V. Constitutional Law For The World
Genesis 9:5-9 is constitutional law for the world. Given at the fountainhead through Noah, it binds all civil governments great and small. Constitutional law does not usually prescribe procedure: it states the law in principle, and the procedure for its enforcement is left to the lesser powers, whose duty it is to carry out the law. Thus when God issued His divine decree—"And surely your blood of your lives will I require. . . at the hands of every man; at the hands of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God created he man" —he was stating a principle, but not prescribing how it should be executed.
He took matters into his own hands with the murderers who lived before the flood. He destroyed them with a flood of water. This was the greatest execution of murderers this world has ever witnessed, even much greater than the one now being witnessed, as the sword of God closes in on the murderers from Germany and Japan, who started their wild career of mass murder in this war. The only hint we get from this constitutional law is that its decree shall be executed by man himself, and not by some direct act of God, like the flood. "By man shall his blood be shed." Man is made responsible for executing the law, under procedure he himself must work out.
In the beginning the procedure was very simple, and of a most direct kind. Some friend of the slain man, his next of kin, in most cases, would simply slay the murderer, and that would end it. For many centuries the procedure was very crude and imperfect, but as civilization grew, and men and nations multiplied in the world, each nation worked out a procedure of its own, and not all of them could be perfect, if any of them were.
Constitutional law is basic in nature, and laws of procedure must be in harmony with it. Our national constitution is the basic law of all of our many states which operate under it. Whatever laws they enact must be in harmony with it, or they will be voided, and cast out. We have a supreme court which sits between our constitution and the statutory laws of procedure passed by the states, and it judges between them. Any law passed by a state is subject to review by this court, and the decisions of this court are final.
But in the case of this constitutional law for the world, the great lawgiver Himself occupies the position of Supreme Judge, and He alone is competent to pass upon the laws of nations enacted to carry out this divine decree. Each nation has worked out its own procedure, they are given that right in the words, "by man shall his blood be shed." But their procedure must be in harmony with the constitutional law, and accomplish that, and only that, which the constitution authorized—the execution of murderers.
In the Bible we have many accounts of the procedure of various nations with respect to this law on killing, or taking human life; both of that which is unlawful—murder; and that which is lawful—the execution of murderers. We also have accounts of how God viewed this procedure in various cases, either to approve, or disapprove, the acts of men and nations. These may be considered as decision from the Supreme Court on procedure. What God approved in one nation we can be sure He would approve in another nation, under the same conditions, or as a court would say, under the same set of facts.
Let us take the case of Abraham in slaughter of the kings as an example. It seems very certain that Abraham was operating solely on the authority of the divine decree which came to him through Noah. If he had any further authority from God the Bible is silent as the grave on it, but what more authority would he need? Four kings had come down with their armies and made aggressive war upon the five kings in the cities of the plain, murdered many of their citizens, and carried away their goods, and their people as captives. Among these were Lot who was Abraham's kinsman, and three of his allies with whom he had confederacy, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, and some of these escaped and told Abraham about it.
Now, please observe that those wicked kings had not bothered Abraham, nor any of his property, and had made no personal attack upon him, as the Japanese did upon us at Pearl Harbor. But they had committed murder according to the decree of God given through Noah, and Abraham considered it his duty to intervene, to execute the sentence of God upon them. They had captured Lot, his nephew, and had carried him away captive, and they had attacked the people of Abraham's allies, as well as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and committed murder in war.
Therefore, Abraham armed his servants, and some of the young men of his three allies, and pursued these kings, overtook them, and slaughtered them in war, and brought back the captives and the booty. What right had Abraham to intervene in this war which did not involve him personally? Many would say he had none, it was not his war. But what did God think about Abraham's war on these murderers? We are fortunate in this case in that we have a decision from the Supreme Judge of all the world on this very case, and it is one we cannot misunderstand. Melchizedec priest of the most high God, rendered God's decision. He met Abraham on his return from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him in the name of God and said, "Blessed be the most high God who hath given thine enemies into thy hands." How were they Abraham's enemies since they had not molested him? They were Abraham's enemies because they were enemies of God, and Abraham was called the friend of God. Any nation which raises the sword in aggressive war is God's enemy, and the enemy of any nation who is a friend to God, and who wants peace and order on the earth.
In the law of Moses we have a most complete set of decisions from God, Himself, regarding the procedure of nations in the execution of his constitutional law which requires blood for blood. The procedure which God prescribed for Israel is right because God prescribed it, and God is always right.
Israel, while a chosen people of the Lord for certain specific and high ends, was a civil government in the same sense that other nations were. Her laws were statutory laws, like the laws of our various states, and while they were different in many respects to the laws of any other nation, they corresponded to God's constitutional law, which required blood for blood. While they were meant for no other nation except Israel, they do serve as examples to all nations in the things God enacted along the lines of moral law.
For the ordinary murderer we find an avenger of blood who as the next of kin, was allowed to slay the murderer at once. This was a law peculiar to Israel. There was always the possibility that the next of kin of a slain man would be prejudiced against the slayer, and would slay many who were not really guilty of murder out of anger and in the heat of passion. These laws recognized that not all slayers of men were murderers, and the accused was entitled to have his cause heard by the people, and judgment rendered thereon. To protect the slayer from the avenger of blood cities of refuge were appointed, three on each side of the Jordan, and the man could flee to any one of these cities and gain protection until his cause could be heard by the judges to find whether he really was a murderer. If he was judged guilty of murder after a fair hearing of his cause he was then delivered up to the avenger and executed. This was statutory procedure enacted by the Lord, Himself, for one nation. Some other nations may have had a similar procedure in some respects, or one entirely different in all essential respects, but if it reached the same results, and only the guilty were punished, it was constitutional, and satisfied the law of God requiring blood for blood.
In the matter of war Israel can also be taken as examples for other nations under the divine decree of God. God certainly authorized wars among them for the purpose of vengeance in the name of the Lord. Their enemies were counted God's enemies, God's enemies were counted their enemies, and God commanded them to wage war on them; in some cases to exterminate them, man, woman, and child. There were cases where this was necessary to meet the ends of justice, or we know the Lord would not have required it. King Saul was sent by the Lord to slay Amalek man, woman, child, and beast, but Saul did see it that way. He saved King Agag alive, and the fattest of the cattle, and God rent the kingdom from him for his sin. Samuel told him why the Lord was angry with him and rent the kingdom from him, and he took a sword and slew King Agag before Saul's eyes, and told him that to obey is better than sacrifice. Samuel said to King Agag had made mothers childless, and that now his mother must be made childless.
This will answer those who argue that all war is sinful because the innocent are made to suffer with the guilty. They say that we cannot punish the guilty in war without causing innocent women and children to suffer; it is much better, they argue, to let the guilty escape. The answer is that aggressive war is evil and God gave man a sword to put it down, and punish the aggressors with death, and he did it, though many innocent people had to suffer. Are they better than God, or will they place their puny wisdom above the wisdom of God? If there was never another murder, there would never be another avenger of blood. If Amalek had not lain in wait for the children of Israel and attacked them, God would never have sent King Saul to wage war on them, and there would have been no war on Amalek.
The avenger of blood who executes the wrath of God upon evildoers is a minister of justice, not a minister of evil. It is not evil to do what God commands, but it is evil when man refuses to do it. Therefore it is evil to refuse to bear the sword God ordained, and any excuse we render for refusing is no better than the one Saul gave. It is better to obey than to make excuses.
What did the four kings do to the cities of the plain that Germany and Japan have not done in their war of aggression? What have the United Nations done that Abraham and his allies did not do? They were God's enemies and Abraham went out and slaughtered them under God's divine decree. If Germany and Japan are not God's enemies, what would they have to do to become his enemies? If they are God's enemies, and our enemies, how can we be God's enemies in fighting against them?
If Abraham's servants had pled their conscience, and refused the sword, and refused to fight, Abraham's mission would have failed. God's enemies would have escaped with their plunder, and their captives, and would soon have been out seeking other people to attack, Abraham the next time, or some other nation they could have overcome and plundered. If our citizens had refused the sword we never could have met the murderous attack of Japan, and our own women and children would have been slaughtered.
Some nations did foolishly refuse to arm, and resist the murderers of Germany and Japan, and where are they now? Bad as conditions are in those countries, how much worse would they have been if all other nations had been as foolish as they were, and refused to fight? Hitler and his allies would have destroyed what we have left of civilization, just as they did in the countries they overcame, and they would have reduced the world to barbarism and slavery.
If such men are not God's enemies, I want some wise man to tell me what a nation would have to do to become God's enemy. If they are God's enemies, then why should we not go out and slaughter them as Abraham did? God gave man a sword to execute wrath upon just such criminals, and commanded them to use it for that purpose, and those who refuse to do it cannot plead they are God's friends. God's friends are those who do what He commands, and their pleas of a weak conscience will please God no better than the excuse of old King Saul. He saved the cattle alive to offer a mighty sacrifice to God. It was an excuse to justify himself for not doing what God commanded. But excuses do not go far with God. He knows why He wants things done, and why they are good, and man's part is to obey just like Abraham did, and leave the consequences with God. The man who always does this will be blessed as Abraham was.
VI. The Oldest Law In The History Of Man
Gen 9:5-9 "And surely the blood of your life will I require at the hand of man, and at the hand of every man's brother, will I require it. Whoso shall shed man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man. And behold I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you." This was the first law given to man after the flood, hence it is the oldest law, in the new world, short in the use of words, but tremendous in meaning.
It is a covenant law, as near a unilateral covenant as any the Lord ever made with man. It was delivered to Noah but it was for the entire human race, and for all time to come. "With you, and with your seed after you," makes it a covenant meant to continue as long as Noah had seed in the world. Read the entire chapter in Genesis and see if you can find one thing mentioned that would ever be changed while man lives upon the earth.
There was a special reason back of the law which requires blood for blood. The world that ended with the flood was one filled with violence, and perpetual war, and bloodshed. Noah had lived five hundred years of his life in such a world, and his sons had grown to manhood, and married their wives, in such a world, and of course they had' witnessed these unending wars. God wanted to prevent such violence from again corrupting the world, and this law was given as a preventative against the possibility. It was a law to prevent murder; therefore a law to prevent war to the extent that they could be prevented. But strange as it may seem it was a law which authorized war, gave it divine sanction, and even required it at the hands of man, for the one specific purpose.
Does it seem strange to you that God would authorize war, while at the same time he condemns war; that he would authorize killing, in the same law in which He condemns killing? But this was God's way of dealing with this most tremendous problem that ever faced the human race —how to prevent wasting; corrupting war, among the new race which he meant to create from Noah's family, God knew men would commit murder, they had done -so ever since Cain slew his brother Abel.
He knew nations would seek causes for war, manufacture them, as Germany did in this war, and their brothers in arms, the Japanese. They had no divine right to do this; and it was wrong and immoral in nature. It would have been wrong if no law against killing had ever been issued. Moral laws are all that way. God enacted them because they were right within themselves, and such laws serve only as reminders to man. It is wrong to steal, lie, commit adultery, murder, and such like, and it was wrong before any law was given forbidding such crimes, and it will always be wrong to commit them.
Positive law is different, positive law is only right because the thing was commanded. Circumcision, animal sacrifices, burning incense, keeping the seventh-day sabbath—they were right only because God commanded them. Baptism, the Lord's supper, and such like, are positive laws of this dispensation. It is right for men to do these things now because they are commanded, but the Jews under the Old Covenant had no such laws, therefore it was not wrong when they failed to do them. But it would be wrong if we failed to do them, it would be sin.
This universal law against killing, which prohibits aggressive war, is a moral law. Therefore it is right, always was right, and always will be right. That it was wrong for the antediluvian people to wage these wars is proved by the fact that God destroyed them from the face of the earth. What measures God took to prevent such violence before the flood we do not know, but we do know what measures he took to prevent it in the new world, he has told us. I want to briefly analyze this law in its different aspects, and find what it means to us.
"Whoso sheddeth mans blood." This is unlawful, felonious killing. This is the kind God forbids, and for the commission of which he pronounced the death sentence, direct from heaven. Whoso sheddeth mans blood," includes murder of all kinds, private murder, in the still and darkness of night; murder, committed in anger; murder on the wholesale, on the field of battle. It forbids all murder, but not all killing, or taking of life. Not all killing is murder, under the laws of God and the laws of men. Killing may be accidental, or it may be in self-defense, in which cases they would not be murder, and God's penalty would not apply.
"By man shall his blood be shed." This is the penalty of the law, fixed by God, Himself, against murderers. This is authorized killing, and God has decreed that man him self must execute the penalty. This killing is not murder because it is not done in malice, nor in anger, but as a matter of justice it is inflicted in the name of the Lord, and by His authority. This does not mean that every man must appoint himself the Lord's executioner, constitute himself judge and jury, try and condemn the guilty, and then proceed to execute him. The murderer must first be apprehended, then he must be heard in his defense, his guilt established by legal and competent testimony, and sentence pronounced in a legal way.
This implies government, and legal procedure. Therefore, the Lord gave the law to the heads of government, to Noah and his sons, and to their successors in government, and to their seed after them; but not to man as an individual. Civil government, and orderly, lawful procedure, is implied all the way through. This is implied also when the Lord added to the law, "For in the image of God was he created," This points to the dignity which man possesses over other created things, the dominion which God gave him over them. The word dominion "means" sovereignty, reigning power, rule, and man was given this dominion because he is in the image of God.
It took a universal flood of water to put an end to the violence and perpetual war of the old world, and God did not want that to happen again. He told Noah, and covenanted with him, that it should not happen again. But what means did the Lord supply that would prevent the world from becoming as violent as the old world was? He provided this law which created a sword on the side of right and justice, and gave it authority to execute men who raised the sword in murder. This sword of the Lord will counter the sword of Satan which is always raised in murder, and prevent it from again corrupting the whole of mankind as it once did.
This law of God specifically authorizes the execution of murderers, and war against aggressors in any and all nations. This law has never been changed, and it has never been repealed, if you say it has been repealed point me to the passage in God's word which repealed it. It is a moral law, and moral law is eternal, and cannot change without changing the moral principle upon which it rests.
In addition to arguments heretofore advanced I want to add some thoughts on the same lines from that prince of scholars and thinkers, Alexander Campbell. From the same address from which I formerly quoted we have the following:
"It is important, however, to reiterate that God gave to Noah, and through him to his sons, and their successors in government, a divine right to take away in civil justice the life of a murdererAnd for this cause God gave to man, or the whole human race in Noah's family, to exact blood for blood from him who deliberately, and maliciously takes away the life of his fellow. Had not this been first ordained, no war, without a special divine commission, could be sanctioned as lawful and right. Hence we say that war was first allowed against those who had first waged war against his fellows, and were consequently viewed by God as murderers. The first and second wars in the annals of the world were begun by the enemies of God and His people, and reprisals made by Abraham and Moses are said to have been occasioned by the enemies of God and His people.
"But what is most important, and opposite to the occasion, is that these wars waged by God's people were typical in nature, and were waged under a special divine commission. Therefore they were right. For a divine precept authorizing a thing to be done makes it right, absolutely, and forever. The Judge of all the earth can only do that, or authorize that to be done, which is right."
Thus we trace civil government back to Noah and his sons, and their successors in government, and find this oldest law in the world delivered to mankind at the fountain head of civil government in the world. This makes it universal because the decree was passed on by Noah to all succeeding heads of government as soon as they came into being.
This sword was given by the Lord to prevent murder, and prevent war, and it has universally had that effect. Do you want to argue, as some have, that if this was its purpose it has miserably failed? How do you know it has failed? How can you know what the world would have been without this law? No law is ever one hundred per cent perfect in preventing crime. We have laws against crimes of every kind on our statute books, but the crimes still persist. Shall we repeal these laws because men still commit the crimes, or refuse to enforce them? This would not cure the crimes, it would increase them a hundred fold.
If there has been failure it is not God that is responsible, nor the law which he gave. Man is responsible, for man was made responsible for the enforcement of the law. "By man shall his blood be shed"—this places the responsibility on man to enforce the law. We have always had wars, and we are having the most bloody war in history right now, but I claim that God's law has not failed. It has done, and is doing, what God ordained for it, shedding the blood of murderers, and driving the criminals into hiding so the world can again have peace. We are rapidly bringing to an end the reign of terror and blood God's enemies inaugurated, and we are doing it under the law He gave, and with the sword He ordained.
Who can say what this world would have been without the sword God ordained against murderers? What would the world be on tomorrow if we refused to use the sword God has given us? Some otherwise good preachers have argued with me that we could end this war right now by just refusing to fight with our country's enemies. That is all, they say, that we need to end it. Just lay down the sword and quit fighting against them, and the war is over! Some people are to be pitied. They think the way to prevent murder is to refuse to punish murderers. Turn the other cheek, they quote, or rather misquote and misapply. We are doing with our sword the very thing God ordained when he gave it to us, and they say we are sinning. We are doing what God commanded, but we will be damned for it. Germany and Japan are doing what God condemned, but we must not punish them for it. No, they say, leave them alone, and God will punish them some day, if he wants them punished.
This law authorized man to execute murderers, and nations who raise the sword against their fellows are murderers, said Mr. Campbell. Had not this been true, he said, no war without a special divine commission could be sanctioned as lawful and right. Since it is true, as Campbell himself, affirms then those who wage war against their fellows have the sanction of heaven, and it is lawful and right.
Answering the question, What then says the Bible about war? he continues, "God certainly authorized, and commanded, wars among the Jews. God had given to man ever since the flood the right to take away in civil justice the life of man for one specific purpose. Hence murderers every since the flood were put to death by express divine authority, He that sheds man blood, by man shall his blood be shed'. He gave authority however to one family, or nation, whose God and King he assumed to be. As soon as that family developed into a nation he placed it under His own special direction and authority. Its government has been called a theocracy, and that of the most absolute type, for certain high ends and purposes in the destinies of mankind—temporal, spiritual, and eternal."
There is a seeming discrepancy in some parts of this statement, and between it and the quotation formerly given. However, I do not think Mr. Campbell meant to contradict himself, or that he did when rightly understood. He had already told us God gave this divine decree to Noah right after the flood, and through him to his sons and successors in government, and murderers had been executed under it ever since the flood. Then he cannot mean to say in this quotation that it was given only to the family of Abraham who lived hundreds of years after the flood, and not then until four hundred years later they became a nation.
What he must mean to say is that it was given no nation, individually, except the nation of Israel, and in this he would be correct. The other nations all had it through Noah, their great fountain head, for as God told Noah, it was a covenant with him, and his seed after him, which made it perpetual. Israel would have it in the same way, but by special legislation God reenacted it with them, in the law which from Mount Sinai was handed down to them. The same law was given to Israel in the law of Moses, but considerably enlarged, and not only murderers were to be executed, but men guilty of a number of other crimes.
But this was special legislation and did not apply to the other nations of the earth, therefore did not affect them. Israel was made a special nation, as Mr. Campbell said, for certain high ends and purposes in the destinies of mankind—temporal, spiritual, and eternal. But that God's special covenant with Israel repealed God's laws, which he covenanted to Noah and his seed, or in any manner affected God's relationship with other nations I emphatically deny. The high ends and purposes in the destinies of mankind for which Israel was made a special people unto the Lord had to do with giving us our Bible, and providing the world with a redeemer who was to be of the seed of Abraham.
The civil laws of Israel at the beginning was under a more direct supervision of the Lord than those of any other nation. But even with this conceded we know that God left the execution of them in the hands of men, and held them responsible for their execution. Israel had civil government from the wandering days in the wilderness, they had civil courts, with judges in every city, and most of the time a supreme judge over the whole nation.
Abraham must have thought that he had divine authority to wage war against the kings whom he pursued and slaughtered. Melchizedec, who was a priest of the most high God, must have concurred, for he pronounced God's blessing upon him, and so far as the record shows no subsequent authority had been given him in addition to that which came to him through Noah. He needed no other authority, God had pronounced it right, and decreed that it should be done. Those kings had raised the sword against their fellows, and as Campbell says, God counted them as murderers, and because they had made war on Lot, Abraham's nephew, and three of Abraham's allies, he made it his war, and slaughtered them, and recovered the captives.
This law of God which placed the sword in the hands of civil government, and the execution of civil laws, in the hands of man has never been repealed. It is as much God's law for mankind, and God's method of enforcing it, as it was the day it was delivered to Noah. "By man shall his blood be shed" makes man responsible for executing the law, this places this sword in mans hands, and consequently in the hands of civil government. God did not take it out of man's hands when He gave the law to Israel, not out of the hands of civil government, but enacted civil laws for them by which it could be enforced.
Jesus recognized that this was true, and reaffirmed the same law in words which means exactly the same that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Compare this with Whoso shall shed man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," and you will see that the thought is the same. And please bear in mind that God did not ordain one murder to offset the other; neither did Jesus mean that. But as Alexander Campbell has so ably set forth, God was issuing a divine decree which authorized the legal execution of murderers at the hands of man himself.
Jesus further recognized that the sword belonged to civil government when he said that his disciples would have fought for him if his kingdom had been of this world. In all of his teaching on the subject, he never once indicated that the civil government did not have the sword by recognized divine right. This emphatically implies that on it rested the authority of God to execute civil law. His own submission to trial in Pilate's court settles that point forever, and especially since, he submitted to death on a sentence issued by civil government.
Paul placed the sword in civil government in Romans thirteen and said they are God's ministers to execute wrath upon evildoers. That is where God placed it when He issued His divine decree through Noah right after the flood. "By man shall his blood be shed." Paul must have had this specific law in mind when he said that they are God's ministers to execute wrath upon evildoers. He could not have referred to the law of Moses, it had been nailed to the cross and taken out of the way. And he could not have had in mind the laws which Jesus gave for the sword so far as it was concerned, and ordained a different kind of sword for it. The gospel left Caesar's sword right where he found it, in civil government, executing wrath upon evildoers, and keeping peace in the world for the good of the righteous. If his mission in the world was to put an end to God's ordained arrangement in this respect, the Bible is silent about it, and offered nothing that could take its place. He never once hinted that the church could, or that he ever expected that it would.
Paul affirms that God ordained civil government, and ordained the sword which it bears, and he said they do not bear it in vain. Paul appealed to it more than once, personally, and his appeal was not in vain. Some argue that the law is in vain because we still have wars, but that is only man's wisdom, and a wisdom of men who speak from very little information. How can they know what wars we would have had if this law of God had never been given? How can they know that murder would not increase over night if the laws of civil government against murder were all repealed? How can they know how many would-be murderers are lurking in dark places, longing to strike, but held back from their foul deeds from fear of the law? Who among us would be so foolish as to advise that all laws against murder be repealed?
If the sword God ordained had failed in its purpose, Paul did not seem to know it, he could see the good it was doing, and the good it had done. It has often been misused, I admit, but man and the devil are responsible for that. Man can misuse it, and the devil is always tempting him to do it, as he did Germany and Japan in this war, but in spite of weak man and the devil, it has made a better world for man to live in, and the end is not yet. What God ordained, and commanded, will work good for the human race, and man and the devil cannot prevent it. Without it the world could not have continued.