In the Eastern countries, there are three kinds of justice available. There are the judges, the Elders at the Gate, and the daysman. Judges handle major cases. Aside from these, there is also a local type of justice for each village, called the Elders at the Gate, sometimes called the masters of assemblies. The daysman is neither elected nor appointed, but he rises up from the people as a wise man, well-versed in the Scriptures, who acts to reconcile the wrong-doer to the wronged.
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As a convert to Christianity from Hinduism, Bishop K.C. Pillai came to the Western world on a singular mission: to teach the Eastern culture of the Bible. Although Christianity is generally considered a western religion, the Bible itself was written and set in the Orient, and it must be viewed through the light of that eastern window. The Bible is filled with passages that perplex the Western mind, and yet they were readily understood by the Easterner. When the reader becomes knowledgeable of the oriental idioms, customs, and traditions of the Biblical setting, these Scriptures become clear. God called Bishop K.C. Pillai to reveal these Biblical truths he called Orientalisms. At the time of the Bishop’s early life, his native India had remained an isolated country for thousands of years. Therefore, the customs and manners of the people were still aligned with the Eastern, Biblical culture. For over twenty years, Bishop Pillai taught these Orientalisms, bringing great enlightenment to the Christian world. His crusade of imparting this light of the Eastern Culture carried him to numerous universities and seminaries, as well as every major denomination throughout the United States, England and Canada. Still today, his teachings remain the foremost authority on the rare gems of Biblical customs and culture. Bishop K.C. Pillai’s conversion to Christianity is a witness of God’s heart, as well as a lesson in one of the most significant Eastern customs found in the Bible. The Bishop was raised as a Hindu. When a Hindu child of the ruling class is born, a little salt is rubbed on the baby who is then wrapped in swaddling cloth. This custom invoked one of the oldest and strongest covenants in the Eastern world, the “salt covenant.” In this particular instance, the child was salted for a lifetime of dedication to the Hindu religion. The “salt covenant” is used in like manner throughout the Bible to seal the deepest commitment. As a result of the salt covenant it is difficult for Hindus to convert to Christianity. When they do, their family actually conducts a funeral service to symbolize that the individual is dead to their family, the community and Hinduism. Their family will carry a portrait of the “deceased” to the cemetery and bury it. Many times Bishop spoke of his “burial day” when he was disinherited by becoming a Christian; the only Hindu willing to break that covenant of salt in his community during that time. K.C. Pillai answered God’s call and served as Bishop of North Madras in the Indian Orthodox Church. Sent on a special mission to the United States, he spent the last twenty years of his life acquainting Christians with the Orientalisms of the Bible. The interest Bishop Pillai generated in the field has led to numerous further studies by other scholars in the field of manners and customs in the Bible, as well. His books and teachings continue to illuminate and inspire students of the Bible throughout the world. A solid understanding of Orientalisms is essential to “rightly dividing” the Word of truth, and Bishop K.C. Pillai’s works remain an indispensable reference.
Three Kinds of Justice
In the Eastern countries, there are three kinds of justice available. There are the judges, the Elders at the Gate, and the daysman.
Since there is no divorce and very little juvenile delinquency, the judges, which are federally appointed, are located throughout the land at widely separated locations. They handle major cases. This is the type of judge referred to in Matthew 5:25:
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him, lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
This refers to the fact that since the courts are far apart, one usually must travel many miles to reach them. Suppose that you and I had a disagreement - about land encroachment. If we could not settle the matter in our village, we must go to the court, which is 300 miles away. When the summons comes, we all travel together; you and I, our witnesses and our lawyers. We put all our belongings on the same ox-cart and start out. But while we are on the way, perhaps the second day out, the witnesses have been talking among themselves. "It is disgraceful for Godly people to go to court, which results in fines and punishment. If we can settle this matter along the way, it would be a saving of both time and money, and more pleasing to God."
So they talk it over and come to a compromise. They present this proposed settlement to you and me, and if we can agree, then all of us can turn around and go back home (except for the lawyers, who go ahead and tell the judge that the matter has been settled out of court.)
This is why Jesus says, "Agree with thine adversary quickly while on the way." Even if you lose a few dollars agree quickly.
Throughout the East religious people think it is shameful to go to court. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, [I Corinthians 6:1-5]:
Dare any of you, having a matter against another go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Know ye not that we shall judge the angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are at least esteemed in the church.
I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
Justice used to be traditionally harsh in the East. The penalty for stealing was to have one's hand cut off, If you saw a man walking around with his hand cut off in the East, you knew of a certainty that he was convicted of thievery. In America you cannot tell who is a thief and who is not; everyone looks the same. In America, the punishment for stealing is a warm bed, good food, and an easy life without working for a period of time. It seems to me this method would only encourage stealing. I can tell you, there was very little stealing in India, for no one wanted to have his hand cut off!
The verse, "If thy right hand offend thee cut it off" Matthew 5:30 indicates "I would rather cut off my right hand than to steal with it". I have heard Americans say, "I'd cut off my right arm if I could do such-and-such" but I have not seen any of them do it!
Elders at the Gate
We have discussed the federally-appointed judges. Aside from these, there is also a local type of justice for each village, called the Elders at the Gate, sometimes called the masters of assemblies. The name comes from the Sanskrit word "panchayat". These elders are elected. They are the "government of the people, by the people and for the people", so described many centuries ago in India before Abraham Lincoln made this phrase a by-word on the lips of American school children. They sit in judgment on minor offenses which may arise.
In Ecclesiastes 12:11 there is a phrase referring to this type of justice:
The Words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
"Word of the wise" always refers to the Word of God: Easterners say there is only one who is all-wise. "Goads" are the nails fastened at the end of a stick which the plowman uses to correct the oxen. If they go straight down the furrow, they are not touched, but if they stray from the right path, they are pricked with the goad.
The "nails fastened by the masters of assemblies" should be "spears". The nails go with the "goads" in the translation; the objects fastened by the masters of assemblies are spears. When the place is built for the Elders to sit in judgment, the area is surrounded by a line of upright spears which are the traditional symbol of justice. These spears are brought into the judgment place by the shepherds from the surrounding areas; no shepherd may bring more than one or two spears so that all of them will be represented in the place of justice.
This verse is saying, however, that God's Word acts as a correction to us and His righteousness and justice are made available to us through one shepherd; Christ is the Good Shepherd through whom God's righteousness comes to us.
When complaints are brought before the Elders at the Gate the offender's name is placed at the top of a notice and his offense or the amount of his delinquent debt is written beneath and this is placed at the gates of the village for all who pass through to read.
When the debt has been repaid, or the wrong some how made right, the page is folded up double so that it is now hidden from the eyes of the public. This explains the puzzling phrase in Isaiah 40:2: "…for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins." Not a double measure, as some have thought, but folded double: hidden: forgiven as in the notice at the gates of the village when folded double.
The third type of justice available in the East is the daysman. We see a reference to him mentioned in Job 9:32-33.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand on us both.
Job is speaking, in verse 32, of God when he says "he is not a man as I am." We know that God is Spirit, John 4:24: Job is here reaffirming that since God is Spirit and Job is a man they cannot appear before a judge for judgment in this matter.
You remember that Job is here answering his "miserable comforters", the friends who came to commiserate with him concerning the loss of all that he had: children, cattle; everything but his wife. The Scripture says that these friends sat down and said not a word for seven days and seven nights.
The daysman is neither elected nor appointed as were the others we discussed, but he rises up from the people as a wise man, well-versed in the Scriptures, who acts to reconcile the wrong-doer to the wronged.
The daysman is called "Mahatma" which means great soul. You have heard of Mahatma Gandhi, who became well-known because he was active in politics. But there are many Mahatmas in India of whom you have not heard, acting as daysmen.
As an example of what the daysman does, take a case of two young men, John and George. John owes George some money and refuses to pay it. Finally George gets angry and punches John in the nose. Now the parents of the two boys become concerned about the matter. They say "You two boys cannot go on like this. Something must be done about it. Come; let us go to the daysman."
And they all go to the daysman's house. He is usually a wealthy man, with a large comfortable home suitable for receiving such a group of guests. They all come to the daysman's house: the two boys, their parents and other relatives and friends who might be concerned.
They knock on the door and he says "Come in." They go in and he asks, "Wouldn't you like something to drink this morning?" And then he calls for coconut milk. He doesn't ask who they are, or whether they belong to the same church that he does, or anything like that. He doesn't say, "Can I do anything for you?" Neither does he peek through a small window, as they do in England to see who it is before opening the door. "Come in", the daysman calls to whomever is calling at the entrance; so they drink something and then sit down, and the daysman waits until they tell him why they are there.
The parents explain that the two boys have had a quarrel and that they wish this quarrel settled without bitterness and more quarreling afterwards, and so forth.
The daysman seats himself at a table and spreads out several books of Scripture before him: The Vedas, the Bhagavad-Gila, the Talmud, the Bible, the Upanishads etc. He seats George, the one who has done the nose-punching, to the right of him, and John to his left.
He says, "What religion are you boys? Both Hindu? All right." He picks up the appropriate Holy Book and, turning to the place, he says to George:
"Ah, you punched his nose - - - do you know that he is your brother?"
"And you know that if God had punched you in the nose for all the things that you have done wrong since you were small, you wouldn't have any nose left, would you?"
George says, " Yes sir. "
The daysman continues, "Look here, .George, you see where it says in the Scripture, 'If thy brother hath need of any thing give it to him'? Not loan; give. You should not have loaned the money in the first place. You should have given it to him. Now on top of that, You punched him in the nose. Aren't you sorry?"
Thus the daysman talks, showing George the Scripture convicting him, proving to him that he is wrong. He takes all the time needed, two or three hours if necessary, to show him that he is in the wrong. He will say, "When you loaned him the money, you gave it to him. If he is not able to pay, you should not have asked him. You broke one law there, asking him for it. Then you broke another law by hitting him. And then, what you lent him was not your money; it was God's money - it belonged to God. The Scripture teaches that what you have is not your own. If God had not given you the strength to earn, how could you have earned your money in the first place? God gave you the power to earn so that you may lend the money to a brother."
"You were able to earn the money, whereas your brother was not able to earn the money", the daysman tells George. He keeps talking until the boy sees how wrong he has been and begins to cry and says to him. "Sir, I am sorry. I was wrong from the beginning. I am truly sorry. I was ignorant. No one taught me this way. I am very sorry, and I will do anything that you ask me to do. I feel guilty and ashamed from the beginning to the end. What shall I do now to put this thing right?"
Now that George is in tears, the daysman leaves him alone awhile and turns to John.
"See here, John," he says. "Don't you know it says in the Scriptures, 'Provoke not thy brother to anger'? You are the one who is the cause of all his anger, do you know that? Here you have borrowed money from him and never paid it back. You should have paid it back long ago. You could have given him his money back, even if you had only paid him ten cents a day. But you had no intention of paying him, you went to him in time of need, and he helped you. You should be grateful to him, but instead you caused him to get angry. If he had not been angry, he would not have hit you. Suppose he had died, you would have had to pay every penny to God. 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' What do you have to say for yourself?"
I am very sorry, sir; very sorry," John says. And he is almost in tears by now.
You see what the daysman is doing here: he is making both parties wrong. In a court, it is only possible for one party to be wrong. Any fool can punish a wrong-doer, but it takes a gracious man to love the wrongdoer. Jesus loved us to the extent that he died for us! Can't we show as much love towards our next-door neighbor? That is the philosophy of the daysman.
The daysman may now lay one hand on each of them and instruct them to forgive each other. George must fall at the feet of John and kiss his feet until forgiven; John in his turn must kiss George's feet until George says he is forgiven; (This is the traditional gesture of begging forgiveness in the East; remember the woman in Luke 7:38 who washed Jesus' feet with tears and kissed them? and Jesus said. verse 48, "Thy sins are forgiven." Kissing the feet is an Eastern expression of not only confessing guilt, but also the willingness to be reconciled.)
The daysman now calls for food, some kind of food such as olives which have been prepared with salt; the two boys now dip their hands into the dish together and declare, "In the name of the salt, I promise that I will never, never remember the hatred and bitterness I had in my heart concerning this matter, so help me God."
Now that all has been forgiven, the daysman draws John to the side. "Say, John, you know you still owe the money to George. When are you going to pay it?"
John says, "Well, sir. I am out of work just now. Later when I get a job I will pay it."
The daysman reaches his hand into his pocket and hands John the money. "Here," he says, "you pay George his money with this. But you do not have to pay me back. For I give it to you. Now you do not owe George, or me, or anyone. Go in peace."
And the two boys and their families may now depart, rejoicing that peace and harmony have been reestablished among them. Assuredly, this procedure takes much time and wisdom. The Elders at the Gate would never spend this much time on such a case. They would say, "He punched you in the nose? You have two witnesses?" Bang! "Ten dollars' fine and ten days in jail!"
This, then, is what the daysman does. Some of you may have a translation of the Bible which renders the word daysman as "umpire". Do you see now what a shallow and inadequate description this is for the "Mahatma", the great soul which the daysman is?
In the time of Job, there was no daysman between man and God. But since that time, God was gracious and merciful to send a daysman in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ is the dayspring, the daystar, the daysman for us all, that we may be reconciled to God.
Bishop K.C. Pillai, D.D.