased for you: I am the Lord your God.
26 You shall not eat anything with its blood. You shall not practice augury or witchcraft. 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.
29 Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, that the land not become prostituted and full of depravity.
33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
35 You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight, or quantity. 36 You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin:
Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house 2 and goes off to become another man’s wife. 3 Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); 4 her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession.
5 When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty. He shall be free at home one year, to be happy with the wife whom he has married
6 No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.
7 If someone is caught kidnaping another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
10 When you make your neighbor a loan of any kind, you shall not go into the house to take the pledge. 11 You shall wait outside, while the person to whom you are making the loan brings the pledge out to you. 12 If the person is poor, you shall not sleep in the garment given you as[b] the pledge. 13 You shall give the pledge back by sunset, so that your neighbor may sleep in the cloak and bless you; and it will be to your credit before the Lord your God.
14 You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. 15 You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.
16 Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death.
17 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.
19 When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.
21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.