Corban

May 24, 2016 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org)

Corban, meaning gift, was the Jewish custom of devoting one’s property to God. The Pharisees taught that it was acceptable for sons to dedicate their property to the temple even if they did so for the purpose of not taking care of their parents. If the parent asked for help, the Jewish son could say, “It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me” (Mat. 15:5). The child was saying to the parent, “Whatever help you are asking from me is forthwith devoted to God, so you cannot have it.”

This type of thing came from a very hard and unloving heart, but the practice was supported by the Pharisees. Yet God cares more for honoring parents and caring for one’s fellow man and loving God in sincerity and truth than for making religious offerings and vows (1 Sam. 15:22; Psa. 51:15-17; Prov. 21:3; Mat. 5:23-24).

An example of this today would be a wife who neglects her duties to her husband and children in the name of serving the Lord. Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson abandoned her husband in order to preach. Aimee’s associate pastor, Rheba Crawford, did the same thing. This is corban. God’s Word instructs the wife to be a keeper at home, to love her husband and children (Titus 2:4-5), but this law is made of none effect if a wife and mother neglects her family for the sake of “serving the Lord.”

The Jewish Talmud has countless examples of Jewish traditions that contradict Scripture. For example Leviticus 15:19-24 says that a woman is unclean during her menstrual period and if a man lie with her, he also becomes unclean. But Horayoth 4a says “that a woman is not regarded as a ‘zabah’ [one with a discharge] except during the daytime because it is written, ‘all the
days of her issue.’”

“The law of God required that a son should honour his parent; i.e., among other things, provide for his wants when he was old, and in distress. Yet the Jewish teachers said that it was more important for a man to dedicate his property to God than to provide for the wants of his parent. If he had once devoted his property--once said it was corban, or a gift to God--it could not be appropriated even to the support of a parent. If a parent was needy and poor, and if he should apply to a son for assistance, and the son should reply, though in anger, ‘It is devoted to God--- this property which you need, and by which you might be profited by me, is corban, I give to God,’--the Jews said the property could not be recalled, and the son was not under obligation to aid a parent with it” (Barnes).

“Such a custom was open to serious abuse by unprincipled men. If a man’s property was in peril of being seized by his creditor, he could at least save the life-use of it by making it a gift to the Temple. ... All that was necessary was that a man should say respecting a given thing, ‘May this be as the Temple to me;’ or, ‘as the altar,’ etc; or, ‘as the (sacred) fire,’ etc.; or, ‘as the sacrifice to me.’ Thereupon a man, being displeased with his aged or poor parents, might free himself from all obligation to support them by merely pronouncing one of these forms; and then, when either father or mother appealed to him for aid, he would say, ‘Whatever I might have bestowed on you is now Corban.’ And the Pharisees, as Christ complains, insisted on the fulfilment of this execrable vow, even though it necessitated the violation of natural instinct, as well as the command, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother.’ In fact, there was no duty a villain might not shun by this infamous procedure” (Robert Tuck).

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