It Was the Holy Land

There are many libertarian elements within the Law of Moses, elements that go beyond the liberties we have today within the United States. However, the Law was not completely libertarian. There was no freedom of religion; to worship other gods, profane the Sabbath, be a homosexual, or to channel spirits was to face death. These restrictions fell on both Hebrews and gentiles.

Numbers 15:

15 One statute must apply to you who belong to the congregation and to the resident foreigner who is living among you, as a permanent statute for your future generations. You and the resident foreigner will be alike before the LORD.

16 One law and one custom must apply to you and to the resident foreigner who lives alongside you.' "

29 You must have one law for the person who sins unintentionally, both for the native-born among the Israelites and for the resident foreigner who lives among them.

30 " 'But the person who acts defiantly, whether native-born or a resident foreigner, insults the LORD. That person must be cut off from among his people.

31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person must be completely cut off. His iniquity will be on him.' "

(NET Bible®)

This raises an important and disturbing question: should modern Christians and Jews call the enforcement of these laws today? Is allowing complete freedom of religion a sin?

For Christianity we can make a strong case for a “no” answer by looking at the New Testament. Jesus was largely a pacifist in his first earthly visit and called on his disciples to do similarly. There was no call to sweep across the world and smash idols and kill witches. Early Christianity was a peaceful movement using love and charity to create converts – converts made up of people who had been practicing idol worship and witchcraft. (I go far more into this subject in the series The Narrow Gate.)

But I can make a case for “no” even with just the Old Testament. It is important to remember that this enforcement was to take place in the holy land. This was a special place on earth to be an example to the rest of the world. That which is holy has extra restrictions and extra blessings. The Levites had extra restriction placed upon them [cf. Lev. 10, Lev. 21] but also received the first tithe from the rest of the people.

Notice that I said “land” and not just people. The ancient Hebrews did have a mandate to destroy idol-worshippers who dwelt in the holy land. This seems unfair on the surface, but it is interesting to note this passage from Genesis:

Genesis 15:

13 Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.

14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions.

15 But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age.

16 In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit."

(NET Bible®, underlining mine)

Also from Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 9:

4 Do not think to yourself after the LORD your God has driven them out before you, "Because of my own righteousness the LORD has brought me here to possess this land." It is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out ahead of you.

5 It is not because of your righteousness, or even your inner uprightness, that you have come here to possess their land. Instead, because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out ahead of you in order to confirm the promise he made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

6 Understand, therefore, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is about to give you this good land as a possession, for you are a stubborn people!

(NET Bible®, underlining mine)

That is, the descendants of Abraham had to leave the holy land in order to allow the Amorites to perform sufficient iniquity to justify their extermination. The mandate to destroy idol-worshippers did not extend to all nations of the world.

Leviticus 18 lists [some of?] the iniquities that the Amorites performed to justify their extermination. Leviticus lists various forms of incest and then the following:

Leviticus 18:

18 You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry her sister as a rival wife while she is still alive, to have sexual intercourse with her.

19 " 'You must not approach a woman in her menstrual impurity to have sexual intercourse with her.

20 You must not have sexual intercourse with the wife of your fellow citizen to become unclean with her.

21 You must not give any of your children as an offering to Molech, so that you do not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD!

22 You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is a detestable act.

23 You must not have sexual intercourse with any animal to become defiled with it, and a woman must not stand before an animal to have sexual intercourse with it; it is a perversion.

24 " 'Do not defile yourselves with any of these things, for the nations which I am about to drive out before you have been defiled with all these things.

25 Therefore the land has become unclean and I have brought the punishment for its iniquity upon it, so that the land has vomited out its inhabitants.

26 You yourselves must obey my statutes and my regulations and must not do any of these abominations, both the native citizen and the resident foreigner in your midst,

27 for the people who were in the land before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become unclean.

28 So do not make the land vomit you out because you defile it just as it has vomited out the nations that were before you.

(NET Bible®)

Note that even non-Hebrews were responsible for these sins, so one can make an Old Testament case for enforcement of laws against incest, homosexuality, and child sacrifice. If we categorize abortion as similar to child sacrifice, then the Religious Right does have a good case for laws against abortion. The Religious Right’s objection to gay marriage is also supported by the above.

According to the passage above, it’s a national defense issue. This may prove to be an inconvenient truth.