Why did God give us some absurd laws?


#1

God gave us some weird laws like “Women Suspected of Adultery Have to Drink Dirty Water” and “Don’t Wear Clothes Made of Both Linen and Wool”. Why?

Why did God give us some absurd laws?


#2

I strongly doubt that God gave any such laws to the ancient Hebrews—and He certainly didn’t give them to “us.”

The Son of God, who is the exact image of the Father’s essence (Heb 1:3) never gave any such ridiculous commands to His disciples. Why not, if He is Another exactly like God the Father?

I think Jesus’ actions and teachings while on earth on earth, reveal to us the true character of God.


#3

Women Suspected of Adultery Have to Drink Dirty Water “If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him … and a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband … the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water … this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot.” Numbers 5:11-31

This so-called ‘bizarre law’ likely simply served a practical purpose, i.e., to rectify and remedy any potential pregnancy of said trespass. IOW… such “dirty water” may simply have served as the ancient equivalent to our modern ‘morning after pill’.

When Fighting Another Man, Chop Off His Wife’s Hand If She Grabs Your Genitals “When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” Deuteronomy 25:11-12

This above, like similar passages, uses hyperbolic and arcane language by way of warning… there are no recorded passages of scripture (that I’m aware of) to where anyone’s appendages were accordingly severed. IOW… such commands were to (as seems to have been the case) serve and act as deterrents to any said potential behaviour.

Not only this, BUT turning to the NT we have Jesus himself using the EXACT self-same warning language in passages where believers are commanded to… “pluck out—cut off—cast from” all such body parts as cause offence; in FACT for those ‘purgatorial universalists’ this was Jesus’ rolled-gold commandment for avoiding gehenna!

Of course we know Jesus was NOT hamstrung to such crass literalism, and yet how many to their pedantic convenience nicely read over such passages without batting an eyelid, but have all manner of issues when it comes to such OT readings?


#4

Good post, Davo. Though i’m wondering what does PUR have to do with anything here? Don’t non Purgatorial Universalists (PUR) also believe the Scripture referred to is Scripture & refers to a warning re Gehenna?


#5

I’ve never heard of drinking dirty water successfully acting like a morning after pill. What is the evidence for the efficacy of this treatment?


#6

The PU penchant has been to claim that any remaining sin postmortem must be faced in gehenna BEFORE entrance to heaven is possibly—even for believers; so it has been stated. So the logic here is… Jesus offers a solution for avoiding this chastising fire altogether antemortem. Of course, I don’t believe this, but if the cap fits…

Well I wouldn’t call it a “treatment” per sé, but who knows exactly what else might have been present in either the “earthen vessel” or said “dust from the floor”? The Hebrew word <הֶֽעָפָ֗ר> ‘ā-p̄ār can be variously translated as… dust, fine crumbs of earth, ground, ashes, mortar, powder, rubbish / debris — so given the specific reference was to the tabernacle floor where animal sacrifices were performed one wonders what might have been present?


#7

the tabernacle floor where animal sacrifices were performed one wonders what might have been present

A lot of harmful bacteria likely to cause the woman severe illness and possibly death I would imagine.


#8

Have you read what commentators have to say re such questions? Such as at biblehub, studylight, preceptaustin, church fathers, Jewish opinions, etc? An internet search by verse or key words will likely turn up some useful info. Also resources that answer alleged bible contradictions or bible difficulties. And posting such questions on high traffic Christian forum sites like CARM, Christianforums.com may help.


#9

What I’ve read typically “solves” the problem by saying that Christians no longer need to follow those laws, rather than getting at why they were created in the first place, a neat dodge but not a solution. They don’t really get at why an infinitely powerful God would come up with the more weird and bizarre laws. Usually they boil down in the end to the laws were a bit better than the anarchy that apparently came before and/or who are we to question.


#10

It’s only a problem for me if the reasoning goes:

  1. God dictated every word in the old testament directly from heaven, or inspired each of the writers to write His words exactly.
  2. Therefore what we see in scripture is not a human effort in any way. It does not reflect the fact that those ancient peoples were steeped in a culture and surrounded by other cultures with radically different ways of understanding things than we do; having no science to speak of; living in a mix of mythology and superstition.

I don’t accept either of those items, personally; but the reasons for that are far afield from this OP and have been discussed in many other threads.
In short, I don’t see a problem at all with those strange laws.


#11

That was along the lines of what I reasoned in the linked article - the only sensible conclusion I can see is that those laws come from humans, perhaps due to religion and politics being intermingled.


#12

I think you’re right. Have you had a chance to read “Inspiration and Incarnation” by Peter Enns? It’s not a long read but it nails this type of question exactly, by focusing on what type of book the Bible is. It helped me tremendously in my understanding of the OT and issues it raises.


#13

First, the laws in the Pentateuch were for a particular time in history. The Lord must have had good reason to give them to Moses on behalf of the Children of Israel.

It may be that similar penalties are still applicable in the world today.They don’t apply for God’s people today. The Law has been fulfilled by Jesus’ life and death.

As a youngster, I remember noting, with interest, the prohibition not to “boil a young goat in its mother’s milk”. That instruction must have been fairly important because it is stated no fewer than three times - twice in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy. That’s too bad because I developed a liking for cabrito ( a delicious stew made from kids - baby goats) when I was travelling to and fro Peru in the early 1980s. I must admit that I have no idea if the baby goats were cooked in their mom’s milk; more likely jungle water of unknown origin. It might have been safer if the chefs in the roadside cafes had mixed in a sizable quantity of Glenlivet. Obviously I survived, so they may well have spiked the stew.


#14

THAT imo is it in a nutshell.


#15

Exactly! However, if she survived, that would “prove” her innocence. That’s the way I understand the “test.”


#16

It’s rather hard for me to imagine our God revealed in Jesus Christ coming up with a test that would cause the illness and death of innocent women.


#17

Thank you for the book recommendation. I haven’t read that one - one for my reading list!


#18

I recommend you read Enns’ other books too. You can’t go wrong with any of them.


#19

It’s not only hard to imagine. It is impossible for that to be the case.


#20

The OP raises an important question about the problem of how revelatory impulses are censored or reshaped by the culural matrix. Jer 7:15-20, 21`-23 provides a good place to start because God shockingly denies that He authorized the complex Pentateuchal system of sacrifice after the exodus. Apparently such a system was culturally essential for a palatabable Hebrew faith. So God chose to operate within it in order to stress the way of being that this system required. Jesus’ repudiation of the permissive patriarchal Jewish principles for divorce can be seen as a corrective of another such initial divine concession to cultural bias that needed correction through progressive revelation.