Setting Values

At Freed-Hardeman, “Values in Human Thought and Action” was a required capstone course of all students prior to graduation, regardless of major. That’s a pretty good idea, in my book, because the class was in many ways designed to make cognizant the students of the fact that we all make value-decisions on a regular basis. The more aware we are of that, the more likely we are to make appropriate value decisions.

The second half of today’s reading (primarily Leviticus 27, and then an assortment from Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 22:9-11) discusses value in great detail. (I’ll come back later to hit the first half — the Nazirite vow and vows in general).

These value passages are frequently cited by critics of those of us who hold the plenary view of the inspiration of scripture: that it is inspired of God, fully, down even to the word, even in passages like Deuteronomy 23:1: “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.” Does God just not like eunuchs? “Stinks to be you!”? Can men who’ve had vasectomies serve as elders? Be Christians? Go to heaven? Are we all destined for eternal damnation for wearing clothes of many fabrics? (These questions were popularized by a West Wing episode, by the way).

Now some of the questions in the above-linked dialogue are easy for a New Testament Christian to dismiss: after all, we don’t claim the law of Moses as our law today. Our critics will still be asking us about them, however. “If your God is so loving and the Bible isn’t from man, then why in the world is this stuff in here?”

Good question.

In Jameison, Fausset, & Brown’s Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible (1871), the commentators bring all of these issues back to a common theme: neighboring nations’ idolatry. Evidently emasculation was a proud rite many of the Moabite and Ammonite parents would perform on their sons to mark them as dedicated to the service of pagan gods. John Wesley agreed that “assembly of the Lord” likely referred to any leadership role in the church-state community of Israel, and that such a practice, whether done in idolatry or not, would grant enemies an opportunity to mock the impotence of such a leader–an opportunity not becoming the leader of the children of Yahweh!

I wonder if it might not be spiritually-related in yet another way; if a man were so emasculated, in some circumstances wouldn’t the state of his circumcision (or uncircumcision) be indiscernible? Now that would be a problem for one of God’s people, leader or not.

It seems that its context in Deuteronomy 23:2-8 indicates that whatever the exact cause, God doesn’t want to invite any wolves, whether or not they’re in sheep’s clothing, into the fold of his children. Seems fair enough to me.

The same logic seems to apply (with a side lesson on modesty and personal values, perhaps?) to those passages about mixing: fabrics in a garment, and seeds in a field. While I don’t think it’s a fair application to insinuate that these passages condemn hybrid crops, I do think the principle of separation and holiness still applies.

Remember that when God said “Be holy, as I am holy” in 1 Peter 1:15-16, it wasn’t the first time those words left his mouth via inspired pen. They should point back to the words of Leviticus 11:45.