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Vayikra/Leviticus 24:22 There shall be one judgement for you; it shall be for the sojourner as for the native, because I am the L-rd your G-d.
This text comes after a short series of repeated commands - that all appear elsewhere in the Torah - that form the judgement give against a mixed-race man who used the Name ofHaShem as a curse during a fight in the camp. Although he had an Israelite mother, he had an Egyptian father and Moshe was uncertain whether the law (and its associated penalty) applied to someone who was not an Israelite. The man was held in custody until HaShem's judgement could be sought. The judgement, in our text above, is that that this particular law - and those repeated immediately before the text - are to apply equally to Israelites and to non-Israelites sojourning among them. Since it was already clear that the law was both given to and applied to Israelites, this judgement classifies the offender as a non-Israelite, following the normal biblical principle of patrilineal descent. It is worth noting, although slightly off-topic for this week's theme, that this episode contradicts the view of rabbinic Judaism which would have classed the offender as Jewish and rendered Moshe's status enquiry unnecessary.
The opening word of the text, , comes from the root , to judge or render decisions. It is associated with developing case law rather than originating primary legislation. While laws are written by monarchs, parliaments and other expressions of a sovereign entity, a judgement is produced by a court or a judge, deciding exactly what the statutes mean and how they should be applied in particular circumstances. Baruch Levine suggests that means a "norm of justice, a standard", defining the way that this and possibly other laws are to be understood and fixing their scope and limitations. In this case, "the same rules apply whether the offender or the victim are Israelites or resident non-Israelites." The judgement is necessary because in the ancient world some jurisdictions applied different rules to their own citizens and to foreigners living their country, as well to aristocrats, free men and slaves. The clear result is that "biblical law in cases of killing, bodily injury, or in cases of blasphemy" applies to everyone no matter their social or genetic status. In these matters, the kingdom of G-d doesn't do diplomatic immunity!
Ibn Ezra comments that, "the plain meaning of the passage teaches that G-d is interested in all people, no matter what their faith." Pointing out that the ending on the last word - - is the 2mp possessive suffix, the 'you' in "your G-d" is plural, he has G-d say, "I am the G-d of the citizen and the G-d of the stranger." The Sforno extends this by bringing a proof-text: "As well for the stranger as the home-born it shall be ... because I am the L-rd your G-d, the G-d of the stranger and the G-d of the citizen (as it says): 'The noble are not preferred to the wretched; for all of them are the work of His hands' (Job 34:19, JPS)." Rabbi Hirsch ties everything back to G-d's basic character and attributes: "just as all the rights and all the high value of human beings are rooted in the personality of G-d, so does this form the basis for complete equality in law and justice: one and the same law for all in the procedures for the administration of justice. There must be the same demands on the personalities of the witnesses, the same meticulous care in probing the truth of statements of witnesses, whether in criminal or civil cases (b. Sanhedrin 28a and 32a). And the same and equal rights for all, for the native and the stranger: for I am the G-d of all."
Targum Onkelos takes a different approach, changing the Hebrew , "like the stranger", to the Aramaic , "like the convert", as he usually does unless the context mandates the literal meaning. This is rabbinic assumption: that the only stranger or foreigner who would live in the midst of the people of Israel and be subject to their laws, holidays and so on, must have converted and become a follower of the G-d of Israel. This enables Rashi to put this text in G-d's mouth: "Just as I associate My Name uniquely upon you, so do I associate My Name uniquely upon the proselytes." G-d's name - the locus of such assurance as "The name of the L-RD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10, NASB) - is not only available, "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the L-RD shall be saved" (Joel 2:32, ESV), but is actively extended towards those - and only those - who have chosen to follow the G-d of Israel. To the eunuchs and foreigners, those from the nations, those who chose to follow G-d's laws and observe His commandments, "I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the L-RD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the L-RD, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and holds fast My covenant" (Isaiah 56:5-6, NASB).
TheRalbag points out that "the Torah says this over and over again, which is as it should be. For the Torah is a coherent law with one unified purpose." One or other of the phrases "one judgement" and "one law" can be found in Vayikra 7:7, 24:22 (here), B'Midbar 9:14, 15:16 (both) and 15:29, and is alluded to in Shemot 12:9, B'Midbar 19:10 and other places in the Torah. G-d's standards do not change. However, the contexts of these verses do not encompass the whole of the Torah, only specific parts. As Baruch Levine said above, the laws of homicide, injury and blasphemy do apply to everyone; so, from the verses immediately above, do the laws for Pesach, festival offerings and even the red heifer. Torah as a whole is a Jewish covenant and obligation, so both native born Jews and formal converts to Judaism are included. Some pieces of Torah are incumbent upon those from the nations living with and among Jewish people, so that society functions correctly. Other provisions, such as circumcision, are specifically not required for Gentile followers who remain Gentile and do not convert.
We can see these distinctions being preserved in the New Covenant Scriptures. The Jerusalem Council specifically obligates Gentiles in respect of four things; they are instructed during the council itself to "abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood" (Acts 15:20, NASB). It is important to take notice of the wording in the formal written proceedings: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication" (vv. 28-29, NASB). Inspired by the Ruach, the apostles considered that any more obligation would be a burden, but that these four things are essential. Notice too, although any commentators have offered reasons for the particular choice of commandments, making the sensible observation that they allow house and table fellowship and a context for sharing life in Messiah, that is more than the Scriptures themselves say; no rationale is given. All those who consider themselves to be followers of Yeshua would do well to examine their lives and practice to be certain that they are fully compliant with these basic but essential rules for believers.
Yeshua's statement that He had not come "to abolish the Law or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17, NASB), adding that "until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished" (v. 18, NASB), must therefore be taken in the context in which He spoke. Those words are certainly true, let no-one say otherwise, but they apply to the people to whom the Torah was given: the Jewish people, "to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises" (Romans 9:4, NASB). They do not belong to and are not an obligation for Gentile believers in Yeshua, whom Sha'ul is very careful to tell, "Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called" (1 Corinthians 7:20, NASB). Jews are not to become Gentile nor are Gentiles to become Jews, except in following the same Jewish Messiah. This is why the verse, "there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one" (Galatians 3:28, CJB) is so important. This is not the creation of some third race, neither Jew or Gentile but something else; it is the creative union of Jew and Gentile, recognisably distinct and rejoicing in the heritage that each has been given: "as the Lord has assigned to each one, as G-d has called each, in this manner let him walk. And thus I direct in all the churches" (1 Corinthians 7:17, NASB). This applied to everyone, in all the churches, whether majority Jewish or majority Gentile. The wild and natural branches are grafted into the same root, but they remain distinct as wild and natural branches (Romans 11:24). Impossible for us to do, but accomplished by G-d when we hear His voice and walk in His ways.
Further Study: B'Midbar 15:15-16; Isaiah 56:1-8; 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Application: Do you long to be something or someone you are not? Today it is time to find contentment and peace with G-d, walking in His ways and the assigned place that He designed for you.
22:15 07May17 B: This is good news for someone who may be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.
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