Jewish Lords' Witness
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Does the Bible Sanction Theft and Robbery?
Rachel hides the idols - Venetian painter Tiepolo (1696-1770)
In writing the previous piece on lies and deception (http://www.jewishlordswitness.com/lies-and-deception.html), it came as something of a worrying revelation that such acts were allowed to go unpunished or were even sanctioned by Jehovah God so long as they fitted in with God’s plan. This plainly took some considerable effort to interpret on my part but, hopefully, that understanding has provided me with a much more accurate view of the nature of our God and his creation.
Needless to say, in researching that particular subject, I came across several atheistic websites decrying our God and his Word as promoting an immoral code in humanistic terms. While I believe I have provided a suitable response to their arguments on the subject of telling untruths, I came across an interesting website that was reviewing bible passages that appeared to be condoning and even encouraging theft and robbery.
Unfortunately I have a confession to make: I neglected to take a record of the website address and have been unable to find it subsequently. If the writer should just happen to read this article and recognises the passages, please get in touch with the JLW and I should be delighted to include the address on this page.
Needless to say this seemed to be yet another irresistible challenge for the JLW to research. So once again we journey out into uncharted waters, at least as far as I am concerned, little knowing just where this quest may lead us but trusting in our Lord to take us even more deeply into an understanding of the Truth.
Jacob and Esau
The first account covered was that of Jacob and Esau. Let us have a look at the scriptures referenced:
29 And Jacob boiled soup. And Esau came from the field, and he [was] faint.
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Please let me eat of the red, this red [soup], for I am faint. On account of this his name is called Edom.
31 And Jacob said, Sell me your birthright today.
32 And Esau said, Behold, I [am] going to die, and what [good is] this, a birthright to me?
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me today. And he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.
34 And Jacob gave bread and soup of lentils to Esau. And he ate and drank, and rose up and left. And Esau despised the birthright. (Genesis 25 GLT)
I now quote from the referenced website ‘This transaction, one of the lowest on record-- not giving food to Esau until he was on the point of death-- receives the sanction of the Bible. Where is the charity here? Where is the godliness? Any atheist would have given the man something to eat without asking anything in return.’
Well perhaps, but I do not see much charity out there in this Satanically ruled world right now. Without expending too much effort on my part, it seems to me that a hard bargain was struck between the two brothers rather than this being a theft. A bowl of soup for a birth-right may not seem like a fair deal but it was nonetheless agreed between the two brothers. In reality Esau was described as despising his birth-right so it was clearly of little value to him. Maybe the bargain was therefore not as hard as it might have seemed?
We are not told that there was a famine in the land, so I presume it would not have been overly difficult for Esau to make his own meal. Also I find it difficult to believe that Esau was actually on the point of death through hunger as he complained. The guy had just come in from working in the field so he clearly had strength enough for that. I am sure that a ploughman’s lunch washed down with a pint of best English bitter ale would have gone down a treat well before he got to death’s door! As is often the case, this is an atheist reading an account in the bible in a sloppy manner without really looking at exactly what is being said in a logical and intelligent way. He clearly already has the answer he wanted before he researched the subject matter! Again I quote from that website: ‘I refuse to accept the Bible as a moral guide, because it sanctions cheating and the use of dishonest methods in obtaining wealth and power.’
As an aside it is a matter of interest to me to compare this account with Genesis 27 where Jacob steals his brother’s blessing as I cover in my previous paper (http://www.jewishlordswitness.com/lies-and-deception.html). To start with I was not too sure what to make of the relationship between the two accounts. The first account relates to the family blessing and the second to the family birth-right. I needed to understand the difference between the two of them. After a little study it appeared that the birth-right relates to the receiving of a bigger portion of the father’s inheritance whereas the father’s blessing relates to the bestowing of the status of household headship to the one receiving the primary blessing. A subtle but nonetheless clear distinction.
So overall it looks like Jacob did a complete number on Esau in terms of Isaac’s inheritance and blessing albeit with God’s blessing. But why did God need to do all this? Surely He could have easily ensured that Jacob was actually the first-born of the two twins to have automatically achieved His objective of giving both first-born rights to Jacob? What are we meant to learn from this potentially unnecessarily extended tale of human intrigue?
I think we need to look at the following verses from the books of Genesis, Numbers, Malachi, Romans and Hebrews to try to get some understanding in all of this:
22 And the sons struggled together within her. And she said, If [this is] right, why am I this way? And she went to ask Jehovah.
23 And Jehovah said to her, Two nations [are] in your womb; even two peoples shall break from your body. And one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. (Genesis 25 GLT)
21 He has seen no iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen mischief in Israel. Jehovah his God [is] with him, and the shout of a king [is] in him. (Numbers 23 GLT)
2 I have loved you, says Jehovah. But you say, In what way have You loved us? [Was] not Esau the brother to Jacob? Yet Jehovah declares, I loved Jacob,
3 and I have hated Esau and have made his mountains a desolation, and his inheritance [to be] for the jackals of the wilderness. (Malachi 1 GLT)
10 And not only so, but also Rebekah conceiving of one, our father Isaac,
11 for [the children] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the [One] calling,
12 it was said to her, "The greater shall serve the lesser;" [Gen. 25:23]
13 even as it has been written, "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau." [Mal. 1:2, 3]
14 What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! (Romans 9 GLT)
16 that not any fornicator, or profane one, as Esau, who for one feeding gave up his birthright;
17 for you know also that afterwards desiring to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, although seeking it out with tears. [Gen. 27:36-39] (Hebrews 12 GLT)
Perhaps God’s rationale was to clearly demonstrate His different treatment of, and therefore different attitude towards, the two twins. If Jacob had been born first then God would not have needed to demonstrate His attitude to His chosen ones over others? He could have just let Jacob take his natural first-born rights without having to make such a song and dance about it. Esau's disdain for his birthright needed to be clearly demonstrated. God clearly wanted to teach us all an important lesson here.
It seems that God knows who each one of us is even before our physical birth. His level of love for each of us does not seem to have anything therefore to do with our actions in life rather than our heart condition towards Him. It would thus seem that God is prepared to put up with almost any behaviour from His chosen ones, especially if that behaviour is our imperfect way of trying to fulfil His will. I think this has proven to be a very valuable lesson for me in the overall context of these last two papers. I hope you, the reader, can share with me in that.
For the interested reader, I found it worth studying the following two websites to help me arrive at my conclusions on the Jacob and Esau saga:
Jacob and Laban
The Jacob v Laban saga continues. The interested reader should go to my Lies and Deception paper (http://www.jewishlordswitness.com/lies-and-deception.html) to find the start of this long-running tale. There is no doubt that this account has some basis in retribution for Laban forcing extra payment out of Jacob by getting him to marry Leah first. But let us look at the complete story before we jump to any incorrect assumptions. Needless to say this is a very long account which we will start within chapter 30 of the book of Genesis:
25 And it happened when Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, Send me away so I may go to my own place and to my land.
26 Give my wives and my children, [for] whom I have served you, and let me go. For you know my service with which I have served you.
27 And Laban said to him, Please, if I have found favor in your eyes, stay. I have seen omens, also Jehovah has blessed me because of you.
28 And he said, Set your wages on me and I will give.
29 And he said to him, You know how I have served you and what your livestock has become with me.
30 For little [was] yours before my presence, and it has spread out into a host. And Jehovah has blessed you at my foot. And now when shall I work for my house, I also?
31 And he said, What shall I give you? And Jacob said, You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will remain. I will feed your flock and keep it.
32 I will pass among all your flock today, taking from there every speckled and spotted sheep, and every black sheep among the lambs, also the spotted and speckled goats; these shall be my wages.
33 And my righteousness shall testify for me in the day to come. When you come in about my wages, before your face everyone that [is] not speckled and spotted among the goats, and black among the lambs, it is stolen with me.
34 And Laban said, Yes, if it be so let it be as you speak.
35 And he turned out in that day all the striped and spotted lambs, and all the speckled and spotted goats, every one which had white, and every black one among the lambs. And he gave [them] into the hands of his sons.
36 And he put three days journey between himself and Jacob. And Jacob was feeding the remaining flocks of Laban.
37 And Jacob took for himself white rods of a fresh tree, and the almond and plane tree. And he peeled white stripes in them, laying bare the white on the rods.
38 And he set the rods which he had peeled by the troughs, by the water troughs where the flocks came to drink, across from the flocks. And they were in heat when they came to drink.
39 And the flocks were in heat before the rods and bore striped, speckled and spotted [offspring].
40 And Jacob separated the lambs, and he set the faces of the flock toward the striped, and every black one in the flocks of Laban. And he put his own droves by themselves, and did not put them with the flock of Laban.
41 And it happened that whenever the strong flocks conceived, Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the flocks, before the troughs, that they might conceive by the rods.
42 And the flocks being feeble, he did not set [them]. And usually it happened that the weak [were] for Laban, and the strong for Jacob.
43 And the man increased very much, and many flocks [were] his, and slave-girls, and male slaves, and camels and asses. (Genesis 30 GLT)
Before we go any further I should make the point that our atheist friend chose to only quote a small selection of verses, again demonstrating a sloppy approach to his research. And I quote: 'Jacob, with God's assistance, by using striped rods, cheated Laban out of his cattle: "And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. "When the cattle were feeble, he put them not in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacobs. And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle." (Gen. 30:41-43) "If he [Laban] said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled; and if he said thus, The ringstreaked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstreaked, Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father and given them to me." (31:8-9) Thus, by defrauding his uncle, his starving brother, and his blind and aged father, the biblical patriarch Jacob, beloved by God, reveals himself to be the prince of cheaters and the patron saint of thieves.'
Now in analysing the above full bible text, Jacob asked if Laban would allow him to go his own way after having served the full term of his employment as previously agreed under duress from Laban. Laban was clearly very pleased with the fruits of Jacob’s labour and asked him what wages he wanted for continued service. Jacob confirmed to Laban how his (Laban’s) flock had flourished under his (Jacob’s) management with God’s favour. Since Laban did not disagree with that statement and continued to offer employment we can only assume that this was agreed to be the case.
For his continued service Jacob made Laban the following offer: he would take for himself every speckled and spotted sheep and goat and black lamb from Laban’s flock. The rest would remain in Laban’s flock. Laban agreed to this bargain and handed over all those specified sheep and goats to Jacob’s sons leaving Jacob to feed the remainder of Laban’s flock of unspeckled and unspotted animals. Now this bargain between Jacob and Laban did not explicitly include the offspring but Jacob did say he would pass through the flock ‘today’ which would initially seem to have excluded the offspring. However Jacob then goes on to talk about ‘the day to come’ when the reckoning for Jacob’s wages will be made which would then therefore prospectively include the offspring.
Now it would appear that Jehovah must have had a hand in ensuring that the bulk of the spotted and speckled offspring were stronger than their siblings without such colouring. The rods were presumably for God to determine that those born speckled and spotted would also be strong and taken as part of Jacob’s wages. Those born away from the rods would be weaker, not spotted or speckled and given back to Laban.
So, arguably, there has been no theft on Jacob’s part. If God chose to make the offspring to be placed in Jacob’s flock the stronger ones then perhaps this is God’s demonstrating a higher judgement on Laban’s poor earlier treatment of Jacob.
Let us now move on to chapter 31 (oh yes we are not finished yet!):
5 And he said to them, I see your father's face, that it [is] not toward me as before. But the God of my father has been with me.
6 And you know that with all my power I have served your father.
7 And your father has cheated me and has changed my wages ten times. And God has not let him do evil to me.
8 And if he said this: The speckled shall be your wages, then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said this, The striped shall be your wages, then all the flocks bore striped.
9 And God has taken away the livestock of your father and has given to me.
10 And it happened at the time the flock was in heat, I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream: And behold! The rams leaping on the flock were striped, speckled, and spotted.
11 And the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, Jacob! And I said, Behold me.
12 And He said, Lift up your eyes and see all the rams leaping on the flock; [they are] striped, speckled and spotted. For I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. (Genesis 31 GLT)
Well no real surprises here I think. Jacob confirms that it is God’s doing to reward Jacob for his forced labour and that Laban should pay Jacob his just deserts. And who are we to argue with God’s judgement. It seems to me that this world needs more of God’s judgement although my atheist friend clearly is happy with the justice this world currently provides!
The next situation our atheist friend reminds us of is, and I quote: ‘the acts of obtaining valuables under false pretences and embezzlement commended and assisted by God himself’ in preparing the Children of Israel for their exodus from Egypt. Let us have a look at the verses quoted (plus a few verses that he unsurprisingly did not quote):
19 And I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except by a strong hand.
20 And I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders, which I will do in its midst, and afterward he will send you away.
21 And I will give this people favor in the eyes of Egypt; and it will come to pass, when you go, you will not go empty.
22 And each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and from the stranger in her house, articles of silver, and articles of gold, and garments; and you shall put [these] on your sons and on your daughters. And you shall plunder Egypt. (Exodus 3 GLT)
1 And Jehovah said to Moses, I will bring still one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. Afterward he will send you from here. When he sends you away completely, driving he will drive you out from here.
2 Now speak in the ears of the people, and let them ask, each man from his neighbor, articles of silver and articles of gold.
3 And Jehovah gave favor in the eyes of the Egyptians [toward] the people. And the man Moses [was] very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of the people.
4 And Moses said, So says Jehovah, About the middle of the night I will go out in the midst of Egypt.
5 And every first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh, the one sitting on his throne, to the first-born of the slave-girl who [is] behind the mill; and every first born of animals. (Exodus 11 GLT)
35 And the sons of Israel did according to the word of Moses. And they asked from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing.
36 And Jehovah gave favor to the people in the eyes of the Egyptians. And they granted their requests. And they plundered Egypt. (Exodus 12 GLT)
I find it interesting that, in the middle of God’s killing of all the first born sons of the Egyptians, our atheist friend chooses to take issue with the plundering of the Egyptians valuables. An interesting set of values this fellow obviously has! He writes: ‘Instead of an honest God taking the Egyptian masters by the collar and saying: "You have gotten the labour from these men and women; pay them for it!", instead he encourages these slaves to…. steal.’
As far as I am concerned this is another case of God’s providing the justice that the circumstances deserve from His grandstand view of world events. Not only did the Egyptians pray to false deities but they had the effrontery to enslave His own faithful people. We can see that God recognises that the Egyptians needed to be handled with ‘a strong hand’ which certainly proved to be the case in gaining the Israelites their freedom. As a parallel to the previous case, the gold and silver was the enforced payment for the Israelites enforced labour over many years. The lesson here is to fear Jehovah or risk forfeiture of all that God has given you including your very soul. Do not forget that Laban's cattle and the Eqyptians’ jewelry were really God's property; people only borrow their physical possessions from Him, with His grace, during their mortal lifetimes!!
Now I found the next point my atheist friend picked up on was quite interesting. He attacks the following scripture:
21 You shall not eat of anything that died of itself. You may give it to the alien who [is] within your gates, that he may eat it. Or you may sell [it] to a foreigner. For you [are] a holy people to Jehovah your God. You shall not simmer a kid in its mother's milk. (Deuteronomy 14 GLT)
His criticism of this Mosaic Law is that ‘Anything that died of itself" is diseased, plain and simple-- diseased flesh is poisonous.’ I cannot really argue with this point of view. Whilst it may not actually be poisonous it is certainly unclean in a Kosher sense. It is the not eating of such meat and its blood that set the Hebrew nation apart from the aliens and foreigners.
God was building a holy nation of which the aliens and foreigners were not a part, so God’s healthy eating plan was only aimed at the nation of Israel. Originally God had not made mankind to eat anything other than plants so He presumably had to make some rules to protect His meat-eating children:
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant seeding seed which [is] on the face of all the earth, and every tree in which [is] the fruit of a tree seeding seed; it shall be food for you.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to all birds of the heavens, and to every creeper on the earth which [has] in it a living soul, every green plant [is] for food. And it was so. (Genesis 1 GLT)
It was after the flood that God appears to have softened His stance on this:
3 Every creeping thing which [is] alive shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green plant.
4 But you shall not eat flesh in its life, its blood. (Genesis 9 GLT)
There is much conjecture on why God changed His mind on eating meat at this point in man's history but it is not the purpose of this paper to investigate this topic, as interesting as it is.
So clearly eating meat that has died of itself is not the most sensible policy, but our atheist friend goes on with an illustration of his own making: ‘Suppose that a family of good Christians had a hog die of some disease. What should they do with it? Eat it? No, their Bible told them this would be wrong. They should dress it nicely, take it into an adjoining neighbourhood, and sell it to strangers. Is this right? The Bible says it is’.
His embellishment of dressing it nicely is not in the bible. I would expect that any such meat found in the field or whatever would have been normal food for the unfaithful even with all its health risks. This would have been why God was so specific about what food His holy people should eat. If all nations ate clean meat there would have been no need to make such a Law. Nowhere does the bible say that such meat should be sold without declaring its source prior to the sale. Therefore I would expect that such a purchase would be at the buyers risk and that the meat would have been suitably priced. Again I think this to be a case of an agreed bargain rather than a theft by selling undeclared shoddy goods. Anyone that wishes to interpret the bible in a negative light can do so. Those who do so are amongst those for whom God has closed their minds:
10 and in all deceit of unrighteousness in those being lost, because they did not receive the love of the truth in order for them to be saved.
11 And because of this, God will send to them a working of error, for them to believe the lie, (2 Thessalonians 2 GLT)
Once again it has been necessary for me to dive deeply into the history of God’s people to explain His actions which have been very shallowly covered by our atheist friend. Let me start by quoting from his website his complete statement on the Midianite attack by Israel: ‘I refuse to accept the Bible as a moral guide because it sanctions theft and robbery. Its pages are filled with accounts of theft, and in many cases God planned them and shared in the spoils. He instructs Moses to send a marauding expedition against the Midianites. They put the inhabitants to the sword, and return with 800,000 cattle. Of this booty God takes 800 head for himself and 8,000 head for his priests. The remainder he divides between the soldiers and citizens. They are so grateful to God for his assistance, that they give God a gift of 16,000 shekels of stolen gold (Numbers 31).’
So in this case my ‘friend’ has lazily just mentioned the whole of the chapter 31 of the book of Numbers without quoting any verses at all by just merely paraphrasing the apparently offending ones. So let me start out by seeking out the specific verses referenced. Ah ok, I think I can now see one valid reason why this account was not quoted in full; it is very lengthy and I am not certain of the value of the full reading. However I reproduce it all below for completeness. If you do not wish to go through the whole scripture, I suggest you skip down to its end:
25 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
26 Lift the heads of the prey of the captives, among man and among beast, you and Eleazar the priest, and the heads of the fathers of the congregation.
27 And you shall divide the prey between those skilled in war, that went out to battle, and all the congregation.
28 And you shall levy a tribute to Jehovah from the men of war who went out to the battle: one body out of five hundred, of men, and of the herd, and of the asses, and of the flock,
29 you shall take from their half, and you shall give to Eleazar the priest [as] the heave offering of Jehovah.
30 And from the sons of Israel's half, you shall take one portion out of fifty, of man, and of the herd, and of the asses, and of the flock, of all the livestock, and you shall give them to the Levites keeping the charge of the tabernacle of Jehovah.
31 And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as Jehovah had commanded Moses.
32 And the prey, the rest of the spoil which the people of the army plundered, was six hundred and seventy five thousand sheep,
33 and seventy two thousand oxen,
34 sixty one thousand of the asses;
35 and of human beings, of the women who had not known [a man] by lying [with] a male, the persons [were] thirty two thousand.
36 And the half, the portion of those who went out to the war, the number of the flock [was] three hundred and thirty seven thousand, five hundred.
37 And the tribute to Jehovah of the sheep was six hundred and seventy five,
38 and the oxen, thirty six thousand; and their tribute to Jehovah, seventy two;
39 and the asses thirty thousand, five hundred; and their tribute to Jehovah, sixty one;
40 and the human beings sixteen thousand; and their tribute to Jehovah, thirty two persons.
41 And Moses gave the tribute, the heave offering of Jehovah, to Eleazar the priest, as Jehovah had commanded Moses.
42 And of the sons of Israel's half, which Moses divided from the men who warred:
43 even the congregation's half was three hundred and thirty seven thousand, five hundred of the flock;
44 and of the oxen, thirty six thousand;
45 and thirty thousand, five hundred asses;
46 and sixteen thousand human beings.
47 Moses took from the sons of Israel's half the one portion from the fifty of man and of animal. And [he] gave them to the Levites keeping the charge of the tabernacle of Jehovah, as Jehovah had commanded Moses.
48 And the officers who [were] over the thousands of the army, heads of the thousands and heads of the hundreds, drew near to Moses.
49 And they said to Moses, Your servants have lifted the heads of the men of war who [were] with us, and not a man of us is missing.
50 And we bring near Jehovah's offering, each what he has found, vessels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and jewels, to atone for ourselves before Jehovah.
51 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from them, all crafted things.
52 And all the gold of the heave offering which they lifted up to Jehovah was sixteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty shekels, from the heads of thousands and from the heads of hundreds,
53 men of the army [who] had each taken spoil for himself.
54 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from the heads of the thousands and of the hundreds. And they brought it into the tabernacle of the congregation, a memorial for the sons of Israel before Jehovah. (Numbers 31 GLT)
Apart from my atheist friend getting his numbers and the booty of war somewhat different from and incomplete compared with the scriptural account, there is no doubt that war was waged against the Midianites and booty was taken as a result. So let us look at the specific charges our friend makes against God. He describes ‘God instructing Moses to conduct a marauding expedition against the Midianites’. Since I did not think this to be likely I found myself wondering about the real underlying cause of Israel’s attack on the Midianites. I found a clue in the following verses (needless to say they were not mentioned by my esteemed friend):
1 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
2 Execute the vengeance of the sons of Israel against the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.
3 And Moses spoke to the people, saying, Some men of you be armed for the army, and they shall be against Midian, to give the vengeance of Jehovah on Midian; (Numbers 31 GLT)
So this was no marauding expedition; the attack was carried out to avenge the sons of Israel against the Midianites for some previous atrocity. Let us continue our search to try to find out what that action might have been. The clue is to be found in verse 16:
16 Behold, these through the counsel of Balaam became to the sons of Israel a deliverance of treachery against Jehovah in the matter of Peor; and the plague was on the company of Jehovah. (Numbers 31 GLT)
So what was ‘the matter of Peor and the plague’ that aroused God’s vengeance? I am afraid we are in for another lengthy scripture, this time chapter 25 of the book of Numbers:
1 And Israel lived in Shittim. And the people began to fornicate with the daughters of Moab.
2 And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. And the people ate and bowed themselves to their gods.
3 And Israel was joined to Baal-peor, and the anger of Jehovah burned against Israel.
4 And Jehovah said to Moses, Take all the leaders of the people and hang them up to Jehovah before the sun, that the fierce anger of Jehovah may be turned away from Israel.
5 And Moses said to the judges of Israel, Each one of you kill his men, those who joined to Baal-peor.
6 And, behold! A man of the sons of Israel came and brought in to his brothers a woman of Midian, before the eyes of Moses and before the eyes of all the congregation of the sons of Israel weeping at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw. And [he] rose from amidst the congregation and took a javelin in his hand,
8 and went in after the man of Israel, into the tent room. And [he] pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the sons of Israel.
9 And those that died by the plague were twenty four thousand.
10 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
11 Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned My wrath away from the sons of Israel while he was zealous for My sake among them, so that I did not consume the sons of Israel in My jealousy.
12 Therefore say, behold, I give to him My covenant of peace;
13 And it shall be to him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and atoned for the sons of Israel.
14 And the name of the man of Israel who was smitten, who was struck with the woman of Midian, was Zimri, the son of Salu, ruler of a father's house of the Simeonites.
15 And the name of the woman who was struck, the woman of Midian, [was] Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head of the people of a father's house in Midian.
16 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
17 Vex the Midianites; and you shall strike them;
18 For they are vexers to you, because of the wiles with which they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi the daughter of a ruler of Midian, their sister, who was struck in the day of the plague because of the matter of Peor. (Numbers 25 GLT)
So we start with the Moabite people tempting the sons of Israel to fornicate with their women under the auspices of their false deity Baal-peor. We know our God is a jealous god so it was clearly tempting providence for the Moabites to carry out such an act and as an immediate result He puts the main offenders of the sons of Israel under a death sentence. Lest we need reminding of God’s jealousy of other false gods:
4 You shall not make a graven image for yourself, or any likeness in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth;
5 you shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them; for I [am] Jehovah your God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third and on the fourth [generation,] to those that hate Me; (Exodus 20 GLT)
Numbers 25 then goes on to describe one particularly flagrant exhibition of this behaviour which describes the female involved as a ‘woman of Midian’ and as the daughter of a Midianite chieftain. So clearly the nations of Moab and Midian are somehow related in this matter; we will look into that in a moment. God’s punishment on His sinful sons of Israel, apart from the death sentences passed, was 24,000 offenders who died of a plague. The end result of all this is God’s request to Moses to strike back at the Midianites for their deliberate tempting and effective murdering of God’s people.
So what was the relationship between the Moabites and the Midianites? Another slightly less lengthy scripture is required to answer this one:
1 And the sons of Israel pulled up [stakes] and camped on the plains of Moab, beyond the Jordan, [by] Jericho.
2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3 And Moab greatly feared because of the people, for it [was] many. And Moab was vexed by the presence of the sons of Israel.
4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, Now this assembly is licking up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor [was] king of Moab at that time.
5 And he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor which [is] beside the River of the land of the sons of his people, to call for him, saying, Behold! A people has come out of Egypt. Behold! it has covered the eye of the earth, and it is sitting next to me.
6 And now please come, curse this people for me, for it [is] stronger than I. Perhaps I will prevail, that we may strike them, that I may drive them out from the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.
7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian left with the rewards of the seer in their hand. And they came to Balaam and spoke the words of Balak to him. (Numbers 22 GLT)
So clearly the Moabites and Midianites were in collusion over what to do about the children of Israel whom they feared. Whilst both peoples were involved in the Baal-peor event it would appear that it was carried at the instigation of five Midianite kings named in chapter 31 of the book of Numbers:
8 And they killed the kings of Midian, besides the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. (Numbers 31 GLT)
The interested reader can find much more detailed historic argument in the erudite article to be found at the following link: http://christianthinktank.com/midian.html
So in conclusion this was no marauding party to kill and rob the Midianite tribes purely for their booty. This was an act of vengeance on behalf of Jehovah against the Midianites who had instigated a calculated act on Israel to tempt them away from their God. This directly resulted in the loss of more than 24,000 lives amongst God’s people. I think this attack was fully justified from God’s point of view and the taking of the Midianites possessions was merely God’s taking back what was His anyway. Clearly our atheist friend was not interested enough to carry out anything like a full analysis to support his biased agenda!
Jericho and Ai
The next quote from our esteemed atheist friend follows a similar line: ‘When Joshua sacked Jericho, "they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein; only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron they put into the treasury of the Lord." (Josh 6:19-24)’
As far as theft is concerned I will not bore the reader by once again stating that all valuable items are the property of the Lord. However it again struck me to determine exactly why God assisted Joshua in the destruction of Jericho particularly since Joshua chapter 6 does not appear to contain the rationale for the attack in itself. We have to look further afield.
But before we go to that investigation there is an interesting account in Joshua 7 which demonstrates clearly that God will not abide real theft. I am afraid it is another lengthy account so you may want to go straight to the synopsis after the following scripture:
1 And the sons of Israel sinned a sin in the devoted things. And Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah took of the devoted things. And the anger of Jehovah glowed against the sons of Israel.
2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which [is] near Beth-aven, on the east of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, Go up and spy out the land. And the men went up and spied out Ai.
3 And they returned to Joshua, and said to him, Do not let all the people go up. Let about two thousand men, or about three thousand men, go up, and they shall strike Ai. Do not cause all the people to labor there, for they [are] few.
4 And about three thousand men of the people went up there. And they fled before the men of Ai.
5 And the men of Ai struck about thirty six men of them, and pursued them before the gate to Shebarim. And they struck them in the descent. And the heart of the people was melted, and became as water.
6 And Joshua tore his clothing, and fell on his face to the earth before the ark of Jehovah until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they threw dust on their heads.
7 And Joshua said, Oh Lord Jehovah, why have You at all caused this people to cross over the Jordan to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? And, Oh that we had been willing, and that we had dwelt beyond the Jordan!
8 Oh Lord, what shall I say, after Israel has turned its back before its enemies?
9 And the Canaanites, and all the [ones] living in the land shall hear, and shall come around against us, and shall cut off our name out of the earth. And what shall You do for Your great name?
10 And Jehovah said to Joshua, Get up! Why do you fall on your face this way?
11 Israel has sinned, and they also have transgressed My covenant which I commanded them, and have also taken of the cursed things, and have also stolen, and also deceived, and also put [it] among their stuff.
12 And the sons of Israel have not been able to stand before their enemies; they have turned the back before their enemies because they have become cursed. I will not be with you again if you do not destroy the cursed things from among you.
13 Rise up, sanctify the people, and you shall say, Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow. For so says Jehovah, the God of Israel, A cursed thing [is] among you, Israel; you are not able to stand before your enemies until you take away the cursed thing from among you.
14 And you shall be brought near in the morning, by your tribes. And it shall be, the tribe which Jehovah takes shall draw near by families. And the family which Jehovah takes shall draw near by households. And the household which Jehovah takes shall draw near by men.
15 And it shall be, he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of Jehovah and because he has committed folly in Israel.
16 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and brought Israel near by its tribes. And the tribe of Judah was taken.
17 And he brought the family of Judah near; and he took the family of the Zarhites. And he brought near the family of the Zarhites by men, and Zabdi was taken.
18 And he brought near his household by men, and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
19 And Joshua said to Achan, My son, now give glory to Jehovah, the God of Israel, and give thanks to Him, and please tell me what you have done. Do not hide it from me.
20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Truly I have sinned against Jehovah, the God of Israel, and this I have done:
21 When I saw among the spoil a goodly robe of Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold, one of fifty shekels in weight, then I lusted after them, and took them. And behold, they [are] hidden in the earth, in the middle of my tent, and the silver under it.
22 And Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent, and the silver under it.
23 And they took them out of the middle of the tent, and brought them to Joshua, and to all the sons of Israel, and laid them out before Jehovah.
24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the robe, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his ass, and his flock, and his tent, and all that he had. And they made them go up to the valley of Achor.
25 And Joshua said, How you have troubled us! Jehovah shall trouble you today! And all Israel threw stones at him, and they burned them with fire, and they stoned them with stones.
26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones to this day. And Jehovah turned back from the heat of His anger. On this account the name of that place [is] The Valley of Grief until this day. (Joshua 7 GLT)
The bottom line is that one Achan, an Israelite soldier, stole some valuables for his own possession. God was so angry with this theft by His own people that he punished them with their defeat at the hands of Ai and the death of Achan at the hands of Israel. Does this sound like a God who defends genuine theft? I think not; a pity our friend did not bother to proceed to read the bible one chapter on from his critique!
And now back to the attack, that got God’s support, against the city of Jericho that had not previously attacked Israel. I think the following scripture sums it up perfectly and in effect covers all Israel’s attacks upon the corrupt and evil nations of Canaan. Jericho was one such nation which, although it did no direct physical harm to Israel, nonetheless represented an abomination to our God who used His nation state of Israel to destroy their evil ways:
9 When you come to the land which Jehovah your God is giving to you, you shall not learn to do according to the hateful acts of those nations.
10 There shall not be found in you one who passes his son or his daughter through the fire, one that uses divination, an observer of clouds, or one divining, or a whisperer of spells,
11 or a magic charmer, or one consulting mediums, or a spirit-knower, or one inquiring of the dead.
12 For all doing these things [are] an abomination to Jehovah. And because of these filthy acts Jehovah your God is dispossessing these nations before you. (Deuteronomy 18 GLT)
Our friend goes on to mention the nation of Ai whereby, in his words: ‘Yahweh gets the spoils of Jericho, and Israel those of Ai.’ Quite correct in fact:
2 And you shall do to Ai and to its king as you have done to Jericho and its king. Only, its spoil and its cattle you shall take for yourselves. Set yourself an ambush for the city behind it. (Joshua 8 GLT)
The rationale for God allowing the Israelites to keep the spoils was due, I believe, to the misdemeanour of Achan previously mentioned for which the children of Israel had been roundly punished by God on their prior defeat by Ai. And just in case there is anyone in doubt that it was Jehovah God's driving His people to destroy God’s own enemies rather than the profligate will of the people how is this for a reaction from Joshua to their initial defeat by the men of Ai:
7 And Joshua said, Oh Lord Jehovah, why have You at all caused this people to cross over the Jordan to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? And, Oh that we had been willing, and that we had dwelt beyond the Jordan! (Joshua 7 GLT)
The following websites provide a little more perspective for those who are interested in the Canaanite expedition:
Now this one is interesting in that we are not here just talking about theft and robbery but also much killing and deception. Our friend quotes as follows about King David: ‘David, a modest shepherd lad, is placed under the tutelage of Yahweh only to become the cruellest robber of his time. On one occasion, purely for plunder, he despoiled three nations and "saved neither man nor woman alive to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us." (1 Sam. 27:8-12) What a shining example, and this from the royal ancestor of Jesus.’
In time honoured fashion let us provide the above scriptures quoted in full below with a couple more verses added for good measure:
6 And Achish gave Ziklag to him in that day. Therefore, Ziklag has been [counted] to the kings of Judah until this day.
7 And the number of days which David lived in the field of the Philistines was [a year] and four months.
8 And David and his men went up and attacked the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites. For they [were] the [ones] living in the land from the past [days], as you come into Shur and into the land of Egypt.
9 And David struck the land, and did not keep alive man, or woman, and took sheep, and oxen, and asses, and camels, and clothing, and turned back and came to Achish.
10 And Achish said, Did you not make raids today? And David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and to the south of the Kenites.
11 David did not keep alive man or woman to bring news to Gath, saying, Lest they speak against us, saying, So David has done; And so [has been] his custom all the days that he has lived in the fields of the Philistines.
12 And Achish trusted David, saying, Surely he has made himself to be hated among his people in Israel, and has become my servant forever. (1 Samuel 27 GLT)
So what points can we take from this:
Overall Achish mistakenly trusted his tenant David and probably saw him as a potential ally in the eventual fight against Saul. So in net terms I would have to acknowledge that none of this makes a pretty picture. However anyone that thinks life is pretty and that they will adopt their chosen code of conduct without compromise in this satanic world is living in cloud cuckoo land. The important thing is to maintain a faithful heart towards God and pretty much everything else will follow as and when necessary. Once again I reiterate human lives and physical goods are all God’s; He cannot be guilty of murder or theft and neither can His faithful servants when they are carrying out His will to the best of their ability.
For more information on these events please go to the following website: http://www.bible-studys.org/Bible%20Books/1%20Samuel/1%20Samuel%20Chapter%2027.html
And again I quote from my good friend: ‘Jacob's wives, Leah and Rachel, were both thieves. Leah appropriated the property of her son; Rachel stole her father's jewels. Neither act was condemned in the bible.’
The topic of Rachel’s theft is covered briefly in my previous paper (Lies and Deception). If the reader is really interested in this particular account please read this wonderfully intriguing website article on the subject of Rachel’s theft of her father’s idols: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/aboutcontent.aspx?id=16915
Needless to say our friend has treated the Rachel account in a very simplistic and almost certainly incorrect way. She stole her father’s idols not his jewels. I am not sure what bible translation for the Hebrew word ‘teraphim’ he would have been using for his dissertation! And as far as Leah’s ‘appropriation’ is concerned, I do not have the faintest idea what particular account he is referring to here. Perhaps the reader could indicate the applicable bible text to me please?? I quote the next paragraph from my friend in full:
‘"When thou comest into thy neighbor’s vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure, but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel. "When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbor, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbor’s standing corn." (Deut. 23:24-25) "Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry." (Proverbs 6: 30). Grand larceny is condemned, but petty larceny is commended.’
I have to confess that I do not understand how he has arrived at his final conclusion, particularly since he does actually seem to be using a reasonably good translation of the quoted scriptures this time. Both scriptures appear to me to be defending theft of a neighbour when in genuine need. I do not see a case of grand larceny anywhere in the quoted text, do you?? In fact I think the text is going out of its way to avoid defending grand larceny! I think our friend is clearly choosing to see the meanings he wishes rather than carry out an honest assessment of the true meaning of the text. He is clearly more interested in his own agenda than in the word of God.
My friend’s next comment: ‘Christ seemed to teach that we all should submit to robbery: "Of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again." (Luke 6:30).’
Well yes He did. So what? For what it’s worth my preferred translation is Green’s literal:
30 And to everyone asking you, give. And do not ask back from those taking your things. (Luke 6 GLT)
The point here is to try to become less concerned with material possessions than with one’s fellow man. Theft is a crime against God’s Law and the thieves will be treated appropriately under the Law so I am not really sure what my friend’s problem with this verse really is.
My friend’s next point: ‘Jesus also instructed the apostles to take a colt and an ass without bothering to first get the owner's permission, resulting in the theft of the animals. (Matthew 21:2) Some have argued with me that they were to tell people that the animals were for the Lord, if anyone bothered to ask them. That's like telling your friends to go to the next block, and there you'll find a BMW. Take it and bring it back. If anybody asks, just tell them it's for the pope. The point is, when the owner of the car walks outside, his car is gone. That is theft, plain and simple.’
Let us have a quick look at the referenced scripture:
2 saying to them, Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her. Loosening, lead [them] to Me.
3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them. And he will send them at once. (Matthew 21 GLT)
Well to claim that the Lord has committed theft is, once again, rank nonsense. All men’s possessions are provided by the grace of God and God can remove them as and when He chooses. The Law was written by God for man’s benefit; it is not for God to obey the Law.
My friend’s next comment: ‘Jesus also broke the law by walking into someone's cornfield and stealing ears of corn on the Sabbath. (Mark 2:23) Is this the example we should follow?’
Rather than address this question myself, Jesus provides the answer Himself within the scripture. Pity my friend did not chose to read a few verses further on:
23 And it happened, He went along through the grain fields in the sabbaths. And His disciples began to make way, plucking the heads [of grain].
24 And the Pharisees said to Him, Behold, why do they do that which is not lawful on the sabbaths?
25 And He said to them, Did you never read what David did when he had need and hungered, he and those with him,
26 how he entered the house of God in [the days of] Abiathar the high priest, and ate the Loaves of the Presentation, which it is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and [he] even gave to those being with him?
27 And He said to them, The sabbath came into being for man's sake, not man for the sabbath's sake.
28 So then the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath also. (Mark 2 GLT)
My friend’s parting shot: ‘Is the bible a good, clear and perfect moral example? To anyone who can still think for themselves, no, it is not.’ Well if thinking for yourself means adopting a position before determining the meaning of scripture that is not my view of ‘thinking for oneself’. That is not thinking at all!
By the way, my referring to this chap as my friend is genuine, although I would not expect that feeling to be reciprocated. If it were not for that fellow's bothering to publish his views on biblical theft, on his website, this paper would never have been written by the JLW. Perhaps this guy actually has God's blessing even if he does not want it!!
Well this has been another interesting evaluation of bible truths which has been quite an eye-opener for the JLW. There is no doubt that biblical tales of theft and robbery have to be read with some care. Theft carried out by men purely for human greed represent crimes punishable under God’s Law. Taking the possessions (and lives) of ungodly men under direct instruction from Jehovah God is not. All the cases analysed above come into this category. If the reader can identify any cases where God’s chosen ones stole for their own personal greed and were not punished by God then please let me know.
Two fitting scriptures to end on are as follows:
1 [A Psalm of David.] The earth [is] Jehovah's, and the fullness of it; the world, and those who live in it. (Psalms 24 GLT)
21 And he said, I came naked out of my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away. Blessed [be] the name of Jehovah. (Job 1 GLT)