Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 3

3. The hurried sale. The Prodigal sells quickly (“A few days later”). He is obliged to do so. Anger in the village rises against him because he has shamed his father and his entire extended family by offering a large portion of the family farm for sale with a healthy father still farming it. He has to conclude the sale and get out of town as quickly as possible. As noted, Jewish law did not permit such a sale. The Prodigal does not care.

4. The qetsatsah ceremony. From the Jerusalem Talmud it is known that the Jews of the time of Jesus had a method of punishing any Jewish boy who lost the family inheritance to Gentiles. It was called the “qetsatsah [ket-saht-sah] ceremony.” Horror at such a loss is also reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Such a violator of community expectations would face the qetsatsah ceremony if he dared to return to his home village.

The ceremony was simple. The villagers would bring a large earthenware jar, fill it with burned nuts and burned corn, and break it in front of the guilty individual. While doing this, the community would shout, “So-and-so is cut off from his people.” From that point on, the village would have nothing to do with the wayward lad.

From the various references to this ceremony, it appears that the ban was more comprehensive than the Amish “shun.” When shunned, an Amish person can at least eat at a separate table. The first-century Jewish shun appears to have been a total ban on any contact with the violator of the village code of honor. As he leaves town, the Prodigal knows he must not lose the money among the Gentiles. He does. In the far country he lives among Gentiles. They own pigs!


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