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Blurring of the Laws of Moses and God

Covenant, Luke 2:22, Mt. Sinai, Moses, forty days, Law of God, Law of Moses, words of the covenant

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One reason that Christianity has not understood the difference between the Law of God and the Law of Moses is because there is a fair amount of blurring of the two in scripture.  For instance, Mark 7:10 says, "For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’".  On the other hand Mathew 15:4 says, "For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’."  These are obviously references to the fifth commandment as recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. One reference indicates it is the Law of Moses, the other the Law of God.

This particular instruction is both.  The detailed record of the Law of God is included in the Law of Moses.  In general, everything in the Law of God is applicable in the Law of Moses.  The laws were not against one another, but in some cases the Law of Moses gave additional slack or tightened, depending on circumstances.  It often gave more detail.  The purpose of the Law of Moses was to keep Israel in reasonable compliance with the Law of God (Gal 3:23). So the terms deal with many of the same issues.

In the Hebrew Scriptures there are a number of places that cloud the distinction between the Law of God and the Law of Moses.  Unfortunately, ancient Israel saw little reason to distinguish.  It was all applicable to them and it came from God.  They ultimately lost an appreciation for some being the original fundamental instruction and other aspects being attempts to compensate for regular failure.  One such example is II Chronicles 31:3.

"The king also appointed a portion of his possessions for the burnt offerings: for the morning and evening burnt offerings, the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the set feasts, as it is written in the Law of the LORD. "

All of these sacrifices are listed together in Numbers 28 and 29.  It is not actually specified in the Law from whose herd the animals were to come.  There is no particular offering required in His Covenant, Exodus 20-23.  Jeremiah 7:22-23 indicates He did not require sacrifices or offerings when He brought Israel out of Egypt.  His covenant, His Law, was made when He brought Israel out of Egypt (Deu 29:25-26).  So, it is unlikely the offerings of Numbers 28-29 or II Chronicles 31:3, were part of His Law and less likely the King of Israel was required by His Law to supply them.  When Israel first went into the Promised Land there was no king. 

Specifically Numbers 28:6 indicates these required sacrifices were "ordained at Mount Sinai".  Leviticus 7:37-38 also indicates the offerings were commanded "on Mount Sinai".  This instruction though was not given in Exodus 20-23, but on the mountain during Exodus 34.  It was given to Moses "on Mount Sinai" and transmitted to Israel in verse 32.  "Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai".  This new instruction could not be added to His Covenant confirmed in Exodus 24 (Gal 3:15).

Early Blur

The confusion over these covenants is not exclusive to Christianity.  The distinction between them probably started to fade with the return of the captives from Babylon.  At that time the leadership recognized that in order to understand the intention of the Law of Moses they needed all of Moses writings, not just Deuteronomy.  The distinction is blurred in the books that are attributed to Ezra; Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah (See NIV Study Bible Intro to Ezra and I Chronicles).

It is also generally believed that Ezra had an important hand in bringing together all the writings that became the Hebrew Scriptures.  Ezra lived at the end of the Babylonian captivity about 1000 years after Moses.  It is in Chronicles and Nehemiah that the blurring of the Law of Moses and the Law of God is prominent.  So the record of scripture on the distinction between the Laws seems to be changing with the writings overseen by Ezra. 

For Israel at the time of Ezra, one could easily think that there was no reason to make a distinction.  It all came from the Creator and it all applied directly to those who returned from Babylon.  It should be no surprise that a law from God would be called the Law of God.  The fact that they did not always distinguish should not color the plain record of Moses in his books which does distinguish the covenants.   The Creator commanded the covenant of the Law of Moses (Deu 29:1).  It is no surprise that they considered it "the Law of the Lord".

Certainly all the instruction given to Moses needed to be respected.  Doing that was right and good.  However, losing the distinction of the original intention was probably a significant factor in the Jews not weighing correctly what was really important and what was not so much. 

As it turns out there is a similar blurring in Joshua 24:26.  “Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.”  Here, at the end of the book it appears that where we would logically expect a reference to the book of the Law of Moses there is a reference to the book of the Law of God.  Of course, we really don’t know exactly what document this refers to, but lacking some explanation, it does not seem likely that it was the book Moses wrote in Exodus 24:4. 

Easily, the reference to the Law of God could have been added by someone like Ezra who didn’t fully appreciate the importance of distinguishing.  It is unlikely Joshua wrote that verse himself since it is in the context of the record of his death.  In any case, this lack of distinction does not nullify the record of Moses that plainly indicates many changes included in the terms of the Deuteronomy covenant, the Law of Moses.

Later Distinction

In any case, the Creator does distinguish when He is quoted.  He is clearly interested in His Law and His Covenant (II Chron 7:17, Eze11:12-20, Eze 20:11- 25, Isa 56:4-6).  There is typically a contextual connection mainly with instruction found in Exodus 20-23.  Note that when He specifically talks of the Law of Moses he does not connect it with His statutes or His judgments (Mal 4:4).

Sometimes as well, the prophets do distinguish.  Daniel 9 is a case in point.  Daniel praises the Creator for "His covenant" and "His commandments".  His covenant is, of course, the Ten Commandments spoken in Exodus 20 (Deu 4:12-13, Ex 34:28).  He then bemoans Israel's failure to keep "Your precepts" and "Your judgments" in verses 4 & 5.  Then in verses 10-11 he does the same with "His Laws and "Your law".  However, when mentioning the curses, they are "in the Law of Moses" (vss. 11, 13).  Indeed this is the case (Deu 28).  They are not part of His Law.  His Law assumes obedience.  The Law of Moses assumes disobedience.

All through the Psalms David praises "Your law", not "the law".  There is always some direct connection made to indicate the Law of the Creator, never just 'the law', never the Law of Moses.

So, while there is a blurring in the later books of the Hebrew Scriptures, this should not cloud the authoritative historical record of the law as written by Moses and other witnesses in the Prophets and Writings.  Covenants are not changed after the fact.  His covenant is His Law.  The law He made at the behest of Moses is of great value to us.  It adds detail, but was written specifically to ancient Israel in the Promised Land (Deu 12:1).  The Creator doesn't claim the Law of Moses as His own.  It must be evaluated carefully based on His law.  In some cases it is not reasonable that we follow Moses instruction specifically for ancient Israel.  However, when the basis for Moses instruction is the Law of God, those who wish to participate in the New Covenant need to consider the examples of both laws.  The Law of Moses should be consulted to understand how His law was implemented for Israel, so we can better apply His Law to our own situation.

 Blur in Luke 2

 

Luke 2:22-24 is often cited as indicating the Law of God and the Law of Moses are the same.  A gloss reading seems to make no distinction between the two.

 "Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

Moses is not generally considered to be "the Lord", so a reference to the Law of the Lord cannot be confused with the Law of Moses.  However, none of the quotes Luke uses from the Hebrew scriptures are from Exodus 20-23.  One is apparently a reference to Exodus 13:2 & 12, the other to Leviticus 12:8.  In this case, Luke associates Leviticus 12:8, which CreatorsCovenant considers to be the Law of Moses, with the Law of God.  So, is the Law of the Lord and the Law of Moses one and the same, making the Law of God the same too?

The first thing we should notice is that the first reference to ‘the law of the Lord, is out of place considering the context.  It seems to claim Mary brought Jesus/Yeshua to Jerusalem because He was firstborn (‘Every male who opens the womb’).  However, the rest of the context is talking about purification after childbirth.  Yeshua’s status as firstborn of Mary really has little to do with Leviticus instruction regarding purification.  The purification required in Leviticus 12:8 is required whether or not the male child is firstborn.  The purification offering was offered about 41 days after the birth (Lev 12:3-4). 

The offering to redeem the firstborn was done at the age of one month.  The redemption fee was 5 shekels (Num 18:15-16).  There is no specific requirement to present the firstborn at the temple.  Hannah didn’t take the prophet Samuel to the tabernacle until he was weaned (I Sam 1:24).  So, this account in Luke 2 seems to be confused.  Although, the vast majority of reputable texts include this account one could question whether this reference to the firstborn was included by the original author. Certainly, he would have known better. In spite of that it is true that the Law of the Lord/God claims the firstborn (Ex 22:29). So, the connection made in Luke 2:23 accurately reflects reality.

That doesn’t completely eliminate the problem.  This account still refers to the turtledove offering required at Mary’s purification as the law of the Lord, i.e. God.  This is reinforced in verse 39.  So, what CreatorsCovenant sees as the Law of Moses is again being called the Law of God.  Does that invalidate a distinction between the Law of God and the Law of Moses?

Did Luke, when he wrote this gospel, understand better than Ezra the need to distinguish between the two covenants of the Wilderness?  It doesn’t seem that Yeshua directly addressed the matter.  He clearly indicated Moses allowance for divorce was not ‘from the beginning’.  He connected that allowance more with Moses than with the Father (Mat 19:8, Mark 10:4-5).

Yeshua also indicated the need to come to the temple for the three joyous festivals would not continue (John 4:20-24, see also Mat 23:38).  He also indicated the priests were really profaning the Sabbath with their duties that day (Mat 12:5).  These all indicate changes from the original intention of the Creator. 

All the disciples seemed to be surprised that Yeshua would talk to a woman (John 4:27).  This was contrary to tradition. He didn’t actually condemn this tradition although He did condemn some traditions. His focus was to instruct people the full intention of the Law not tell them what was redundant. Before His crucifixion the covenant of Deuteronomy/Moab was still the governing law. It acknowledged that His instruction was superior (Deu 18:18-19).

Consider as well that Peter did not distinguish between tradition and the Law.  ‘Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”’(Acts 10:28).

There is nothing in the Law to prevent a Jew from keeping company with a gentile.  This practice likely came from the Pharisees who imposed many traditions over what was required by the Law.  Peter had to be convinced by a vision that this was not in accord with the mind of the Creator.   So even at this time many years after the resurrection of Messiah, Peter did not distinguish between traditions of the national leaders and the expectation of His Creator. 

Consider also Peter’s conduct in Galatians 2:11-17.  Here Peter withdraws from Gentiles, evidently because he was worried that other Jews might be offended that he was associating with gentiles. Is it a surprise that he and Luke might not have fully understood the distinction between the pure Law of God and the Law God added for Israel in an attempt to keep them within a reasonable degree of compliance with His original intention?

The Law of Moses came from God. Is it a surprise that it would be considered to be the Law of God? This would certainly be easy to do hundreds of years later after the leadership lost the distinction and Yeshua chose not to focus on it.

Yeshua indicated that one would come in the position of Elijah to restore all things (Mat 17:11).  He evidently didn’t see Himself in that position even though He taught in accord with and filled up His Fathers’ original intention.  This would indicate that He left some things unrestored.  A full understanding of circumcision was one of those things.  Believers need to seek in all the corners and crannies for those things.  In the case of the Law of Moses, the writings of Moses and Joshua contain the historically authoritative accounts.  In their writings the evidence for a distinction is overwhelming.  It is also evident in other places in the New and Old Testaments.  The blurring of that distinction many hundreds of years after Moses even by prophets of God is not reason to dismiss the distinction in Moses record and elsewhere in Scripture.