The Wal-Mart Bible Letter (Part Two)

Written by Drew on September 6th, 2006

The “Wal-Mart Bible Letter” is a plea to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to remove the Holy Bible from its bookshelves. This week I’m responding to the letter’s five charges in the interest of contributing a meaningful defense of the Bible to cyberspace. The number of those who will read these posts will come nowhere near the number of those who will read the “Wal-Mart Bible Letter,” but if I am able to reach just one person who is struggling with these matters, it will be worth the effort.

The first charge made by the authors of the letter in question reads,

The Holy Bible demands that readers murder hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees.

Exodus 31:15 is quoted, which reads, “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whosever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.” Since Wal-Mart requires its employees to work on Saturday, the Bible supposedly threatens their safety.

Reading no further than the first accusation, I am beginning to wonder if the author of this letter is serious. Sensible people do not arrive at these conclusions. Here’s why.

1. Exodus 31:15 and its parallel passages found in the Old Testament are part of a covenant that was made with Israel only. A few chapters later, the Lord tells Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (Ex. 34:27). Thousands of Gentiles living at that time were not bound by this covenant, including its Sabbath requirements. Even if it were still in effect, it would only apply to a small percentage of Wal-Mart employees, those of Jewish descent.

2. It also should be pointed out that, by definition, a covenant is an agreement between two parties. The Israelites were bound to keep the Sabbath because they made an agreement with God. Therefore all the commandments and penalties of the Law of Moses were accepted by the nation of Israel before anyone was tried for a capital offense. This contractual agreement is described in Exodus 24:3-8.

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

The Hebrews used an idiom, “to cut a covenant,” describing the bloody sacrifices that were often a part of the covenant ritual. This is evident in the example given above, where the Israelites are so sincere about their agreement that they allow Moses to sprinkle their bodies with the blood of their animal sacrifices. This is a little different from taking an unsuspecting Wal-Mart employee into the parking lot and stoning him to death. It is absurd to say the Bible makes such demands.

3. Murder is prohibited by the same covenant that demands the death penalty for covenant-breakers. The sixth of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall not murder.” Here a specific kind of killing is indicated by the Hebrew language, that which includes premeditated murder and manslaughter.

But capital punishment is an entirely different matter. Since the system of earthly governments has been instituted by God for punishing evildoers and rewarding law-abiding citizens, God is ultimately responsible for the death of criminals punished by capital punishment, as long as the earthly courts conduct themselves according to justice (Rom. 13:1-4). Being the Giver of life (Acts 17:25), God is the only one who can rightfully take it.

4. All of these points would serve as mitigating factors were the Law of Moses still in effect. But since the death of Jesus Christ, the Old Covenant has been set aside (Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:6-13). On the cross Jesus served as “the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 9:15), one that does not bind those who are under it to the Sabbath requirements of the Law of Moses. The Sabbath day was a foreshadowing of the kind of rest only God can give, not merely a weekly opportunity to recuperate from one’s labors. Accordingly, the fulfillment of the Sabbath day ordinance is found in the “Sabbath life” of the Christian (Mt. 11:28-30; Heb. 4:9).

Stay tuned as we will discuss the accusation of sexual discrimination tomorrow.


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Wayne Leman says:

    Thanks for the heads up on this petition, Drew. I have linked to your post on our Better Bibles Blog. I strongly disagree with the petition drive and am glad that Wal-Mart sells Bibles.

  2. Darrin Savage says:

    Hi Drew, this is Darrin Savage from the Howe congergation. Thank you first of all for this site and specifically for your response to the Walmart petition. It’s amazing how this current culture calls good evil and evil good!

  3. Aaron says:

    I am like Darrin thankful for your defense of the Truth. However those who read your blog should take note. If this petition makes it to the Wal-Mart decision makers and those decision makers agree with the petition (I don’t think that they will) it should wake up the body of Christ. If you continue the growth trend of those signing the petition by Nov 1 there should be around 15m to 20m signatures. Out of 300,000,000 Americans if 20,000 can make that big of a difference what should we say about the body of Christ?

    You always do exceptional work and I am thankful for your blog and insight into things that I feel are equally as important

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