Tag Archives: Judicial System

Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 6

Bernard Madoff's mugshot
Image via Wikipedia

He must make full compensation, add twenty percent to it, and hand it over to the owner on the same day he brings his Compensation-Offering. He must present to God as his Compensation-Offering a ram without any defect from the flock, assessed at the value of a Compensation-Offering. Leviticus 6:5b-6 (MSG)

It’s interesting to read these ancient laws and think in comparison to our justice system today. In cases where a person had wronged another person, the Levitical prescribed resitution for both the victim (with interest) and God. The victim was compensated, by the perpetrator, for their suffering.

I can’t help thinking about Bernie Madoff, who took millions in people’s life savings and perpetrated a giant shell-game in which he and his family, well, made off like bandits. Others lost their entire life savings. Madoff is in jail, but those he victimized are still suffering from his crimes.

I feel like the concept of restitution has been largely been lost from our culture and legal system. We made perpetrators pay for their crimes with time away from society, but how often to they have to compensate their victims for the crimes they’ve committed against them?

We may not be able to do much to influence our society, but there is a system of justice in which we have a great deal of influence: our own families. Parents can still teach children by expecting them to provide restitution when they’ve victimized their siblings, neighbors, or friends in childish crimes. Often, changing the world starts with changing our own realm of influence.

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Chapter-a-Day Exodus 22

Offender rights.

"A thief must make full restitution for what is stolen." Exodus 22:3 (MSG)

As I read through todays chapter, which is a list of some of the first laws recorded in human history, it struck me how much of it was plain common sense. It was a victim-centric system of justice. The offender had to make sure that the victim was not out anything because of their sin or crime. If you steal something you have to pay the victim for what was stolen. If your livestock eat your neighbors grain, you have to pay so that his livestock can eat. That's not rocket science.

I thought about Bernie Madoff as I read through today's chapter. What about all the people whose life savings and retirement accountts were wiped out by his scam? While he was under house arrest in his posh New York apartment, his victims were out finding jobs to replace the money he stole. Something is not right with that picture.

The code of human justice originally prescribed by God made sure that the power did not take advantage of the weak and powerless, and that victims received restitution. As I sit and mull it over my first cup of coffee this morning, it seems to me we have abandoned the victim-centric code of justice originally prescribed by God and evolved into an offender-centric society.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and sabeth718

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 21

Playground rules.

"These are the laws that you are to place before them:" Exodus 21:1 (MSG)

Do you remember the law of the playground? When I think back on it, the playground was a vicious place. There might have been an adult or two standing by the school door casually making sure no one died, but once you got out by the jungle him it was a whole new world. It was survival of the fittest, baby. The older, bigger and meaner you were the more clout you carried and the more scared followers you had in your herd. It was mob mentality to the core. The weak and defenseless were easy targets while the herd moved in unison behind the playground leaders out of self-defense.

Now, expand those rules and mentality to a regional level. Expand it to a national level.

We can scarce imagine a world without laws. Life without a well-defined set of civic rules, prescribed authority, and clearly laid out legal system is almost beyond our comprehension. But, for Moses and the millions of Israelites wandering through the desert behind him, there is no formal set of rules. The law of the playground is at work in the daily lives of a nation of people who have suddenly become nomads. The chaos between the lines of the chapters passed down to us must have been mind-boggling.

It's easy as modern readers to scratch our heads at these chapters of rules and laws, but I'm trying to wrap my brain around what this must have meant for them. As I read through the chapters yesterday and today, I think about the weight of responsibility on Moses to help God define a set of laws and a legal system for an entire nation of people who find themselves homeless wanderers.

It's pretty impressive to think that the legal system we take for granted traces its' roots all the way back to these very chapters of Exodus and to these people wandering in the desert 10,000 years ago.

creative commons photo courtesy of flickr and funkybug