for a relatively short time, initially only thirty days. A person under this penalty was prohibited from enjoying certain privileges. He could go to the temple but there he was restricted in certain ways, and all besides his own family were commanded to stay at a distance of four cubits (about 6 feet or 2 meters) from him. The second step was hheʹrem, meaning something devoted to God, or “a ban.” This was a more severe judgment. The offender could not teach or be taught in the company of others and perform any commercial transactions beyond purchasing the necessities of life. However, he was not altogether cast out of the Jewish organization and there was a chance for him to come back. Finally, there was sham·ma·thaʼʹ, an entire cutting off from the congregation. Some believe the last two forms of excommunication were undistinguishable from one another.
One who was cast out as wicked, cut off entirely, would be considered worthy of death, though the Jews might not always have the authority to execute such a one. Nevertheless, the form of cutting off they did employ was a very powerful weapon in the Jewish community. Jesus foretold that his followers would be expelled from the synagogues. (John 16:2) Fear of being expelled kept some of the Jews, even the rulers, from confessing Jesus. (John 12:42) An example of such action by the synagogue was the case of the healed blind man who spoke favorably of Jesus.—John 9:34.
Based on the principles of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Greek Scriptures by command and precedent authorize expulsion or disfellowshiping from the Christian congregation. The apostle Paul, with the authority vested in him, ordered the expulsion of an incestuous fornicator who had taken his father’s wife. (1 Cor. 5:5, 11, 13) He also exercised disfellowshiping authority against Hymenaeus and Alexander. (1 Tim. 1:19, 20) Diotrephes, however, was apparently trying to exercise disfellowshiping action wrongly.—3 John 9, 10.
Jesus gave full instructions to his followers as to procedure on handling cases of sin in the congregation and indicated that it could result in one’s being expelled, so that the individual would be to the congregation “just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.” (Matt. 18:15-17) Tax collectors were much looked down upon; many were extortioners. A Jew who was a tax collector was considered a renegade, classed with “sinners.” (Mark 2:16) Of course, Jesus and his disciples were then still under the Law, but in principle the same procedure continued to guide the Christian congregation. It might be remarked here that, by the “congregation,” Jesus did not mean that the entire membership sat in judgment of the offender; the responsible ones in charge did this. His disciples were familiar with the fact that it was the elders or the “court of justice” or of the “Supreme Court” that did the judging.—Matt. 5:22.
Some of the offenses that could merit disfellowshiping from the Christian congregation are fornication, adultery, homosexuality, greed, extortion, thievery, lying, drunkenness, reviling, spiritism, murder, idolatry, apostasy and the causing of divisions in the congregation. (1 Cor. 5:9-13; 6:9, 10; Titus 3:10, 11; Rev. 21:8) In the last-mentioned case, one promoting a sect should be warned the first and second time before such disfellowshiping action is taken against him. In the Christian congregation, the principle enunciated in the Law applies, namely, that two or three witnesses must establish evidence against the accused one. (1 Tim. 5:19) Those who have been convicted of a practice of sin will be exposed before the entire congregation as practicing conduct not befitting a Christian, “that the rest also may have fear.”—1 Tim. 5:20.
Similar to the penalty less severe than expulsion as practiced in the Jewish synagogues, the Christian congregation is also authorized by Scripture to impose restrictions on those who are disorderly and not walking correctly but who are not deemed deserving of complete expulsion. Paul wrote the Thessalonian congregation concerning such: “Stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.”—2 Thess. 3:6, 11, 13-15.
By exercising this God-given authority the congregation keeps itself clean and in good standing before God.
Those who have been expelled may be received back into the congregation if they manifest sincere repentance. (2 Cor. 2:5-8) This also is a protection to the congregation, preventing it from being overreached by Satan in swinging from condoning wrongdoing to the other extreme, becoming harsh and unforgiving.—2 Cor. 2:10, 11.
For expelling of demons, see SPIRITISM.
The Hebrew word variously translated “snuffers” (AS), “knives” (JB) and “extinguishers” (NW) is thought to be derived from a root (za·marʹ) meaning “to trim, to prune.” Hence some believe that scissorlike utensils designed for trimming the lampwicks are meant. However, all that is definitely known about these utensils is that they were made of gold or copper and were used in connection with the services at the temple.—1 Ki. 7:50; 2 Ki. 12:13; 25:14.
The act or practice of taking or obtaining anything from an unwilling or reluctant person by illegal use of fear, whether by force, threats, or any other undue exercise of power. The Bible repeatedly warns against any seeking of unjust gain, particularly on the part of those in responsible or official positions.—Ex. 18:21; Prov. 1:19; 15:27.
Nevertheless, under Roman rule over Palestine, Jewish tax collectors were often guilty of extortion. Their position provided them with wide opportunities to enrich themselves unjustly (and undoubtedly their Roman masters also) at the expense of the people. In an illustration Jesus may have alluded to this when he spoke of a self-righteous Pharisee praying alongside a tax collector and commending himself to God as not being an extortioner. (Luke 18:11) The tax collectors who came to John the Baptist asking what to do were counseled: “Do not demand anything more than the tax rate.”—Luke 3:13.
Zacchaeus, a rich chief tax collector, on hearing Jesus speak, repented and turned from his bad course, saying: “Whatever I extorted from anyone by false accusation I am restoring fourfold.” (Luke 19:2, 8) (The Law required in such eases of repentance and admission of guilt that only 120 percent be restored to the defrauded one.—Lev. 6:2-5.)
Extortion is listed in the Christian Greek Scriptures along with fornication, adultery, idolatry, greediness, thievery, drunkenness, reviling and homosexuality as things the practice of which will prevent one from entering the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul, writing to the congregation at Corinth, said that formerly some of them had done such things, but were now washed clean. Therefore, although they could not avoid some contact with these kinds of persons in the world, they must quit associating with any of such ones claiming to be a “brother,” and must remove them from the congregation.—1 Cor. 5:9-11; 6:9-11.
The Christian attitude toward paying extortion in the form of a bribe is illustrated in the apostle Paul’s case. The Roman governor Felix attempted to extort money from Paul by prolonging for two