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If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city. (Deuteronomy 21:18-19)

This instruction is one people often cite when trying to discredit the value of the Torah because of its prescription for dealing with a rebellious son. They focus on the death that results from this process rather than observing the obvious point of it all — if rebellion results in death, shouldn’t we be provoked to be obedient and find life? Then there is this: who among us has not been that “rebellious son” and thus worthy of death? In that vein of thought, Scripture strongly suggests that Israel is the “rebellious son” which is the point Moses was making.

Actually, He addressed the nation in this very manner: “You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Deuteronomy 9:24). Referring to that same generation, the Psalmist said it was, “a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Psalm 78:8) Notice that the same wording – “Stubborn and rebellious” — is used here as in the verse from Deuteronomy. Just as the son in the text disregards his parent’s authority, Israel failed to heed God’s instruction and grew to be a nation with no self-restraint and no fear of their Maker. God was warning them that the result of such insolence would be death.

According to Jewish commentators, there is no history of this command ever being carried out, still, there are those who will point to this as evidence that God is cruel and harsh. Though we tend to focus on the severity of the consequence, perhaps we should consider the positive elements of this command, that is, the benefits of obedience. As Solomon said, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you” (Proverbs 3:1-2). We have all been the rebellious son, but because of The Son, we have been given an opportunity to be reconciled to our Father in Heaven; let us never take that for granted.

Blessings and Shalom,  




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