The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The Ninth Commandment
The Ninth Commandment
"Thou shalt not bear false witness
against thy neighbor."
The Tribal Significance of "Neighbor"
If the previous eight Commandments were gems of a moral genius and precepts for the highest ethical conduct -- which of course they are not -- this Commandment alone would invalidate the Decalogue as a divine revelation. This Commandment definitely shows these precepts to be rules of conduct, based on superstitious taboos, for the small tribe of Hebrews who formulated them, and is in the same category as other provincial regulations of tribal ethics. If there were a God of the universe, and if he had given all the peoples of the earth a precept to follow, this God would not have restricted giving false witness only against one's "neighbor." Bearing false witness would have been condemned as inherently wrong regardless of whom the testimony might affect.
False testimony is unethical no matter against whom it is given, and if it is considered to be ethically right at certain times and under certain circumstances, the whole fabric and structure of our moral ideal collapses. For "truth is truth to the end of reckoning." Not for the benefit of one's "neighbor" or to the detriment of one's enemy, but truth for truth's sake is the highest ethical concept and the very quintessence of justice. The honorable man will speak truthfully even though it prove to his own detriment. It is essential to the principle of equality before the law that justice be applied equally to my enemy and to me. If we permit an exception for the sake of expediency or for some prejudicial reason, we may some day suffer because of that exception.
Universal justice will never be achieved until all the peoples of the earth are governed by the same laws end enjoy the same privileges. It will not matter then under what flag a man lives, so long as he enjoys liberty, and justice is administered impartially to all.
This Commandment does not say, "Thou shalt not bear false witness." If that were all it said, then it would possess some virtue. But the makers of this Commandment were not concerned with a general application of telling the truth under all circumstances. The three additional words of this Commandment were added for a very definite reason. For the age and for the purpose for which they were intended, the Commandment would be incomplete without them. Therefore, in keeping with the primitive moral standard of tribal culture, this Commandment very properly reads: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." These three words, "against thy neighbor," completely change its meaning and preclude its application as an ethical precept for modern society. Without them this Commandment could very easily have universal application, but with them it falls back into the narrow provincial category of the early Israelitish tribal code.
At the time this Commandment was written, anyone who was not a "neighbor" was an enemy. This was the law of tribal life. The boundaries and property of clans had to be vigilantly watched and jealously guarded. It was essential to the solidarity of the tribe that all band together for the common good.
According to Talmudic law, only a brother Hebrew is a neighbor. In another interpretation of this very Commandment, brother and neighbor are synonymous terms which do not apply to anyone outside the clan. [*1]
The word "neighbor," as used in this Commandment, unmistakably meant a fellow tribesman, a compatriot, and did not, nor was it ever intended to describe a fellow human being in a universal sense. This is verified not only by leading Biblical authorities, such as the Rev. Henry Sloane Coffin, who says that "the Israelites did not apply this Commandment to their dealings with other people," but by the Bible itself.
When properly understood in the light of primitive culture, this Commandment is in perfect harmony as to its origin and meaning with the other portions of the Decalogue. The authors of the Decalogue could not have formulated it differently; they were mentally incapable of embodying a Commandment with the broader principle of universal application. All the Commandments belong in the same category and were promulgated for one purpose -- to prevent injury to the clan and to promote tribal solidarity for the sake of their Deity's approval.
If this Commandment consisted of the simple statement, "Thou shalt not lie," it would be free from its clannish implication. And if, in addition to this unequivocal declaration that an untruth should not be uttered, the penalty provided for speaking falsely were that the tongue should become palsied, then indeed might such a Commandment act as a sentinel in order that "truth might bear away the victory."
There is no monitor guarding the mind from believing that which is untrue, or restraining the tongue from speaking that which is false.
Professor James H. Breasted, the noted Egyptologist, makes a significant observation in his book, The Dawn of Conscience. After an exhaustive study of the evolution of ethics, he confesses:
"Like most lads among my boyhood associates, I learned the Ten Commandments. I was taught to reverence them because I was assured that they came down from the skies into the hands of Moses, and that obedience to them was therefore sacredly incumbent upon me. I remember that whenever I fibbed I found consolation in the fact that there was no commandment 'Thou shalt not lie,' and that the Decalogue forbade lying only as a 'false witness' giving testimony before the courts where it might damage one's neighbor. In later years when I was much older, I began to be troubled by the fact that a code of morals which did not forbid lying seemed imperfect; but it was a long time before I raised the interesting question: How has my own realization of this imperfection arisen? Where did I myself get the moral yardstick by which I discovered this shortcoming in the Decalogue?"
Professor Breasted's answer to his question is predicated on inevitable conclusions, drawn from his researches, that ethics develop in an evolutionary process and that "the moral ideas of early man were the product of their own social experience." A careful examination of the early religious systems and the moral codes of contemporary times forced him to state that "it is important to bear in mind the now commonly accepted fact that in its primitive stages religion had nothing to do with morals as understood by us today." [*2] Professor Breasted is too considerate when he speaks of only primitive religion and morals as being two entirely separate and distinct departments of human thought. They are just as much separate and distinct today as they were ten thousand years ago. Religion and morals have not only no connection with each other, but are often antagonistic both in principle and practice, as has been factually substantiated in the analysis of the previous Commandments. He also discovered that "man arose to high moral vision two thousand years before the Hebrew nation was born." [*3]
This Commandment survives today, not because of any ethical value that it might possess, for it has none, but because it is associated with a religious taboo. It is but another striking example of the utter lack of moral value when conduct is predicated upon racial and religious edicts.
Biblical Evidence of Hebrew Tribal Solidarity
Just as the Bible is replete with instances to support the contention that the previous Commandments were applicable solely to the early Hebrews, so we find innumerable instances recorded in it about their dealings with outside tribes which show that this Commandment was exclusively a tribal precept, and that the word "neighbor" as used in this Commandment had reference only to a fellow Hebrew. The code of conduct which made its adherents honest and trustworthy among themselves, but deceitful and unscrupulous toward strangers, seems to have been prevalent in many similar primitive social groups. This Commandment is as definite a reflection of that cultural level as if it were stamped with the year and age in which it was formulated.
An example of this tribal code is recorded in Deuteronomy, Chapter 14, verse 21:
21. Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God....
You and your neighbor may not eat meat from an animal that "dieth of itself," but it is permissible to give it to the stranger, or sell it to an alien. This one illustration alone should be sufficient to convince anyone of the meaning and intent of the word "neighbor" as used in this Commandment, because it is a far greater offense to sell diseased meat to a stranger than to bear false witness against a neighbor. The contempt with which the stranger was held in primitive society only emphasizes the strong tribal ties which this Commandment was intended to preserve.
Another Biblical passage revealing the clannish principle of tribal solidarity is in Deuteronomy, Chapter 15, verses 1 to 3:
1. At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
2. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth aught unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release.
3. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release.
Not only are the words "neighbor" and "brother" used synonymously in the above instance, but the additional fact that a fellow Hebrew should cancel his neighbor's debt after seven years, but "of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again," is a clannish ethical concept that leaves not the slightest doubt of the meaning of "neighbor" as used in Hebrew nomenclature, and particularly in this Commandment. [*4]
Could there possibly be a stronger illustration than the following to indicate the meaning of the word "neighbor" used in the Biblical sense as part of this Commandment?
19. Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:
20. Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it. [**5]
The same tribal code accounts for the rule which prevailed among the Hebrews that if an article which had been lost by one member was found by another, it was incumbent upon the latter to see that it was restored to his "brother," but that if the property belonged to a stranger, no attempt need be made to return it. [*6]
Equally pertinent to this tribal concept is the following from Leviticus, Chapter 19, verses 16 to 18:
16. Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord.
17. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
18. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
As is well known, the Bible not only sanctions slavery, but, in its clannish application, no Hebrew shall be enslaved by a brother Hebrew. As quoted in Leviticus, Chapter 25, verses 44 to 46:
44. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
45. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
46. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
The bondmen and bondmaids "shall be of the heathen that are round about you," "but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule..." This only re-emphasizes the clannish application of the word "neighbor" in its relation to this Commandment.
The conclusion is inevitable that "brother" and "neighbor" as used in these Biblical quotations are identical in purpose with the word "neighbor" as used in this Commandment, and meant a fellow Hebrew only.
The significance of these quotations in relation to this Commandment may be summarized by placing them in the following order:
"Thou must not eat of anything that dieth of itself, but thou mayest give it unto the stranger, or sell it to an alien...."
"After every seven years thou shalt make a release of thy neighbour's debt, but of the foreigner thou mayest exact it again...."
"Thou shalt not lend money upon usury unto thy brother, but unto a stranger thou mayest lend it upon usury...."
"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart...."
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour...."
Not only must you refrain from giving false witness against your neighbor, your fellow tribesman, your compatriot, but, as in the previous instances, it was incumbent to bear false witness, if necessary, against the stranger when the interest of a neighbor was involved. While the injunction "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is negative in defense of tribal solidarity, it is positive in its application to tribal enemies. Among primitive tribes, such as were the Children of Israel, a "stranger" did not merit the same rights and consideration as a "neighbor" and was looked upon as an enemy of the tribe, as revealed in verse 16, quoted above -- "neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour...."
The Clannishness of Tribal Law
In the lower stages of social life, the interests of the "foreigner" or "stranger" were not regarded at all. In primitive society, the clan or community was considered as a part of one's own body. An injury to an individual member affected the whole community. It therefore became the bounden duty of each member of the clan to protect the community under all circumstances, even with his life, if need be. Although there might be individual differences within the clan, all become as one when dealing with a common foe. The clannish thought underlying this Commandment -- and the very basis of Hebrew ethics -- is the survival of this primitive family group. It is characteristic of certain individual family attitudes even today. Just as the primitive clan, motivated by the interest of tribal solidarity, justified lying and cheating for the benefit of their individual members, so there are today certain family groups that feel justified in lying, indeed believe it their duty to lie, for the benefit of one of their members.
The late Judge Joseph E. Corrigan of New York, who was noted for the number of witnesses he held for perjury, said: "It is considered the proper thing for a blood relative to lie to save his kin, and it is only one degree more noble for a friend to come forward and make the generous gesture." [*7]
This same clannish spirit is manifested more prominently in different communities, and still more intensified in different nations. That is why there is suspicion of members of different races and believers in different creeds. Do not the orthodox Jew, the fundamentalist Protestant and the pious Catholic still have a different attitude toward members of different faiths than their attitude toward those of their own religious affiliations? The white man feels superior to the black and yellow man. Oriental peoples have a certain natural aversion for each other; the Turk does not readily tolerate the Arab, or the Persian, and these feel similarly toward the Turk. The Syrian considers the Egyptian inhuman, and the Egyptian thinks the Syrian is simple-minded. The Spaniard and the Mexican also are antagonistic. So there is distrust and hatred and suspicion among all peoples that have not been able to overcome their primitive inhibitions. [*8] Westermarck significantly states that "throughout the Middle Ages all Europe seems to have tacitly agreed that foreigners were created for the purpose of being robbed." [*9]
Even as late as the beginnings of Roman society, there existed two divisions of the law, classified as the civil law and the law of nations. The civil law was composed of rules and regulations which governed the Romans exclusively, defining their rights and privileges; the law of nations, known as jus gentium, determined the rights and privileges of foreigners. The latter precluded the foreigner or alien from having any share in purely Roman institutions. Controversies involving the interests of aliens could not be decided under the civil law, while under the law of nations they enjoyed privileges until their interests conflicted with those of the native Romans. [*10]
Indeed, it was not until recent times that foreigners were placed on the same footing with citizens regarding inheritance. It was not until 1790 that the French National Assembly abolished the right of aubaine as being contrary to the principle of human brotherhood. It was not until 1870 that foreigners were authorized to inherit and bequeath like British subjects. [*11] And even today, in the State of California, Orientals are not permitted to own property.
People like that to which they are accustomed or which is their own; they dislike the strange and unfamiliar. The sight of a differently colored skin or strange wearing apparel, the sound of a foreigner's language, arouse antipathies and have greatly influenced the moral valuation of conduct toward foreigners. At the same time, they have strengthened the feeling of mutual interests between tribesmen and compatriots. This enmity between different communities tends to intensify each group's devotion to a common goal and the friendly feelings between members of the tribe. [*12] To do good to a friend and to do harm to an enemy was a maxim of the ancient Scandinavians. [*13]
Innumerable examples could be cited to show that it is a natural tendency to regard compatriots and coreligionists from a different moral standpoint than persons who are not connected by such ties. The latter are considered to have a lower standard of morality and an inferior sense of right and wrong.
Although Americans permitted the enslavement of the black man, it was considered a grievous sin to enslave a white man. During our slavery era, no one except the Abolitionists believed that the black man possessed the same emotions as his white master. He could be lashed, his family relationships disrupted, and human feelings outraged with impunity.
This narrow provincialism persists to this day. A man's name was stricken from the list of prospective jurors because he said, when examined by the judge, that he would not believe "the word of a Negro in any circumstance against that of a white man." The judge very properly replied: "The jury panel is no place for you. A juror should always be fair and impartial." [*14]
An ancient provincial law of Sweden permitted a slave to be insulted without redress. In addition, the slave was considered of such an inferior caste that he was not allowed even to invoke the law. [*15] The slave in the United States before the Civil War was no better off. Any dishonest or deceitful method might be used to deprive the slave of anything he possessed; indeed, it was considered foolhardy not to resort to such devious devices. Christianity taught that the black man was "created" to be a slave. How can anyone having such a point of view understand, much less practice, the American principle that guarantees justice and equality to all regardless of race, color or creed?
With reference to this system of ethics prevailing in nearly all primitive societies, E. P. Evans says: "This is the kind of ethics which finds expression in the legislation of all barbaric and semi-civilized races, from the Eskimos to the Hottentots. The Balantis of Africa punish with death a theft committed to the detriment of a tribesman, but encourage and reward thievery from other tribes. According to Caesar's statement, [*16] the Germans did not deem it infamous to steal outside of the precincts of their own village, but rather advocated it as a means of keeping the young men of the community in training and rendering them vigilant and adroit." [*17]
Many primitive tribes have been characterized as bands of thieves because of their raids on other tribes, but among themselves they are just as honest and as truthful as people in more civilized communities. In order to understand fully their behavior, one must know the motives prompting their acts. In early ethics, revenge is enjoined as a duty, and forgiveness of enemies is despised. [*18]
It is said of the Bedouin of the Arabian desert that he "will be forgiven if he should kill a stranger on the road, but eternal disgrace would be attached to his name if it were known that he had robbed his companion or his protected guest even of a handkerchief." [*19]
The natives of the interior of Sumatra do not deem it a moral defect to deal dishonestly with strangers. The Masai hold any kind of deceit to be allowable in their relations with persons of another race. The Hovas of Madagascar will punish a member of their own tribe who does not speak falsely to foreigners. No stigma was attached to lying and deceit; they were considered proofs of superior cunning, particularly in matters of dispute. A common Moslem doctrine is that a lie is permissible when told to obtain any advantage in a war with enemies of the faith. [*20]
We have parallel instances even today. It is a settled principle of morality (if it can be called such) that nations at war practice the most cunning forms of deception on the enemy. The more trickery employed in deceiving the enemy, the more laudable the act. The question of ethics or morality does not enter into the use of the most reprehensible means to destroy the enemy. This primitive concept of morality governs the conduct of the Japanese today. A well-known authority states that the Japanese are a scrupulously honest people in dealing with each other; that the doors of their houses are never locked, and that thefts are rare among them. Despite this, they would treacherously violate a solemn treaty with another nation if it should ultimately advance their own interests. [*21] What more pertinent illustration of the survival of the tribal code than the dastardly attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, which President Roosevelt said "would live in infamy." While their envoys pretended to talk peace terms, they were plotting to destroy our defenses and confiscate our property. This reprehensible conduct provoked Secretary of State Cordell Hull to say: [*22] "It is now apparent to the whole world that Japan in its recent professions of a desire for peace has been infamously false and fraudulent.... In all my fifty years of public service, I have never seen a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions -- infamous falsehoods and distortions on a scale so huge that I never imagined until today that any government on this planet was capable of uttering them." The New York Times reported the deception of the Japanese troops in flying a flag of truce only as a means of perpetrating a treacherous assault on our unsuspecting soldiers. [*23] The acts of Hitler's Germany are equally reprehensible.
Of the Sudra inhabitants of Central India, it is said that in their intercourse with each other they are distinguished for their adherence to the truth, while in their relations with strangers they are generally false and deceptive. While they would never utter a lie or be dishonest in their dealings to one of their own clan, they would not hesitate to lie to or steal from a stranger.
The Indian Islanders are accused by strangers of being faithless and perfidious. Yet, in their domestic intercourse, they display more integrity than one would generally believe they possessed. It is in their dealings with strangers and enemies that their treachery is displayed. The Greenlanders, who understate rather than overstate the value of an article in trading among themselves, lied outrageously in their transactions with the Danish traders. The Touaregs, while scrupulously faithful to a promise given to one of their own people, do not regard as binding a promise given to a Christian. Among the Bushmen, no one is permitted to give information to a stranger, and among the Beni Amer, a stranger can never trust the word of a native because "of their contempt of everything foreign." When the Kafirs are involved in a lawsuit, witnesses are allowed to tell as many lies as they like in order to make the best of their case. [*24]
Throughout India, Sir W. H. Sleeman found that "the question whether truth or falsehood is to be spoken depends on the relationship between the speaker and the party addressed," for "if a man had told a lie to cheat his neighbor, he would become an object of hatred and contempt -- if he had told a lie to save his neighbor's fields from an increase of rent or tax, he would have become an object of esteem and respect." [*25] Sir John Malcolm found that the natives of the Sudra of Central India often tell positive falsehoods to strangers, whereas they are distinguished by their adherence to truth in their relations among themselves. [*26]
In the Western Islands of the Torres Straits, it was regarded as meritorious to kill foreigners either in fair fight or by treachery, and honor and glory were bestowed on those bringing home the skulls of natives of other islands slain in battle. [*27]
The Arab who meets an unknown wanderer in the desert acts in accordance with the saying "The stranger is for the wolf." He is looked upon as an enemy.
The Indian Islanders have been accused by strangers of perfidy and faithlessness; yet, says an authority, these acts must be understood in the proper light. In their domestic and social intercourse, they are far from being a deceitful people. It is only in their intercourse with strangers that the treachery of their character is displayed. [*28]
The Orang-Ot of Borneo, when they meet strangers, turn their backs on them and squat on the ground, hiding their faces; they explain their behavior by saying that the mere sight of a stranger upsets them. [*29] The Tupi of Brazil call all men not of their race or language "strangers" or "enemies."
Among the Kafirs of the Kindu-Kush, killing a stranger might not be a crime, but killing a fellow tribesman is held in an altogether different light. The Koriaks consider murder a great crime only when committed within the tribe. The early Aleuts considered the killing of a companion a crime worthy of death, "but to kill an enemy was quite another thing." Humboldt found that the natives of Guiana "detest all who are not of their family, or their tribe, and hunt Indians of a neighboring tribe who live at war with their own." The Gallos consider it honorable to kill an alien, though criminal to kill a countryman. To the Fuegians, a stranger and an enemy are synonymous terms. In Melanesia, also, a stranger as such was generally, throughout the islands, an enemy to be killed. Among the Chukchi, it is held criminal to thieve or murder in the family or race to which a person belongs; but these crimes committed elsewhere are not only permitted, but held honorable and glorious.
Nearly all tribes of the primitive culture of the ancient Hebrews regarded the "stranger within thy gates" as an enemy, and, as has been noted in discussing the Eighth Commandment, the thief is considered an offender only when he steals from a fellow tribesman; stealing from a stranger is praiseworthy. [*30] Among the Hindus, truthtelling depends on the motive. If false evidence is given for a pious reason, such evidence is called "the speech of the gods." [*31]
The code of these primitive peoples is undoubtedly the same as that which prevailed in the Hebrew tribe. Well might such clannish, tribal conduct be expressed in the words of this Commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
The pursuit of truth above racial partisanship, however, is the highest development in evolutionary ethics, and who is right is far more important than the racial or religious relationship of the disputants.
The Stranger Tabooed in Tribal Society
There was another very significant reason why the stranger was not accorded the same consideration as a neighbor in primitive societies: he was a believer and worshiper of strange and enemy gods. This is revealed in the narrative where the Hebrew is prohibited from eating "anything that dieth of itself ... for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God," and in the narrative prohibiting the lending "upon usury to thy brother ... that the Lord may bless thee in all that thou setteth thine hand to do in the land whither thou goest to possess it."
To accord the stranger the same consideration as members of one's own tribe would be inviting the wrath and anger of the tribal god whose jealousy we have already discussed. Tribal solidarity depended on not arousing the jealousy of the tribe's deity. Telling the truth to the detriment of a neighbor and for the benefit of a stranger was a flagrant offense in tribal culture.
While the passages to be quoted below deal with the Hebrew and the stranger in a strictly ritual sense, they are nevertheless additional evidence of the meaning of the word "neighbor" as used in this Commandment. No stranger could partake of those things holy to the Hebrews. The Passover was prohibited by Biblical edict to the stranger. I quote Exodus, Chapter 12, verse 43:
43. And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof.
In conformity with the above prohibition, it is understandable now why a "stranger" could not observe the Sabbath, because "the Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel alone." [*32] Nor could the stranger touch things holy to the Hebrew, or offer sacrifices to the Hebrew God, as stated in Leviticus, Chapter 22, verse 25:
25. Neither from a stranger's hand shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these; because their corruption is in them, and blemishes be in them: they shall not be accepted for you.
The belief in the corrupting and desecrating influence of the stranger could not be more forcibly expressed than in the above quotations. These Biblical prohibitions make clear why a stranger could not be taught the Torah. [*33] The same prohibition is repeated in Exodus, Chapter 29, verse 33:
33. And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy.
Certainly, if a stranger cannot eat "those things wherewith the atonement was made," what chance had he to be put on the same level as a brother Hebrew in the matter of testimony, where the interests of the tribe and the protection of its solidarity were considered the most sacred obligation?
Nor could a stranger offer incense to the Hebrew Deity. I quote Numbers, Chapter 16, verse 40:
40. To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the Lord said to him by the hand of Moses.
More significantly even than the previous quotations, the Biblical testimony to follow clearly and unequivocally puts this Commandment in its proper category of Hebrew provincialism, and is additional indisputable proof of its tribal genesis. Not only was the stranger prohibited from touching things holy to the Hebrew or offering the bread as a sacrifice to the Lord, but there was a further restriction placed upon him. He could not even "eat of the holy thing" sacred to the Hebrew. I quote Leviticus, Chapter 22, verses 10 to 13:
10. There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or a hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.
11. But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat.
12. But if the priest's daughter also be married unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things.
13. But if the priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.
Nor is that all. The mere fact that the priest's daughter had been "married unto a stranger" -- one not a neighbor -- was such a profanation of the sacred, clannish tribal code that she herself "may not eat of an offering of the holy things." If, however, she avoided the further impiety of having children by the stranger, she may then "eat of her father's meat" -- which had previously been ritually prepared, but her non-Hebrew husband was forbidden -- "there shall no stranger eat thereof."
If equal rights in so intimate an association as marriage are denied the husband in a minor ritual matter because he is a "stranger," is it not unthinkable that a wholly detached stranger would be entitled to equality in a far more restricted field affecting the entire Hebrew national interest?
The stranger could not even approach the holy tabernacle. I quote Numbers, Chapter 1, verse 51:
51. And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
Not only was the stranger prohibited from taking part in the religious ceremonies of the Biblical Hebrew or receiving any of the blessings, and prohibited from touching the bread of sacrifice or from eating "those things wherewith the atonement was made," or from offering "incense before the Lord," but, to cap the climax, he "that cometh nigh [unto the tabernacle] shall be put to death."
Do not some religious people even today resent the presence of those of a different faith while performing their religious ceremonies? I remember once, at the request of a friend, accompanying him while he attended his religious services. While there, no one could have acted more courteously than I. Yet, many in the congregation not only showed their uneasiness, but on leaving the church were quite vehement in denouncing my presence in their church, and berated the priest for tolerating me there.
Can we boast of any advance over the Choctaw Indians who think it highly irreligious to bury one of their kinsmen among strangers? Do we not even today practice this clannish tribal custom? Do we not have different cemeteries, not only for different races, but even for those of different religious faiths? Orthodox believers are horrified at the thought of being buried in a cemetery other than where "their people" are interred. They are certain they would "turn in their graves" if such a "catastrophe" happened to them.
In primitive society, special sacrifices are made to counteract the evil influences of association with the stranger. In Loas, before a stranger can be accorded hospitality, the master of the house must offer a sacrifice to the ancestral spirit or it would be offended and send disease to the inmates. [*34] Among the Battes of Sumatra, a buffalo is usually killed and the liver offered to the stranger. This is supposed to propitiate the evil spirits.
In the Mentawei Islands, children particularly are supposed to be affected by the appearance of strangers. When one enters the house where there are children, the father takes something the children are wearing and gives it to the stranger. This is to protect the children from the evil effect the stranger might have on them. When a Dutch steamship was approaching their villages, the people of Biak, an island off the north coast of New Guinea, shook and knocked their idols about in order to ward off ill luck. North American Indians believe that strangers, particularly white strangers, are ofttimes accompanied by evil spirits.
The people of Nias carefully scrub and scour the weapons and clothes which they buy in order to efface all connection between the things and the persons from whom they bought them. There is a survival of this stranger taboo even today, particularly among women. After a visit to a person of a different race or religion, some women will shake off the "contaminating" effects of the contact. This is done even after casual meetings because of the archaic belief that contact with the person has been contaminating in some way or other.
In Australia, when a stranger tribe has been invited into a district, the strangers carry lighted bark or burning sticks in their hands as they approach the encampment of the tribe which owns the land to clear and purify the air.
When the Toradjas of Central Celebes are on a head-hunting expedition and have entered the enemy's country, they may not eat any fruits that the foe has planted, nor any animal that he has reared, until they have first committed an act of hostility, such as burning a house or killing a man. They think that if they break this taboo, something of the soul or spiritual essence of the enemy will enter into them and destroy the mystic virtue of their talisman. [*35]
The Bechuanas cleanse or purify themselves after journeys by shaving their heads lest they should have contracted some evil by witchcraft or sorcery from strangers. In some parts of western Africa, when a man returns home after a long absence, he must wash his person with a particular fluid before he is allowed to visit his wife, in order to counteract the evil influence that a strange woman may have cast on him during his absence.
In some primitive communities, when a stranger has entered a hut or dwelling, it is immediately abandoned as having been desecrated. [*36] How far removed is the orthodox Hebrew of today who will break the dish out of which a non-Jew has eaten, or the bigoted Christian who does not even tolerate a Jew to enter his home -- while at the same time worshiping a Jew as the Son of God!
Such was the moral code of the Children of Israel in differentiating their conduct between "neighbors" and "strangers"; it was also their religion. That is why, like other primitive and uncultured peoples, they practiced the utmost fidelity in their intratribal relationships, while any consideration of honesty or equality to those outside the clan was condemned as an affront and an offense to their Deity. They practiced with fanatical jealousy these primitive, clannish tribal codes of conduct, and observed these taboos with fanatical zeal to show their devotion to the Biblical Deity for having made them his "Chosen People." There was not the slightest question of either morals or ethics involved in the observance of this Commandment. It was accepted by the Children of Israel solely as a religious taboo to be blindly followed as an edict of their God -- for the solidarity of the tribe.
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