Truth, Understanding, Insight

The Law of Moses

18th February 2006, sjh


1) The Ten Commandments

The early sections of the Bible are quite fast paced and cover a long period of history in relatively few chapters. However, from Exodus onward things slow down dramatically. The following three books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are all about the 40 year period of time in which Israel was developed as a nation.

The next section follows on from the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea in the previous study. The people as a nation walked together to Mt. Sinai, where they were to appear before God and to see the glory of God in action. As part of this, God offered a deal that if the people obeyed the command of God, and agreed to be his special people, then he would in turn bless them.

Some of the early commands recorded are the famous “Ten Commandments”, which were something of an overview that preceed the many later chapters of more detailed laws.

Exodus 20

Exodus 20:1: God spoke all these words, saying, 2 "I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before me.

4 "You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 "You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 You shall labor six days, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates; 11 for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

13 "You shall not murder.

14 "You shall not commit adultery.

15 "You shall not steal.

16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."

18 All the people perceived the thunderings, the lightnings, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled, and stayed at a distance. 19 They said to Moses, "Speak with us yourself, and we will listen; but don't let God speak with us, lest we die."

20 Moses said to the people, "Don't be afraid, for God has come to test you, and that his fear may be before you, that you won't sin." 21 The people stayed at a distance, and Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

22 Yahweh said to Moses, "This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: `You yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall most certainly not make alongside of me gods of silver, or gods of gold for yourselves. 24 You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace-offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it. 26 Neither shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.' WEB

Following this chapter, there is the record of more laws intermixed with a series of events that occur among the people at the time. Very soon after this, it describes how a crisis occurred when while the leader Moses was away in the mountain the people constructed an idol and had a festival around it. That was resolved, but a number of examples of that type of issues appear in these sections of the Bible.

The laws presented in this section of the Bible were given specifically to the people of Israel, and aren't actually expressed as being the laws of God to the whole of creation, as a simplistic reading may suggest. So while they certainly show the things that God likes and dislikes, this by itself doesn't necessarily mean all of these laws are binding in a modern context. This is particularly the case once the presence of Jesus is considered, which appears in the New Testament.

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