Deuteronomy 19 - The land is to be divided into three regions and each region is to have a city of refuge so “that every [non-malicious or accidental] homicide will be able to find a refuge” (19:4). In the event the territory given is expanded, three additional cities shall be added. In that time, it was the duty of a family member of anyone killed to exact vengeance on the perpetrator; this is an attempt to put in place some means whereby those innocent of intending to kill can be protected from unjust revenge. The guilty are not to be protected, however, under the system. If a person seeking refuge is really guilty of a “murder” he is to be killed: “life for life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot’”(19:21). Judicial findings require two or three witnesses. If one commits false witness “you are to receive the punishment the accused would have received” (19:19) had the testimony been true.
Deuteronomy 20 - In battle, do not be afraid. The Lord fights for you. But this part of the code permits a number of categories of people to avoid involvement. If you are someone who “has just built a house” that has not been “dedicated”; or has a vineyard that has not been harvested; or has just become engaged to be married (20:5-7), you are exempt from having to fight. More surprisingly, another exemption is provided for those who lose their nerve and are full of fear. They are to go home as well (20:8). They don’t want people with them who will damage the morale of all the others.
When you prepare to attack a city, they are instructed to always offer terms of peace first. If the terms are accepted, and they surrender, the people of the city under assault “are all to become your slaves and do forced labor for you. But if the people of that city will not surrender, but choose to fight, surround it with your army [and] kill every man in it [and] take for yourselves the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city” (20:13-14). As bad as this sounds, it is even more dire if the people attacked are Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites or Jebusites. These are people who worship their gods in ways that the Jews must not be tempted by – child sacrifice or other vilified practices. These people, if defeated, are all to go under the ban and be completely wiped out lest they “teach. . . . all the disgusting things that they do in the worship of their gods” (20:18). Then there is a passage concerned with protecting the fruit trees in cities placed under siege. Other trees may be used for building defenses, but fruit trees should be preserved.
Introduction to Galatians: The Jerusalem Bible introduction has this letter dated after the Council of Jerusalem (57-58 AD), the first such “council” called in the history of this newly emerging Christian “Church.” The letter implies that Paul has visited there twice on his first missionary journey – visiting them on the way out and then on the way back. Galatia is located in the middle of the Anatolian Peninsula, present-day Turkey.
Galatians 1 - A Jerusalem Bible note says that the opening of this epistle is “shorter and less friendly” than any other letter Paul wrote. He starts by saying that his apostle-ship “did not come from human beings or by human means, but from Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from death” (1:1). Jesus came, Paul says, to “set us free from this present evil age” (1:4). “Christ gave himself for our sins, in obedience to the will of our God and Father” (1:4).
He is disappointed with the Galatians. They are already drifting from the true gospel and following “a different version of the Good News” (1:6). But there is only one gospel. He says, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached. . .let him be accursed” (1:8-9).
Paul insists that the Good News he taught them “is not a human message . . . it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:12). He recounts his conversion story and insists he did not go up to Jerusalem to see the early apostles but went to the Nabataean Arabs, who lived in what today is the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Only three years after his conversion did he go to Jerusalem to confer with Peter for 15 days. The only other apostle he saw then was James, the brother of the Lord (1:20). Then he went to Syria and Cilicia where his hometown of Tarsus was. He is vociferous in writing that he is not lying about any of this!