Considering the Rights of My Neighbor

by | Nov 21, 2021 | Bible Study, Culture | 0 comments

At our home groups, and in our large group meetings, we’re slowly studying our way through the book of Exodus. Everybody knows about the amazing stories of Egypt and the Red Sea and Moses and the Miracles, and those are indeed amazing things to study, but we been slowing down in the second half of the book to think deeply about the laws in the book of Exodus. Beginning with what we typically call the Ten Commandments, God gave Moses a series of detailed laws and directions that are recorded for us to read. A few weeks ago we took two weeks to discuss the Ten Commandments in chapter 20 in particular. I shared this quote from Daniel Block’s commentary on Deuteronomy as a way to help us think about this most familiar passage of sculpture. In case any of you wanted it, here it is:

This document functions as an Israelite bill of rights. However, unlike modern bills of rights, the document does not protect one’s own rights, but the rights of the next person. Each of the terms may be recast as a statement of another person’s rights and the adult males’ responsibility to guard the rights, first, of the covenant Lord, and second, of fellow Israelites. 

 The Divine Rights

    1. The Supreme Command: Yahweh has the right to exclusive allegiance. (Deut 5:7-10, Ex 20:1-4)
    2. Yahweh has the right to proper representation. (Deut 5:11, Ex 20:7)

 The Human Rights

    1. All in the household have the right to human treatment by the household head. (Dt 5:12-15, Ex 20:8-11)
    2. One’s parents have the right to respect. (Deut 5:16, Ex 20:12)
    3. One’s neighbor has the right to life. (Deut 5:17, Ex 20:13)
    4. One’s neighbor has the right to purity and fidelity in marriage. (Deut 5:18, Ex 20:14).
    5. One’s neighbor has the right to his property. (Deut 5:19, Ex 20:15).
    6. One’s neighbor has the right to honest and truthful testimony in court. (Deut 5:20, Ex 20:16).
    7. One’s neighbor has the right to security in marriage. (Deut 5:21a, Ex 20:17a).
    8. One’s neighbor has the right to his own household property. (Deut 5:21b, Ex 20:17b).

I noted this in our discussion directions, but…Block’s language about “adult males” might throw someone off. I would just offer two thoughts about this: First, his is reading of the text is accurate. This is what it says. Second, maybe this is a way to think our way in to what God was doing by speaking this way to Israel: How would our society, and many individual lives be much better off, if the adult males in their lives had always thought and lived the way Block is reading the ten commandments? What would our country be like if every man kept the ten commandments? Of course Israel understood that woman and children were also bound by the ten commandments, and that their lives were important–but this language calls the men to account in a specific way, and sets the tone for society with a certain strong clarity.

In general though, isn’t it amazing to think about what a society would be like if everyone saw things this way? And, doesn’t it make you realize how wise God’s commands really are?