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Biblical Jury Duty

Here's what jury duty might look like in Biblical times.

Biblical Jury DutyI'm on my way to jury duty. I've never been picked before. Either I've been excused before the jury picking, or I was found unsuitable to be properly coerced by the lawyers so they'd say, "We'd like to thank and excuse Mr. Barany."

A lady I spoke with on the way to the courthouse said she's never been picked because she doesn't believe in the system. There's a story in there somewhere. Maybe her son was wrongly accused and convicted. Maybe the blatant evidence supporting her or her family member's case was not as convincing as the wry wit and ridicule of the opponent's attorney, making the jury ready to side with anything and everything that clever attorney said.

Instead of being an author, I might have been a lawyer. As I grew up, I was intrigued by the laws in Leviticus. I loved studying the laws, the commentary on the laws, all with the purpose of tzedek tzedek tirdof, "justice, justice you will pursue." I loved to see what people came up with as a way to make sure everyone gets what is fair, especially trivial things. For example, not responding to a person's greeting falls under "thou shalt not steal" because you are stealing their day. I know what it's like to be purposefully ignored, and yes, it does feel like my whole day is shot.

But for some reason, I never connected studying biblical law with studying to be a lawyer. I'm not sure why. Perhaps there's always been a stigma against lawyers. After all, you never hear people say in conversation:

"I like the Beatles."

"I like Lady Gaga."

"I like Weisenthal and McCormick, attorneys at law."

As much as I'd love to go through a whole jury process, I imagine I'll be quickly excused today.

Hope so, anyway.

I wonder how well jury duty would have gone over during biblical times...

"Thank you, everyone, for coming in today. I know that 3000 BCE is not the easiest year to put down your hoes and leave your chickens, cows, and sheep, but we'll be sure to let you out before the shadows of trees grow 20 cubits long. I hope everyone is excited as we move into the year 2999 BCE, a whole new millennium. Not sure what we're counting down to, but who cares? We'll be dead by then, right? Now to get started with jury selection. May the following people please follow the gentleman with a goat to the 'courtroom,' also known as Obediah's hut (thank you, Obediah, for letting us use your space). And please forgive me if I mispronounce your name. These Biblical names are always tough to pronounce. Aaron, Azazel, Belshazzar, Charlie (Charlie? What the hell kind of name is that?)..."

The 40 men follow in single file the man with the goat to the courtroom. Once everyone is seated, the guy with the goat announces, "This court is now in session." The goat says "Baa-ah-ah!" The stenographer with the chisel, hammer, and tablets wonders how to spell "baa-ah-ah."

Judge Deborah arrives and sits in her chair. She asks in Hebrew, "We're going to have the court session be in Hebrew. Is there anyone here who doesn't understand what I'm saying?" All 40 men raise their hands. Realizing what they've just done, they slowly put down their hands. Judge Deborah says, "Gotchya!"

She asks the potential jurors, "Does anyone here have a medical hardship?"

"Your honor, my name's Belshazzar, and I have a polytheistic view that frequently gets me stoned. So I visit the hospital often."

Judge Deborah says, "Belshazzar,-"

"Call me Belshazam."

"Belshazam,-"

"But say it like this. Bel-SHAZAM!"

"Why?"

"I dunno. Just sounds powerful."

"Okay, Bel-SHAZAM! We can accommodate you by putting a hospital bed over there. Your request is denied."

The one called Ishmael says, "Your honor, I have plans to set out to sea and catch a white whale."

"Yeah. Good luck with that. Request granted."

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