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IBL05: Fifth Commandment (Craig Press)

Economics of the Family

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:02 Saint Mark, the seventh chapter, verses six through 13. Continuing our studies in biblical law with the economics of the family. Saint Mark seven, verses six through 13. “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, this people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:59 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:45 The word “property” was once a very highly regarded word. It now has a bad connotation because there has been for so long a time a studied assault on the word. During our war of independence, of course, one of the popular slogans of the day was “liberty and property”. In those days, indeed it was unthinkable to separate the two concepts, liberty and property. They went together.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:20 Now people very often wince at the term “property rights” and some of the broader usages of the word “property” that were once commonplace make people bridal. For example, it was once commonplace for writers to speak of wives being the property of their husbands. Women don’t take kindly of that expression nowadays. And yet, of course, Saint Paul speaks of the husband and the wife having a property right in each other with respect to sex. What does property mean? Why is it a perfectly legitimate word?

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:13 It comes from the Latin proprius which means not common with others own special, individual, peculiar, particular, proper with also the sense of lasting, constant, enduring, permanent. All good connotations. And in terms of virtually every society, the fact is that a man does have a property right in his wife and children. Sometimes, this concept has been, as we shall see in a moment, very, very wickedly abused, but it is also true that a wife and children have a property right in the father and in the husbands.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:07 In fact, the law of many states to this day underwrites that often to the point that the Old Testament did not permit. For example, in many states a husband cannot cut off his wife or children in his will. They have, according to law, a property right in him. Now, I stated that in some cultures this property right is not under God as it is in biblical law, and it is sorely abused. For example, Roman law permitted the sale of children. This, of course, has been a very common power in pagan history.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:54 The rationale of such things is that to maintain the continuing life of the family in a time of crisis, the younger members can be sacrificed. This is the rationale in Japan of selling daughters into prostitution in times of economic hardship, but such sales are forbidden in biblical law. For example, Deuteronomy 23:17 says, “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.” Leviticus 19:29, “Do not prostitute thy daughter to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom and the land become full of wickedness. Ye shall keep my sabbath and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 05:48 Notice the connotation of this latter passage which associates the children and preserving them from evil with keeping the sabbath and reverencing God’s sanctuary. To revere the sanctuary and to rest in the Lord means that one cannot do evil with one’s children. There are limits to our powers over one another of the claims of children on their father or mother, of the power of a husband over his wife and children, or the claims of a wife on her husband. God is the true and only absolute property owner over us. So, our rights in one another are subject at all times to the absolute law of God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 06:54 Now having said this, it is important for us to look at a passage of scripture that is sometimes misunderstood. This is Exodus 21, verses seven through 11. Exodus 21, verses seven through 11, “And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:08 Now, this is the only passage where the word “sale” is used, and it is very commonly misunderstood. Part of the problem, of course, is that “sale” today has a bad connotation with us. If you’re selling a person, you’re selling them into slavery. Yet, of course, it was not uncommon a generation or two ago to speak of selling one’s services, and those of us who are older recognize that as a perfectly familiar term. The word “sale” once had a neutral connotation. Now, what is the meaning of this passage?

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:49 To understand it, we must recognize that marriage in the biblical pattern, in biblical law, was normally by dowery. That is, the groom gave a dowery to the bride. This was her protection. It was the inheritance for her children. It could not be alienated from her and her children, either by him or by her. It could be forfeited by the children if they were apostate or lawless. Now, if there were no dowery, there was no marriage. It was then not a marriage, but a concubinage. Even if the spouse were the only wife, if she did not receive a dowery, then she was, according to law, a concubine.

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:52 Now, in this passage in Exodus, what is in view is a marriage, and it speaks of marriage; her duty of marriage. So marriage is in view, but here is a girl from a poor family. Now, in such a case, the father very often added to the dowery, but in such a case the family is very poor, and so a special kind of marriage existed. Instead of the wife to be receiving the dowery, her family did, and she married into a wealthy and powerful family. She went in first as a maidservant, as it were, on approval. This was an opportunity for the man, or if it were for one of his sons, to have her in the house for a period to see if she were a girl who is capable of assuming responsibilities and so on.

R.J. Rushdoony: 11:05 She could not be treated as a servant. She was there on a different basis. She could not be sent out into the fields to work with the hired hands. She was there as a prospective bride, and if she were not acceptable, then she was redeemed. That is, the money was returned and she went home to her father’s house. Something of a similar pattern, patterned after this law, prevailed in New England in the early days of our country. As a result, this piece of law is very different from what the modern mind thinks it to be. Now, it serves to indicate to us that doweries were an important part of marriage.

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:05 Sometimes, the father provided the dowery for his son. Very often the son went to work and provided the dowery himself. This was very common. It did provide a sound economic base for the new family. They did not begin with nothing. They began with a financial stake. The husband could borrow that dowery, with which he had endowered his wife, and use it paying interest for whatever business venture he was to undertake, but it was not his to alienate.

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:49 Now, the European dowery system was the exact reverse of the biblical. In the European dowery system, the dowery was by the bride’s father to the groom, and it created an ugly system in Europe, which is just beginning to disappear, whereby men shopped around for the girl with the biggest dowery. This led to making girls a liability in a family. The biblical dowery, however, laid the foundation for the economic security of the family and in so far as in most cases, the young groom went out and worked for a time to build up the dowery. It made him, first of all, a responsible man before he married. Then, the father, himself, of the bride added something to the dowery by way of his blessing upon the marriage.

R.J. Rushdoony: 13:54 One of the old American customs in this respect was that the father of the bride gave to the young couple a young milk cow which was to be the mother of a herd, a new herd, to supply mild for thew new family and also meat. In cases of seduction or rape, the biblical law provided that the guilty party had to endower the girl with the dowery of a virgin. In such a case, the girl therefore went to marriage with a double dowery. [inaudible 00:14:31] provided because of what had happened to her, and that provided by her husband at the time of marriage.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:46 One of the interesting aspects of the entire dowery system is that a double dowery in a sense was taken into marriage. The dowery was not only that of the actual money, the gold or silver which was the dowery, but the training, the wisdom, the faith the girl took into the marriage was spoken of also as her dowery. So it is, for example, we find, in such books as Ben Sirach’s Wisdom, this statement: A wise daughter shall bring an inheritance to her husband, but she that liveth dishonestly is her father’s heaviness.

R.J. Rushdoony: 15:39 It is interesting to read Ben Sirach because he has a great deal to say about marriage. By and large, what he does is simply to reflect the biblical law, except at one point. The book of Proverbs speaks of the ideal woman and says that she openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Then, Sirach’s ideal, however, was an absolutely silent wife. Here is the difference between man’s hopes and God’s provision. Man wants a wife who is perfect in all respect, and silent, but God said, “She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 16:35 Now, another aspect of the economics of the family was the aspect of support. First of all, parents have a duty to provide for their children, to support them materially and spiritually. [inaudible 00:16:51] in the nurture and admonition of the Lord as well as to provide them with material support. But second, children, when adults, have a like responsibility to care for their parents materially and spiritually as needed. This is emphatically stated by our Lord.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:13 In the passage which we have read, our Lord condemned the Pharisees because they allowed a man to renounce the support of his parents by saying, “That which you are going to get, I dedicate it to the Lord and I have given it to the temple. Therefore, I am free according to the law of the Pharisees.” Jesus declared that this was making the word of God of none effect through your traditions which ye have delivered. Thus, Jesus emphatically made it clear that gifts to God were not acceptable when duties to parents were not fulfilled. Our Lord himself was mindful of his duty to his mother, and he assumed her support when she became a widow.

R.J. Rushdoony: 18:10 He maintained her support to the time of his crucifixion. We know this because of what transpired on the cross. Any statement made according to the law of the day from a cross or by a dying man without being written was legally valid. It was a will and testament. Our Lord from the cross says, the eldest son having the care of his mother, turned to his cousin, John, and said, “Behold, thy mother and Mary, woman, behold thy son.” He committed Mary not to any of the other children but to John. As the main heir, he had cared for her. As the main heir, he provided for her future.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:28 The main heir throughout scripture supports and cares for parents as the need requires. Abraham lived with Isaac and with Jacob, not Ishmael nor his sons by Keturah. Isaac lived with Jacob, not Esau. Jacob lived with Joseph, and therefore gave to Joseph a double portion. Now the converse also holds true. The child which supports and cares for the aged parents is the main or true heir. Inheritance is not a question of pity or of feelings, but of Godly order. One of the best ways for parents to understand who their true heir is, is to look at their children and say, “If the time of need comes, with which of my children could I reside and feel welcome?”

R.J. Rushdoony: 20:32 Now, to understand the question of inheritance and will in the Bible, we must understand the word that is used there for a last will and testament. The word is “blessing”. It is “blessing”. Inheritance is precisely that. It’s a blessing by the parents upon the children. The entire concept of a blessing or inheritance is religious concept, and therefore, for a parent to confer a blessing on an unbelieving child or a rebellious or contemptuous child is to bless evil. We can understand from this why Rebecca was so tremendously concerned when she saw that her husband, Isaac, was going to bless Esau. Esau was both Godless and whose marriage was to a woman who had nothing but contempt for her in-laws. Though, there was nothing but trouble in that relationship.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:54 So, Rebecca was rightly concerned that her husband was about to bless evil, and so she took steps to prevent it. The biblical wills, therefore, had blessings and curses. To cut off a child was a total curse. Jacob, for example, pronounced a curse on Ruben, Simeon and Levi. Now, the general rule of inheritance was primogeniture. That is, the oldest son inheriting a double portion so that if there were three sons, the estate was divided into four parts, and the oldest son received half and the other two sons, each a fourth. However, primogeniture is the rarity in the bible rather than the rule because although the eldest son had the priority, according to law, this priority was set aside if he were not a believer, or if he were rebellious and contemptuous of his parents.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:14 So, it is extremely rare in biblical history that the eldest receives the central inheritance. The parents, according to Saint Paul as well as the law in the Old Testament, had a duty to provide an inheritance as far as their means afforded, Saint Paul references in II Corinthians 12:14. The father could not alienate a Godly firstborn son for personal feelings. Neither could he favor an unGodly son or a delinquent son. If there were no worthy sons, the daughter became the heir and the son as it were. If there were no sons or daughters, the next of kin inherited.

R.J. Rushdoony: 24:09 The son of a concubine could inherit unless he were sent away with a settlement. A maid or a slave could inherit if there were no heirs or if there were no Godly heirs. Thus, the blessing had to be pronounced upon faith. It had to be pronounced primarily upon the child, a son or a daughter who was ready to assume the most responsibilities with respect to the parents and who was the most Godly. Now, the biblical law states further, with regard to inheritance, that the state could not seize the property or confiscate it. This is very emphatically underscored by Ezekiel in 46:18. This last point is important in view of the situation today.

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:13 The biblical law of inheritance was God’s law. The modern laws of inheritance are the state’s law, and the state is progressively making itself the central heir. In some countries, of course, it is the only hair to date. The state, in effect, is saying it will receive the blessing above all others, and the state today is assuming the dual role of both father and child. It offers to educate all children in state schools and to support all needy parents as the great father and the great son of all. It offers support to the aged as the true son and heir, and these things are tied together.

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:07 The state claims the rights to your inheritance, either a portion of it, or ultimately all of it. Therefore, it says, “We will support you because we are, after all, your true heir.” Similarly, it educates the children as the true parent, and then assumes the role of their sons subsequently. In both roles, the state is the great corrupter of God’s established order of the family and is at war with it. Inheritance in biblical law means blessing. The blessing cannot be on the state. It must be on Godly children.

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:59 Finally, another aspect of the family economic, throughout history, the basic welfare agency has been the family. It has made provision for its needy members, its sick, for educating its children, for caring for parents, for coping with emergencies and disasters in the family circles, and it has done far more than the state can ever do. Even today, the state’s total investment in education does not equal that of families.

R.J. Rushdoony: 27:41 The state can never assume the role of the family without ultimate financial bankruptcy. When the family assumes its proper role as the great welfare agency, when it takes care of itself and its own, it strengthens itself. But the states entrance into these areas, bankrupt people, morally and financially, God’s order is the only true order. It is the only order that works, and any nation and any family that does not conform itself to God’s order pays a penalty. Let us pray.

R.J. Rushdoony: 28:31 Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we thank thee for thy word. And we thank thee that thou hast called us into the family of faith and made us thy sons in Jesus Christ, and thine heirs and as we have received thy blessing. Enable us, our Father, therefore, by thy grace to be a blessing to those who thou wouldst have us to bless, to prosper our Godly children, to bless thy true church, and that all things to rejoice in thy law and in thy so great salvation. Our Lord, we thank thee for thy guidelines. Thy word is truth. Prosper us in thy truth and make us free and great therein. In Jesus name, amen.

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books. Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder