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Non-Jews have the freedom to practice their own religions. Moreover, unlike most other religions, Judaism does not actively seek converts. A tradition of free speech existed among the Hebrews. Hebrew prophets openly spoke out against their kings and the people for failing to follow the Torah. During the long history of disputes over the meaning of the Torah, no one was tried for heresy going against religious doctrine. Also, while the majority decided matters of law, the minority had a chance to be heard and their opinions were often recorded. In Judea, the court system had three levels.
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The highest court was the Great Sanhedrin , which had 71 judges. Lesser courts with 23 judges dealt with death penalty cases. Lower courts with three judges handled most civil and criminal matters. Most of these courts stopped functioning after the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. In countries where they were permitted to operate, however, three-judge courts continued to hand out justice in Jewish communities.
History of ancient Israel and Judah
Many parts of the Torah, Talmud, and the codes of law that followed described due process procedures to ensure fair trials. Anyone accused of a crime had the right of bail except in death-penalty cases. Traditional Jewish courts had no trained lawyers arguing cases. The accused could defend himself or ask another to plead for him.
Evidence included documents and the testimony of witnesses. The consistent testimony of two male witnesses to the crime was necessary to convict the accused. The judges closely cross-examined witnesses in the presence of the accused. Circumstantial evidence alone was never enough to find someone guilty. The accused had an absolute right against self-incrimination and was not permitted to make statements harmful to himself. Likewise, confessions were not admissible evidence in court. There was no jury.
The judges deliberated with the accused looking on. The youngest judge spoke his opinion first in order to avoid being influenced by the senior judges. The judges then decided the verdict by majority vote. Methods of execution in the Old Testament included burning, slaying with a sword, and stoning by the people. Because of the strict requirement of due process demanded by Jewish law to convict a murderer, some scholars believe the death penalty was rarely carried out.
Over the centuries, Jewish scholars agonized about the death penalty. The community courts that were allowed to operate in Europe and elsewhere used a variety of punishments to discipline violators of Jewish law. The most common punishment was flogging no more than 39 lashes.
In , the Jewish people regained a homeland when they established the modern state of Israel. Today, this democratic nation is not strictly governed by the old Hebrew laws of the Torah.
Israel has adopted modern procedures and individual rights from English and other Western legal systems. Many of these procedures and rights, however, had been developed from ancient principles of Jewish law. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image.
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You shall not bow down to them or serve them. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honor your father and your mother. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet. This is an abridged text from Exodus — Different versions alter the numbering of the commandments. Today, some people are urging that the Ten Commandments be posted in every public school classroom. This proposal is not new. In , the Kentucky state legislature passed a law requiring it.
The stated purpose of this law was to honor a fundamental legal code of Western Civilization. The law was challenged in court as violating the First Amendment of the U. The challengers argued that the Ten Commandments are held sacred by the Jewish and Christian religions. They pointed out that although some of the commandments concern secular matters such as murder, adultery, and stealing, other commandments relate to religious matters such as worshiping no other god, shunning idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the Sabbath.
They argued that the law was an attempt by the state government to officially favor these religious beliefs. Supporters of the law argued that the stated purpose of the law was not religious. They pointed out that our system of laws are based on these commandments and that it is important for students to learn about them. They argued that the law neither advances nor curbs any religion or religious group. In this activity, the class will discuss whether the Ten Commandments should be posted in public school classrooms. Each student should review the article, the Ten Commandments, and the First Amendment, and then prepare a tentative written position.
Ask half the class members to sit in a circle to share thoughts on the activity question.
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The rest of the class will observe. The teacher may ask the group clarifying questions as the discussion proceeds. After 10 minutes of discussion, ask the other half of the class to sit in the circle to share opinions while the first group observes. After 10 minutes, anyone in the class may offer final thoughts or arguments.
This is unprecedented in World history and shows Israel's willingness to reach peace even at the risk of fighting for its very existence each time anew. Note that with Judea and Samaria Israel is only 40 miles wide. Thus, Israel can be crossed from the Mediterranean coast to the Eastern border at Jordan river within two hours of driving. This drawing by Dr. Semion Natliashvili depicts the modern ingathering of the Jewish People after 2, years of Diaspora.
The center image of the picture shows young and old man attired in prayer shawl and reading from a Torah scroll that has united the Jewish People.