Monday, December 24, 2012

Herem (mid-term exam for YBI)

 This is a very short essay I wrote as one of my YBI (Youth Bible Institute) mid-term exams. It is far from comprehensive, but it met criteria. I love the Hebrew language, so I thought I'd share on of the Bible's thematic words here on my blog. I hope you like. :)
 Herem is a Hebrew word usually related to purifying and devoting an object or a race. Usually viewed as tyrannical, cruel, and eugenical, I will defend it in its time as a proper and necessary act for the Israelites, knowing that God is perfect and sovereign. This concept actually has use for the Christian today, as will be explained.
 Herem is mostly seen in action in the book of Joshua and Judges, as the Israelites are reclaiming the Promised Land of Canaan, and driving out/destroying the pagan inhabitants along with their culture, religion, and goods.  As stated by God Himself to Moses, and in several other books of the Bible, He is a “jealous God,” and his covenant with his people should be pure and singular *1.  God is a completely blemish-less and pure God, and cannot be tainted, so any relationship must be the same. Even though the Israelites were not a perfect people, He wished to call them out and separate them from worldly evils, and point them to the promised Lamb who would save them from the evil in their own hearts.
 God commanded the Israelites to practice herem on the inhabitants of their new home for two reasons,

1.      To keep the Israelites from the distractions and temptations of sin and the deplorable acts of the pagans living there *2.

2.      To repay and punish the pagans for their abounding sins committed against God and His creation *3.

 God commands them to practice herem as they go into the land, and they obey Him for a while, but their trouble comes not from their enemies, but from within. Here we see that herem is not only practiced against “foreigners,” but anyone who stands in the way of God’s purity.
 A man named Achan took for himself goods devoted to God’s temple, and he is punished by death of stoning.  Later, we see the Israelites fail to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land, and even side with them in some cases. This blatant disobedience may have seemed the easy way out for them at the time, and may have even seemed the kind thing to do, but led to more bloodshed and heartache later on, as it took very little time at all for the Israelites to fall prey to the gods and awful practices of the people. Time after time they broke their covenant with God, until they hardly knew Him.
 It is important to draw the moral of the story for ourselves, and not focus on bloodshed not required of us. The lesson for us to learn is of God’s absolute purity and righteousness, and the dire consequences of not obeying His commands.
 So how can we practice herem today? Killing anyone who may corrupt us is no righteous act, and would leave none of us standing; ridding our lives of anything that temps us is not possible, because even if we seclude ourselves from anything worldly, and have no contact with our fellow man, our temptation comes from within (James 1:14).  Our herem can be to devote our minds and hearts to God. If anything comes between Him and us, it is to be dealt with accordingly.  Making time for personal and group Bible study and prayer at the expense of free-time, or another activity that may have to be cancelled, would be an example.  Going out of your way to share the gospel when you feel led by the Spirit, even if it means you’ll be late, or you’ll feel uncomfortable. Tithing 10% minimum, even when it means going without some things.
 Herem, the act of devotion and purification, is part of every Christian’s daily walk.

Footnotes and references:

*1 - Exodus 20:4-6, 2 Corinthians 11:2

*2 - Leviticus 15:31, Ezra 10:11

*3 - Leviticus 18:24-26, Judges 1:4-7


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