[My reaction to the readings for April 1-3 of the One Year Bible]
1 If a man is accused of taking the life of another man, he is not required to testify against himself. 2 Those investigating the accusation must tell him of this right; if they do not, and he confesses, his confession cannot be used at his trial. 3 However, if he testifies as his trial, this confession can be used to challenge his testimony. 4 If the investigators torture the man and he confesses, his confession cannot be used for anything.
5 A man is not guilty of murder unless a jury finds no reasonable doubt of his guilt. 6 Even if he is found not guilty of murder, the family of the victim may go before a judge and jury and demand that he pay them what the life of the deceased is worth. 7 If it is found that it is more likely than not that the man killed the deceased, he shall pay an amount set by the jury and reviewed by the judges. 8 If the jury has found a man not guilty after he was in jeopardy of losing his life or liberty, he can never be convicted, even if he publicly confesses to the murder.
9 This is the Law of the United States.
It’s been a long time since I took the bar, and I don’t practice criminal law, but I think this is right. Compare the specificity and need for cultural context in the above with these passages from Deuteronomy on negligent homicide; murder; standard of proof; unsolved murder. What this all means to me is that the Hebrews had a very complex legal system. In many ways more harsh than our system, for instance the death penalty is available for everything from murder to speaking out against your parents, but in some ways more lenient, I suspect the conviction rate for criminal offenses would drop radically if prosecutors had to produce two or three witnesses for crimes. Perhaps the best example from today of the difference in law is this family law passage:
5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.
7 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.
From this we can see . . . uh, no, I won’t even try.