Question: Did the Law only regulate behavior toward other Jews?


[Date: Dec/2005]


Someone sent in this question:


I just want to preface my question by saying I have immense respect for your work and website. A question from a co-worker who is a committed atheist. I think this may be reasonable but I don't believe this was Gods intention. What is your take on it?

Commandments just for Jews. Thought about this. I may try and do some research on it as well and see what comes up. My initial reaction is that yes it is possible that the Jews saw the laws as applicable to them only but I dont believe that was Gods intention. Can you tell me why you think this? You mentioned stealing at lunch.

> I didn't say that they saw it as only for themselves but that it's clear only meant to refer to them. Throughout the bible jews kill and loot others, it's seen as good, right and just, even where the victims are infants. This can only be self-consistent if the commandments are meant to imply "not against Jews".


I replied:

Here are the elements of a short answer, but you will need to re-word these for your friend...I hope this helps some.

1. Look at Lev 19.33: "When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 'The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." This verse and others like it (e.g., Numbers 15.15: "As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord. 16 'There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.'; 15.16,22,26,29) seem to indicate that the law applied to treatment of foreigners (at least those who lived WITHIN Israel).

2. Judicial execution (some of the imagery of the conquest of NATIONS / External foreigners) was also applied INTERNALLY to Israelites (esp. in Capital punishment crimes--these are essentially analogous).

3. Israel was NOT allowed to steal the land from foreigners generally (Deut 2:5,9). There were no blanket licenses against EXTERNAL foreigners (dont let your friend get away with calling the Israelite actions against other nations as being ETHICAL VIOLATIONS--they are judgments, like capital punishment/expulsion--I have many articles on each of these in the Tank)

4. The kinds of group-judgment/execution which your friend says Israel applied to foreigners was ALSO applied to other Israelite groups--no distinction here--e.g Deut 13.12-16, 19; and the Judges story of Gibeah (Jud 19-30).

In fact, the only distinctions i can find between foreigners and Israelites are in ECONOMIC law (e.g., you couldnt charge interest to a needy Israelite, but you could to a foreigner; israelite servants HAD to go free after seven years and struggle to make it on their own again; foreign servants could stay in the home forever, etc). BUT nothing in the area of what we would call Criminal Law seemed to differentiate.

I hope this gets you started, friend--warmly, glenn



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