Friday, March 7, 2014

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Elements of Murder

What do the witnesses have to say to show that a murder is not manslaughter?  They have to prove the same elements as American law: means; motive; and intent/opportunity.  We’ll go back to Torah for this because it’s all laid out clearly in Numbers and Deuteronomy: 
Means: Numbers 35:16-19 and 23;
Motive: Numbers 35:19-22, Deuteronomy 4:42 and 19:4, 5, 11;
Intent and opportunity: Exodus 21:13-14 and Exodus 22:1.
Means means whatever is sufficient to kill the person.  A stone two inches around might kill a baby but it takes a stone 5 inches around (I’m pulling these out of the air because it’s the proportion I want you to understand, not the measurements) to kill an adult.  If A throws a 2-inch  stone at B and B dies, that’s not murder if B is an adult.  The stone wasn’t enough to kill B; he must have had some physical problem that made the stone deadly to him, but A probably didn’t know that.
Intent and opportunity are that fight you already saw.  This is one reason why witnesses are responsible for stopping a fight before it ends up killing somebody; fights lead to motive that leads to murder.
Motive uses an interesting phrase that relates backward and forward in Torah and connects up to a verse we’ve seen before.  “If he did not hate him yesterday and the day before”, mitmol shilshom.  This phrase is in:
Exodus 21:29: “If it was an ox notorious (huad) for goring yesterday and the day before”;
Exodus 21:36: “Or it was notorious that it was a goring ox yesterday and the day before”;
Deuteronomy 4:42: “who murdered his neighbor without intent and he didn’t hate him yesterday and the day before”;
Deuteronomy 19:4:  “this is the law of the murderer who shall flee…whoever struck his neighbor without intent and he didn’t hate him yesterday and the day before.”
Now notice the other place that the ox and the man are linked up: Leviticus 19:21.  OK, it says “beast” but it’s a word that means “domestic animal,” behemah.  Just because you kill somebody’s ox doesn’t mean he gets to kill your ox.  Just because you strike a man dead doesn’t mean somebody gets to strike you dead.  NOT if there was no motive, which is “hating him yesterday and the day before.”
The words huad and nuad mean warned. If the ox or the man was involved in trouble more than once, the community has been warned that more trouble is possible.  If “more trouble” happens, due process having been followed and community policing having been accomplished, the utmost rigor of the law may be imposed by the court if it sees fit. Another place this word appears is in the story of the recon party sent into the Holy Land; Gd calls the people noadim, warned, because of all the times they complained.  So He condemns those who came out of Egypt to stay in the Sinai until they become bleached bones.
The term etmol shilshom is strictly interpreted to mean three days in a row.  If two men can’t see each other on the street without getting into it, there’s a murder coming and if they refuse to pay attention to two warnings, the one who kills the other deserves to be tried for murder.
For next time, read Deuteronomy 19 carefully because it includes a number of verses we’ve already looked at.  Also read Deuteronomy 4:41-45 which have important information.

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