Saturday, August 29, 2015

Social Architecture (6) Tens

Society is made up of people and families. Families are the building blocks of society, but the relationships between them determine the shape and strength of society. The Ten was broader concept than a nuclear family.

In Egypt, a Ten would have been a group of slaves controlled by a taskmaster. During the exodus through the wilderness, a Ten was a group of families travelled and camping together in close proximity to each other. The number is not the number of people in the group, but the number of men in the group capable of contributing to their protection. The people making up the Ten would usually be linked by family ties, but they would also be bound together by a commitment to support and protect each other.

A Ten was a group of five or six families that could produce ten adult men to serve their community. The numbers do not need to be precise, but the base would a father and his adult sons. Jacob and his twelve sons would have been a Ten. The adult sons would usually have wives and children. A couple of uncles and aunts and cousins might also belong to the Ten as well. Abraham included his nephew Lot in his household.

Once they were in the Promised Land, the Ten became a household working the plot of land that had been allocated to them by ballot. The land was allocated to households, and the land laws worked to keep the land in the hands of households. All members of the household would all work the land together to produce food and provide clothing and shelter for the rest of the household.

A household consisted of three generations of the same family. It would include a father and mother, their adult sons and their wives, and their children. If elderly grandparent were still living, the household would cover four generations. It could also include unmarried aunts and uncles, and widows and orphans from their wider family. Many households would include some servants as well, so supplying ten adult men to protect the household was easy.

A household would live in several houses clustered together on their land or in a nearby village. These adjoining houses would share one or more walls and a common courtyard for household task and cooking. This made it a cohesive economic unit.

The Hebrew expression for household is “bet ab”, which literally means “fathers house”. A man did not leave his father’s house when he got married. Rather his wife joined him there. They become one flesh, in the sense that they belong to the same family, but they do not yet become a new family. When daughters got married, they left the household to join their father-in-laws household.

When the head of the household died, his sons could continue working their land as one unit. Because the eldest son inherited a double share, there was a strong incentive for keeping their inheritance together. Alternatively, they could divide the land between them, so that each of them with their wife and children became a separate household. A son could leave his father’s household before his father died, but he would not get a share of the land at that point. Abraham set up a separate household, because his father was unwilling to go any further on the journey from Ur to Canaan.

The Household or Ten was the basic social unit in the Promised Land. Christians should be concerned about the collapse of this unit in modern society. This is the major reason for the weakness of the modern nuclear family that Christians are so concerned about.

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