Corporate Responsibility in Sacred Scripture
“The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the Lord’s wrath against his people became irreversible.”
The idea of persistent obduracy as an explanation for corporate responsibility appears throughout Hebrew scripture beginning with the Golden Calf episode. The conception of divine wrath, so typical of deuteronomistic history, as an explanation for disproportionate punishment warrants separate treatment. However, it is accurate, but perhaps simplistic, to state corporate responsibility is an extension of divine wrath as the corporate dimension of punishment. Holiness violations have also been offered as an explanation of corporate responsibility.
Although there are numerous passages stating the King caused the people to sin, the exile was not solely attributable to the heinous behavior of Manasseh. Manasseh and kings like him ruled as they did because it is what the people expected as the people were also participants in covenant disobedience. It is a rare person who can lead people in a direction they do not want to go. King Josiah was such a person. This motif of the inevitability of exilic punishment as an expression of corporate responsibility is found throughout the Sinai and
Exile is specifically listed as a biblical sanction for disobedience in both Deuteronomy and Leviticus of the Sinai tradition and in 1 & 2 Kings and Psalm 132:11-12 of the
Persistent obduracy, divine wrath and holiness violations were still issues in the first century. Therefore corporate responsibility was still an important concept.
As an analogy, consider the global warming that is occurring. The climate is changing and man is helping to make that happen. The response to global warming must be a collective effort to be effective. If the response is not effective, then all people living on planet earth will suffer the consequences. This analogy is influenced by the idea that because God is holy, he requires that the people maintain the purity of his environment. These brief statements indicate that corporate responsibility is still an important concept. I will return to this subject.