Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An ancient teaching about calling down judgment on others

Sarai said to Abram, "The wrong done me is your fault. I myself put my maid in your bosom; now that she sees she is pregnant, I am lowered in her esteem. The LORD decide between you and me." (Genesis 16:5)
So how did that work out for her, calling down God as judge between herself and her husband? In later years:
And Sarah died ... Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. (Genesis 23:2)
From this the ancient Israelites derived the teaching:
He who calls down divine judgment on his neighbor is himself punished first. (Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 16b)
The same principle is well established in Jesus' teachings: Do not judge lest you be judged; the merciful will be shown mercy; with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. But speaking for myself, I'd never made any connection between Sarah's call for judgment and Sarah dying before Abraham.

Sarah was sure that her anger was righteous anger. Even if she was right about her husband's sin, she had to limit her thoughts to one narrow thing to see his fault but not her own, to get "righteous anger" instead of "shared blame".

We live in an age in which people "throw the first stone" all the time -- standing up as each others' accusers and judges with the same certainty as Sarah. We criticize and call down judgment on others routinely, showing no restraint in harshness or certainty about the other party being totally in the wrong, about being entitled to put ourselves above someone else and call down judgment on them. We might want to think twice about that.


Martin LaBar said...

Matthew 7:1 says that we should not judge, lest we be judged.

Weekend Fisher said...

You have to give him credit for consistency. :)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF