[b-hebrew] Leviral marriage

Jerry Shepherd jerry.shepherd at taylor-edu.ca
Wed Oct 26 11:07:39 EDT 2005

Hi Bill,

Sorry for not responding earlier (pressures of mid-semester!).  While I
see the point that you are making, I would still want to argue that this
is not simply an ad hoc approach to the problem.  Part of my reasoning
here is that alterations to the law take place not just within the
Hebrew Bible as an entirety, but within the Torah itself.  Thus, a law
that specifies passover can only be celebrated at one time is amended to
provide an additional Passover date (Numbers 9).  Either already
existing assumptions or actual legislation is amended to provide for
daughters to receive inheritance rights (Numbers 27).  And then that
amendment is further amended to deal with a tribal boundary issue that
the previous amendment raised (Numbers 36).  It seems that the narrator
wants the reader to understand that even the law God gave Moses is one
that is flexible and amendable, and this then lays the groundwork for
what happens in the rest of the canon.  And this again points to the
character of legislation -- it points in the direction of the ideal, but
does not constitute the ideal in itself.  The behavior demanded by the
law is a minimum, not a maximum.  So the narrator draws a picture of God
as one who in at least some cases has given laws that are not ideal but
concessive in their formulation.


Jerry Shepherd

Dr. Jerry E. Shepherd
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Taylor Seminary
11525 - 23 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T6J 4T3
Office: (780)431-5250
Home: (780)434-1164
Fax: (780)436-9416
Email: jerry.shepherd at taylor-edu.ca
Internet: http://www.taylor-edu.ca 

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Bill Rea
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 3:35 PM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Leviral marriage

Jerry wrote:-

>While your deduction is one that could be made from the evidence, it
>must also be considered that God could have given laws to regulate a
>practice to which he was in fact opposed.  John Goldingay, in his book,
>Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation, remarked that "Legislation
>by its very nature is a compromise between what may be ethically
>desirable and what is actually feasible given the relativities of
>and political life."  In the New Testament, Jesus himself seems to say
>the same thing (Matt 19:8).  So I think a more appropriate and properly
>nuanced stance to take is to say that God gave laws condoning and
>regulating a practice which he had not in fact prescribed.

This raises the question of how can you tell which is which? What do
the writers intend us to understand by the inclusion of laws regulating
such things as inheritance rights in polygamous marriage? There seems
little to suggest that they percieved them to be merely feasible.
If you take the Deuteronomic injunction (Deut 17:17) against kings
having many wives many scholars believe that was written after
Solomon's reign as a specific response to his 1,000 wives and
The texts in Kings don't seem to suggest this was morally wrong. In
the 1,000 wives and concubines seem to be part of Solomon's glory, part
of the special blessing God had put on him.

David's half dozen doesn't raise any moral qualms except the acquistion
of Bathsheba. But even here Nathan the Prophet was not sent
to David until after Uriah was dead. If God had sent Nathan after David
had shagged Bathsheba he (God) could have saved Uriah's life.

What you seem to be suggesting appears to merely be a way of justifying
a projection of later beliefs back on to the text. In some cases that
happens within the Hebrew Bible itself. Once the topic of children
being punished for the sins of the fathers or more distant ancestors.
That practice appears clearly in early texts but gets overturned in
Ezekiel. But once we get beyond the end of the period when authorative
religious texts were being written (which differs according to your
religion) how do we know when we can overturn past practices? I don't
think we can do it by reading the texts.

I'll stop with this post unless something *really* interesting comes
in a response.

Bill Rea, IT Services, University of Canterbury \_
E-Mail bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz               </   New
Phone 64-3-364-2331, Fax  64-3-364-2332       /)  Zealand
Unix Systems Administrator                   (/'

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