The Law of Moses
The Law of Moses
When the Law of Moses was given, Moses made it clear that one day another Law-giver and another Law would be given (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Jeremiah 31:31-34). In the New Testament we discover that the Law of Moses was removed and the New Covenant was inagurated when Jesus died upon the cross for our sins:
- "By abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace" (Ephesians 2:15).
- "Having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).
- For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it, for a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives" (Hebrews 9:17).
- "He takes away the first in order to establish the second" (Hebrews 10:9).
Both covenants make it clear that the Law of Moses was an extremely wise and good law:
- "Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" (Deuteronomy 4:8). "The law of the Lord is perfect" (Psalm 19:7).
- "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good" (Romans 7:12).
The Same and Different
While the Law of Moses is no longer the Law that we are under today, many of the moral principles contained in the Law remain the same. For example: Such things as adultery, fornication and homosexuality are still wrong under the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). One is still expected to honor Father and Mother (Ephesians 6:1-2). Witchcraft and the Occult are still off limits for God's people (Galatians 5:19-21).
Within the Law of Moses the nation of Israel had a wealth of wisdom and practical help:
- How to spot a false prophet: Deuteronomy 18:20-22
- How their future kings should conduct himself and rule: Deuteronomy 17:14-20
- Why they were being given the land: Deuteronomy 9:5
- The danger of one day feeling that they had accomplished everything by thier own power: Deuteronomy 8:10-11
Why was that command given?
When you read the Law there are times that you pause and wonder, "Why was that specific Law given?" In the rest of this lesson I want to examine some of those laws:
The Food Laws/Deuteronomy 14
The laws concerning clean and unclean animals have puzzled and intrigued people in every generation. Why did God decree that certain foods could be eaten and others must be rejected? We know that the food laws were removed in the New Covenant (1 Timothy 4:3-4; Mark 7:19), so we know that the reason for these laws was not that such things are inherently wrong to eat. Various explanations have been offered for these laws:
- The distinctions are arbitrary. God never reveals the rational behind these laws (Deut. 29:29). God was teaching the Israelites self-discipline and submission to Him even in the most routine affairs of life. Yet I don't find God giving laws without some logical rationale behind them.
- Unclean animals were those often used in or closely associated with pagan worship, thus these animals were to be shunned. While this may reveal why the pig was viewed as unclean (Isaiah 65:4), it fails to explain why the bull was not prohibited, seeing that it was one of the major objects of worship in Egypt and Canaan.
- These rules are based on hygienic considerations, i.e. unclean animals were unfit because they were often carriers of disease/ “Pork can be a source of trichinosis. The coney and hare are carriers of tularemia. Fish without fins and scales tend to burrow into the mud and become sources of dangerous bacteria, as do the birds of prey which feed on carrion” (Leviticus, Wenham, p. 167).
- One suggestion is that unclean animals tended to be the “exceptions” in their kind, i.e. fish without scales or fins, insects which fly, but still have many legs. The Israelites were being taught that they needed to avoid that which didn’t fit what we might call “normal”. Animals were considered clean or unclean depending on whether they possessed all the features that made them “normal” in their category.
- Another idea is that as a chosen nation, a nation selected out from among all the other nations, Israel was given a chosen diet, and such a diet would be one more protection that would make it unappealing for unbelievers to intermarry with them. It could also be that more than one explanation is behind these laws, i.e. not every unclean animal was viewed as being unclean for the same reason.
"You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed… You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together" (Deuteronomy 22:9,11).
Observe the laws that surround these two laws. The emphasis on getting involved and watching out for the interests of your neighbor (22:1-4). The importance of the distinction between genders (22:5), then compassion on animals, both wild and domestic (22:6-7; 10), and safety concerns when your neighbors visit your home (22:8).
"Each of the three commands is about two different kinds (much like 22:5): 1) two kinds of seed, 2) two kinds of animal, and 3) two kinds of yarn. The different seeds were not to be planted together; the different animals were not to plow together; and the different yarns were not to be interwoven. There may be some practical reasons for the commands to keep these things separate. Some interpreters understand the idea of “yoking” as a reference to crossbreeding the two animals (this is the emphasis in Leviticus 19:19). The command could also have been a means of preventing animal cruelty: an ox is much stronger than a donkey, and yoking the two together will quickly deplete a donkey’s strength" (Gotquestions.org). Some say that pagan priests of the time attempted to perform sorcery by working fabrics taken from animals and animals into their garments. Sowing two kinds of seed in the same field might endanger the harvest and crossbreeding animals can produce a hybrid that is sterile, and an unsound produce could result from attempting to weave together two completely different fabrics. Yet there seems to be an even higher purpose behind these laws, because two different crops in a vineyard might grow well together, an ox and a donkey might get the job done behind the plow, and a garment of different fabrics might be durable and warm, yet the idea of separation is key. Centuries later Paul spoke of the need to avoid being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), and as a result we end up becoming unsound, unfruitful and no longer a faithful Christian, but a hybrid that cannot save anyone else. The one thing that we need to make sure remains pure is ourselves (Hosea 7:8).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017