Did the Biblical society influence the collective behavior of people?
Acheived and Ascribed Shame - A case study using the Parable of the Prodigal Son
Let’s continue with verse 13 of Luke 15.
“Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.”
Comment: So here you need to continue reading in a little bit of first century Torah-oriented Israel’s culture into the story. As I said, previously, this is a major affront to the family. How dare could he do such a thing. Really in some ways of looking at it, this young man is more like that one described in Deuteronomy 21:18: the stubborn and rebellious son.
This is often a common theme in films. One of the younger son’s leaves and all of the responsibility for the family falls on the elder son and he resents his younger brother. No doubt, when we look at the actions later of the older brother, we can see someone who is not happy with the activities undertaken by his hooligan little brother.
So now all of the responsibility has fallen on the older brother. He is dealing with the shame of the property sale and his father is busy making up some story to justify the departure of his younger son. No doubt, the father is trying to put a good face on this whole very unorthodox situation. In fact, the shame that this son is bringing on the family not only is a shame to the immediate family, but it also affects the whole extended family, clan, and even the tribe. This is not some trend that the people in the area where this father is living wish to see repeated. In fact, when we consider this story, we have to understand that the life of the younger son now due to his actions could be in danger, believe it or not. It has to be understood that what is taking place here is describing a very tragic situation in a first century cultural context where the Bible is the ruling book of the land. Let’s go on.
“And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.”
Comment: So now he has reached the low point. He is destitute working as a labourer feeding pigs. What is interesting to note here is the reference to the “pods” that the pigs ate. Here it is to be understood that they are talking about the fruit of the carob tree, which the pods are not good for food, but some animals seem to like them.
Now, what is this young man thinking? He is thinking how he has ruined his life. How he will never marry and have children because no father in his right mind would give his daughter to marry such a loser and rebel against authority and the prevailing culture at that time.
What we can see here is a picture being painted of a ‘rebel’, a one totally outside of the cultural norm of Torah culture in Israel in Jesus’ day. Such a person would have been reviled and called the ‘stubborn and rebellious son” that he was and the agricultural patriarchal community of Israel would have wanted nothing to do with this rebel. The story continues:
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’
Comment: So here he remembers how good things were at home. Now he has no plan or future to return home as a son in any capacity. He is planning to return home just to have a place to live and food to eat. Nothing more, because he realizes the shame he has brought on his family. But wait! What happens?
We will continue this story in the next post.