Month 10:14, Week 2:6 (Sheshi/Kippur), Year 5935:272 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 7 January 2012
Kidnapping & Slavery II
Serial Rape or Glorious Appearing?
Continued from Part 1
This is probably amongst the most hated and despised scriptural passages in the whole of the Bible...unless you're a mysogenist (woman-hating), hard-hearted, sexist, violent and brutal macho man with a penchant for BDSM (bondage, dominance and sado-masochism). Atheism and feminism, if not born, are definitely envigorated as well as catalysing hatred against Judaism and Christianity by passages like these, while most Christians and Messianics squirm when it is cited as evidence that the Bible is primitive, unenlightened, cruel, and definitely uninspired. And at face value, taken out of context, I agree...it looks awful. Most believers would probably wish it was never there, others of a liberal disposition will try to 'explain it away' as a 'cultural thing' no longer applicable today, while yet others will put on a brave face and declare it is 'inspired' and therefore 'true' without having a clue as to why it possibly could be either - in other words, they hum and haw, turn and walk away. Matter closed...for them.
"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Yahweh your Elohim delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her" (Deut.21:10-14, NKJV).
I can understand people's gut reactions. I can understand how people's passions flare up and how they can get very emotional - after all, I am human like the next man and, I hope, have a sensitive lev (heart). However, there is always a serious problem with getting emotional in a serious discussion or argument about a serious subject (like the Bible and God's relationship to it) - and that problem arises when you are so overwhelmed by raw passion on a subject that you are incapable of considering a view opposite to your own that seems to condone what you are so violently reacting against. In truth, to be carried off on such am emotional wave is to be grossly irresponsible, self-indulgent and a cause for shame.
I am not saying we should not be passionate but I am saying that when feelings drown out reason, then it is time to stop a debate and let people cool off. The wise person walks away and says he/she needs to cool off and come back when things are a bit quieter. After all, we know it is impossible to know Elohim (God) without first being still (Ps.46:10). So if your blood is boiling and you're spilling for a fight, I suggest you stand down, "be still", and come back later. For this is surely one of the hottest potatoes in the Bible. Or is it?
Ok, I am assuming passionas have quietened down enough now for us to be able to dissect this passage and see it for what it is really saying. Yahweh hates rape and pillage. He forbids it. But even in such a disagreeable situation as divinely-commanded war to wipe out nations so steeped in inquity and barbarism, that included Moloch-worship - roasting babies alive in red-hot lavers to Satan - the very abominations that Israel would later emulate and pay dearly for - even in that situation, randy soldiers are going to get foolish ideas.
The Bible is very down-to-earth, very basic, no-nonsense. Yahweh's prophets spell things out as they are, no messing around the bush. True, many if not most of our English translations try to blur the edges a bit to suit them to our 'refined' tastes, but they're there none the less. My goodness, our Bible contains the Song of Solomon, one of the most sexually explicit religious books known in the ancient world, so much so that profligate Mormon leader Joseph Smith, obviously more worried about the sexual mores of his own people than he was about his own, ordered it removed from their Bible canon. So if you're expecting the Bible to examine life as the Victorians might have in the 19th century, think again.
So what have we got here? We have a mitzvah (commandment) for a soldier on the battlefield who sees a pretty woman from the enemy camp whom he suddenly fancies. What is he to do? Well, he is not given the green light to have his crumpet and then dump her afterwards, if that's what you think today's text is saying, and what antagonists of Bible would like it to say so as to have some powerful ammunition against Christianity or Messianism.
A lot of hasty and unwise romances flourish in war. One of my best friends at school was the offspring of such a Franco-Scottish liason, during the liberation of France in 1944. It was not the happiest of marriages, as far as I could tell. Now this passage does not apply to the seven Canaanite tribes slated for extermination because their sins had fully ripened in inquity, but any of the others. Women from such societies were permanently unkosher for the simple reason their beliefs, practices and heavily demonised souls would wreck havoc in the covenant community were they ever to be admitted to it, even as slaves. Touching these was strictly verboten.
Now in the heat of war, as I said, the judgment of men is usually heavily impaired when it comes to selecting matrimonial companions. In subsequent peace time, under radically different circumstances, such liasons often unravel. The things a man of Elohim (God) looks for in peace time are usually very different to those he seeks in times of war. Of the 14 components of a good marriage, nearly all of them are beyond properly assessing on the battlefield. For a man in uniform, beauty and adventure tend to count the most. And they are hardly the most important components in a successful biblical marriage.
Yahweh, knowing the imprudence of men in such a situation, gives some very interesting instructions. He in effect says: 'OK, you're sure you really want this woman for a wife?' Of course, the besotted and hormone-driven man says: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah!' Messianic minister Joseph Dumond takes up the story with this paraphrase of today's passage:
So this Israelite soldier, who in our passage is supposed to denote the 'least enlightened' of one who observes Torah (so as to represent every possible kind of man), has got to observe her for a month to see if this really is true love or not. She's not his slave, so he can't just sell her whenever he fancies. She isn't a trophy of war as a captive of the Vikings or any other number of 'civilisations' might view such. A month of this misery - and she will be miserable, of course, after all she has suffered with the loss of her family and home - and he should know whether his was a flight of fancy or the real thing. And if this Israelite soldier is truly from the 'lowest rung' of spirituality, albeit on a plane of morality far higher than the pagans his army is exterminating, and if he truly has no perseverence, imagination or common sense - then a month of this misery will soon cool his ardour off...since he is not allowed to marry her during this time. You see, Yahweh knows both what the woman needs (some compassion) and what an immature, impulsive and hormonal, but otherwise tov (good), soldier needs - he needs some perspective. If he still doesn't want to marry her as a true wife, and not have her for some sexual slave, then he is obliged to release her! What a wise Elohim (God) to forsee and curb the impulsive wiles of the flesh - in advance - to fit every temperament and temptation!
"You think she’s a beauty, and you want to marry her? Okay, but first, you have to see her at her worst for an entire month — shorn of all the trappings of fashion — forget hair style: she’s got to shave her head so you can see her as ugly as she ever gets. She’ll be in mourning for her lost life and loved ones — expect tears and depression — and she’ll be living right in your face under these conditions. You’ll have her under your roof for a whole month, so you’ll even get to see what she’s like with PMS. If you’re still smitten with her after all that, go ahead and marry her. At least you’ll be going into this with your eyes wide open” .
So you think he slept with her first? Impossible - the passage gives no warranty for such an interpretation - rather, what you have is your typical Western man's imagination fed, as it has been by the sterotypical savage of Hollywood movies. Yahweh's people were never permitted to behave that way - and do you imagine that Yahweh would for one minute sanction such a cheapening of the marriage estate? Unfortunately, apart from Hollywood, we have been fed lies about Yahweh's character from the liberal scholars who view Scripture through their own lenses of unbelief. He is no primitive barbarian.
No, Torah is specific - there has to be a reason for divorcing a woman, and it's never because he ceases fancying her after having had his carnal oats:
We know what that means because Yah'shua (Jesus) later explains that what is being referred to here is adultery (Mt.19:9) - that's the "uncleanness", and the only uncleanness that justifies divorce. In other words, this enamoured soldier is not given the right to have sex with a captive woman and then dump her if he changes his mind. Not at all! And Yah forbid that anyone would ever suppose that Yahweh would ever condone such a monstrous arrangement! A woman is never a man's 'disposable possession'. He may own her, as Yah'shua (Jesus) owns us, but she is not a piece of property that can be sold in the market place - not ever in Yahweh's eyes and certainly never in a a godly man's. Therefore a soldier in such a situation is not permitted to degrade this woman. She is not his play thing. Were Yahweh to have ever sanctioned such a thing it would add up to little more than serial rape - Yah forbid! And as Joseph Dumond points out , the Hebrew word for "treat brutally" is amar, meaning to 'manipulate', 'deal tyranically with', or 'treat as a slave'! A husband may never treat a woman in this manner.
"When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house..." (Deut.24:1, NKJV).
As we discussed yesterday, biblical 'slavery', so-called, is in reality indentured service:
If we can agree that the woman in today's passage was not to be a sex-slave - and she was not - then we can move on to the last 'issue' concerning slavery, namely, the fate of the pagan nations not of the Canaanite seven, upon surrendering to Joshua's army. So we have to ask this last question: 'Why was it right to enslave a conquered pagan nation?'
"The vast majority of Torah instructions dealing with slaves or bondservants deal with Hebrews who have sold themselves into bondage (until the sabbatical year or Jubilee) in return for the payment of their debts, and Yahweh’s admonition is invariably to treat them with kindness and respect, for everyone is a slave to sin at some point in their lives. The present precept is one of the very few that deal with what to do with captives of war, and there is a simple reason for that — Yahweh expected this scenario to be very rare...there was a proper procedure for dealing with pagan communities who were not of these seven specific [Canaanite] nations [who were not to be spared]: they had the option of surrender and servitude. If they chose instead to fight, the men were to be slain and the women and children enslaved. The “beautiful woman” of which these last three mitzvot have spoken is the rare standout among this already rare category" .
To begin with, let us be clear about one thing: Yahweh does not give Christian/Messianic nations the mandate or right to enslave any old nation. The mitzvot (commandments) deal with those nations that inhabited the Promised Land or had borders with it. It only concerned this particular territory and with the covenant nation. Those nations no longer exist other than one or two in name (like Syria or Egypt) but who are today inhabited by a totally different people. That mandate has not been extended to anyone else or at any time since, and that goes for the 'Israeli Republic' and 'Palestine' today. (If you are unsure 'what' or 'who' Israel is today, please see my series, Jacob's Trouble). As Israel has been scattered since the Roman disapora and has never returned under proper covenant conditions, and won't until just before Yah'shua (Jesus) returns, these mitzvot (commandments) on slavery are no longer applicable.
Why were they important then? Because Israel was a people and a land under a specific covenant with strict set-apart conditions for all who lived there. Those who refused to be a part of the covenant nation, by their own free will, accepting the Elohim (God) of Israel, could only ever dwell there - while they remained pagans - as subordinate peoples. I realise this does not accord well with modern 'democratic' principles but then Israel never was, and never will be, a 'democratic' country. And when it is restored, it will not be under a fallible human head but under the all-powerfull, all-knowing and all-loving Son of Elohim (God) - a righteous dictatorship, something that human governments are seemingly incapable of.
But there is a 'bigger' and more important spiritual meaning to today's passage that we must not miss - it's not just about impetuous and potentially unwise Israelite soldiers at war in search of a companion from amongst the conquered peoples, however practically useful this self-restraining instruction is for such people. It's about all of us - humankind - in general, born as most of us are, into a pagan society, whose governments have made the disasterous choice to fight against Yahweh-Elohim rather than to make teshuvah (repent) by submitting and surrendering to His righteous rule. We find ourselves in the midst of that disasterous rule, a rule destined to defeat. And who must we individually surrender to? - the Lion of the House of Judah, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). And that surrendering costs - it costs us all we ever knew in our former pagan life, a world brought to its knees by the invincible King of Kings. But even in our mourning, stripped of our hair, bald like a harlot, stripped of clothes - our false covering - that which was our illusiory glory, our eyes red from mourning the loss of our lovers - our self-pride, self-glory, self-seeking and self-worship, He still loves us and waits for our mourning to end, our attachments to death to themselves die; and as we die, we wait to see if He will still have us, knowing that we have nothing whatsoever to offer back to Him. We have nothing of ourselves that would earn His ahavah (love) so all we can hope for is His grace.
Luckily for us, Yah'shua (Jesus) is no carnal Israelite soldier but Elohim (God) Himself. He is not looking for outer beauty, but "the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4, NKJV) that comes only from surrender, as every godly husband looks for in a wife. Such a wife neither demands nor expects power nor privilege - how can she, for in the reality of her condition, she is entitled to none. She is, in a word, conquered.
We all know how this story ends. Though there is nothing attractive in us outwardly, He weds us as His allegorical Bride - though we were pagans and at war with Him, we and our families and our nation. He weds us because of that inner beauty that comes from surrenderedness - that is what attracts Him, not how clever, charismatic, charming, knowledgeable or beautiful we are. He disdains the things considered 'attractive' by the world and with our surrenderedness He creates something new and beautiful in Himself, for Himself and for us. Protected by Yahweh's Torah (Law) our surrendered condition, that captive are guaranteed that she will never, can never, be abused nor misused.
Once again, we find the divine tavnith (pattern) of the ages hidden up in a scripture but which the blind cannot see because the blind are following another tavnith (pattern). So there is, after all, nothing to be ashamed or or horrified by - this is not some primitive institution for lawless warriors but a helpmeet for us to understand what it is that brings us into the cherished union with our allegorical Husband. Indeed, there is much of value and glory to be discerned in this passage! When all seems lost, suddenly there is everything to gain, for after the apparent paradox comes the revelation of emet (truth).
 Joseph F. Dumond, Sighted Moon, Newsletter 5847-040