Christian teens ask some tough questions. That’s why we started this series more than two years ago. If you are a Christian teen or the parent or teacher of Christian teens, we invite you to send questions to us.

Here is our next tough question.

Odd laws concerning adultery, rape, and marrying captives (Deuteronomy 21:13-14 and 22:28-29):

There seems to be no admonishment to take into consideration a captive woman’s wishes when deciding to marry her; also, this seems to be an instance when divorce without reason is perfectly legal. Is this correct?

As for adultery and rape, I could not tell which the later passage was referring to. It being the Bible I would like to assume it means adultery (mutual consent) but without knowing any Hebrew I cannot tell for sure. Regardless it seems to be saying that adultery with an unengaged woman has no severe punishment, whereas gathering sticks on the Sabbath day is punishable by death (Numbers 15:32-35). Is this correct? If so, how is it Just?

Great questions!

It’s good for us to look at the Law of God in light of historical perspective from thousands of years ago.

God gave Noah and his family specific laws concerning how to live in the new world that would emerge after the global Flood.

“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.’ Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: ‘And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And God said: ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ And God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:6-17

Prior to the Flood we see the total disregard of people for other people. They lived for hundreds of years and their wickedness led God to destroy most people and animals with water. Every intent of the thoughts of their hearts were “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The earth was “corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11-12). God looked upon the earth and saw that all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth … “for the earth is filled with violence through them.” (v 13)

Things changed dramatically after the Flood. Noah and his wife and their three sons and wives were the only people left alive on earth. When they departed the Ark and stood on dry ground for the first time after the Flood waters receded, Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings to God (Genesis 8:20).

Bringing offerings to God began soon after Adam and Eve sinned against God. The word ‘offering’ (minchah) means ‘a gift, tribute, offering’ and is also translated ‘sacrifice.’

“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

Genesis 4:3-5

Cain’s jealousy and anger led him to murder his brother. His mother, Eve, had another son and named him Seth. Eve, who was awaiting God’s promise of a Seed who would destroy Satan, believed that God had given her Seth as the promised seed. Seth had a son, Enosh, and the Bible says – “Then men began to call on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26).

The Hebrew word for ‘call’ is qara and means ‘call, proclaim.’ The worship of God began again through the family of Seth and Enosh. Noah was from that lineage and knew about making offerings and calling (proclaiming) on the name of the Lord.

The Apostle Peter wrote this about Noah – “… and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).

Noah continued what began with his ancestors Seth and Enosh. He ‘proclaimed’ righteousness. Noah did that as he built the Ark with his sons. We are told at the end of Genesis 5 that Noah was 500 years old when he and his wife began having sons. We are told in Genesis 7 that in “the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11).

We don’t know exactly how long it took for Noah and his sons to build the Ark, but it would certainly have taken many years .. possibly decades. During that time Noah’s neighbors would have certainly noticed what he and his sons were doing. The neighbors, like everyone else on earth at the time, were living their lives as if God did not exist or did not matter. Every intent of the thoughts of their hearts “was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). What did Noah do? He ‘proclaimed’ righteousness. He called on his neighbors to repent and do right according to what they knew to be right in God’s eyes. They all refused and died in the Flood.

After the Flood God was pleased with Noah’s offering and said He would “never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done” (Genesis 8:21). God knew that even with the amazing demonstration of His power, people would continue sinning because their hearts were evil from their youth. That’s when God commanded Noah and his family about violent behavior in the future.

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

Genesis 9:6

Murder had been a problem for hundreds of years. Cain killed Abel and one of Cain’s descendants, Enoch, killed a man for wounding him. Enoch said – “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:24).

Murder was always wrong as we saw in how God responded to Cain when he was angry with his brother Abel –

“So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Genesis 4:6-7

God identified anger and what it would lead to (murder) as sin. Murder was always wrong, but God added a consequence for it after the Flood. Murder became against God’s Law even as He reminded people about the high value of every human life.

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

Genesis 9:6

God gave the judicial ‘death penalty’ to humans. Who would make the decision about that? Other humans, but who would those people be who could decide who lived and who died?

We see evidence of how the commandments of God to Noah impacted the ancient world in some of the legal codes that have been discovered by archaeologists:

  • The Code of Urukagina – 24th century BC
  • The Code of Ur-Nammu – 22nd century BC (Abraham grew up in Ur during the 21st or 20th centuries BC and would have been familiar with the Code of Ur-Nammu.)
  • Laws of Eshnunna – 20th century BC
  • Code of Lipit-Istar – 19th century BC
  • Code of Hammurabi – 18th century BC
  • Hittite Laws – 17th century BC
  • Law of Moses – 15th century BC

Though the beginning date of legal codes in Egypt has not been established, it appears that criminal and civil cases were being judged as early as the 22nd century BC.

We do not see in the Bible where God gave any other legal commandments to all people following what we read in Genesis 9. We see in Genesis 11 that God confused the language of rebellious humans and scattered the families across the world. However, we don’t read that God gave them any new commandments at that time.

Next Time

It would appear that the only direct commandments God gave humanity between Noah and Abram are those we read in Genesis 9. So, what kind of legal codes did people develop between Noah to Abram? We will look into that next time as our special Tough Questions series continues.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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