For my life-long friend,
Here are some thoughts on a passage you asked me about, regarding the character of God:
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 - If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
The Law, the Pentateuch. God set this up as the law of the land for His people, His nation Israel. This is not a universal law, but a national law.
In the USA, we have books of law, that govern our country. The Pentateuch was their books of their law. It must be read in this context. For example, the passage "eye for eye" was not permission for personal revenge, but for corporal punishment of criminals; the consequence for illegal action.
In the USA, if someone commits a crime, there are specific guidelines regarding consequences. Same thing here.
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 -
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who:
1. does not obey his father and mother and
2. will not listen to them when they discipline him,
his father and mother shall:
1. take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.
2. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”
Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death.
You must purge the evil from among you.
All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Wisdom of this passage
Bill Mayer and others love this passage, along with a couple of others. They, being rebellious themselves, find it to be a ridiculous passage that speaks of the unreasonableness of God. However, God is also a forgiving, patient, gentle, kind, loving God. So how do we make sense of this? Is God bi-polar? If God is wise, what is the wisdom in this??? Let's take a look:
1. The son- think of this person. He is stubborn, and rebellious. He doesn't listen to any wisdom, doesn't honor his parents, rather he fights with them, does the opposite of what is wise and good and healthy and helpful to society. This son is the kind of son that would bring strong grief to his family. He is also into excess. He is given to chemical abuse, and as a result harms others. No doubt, a son who rebels against wisdom, common sense, and all counsel is headed for trouble. A son who does not have even the respect to honor his mom and dad, and wrecks the home. This is not a son who has a normal struggle with sin, like we all do. This is a son who is a terror-this is an extreme situation. Obviously, the parents here have tried to talk with him, tried to teach him, tried to help talk some sense into him. He is the kind of person who does the "big" sins. Getting women pregnant out of marriage & then abandoning them, destroying others through alcohol, hurting others, disrespecting the elderly.
In our context, I think about the young men who find pleasure in punching the elderly and watching them crumble & then die. I think it the young men who shoot at firemen as they answer a call. I think of young men who are what I call "ghetto daddys", getting women pregnant, then abandoning them; leaving the mother to be a single mom raising her child all alone. I think of the heroin dealer, who laces the heroin, leaving a trail of death as young people OD and die. I think of the man who buys a teen alcohol, then watching that teen drive home drunk as he ryuns head on to another. I think of the teen who does whatever he wants in the house. When his dad stands up for his wife and children, this teen beats his dad. I think of the hardened bully who abuses his wife, kids, neighbors, and anyone else.
This young man is not into normal rebellion, it is an extreme person, who refuses to listen to wisdom or come under any type of authority, not even his mothers. Charles Ryrie says, "An example of rebellion was given in 13:6-11. Anarcy in the home breeds anarchy in society; that is why this was such a serious matter. However, the elders were the final authority, not the father. According to Jewish tradition, this punishment was never carried out, though it was a strong deterrent to juvenile delinquency!"
2. The elders- they were the judges of Israel, during it's early history. They were wise men, who have a lot of experience. What if someone misinterpreted this passage & was ticked at their kid, so out of emotion brought them to the elders to be stoned? We, as parents, have all been there...or maybe not. First, the elders were typically in a village of under 1000, therefore, they would have known the kid. They also would have known the parents. So, any child (thought there is no evidence of this actually happening-that a rabbi I talked to knew of) that was brought to the elders would have had a reputation and so would have the parents.
Therefore, say the parents were jerks and exhasperatitive to their kids. The elders would have known this. They would have not stoned the kid, but would have used this as an opportunity to come around and counsel the parents.
Therefore, the elders would have known if the kid was bad enough to warrant this type of extreme action.
Also, the elders were not an angry mob. They were the government of the village. They are not similar to what you see in the news today in some of the African, and Middle Eastern Islamic territories.
If the young man was this bad, this destructive, then God made a provision that he could receive the death penalty.
This provision was made in order to keep Israel from becoming corrupt "You must purge the evil from among you", and becoming a culture of death. Think about it. What if culture became a place where young people rebelled against authority, did whatever their flesh impulses desired, and had no regard for law and wisdom. What would that type of culture look like? Would it be healthy? Would it be a place to live in?
Israel did not, according to the rabbi, ever implement this law. This is why you see someone like Shamgar, a farmer, rising up and taking matters into his own hands. If Israel would have obeyed this passage, we would have never heard of Shamgar & Israel would be in a much healthier place today. (Story of Shamgar & the youth of Israel- Judges 3:31, 1 Samuel 13:21).
"All Israel will hear of it and be afraid." I know that for the individual young man, this death would be tragic. All loss of life is tragic. However, this death would lead to a sobering warning to everyone else saying, "You need to respect your elders, and listen to their wisdom."
Let's jump to our culture, and though I do not beleive this applies to a Gentile nation, let's just pretend.
Strawman #1- Jason- Jason has absolutely no respect for his family, has gotten into fist fights with his smaller dad, and the whole family is in fear; so much so, that they cannot successfully parent or keep an order of descency. He, being only his own authority, and listening only to the impulses of hormones and self desire, sleeps with a girl and gets her pregnant. When she tells him, he quickly cuts her loose, to be a single mom who has to raise a kid who is estranged from his birth father, and has to live with the pain of that for his entire life; probably even learning to treat other women the same. He continues to get other women pregnant too.
1. How would him having heard that the penalty for self-driven living was death? How may this deter him from single handedly destroying the lives of others?
2. How would stopping him from destroying the lives of others be better for a village?
Strawman #2-Joe- Joe has high testosterone. He is also a Type A personality. He wants to do certain things. He is prone to follow impulses, but knows that the wages of that would lead to him being stoned. So, he learns life skills in order to not become a destructive force in culture. These learned skills help him to be a benefit to culture. He is there for his kids. He stays with his wife. He makes sure his ears are open to wisdom.
1. How has a passage like this helped Joe?
2. What are the disadvantages of a passage like this in Joe's personal life?
We all sin. We all do things that are wrong. We are all rebellious in our hearts. Some of us have a semi-openenss to wisdom (Freud calls this super-ego, Christian thinkers call this either the Spirit's influence or social morals). However, we are all broken, and in a sense, we see ourselves as the young man worthy of being stoned. My guess is that Bill Maher sees himself in the rebellious teen, and that creates both a conviction in him and a self-justification, where he bristles against it.
The good news is that this is why Jesus walked this earth, died on the cross, and rose again. He did this to carry our sin and our guilt. His blood shed us free, that anyone who believes in him will not perish but have forgiveness and eternal life. Let us not rebel against this.