A Law ahead of its time
In this section, we want to look at one or two more evidences which show that the Bible cannot have been written by ordinary people. In Session 3 Section 2 we looked at fulfilled prophecy. What follows now is really an extension of that section.
The first five books of the Bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy contain the code of laws under which the Israelites lived. Together they are called “The Law of Moses”. There are several aspects of the Law of Moses which show how remarkable the Bible is, especially considering it was written thousands of years ago.
Here are some of the provisions of the Law that helped to keep the Israelites healthy.
“Lepers” were commanded to live separately from the rest of the people. The Biblical term “leprosy” includes a whole group of infectious diseases, along with the modern leprosy. The modern practice of isolating sufferers of infectious diseases from other people was derived directly from the Jews.
When a Jew had handled a dead body he was regarded as “unclean”. He was to be quarantined for seven days, and had to undergo an elaborate washing procedure before he was regarded as fit to mix with society again. Until about a hundred years ago surgeons used to handle the dead and the dying and then go straight into the operating theatre without washing. Thousands of their patients died through infection. Many of them might have lived if those early surgeons had kept this principle from the Law of Moses.
The Law of Moses had strict rules for disposal of sewage. It was not until the eighteenth century that Western Europe began to see the lifesaving wisdom of this part of the Law. Even now some countries are still learning the wisdom of proper sewage disposal .
Two chapters in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) are filled with lists of the birds, animals, insects and fish which may and may not be eaten. With a few exceptions the lists agree with modern ideas about healthy and unhealthy food. The flesheating creatures, the rats, the reptiles and most insects are forbidden; the vegetarian birds and animals are permitted.
The main differences from modern practice are that pork and shellfish were forbidden by the Law, yet are eaten today. There were good reasons for the Law’s strictness. Today public health inspectors, backed by an elaborate laboratory service, can ensure that pigs and shellfish are reared under healthy conditions. The Israelites had no such facilities.
We know now that two serious diseases, cysticercosis and trichiniasis, can be caught through eating the flesh of pigs infected by parasitic worms. In a primitive society the only safe way to avoid these diseases was to steer clear of pork.
As for shellfish, they are quite harmless if they grow in water free from sewage. But if human excrement is present, they feed on it, and then may harbour the germs of typhoid and other intestinal diseases. Modern science helps us to take precautions against this, but the best thing for the Israelites was not to eat shellfish.
It has taken mankind a long time to realise that the world’s resources are limited and need to be carefully conserved. Meanwhile, human foolishness and greed have done considerable damage to the beautiful world in which we live.
Much of this harm could have been prevented if more people had obeyed the Law of Moses. Here are four examples:
If Israelites caught a mother bird sitting on a nest, they must not take both the mother and her eggs or young. They could take the eggs or young birds, but had to let the mother go free to continue the species.
If only modern man had listened to Moses, the museums of the world would not now be full of stuffed examples of extinct birds. We would not have a saying, “Dead as a dodo”. The beautiful Passenger Pigeon of North America, and the Great Auk of the North Atlantic, would still be thriving in their millions as they were at the beginning of the last century.
Every seventh year the Israelite was not allowed to cultivate the land. Under modern farming methods this is not necessary, but with more primitive methods of agriculture, constant cropping was liable to destroy the fertility of the land.
The Law of Moses provided an effective method of preventing human greed from ruining the good earth, but mankind disregarded the Law. All over the world manmade deserts sprawl where once there were fertile fields. The deserts of Iraq, the coastal belt of North Africa, the dust bowls of the United States all these might still be rich farmland if the Law of Moses had been obeyed.
In presentday warfare anything goes or almost anything. There are, it is true, a few “rules of war”, dating back to the first Geneva Convention in 1864. However, they are limited in scope, and not all countries recognise them. Even those that say they accept them sometimes break the rules when a conflict arises.
In the Vietnam War America introduced a new military tactic. It was called “defoliation”. The US airforce sprayed many thousands of tons of weedkiller over enemyoccupied territory. Vast areas of jungle where enemy troops once hid were turned into a temporary desert. Rice crops and fruit trees were also wiped out, and great numbers of Vietnamese went hungry in consequence. Such is “total war”, as it is practised today.
Ancient Israel were forbidden to treat nature so ruthlessly. Even under the stress of war they were not allowed to chop down fruit trees to make defensive barriers. Though this might have reduced their own casualties, or even turned defeat into victory, they still must not do it. Moses told them why not: “for the tree of the field is man’s food”.
So the Jewish Law of 3500 years ago was in this respect far wiser and far more civilised than American law (or British law, for that matter) today.
Human strength was the most precious of all natural resources in a world where machine power had not yet come to replace muscle power. The Law of Moses introduced a revolutionary new principle to conserve human strength a compulsory day of rest once a week.
In the times of the early Israelites, people’s welfare was not usually considered by most nations. Yet the astonishing fact about the Sabbath law was this: it applied to everybody in the land, Israelite and foreigner, master and slave alike. Such an act of generosity towards slaves was most unusual. Yet Israel’s Law commanded it.
The great medical historian, Karl Sudhoff, has said:
He acknowledges that the idea of a day of rest, which came from the Law of Moses, is a great advantage to us.
All this evidence shows what a remarkable book the Bible is. This encourages us in our confidence in God and His Word.
Permission to reproduce extracts from God’s Truth by Alan Hayward is gratefully acknowledged.