Punishment as Natural Consequences

Are there times when “punishment” for sin is the natural consequences of that sin rather than something that God causes directly?  In my latest reading of Joseph Telushkin’s A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy, Telushkin makes that point when discussing two stories in the Bible.

First, there’s the story of Saul.  Saul was pursuing David out of jealousy.  God’s punishment of Saul was that he’d die in battle with the Philistines.  But, in a sense, Israel’s defeat at the hands of the Philistines was due to Saul’s pursuit of David.  David was one of Saul’s best warriors, and Saul was alienating David by trying to take his life.

Second, there’s the story of David’s interaction with his wife Michal (who was also a daughter of Saul) in II Samuel 6.  Michal harshly criticizes David for dancing before the Ark of the Covenant in an undignified manner, and David retorts that he was dancing before the Lord, who chose him over Saul and Saul’s house.  As Telushkin notes, David was being quite insensitive here, for this was not long after “Michal’s father and three of her brothers had been killed in battle against the Philistines” (page 251).  The story then says that Michal was childless.  Many say that God was punishing Michal for speaking out against David, as if God gives David a free pass to be a jerk.  But Telushkin offers another view: that Michal did not have another child because she and David were never sexually intimate after their argument.  The lesson, for Telushkin, is that harsh words can cost one a relationship.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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