Continuing on…

(6) Theft and Custody of Property (Exodus 22:1-15)

Okay, the NCT and the NRSV keep saying that when someone does something wrong, they should be “come before God” and God will judge them. The NRSV gives a footnote that it could also be “before the judges.” That’s a big difference, is the Hebrew really that flexible? Or is that just tradition – the idea being that, back in Moses’ time, you actually could take someone “before God,” or at least before the guy who was talking with him all the time (Moses), but now you need judges? Perhaps this indicates that the issue in question is serious enough that it merits Moses’ direct attention rather than that of his delegates?

(7) Seducing a Virgin (Exodus 22:16-17)

If a man seduces an unengaged virgin, he has to either her marry her (if her parents allow it), or pay her bride price (if her parents don’t). Why unengaged? Because if she’s engaged she’s another man’s property, and what you did is far, far worse. Why a virgin? Because she loses her virgin status, which is what helps determine her bride price. Why marry her? Because she may not be marriageable any more. Why pay a fee to her parents if you don’t marry? Because they may not be able to get a bride price any more.

Isn’t it great when a woman’s sexuality is a commodity you can haggle over?

On the plus side, I’m sure this rule may have allowed some couples to wind up together when the young man’s parents didn’t approve – “I’m sorry, Mom and Dad, but God says I have to marry her!”

(8) Crimes Deserving Death, part 2

Oh, the bit about not letting a witch live! Actually, the NRSV says “female sorcerer” and the NCT says onna jujutsushi, a jujutsushi being someone who performs bad magic (the ju is the character for “curse”), and is sometimes translated as “witch doctor.” Given that it lies so close to a condemnation of worshiping other gods, this may be related, the idea being that these women sorcerers were part of non-YHWH religious practice.

Also, as a child, I had no idea you even could have sex with animals until reading the Bible.

(9) Humane Laws

Instead of the NRSV’s “creditor” (v 25), the Japanese uses “loan shark,” which works nicely. This isn’t a prohibition on all interest, just on interest from poor people who you know can’t pay it back. Pawn shops actually get a harder line here, since you have to return anything before sunset in case it’s something they really needed. I suppose the only alternative is to make sure that it’s not something they really need before you take it… to have a personal relationship with the person you’re getting a loan from.

In fact, the constant use of “neighbor” definitely implies that these are all interactions between people who know each other. I wonder what banking would look like in America if that was demanded of all transactions.

(10) Ritual Laws

Intriguingly, the Japanese says you’re not supposed to curse a “representative of the people,” while the NRSV says “a leader of your people.” Unfortunately the NCT also uses the magical sense of curse again (though it uses the Cee Lo Green version for what you’re not to do to God), otherwise I could make a lot of cracks about how we treat our elected officials in this country.

We’ll finish up this section tomorrow and then get back to a bit of narrative.

The Japanese: miuri “sell oneself into slavery” (v 2), ibara “briar, woody scrubs,” mugitaba “wheat sheaths,” tachiho “standing grain” (v 5), funshitsubutsu “lost items,” iibun “one’s say, excuse,” yuuzai “guilty, culpability” (v 8), chingashi “rent, lease, hire” (v 14), shojo “virgin,” yuinoukin “betrothal money” (v 15), gyakutai suru “to ill-treat,” appaku suru “to oppress” (v 20), kafu “widow” (v 21), kourigashi “loan sharking,” lit. “to lend at high rates,” rishi “interest” (v 24), shichi ni toru “take as a pledge/pawn,” nichibotsu “sunset” (v 25), daihyousha “representative, delegate” (v 27), shuukaku “harvest,” houken “dedication, consecration” (v 28), yagai “fields, open air” (v 30).

Someday I will remember that shuukaku means harvest, I promise.