It helps to put it all in the context of Genesis 3 and Genesis 6 and really all the way up to Revelation 22: God takes complete responsibility for all death regardless of how that death occurs–i.e. whether due to old age, sickness, accident, murder, war, etc. In light of eternity, there’s no difference between a person living 8 minutes or 80 years. They’re still going to die. (Of course I wouldn’t say this to someone who is grieving loss, but this is a theological discussion.) God can bring death by old age or by telling the Israelites to leave alive nothing that breathes when they take the Promised Land. We should not assume that all the Canaanites (especially the children, as in Numbers 31) went to hell. We just know that when it comes to death, God has the last word. And his word is the offer of new life.
All the OT stuff is too far back in time to really know the context or the possible need for such things, and a lot of that context is purely cultural and thus no longer applicable.
Far more uncomfortable to me is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 – which is not only bad culturally but bad theologically as well. Many don’t believe Paul even wrote this at all, but if he did I have to put it down to his own cultural distortions. But since it is not even consistent with his own theology of salvation by grace and faith. I would tend to believe this didn’t come from Paul.
But ok… here is my response to these OT passages…
Exodus 21:20-21 Context of a world where slavery was universal and most of the time ANYTHING was permitted without any repercussions. At the time the only alternative for dealing with captives who could come back and kill your family was simply to execute them or use them for torture or human sacrifices as so many other religions and cultures did.
Numbers 15:32-36 Just means that God knew what it took to make people take Him seriously AT THAT TIME, when just a few chapters later they were worshiping a golden calf. But things have changed considerably. First and foremost let us remember and not conveniently forget when we want to use it to murder people that we do not live under the law but under grace and faith.
2 Kings 2:23-24 The break down of society and civilization can start with gangs of youth who do not know how to behave. Excessive patience and cheap forgiveness can do more harm than good. They learn real fast what rules are not backed up by consequence they cannot simply shrug off and ignore. I imagine telling this story was rather effective though.
Numbers 31:17-18 God needed the weekly practice of the Sabbath to be a reminder of their commitment to God backed up by scripture – that is all that this was about. If you are really concerned with matching up with scripture then I would refer you to 2 Peter 3:8.
In regards to Timothy. I strugled with this too in the past. I found this in the internet which i coppied on my phone . Heres the link if it is still correct
Give it a read it might help you
Now regarding the OT. Could these stories actually never happened? Like the youth ones. They might have used this sort of parable to show how serious it is to disrespect someone?
On the other hand, people quite often get their ideas for stories from real life. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. It is probable that some exaggeration is involved, though. Bears don’t behave that way. So maybe a bear just scared the crap out of a few boys at an opportune moment.
Nick, you seem to be basing your problem on the above text and I think you are misinterpreting it. Your assumption seems to be, (correct me if I am wrong), that “fulfilling” the Law means “obeying” the Law. The “Law” in this context can mean either the Law of Moses in its statutes and precedents, or this plus the implications of the pathways in the stories from the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch.
First, let’s take a look at what other authors in the New Testament say about the Law. In Colossians 2:17, St Paul maintains the requirements of the Law are but a “shadow” of the things which were coming in Christ. The unknown author of the letter to the Hebrews uses an identical word (10:10) when he says the Law was but a shadow of the good things that come in Christ.
Now let’s try that out in Matthew’s Gospel. The quote about fulfilling the Law comes from Matthew and Matthew never uses the word “fulfil” to mean “obey”. If Jesus said he came to “fulfil” the Law, did he mean that he came to bring the reality of that which the Law merely foreshadowed? Take a look at another expression in Matthew’s Gospel which suggests this way of looking at it. In Matthew 11:13, Jesus said “the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John”. What grabs our attention in this saying is the way in which Jesus reverses the normal order: the Law and the Prophets, becomes the Prophets and the Law; and the role of the Law is subsumed under the notion of prophesy. Can we escape the popular notion of prophesy as that which foretells and see the prophetic role as that which foreshadows?
Finally, take a closer look at the passage in Matthew where Jesus speaks of fulfilling the Law. In 5:18, there are two conditional clauses restraining the ongoing validity of the Law. The first is “until heaven and earth disappear”; and the second is “until all is accomplished”. What is Jesus speaking about here; and why did he take the trouble to have two conditional clauses? Unfortunately, many people interpret this teaching as if those two conditional clauses were not there. The passing away of heaven and earth is an apocalyptic expression symbolic of the end of the age. By the time of Jesus, the Jews believed that God would inaugurate the end of the age and the beginning of the age to come. This would involve the resurrection of the dead and a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul believed that this had been anticipated in the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit. He described us as those on whom the end of the ages had come. (1 Corinthians 10:11; see also 1 Corinthians 15). So, OK, that’s Paul. What sort of stage props does Matthew gives us to get the message across. Fast forward to the account of the death/resurrection of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. Here occurs something not described in the other Gospels, namely, the resurrection of the saints.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:50-53 NIV).
I think that Matthew is indicating here that the eschatological events which constrained the validity of the Law have occurred. But for a more scholarly explanation, see John P. Meir’s commentaries on Matthew’s Gospel.
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