Ethics in the Bible

What is the view of the biblical materials on the role of ethics in the development of history?

In this essay, I will give a general overview of some of the ethical concepts in the stories of creation, the flood, the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, and in the Psalms and Proverbs.

Creation (Genesis (sin, fall, must obey, etc.)

The birth of ethics begins in Genesis. The first command in the Bible where God told man to not do something was: “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Man disobeyed the command, therefore he got the negative sanctions associated with the disobedience of that command – eventual death. The concept of ethics was formed very early on in the creation story, and likely the very “first sin”, was the rebellion of the serpent, which led to the first human sins (Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit.) Thus sin entered the world.

How do we know that the Bible contains ethics? Because it has a concept of right and wrong. How do we know what is right and wrong? Obedience is right and sin is wrong. What is sin? Sin the transgression of the law of God (righteousness). We could not know what sin was, except through the law and through commands like “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

The Flood

When all men but Noah and his family had stopped following Yahweh’s ways, Yah sent a flood to destroy all the evildoers, and saved Noah and his family in a boat. This story follows similar construction as the creation story: Yah allows people to live, yet they disobey, so he brings negative sanctions (death) upon the wicked. This time, however, Yah saves the righteous remaining. The message this sends is that He will not destroy those who obey and follow Him.

After the flood, a disgraceful thing happens in Noah’s family. Ham (one of Noah’s three sons) sees his father’s nakedness. Instead of keeping his mouth shut, he goes and tells his brothers, who go and cover up their father, turning their faces away that they might not see Noah. Noah wakes up and finds out what happens, and becomes very angry, cursing Ham’s son Canaan, and blesses his other two sons.

What can we learn from this? Don’t take or see what is not yours to take or see.

Giving of the Law

The people of Israel had just been freed from slavery and had come out of Egypt. Yahweh gave his Law to Moses, the chief spokesman of the people, to tell the assembly of the Israelites. Because of this, it is often referred to as the “law of Moses”, however Moses didn’t command the law, Yahweh did. Therefore, we may also call it the Law of God.

In giving a Law, Yahweh was giving His people a choice; either to obey or disobey him. He was telling them that in order to be His people, they must obey Him. What were the sanctions for obedience?

“Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God gives you.”

Exodus 20:12

Positive actions (such as honoring your father and mother) warrant positive sanctions.

Moses had gone up to the mountain to receive the Law from Yahweh. But the people, becoming anxious at waiting for Moses for 40 days, decided to worship a golden calf, an idol, instead of obeying Yahweh’s command, “You shall not have any other god before me.” When Yah told Moses what happened, he came down from the mountain to carry out Yah’s punishment.

Moses made them melt down the golden calf, grind it up, and put the gold in water to drink. Then the Levites carried out a massacre and killed about three thousand people. Then, a plague broke out among the people.

So we see that negative actions (disobedience of the law) warrants negative sanctions.

I believe the law is still applicable today, and we know that Yahweh never changes. Therefore, in the development of history, the law has remained a way for us to show others our morality comes from Yah.

Psalms

This book, written by David, contains songs and poems of praise to Yahweh. Themes David stresses are worship, obedience, resolution of inner conflicts, sovereignty of Yahweh, and many more. How does David want to be treated? He wants to be saved from the persecution of his enemies, because he obeys Yah. How does David want his enemies to be treated? He wants them to be destroyed for their unlawful acts.

Again, negative actions means negative sanctions.

ProverbsConsequences of choosing to follow the right path …or choosing not to.

Proverbs is a book written by the wisest created man in the Bible, Solomon. Throughout the entire book, Solomon gives his son advice on wisdom, integrity, obedience, and interacting with people. He uses metaphors and contrived circumstances to emphasize the importance of being moral, wise, and humble. Proverbs 7 and Proverbs 31 compare the wayward woman with the righteous one.

Solomon holds to the principle that if you associate with immoral people, you may be affected, and if you are immoral, you will face negative sanctions such as poverty, shame, and death. But the sanctions of being moral and wise include prosperity, happiness, and long life.

Conclusion

The Bible has TONS to say on ethics. I’ve only scratched the surface. But these five stories/books can teach us that there IS morality, and the Biblical consequences of immorality are hardships, curses, and death. But the consequences of obedience and faith are positive sanctions.

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Ethics and Sanctions in the Proverbs

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Sometimes I feel like a professor. I’ve never written so much on theory, theology, and philosophy! The concepts of ethics and sanctions hardly ever show up in any tenth-grade education, much less a study of Proverbs.

Proverbs 1

Solomon tells his son what wisdom is used for: knowledge, discipline, righteousness, insight, discretion, and obedience. He tells his son not to go about with communistic thieves (is that an oxymoron?) for they bring themselves to ruin. He uses the metaphor of Wisdom as a woman, begging for people to come to her for salvation from poverty and distress.

As we know, ethics has to do with a moral code. In this case, as it is throughout the Proverbs, the moral code is Wisdom (and the Law). The sanctions (consequence) of people refusing to take advantage of the good gift of wisdom, is their imminent destruction.

Proverbs 1:33 “But whoever listens to me [wisdom] dwells safely, and is at ease of dread of evil.”

So the sanctions resulting from the ethical choice of listening to Wisdom is a better life.

Proverbs 2

Solomon tells his son what will happen if he accepts wisdom: He will have knowledge, and will walk in the right ways. If wisdom gives you delight in understanding every good path, then of course you will want to search for it! So seek it like you would for treasure.

The chapter goes on to say that the ‘strange woman’ lurks, and those who fall prey to her fall into death and will be plucked out of the earth, but that the righteous will remain. So DON’T go to the strange woman.

What does it mean to walk in the ‘ways of goodness’, or ‘paths of righteousness’? Yeshua was the Way. He was the Truth, the Life, and, as said in the book of John, the Word. If the Law is the Word of Yah, and the Word is the Way, then the Law is the Way -(the way to life). So, the right path is the law – walk in it, no going back, no turning around.

Proverbs 3

The commands are directly tied to wisdom and positive sanctions, such as long life and full storehouses. Solomon advises his son not to cause trouble when he could do good to others. The theme is what good things wisdom will bring you, and what you will forfeit if you do not get wisdom.

Proverbs 4

Classic parent-to-child-advice – Child, listen to me! The overriding theme here is to not let go of wisdom, because there are negative sanctions for those who are crooked. Guard the wisdom you have – protect it – don’t lose it – don’t compromise.

Proverbs 5

Rules are there for a reason. Even though most of us wouldn’t say we agree with everything our parents believe, their advice is useful and their wisdom valuable. (Unless your parents aren’t very wise!)

But for many of those young people with parents giving them sound wisdom, many choose to disregard it, and the chapter talks about how you will greatly repent if you set off along the crooked path, lamenting that you did not heed your parents’ advice.

The second half of the chapter focuses on staying with the wife of your youth, and staying AWAY from the strange woman. (For me, as a single girl, I choose to implement this principle by being moral and by preparing myself to stay faithful to my husband if I do marry.)

Proverbs 6

This chapter covers a few topics in detail …

1. Do not sign an agreement with or for someone you don’t know well enough to trust, or you may find yourself snared as by a trapper.

2. Work hard, because, if you’re lazy, you will not have any wealth and poverty is close to you.

3. The seven matters which Yahweh hates.

4. Listen to your parents’ teaching, for it will keep you away from the immoral person.

5. And lastly, do not commit adultery. You risk death.

The end of Proverbs 6 prepares us for the important principle in the next chapter …

Proverbs 7 – The immoral woman

In verse 1 through to verse 6, Solomon reiterates the importance of listening to your parents’ teachings, treasuring them and the Torah as close friends.

I know of no other example of what a woman should NOT be that has been so widely quoted as Proverbs 7. Beginning at verse 6, Solomon tells of how he beheld a woman enticing a young man to commit adultery with her. In plain language, she tells of how she has made her sacrifices and her husband is gone. She has dressed herself alluringly, has hung her bedroom with all kind of frippery, all for that simple youth, who follows her blindly like a lamb to the slaughter.

One who follows the adulteress will be ensnared. You will never be the same again. It is sin and Yah hates it, and it will bring you to destruction. (I’m looking at you too, ladies. Don’t be an adulteress or fall prey to the world.)

In Conclusion …

 I think chapters one to seven in the book of proverbs can be summarized in a few important points:

  • Do not walk in the paths of the immoral man/woman/girl/boy/person.
  • Work hard and learn lots!
  • Do not forget the Law! Keep it close to you always.
  • Listen to your parents. They have useful knowledge and teaching.
  • Seek wisdom (from your parents, family, older friends, older men, older women, anyone who has wisdom!)
  • Follow this blog (Just kidding!)

Thanks for reading!

~Makayla

Historical sanctions in the Psalms

The Psalms is one of the largest books in the Bible (At least, it has the most chapters!) It can be the most wonderful book to read or the most tedious book to read, depending on how you look at it. However, it is the opinion of Gary North that everyone should read all the Psalms at least once in their lifetime, and I wholeheartedly agree. One of my favorite parts about reading the Psalms is recognizing lyrics to modern Christian songs!

I saw the main themes in the psalms quite accurately illustrated in a meme once 😉

But all kidding aside, there is an overwhelmingly large variation of themes in the Psalms. The Proverbs are pretty straightforward – the wise, the glutton, the fool, and the righteous. But when it comes to David, we get the picture. The WHOLE picture.

– Judgement upon the wrong

– Salvation for the righteous

– God’s decision to keep his covenants

– How wonderful and perfect God’s law is

– How amazing God’s creation is

– How supernatural God’s works are

– How God is capable of anything

But there are some main themes that come into every single psalm, namely: The desire for right and the presence of God being sovereign.

1. God – Sovereignty
2. Man – Authority
3. Law – Command
4. Causation – Sanction
5. Time – Inheritance

To bring up Mr. North’s model again, we will be focusing on Sanctions.

In many of the psalms, David praises God’s law and puts a positive emphasis on the righteous and on righteous acts. At the same time, he will often tear the reputation of the evildoers to pieces, beg God for their destruction and shame, and praise God when his enemies are dead. (I’m glad I wasn’t David’s enemy!) This shows us (although we could find plenty of examples elsewhere) that David had a heart that really sought after righteousness, and was grieved to see lawlessness.

The main kind of sanctions in the Psalms were that the sanctions of the righteous were prosperity, health, etc, whereas the wrongdoers got exactly the opposite. The inheritance of the righteous was God himself and long life, but the inheritance of the wrong was (and is) death.

It is important that no civilization have anarchy, otherwise it isn’t a civilization. So if there’s a law to be followed, (a) it must be followed, and (b) the people who don’t follow it must be punished, so other people don’t see the “no consequences” rule and also try to get away with it.

Obviously David wasn’t trying to write a self-help book to say, “Hey there Israelites, listen up! Sing all the time, cry your bed into an ocean when you’re sad, and float clear up into the sky when you’re happy!” He was writing songs and poems TO Yahweh to illustrate his feelings and values, and we can learn from these. And the most important thing to learn is (1) David loved and obeyed the law of God. We should do the same.

The second thing to understand is (2) Everybody gets what they deserve … but for those who repent, the consequence of death eternal is taken away, and we have a chance to be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. This is the importance of historical sanctions in the Psalms.

Thanks for reading!

~Makayla