Law of Moses
It is commonly believed that the law described in the Bible as the Law of Moses consists of the Ten Commandments and the sacrificial system, and that these laws were canceled when Jesus Christ was crucified.
Is there a scripture in the Books of the Law, which validate the belief that Moses gave the Israelites his law? No! No such record exists in the Books of the Law or in the rest of the biblical record. However, there are many scriptures, which show the Creator God telling Moses to inform the Israelites of laws that he expected them to obey and practice. Therefore, the law that Moses revealed to the Israelites is actually God's law.
In this chapter you will find proof that God gave his laws as a complete set of interdependent and interrelated laws, and that what is spoken of in the biblical record as the Law of Moses is in reality God's Law.
"Now pay attention, Israel, to the statutes and judgments, that I teach you, do them, that you may live and possess the land that the Lord God of your ancestors gives you. You shall not add to the words that I command you, neither shall you take from it, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land that you go to possess it. Keep them and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, that shall hear all these statutes and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call on him for?" (vs.1-7 Para.).
"And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day" (v.8 KJV).
When Moses recited God's words to the nation of Israel, he showed them the will of God concerning how they were to live their lives individually and as a nation. Moreover, the statutes and judgments that many people today believe were done away with are called righteous by Moses.
DID GOD MISJUDGE THE ISRAELITES?
Many believe that God misjudged the character of the Israelites so badly that, after he gave them the Ten Commandments, he had to add the sacrifices nine months later because of the people's sins. But, is this true?
We know that God had over two thousand years to deal with humanity before he presented the Ten Commandments to Israel at mount Sinai. By this time, God had already discovered how wicked humanity is capable of being. After all, at the end of nearly two thousand years of human history, he could only find one righteous man—Noah.
The Father knew "from the foundation of the world" (Rev.5:6-12; 13:8) that the Creator God would have to offer his life for the salvation of humanity, Therefore it makes sense that he would have designed the sacrificial system to point to the coming of the Messiah to redeem humanity.
FROM THE BEGINNING
The first chapter of the Book of Genesis shows that one reason God created and arranged the stars and planets the way he did was to give humanity a means to calculate when to observe his sacred festivals and observances:
"Then God commanded, Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from night and show the time when days, years, and religious festivals begin. . ." (Gen.1:14 GNB).
This record clearly shows that, from the time of his creation of humanity, God intended to have them observe his sacred festivals, observances, and convocations. Remember that the Bible was written for our admonition and instruction in God's way of life. If God had not intended for humanity to observe these special days, why would he have inspired this to be recorded in the Book of Genesis?
ADAM AND THE LAW
Adam and his family understood God's law, which included the sacrificial system:
"In process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. And Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering: But for Cain and to his offering he had no respect. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry and why is your countenance fallen? If you had done well, shall you not be accepted? and if you do not well, sin lies at the door" (Gen.4:3-7 Para.).
God did not accept Cain's sacrifice, because only a blood sacrifice could be offered as a sin offering. Cain was disobeying God by not offering the correct offering. Abel offered one of his animals and God accepted it, because it was the correct offering. See Gen.4:7; Lev.chp.4.
The writer to the Hebrews also confirms the Genesis record:
"By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaks" (Heb.11:4 KJV).
In the first four chapters of the Bible, there is a very clear record showing that God intended his festivals and sacred observances to be practiced. The inspired record also shows that the breaking of God's law constitutes sin (1.Jn.3:4). Moreover, this record shows God's sacrificial system being practiced.
NOAH AND THE LAW
The apostle Peter tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2.Pet.2:5). In Genesis 6:9, Noah is said to be a righteous person before God. Noah could not have been righteous before God if he had not understood what God expected of him or what constituted righteousness. For the inspired record to show that Noah was righteous, it would have been necessary for him to understand and obey God's laws, which define righteousness. See Psa.119:138,172; Rom.7:12.
In the account of the great flood, God gave Noah instructions regarding clean and unclean animals:
"Of every clean beast you shall take to you by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female" (Gen.7:2 Para.).
Clean beasts could be eaten by Noah and his family as dictated by God's dietary laws regarding what is fit and what is unfit for human consumption. See Lev.chp.11.
Clean beasts were also the only ones that could be offered in sacrifice to God, which is why more clean beasts than unclean ones were needed. See Lev.chps.1-9.
The biblical record shows that one of the first things Noah did after leaving the ark was build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God (Gen.8:20). Notice that God was very pleased with these sacrifices and blessed Noah for his obedience (Gen.8:21; 9:1-2).
Noah must have been sacrificing before the flood, because he knew which animal to sacrifice and how to sacrifice it. Adam's family understood God's law and Noah was righteous; therefore, it should be apparent that God's law was in effect and understood very early in human history. It is very possible that God's law was transmitted to Noah by Adam himself, because Adam was still alive fifty-eight years before the flood.
ABRAHAM AND THE LAW
Abraham is called a righteous man by the apostle James (Jms.2: 21-24), but what did Abraham do to merit this recognition by James?
In Genesis 17:1, God commanded Abraham to be perfect (upright) before him. For one to be perfect (upright) before God, one must obey his laws.
Abraham's test of obedience to God in Genesis 22 shows that he understood and practiced the sacrificial system of God. Otherwise, what God had asked him to do would not have made any sense. Abraham's son Isaac also understood this, which is indicated by his question in verse 7: "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" God did not allow Isaac to be sacrificed; instead, he provided a clean animal for the sacrifice.
It is evident that Abraham understood and kept all of God's laws. In fact, God promised to bless all nations because of his obedience:
"And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you [Abraham] obeyed my voice" (Gen.22:18 Para.).
There are so many biblical references to people keeping God's law before the time when it was given to the Israelites that there can be no doubt that God's law existed before he revealed it through Moses to the Israelites who had forgotten most of it during their time of captivity in Egypt.
THE LAW GIVEN AS A WHOLE
Some people believe that the law Moses gave at Mount Sinai, was his law and they use the following scripture to substantiate this belief:
"Only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them" (2.Kgs.21:8 Para.).
In this record about the giving of the law, God is the authority behind the law that Moses commanded the people to keep. A careful study of the scriptures reveal that Moses was only acting as God's representative through whom his laws were made known to the Israelites and that all of these laws were backed up by God's authority. See Lev.11:1-2; 16:1-2; 23:1-2.
ISRAEL GIVEN THE LAW AT MOUNT SINAI
The account of God transmitting his law to the Israelites begins in Exodus 20:1. The Israelites were camped at the base of Mount Sinai where God spoke to them out of the cloud and fire and gave them the Ten Commandments; however, the people were so afraid that they asked Moses to relay the words of God to them:
"And they said to Moses, Speak you to us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex.20:19 Para.).
Deuteronomy 5:4-5, 22-28
The Creator spoke to the people first, not Moses. However, because the people were afraid, Moses' job was to relay God's words, not his own thoughts or words, but God's words. God proceeded to give the Ten Commandments, which are recorded in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
"The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire. I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to show you the word of the Lord: for you were afraid by reason of the fire, and did not go up into the mount" (vs.4-5 Para.).
"These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; and it went on no more" (v.22 Jewish Translation).
Verse 22 indicates that God quit talking after he had given them his foundational laws. In other words, there was a break or a pause in what he wanted them to hear. And during this break, the events took place that are described in verses 23-28.
"And it came to pass, when you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain burned with fire,) that you came near to me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God does talk with man, and he lives" (vs.23-24 Para.).
"Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, who has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?" (vs.25-26 Para.).
"Go you near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak you to us all that the Lord our God shall speak to you; and we will hear it, and do it. And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when you spoke to me; and the Lord said to me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken to you: they have well said all that they have spoken" (vs.27-28 KJV).
The people who heard the voice of God from Mount Sinai were afraid for their lives. So, they asked Moses to be the intermediary between them and God. Moses' task was to listen to what God had to say and report it to the people. Moreover, they agreed to obey whatever God told them to do through Moses (Deut.5:27).
God accepted the request of the people: "They have well spoken" (Deut.5:28). Then he told Moses to tell them to return to their tents.
In Deuteronomy 5:31, God commands Moses to come to him and he would speak to him and give him the commandments, statutes, and judgments that he was to teach the people. Moses followed God's instructions. Exodus 21 and 22 record that Moses received the judgments; he received the statutes in chapter 23. In Deuteronomy 5:32, God instructs Moses to tell the people to do everything that he instructed them to do, and to not deviate from what they were told to do.
BACK UP THE MOUNTAIN
Moses went back up the mountain and, while he was there, God gave him what is contained in Exodus 21 through 23. Then, Moses returned from the mountain and relayed all the things that God had told him to the Israelites. He wrote these words in a book (Ex.24:4). Then, he used the blood of a sacrificial animal to seal the agreement with the people for God. Exodus 20 through 23 contains the terms and conditions of the first agreement with national Israel. At this point the Israelites had been given the Ten Commandments, Judgments, and Statutes through Moses.
"And the Lord said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give you tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that you may teach them" (Ex.24:12).
The Creator tells Moses to come back up the mountain to receive tables of stone, a law and commandments so he could teach the people. Exodus 24:l8 shows that Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. See also Deut.chp.5.
While Moses was on the mountain this time, God began to tell him more of what he wanted the people to do in relation to their worship of him.
In Exodus, chapters 26 through 28, God instructs Moses on how to build the tabernacle and the various things that were to be contained in it.
In Exodus, chapter 29, God tells Moses who the priesthood would be, how they were to be set apart and consecrated to serve him in the tabernacle, how to cleanse the altar of impurity, and how to offer the daily sacrifices.
In Exodus, chapter 30, are the instructions about building the altar of incense and its placement in front of the curtain which separated the place of meeting from the rest of the sanctuary.
An important point to remember is that, while Moses was on the mountain receiving the tablets of stone, God also gave him instructions on how and what to offer on the altar. This proves that God was giving the law as a whole, and none of it was an afterthought. The instructions on the sacrifices were given right after God spoke the Ten Commandments, during this forty day period on the mountain.
DOWN AND UP AGAIN
Exodus 32:l5 shows that God gave Moses the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments and instructions on how to build the tabernacle and conduct the daily services, during his first forty days on the mountain.
Exodus 32:1-6 shows that the people had made a golden calf and were worshiping it. In verses 15-19, Moses sees the people worshiping the calf, he becomes angry and he breaks the tablets containing the law. Moses then returns to the mountain to make an atonement for the people's sin (perhaps by a sacrifice). See vs.30-31. In Deuteronomy 9:9-25, we see that, on this second trip up the mountain, Moses stayed for another forty days and nights.
While on the mountain the second time, Moses receives a second set of tablets of stone that contain the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God (Ex.34:1; Deut.10:1). After this, Moses went up the mountain a third time and stayed another forty days and nights (Ex.34: 28).
After coming down from his third trip up the mountain, Moses gave the Israelites the instructions that he had received from God. These instructions included the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone, the instructions on how to finance and build the tabernacle that God would dwell in during their journey through the wilderness, and the instructions on the daily tabernacle service, which included the morning and evening sacrifices and the consecration of Aaron and his sons to perform these services. See Ex.chp.35.
THE TABERNACLE AND THE SACRIFICES
In Exodus 36, we find the Israelites following the instructions of God, which were given to them through Moses. Collections were made to build the tabernacle and the things received were more than enough to build the tabernacle (Ex.chps.36-39). In chapter 40, we find that the tabernacle and all the various things contained in it were finished and ready to be erected.
After the tabernacle was erected as God had instructed, God began to dwell in the tabernacle (Lev.1:1).
The tabernacle services began after the priests and all the garments and all of the articles to be used in the tabernacle service had been purified and consecrated. After all of this, the tabernacle sacrifices began on a regular basis. See Lev.chp.9.
God showed that he was pleased with the first service in the tabernacle, because he filled the tabernacle with his glory and consumed the burnt offering (Lev.9:23-24).
Throughout the rest of the Book of Leviticus, God continues to give his law to Israel.
All the things spoken of in the Book of Leviticus are the commandments that the Lord gave to Moses for the children of Israel:
"These are the commandments, that the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on mount Sinai" (Lev.27:34 Para.).
Again, God gave these commandments (laws); they are God's laws, not Moses'. Leviticus 27:34 shows, beyond doubt, that all of the commands spoken by God from the tabernacle in the Book of Leviticus are indeed his commands, not Moses'.
The biblical record has established that the law Moses gave to the people was the complete law of God; however, why was it necessary for God to give his law to the Israelites in the first place?
The following are two reasons that God gave the sacrifices to Israel:
- To atone for the sins of the people so that God could continue to dwell among them and deal with them on an individual and national basis.
- To show that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin so that when the Messiah came to die for the sins of humanity, we would know why he gave his life.
GOD'S SPIRITUAL LAW
It is important to understand the difference between God's physical and spiritual law. Obedience or disobedience to his physical law will bring physical rewards or punishments. Obedience or disobedience to his spiritual law will bring spiritual rewards or punishments. The Ten Commandments are both physical and spiritual laws (Deut.5:29; 30: 15-l9; Matt.19:16-17). Note that the penalty for breaking God's spiritual law is the second death (Rom.6:23; Rev.21:8).
In Romans, chapter 7, the apostle Paul writes that he wouldn't have known what sin was except that the commandment says, "You shall not covet." This shows that, when someone breaks the Ten Commandments, that person is a sinner. Therefore, the law reveals what sin is. Paul goes on to say that the law is holy and spiritual. It is spiritual because it applies to things that are spiritual. In fact, the Ten Commandments illustrate the character of God and they are the standard of love that he has set for all of humanity to live by. See Rom.7:7,12,14; 1.Jn.3:4; 5:3.
No Fault with the Covenant
Anyone who makes an honest study of the Bible will discover the first agreement with national Israel included the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17), the Judgments (Ex.21-23), and the Statutes. In Hebrews 8:8, the writer tells us that God found no fault with his agreement with Israel, but the fault was with the people. Moreover, God found no fault with the conditions of the agreement with national Israel; the people were at fault, not the agreement.
Another key to understanding the relationship between God's law and the Israelites is the fact that everything God wanted them to know after the event noted in Deuteronomy 5:1-29, he spoke through Moses. The things that Moses relayed to the people were God's will regarding his law. These things were not of Moses, they were of God. It is obvious that, if the Israelites had not been so afraid of God when he spoke the Ten Commandments, God would have spoken directly to them instead of through Moses.
God intended his law to be given as a whole and he intended the sacrifices to be a part of his law from the beginning. Moreover, as soon as the tabernacle was built, the sacrifices were offered according to the instructions that Moses received from God. It is evident that God's laws are inseparable, and that they were given as a whole for the purpose of creating a pure people, to reveal what sin is, and to show that humanity would someday have a Savior who would sacrifice his life in order to forgive the violation of the Law of God.
By B.L. Cocherell and V.O. Jones b4w3