Shadows Out of the Past
“For those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.”—Col. 2:17, NW.
1. What pre-Law covenant matters are of current interest, and why?
OUT of the long dim past many shadows of twentieth-century realities stand out in silent but unmistakable testimony. These Biblical shadows of clear outline foretell activity occurring today on a global scale. While the Law covenant mediated through Moses in ancient time contained a host of prophetic shadows of good things to come, yet centuries prior thereto patriarchal law and customs also contributed their share of shadows which find their realities in our day. (Heb. 10:1, NW) Of these pre-Law covenant shadows Paul’s words also could apply, “For those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Col. 2:17, NW) From this statement we must expect these early prophetic shadows likewise to have their fulfillments centering around the servants of Christ Jesus. And that we shall see is exactly what the facts bear out. In the preceding article where a preliminary study has already been made of the origin and operation of patriarchal society, we are ready to consider in detail additional legal features which cast their interesting shadows of current realities.
CUSTODY OF PERSONS AND PROPERTY
2. What patriarchal law is to be examined, and how was accepting legal responsibility indicated?
2 Patriarchal society had well-defined laws and customs governing the custody of personal property and persons. Custody arose where an owner or a father would entrust his property or children to the care of others. The property or persons were either delivered to another for safekeeping or loaned for the latter’s benefit. On occasions the oldest brother who was mature would have his minor brothers placed in his custody. Since the Biblical patriarchs were mostly herdsmen or shepherds, the property generally involved animals which were put in the trust of others. However, the general regulations appeared to have applied to any piece of property or any person that might have been entrusted to the hands of custodians. Where a shepherd was entrusted with the sheep of an owner, when the shepherd said he would keep the sheep this then brought legal responsibility upon the shepherd engaged. We note the case of the family head Jacob where he bargained with his father-in-law Laban as to the keeping of the latter’s sheep. When Jacob said, “If thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed thy flock and keep it,” he was accepting legal responsibility for the sheep entrusted to his care.—Gen. 30:31, AS.
3, 4. (a) Where is a record found of the legal responsibilities of patriarchal custody, and how so? (b) Discuss the responsibilities involved as to custody of animals.
3 What were some of the legal responsibilities that came upon the one accepting custody of the animals which belonged to another? The Noachian regulations as to custody years later were divinely incorporated into the Law covenant given to the nation of Israel. Thus from the law of Moses we have an actual record of these responsibilities. “If a man puts an ass or an ox or a sheep or any animal into the keeping of a fellow-countryman, and it dies or is injured or is raided, without anyone seeing it, then the man must swear before the Eternal [Jehovah, AS] that he has not laid hands on the other man’s property; the owner must accept this oath, and no restitution shall be made. But if the animal has been stolen, the man must make restitution to the owner. If the animal has been torn to pieces, let him bring the torn flesh as evidence; he need not make good what has been torn to pieces.”—Ex. 22:10-13, Mo.
4 The shepherd therefore was required to render ordinary care in safeguarding the entrusted animals. He had to give sufficient care to see that the animals were fed and that they did not become lost. While under his supervision if animals were stolen either by himself or his hired helpers, then he was responsible to make full restitution to the owner. For those stolen he had to restore fivefold or fourfold, depending upon whether it was oxen or sheep. (Ex. 22:1) On the other hand, the patriarchal law did not require the shepherd to exercise high degree of care by being responsible for acts beyond his human control. So if the animal died of itself, was injured through no fault or neglect of the caretaker or was forcibly stolen by an armed raiding party, then the shepherd was not required to make good the loss. This also applied in cases where a wild beast preyed upon the animal, tearing it to pieces. Upon showing to the owner the evidence of the attack that killed the animal, the owner had to bear the loss. The shepherd custodian was free of responsibility.
5. What happened in the case of Joseph, and how did Reuben come under special responsibility?
5 With this background we are better able to understand the dealings between Jacob and his sons at the time of the disappearance of Joseph. Patriarch Jacob’s ten sons had become jealous of their 17-year-old brother Joseph, who enjoyed the favored position with his father. Jacob sent his son Joseph on a mission to ascertain the well-being of his ten older brothers and to report on the progress of their work in shepherding Jacob’s flocks at a far place. Seeing Joseph coming in the distance his jealous brothers conspired to slay him and to say to their father that an evil beast had killed him. When Joseph reached them they stripped him of his coat of many colors and threw him into a pit. But Reuben, the oldest brother, being legally responsible for the custody of his younger brother, since he was now in their midst, objected to the conspiracy and planned to restore Joseph to his father and thus relieve himself of responsibility as special caretaker. In the meantime, while Reuben was away from the pit, the other brothers sold Joseph as a slave to some passing traders. Upon Reuben’s return to the pit and finding Joseph gone he rent his clothes in anguish knowing that he would be held legally responsible for the disappearance of his younger brother. He exclaimed, “The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?”—Gen. 37:12-30, AS.
6. What course was pursued by Reuben, and why? What was Judge Jacob’s verdict, and why so?
6 The course now pursued by Reuben as urged by his other brothers was not one of mere fancy. Rather it was a course shrewdly designed to escape legal responsibility when they appeared before their father to report the disappearance of Joseph. They knew that they would have to face their father, who would sit as a patriarchal judge to sift out and weigh all the evidence as to responsibility. Furthermore, they knew that under the law of custody of persons and property if evidence of attack by a wild animal could be established then the custodian would be completely absolved and held innocent. Note carefully the Scriptural account of what happened and how Jacob was forced legally to know or examine the evidence and as judge to legally pronounce his sons innocent of Joseph’s supposed death. “They took Joseph’s coat, and killed a he-goat, and dipped the coat in the blood; and they sent the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father, and said, This have we found: know now whether it is thy son’s coat or not. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces.” (Gen. 37:30-34, AS) The last sentence above in legal language comprises Judge Jacob’s court verdict. No punishment could be sentenced upon the ten sons. Jacob’s hands were tied by the law from pursuing the matter any further.
7. Is there anything to indicate that Jacob suspected mischief? Explain what he manifested.
7 Judge Jacob was forced to render a decision of death by a wild beast. There is no evidence that yet in the back of his mind he suspected mischief. Years later when the matter came up to entrust his youngest beloved son Benjamin to the care of his older brothers who were asked by the Egyptian prime minister (actually their brother Joseph, whom they did not recognize) to bring Benjamin to Egypt, Jacob refused to allow the lad to be taken under the normal guarantees of custody. Rather it was not until Judah the fourth son of Jacob took a strong vow of personal surety for Benjamin’s safety, thus giving a very strong guarantee beyond the custody arrangement, that Jacob consented to allow Benjamin to go. (Gen. 44:32, 33, AS) Furthermore, Jacob shows his special fatherly fears and concern by reminding his sons that years before he was obliged as judge to say the verdict of death by beast and since then he has not seen Joseph: “The one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I have not seen him since.”—Gen. 44:28.
CUSTODY IN REALITY
8. In whom did the reality of the custody shadow begin, and who are (1) the owner of the sheep, (2) the sheep, and (3) the shepherd?
8 This patriarchal shadow out of the dim past began to have its reality in the right Shepherd, Christ Jesus, who was entrusted with his Father’s “sheep”. Jehovah God is the great Shepherd and Owner of his “sheep”. His faithful Christian servants are like sheep once having gone astray but who have now returned to God the shepherd and overseer of their souls. (Ps. 23:1, AS; 1 Pet. 2:25, NW) Christ Jesus was sent as the right shepherd to care for these sheep. “I am the right shepherd; the right shepherd surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep. The hired man, who is no shepherd and to whom the sheep do not belong as his own, beholds the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and flees—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them—because he is a hired man and does not care for the sheep. I am the right shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”—John 10:11-16, NW.
9, 10. (a) How and with what responsibility did Jesus shepherd Jehovah’s sheep? (b) Were any sheep destroyed, and if so, how, and who was responsible?
9 What a record of loving care and devotion for the sheep Jesus Christ made during his three-and-a-half-year ministry! He diligently fed them on rich spiritual food. Where one became lost he left the ninety-nine and retrieved the stray one. (Matt. 18:12-14) He helped the spiritually poor and sick ones to recover. But where spiritual sickness and even spiritual death ensued in spite of his loving attention he was not held liable before the great Owner of the “sheep”, Jehovah God. His death was not for losing any sheep, but to save lost sheep. This trusty shepherd also protected the sheep from the wild attacks of the demons and Satan himself, who went “about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour”.—1 Pet. 5:8, NW.
10 “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has demanded to have you men to sift you as wheat. But I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, when once you have returned, give support to your brothers.” (Luke 22:31, 32, NW) Of the twelve special sheep entrusted to Jesus by Jehovah only one was torn to destruction by the devouring lion Satan the Devil. Note the following report Jesus makes in his prayer to Jehovah as to his shepherding work. “When I was with them I used to watch over them out of respect for your own name which you have given me, and I have kept them, and not one of them is destroyed except the son of destruction.” (John 17:12, NW) As indicated in the patriarchal shadow, Jesus was not held responsible for the destruction of the traitor Judas Iscariot. Since Jesus successfully cared for a host of sheep by bringing them to life everlasting, we have as a leader before us the glorified Jesus Christ, a proved shepherd that is reliable and trustworthy!
11. For what work did Jesus train his disciples and how did he drive home this point to Peter?
11 While Jesus was performing his shepherding work, at the same time he was training his disciples to become undershepherds. Jesus was ever busy building up their faith, that they might be in position to accept the responsibilities as custodians of Jehovah’s sheep. Before his ascension into heaven Jesus drove home to Simon Peter this point of the shepherding work. Three times Jesus emphasizes the point. “‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him: ‘Yes, Master, you know I have affection for you.’ He said to him: ‘Feed my young lambs.’ Again he said to him, a second time: ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him: ‘Yes, Master, you know I have affection for you.’ He said to him: ‘Shepherd my little sheep.’ He said to him the third time: ‘Simon son of John, do you have affection for me?’ Peter became grieved that he said to him the third time: ‘Do you have affection for me?’ So he said to him: ‘Master, you know all things; you are aware that I have affection for you.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Feed my little sheep.’”—John 21:15-17, NW.
12, 13. (a) What advice did Peter give on shepherding, and does it apply today? (b) What responsibilities must be accepted by congregational servants today?
12 This same Peter became a faithful undershepherd in the footsteps of his Master Jesus Christ. To his fellow undershepherds of his time and with equal force to the true Christian ministers of today Peter gave wise counsel. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but willingly, neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly, neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:2, 3, NW) So now in this time, when hundreds of thousands of the Lord’s “other sheep” are being gathered into the “one flock” organization of the incoming new world society, the patriarchal shadow of shepherding responsibility outlines in detail shepherding responsibility today in the reality among congregations of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. All you who are ministerial servants in the congregations, how are you measuring up to the divine requirements?
13 Are you taking the oversight seriously as a mature servant of God? Do you accept your duties as such an appointed servant willingly, not for love of dishonest gain but eagerly in your love of God and your fellow Christian? Are you efficiently feeding the Lord’s sheep from the right spiritual food which Jehovah provides so richly on his table? Do you make efforts to aid the spiritually sick ones and the spiritually poor ones to regain spiritual health and wealth that they may be strong members of your local preaching band of witnesses? Are you protecting them to the best of your ability from the attacks of the demons and Satan, that they will not be snatched away from the true flock? If one strays away do you make an effort to recover this lost sheep, that there may be rejoicing in the return of a repentant one who was saddened in a godly way and thus rescued from possible destruction? (2 Cor. 7:8-11, NW) If the modern undershepherds can answer all these in the affirmative, then they are measuring up to their theocratic responsibilities as exemplified by the shepherds Jesus and the apostles.
14. What shepherding responsibilities come upon all Jehovah’s witnesses, and how serious is this matter?
14 But in a larger way all of Jehovah’s witnesses as ministers have shepherding responsibilities in their respective territories wherever they preach. There in your individual territories are many of the lost and sickly prospective “other sheep” that have to be lovingly tended by the commissioned shepherding minister. If this is due to our negligence in caring for any of these sheep put in our custody by the great Owner, Jehovah God, we shall be held responsible for the lives of such ones. “Son of man, I appoint you a sentinel to Israel; whenever you hear a word from me, you must give them my warning. When I tell the wicked, ‘You must die,’ if you do not warn him, if you say nothing to warn the wicked from his wicked course, in order to save his life, then that wicked man shall die for his iniquity, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” (Ezek. 3:17, 18, Mo) So if we try to help these wayward ones now with the Lord’s message of life and if in spite of our efforts Satan the roaring lion devours them, then we are free of responsibility for such destroyed prospective sheep. Paul put the seriousness of our shepherding ministry when he said, “Necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Cor. 9:16, NW) Like Jesus and the apostles the faithful undershepherds today earnestly discharging their ministry will have the satisfaction of seeing the preservation of a vast multitude of the Lord’s other sheep whom they have been privileged to find, aid and protect unto everlasting life.
15. How did voluntary slavery arise in patriarchal times, and what did it bring to the bond servants?
15 Another subject of interest is that of slavery which existed in the days of the patriarchs, the custom apparently stemming from Noachian times. It seems that where a particular family unit under its family head came upon difficult times economically, due to bad management or financial reverses which meant running into debt, such a family head could clear himself of debt by legally and voluntarily selling himself and his family into slavery. This meant he sold himself either to his creditor for the sum covering the debt or to a family head who was financially successful and able to pay the sale price to free the new slave from his debt. Such a slave became what was known as a bond servant. In exchange for the subservient family’s future services the wealthier family agreed to house, clothe and feed the newly engaged volunteer slaves. This arrangement brought a temporary means of existence to the bond-serving family unit. This was better than suffering in poverty. So it is evident that bond service in those days meant menial employment with the necessities of life assured by a superior patriarch or family head. Note the care Joseph received in his slavery in Egypt.—Gen. 39:1-6.
16. What provision was there for being released from bond service?
16 The uniform customary law on voluntary slavery or bond service in the ancient Near East additionally provided for redemption either by the slave himself if he should later inherit money or by a near relative. The redemption or being bought back amounted to the payment of a negotiated price to the slave owner for the release. In turn the slave and his family were entitled to receive gifts from their former master for past services.a Bond service as a temporary status sometimes lasted for generations where a near kinsman redeemer did not readily provide for the ransoming. We are reminded of Jacob’s twelve sons and their families who voluntarily entered Egypt to sojourn there and then later were subjected to bondage by aggressive Pharaohs. The Israelites remained in bondage for some generations.—Ex. 2:23.
17. What did the Law of Moses have to say about bond service?
17 In the days of Moses the Law covenant legislated by divine revelation incorporated most of the provisions governing voluntary servitude. “If thy brother be waxed poor with thee, and sell himself unto thee; thou shalt not make him to serve as a bondservant. As a hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee; he shall serve with thee unto the year of jubilee: then shall he go out from thee, he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. And if a stranger or sojourner with thee be waxed rich, and thy brother be waxed poor beside him, and sell himself unto the stranger . . . after that he is sold he may be redeemed: one of his brethren may redeem him.” (Lev. 25:39-41, 47-49, AS) Incidentally, in contrast with the above unharsh arrangement there was also the custom of making involuntary slaves of captives of war who could not be redeemed. This latter oppressive arrangement of slavery must have had an origin with Nimrod and his satanic successors who resorted to wars.
18. How is it that man finds himself in bondage? Describe his plight.
18 As members of the human family today men find themselves in slavery to sin and death. Forefather Adam foolishly and voluntarily entered slavery to sin and death for the price of eating forbidden fruit in self-will. He sold himself and all his future family to the service of death. Death began to rule as king. This bondage of slavery to death has passed upon all men. All have been sold into a menial insecure existence. “For the creation was subjected to futility.” (Rom. 8:20, NW) Not a single member of the human family has been able to pay the extremely high price of a perfect human life to buy himself out of this deadly bondage. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned—. Nevertheless, death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses, even over those who had not sinned after the likeness of the transgression by Adam, who bears a resemblance to him that was to come.” (Rom. 5:12, 14, NW) Having originally induced man to lose his freedom in God’s theocratic household, Satan the wicked god of this evil old world has sought to additionally keep mankind in bondage to himself as well as in bondage to death. Satan has become the great prison keeper and slave driver of his entire organization of men and demons. For this reason the more than two billion people now living on the face of the earth are in a vast bondage to their two oppressive masters, “God Satan” and his ally “King Death”.—2 Cor. 4:4, NW.
REDEMPTION IN REALITY
19. Is there any hope of deliverance from this slavery? Who is man’s kinsman? Explain.
19 Is there no hope of deliverance from this slavery? Yes, there is. And that is by reason of the possibility of redemption as foreshadowed in the patriarchal law providing for the buying of slaves out of bond service. Remember it was a kinsman that had the right to redeem or to buy his relative out of bondage. Furthermore, a ransom price had to be paid by a near kinsman or relative. Who, then, possibly could be the near relative to sinner man to pay the extremely high price required for his redemption? That near kinsman redeemer is none other than the perfect One, Jesus Christ, who became human flesh in order that he might become a relative of faithful man. The Bible calls him the “last Adam”. Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of man”. (John 1:14; 1 Cor. 15:45; Matt. 16:13, NW) So there is an abundance of evidence to show that Jehovah God mercifully and lovingly sent his beloved Son to the earth to become man’s near kinsman to deliver the faithful ones from destruction. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16, NW.
20, 21. (a) What was the price for the redemption? (b) How and when did Jesus give the price?
20 The Scriptures also show that faithful man was bought with a ransom price, for it says, “for you were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:20, NW) What, then, was that price? According to the divine principles of ‘life for a life’ and ‘life is in the blood’ God’s justice required the ransom price to correspond perfectly to the thing that Adam forfeited, namely, the life of a perfect man. (Ex. 21:23; Lev. 17:11) In other words, the price would be the blood of a perfect man to equal that of perfect Adam before he entered the bondage of death. And that is exactly what the Bible indicates. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all—this is what is to be witnessed to at its own particular times.”—1 Tim. 2:5, 6, NW.
21 Jesus himself bears record that one of the purposes of his coming to earth was to pour out his perfect lifeblood in death as a ransom price to purchase the release of multitudes from bondage. “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28, NW) Jesus Christ furnished that ransom price at Jerusalem on Friday, Nisan 14 (April 1), A.D. 33, when his enemies, the Jewish hierarchy and their Roman allies, put him to death on the torture stake. But the victory of his enemies was short-lived, for on Nisan 16 (April 3) Jehovah God performed his greatest miracle in resurrecting his faithful Son to life immortal. Forty days later he entered heaven and paid over the merit of his ransom sacrifice where the value is available to be applied to faithful mankind in giving them eternal life.—Matt. 27:1-50; Heb. 9:25-28, NW.
22. What men are freed, and what freedom do they enter?
22 To further prove that Jesus is the great emancipator or liberator from bondage note the following scripture where redeemed ones are referred to as “young children”. “Since the ‘young children’ are sharers of blood and flesh, he [Jesus] also similarly partook of the same things, that through his death he might destroy the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil, and might emancipate all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.” (Heb. 2:14, 15, NW) Real liberation from the slavery in which man finds himself centers around Christ Jesus, the redeemer of mankind. Therefore those exercising faith in this ransom provision made by Jehovah God even now enter a relative freedom from Satan’s control and from the fears of death. Moreover, they have hope of being freed entirely from death either through the resurrection or in passing through alive into the new world at the time of Armageddon.
23. What fight is required to retain one’s new-found freedom?
23 Having gained freedom from the bondage that grips mankind, a stout fight ensues to retain that relative freedom which the truth of God brings us. “For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1, NW) This means pursuing a new and clean course away from the deadly system of bondage found in the old world society. We must resist the sinful ways of the flesh and take up the new way of freedom, which means to embrace righteousness and become obedient to God’s will. “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him, either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view?” (Rom. 6:16, NW) We have served long enough as bond servants to the Gentile nations in performing deeds of loose conduct, and these have left their scars. But now that liberation has come let us for the rest of our days live with a higher objective in view, that of being pleasing servants to our God. Peter urges this course for the true Christian. “To the end that he may live the remainder of his time in the flesh, no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will. For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct.”—1 Pet. 4:2, 3, NW.
24. Contrast one’s works while formerly under bondage with the fruitage manifested after being set free.
24 Works and deeds that Christians used to perform while they were in bondage to Satan’s organization and which have now been put away are well described and commented on by Paul. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” In contrast note now what the Christian’s new liberation from satanic slavery means to him and what the fruitage is that it bears. “On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Moreover, those who belong to Christ Jesus impale the flesh together with its passions and desires.”—Gal. 5:19-24, NW.
25, 26. (a) What commission do the liberated ones receive, and how is this carried out? (b) What break must now be made by those desiring redemption?
25 Not only do we liberate ourselves from Satan’s bondage but we also have a commission to liberate others, that they too may accept Christ Jesus as their redeemer and find that true freedom. The Christian minister’s commission is the same as that of Jesus when he said in quoting from Isaiah, “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives.” (Luke 4:18, NW; Isa. 61:1) By our preaching Christ Jesus as man’s sole redeemer we are urging the prisoners and slaves to go forth and accept freedom. “‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’”—2 Cor. 6:17, NW.
26 “And I heard another voice out of heaven say: ‘Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.’” (Rev. 18:4, NW) This means that all liberated ones must make a clean break from Satan’s old-world organization. They must maintain a physical, moral, social and spiritual separation therefrom. When zero hour comes for the utter destruction of Satan’s house of bondage in Armageddon, liberated Christians will not be found captive therein to suffer a common fate with the unliberated ones in God’s annihilation of that unclean organization. As these shadows out of the dim past warn us concerning our present course, let us not be found among those who ignore the clear warnings set out in the Scriptures governing our present and future welfare.
a Biblical Law, by D. Daube, 1947, pp. 39-56.