Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Deuteronomy 21:18–21

Deuteronomy 21:18–21: A Rebellious Son


In this passage, Moses gives rules concerning a rebellious son. Again, since this is a short passage, I’ll just quote it verbatim:

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. (Deuteronomy 21:18–21)


Wow. This is somewhat… draconian, to my mind. One thing that I’ve heard from Biblical scholars is that the laws handed down in the Old Testament are much more humane than laws of other nations of that time; if you steal, rather than having your hands cut off, your “punishment” is simply to pay back what you stole (adding a fifth). But that doesn’t mean that the Old Testament laws shy away from harsher measures, for harsher crimes.

But to someone living in our times, the death penalty for a rebellious son seems extreme. We understand—or we should—that the Bible commands children to obey their parents, but I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who sees this punishment as harsh.

So one—or both—of two things is happening:
  1. I don’t understand how serious being rebellious to parents really is
  2. This is another cultural thing happening, where God would not make the punishment the same, if He were handing down laws today
I’m fairly sure the first of those things is true. I don’t know about the second.

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