I often have lots of questions when it comes to the Law of Moses. Some things don’t make perfect sense to me. I know the failing is in me, not the Law of God – but I sometimes find them puzzling, even disturbing. Things to meditate further on. Or file it in a “Cold Case” File in my mind and come back to when I grow in more wisdom and understanding. Such is the case today with our Deuteronomy reading. Perhaps if I lay out my questions and musings for you, you will give me more insight or wisdom and it won’t even have to be filed away.
I guess it’s a big picture question of why they were told in the 10 Commandments not to kill – and yet cases like the idolators described in verses 2-7 permitted capital punishment. This particular case is even more puzzling to me since my mind went to Jesus and the woman caught in adultery as I read it. (John 8) Jesus did not require her life. He said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (Notice in Deuteronomy 17:7 the witnesses were to be the first to cast the stones at the offender.)
Now just what was this law to teach? At face value, applying the Law would have required her death – but obviously Jesus was looking beyond face value. Was Jesus showing us that no one should actually have to die in applying this law? That the answer was mercy offered by the accuser and repentance implemented by the wrongdoer? What if they went back to idolatry after this course of action was taken? Were they stoned as second-time offenders? Or perhaps he was just pointing out that the accusers had no true witnesses to the crime in question – so their own sin was really the issue.
It gets more complex too, when I factor in the knowledge that Israel followed idolatry pretty much throughout their entire history – from Jacob’s household idols (that he eventually buried) to the atrocities of Isaiah’s day. God graphically describes how they were secretly “offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks”, “sitting among graves, and spending the night in secret places; eating swine’s flesh and the broth of unclean meat…” Isaiah 65:1-7 Would this leaven of national idolatry not have happened if they did indeed implement capital punishment for idolatry on an individual basis? But how can you decide for sure that someone is an idolator? Especially if they are trying to keep it covered up? Or keeping it just among their cronies? Frankly, I’m confused about it.
Now the second portion of Deuteronomy 17 tells us that if they had matters of judgement that were really tough, they could take the matter to the priest or judge for confirmation of verdict. This makes sense to me since the Priest had the Urim & Thumim and could get direct input from God Himself. But what if they were corrupt too – like those of Hannah or Jesus’ own day?! What if corrupt priests & elders demand an evil verdict like those in John 8 apparently were? Is that what Jesus is implying too – only the Son of Man can decide such matters justly? And He (God) gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. John 5:27
Any light anyone would like to shed on this topic would be most welcome…