World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Law of Moses

Article Id: WHEBN0000731774
Reproduction Date:

Title: Law of Moses  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sabbath in Christianity, Christian views on the Old Covenant, Mosaic covenant, Torah, Religious law
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Law of Moses

The Law in ancient Israel refers primarily to the law preserved in the Hebrew Bible, in the light of archeological and comparative evidence from the Ancient Near East.

Terminology "Law of Moses"

The Law of Moses or Torah of Moses (Hebrew Torat Moshe תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה, Septuagint Greek nomos Moyse νόμος Μωυσῆ) is a biblical term first found in the Book of Joshua 8:31-32 where Joshua writes the words of "the Law of Moses" on the altar at Mount Ebal. The text continues "And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law." (Joshua 8:34).[1] The term occurs 15 times in the Hebrew Bible, another 7 times in the New Testament, and repeatedly in Second Temple period, intertestamental, rabbinical and patristic literature.

The usage of the Hebrew term Torah (which was translated into Greek as "nomos" or "Law") as equivalent to the English term "Pentateuch" (from Latinised Greek), meaning the "Five Books of Moses" of the Hebrew Bible, is clearly documented only from the 2nd Century BCE.[2] In modern Hebrew the term Torah (typically translated into English as "instruction") refers to both the first section of the Tanakh and to the "Law of Moses" itself, the actual regulations and commandments found among the 2nd to 5th books of the Hebrew Bible. Rarely in English "the Law" can also refer to the whole Pentateuch including Genesis, but this is generally in relation to New Testament uses where nomos "the Law" sometimes refers to all five books, including Genesis. This use of the term Torah for the first five books is considered misleading by some scholars since the Pentateuch consists of about one half law and one half narrative.[3] The adjective "Mosaic" meaning "of Moses" is also found in the description "Mosaic Law" in which case only the actual law, not the five books is intended.

Law in the Ancient Near East

The "Law of Moses" in Ancient Israel is distinguished from other legal codes in the ancient Near East by its reference to offense against a deity rather than against society.[4] This compares with the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100-2050 BCE), then the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (c. 1760 BCE), of which almost half concerns contract law. However the influence of the ancient Near Eastern legal tradition on the Law of Ancient Israel is recognised and well documented.[5] For example the Israelite Sabbatical Year has antedents in the Akkadian mesharum edicts granting periodical relief to the poor.[6] Another important distinction is that in ancient Near East legal codes, or in more recently unearthed Ugaritic texts, an important, and ultimate, role was assigned to the king, whereas in the Law of Ancient Israel, Israel was intended to be a theocracy, not a monarchy.[7]

Hebrew Bible

Moses and authorship of the Law

According to the Hebrew Bible, Moses was the leader of early Israel out of Egypt and traditionally the first five books of the Hebrew Bible are attributed to him, though Mosaic authorship is disputed. The law attributed to Moses, specifically the laws set out in the Book of Deuteronomy, as a consequence came to be considered supreme over all other sources of authority (the king and his officials), and the Levite priests were the guardians and interpreters of the law.[8]

The Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 31:9 and Deuteronomy 31:24–26) records Moses saying "Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD." Similar passages include, for example, Exodus 17:14, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven;" Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel;" Exodus 34:27, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel;" and Leviticus 26:46 "These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established on Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses."

Later references to the Law in the Hebrew Bible

The Book of Kings relates how a "law of Moses" was discovered in the Temple during the reign of king Josiah (r. 641–609 BCE). This book is mostly identified as an early version of the Book of Deuteronomy, perhaps chapters 5-26 and chapter 28 of the extant text. This text contains a number of laws, dated to the 8th century BC kingdom of Judah, a time when a minority Yahwist faction was actively attacking mainstream polytheism, succeeding in establishing official monolatry of the God of Israel under Josiah by the late 7th century BC.

Content of the Law

The content of the Law is spread among the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and then reiterated and added to in Deuteronomy (deutero-nomy is Latinised Greek for "Second reading of the Law"). This includes:

Rabbinical interpretation

The content of this law, or in Hebrew Torah, was excerpted and codified in Rabbinical Judaism, and in the Talmud were numbered as the 613 commandments. The Halakha (not Torah) given to Moses at Sinai is a halakhic distinction in the Law.

See also


  1. ^ Kristin De Troyer, Armin Lange Reading the present in the Qumran library 2005 p158 "Both at the beginning and at the ending of the Gibeonites' story there is now a reference to the law of Moses and to the fact that ... The building of the altar happens on Mount Ebal, not in Gilgal—Joshua gets to Gilgal only in 9:6. "
  2. ^ Frank Crüsemann, Allan W. Mahnke The Torah: theology and social history of Old Testament law p331 1996 " there is only clear evidence for the use of the term Torah to describe the Pentateuch as a ..."
  3. ^ John Van Seters The Pentateuch: a social-science commentary 2004 p16 "Furthermore, the Hebrew term Torah, 'Law', is a little misleading as a description of the content of the Pentateuch, since it consists of about one half law and the other half narrative. "
  4. ^ John H. Walton Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context 1994 p233 "The ancient Near Eastern collections do not include cultic law; rather, their focus is on civil law. As a generalization, in the ancient Near East violation of law is an offense against society. In Israel a violation of law is an ..."
  5. ^ A survey of the Old Testament p52 Andrew E. Hill, John H. Walton - 2000 "The influence of the ancient Near Eastern legal tradition on the form and function of Hebrew law is undeniable and widely documented.2 Along with this contemporary cultural influence, the Old Testament affirms the divine origin of "
  6. ^ The Bible and the ancient Near East: collected essays Jimmy Jack McBee Roberts 2002 p46 "The Israelite Sabbatical Year, which seems to have the same purpose and recurs at about the same interval, appears to be an Israelite adaptation of this mesharum-edict tradition."
  7. ^ Adrian Curtis in Law and religion: essays on the place of the law in Israel ed. Barnabas Lindars - 1988 p3 Chapter 1 GOD AS 'JUDGE' IN UGARITIC AND HEBREW THOUGHT "The many legal texts discovered at Ugarit make it clear that the king played an important legal role; although legal transactions could be carried out before witnesses, "
  8. ^ Graham, M.P, and McKenzie, Steven L., "The Hebrew Bible today: an introduction to critical issues" (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998) p.19ff
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.