Law

From BiblePortal Wikipedia
Revision as of 12:41, 14 October 2021 by BiblePortalWiki (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

LAW (IN OT). 1 . That the ‘law was given by Moses’ (  John 1:17 ) represents the unanimous belief both of the early Christians and of the Chosen Nation. He was their first as well as their greatest law-giver; and in this matter religious tradition is supported by all the historical probabilities of the case. The Exodus and the subsequent wanderings constitute the formative epoch of Israel’s career: it was the period of combination and adjustment between the various tribes towards effecting a national unity. Such periods necessitate social experiments, for no society can hold together without some basis of permanent security; no nation could be welded together, least of all a nation in ancient times, without some strong sense of corporate responsibilities and corporate religion. It therefore naturally devolved upon Moses to establish a central authority for the administration of justice, which should be universally accessible and universally recognized. There was only one method by which any such universal recognition could be attained; and that was by placing the legal and judicial system upon the basis of an appeal to that religion, which had already been successful in rousing the twelve tribes to a sense of their unity, and which, moreover, was the one force which could and did effectually prevent the disintegration of the heterogeneous elements of which the nation was composed.

2 . We see the beginning and character of these legislative functions in   Exodus 18:16 , where Moses explains how ‘the people come unto me to inquire of God: when they have a matter they come unto me; and I judge between a man and his neighbour, and make them know the statutes of God, and his laws ( tôrôth ).’ Originally tôrah (the usual word in the OT for ‘law’) meant, as in this passage, oral instruction or direction. This kind of tôrah survived for long in Israel. It was a ‘method strictly practical and in precise conformity with the genius and requirements of primitive nations,’ W. R. Smith ( OTJC [Note: TJC The Old Test. in the Jewish Church.] 2 339). Cases of exceptional difficulty were brought to the sanctuary, and the decisions there given were accepted as emanating from the Divine Judge of Israel (cf.   1 Samuel 2:25; and, for the use of ‘Elohim’ to signify the judges speaking in Jehovah’s name, cf.   Exodus 21:6;   Exodus 22:7 ). The cases thus brought ‘before God’ may be divided into three classes, as they dealt respectively with (1) matters of moral obligation, (2) civil suits, (3) ritual difficulties. We read that Moses found it necessary to devolve some of this administrative work upon various elders, whom he associated with himself in the capacity of law-givers.

In this connexion it is important to remember that

( a ) These decisions were orally given. ( b ) Although binding only on the parties concerned, and in their case only so far as they chose to submit to the ruling of the judge, or as the latter could enforce his authority, yet with the increasing power of the executive government such decisions soon acquired the force of consuetudinary law for a wider circle, until they affected the whole nation. ( c ) Such oral direction in no sense excludes the idea of any previous laws, or even of a written code. The task of the judges was not so much to create as to interpret. The existence and authority of a law would still leave room for doubt in matters of individual application, ( d ) As social life became more complex, the three divisions of the tôrah became more specialized; civil suits were tried by the judge; the prophets almost confined themselves to giving oral direction on moral duties; the priests were concerned mainly with the solution of ritual difficulties. Cf. Justice (II.).

Here, then, we can trace the character of Hebrew legislation in its earliest stages. Law ( tôrah ) means oral direction, gradually crystallizing into consuetudinary law, which, so far from excluding, may almost be said to demand, the idea of a definite code as the basis of its interpretative function. Finally, when these directions were classified and reduced to writing (cf.   Hosea 8:12 ), tôrah came to signify such a collection; and ultimately the same word was used as a convenient and comprehensive term for the whole Pentateuch, in which all the most important legal collections were carefully included.

3 . The tôrah of the Prophets was moral, not ceremonial. The priests, while by their office necessarily much engaged in ceremonial and ritual actions, nevertheless had boundless opportunities for giving the worshippers true direction on the principles underlying their religions observances; and it is for their neglect of such opportunities, and not, as is often crudely maintained, on account of any inherently necessary antagonism between priestly and prophetical ideals, that the prophets so frequently rebuke the priests, not because of the fulfilment of their priestly ( i.e . ceremonial) duties, but because of the non-fulfilment of their prophetical ( i.e . moral) opportunities. For the priests claimed Divine sanction for their worship, and tradition ascribed the origin of all priestly institutions to Mosaic (or Aaronic) authorship. This the prophets do not deny; but they do deny that the distinctive feature of the Sinaitic legislation lay in anything but its moral excellence. In this connexion the words of Jeremiah cannot be quoted too often: ‘I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices; but this thing I commanded them, saying Hear my voice, … and walk ye in the way that I command you’ (  Jeremiah 7:21-22 ). The correct interpretation of   Amos 5:24-26 corroborates Jeremiah’s contention. It is wholly unwarrantable to say that the prophets condemned the sacrificial system, or denied its worth and Divine sanction; but, on the other hand, we are justified in asserting that the tôrah of Jehovah, ‘the law of the Lord,’ meant to the prophets something wholly different from the punctilious observance of traditional ceremonies; and what is more, they appeal without fear of contradiction to the contents of the Mosaic legislation as completely establishing their conviction that it was in the sphere of morality, rather than in the organizing of worship, that the essence of Jehovah’s law was to be found.

4 . With this test (as well as with the considerations proposed in § 1 ) the character of the Decalogue is found to be in complete agreement. Its Mosaic origin has indeed been questioned, on the ground that such an ethical standard is wholly at variance with the ‘essentially ritualistic character’ of primitive religions. To this it may be replied: we cannot call the prophets as witnesses for the truth of two mutually contradictory propositions. Having already cited the prophets in disproof of the Mosaic authorship of the Levitical legislation, on the ground that the latter is essentially ritualistic (and therefore does not correspond to the prophets’ view of the Law of Moses), it is monstrously unfair to deny the Sinaitic origin of what is left in conformity with the prophetical standard, on the ground that it ought to be ‘essentially ritualistic’ also, and is not. We have rightly had our attention called to the witness of the prophets. But the weight of their evidence against the early elaboration of the ceremonial law is exactly proportioned to the weight attached to their evidence for the existence and authenticity of the moral code.

A more serious difficulty, however, arises from the fact that we have apparently three accounts of the Decalogue, exhibiting positively astounding divergences ( Exodus 20:1-26 ,   Deuteronomy 5:1-33 , and   Exodus 34:1-35 ). The differences between   Exodus 20:1-26 and   Deuteronomy 5:1-33 are not hard to explain, as the Ten Words themselves are in each case identical, and it is only in the explanatory comments that the differences are marked. Stylistic peculiarities, as well as other considerations, seem to show that these latter are subsequent editorial additions, and that originally the Decalogue contained no more than the actual commandments, without note or explanation. It is, however, most instructive to observe that no theory of inspiration or literary scruples prevented the editors from incorporating into their account of the Ten Words of God to Moses, the basis of all Hebrew legislation, such comments and exhortations as they considered suitable to the needs of their own times. The difficulty with regard to   Exodus 34:1-35 , where a wholly different set of laws seems to be called ‘The Ten Words,’ has not been solved. Hypotheses of textual displacement abound (cf. OTJC [Note: TJC The Old Test. in the Jewish Church.] 2 336), others confidently assert that the author ‘manifestly intends to allude to the Decalogue’ (Driver, LOT [Note: OT Introd. to the Literature of the Old Testament.] 6 39), while some scholars have suggested, with much force and ingenuity, that we have in   Exodus 20:1-26;   Exodus 21:1-36;   Exodus 22:1-31;   Exodus 23:1-33;   Exodus 34:1-35 a series of abbreviations, re-arrangements, and expansions of ten groups of ten laws each. No final solution has yet been reached; but we may hold with confidence that the traditional account of the Decalogue is correct, and that the Ten Commandments in their original and shorter form were promulgated by Moses himself. On this basis the law of Israel rests, and in the Pentateuch we can distinguish the attempts made from time to time to apply their principles to the life of the people.

5. The Book of the Covenant (  Exodus 20:22 to   Exodus 23:33 ) is a collection of ‘words’ and ‘judgments’ arising out of the needs of a very simple community. The frequent mention of the ox, the ass, and the sheep proves that this code of law was designed for an agricultural people. The state of civilization may be inferred from the fact that the principles of civil and criminal justice are all comprehended under the two heads of retaliation and pecuniary compensation (cf. OTJC [Note: TJC The Old Test. in the Jewish Church.] 2 340). Religious institutions also are in an undeveloped and archaic stage. The laws, however, recognize, and even insist upon, the claims of humanity and justice. It is possible that the original code may have been promulgated at Sinai; but if so, it has received considerable expansions to suit the agricultural requirements, which first became part of Israel’s daily life in the early years of the occupation of Canaan.

6. The Law of Deuteronomy shows a civilization far in advance of that contemplated in the preceding code. Life is more complex; and religious problems unknown to an earlier generation demand and receive full treatment. It is not difficult to fix its approximate date. In the year b.c. 621, king Josiah inaugurated a national reformation resulting from the discovery of a Book of the Law in the Temple. All the evidence points to this book being practically identical with Deuteronomy; all the reforms which Josiah inaugurated were based upon laws practically indistinguishable from those we now possess in the Deuteronomic Code; in fact, no conclusion of historical or literary criticism has been reached more nearly approaching to absolute certainty than that the Book of the Law brought to light in 621 was none other than the fifth book of the Pentateuch.

But was it written by Moses? (i.) The book itself nowhere makes such a claim, (ii.) The historical situation (suiting the times of the later monarchy) is not merely anticipated, but actually presupposed, (iii.) The linguistic evidence points to ‘a long development of the art of public oratory.’ (iv.) The religious standpoint is that of, e.g ., Jeremiah rather than Isaiah. (v.) Some of its chief provisions appear to have been entirely unknown before 600; even the most fervid champions of prophetism before that date seem to have systematically violated the central law of the one sanctuary, (vi.) While subsequent writers show abundant traces of Deuteronomic influence, we search in vain for any such traces in earlier literature. On the contrary, Deut. is itself seen to be an attempt to realize in a legal code those great principles which had been so emphatically enunciated by Hosea and Isaiah.

The laws of Deuteronomy are, however, in many instances much earlier than the 7th century. The Book of the Covenant supplies much of the groundwork; and the antiquity of others is independently attested. It is not so much the substance (with perhaps the exception of ( a ) below) as the expansions and explanations that are new. A law-book must be kept up to date if it is to have any practical value, and in Deuteronomy we have ‘a prophetic re-formulation and adaptation to new needs of an older legislation’ ( LOT [Note: OT Introd. to the Literature of the Old Testament.] 6 91).

The main characteristics of Deut. are to be found in

( a ) The Law of the one Sanctuary , which aimed at the total extinction of the worship of the high places. By confining the central act of worship, i.e . the rite of sacrifice, to Jerusalem, this law certainly had put an end to the syncretistic tendencies which constituted a perpetual danger to Israelitish religion; but while establishing monotheism, it also somewhat impoverished the free religious life of the common people, who had aforetime learned at all times and in all places to do sacrifice and hold communion with their God.

( b ) The wonderful humanity which is so striking a feature of these laws. The religion of Jehovah is not confined to worship, but is to be manifested in daily life: and as God’s love is the great outstanding fact in Israel’s history, so the true Israelite must show love for God, whom he has not seen, by loving his neighbour, whom he has seen. Even the animals are to be treated with consideration and kindness.

( c ) The evangelical fervour with which the claims of Jehovah upon Israel’s devotion are urged. He is so utterly different from the dead heathen divinities. He is a living, loving God, who cannot be satisfied with anything less than the undivided heart-service of His children.

It is not surprising that Deuteronomy should have been especially dear to our Lord (cf.  Matthew 4:1-25 ), or that He should have ‘proclaimed its highest word as the first law no longer for Judah, but for the world’ (  Matthew 12:28-30 ,   Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ) [Carpenter, quoted by Driver, Deut . p. xxxiv.].

7. The Law of Holiness (  Leviticus 17:1-16;   Leviticus 18:1-30;   Leviticus 19:1-37;   Leviticus 20:1-27;   Leviticus 21:1-24;   Leviticus 22:1-33;   Leviticus 23:1-44;   Leviticus 24:1-23;   Leviticus 25:1-55;   Leviticus 26:1-46 ) is a short collection of laws embedded in Leviticus. The precepts of this code deal mainly with moral and ceremonial matters, and hardly touch questions of civil and criminal law. We should notice especially the prominence of agricultural allusions, the multiplication of ritual regulations, the conception of sin as impurity, and, again, the predominance of humanitarian principles.

8. The Priestly Code , comprising the concluding chapters of Exodus, the whole of Leviticus, and other portions of the Hexateuch, probably represents a determined attempt to give practical effect to the teaching of Ezekiel. We may approximately fix its date by observing that some of its fundamental institututions are unknown to, and even contradicted by, the Deuteronomic legislation. On the other hand, the influence of Ezekiel is prominent. The Priestly editor, or school, lays special stress on the ceremonial institutions of Israelite worship. We must not, however, conclude that they are therefore all post-exilic. On the contrary, the origin of a great number is demonstrably of high antiquity; but their elaboration is of a far more modern date. It is sometimes customary to sneer at the Priestly Code as a mass of ‘Levitical deterioration.’ It would be as justifiable to quote the rubrics of the Prayer Book as a fair representation of the moral teaching of the Church of England. As a matter of fact, P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] does not profess to supplant, or even to supplement, all other laws. The editor has simply collected the details of ceremonial legislation, and the rubrics of Temple worship, with some account of their origin and purpose. In later history, the expression of Israel’s religion through Temple services acquired an increased significance. If the national life and faith were to be preserved, it was absolutely essential that the ceremonial law should be developed in order to mark the distinctive features of the Jewish creed. It is argued that such a policy is in direct contradiction to the universalistic teaching of the earlier prophets. That may be so, but cosmopolitanism at this stage would have meant not the diffusion but the destruction of Jewish religion. It was only by emphasizing their national peculiarities that they were able to concentrate their attention, and consequently to retain a firm hold, upon their distinctive truths. Ezekiel’s ideal city was named ‘Jehovah is there’ (  Ezekiel 48:35 ). P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] seeks to realize this ideal. All the laws, all the ceremonies, are intended to stamp this conviction indelibly upon Israel’s imagination, ‘Jehovah is there.’ Therefore the sense of sin must be deepened, that sin may be removed: therefore the need of purification must be constantly proclaimed, that the corrupting and disintegrating influences of surrounding heathenism may not prevail against the remnant of the holy people: therefore the ideal of national holiness must be sacramentally symbolized, and, through the symbol, actually attained.

9 . It must be plain that such stress on ritual enactments inevitably facilitated the growth of formalism and hypocrisy. We know that in our Lord’s time the weightier matters of the law were systematically neglected, while the tithing of mint, anise, and cummin, together with similar subtleties and refinements, occupied the attention of the lawyer and exhausted the energies of the zealous. But our Lord did not abrogate the law either in its ceremonial or in its moral injunctions. He came to fulfil it, that is, to fill it full, to give the substance, where the law was only a shadow of good things to come. He declared that not one jot or tittle should pass away till all things were accomplished; that is to say, until the end for which the law had been ordained should be reached. It took people some time to see that by His Incarnation and the foundation of the Christian Church that end had been gained; and that by His fulfilment He had made the law of none effect not merely abrogating distinctions between meats, but transferring man’s whole relation to God into another region than that of law .

10 . ‘The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ The impossibility of ever fulfilling its multitudinous requirements had filled the more earnest with despair. There it remained confronting the sinner with his sin; but its pitiless ‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Thou shalt not’ gave him no comfort and no power of resistance. The law was as cold and hard as the tables on which it was inscribed. It taught the meaning of sin, but gave no help as to how sin was to be overcome. The sacrificial system attempted to supply the want; but it was plain that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. In desperation the law-convicted sinner looked for a Saviour to deliver him from this body of death, and that Saviour he found in Christ. The law had been his ‘pedagogue,’ and had brought him to the Master from whom he could receive that help and grace it had been powerless to bestow. But Christianity not merely gave power; it altered man’s whole outlook on the world. The Jews lived under the law  : they were the unwilling subjects of an inexorable despotism; the law was excellent in itself, but to them it remained something external; obedience was not far removed from bondage and fear. The prophets realized the inadequacy of this legal system: it was no real appeal to man’s highest nature; it did not spring from the man’s own heart; and so they prophesied of the New Covenant when Jehovah’s laws should be written in the heart, and His sin-forgiving grace should remove all elements of servile fear (cf. esp.   Jeremiah 31:31-34 ); but it was only the hard discipline of the law that made them realize the necessity and superiority of a more spiritual covenant between man and his God.

11. A word may be said about the giving of the law . Whatever physical disturbances may have accompanied its original proclamation, it is not upon such natural phenomena that its claims to the homage of mankind are based. It is, in a manner, far more miraculous that God should at that early age, among those half-civilized tribes, have written these laws by His spirit on man’s conscience and understanding, than that amid thunder and flame He should have inscribed them with His own fingers upon two tables of stone. The Old Testament itself teaches us that we may look in vain for God among the most orthodox manifestations of a thenphany, and yet hear Him speaking in the still, small voice. Miracle is not the essence of God’s revelation to us, though it may accompany and authenticate His message. The law stands because the Saviour, in laying down for us the correct lines of its interpretation has sealed it with the stamp of Divine approval, but also because the conscience and reason of mankind have recognized in its simplicity and comprehensiveness a sublime exposition of man’s duty to his God and to his neighbour; because ‘by manifestation of the truth it has commended itself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God’ (cf.   2 Corinthians 4:2 ).

Ernest Arthur Enghill.

LAW (IN NT). This subject will be treated as follows: (1) the relation of Jesus Christ to the OT Law; (2) the doctrine of law in St. Paul’s Epistles; (3) the complementary teaching of Hebrews; (4) the attitude of St. James representing primitive Jewish Christianity.

1 . Our Lord stated His position in the saying of   Matthew 5:17 : ‘I did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil.’ The expression covers the whole contents of Divine Scripture (sometimes, for brevity, spoken of simply as ‘the law’; see   John 10:34;   John 12:34;   John 15:25 ), which He does not mean to invalidate in the least (  Matthew 5:18 ), as the novelty of His teaching led some to suppose (see   Matthew 7:28 f.), but will vindicate and complete. But His ‘fulfilment’ was that of the Master, who knows the inner mind and real intent of the Scripture He expounds. It was not the fulfilment of one who rehearses a prescribed lesson or tracks out a path marked for him by predecessors, but the crowning of an edifice already founded, the carrying forward to their issue of the lines projected in Israelite revelation, the fulfilment of the blade and ear in ‘the full corn.’ Jesus penetrated the shell to reach the kernel of OT representations; and He regarded Himself His Person, sacrifice, salvation, Kingdom as the focus of manifold previous revelations (see   Luke 4:17-21;   Luke 16:16;   Luke 24:27 ,   John 1:17;   John 6:45 ). The warning of   Matthew 5:17-20 was aimed at the Jewish legists, who dissolved the authority of the law, while jealously guarding its letter, by casuistical comments and smothering traditions, who put light and grave on a like footing, and blunted the sharpness of God’s commands in favour of man’s corrupt inclinations. The Corban formula, exposed in   Mark 7:7-13 , was a notorious instance of the Rabbinical quibbling that our Lord denounced. It is a severer not a laxer ethics that Jesus introduces, a searching in place of a superficial discipline; ‘Your righteousness,’ He says, ‘must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.’

Our Lord’s fulfilment of ‘the law’ i.e . in the stricter sense, the body of Mosaic statutes regulating Israelite life and worship included ( a ) the personal and free submission to it, due to His birth and circumcision as a son of Israel (  Galatians 4:4; cf.   Matthew 3:15;   Matthew 8:4;   Matthew 15:24;   Matthew 17:27 ,   Luke 2:21 ff.).

His fulfilment included ( b ) the development of its unrecognized or partially disclosed principles . Thus Jesus asserted, in accordance with views already advanced among the scribes, that ‘the whole law and the prophets hang on the two commandments’ of love to God and to our neighbour (  Matthew 22:34-40 ,   Luke 10:25-37 ) the parable of the Good Samaritan gives to the second command an unprecedented scope. His distinction between ‘the weightier matters’ of ‘justice, mercy, fidelity,’ and the lighter of tithes and washings, was calculated to revolutionize current Judaism.

(c) A large part of the Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5:21-48 ) is devoted to clearing the law from erroneous glosses and false applications  : on each point Jesus sets His ‘I say unto you’ against what ‘was said to the ancients’ mere antiquity goes for nothing; nor is He careful to distinguish here between the text of the written law and its traditional modifications. With each correction the law in His hands grows morestringent; its observance is made a matter of inoer disposition, of intrinsic loyalty, not of formal conduct; the criterion applied to all law-keeping is that it shall ‘proceed out of the heart.’

( d ) Further, our Lord’s fulfilment of the law necessitated the abrogation of temporary and defective statutes . In such instances the letter of the old precept stood only till it should be translated into a worthier form and raised to a higher potency (  Matthew 5:18 ), by the sweeping away of limiting exceptions (as with the compromise in the matter of wedlock allowed to ‘the hard-heartedness’ of Israelites,   Matthew 19:3-9 ), or by the translation of the symbolic into the spiritual, as when cleansing of hands and vessels is displaced by inner purification (  Mark 7:14-23 ,   Luke 11:37-41; cf.   Colossians 2:18 f.,   Hebrews 9:9 f.). Our Lord’s reformation of the marriage law is also a case for ( b ) above: He rectifies the law by the aid of the law; in man’s creation He finds a principle which nullifies the provisions that facilitated divorce. The abolition of the distinction of ‘meats’ (  Mark 7:19 ), making a rift in Jewish daily habits and in the whole Levitical scheme of life, is the one instance in which Jesus laid down what seemed to be a new principle of ethics. The maxim that ‘what enters into the man from without cannot defile,’ but only ‘the things that issue out of the man,’ was of far-reaching application, and supplied afterwards the charter of Gentile Christianity. Its underlying principle was, however, implicit in OT teaching, and belonged to the essence of the doctrine of Jesus. He could not consistently vindicate heart-religion without combating Judaism in the matter of its ablutions and food-regulations and Sabbath-keeping.

( e ) Over the last question Jesus came into the severest-conflict with Jewish orthodoxy; and in this struggle He revealed the consciousness, latent throughout His dealings with OT legislation, of being the sovereign, and not a subject like others, in this realm. Our Lord ‘fulfilled the law’ by sealing it with His own final authority . His ‘I say unto you,’ spoken in a tone never assumed by Moses or the prophets, implied so much and was so understood by His Apostles (  1 Corinthians 7:10 ,   Galatians 6:2 ,   1 John 2:3 f. etc.). Christ arrogates the rôle of ‘a son over his house,’ whereas Moses was ‘a servant in the house’ (  Hebrews 3:5 f.). Assuming to be ‘greater than Solomon,’ ‘than Abraham,’ ‘than the temple’ (  Matthew 12:6;   Matthew 12:42 ,   John 8:53 ), He acted as one greater than Moses! The Sabbath-law was the chosen battle-ground between Him and the established masters in Israel (  Mark 2:23-28;   Mark 3:2 ff.,   Luke 13:16-17 ,   John 5:9-16 ). In the public Sabbath assemblies Jesus was oftenest confronted with cases of disease and demoniacal possession; He must do His work as God’s ‘sent’ physician. The Sabbath-rules were clear and familiar; His infraction of them in acts of healing was flagrant, repeated, defiant; popular reverence for the day made accusations on this count particularly dangerous. Men were placed in a dilemma: the Sabbath-breaker is ipso facto ‘a sinner’; on the other hand, ‘how can a sinner do such signs?’ (  John 9:16;   John 9:24 ff.). Jesus argues the matter on legal grounds, showing from recognized practice that the 4th Commandment must be construed with common sense, and that ‘it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day’ and to work in the service of God (  Matthew 12:5;   Matthew 12:11 f.). He goes behind those examples to the governing principle (see ( b ) above), that ‘the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’ (  Mark 2:27 f.): the institution is designed for human benefit, and its usages should he determined by its object. But He is not content with saving this: the war against Him was driven on the Sabbath-question à outrance  ; Jesus draws the sword of His reserved authority. He claims, as sovereign in human affairs, to decide what is right in the matter ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath’; more than this, He professes to have wrought His Sabbath works as God the Father does, to whom all days are alike in His beneficence, and through the insight of a Son watching the Father at His labour (  John 5:17-20 ) a pretension, to Jewish ears, of blasphemous arrogance: ‘He maketh himself equal with God!’ On this ground Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin (cf.   John 19:7 ), because He set Himself above the Sabbath, on the strength of being one with God. Thus the law of Moses put Jesus Christ to death; it was too small to hold Him; its administrators thought themselves bound to inflict the capital sentence on One who said, ‘I am the Son of the Blessed’ (  Mark 14:61 ff.).

( f ) At the same time, Caiaphas, the official head of the system, gave another explanation, far deeper than he guessed, of the execution: ‘That Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only’ (  John 11:49 ff.). Virtually, He was offering Himself for ‘the lamb’ of the Paschal Feast, ready to be slain in sacrifice, that He might ‘take away the sin of the world.’ This mysterious relation of the death of Jesus to Divine law He had hinted at here and there (  Matthew 20:28;   Matthew 26:28 ,   Luke 22:37 ,   John 3:14;   John 6:51;   John 12:24 ); its exposition was reserved for His Apostles speaking in the light of this grandest of all fulfilments. Jesus made good the implicit promise of the sacrificial institutions of Israel .

2. The word ‘law’ occurs 118 times in St. Paul’s Epistles, 103 times in Romans and Galatians alone. It is manifest how absorbing an interest the subject had for this Apostle, and where that interest mainly lay.  Galatians 2:19 puts us at the centre of St. Paul’s position: ‘I through law died to law, that I might live to God.’ From legalism, as from a house of bondage, he had escaped into the freedom of the sons of God. ( a ) Paul ‘died to the law,’ as he had understood and served it when a Pharisee, regarding obedience to its precepts as the sole ground of acceptance with God. He had sought there ‘a righteousness of’ his ‘own, even that which is of the law’ (  Philippians 3:9 ), to be gained by’ works,’ by which he strove to merit salvation as a ‘debt’ due from God for service rendered, a righteousness such as its possessor could ‘boast of, as ‘his own’ (  Romans 4:1-5;   Romans 9:31 to   Romans 10:3 ). Pursuing this path, ‘Israel’ had failed to win ‘the righteousness of God,’ such as is valid ‘before God’; the method was impracticable justification on the terms of ‘the law of Moses’ is unattainable (  Acts 13:38 f.,   Romans 8:3 ). Instead of destroying sin, the law arouses it to new vigour, ‘multiplying’ where it aimed at suppressing ‘the trespass’ (  Romans 5:20;   Romans 7:7-13 ,   1 Corinthians 15:56 ). Not the ‘law’ in itself, but the ‘carnal’ sin-bound nature of the man, is to blame for this; arrayed against ‘the law of God,’ to which ‘reason’ bows, is ‘another law’ successfully oppugning it, that ‘of sin’ which occupies ‘my members’ (  Romans 7:12-23 ), and which is, in effect, a ‘law of death’ (  Romans 8:2 ).

( b ) But St. Paul’s Judaistic experience had a positive as well as a negative result: if he ‘died to law,’ it was ‘ through law’; ‘the law has proved our pÅ“dagogus [for leading us] to Christ’ (  Galatians 3:24 ). Law awakened conscience and disciplined the moral faculties; the Jewish people were like ‘an heir’ placed ‘under guardians and stewards until the appointed times,’ and trained in bond-service with a view to their ‘adoption’ (  Galatians 4:1-5 ). Even the aggravations of sin caused by the law had their benefit, as they brought the disease to a head and reduced the patient to a state in which he was ready to accept the proffered remedy (  Romans 7:24 ). ‘The Scripture’ had in this way ‘shut up all things under sin,’ blocking every door of escape and blighting every hope of a self-earned righteousness (  Galatians 3:21 f.), that the sinner might accept unconditionally the ‘righteousness which is through faith in Christ’ (  Philippians 3:9 ).

( c ) Contact with Gentile life had widened St. Paul’s conception of moral law; it was touched by the influences of Greek philosophy and Roman government. He discerned a law established ‘by nature,’ and ‘inscribed in the hearts’ of men ignorant of the Mosaic Code and counting with Jews as ‘lawless.’ This Divine jus (and fas ) gentium served, in a less distinct but very real sense, the purpose of the written law in Israel; it impressed on the heathen moral responsibility and the consciousness of sin (  Romans 2:6-16 ). The rule of right and wrong Paul regards as a universal human institute , operating so as to ‘bring the whole world under judgment before God’ (  Romans 3:9-19 ); its action is manifested by the universal incidence of death: in this sense, and in the light of   Romans 2:12-16 , should be read the obscure parenthesis of   Romans 5:13 f., as stating that ‘law’ is concomitant with ‘sin’; the existence of sin, followed by death, in the generations between Adam and Moses proves that law was there all along, whether in a less or a more explicit form; the connexion of sin and death in humanity is, in fact, a fundamental legal principle (  Romans 8:2 ).

( d ) Having ‘died to law’ by renouncing the futile salvation it appeared to offer, the Apostle had learned to live to it again in a better way and under a nobler form, since he had begun to ‘live to God’ in Christ. St. Paul is at the farthest remove from Antinomianism; the charge made against him on this score was wholly mistaken. While no longer ‘ under law,’ he is ‘not lawless toward God, but in law toward Christ’ (  Romans 6:14 f.,   1 Corinthians 9:21 ). The old ego , ‘the flesh with its passions and lusts,’ has been ‘crucified with Christ’ (  Galatians 2:20;   Galatians 5:16-24 ). God’s law ceases to press on him as an external power counteracted by ‘the law of sin in the members’; the latter has been expelled by ‘the Spirit of God’s Son,’ which ‘forms Christ’ in him; the new, Christian man is ‘in law’ as he is ‘in Christ’ he sees the law now from the inside, in its unity and charm, and it constrains him with the inward force of ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ possessing his nature. He ‘serves’ indeed, but it is ‘in the new’ life wrought ‘of the Spirit, and not in the old’ servitude to ‘the letter’ (  Romans 7:6 ). Constituting now ‘one new man,’ believers of every race and rank ‘through love serve one another,’ as the hand serves the eye or the head the feet; for them ‘the whole law is fulfilled in one word, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (  Romans 13:8-10 ,   1 Corinthians 12:13;   1 Corinthians 12:25 f.,   Galatians 5:13 f.,   Ephesians 2:16-18 ). The Christian ‘fulfils the law of Christ ,’ as the limb the law of the head. Thus St. Paul’s doctrine of the Law joins hands with that of Jesus (see 1 above). Thus also, in his system of thought, the law of God revealed in the OT, when received from Christ revised and spiritualized, and planted by ‘faith’ along with Him in the believer’s heart (cf.   Jeremiah 31:31-34 ), becomes for the first time really valid and effective: ‘Do we nullify law through faith? God forbid; nay,’ he cries, ‘we establish law!’ (  Romans 3:31 ).

( e ) Neither Jesus nor Paul makes a formal distinction between the moral and the ceremonial law (see, however,   Romans 9:4 ). St. Paul’s teaching bears mainly on the former: as a Pharisee he had no ritualistic bent, and his ambition was for ethical perfection. ‘Circumcision’ has lost in his eyes all religious value, and remains a mere national custom, now that it ceases to be the covenant-sign and is replaced in this sense by baptism (  1 Corinthians 7:18 ff.,   Galatians 6:16 ,   Colossians 2:11 ff.). It becomes a snare to Gentiles when imposed on them as necessary to salvation, or even to advancement in the favour of God; for it binds them ‘to keep the whole law’ of Moses, and leads into the fatal path of ‘justification by law’ (  Galatians 2:2-5;   Galatians 3:2 ff;   Galatians 5:3-6 ). St. Paul’s contention with the legalists of Jerusalem on this question was a life and death struggle, touching the very ‘truth of the gospel’ and ‘the freedom’ of the Church (  Acts 15:1-11 ,   Galatians 2:1-10;   Galatians 5:1 ). The same interests were threatened, more insidiously, by the subsequent attempt, countenanced by Peter and Barnabas at Antioch, to separate Jewish from Gentile Christians at table through the re-assertion of the Mosaic distinction of ‘meats’ which had been expressly discarded by Jesus. The assumption of a privileged legal status within the Church meant the surrender of the whole principle of salvation by faith and of Christian saintship (  Galatians 2:11-21 ,   Romans 14:17 f.,   1 Corinthians 8:8; cf.   Mark 7:14-28 ). In some Churches Paul had to deal with the inculcation of Jewish ritual from another point of view. At Colossæ the dietary rules and sacred seasons of Mosaism were imposed on grounds of ascetic discipline, and of reverence towards angelic ( scil . astral) powers; he pronounces them valueless in the former respect, and in the latter treasonous towards Christ, who supplies ‘the body’ of which those prescriptions were but a ‘shadow’ (  Colossians 2:16-23 ).

3 .  Colossians 2:17  Colossians 2:17 forms a link between the doctrine of St. Paul on the Law and the complementary teaching of the writer of Hebrews , a Jew of very different temperament and antecedents from Saul of Tarsus. This author emphasizes the ceremonial, as Paul the moral, factors of the OT; the Temple, not the synagogue, was for him the centre of Judaism. ‘The first covenant,’ he says, ‘had ordinances of divine service,’ providing for and guarding man’s approach to God in worship (  Hebrews 9:1 etc.); for St. Paul, it consisted chiefly of ‘commandments expressed in ordinances’ (  Ephesians 2:15 ), which prescribe the path of righteousness in daily life. ‘The law’ means for this great Christian thinker the institutions of the Israelite priesthood, sanctuary, sacrifices all consummated in Christ and His ‘one offering,’ by which ‘he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified’ (  Hebrews 9:1 to   Hebrews 10:14 ). In his view, the law is superseded as the imperfect, provisional, and ineffective, by the perfect, permanent, and satisfying, as the shadowy outline by the full image of things Divine (  Hebrews 7:18 f.,   Hebrews 8:1-4 ,   Hebrews 10:1-4 ); ‘the sanctuary of this world’ gives place to ‘heaven itself,’ revealed as the temple where the ‘great high priest’ Divine-human in person, sinless in nature, perfected in experience, and immeasurably superior to the Aaronic order (  Hebrews 4:14 ff.,   Hebrews 7:26 ff.,) ‘appears before the face of God for us,’ ‘having entered through the virtue of his own blood’ as our ‘surety’ and ‘the mediator of’ our ‘covenant,’ who has won for mankind ‘an eternal redemption’ (  Hebrews 2:9 ,   Hebrews 7:22 ,   Hebrews 8:8 ,   Hebrews 9:24-28 ). Jesus thus ‘inaugurated a new and living way into the holy place’ (in contrast with the old and dead way of the law); as experience proves, He has ‘cleansed the conscience from dead works to serve the living God,’ while the law with its repeated animal sacrifices served to remind men of their sins rather than to remove them (  Hebrews 7:25 ,   Hebrews 9:14 ,   Hebrews 10:1-4 ). Equally with St. Paul, the auctor ad HebrÅ“os regards ‘remission of sins’ as the initial blessing of the Christian state, which had been unattainable ‘under law,’ and ‘the blood of Christ’ as the means of procuring this immense boon. In Paul’s interpretation, this offering ‘justifies’ the unrighteous ‘before God’ and restores them to the forfeited status of sonship; in the interpretation of Hebrews, it ‘cleanses’ worshippers and brings them ‘nigh to God’ within His sanctuary; on either view, the sacrifice of Calvary removes the harriers set up, by man’s sin ‘under the law,’ between humanity and God.

4 . For St. James also the OT law was transformed. He conceives the change in a less radical fashion than Paul or the writer of Hebrews; James stands sturdily on the platform of the Sermon on the Mount. Re-cast by ‘the Lord of glory’ and charged with ‘the wisdom that cometh from above,’ the law is new and glorified in his eyes; like Paul, he knows it as ‘the law of Christ.’ All the disciples of Jesus were one in the place they gave to that which James calls ‘the sovereign law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (  James 2:8-13; cf.   1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ); deeds of pure brotherly love prove ‘faith’ alive and genuine; they make it ‘perfect,’ and guarantee the believer’s ‘justification’ (ch. 2). When he describes this law as ‘a perfect law, the law of liberty,’ James’ idea is substantially that of Paul in   1 Corinthians 9:21 and   Romans 8:2;   Romans 8:4 , viz. that the law of God is no yoke compelling the Christian man from without, but a life actuating him from within; the believer ‘bends over it’ in contemplation, till he grows one with it (  James 1:24; cf.   2 Corinthians 3:18 ). ‘The tongue’ is the index of the heart, and St. James regards its control as a sure sign of perfection in law-keeping (  James 3:1-12 ). James treats of the law, not, like Paul, as it affects the sinner’s standing before God, nor, like the author of Hebrews, as it regulates his approach in worship, but as it governs the walk before God of the professed believer. His Epistle is, in effect, a comment on the last clause of   Romans 8:4 , ‘that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us.’

5 . The word ‘law’ is entirely wanting in the Epistles of St. Peter and of St. John.   1 Peter 1:18-19;   1 Peter 2:24;   1 Peter 3:18 manifest the influence of Paul’s doctrine of salvation on the writer; while   1 John 1:7;   1 John 1:9 , indicates a leaning to the mode of representation characteristic of Hebrews, and   1 John 2:2;   1 John 4:10 virtually sustain the doctrine of St. Paul on law, sin, and sacrifice.

G. G. Findlay.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

a rule of action; a precept or command, coming from a superior authority, which an inferior is bound to obey. The manner in which God governs rational creatures is by a law, as the rule of their obedience to him, and this is what we call God's moral government of the world. The term, however, is used in Scripture with considerable latitude of meaning; and to ascertain its precise import in any particular place, it is necessary to regard the scope and connection of the passage in which it occurs. Thus, for instance, sometimes it denotes the whole revealed will of God as communicated to us in his word. In this sense it is generally used in the book of Psalms,  Psalms 1:2;  Psalms 19:7; Psalms 119;  Isaiah 8:20;  Isaiah 42:21 . Sometimes it is taken for the Mosaical institution distinguished from the Gospel,  John 1:17;  Matthew 11:13;  Matthew 12:5;  Acts 25:8 . Hence we frequently read of the law of Moses as expressive of the whole religion of the Jews,  Hebrews 9:19;  Hebrews 10:28 . Sometimes, in a more restricted sense, for the ritual or ceremonial observances of the Jewish religion. In this sense the Apostle speaks of "the law of commandments contained in ordinances."

 Ephesians 2:15;  Hebrews 10:1; and which, being only "a shadow of good things to come," Christ Jesus abolished by his death, and so in effect destroyed the ancient distinction between Jew and Gentile,  Galatians 3:17 . Very frequently it is used to signify the decalogue, or ten precepts which were delivered to the Israelites from Mount Sinai. It is in this acceptation of the term that the Lord Jesus declares he "came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it,"  Matthew 5:17; and he explains its import as requiring perfect love to God and man  Luke 10:27 . It is in reference to this view that St. Paul affirms, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified; for by the law is the knowledge of sin,"

 Romans 3:20 . The language of this law is, "The soul that sinneth it shall die," and "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written," or required, "in the book of the law, to do them,"  Galatians 3:10 . To deliver man from this penalty, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being himself made a curse for us,"  Galatians 3:13 . The law, in this sense, was not given that men should obtain righteousness or justification by it, but to convince them of sin, to show them their need of a Saviour, to shut them up, as it were, from all hopes of salvation from that source, and to recommend the Gospel of divine grace to their acceptance,  Galatians 3:19-25 . Again, the law often denotes the rule of good and evil, or of right and wrong, revealed by the Creator and inscribed on man's conscience, even at his creation, and consequently binding upon him by divine authority; and in this respect it is in substance the same with the decalogue. That such a law was connate with, and, as it were, implanted in, man, appears from its traces, which, like the ruins of some noble building, are still extant in every man. It is from those common notions, handed down by tradition, though often imperfect and perverted, that the Heathens themselves distinguished right from wrong, by which "they were a law unto themselves, showing the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness,"  Romans 2:12-15 , although they had no express revelation.

The term law, is, however, eminently given to the Mosaic law; on the principles and spirit of which, a few general remarks may be offered. The right consideration of this divine institute, says Dr. Graves, will surround it with a glory of truth and holiness, not only worthy of its claims, but which has continued to be the light of the world on theological and moral subjects, and often on great political principles, to this day. If we examine the Jewish law, to discover the principle on which the whole system depends, the primary truth, to inculcate and illustrate which is its leading object, we find it to be that great basis of all religion, both natural and revealed, the self-existence, essential unity, perfections, and providence of the supreme Jehovah, the Creator of heaven and earth. The first line of the Mosaic writings inculcates this great truth: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." When the lawgiver begins to recapitulate the statutes and judgments he had enjoined to his nation, it is with this declaration: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,"

 Deuteronomy 6:4; or, as it might be more closely expressed, Jehovah our Elohim, or God, is one Jehovah. And at the commencement of that sublime hymn, delivered by Moses immediately before his death, in which this illustrious prophet sums up the doctrines he had taught, the wonders by which they had been confirmed, and the denunciations by which they were enforced, he declares this great tenet with the sublimity of eastern poetry, but at the same time with the precision of philosophic truth: "Give ear," says he, "O ye heavens, and I will speak: and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop rain: my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb and as the showers upon the grass,"  Deuteronomy 32:1 , &c. What, is that doctrine so awful, that the whole universe is thus invoked to attend to it? so salutary as to be compared with the principle whose operation diffuses beauty and fertility over the vegetable world? Hear the answer: "Because I will publish the name of Jehovah; ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the rock, his work is perfect: a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he."

This, then, is one great leading doctrine of the Jewish code. But the manner in which this doctrine is taught displays such wise accommodation to the capacity and character of the nation to whom it is addressed, as deserves to be carefully remarked. That character by which the supreme Being is most clearly distinguished from every other, however exalted; that character from which the acutest reasoners have endeavoured demonstratively to deduce, as from their source, all the divine attributes, is self-existence. Is it not then highly remarkable, that it is under this character the Divinity is described on his first manifestation to the Jewish lawgiver? The Deity at first reveals himself unto him as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and therefore the peculiar national and guardian God of the Jewish race. Moses, conscious of the degeneracy of the Israelites, their ignorance of, or their inattention to, the true God, and the difficulty and danger of any attempt to recall them to his exclusive worship, and to withdraw them from Egypt, seems to decline the task; but when absolutely commanded to undertake it, he said unto God, "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I am that I am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you,"

 Exodus 3:13-14 . Here we observe, according to the constant method of the divine wisdom, when it condescends to the prejudices of men, how in the very instance of indulgence it corrects their superstition. The religion of names arose from an idolatrous polytheism; and the name given here directly opposes this error, and in the ignorance of that dark and corrupted period establishes that great truth, to which the most enlightened philosophy can add no new lustre, and on which all the most refined speculations on the divine nature ultimately rest, the self-existence, and, by consequence, the eternity and immutability, of the one great Jehovah.

But though the self-existence of the Deity was a fact too abstract to require its being frequently inculcated, his essential unity was a practical principle, the sure foundation on which to erect the structure of true religion, and form a barrier against the encroachments of idolatry: for this commenced not so frequently in denying the existence, or even the supremacy, of the one true God, as in associating with him for objects of adoration inferior intermediate beings, who were supposed to be more directly employed in the administration of human affairs. To confute and resist this false principle was, therefore, one great object of the Jewish scheme. Hence the unity of God is inculcated with perpetual solicitude; it stands at the head of the system of moral law promulgated to the Jews from Sinai by the divine voice, heard by the assembled nation, and issuing from the divine glory, with every circumstance which could impress the deepest awe upon even the dullest minds: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; thou shalt have no others gods beside me,"  Exodus 20:2-3 . And in the recapitulation of the divine laws in Deuteronomy, It is repeatedly enforced with the most solemn earnestness: "Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord,"

 Deuteronomy 6:4 . And again: "Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him. Know, therefore, this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath: there is none else,"

 Deuteronomy 4:35;  Deuteronomy 4:39 .

This self-existent, supreme and only God is moreover described as possessed of every perfection which can be ascribed to the Divinity: "Ye shall be holy," says the Lord to the people of the Jews; "for I the Lord your God am holy,"  Leviticus 19:2 . "Ascribe ye," says the legislator, "greatness unto our God; he is the rock; his work is perfect; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he,"  Deuteronomy 32:4 . And in the hymn of thanksgiving on the miraculous escape of the Israelites at the Red Sea, this is its burden: "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"  Exodus 15:11 . And when the Lord delivered to Moses the two tables of the moral law, he is described as descending in the cloud, and proclaiming the name of the Lord: "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty,"  Exodus 34:6-7 .

But to teach the self-existence, the unity, the wisdom, and the power of the Deity, nay, even his moral perfections of mercy, justice, and truth, would have been insufficient to arrest the attention, and command the obedience of a nation, the majority of which looked no farther than mere present objects, and at that early period cherished scarcely any hopes higher than those of a temporal kind,—if, in addition to all this, care had not been taken to represent the providence of God as not only directing the government of the universe by general laws, but also perpetually superintending the conduct and determining the fortune of every nation, of every family, nay, of every individual. It was the disbelief or the neglect of this great truth which gave spirit and energy, plausibility and attraction to the whole system of idolatry. While men believed that the supreme God and Lord of all was too exalted in his dignity, too remote from this sublunary scene, to regard its vicissitudes with an attentive eye, and too constantly engaged in the contemplation of his own perfections, and the enjoyment of his own independent and all-perfect happiness, to interfere in the regulation of human affairs, they regarded with indifference that supreme Divinity who seemed to take no concern in their conduct, and not to interfere as to their happiness. However exalted and perfect such a Being might appear to abstract speculation, he was to the generality of mankind as if he did not exist; as their happiness or misery were not supposed to be influenced by his power, they referred not their conduct to his direction. If he delegated to inferior beings the regulation of this inferior world; if all its concerns were conducted by their immediate agency, and all its blessings or calamities distributed by their immediate determination; it seemed rational, and even necessary, to supplicate their favour and submit to their authority; and neither unwise nor unsafe to neglect that Being, who, though all-perfect and supreme, would, on this supposition appear, with respect to mankind, altogether inoperative. In truth, this fact of the perpetual providence of God extending even to the minutest events, is inseparably connected with every motive which is offered to sway the conduct of the Jews, and forcibly inculcated by every event of their history. This had been manifested in the appointment of the land of Canaan for the future settlement of the chosen people on the first covenant which God entered into with the Patriarch Abraham; in the prophecy, that for four hundred years they should be afflicted in Egypt, and afterward be thence delivered; in the increase of their nation, under circumstances of extreme oppression, and their supernatural deliverance from that oppression. The same providence was displayed in the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea; the travels of the thousands of Israel through the wilderness, sustained by food from heaven; and in their subsequent settlement in the promised land by means entirely distinct from their own strength. Reliance on the same providence was the foundation of their civil government, the spirit and the principle of their constitution. On this only could they be commanded to keep the sabbatic year without tilling their land, or even gathering its spontaneous produce; confiding in the promise, that God would send his blessing on the sixth year, so that it should bring forth fruit for three years,  Leviticus 25:21 . The same faith in Divine Providence alone could prevail on them to leave their properties and families exposed to the attack of their surrounding enemies; while all the males of the nation assembled at Jerusalem to celebrate the three great festivals, enjoined by divine command, with the assurance that no man should desire their land when they went up to appear before the Lord their God thrice in the year,  Exodus 34:24 . And, finally, it is most evident, that, contrary to all other lawgivers, the Jewish legislator renders his civil institutions entirely subordinate to his religious; and announces to his nation that their temporal adversity or prosperity would entirely depend, not on their observance of their political regulations; not on their preserving a military spirit, or acquiring commercial wealth, or strengthening themselves by powerful alliances; but on their continuing to worship the one true God according to the religious rites and ceremonies by him prescribed, and preserving their piety and morals untainted by the corruptions and vices which idolatry tended to introduce.

Such was the theology of the Jewish religion, at a period when the whole world was deeply infected with idolatry; when all knowledge of the one true God, all reverence for his sacred name, all reliance on his providence, all obedience to his laws, were nearly banished from the earth; when the severest chastisements had been tried in vain; when no hope of reformation appeared from the refinements of civilization or the researches of philosophy; for the most civilized and enlightened nations adopted with the greatest eagerness, and disseminated with the greatest activity, the absurdities, impieties, and pollutions of idolatry. Then was the Jewish law promulgated to a nation, who, to mere human judgment, might have appeared incapable of inventing or receiving such a high degree of intellectual and moral improvement; for they had been long enslaved to the Egyptians, the authors and supporters of the grossest idolatry; they had been weighed down by the severest bondage, perpetually harassed by the most incessant manual labours; for the Egyptians "made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field,"  Exodus 1:14 . At this time, and in this nation, was the Mosaic law promulgated, teaching the great principles of true religion, the self- existence, the unity, the perfections, and the providence of the one great Jehovah; reprobating all false gods, all image worship, all the absurdities and profanations of idolatry. At this time, and in this nation, was a system of government framed, which had for its basis the reception of, and steady adherence to, this system of true religion; and establishing many regulations which would be in the highest degree irrational, and could never hope to be received, except from a general and thorough reliance on the superintendence of Divine Providence, controlling the course of nature, and directing every event, so as to proportion the prosperity of the Hebrew people, according to their obedience to that law which they had received as divine.

It is an obvious, but it is not therefore a less important remark, that to the Jewish religion we owe that admirable summary of moral duty, contained in the ten commandments. All fair reasoners will admit that each of these must be understood to condemn, not merely the extreme crime which it expressly prohibits, but every inferior offence of the same kind, and every mode of conduct leading to such transgression; and, on the contrary, to enjoin opposite conduct, and the cultivation of opposite dispositions. Thus, the command, "Thou shalt not kill," condemns not merely the single crime of deliberate murder, but every kind of violence, and every indulgence of passion and resentment, which tends either to excite such violence, or to produce that malignant disposition of mind, in which the guilt of murder principally consists: and similarly of the rest. In this extensive interpretation of the commandments, we are warranted, not merely by the deductions of reason, but by the letter of the law itself. For the addition of the last, "Thou shalt not covet," proves clearly that in all, the dispositions of the heart, as much as the immediate outward act, is the object of the divine Legislator; and thus it forms a comment on the meaning, as well as a guard for the observance, of all the preceding commands. Interpreted in this natural and rational latitude, how comprehensive and important is this summary of moral duty! It inculcates the adoration of the one true God, who "made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is;" who must, therefore, be infinite in power, and wisdom, and goodness; the object of exclusive adoration; of gratitude for every blessing we enjoy; of fear, for he is a jealous God; of hope, for he is merciful. It prohibits every species of idolatry; whether by associating false gods with the true, or worshipping the true by symbols and images. Commanding not to take the name of God in vain, it enjoins the observance of all outward respect for the divine authority, as well as the cultivation of inward sentiments and feelings suited to this outward reverence; and it establishes the obligation of oaths, and, by consequence, of all compacts and deliberate promises; a principle, without which the administration of laws would be impracticable, and the bonds of society must be dissolved. By commanding to keep holy the Sabbath, as the memorial of the creation, it establishes the necessity of public worship, and of a stated and outward profession of the truths of religion, as well as of the cultivation of suitable feelings; and it enforces this by a motive which is equally applicable to all mankind, and which should have taught the Jew that he ought to consider all nations as equally creatures of that Jehovah whom he himself adored; equally subject to his government, and, if sincerely obedient, entitled to all the privileges his favour could bestow. It is also remarkable, that this commandment, requiring that the rest of the Sabbath should include the man-servant, and the maid-servant, and the stranger that was within their gates, nay, even their cattle, proved that the Creator of the universe extended his attention to all his creatures; that the humblest of mankind were the objects of his paternal love; that no accidental differences, which so often create alienation among different nations, would alienate any from the divine regard; and that even the brute creation shared the benevolence of their Creator, and ought to be treated by men with gentleness and humanity.

When we proceed to the second table, comprehending more expressly our social duties, we find all the most important principles on which they depend clearly enforced. The commandment which enjoins, "Honour thy father and mother," sanctions the principles, not merely of filial obedience, but of all those duties which arise from our domestic relations; and, while it requires not so much any one specific act, as the general disposition which should regulate our whole course of conduct in this instance, it impresses the important conviction, that the entire law proceeds from a Legislator able to search and judge the heart of man. The subsequent commands coincide with the clear dictates of reason, and prohibit crimes which human laws in general have prohibited as plainly destructive of social happiness. But it was of infinite importance to rest the prohibitions, "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not bear false witness," not merely on the deductions of reason, but also on the weight of a divine authority. How often have false ideas of public good in some places, depraved passions in others, and the delusions of idolatry in still more, established a law of reputation contrary to the dictates of reason, and the real interests of society. In one country we see theft allowed, if perpetrated with address; in others, piracy and rapine honoured, if conducted with intrepidity. Sometimes we perceive adultery permitted, the most unnatural crimes committed without remorse or shame; nay, every species of impurity enjoined and consecrated as a part of divine worship. In others, we find revenge honoured as spirit, and death inflicted at its impulse with ferocious triumph. Again, we see every feeling of nature outraged, and parents exposing their helpless children to perish for deformity of body or weakness of mind; or, what is still more dreadful, from mercenary or political views; and this inhuman practice familiarized by custom, and authorized by law. And, to close the horrid catalogue, we see false religions leading their deluded votaries to heap the altars of their idols with human victims; the master butchers his slave, the conqueror his captive; nay, dreadful to relate, the parent sacrifices his children, and, while they shriek amidst the tortures of the flames, or in the agonies of death, he drowns their cries by the clangour of cymbals and the yells of fanaticism. Yet these abominations, separate or combined, have disgraced ages and nations which we are accustomed to admire and celebrate as civilized and enlightened,—Babylon and Egypt, Phenicia and Carthage, Greece and Rome. Many of these crimes legislators have enjoined, or philosophers defended. What, indeed, could be hoped from legislators and philosophers, when we recollect the institutions of Lycurgus, especially as to purity of manners, and the regulations of Plato on the same subject, in his model of a perfect republic; when we consider the sensuality of the Epicureans, and immodesty of the Cynics; when we find suicide applauded by the Stoics, and the murderous combats of gladiators defended by Cicero, and exhibited by Trajan. Such variation and inconstancy in the rule and practice of moral duty, as established by the feeble or fluctuating authority of human opinion, demonstrates the utility of a clear divine interposition, to impress these important prohibitions; and it is difficult for any sagacity to calculate how far such an interposition was necessary, and what effect it may have produced by influencing human opinions and regulating human conduct, when we recollect that the Mosaic code was probably the first written law ever delivered to any nation; and that it must have been generally known in those eastern countries, from which the most ancient and celebrated legislators and sages derived the models of their laws and the principles of their philosophy.

But the Jewish religion promoted the interests of moral virtue, not merely by the positive injunctions of the decalogue; it also inculcated clearly and authoritatively the two great principles on which all piety and virtue depend, and which our blessed Lord recognised as the commandments on which hang the law and the prophets,—the principles of love to God and love to our neighbour. The love of God is every where enjoined in the Mosaic law, as the ruling disposition of the heart, from which all obedience should spring, and in which it ought to terminate. With what solemnity does the Jewish lawgiver impress it at the commencement of his recapitulation of the divine law: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might,"  Deuteronomy 6:4-5 . And again: "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul?"  Deuteronomy 10:12 . Nor is the love of our neighbour less explicitly enforced: "Thou shalt not," says the law, "avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord,"

 Leviticus 19:18 . The operation of this benevolence, thus solemnly required, was not to be confined to their own countrymen; it was to extend to the stranger, who, having renounced idolatry, was permitted to live among them, worshipping the true God, though without submitting to circumcision or the other ceremonial parts of the Mosaic law: "If a stranger," says the law, "sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord thy God,"  Leviticus 19:33-34 .

Thus, on a review of the topics we have discussed, it appears that the Jewish law promulgated the great principles of moral duty in the decalogue, with a solemnity suited to their high preeminence; that it enjoined love to God with the most unceasing solicitude, and love to our neighbour, as extensively and forcibly, as the peculiar design of the Jewish economy, and the peculiar character of the Jewish people, would permit; that it impressed the deepest conviction of God's requiring, not mere external observances, but heart-felt piety, well regulated desires, and active benevolence; that it taught sacrifice could not obtain pardon without repentance, or repentance without reformation and restitution; that it described circumcision itself, and, by consequence, every other legal rite, as designed to typify and inculcate internal holiness, which alone could render men acceptable to God; that it represented the love of God as designed to act as a practical principle, stimulating to the constant and sincere cultivation of purity, mercy, and truth; and that it enforced all these principles and precepts by sanctions the most likely to operate powerfully on minds unaccustomed to abstract speculations and remote views, even by temporal rewards and punishments; the assurance of which was confirmed from the immediate experience of similar rewards and punishments, dispensed to their enemies and to themselves by that supernatural Power which had delivered the Hebrew nation out of Egypt, conducted them through the wilderness, planted them in the land of Canaan, regulated their government, distributed their possessions, and to which alone they could look to obtain new blessings, or secure those already enjoyed. From all this we derive another presumptive argument for the divine authority of the Mosaic code; and it may be contended, that a moral system thus perfect, promulgated at so early a period, to such a people, and enforced by such sanctions as no human power could undertake to execute, strongly bespeaks a divine original.

2. The moral law is sometimes called the Mosaic law, because it was one great branch of those injunctions which, under divine authority, Moses enjoined upon the Israelites when they were gathered into a political community under the theocracy. But it existed previously as the law of all mankind; and it has been taken up into the Christian system, and there more fully illustrated. As the obligation of the moral law upon Christians has, however, been disputed by some perverters of the Christian faith, or held by others on loose and fallacious grounds, this subject ought to be clearly understood. It is, nevertheless, to be noticed, that the morals of the New Testament are not proposed to us in the form of a regular code. Even in the books of Moses, which have the legislative form to a great extent, not all the principles and duties which constituted the full character of "godliness," under that dispensation, are made the subjects of formal injunction by particular precepts. They are partly infolded in general principles, or often take the form of injunction in an apparently incidental manner, or are matters of obvious inference. A preceding code of traditionary moral law is all along supposed in the writings of Moses and the prophets, as well as a consuetudinary ritual and a doctrinal theology, both transmitted from the patriarchs. This, too, is eminently the case with Christianity. It supposes that all who believed in Christ admitted the divine authority of the Old Testament; and it assumes the perpetual authority of its morals, as well as the truth of its fundamental theology. The constant allusions in the New Testament to the moral rules of the Jews and patriarchs, either expressly as precepts, or as the data of argument, sufficiently guard us against the notion, that what has not in so many words been re-enacted by Christ and his Apostles is of no authority among Christians. In a great number of instances, however, the form of injunction is directly preceptive, so as to have all the explicitness and force of a regular code of law, and is, as much as a regular code could be, a declaration of the sovereign will of Christ, enforced by the sanctions of eternal life and death. This, however, is a point on which a few confirmatory observations may be usefully adduced. No part of the preceding dispensation, designated generally by the appellation of "the law," is repealed in the New Testament, but what is obviously ceremonial, typical, and incapable of coexisting with Christianity. Our Lord, in his discourse with the Samaritan woman, declares, that the hour of the abolition of the temple worship was come; the Apostle Paul, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, teaches us that the Levitical services were but shadows, the substance and end of which is Christ; and the ancient visible church, as constituted upon the ground of natural descent from Abraham, was abolished by the establishment of a spiritual body of believers to take its place. No precepts of a purely political nature, that is, which respect the civil subjection of the Jews to their theocracy, are, therefore, of any force to us as laws, although they may have, in many cases, the greatest authority as principles. No ceremonial precepts can be binding, since they were restrained to a period terminating with the death and resurrection of Christ; nor are even the patriarchal rites of circumcision and the passover obligatory upon Christians, since we have sufficient evidence that they were of an adumbrative character, and were laid aside by the first inspired teachers of Christianity.

With the moral precepts which abound in the Old Testament the case is very different, as sufficiently appears from the different, and even contrary, manner in which they are always spoken of by Christ and his Apostles. When our Lord, in his sermon on the mount, says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil;" that is, to confirm or establish it; the entire scope of his discourse shows that he is speaking exclusively of the moral precepts of "the law," eminently so called, and of the moral injunctions of the prophets founded upon them, and to which he thus gives an equal authority. And in so solemn a manner does he enforce this, that he adds, doubtless as foreseeing that attempts would be made by deceiving or deceived men, professing his religion, to lessen the authority of the moral law, "Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven;" that is, as St. Chrysostom interprets, "He shall be the farthest from attaining heaven and happiness, which imports that he shall not attain it at all." In like manner St. Paul, after having strenuously maintained the doctrine of justification by faith alone, anticipates an objection by asking, "Do we then make void the law through faith?" and subjoins, "God forbid: yea, we establish the law;" meaning by "the law," as the context and his argument clearly show, the moral and not the ceremonial law.

After such declarations, it is worse than trifling for any to contend that, in order to establish the authority of the moral law of the Jews over Christians, it ought to have been formally reenacted. To this we may, however, farther reply, not only that many important moral principles and rules found in the Old Testament were never formally enacted among the Jews; were traditional from an earlier age; and received at different times the more indirect authority of inspired recognition; but, to put the matter in a stronger light, that all the leading moral precepts of the Jewish Scriptures are, in point of fact, proposed in the New Testament in a manner which has the full force of formal reenactment, as the laws of the Christian church. This argument, from the want of formal reenactment, will therefore have no weight. The summary of the law and the prophets, which is to love God with all our heart, and to serve him with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, is unquestionably enjoined, and even reenacted by the Christian lawgiver. When our Lord is explicitly asked by "one who came unto him and said, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" the answer given shows that the moral law contained in the decalogue is so in force under the Christian dispensation, that obedience to it is necessary to final salvation:— "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." And that nothing ceremonial is intended by this term, is manifest from what follows: "He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal," &c.  Matthew 19:17-19 . Here, also, we have all the force of a formal reenactment of the decalogue, a part of it being evidently put for the whole. Nor were it difficult to produce passages from the discourses of Christ and the writings of the Apostles, which enjoin all the precepts of this law taken separately, by their authority, as indispensable parts of Christian duty, and that, too, under their original sanctions of life and death; so that the two circumstances which form the true character of a law in its highest sense, divine authority and penal sanctions, are found as truly in the New Testament as in the Old. It will not, for instance, be contended, that the New Testament does not enjoin the acknowledgment and worship of one God alone; nor that it does not prohibit idolatry; nor that it does not level its maledictions against false and profane swearing; nor that the Apostle Paul does not use the very words of the fifth commandment preceptively, when he says, "Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise,"  Ephesians 6:2; nor that murder, adultery, theft, false witness, and covetousness are not all prohibited under pain of exclusion from the kingdom of God. Thus, then, we have the whole decalogue brought into the Christian code of morals, by a distinct injunction of its separate precepts, and by their recognition as of permanent and unchangeable obligation; the fourth commandment, respecting the Sabbath only, being so far excepted, that its injunction is not so expressly marked. This, however, is no exception in fact; for beside that its original place in the two tables sufficiently distinguishes it from all positive, ceremonial, and typical precepts, and gives it a moral character, in respect to its ends, which are, first, mercy to servants and cattle, and, second, the worship of almighty God, undisturbed by worldly interruptions and cares, it is necessarily included in that "law" which our Lord declares he came not to destroy, or abrogate; in that "law" which St. Paul declares to be "established by faith," and among those "commandments" which our Lord declares must be "kept," if any one would "enter into life." To this, also, the practice of the Apostles is to be added, who did not cease themselves from keeping one day in seven holy, nor teach others so to do; but gave to "the Lord's day" that eminence and sanctity in the Christian church which the seventh day had in the Jewish, by consecrating it to holy uses; an alteration not affecting the precept at all, except in an unessential circumstance, (if indeed in that,) and in which we may suppose them to have acted under divine suggestion.

Thus, then, we have the obligation of the whole decalogue as fully established in the New Testament as in the Old, as if it had been formally reenacted; and that no formal reenactment of it took place, is itself a presumptive proof that it was never regarded by the lawgiver as temporary, which the formality of republication might have supposed. It is important to remark, however, that, although the moral laws of the Mosaic dispensation pass into the Christian code, they stand there in other and higher circumstances; so that the New Testament is a more perfect dispensation of the knowledge of the moral will of God than the Old. In particular, (1.) They are more expressly extended to the heart, as by our Lord, in his sermon on the mount; who teaches us that the thought and inward purpose of any offence is a violation of the law prohibiting its external and visible commission.

(2.) The principles on which they are founded are carried out in the New Testament into a greater variety of duties, which, by embracing more perfectly the social and civil relations of life, are of a more universal character.

(3.) There is a much more enlarged injunction of positive and particular virtues, especially those which constitute the Christian temper.

(4.) By all overt acts being inseparably connected with corresponding principles in the heart, in order to constitute acceptable obedience, which principles suppose the regeneration of the soul by the Holy Ghost. This moral renovation is, therefore, held out as necessary to our salvation, and promised as a part of the grace of our redemption by Christ.

(5.) By being connected with promises of divine assistance, which is peculiar to a law connected with evangelical provisions.

(6.) By their having a living illustration in the perfect and practical example of Christ.

(7.) By the higher sanctions derived from the clearer revelation of a future state, and the more explicit promises of eternal life, and threatenings of eternal punishment. It follows from this, that we have in the Gospel the most complete and perfect revelation of moral law ever given to men; and a more exact manifestation of the brightness, perfection, and glory of that law, under which angels and our progenitors in paradise were placed, and which it is at once the delight and the interest of the most perfect and happy beings to obey.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

The whole history of the Jews is a riddle if Moses' narrative is not authentic. If it is authentic, he was inspired to give the law, because he asserts God's immediate commission. Its recognized inspiration alone can account for the Israelites' acquiescence in a burdensome ritual, and for their intense attachment to the Scriptures which condemn them as a stiffnecked people. A small, isolated people, no way distinguished for science or art, possessed the most spiritual religion the world has ever seen: this cannot have been of themselves, it must be of God. No Israelite writer hints at the possibility of fraud. The consentient belief of the rival kingdoms northern Israel and Judah, the agreement in all essential parts between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Pentateuch of the Jews who excommunicated the Samaritans as schismatics, accords with the divine origination of the Mosaic law. Even Israel's frequent apostasies magnify the divine power and wisdom which by such seemingly inadequate instruments effected His purpose of preserving true religion and morality, when all the philosophic and celebrated nations sank deeper and deeper into idolatry and profligacy.

Had Egypt with its learning and wisdom, Greece with its philosophy and refinement, or Rome with its political sagacity, been the medium of revelation, its origination would be attributed to man's intellect. As it is, the Mosaic law derived little of its influence from men of mere human genius, and it was actually opposed to the sensual and idolatrous inclinations of the mass of the people. Nothing short of its origin being divine, and its continuance effected by divine interposition, can account for the fact that it was only in their prosperity the law was neglected; when adversity awakened them to reflection they always cried unto God and returned to His law, and invariably found deliverance (Graves, Pent. ii. 3, section 2). Unlike the surrounding nations, the Jews have their history almost solely in the written word.

No museum possesses sculptured figures of Jewish antiquities such as are brought from Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon, Persepolis, Greece, and Rome. The basis of Israel's polity was the Decalogue, the compendium of the moral law which therefore was proclaimed first, then the other religions and civil ordinances. The end of Israel's call by the holy God was that they should be "a holy nation" ( Leviticus 19:2), a meadiatorial kingdom between God and the nations, witnessing for Him to them ( Isaiah 43:10-12), and between them and Him, performing those sacrificial ordinances through the divinely constituted Aaronic priests, which were to prefigure the one coming Sacrifice, through whom all the Gentile nations were to be blessed. Thus, Israel was to be "a kingdom of priests," each subject a priest (though their exercise of the sacrificial functions was delegated to one family as their representative), and God was at once civil and spiritual king; therefore all the theocratic ordinances of the Sinaitic legislation were designed to minister toward holiness, which is His supreme law.

Hence, the religious ordinances had a civil and judicial sanction annexed and the civil enactments had a religious bearing. Both had a typical and spiritual aspect also, in relation to the kingdom of God yet to come. While minute details are of temporary and local application their fundamental principle is eternal, the promotion of God's glory and man's good. It is because of this principle pervading more or less all the ordinances, civil and ceremonial alike, that it is not always easy to draw a line between them. Even the moral law is not severed from but intimately bound up with both. The moral precepts are eternally obligatory, because based on God's own unchangeable character, which is reflected in the enlightened conscience; their positive enactment is only to clear away the mist which sin has spread over even the conscience.

The positive precepts are obligatory only because of enactment, and so long as the divine Legislator appointed them to remain in force. This is illustrated in  Hosea 6:6, "I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." God did desire "sacrifices" (for He instituted them), but moral obedience more: for this is the end for which positive ordinances, as sacrifices, were instituted; i.e., sacrifices and positive ordinances, as the sabbath, were to be observed, but not made the plea for setting aside the moral duties, justice, love, truth, obedience, which are eternally obligatory. Compare  1 Samuel 15:22;  Psalms 50:8-9;  Psalms 51:16-17;  Isaiah 1:11-12;  Micah 6:6-8;  Matthew 23:23;  Matthew 9:13;  Matthew 12:7. Torah ("law") means strictly a directory. Authoritative enactment is implied.

The elements of the law already existed, but scattered and much obscured amidst incongruous usages which men's passions had created. The law "was added because of the transgressions" of it, i.e., not to remove all transgressions, for the law rather stimulates the corrupt heart to disobedience ( Romans 7:13), but to bring them out into clearer view ( Galatians 3:19;  Romans 3:20 end,  Romans 4:15;  Romans 5:13;  Romans 7:7-9), to make men more conscious of their sins as being transgressions of the law, so to make them feel need and longing for the promised Saviour ( Galatians 3:17-24), "the law was our "schoolmaster" ( Paidagoogos , rather guardian-servant leading us to school), to bring us to Christ." The law is closely connected with the promise to Abraham, "in thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed" ( Genesis 12:3).

It witnessed to the evil in all men, from which the promised Seed should deliver men, and its provisions on the other hand were the chief fence by which Israel was kept separate from surrounding pagandom, the repository of divine revelation for the future good of the world, when the fullness of the time should come. The giving of the law marked the transition of Israel from nonage to full national life. The law formally sanctioned, and grouped together, many of the fragmentary ordinances of God which existed before. The sabbath, marriage, sacrifices (Genesis 2; Genesis 4;  Exodus 16:23-29), distinction of clean and unclean ( Genesis 7:2), the shedding of blood for blood ( Genesis 9:6), circumcision (Genesis 17), the penalty for fornication, and the Levirate usage (a brother being bound to marry and raise up seed by a deceased brother's widow,  Genesis 38:8;  Genesis 38:24) were some of the patriarchal customs which were adopted with modifications by the Mosaic code. In some cases, as divorce, it corrected rather than sanctioned objectionable existing usages, suffering their existence at all only because of the hardness of their hearts ( Matthew 19:7-8).

So in the case of a disobedient son ( Deuteronomy 21:18-21), severe as is the penalty, it is an improvement upon existing custom, substituting a judicial appeal to the community for arbitrary parental power of life and death. The Levirate law limited rather than approved of existing custom. The law of the avenger of involuntarily-shed blood ( Deuteronomy 19:1-13; Numbers 35) mercifully restrained the usage which was too universally recognized to admit of any but gradual abolition. It withdrew the involuntary homicide from before the eyes of the incensed relatives of the deceased. No satisfaction was allowed for murder; the murderer had no asylum, but could be dragged from the altar ( Exodus 21:14;  1 Kings 2:28-34). The comparative smallness of that portion of the Sinaitic law which concerns the political constitution harmonizes with the alleged time of its promulgation, when as yet the form of government was not permanently settled.

The existing patriarchal authorities in the family and tribe are recognized, while the priests and Levites are appointed to take wholly the sacred functions and in part also the judicial ones. The contingency of a kingly government is provided for in general directions ( Deuteronomy 17:14-20). The outline of the law is given in Exodus 20-23; the outline of the ceremonial law is given in Exodus 25-31. The Decalogue (a term first found in Clement of Alexandria's Pedag. iii. 12) is the heart of the whole, and therefore was laid up in the ark of the covenant beneath the "mercy-seat" or "propitiatory" ( Hilasteerion ), intimating that it is only as covered over by divine atoning mercy that the law could be the center of the ( Romans 3:25-26) covenant of God with us. The law is the reflection of the holy character of the God of the covenant, the embodiment of the inner spirit of the Mosaic code. "The ten commandments" (Hebrew words,  Exodus 34:28) are frequently called "the testimony," namely, of Jehovah against all who should transgress ( Deuteronomy 31:26-27).

By the law came "the knowledge of sin" ( Romans 3:20;  Romans 7:7). Conscience (without the law) caused only a vague discomfort to the sinner. But the law of the Decalogue, when expressed definitely, convicted of sin and was therefore "a ministration of condemnation" and "of death written and engraven on stones" ( 2 Corinthians 3:7;  2 Corinthians 3:9). Its preeminence is marked by its being the first part revealed; not like the rest of the code through Moses, but by Jehovah Himself, with attendant angels ( Deuteronomy 33:2;  Acts 7:53;  Galatians 3:19;  Hebrews 2:2); written by God's finger, and on stone tables to mark its permanence. The number ten expresses completeness, perfection ( Psalms 19:7;  Exodus 27:12  1 Kings 7:27;  Matthew 25:1). They were "the tables of the covenant," and the ark, because containing them, was called "the ark of the covenant" ( Deuteronomy 4:13;  Joshua 3:11). The record in  Deuteronomy 5:6-21 is a slight variation of  Exodus 20:2-17.

The fourth commandment begins with "keep" instead of "remember," the reason for its observance in Deuteronomy is Israel's deliverance from Egypt instead of God's resting from creation. Deuteronomy is an inspired free repetition of the original in Exodus, suited to Moses' purpose of exhortation; hence he refers to the original, in the fifth commandment adding "as the Lord thy God commanded thee." "And" is inserted as suited to the narrative style which Deuteronomy combines with the legislative. "Desire" is substituted for "covet" in the tenth. None but Moses himself would have ventured to alter an iota of what Moses had ascribed to God in Exodus. The special reason for the fourth, applying to the Israelites, does not interfere with the earlier and more universal reason in Exodus, but is an additional motive for their observing the ordinance already resting on the worldwide basis. Coveting the house in Exodus precedes, but in Deuteronomy succeeds, coveting the wife; evidently all kinds of coveting are comprised in the one tenth commandment.

As the seventh and eighth forbid acts of adultery and theft, so the tenth forbids the desire and so seals the inner spirituality of all the commandments of the second table. The claims of God stand first. The love of God is the true spring of the love of our fellow men. Josephus (contra Apion ii. 17) says: "Moses did not (as other legislators) make religion part of virtue, but all other virtues parts of religion." The order of the ten indicates the divine hand; God's being, unity, exclusive deity, "have no other gods before My face" ( Hebrews 4:13); His worship as a Spirit without idol symbol; His name; His day; His earthly representatives, parents, to be honoured; then regard for one's neighbour's life; for his second self, his wife; his property; character; bridling the desires, the fence of duty to one's neighbour and one's self. As deed is fenced by the sixth, seventh, and eighth, so speech by the ninth, and the heart by the tenth. It begins with God, ends with the heart. The fourth and fifth have a positive form, the rest negative.

It is a witness against man's sin, rather than a giver of holiness. Philo and Josephus (Ant. 3:6, section 5) comprise the first five in the first table, the last five in the second. Augustine, to bring out the Trinity, made our first and second one, and divided our tenth into coveting the wife and coveting the rest; thus, three in the first table, seven in the second. But the command to have only one God is quite distinct from the prohibition to worship Him by an image, and coveting the wife and the other objects falls under one category of unlawful desire. Love to God is expressly taught in the second commandment, "mercy to thousands in them that love Me and keep My commandments." The five and five division is the best. Five implies imperfection; our duty to God being imperfect if divorced from duty to our neighbour. Five and ten predominate in the proportions of the tabernacle. Piety toward the earthly father is closely joined to piety towards the heavenly ( Hebrews 12:9;  1 Timothy 5:4;  Mark 7:11). Special sanctions are attached to the second, third, fourth, and fifth commandments.

Paul ( Romans 13:8;  Romans 13:9) makes the second table, or duty to our neighbour, comprise the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth, but not the fifth commandment. Spiritual Jews penetrated beneath the surface, and so found in the law peace and purity viewed in connection with the promised Redeemer ( Psalms 1:2;  Psalms 1:19;  Psalms 1:119;  Psalms 1:15;  Psalms 1:24;  Isaiah 1:10-18;  Romans 2:28-29). As (1) the Decalogue gave the moral tone to all the rest of the law, so (2) the ceremonial part taught symbolically purity, as required by all true subjects of the kingdom of God. It declared the touch of the dead defiling, to remind men that sin's wages is death. It distinguished clean from unclean foods, to teach men to choose moral good and reject evil. The sacrificial part (3) taught the hope of propitiation, and thus represented the original covenant of promise, and pointed on to Messiah, through whom the sense of guilt, awakened by the moral law which only condemns men through their own inability to keep it, is taken away, and peace with God is realized.

Two particulars are noticeable: (1) Moses does not inculcate as sanctions of his laws the rewards and punish. merits of a future life; (2) he does use as a sanction God's declaration that He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that fear Him, and shows mercy unto thousands (to the thousandth generation) of them that love Him and keep His commandments" ( Exodus 20:5-6). The only way we can account for the omission of a future sanction, which all other ancient lawgivers deemed indispensable (Warburton, Div. Legation), is the fact established on independent proofs, namely, that Israel's government was administered by an extraordinary providence, distributing reward and punishment according to obedience or disobedience severally.

But while not sanctioning his law by future rewards or punishments, Moses shows both that he believed in them himself, and sets forth such proofs of them as would suggest themselves to every thoughtful and devout Israelite, though less clearly than they were revealed subsequently under David, Solomon, and the prophets, when they became matter of general belief. Christ shows that in the very title, "the God of Abraham," etc., in the Pentateuch the promise of the resurrection is by implication contained ( Matthew 22:31-32). (See Resurrection .) Scripture ( Hebrews 4:2;  Galatians 3:8) affirms the gospel was preached unto Abraham and to Israel in the wilderness, as well as unto us. The Sinai law in its sacrifices was the bud, the gospel was the flower and the ripened fruit. The law was the gospel in miniature, which Jesus the Sun of righteousness expanded.

So David (Psalm 32;  Romans 4:6). On the hope of a future life being held by those under the law see  Numbers 23:10;  Psalms 16:8-11;  Psalms 17:15;  Psalms 21:4;  Psalms 73:24;  Psalms 49:14-15;  Isaiah 26:19;  Isaiah 25:8;  Isaiah 57:1-2;  Daniel 7:9-10;  Daniel 7:13-14;  Daniel 12:2. The sense of  Psalms 139:24 is "see if there be any way of "idolatry" ( Otseb , as in  Isaiah 48:5; the Hebrew also means pain which is the sure issue of idolatry) in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" promised to David and his seed in Messiah (compare  1 John 5:21;  Proverbs 8:35;  Proverbs 12:28;  Proverbs 14:32;  Proverbs 21:16;  Proverbs 24:11;  Ecclesiastes 8:11-12;  Ecclesiastes 11:9;  Ecclesiastes 12:7;  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14;  2 Kings 2:11-12;  2 Kings 13:21; Ezekiel 37;  Hosea 13:14;  Hosea 6:2;  Joel 2:32;  Job 19:23-27).

Life in man is in  Genesis 1:26-27;  Genesis 2:7, distinguished from life in brutes: "Jehovah 'Εlohim breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul"; "God created man in His own image." It is not immateriality which distinguishes man's life from the brutes' life, for the vital principle is immaterial in the brute as in man; it can only be the continuance of life after death of the body, conscience, spirit, and sense of moral responsibility, as well as power of abstract reasoning.  Acts 24:14-15;  Acts 24:25 shows the prevalent belief in Paul's day as to the resurrection and judgment to come. Christ asserts that by searching the Old Testament scriptures eternal life and the promise of Messiah was to be found ( John 5:39). The barrenness of Judea has been made an objection by Voltaire against Scripture truth, which represents it as "flowing with milk and honey."

But the very barrenness is the accomplishment of Scripture prophecies, and powerfully confirms the Old Testament The structure of the Mosaic history confirms the reality of the miracles on which the truth of the extraordinary providence rests. Common events are joined with the miraculous so closely that the acknowledged history of this singular people would become unaccountable, unless the (See Miracles with which it is inseparably joined be admitted. The miracles could not have been credited by the contemporary generation, nor introduced subsequently into the national records and the national religion, if they had not been real and divine. The Jewish ritual and the singular constitution of the tribe of Levi commemorated them perpetually, and rested on their truth. The political constitution and civil laws presuppose an extraordinary providence limiting the legislative and executive authorities. So also the distribution and tenure of land, the sabbatic and Jubilee years, the three great feasts requiring all males to meet at the central sanctuary thrice each year.

Present, rather than invisible and future, sanctions were best fitted at that time to establish the superiority of the true God before Israel and heathendom. The low intellectual and moral state of most Israelites incapacitated them from rising above the desires of the present world to look forward to future retributions, which their spiritual dullness would make them feel doubtful of, until first a present special providence visibly proved His claim on their faith and obedience, and prepared them to believe that the same divine justice which had heretofore visibly governed the youth of Israel's existence would in a future state reward or punish according to men's deserts, when the present extraordinary providence should be withdrawn. Moreover, national obedience or transgression could as such be recompensed only by temporal prosperity or adversity (for nations have their existence only in the present time). Therefore, the Divine King of the theocracy dispensed with these by an immediate and visible execution, which only partially appears in His present more invisible, though not less real, government of all nations.

Offenses against the state and individuals were punished, as also offenses against God its head. In Israel's history a visible specimen was given of what is true in all ages and nations, though less immediately seen now when our calling is to believe and wait, that "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" ( Proverbs 14:34). The distraction of clean and unclean animals relates to sacrifices. Some animals by filthy, wild, and noxious natures suggest the presence of evil in nature, and therefore give the feeling of unfitness for being offered as symbols of atonement or thanksgiving before the holy God. Others, tame, docile, useful to man, of the flock and herd, seem suitable for offering, as sheep, goats, cows, doves, and the like. Those that both chew the cud and divide the hoof men generally have taken for food by a common instinct. So fish with fins and scales, but not shellfish as less digestible; insects leaping upon the earth, raised above the crawling slimy brood. Other animals, etc., as swine, dogs, etc., offered by idolaters, are called "abominations."

The aim of the distinction was ethical, to symbolize separation from moral defilement, and to teach to the true Israel self cleansing from all pollution of flesh and spirit ( 2 Corinthians 7:1). The lesson in Acts 10 is that whereas God granted sanctification of spirit to the Gentiles, as He had to Cornelius, the outward symbol of separation between them and the Jews, namely, the distinction of clean and unclean meats, was needless ( Matthew 15:11;  1 Timothy 4:4;  Romans 14:17). So the impurity contracted by childbirth (Leviticus 12; 15), requiring the mother's purification, points to the taint of birth sin ( Psalms 51:5). The uncleanness after a female birth lasted 66 days, after a male 33, to mark the fall as coming through the woman first ( 1 Timothy 2:14-15). In the penal code idolatry is the capital crime, treason against the Head of the state and its fundamental constitution. One was bound not to spare the dearest relative, if guilty of tempting to it; any city apostatizing to it was to be destroyed with its spoil and inhabitants ( Deuteronomy 13:6).

Human sacrifices burnt to Moloch were especially marked for judgment on all who took part in them ( Leviticus 20:1-5). The wizard, witch, and their consulters violated the allegiance due to Jehovah, who alone reveals His will to His people ( Numbers 9:7-8;  Numbers 27:21;  Joshua 9:14;  Judges 1:1;  2 Samuel 5:23) and controls future events, and were therefore to die ( 1 Chronicles 10:13;  Leviticus 20:27). So the blasphemer, presumptuous sabbath breaker, and false prophet ( Leviticus 24:11-16;  Numbers 15:30-36;  Deuteronomy 17:12;  Deuteronomy 18:20). So the violator of the command to rest from work on the day of atonement ( Leviticus 23:29;  Leviticus 23:30), of the Passover ( Exodus 12:15;  Exodus 12:19); the willful defiler of the sanctuary ( Numbers 19:13;  Leviticus 22:3); the perpetrator of unnatural crimes (Numbers 18; Numbers 20).

The prohibitions of rounding the hair and beard, of wearing a garment of wool and linen mixed, of sowing a field with divers seeds, of women using men's garments (besides tending to preserve feminine modesty and purity), were directed against existing idolatrous usages in the worship of Baal and Ashteroth ( Numbers 19:19;  Numbers 19:27;  Deuteronomy 22:5). The ordeal by the water of jealousy depended on an extraordinary providence ( Numbers 5:11). It could injure the guilty only by miracle, the innocent not at all; whereas in the ordeals of the Middle Ages the innocent could scarcely escape but by miracle. Prohibitions such as human tribunals could hardly take cognizance of were sanctioned by penalties which God undertook to execute. He as Sovereign reserved exclusively to Himself the right of legislation. Sins of impurity, next to idolatry, were punished with peculiar severity (Leviticus 18; the adulterer and adulteress,  Leviticus 20:10;  Deuteronomy 22:22-30;  Deuteronomy 27:20-26).

Mildness and exact equity pervaded the code so far as was compatible with the state of the people and the age. Interest or "usury" was not to be taken from an Israelite, and only in strict equity from the foreigner. The poor should be relieved liberally ( Deuteronomy 15:7-11). The hired labourer's wages were to be paid at once ( Deuteronomy 24:14-15). Intrusion into a neighbour's house to recover a loan was forbidden, not to hurt his feelings. The pledged raiment was to be restored, so as not to leave him without a coverlet at night ( Deuteronomy 24:10-13).

Other characteristic precepts of the law are: reverence to the old; tenderness toward those having bodily infirmity ( Deuteronomy 24:19-21); gleanings to be left for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow ( Leviticus 19:14-32); faithfulness in rebuking a neighbour's sin; the dispersion of the Levites, the ministers of religion, forming a sacred He among all the tribes; studied opposition to all the usages of idolaters, as the pagan historian Tacitus notices: "all we hold sacred are with them profane: they offer the ram in contempt of Ammon ... and an ox, which the Egyptians worship as Apis (Hist. 5:4); the Jews deem those profane who form any images of the gods ... the Divinity they conceive as one, and only to be understood by the mind; with images they would not honour Caesars or flatter kings." Personal violence was punished retributively in kind, "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." The false witness had to suffer what he thought to inflict on another ( Deuteronomy 19:16-21;  Exodus 21:24;  Leviticus 24:18-21).

This did not sanction individual retaliation, but it was to regulate the magistrate's award of damages, namely, the worth in money of the bodily power lost by the injured person. It was to protect the community, not to regulate the believer, who when he penetrated beneath the letter into the spirit of the law, which the gospel afterward brought to light, felt constrained to love his enemy and not do to him the injury the latter had done or intended to do. Our Lord quoted the form of the law ( Matthew 5:38) in order to contrast the pharisaic view, which looked only to the letter, with the true view which looks to the spirit. A striking feature of the penal code, in which it was superior to most codes, was that no crime against mere property incurred death. Bond service until the sabbatic year was the extreme penalty; restitution and fine were the ordinary penalty. The slave's life was guarded as carefully as the master's. If the master caused even the loss of a tooth the servant was to be set free. The chastity of female slaves was strictly protected.

No Jew could be kept in bondage more than seven years, and then was to be sent away with liberal gifts ( Exodus 21:7-26;  Deuteronomy 15:13-15). In fact Israelite bond service was only a going into service for a term of years, that the creditor might reap the benefit. The creditor could not imprison nor scourge so as to injure the bond debtor, but in Rome the creditor could imprison and even kill him according to the old law. Men stealers were to be put to death. What a contrast to the cruel oppression of slaves in other nations, the Spartans butchering the helots, the Romans torturing their slaves for trifles and goading them to servile rebellions which cost some of Horne's bravest blood, and enacting that where a master was murdered all the slaves in the house, or within hearing of it, should be killed! In Israel the public peace was never threatened by such a cause. Trials were public, in the city gates. The judges, the elders, and Levitical ministers and officers, as our jurors, were taken from the people. No torture before conviction, no cruelty after it, was permitted.

Forty stripes were the extreme limit of bodily punishment ( Deuteronomy 25:3). Capital convictions could only be by the agreeing testimony of two witnesses ( Deuteronomy 17:6). The even distribution of lands, the non-alienation of them from the family and tribe (Numbers 27; Numbers 36), admirably guarded against those agrarian disturbances and intestine discords which in other states and in all ages have flowed from an uneven distribution and an uncertain tenure of property. Love to God, love to one's neighbour and even to enemies, benevolence to strangers, the poor, the fatherless and widows, repentance and restitution for injuries, sincere worship of the heart and obedience of the life required to accompany outward ceremonial worship, all these are characteristics of the law, such as never originated from the nation itself, long enslaved, and not remarkable for high intellectual and moral capacity, and such as did not then exist in the code of any other nation. The Originator can have only been, as Scripture says, God Himself.

Besides, whatever doubts may be raised respecting the inspiration or authorship, the fact remains and is indisputable, that it was given and was in force ages before Lycurgus or Minos or other noted legislators lived, and that it has retained its influence upon legislation from the time of its promulgation until now, the British and all other codes of civilized nations being based upon it. This is one of those facts which neither evolution, nor revolution, can overthrow. The letter and outward ordinances were the casket, the spirit as brought out by the gospel was the jewel. The sacrifices gave present relief to awakened consciences by the hope of forgiveness through God's mercy, resting on the promise of the Redeemer.

The law could not give life, that was reserved for the gospel ( Galatians 3:21-22;  Galatians 4:6). Spiritual Jews, as David, when convicted by the law of failure in obedience, fell back on the earlier covenant of promise, the covenant of grace, as distinguished from the law the covenant of works (which required perfect obedience as the condition of life, and cursed all who disobeyed in the least point:  Galatians 3:6-18;  Leviticus 18:5), and by the Spirit cried for a clean heart ( Psalms 51:10-11). So they could love the law, not as an outward yoke, but as the law of God's will cherished in the heart ( Psalms 37:31), such as it was in Him who should come ( Psalms 40:8). In most Jews, because of the nonconformity between their inward state and the law's requirements as a rule from without, its tendency was "to gender to bondage" ( Galatians 2:4;  Galatians 4:3;  Galatians 4:9;  Galatians 4:24-25;  Galatians 5:1). Inclination rebelled against it.

They either burst its bond for open paganism; or, as in post captivity times, scrupulously held the letter, but had none of its spirit, "love, the fulfilling of the law" ( Romans 13:8-10;  Leviticus 19:18;  1 Timothy 1:5;  Galatians 5:14;  Matthew 7:12;  Matthew 22:37-40;  James 2:8). Hence, the prophets looked on to gospel times when God would write the law by His Spirit in the heart ( Jeremiah 31:31-33;  Jeremiah 31:39;  Ezekiel 36:26-27;  Ezekiel 11:19-20). In one respect the law continues, in another it is superseded ( Matthew 5:17-18). In its antitypical realization in Jesus, it is all being fulfilled or has been so. In its spirit, "holy, just, and good," it is of everlasting obligation as it reflects the mind of God. In its Old Testament form it gives place to its fully developed perfection in the New Testament The temporary and successional Aaronic priesthood gives place to the abiding and intransmissible Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus, the sacrificial types, to the one antitypical sacrifice, never to be repeated (Hebrew 5; Hebrew 7; Hebrew 8; Hebrew 9; Hebrew 10).

So believers, insofar as they are under the gospel law of Christ ( Galatians 6:2), which is the law of love in the heart, are no longer under the law, as an outward letter ordinance. Through Christ's death they are dead to the law, as a law of condemnation, and have the Spirit enabling them to "serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" ( Romans 2:29;  Romans 7:1-6;  2 Corinthians 3:6). "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness (both justification and sanctification) to every one that believeth"  Romans 10:4;  Romans 8:1-3). He gave not so much new laws of morality as new motives for observing the old law. As a covenant of works, and a provisional mode of discipline, and a typical representation of atonement, the law is no more. As the revelation of God's righteousness it is everlasting. Free from the letter, the believer fulfills the spirit and end of the law, conformity to God's will. Moses, in foretelling the rise of the "Prophet like unto himself" and God's rejection of all who should reject Him ( Deuteronomy 18:15, etc.), by the Spirit intimates that the law was to give place to the gospel of Jesus.

Moses anticipates also by the Spirit the evils which actually befell them, their being besieged, their captivity, dispersion, and restoration (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 32). The words in  Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (compare  Numbers 12:1-8) prove that no other prophet or succession of prophets can exhaustively fulfill the prophecy. Both Peter and Stephen authoritatively decide that Messiah is "the Prophet" ( Acts 3:22;  Acts 7:37). The gospel attracted and detached from the Jewish nation almost every pure and pious soul, sifting the chaff from the wheat. The destruction of the temple with which Judaism and the ceremonial law were inseparably connected was God's explicit setting of them aside. The danger to the church from Judaizing Christians, which was among its first trials (Acts 11; 15;  Galatians 3:5), was thereby diminished, and "the fall of the Jews is the riches of the world" in this as in other respects ( Romans 11:12).

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

The Nature of Biblical Law . The usual Hebrew term translated as "law" is tora [   Exodus 20:17;  23:4-5 ); is silent about state enforcement ( Exodus 21:2-6 ); or specifies God rather than the state as the enforcer ( Exodus 22:21-27 ). In addition, the label "law" seems inappropriate for certain ceremonial instructions.

Biblical civil laws differ from the "positive law" of modern jurisprudence, which tries to legislate in exhaustive detail. Biblical laws are insufficiently comprehensive to be considered a "law-code, " but served as paradigmatic illustrations (not rigid rules) of justice that a judge could apply or modify according to circumstances. For example, whereas capital offenses state the maximum penalty for certain crimes, extenuating factors could lead a judge, legitimately, not to execute the offender. This is stated explicitly in the case of murder ( Exodus 21:12-14 ), and is implicit elsewhere. Thus, although  Exodus 21:15 states "Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death" (NASB), it would be absurd to apply this rule to an angry toddler.

Many biblical precepts are expressed as broad principles without legalistic detail. For example, "work" is prohibited on the sabbath yet is never defined legally. This ambiguity, which allowed for some flexibility, was considered a liability by Pharisaic Judaism. In an attempt to make sure the command proper was never violated, the rabbis created secondary, rigid rules which, if followed, would theoretically prevent a person from ever violating the biblical command itself. This was known as "putting a fence around the law." Such nonbiblical rules (e.g., the sabbath day's journey) are prescribed exhaustively in the Talmud, but this burdensome "tradition" is contrary to the spirit of biblical law ( Matthew 15:3;  23:4 ).

An important law is the lex talionis, "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth" ( Exodus 21:22-25;  Leviticus 24:19-20;  Deuteronomy 19:15-21 ), which is sometimes misunderstood as a barbaric justification of personal vengeance and maiming. On the contrary, it expresses the just principle that judicial punishments should fit the crime, thereby limiting permissible punishment. One who is responsible for the loss of another's eye deserves, in principle, to give up his own eye. In practice, however, the offender ordinarily would placate the aggrieved party by paying an amount proportional to the degree of the maiming to substitute for the infliction of literal talion . Note how such "ransoming" operates in  Exodus 21:29-30 , and how literal talion fails to occur in 21:18-19,21:26-27 where it might be expected. The availability of ransom seems to be so prevalent that it must be explicitly prohibited to exclude it (  Numbers 35:31 ). Jesus, in accord with  Leviticus 19:18 , teaches patient suffering instead of the misapplication of lex talionis for personal revenge ( Matthew 5:38-42 ).

Legal Corpora in the Old Testament . The laws (traditionally 613 in number) are concentrated in certain passages in the Pentateuch. Some of these are given special names.

The Decalog was given at Mount Sinai ( Exodus 20:1-17 ) and repeated in Moses' sermon over forty years later ( Deuteronomy 5:6-21 ). The formulation in the Decalogue (the traditional "thou shalt/shalt not") is apodictic, that is, unqualified; God as King imposes demands upon his subjects. These commandments represent the minimum moral and religious requirements for those in covenant relationship with God.

The Book of the Covenant ( Exodus 20:22-23:33 ,; partially repeated in 34:10-26) consists of cultic, humanitarian, and civil regulations. Most of its civil regulations follow the casuistic formulation of cuneiform laws: "If X happens (protasis), then Y will be the legal consequences ( apodosis )."

Deuteronomy has many regulations. Chapters 5-11 emphasize the general requirement to obey God; chapters 12-25 offer specifics in various areas of life (worship, festivals, officials of the theocratic state, manslaughter, warfare, sexuality, etc.). The structure of Deuteronomy follows that of second-millennium covenant treaties in which the laws correspond to stipulations within the covenant. The topical units of chapters 12-25 are arranged according to the order of the Ten Commandments.

Cultic laws concerning the tabernacle, sacrifices, priests, ritual purity, festivals, and ethical and ritual holiness (especially in sexual and social matters; cf.  Leviticus 18-26 , the so-called Holiness Code) are scattered throughout Genesis through Numbers, Leviticus consisting almost entirely of this kind of material. Some call these laws the Priestly Code on the dubious assumption that they once existed as an independent collection.

Biblical and Cuneiform Laws . Scholars commonly compare biblical civil laws with contemporary laws found by archaeologists in the ancient Near East. Extrabiblical laws include those by Ur-Nammu of Ur (ca. 2112-2095 b.c.), Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (ca. 1925 b.c.), some ten Sumerian Laws (ca. 1800 b.c.) of unknown provenance, the Laws of Eshnunna (ca. 1800 b.c.), the Laws of Hammurapi (ca. 1750 b.c.), the Edict of Ammisaduqa (ca. 1650 b.c.), Middle Assyrian Laws (ca. 1100 b.c.), Hittite Laws (before ca. 1200 b.c.), and Neo-Babylonian Laws (seventh century b.c.).

Biblical civil laws resemble extrabiblical laws in topics covered and formulation. For example, cases of striking pregnant women resulting in miscarriage (presumably an unusual circumstance) occur in HL 17, Sumerian Laws 1-2, LH 209-214, MAL A 21,50-52 as well as  Exodus 21:22-25 . There are general parallels with laws on slaves and goring oxen, and in one ( but only one ) case, a cuneiform law's reading is identical with a biblical one: LE 53 and  Exodus 21:35 . The parallels are insufficient to suppose biblical laws were simply borrowed from ancient Near Eastern ones. On the other hand, the parallels seem too close for chance. It is best to say that the Bible shows awareness of extrabiblical laws and often deliberately chooses type cases from such laws on which to make moral comment. Where an existing law is just, the Bible can happily adopt it (e.g.,  Exodus 21:35 ). Accordingly, comparison with cuneiform law is useful; nonetheless, the contrasts with cuneiform laws are usually more telling than the similarities.

These contrasts reflect differences in ideology between Israel and Mesopotamia. Cuneiform laws are overwhelmingly secular whereas the Bible freely mixes moral, civil, and cultic laws, and more often includes religious motivations for compliance. It is true that Hammurapi receives authority to rule from the god Shamash, but Shamash is custodian of impersonal cosmic truth that Hammurapi uses to make his own laws that are only indirectly attributable to deity. In the Bible, however, the laws are directly from God; Moses is only a mediator. Biblical law is designed to educate the public, to mold the national character, and to glorify Yahweh as a just lawgiver; cuneiform laws are meant to glorify the kings who created them and lack pedagogic application, being placed in a temple outside public view in a script (cuneiform) only academics could read.

Contrasting ideology is reflected in biblical law's setting limits on the authority of kings ( Deuteronomy 17:14-20 ), cuneiform laws reflect the unlimited authority of the king. Biblical laws elevate human life over property to a greater degree than do cuneiform laws. Hence, cuneiform laws required up to thirtyfold restitution for theft and the execution of the thief who could not pay (LH 8,265; HL 57-59,63, 67,69); biblical law limits restitution to no more than fivefold and prohibits the execution of a thief ( Exodus 22:1-4 ). Similarly, cuneiform laws make no sharp distinction between cases involving an ox goring a slave, and that of an ox goring an ox, both being property (LE 53-55); biblical law deliberately separates these cases ( Exodus 21:28-31,35-36 ), expressing by its structure the ideology that cases involving humans are of an entirely different category than those involving animals.

Cuneiform law agrees with biblical law in condemning murder, adultery, and incest (LH 1,129, 157); however, biblical law differs by making many religious sins, so-called victimless crimes, and crimes against family capital offenses.

"Law" and "Covenant." All biblical laws are placed in the context of God's covenant with Israel. Covenant, not law-keeping, establishes a relationship, just as signing a contract, rather than doing the specified Job, establishes an employment relationship. The covenant in   Genesis 15 was not established by "law" but by God's gracious offer accompanied by Abram's faith (although he later in some sense kept "the law, "   Genesis 26:5 ). Nor did Israel establish a relationship with God by keeping "law." The commandments are given to a people who are already "saved" ( Exodus 20:2 ) through a covenant relationship based on God's gracious love and despite Israel's lack of merit ( Deuteronomy 7:7-9;  9:4-6 ). "Legalism" that makes "law-keeping" a means of salvation is not taught in the Old Testament.

The role of law is to administrate the covenant. Laws prohibit things destructive to a relationship with God (e.g., worshiping other gods). The law gives direction to what a loving response to God should be, and tells how to reap the full benefits of the relationship. Viewed from one perspective, the promises formalized by covenant were unconditional; but from an individual's perspective, benefits could be forfeited by disobedience. Disobedience does not automatically invalidate a covenant, any more than a husband's rudeness to a wife he vowed to cherish invalidates his marriage covenant. Yet disobedience mars the relationship, and may reduce its benefits. In the desert a whole generation of Israelites forfeited their covenant benefits (the promised land) through disobedience, yet the covenant continued.

The Law under the New Covenant . The New Testament's statements about Old Testament law are difficult to harmonize. On the one hand, some New Testament statements indicate that under the new covenant the whole law is in some sense abrogated ( Romans 6:14 , "you are not under law"  Romans 10:4 , "Christ is the end of the law" ). Direct application of cultic laws is clearly excluded in the New Testament. Food laws, circumcision, sacrifices, temple, and priesthood have been superseded ( Mark 7:19;  1 Corinthians 7:19;  Hebrews 7:11-19,28;  8:13;  10:1-9 ). Christ has abolished in his flesh the commandments and regulations that separated Jew from Gentile ( Ephesians 2:15 ). Dispensationalism concludes from these statements that Christians are under no Mosaic laws, not even the Decalogue, but are instead under the law of Christ ( Galatians 6:2;  1 Corinthians 9:21 ).

On the other hand, the law cannot be altogether invalid since the New Testament affirms its abiding applicability. "All Scripture is useful" ( 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ), including Old Testament laws. Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it ( Matthew 5:17-20 ). The law is the embodiment of truth that instructs ( Romans 2:18-19 ). It is "holy" and "spiritual, " making sin known to us by defining it; therefore, Paul delights in it ( Romans 7:7-14,22 ). The law is good if used properly ( 1 Timothy 1:8 ), and is not opposed to the promises of God ( Galatians 3:21 ). Faith does not make the law void, but the Christian establishes the law ( Romans 3:31 ), fulfilling its requirements by walking according to the Spirit ( Romans 8:4 ) through love ( Romans 13:10 ). When Paul states that women are to be in submission "as the Law says" ( 1 Corinthians 14:34 ) or quotes parts of the Decalogue ( Romans 13:9 ), and when James quotes the law of love (2:8 from  Leviticus 19:18 ) or condemns partiality, adultery, murder, and slander as contrary to the law (2:9,11; 4:11), and when Peter quotes Leviticus, "Be holy, because I am holy" ( 1 Peter 1:16; from  Leviticus 19:2 ), the implication is that the law, or at least part of it, remains authoritative.

Part of the problem is that not all the "laws" are of the same order. Jesus designates justice, mercy, and faithfulness as "more important" matters in the law ( Matthew 23:23 ). A similar distinction was made by the prophets who indicate that cultic observance was less important than treating people decently, and ritual without repentance was ineffective. That these cultic regulations were, even in the Old Testament, considered of secondary value, prepares the way for their elimination in Christ.

Covenant theologians have traditionally divided laws into three categories: moral, civil, and ceremonial. Moral laws (e.g., the Decalogue), based on the unchanging character of God, are eternally binding. Civil laws (e.g.,  Exodus 21-23 ), although they may illustrate moral law, were limited historically to the theocratic state of Israel and are not binding on the church. Ceremonial laws (e.g., sacrifices) were intended to prefigure Christ, and ceased to be applicable upon his first advent. A problem with this approach is that the categories "moral, civil, and ceremonial" are artificial. There is often a mixture of these categories: the ceremonial sabbath among "moral" laws ( Exodus 20:8 ), ceremonial food regulations among "civil" laws ( Exodus 21:28;  22:31 ), "moral" motivations in civil laws ( Exodus 22:21,26-27 ) and in cultic laws ( Exodus 20:26 ). There is considerable subjectivity in labeling laws as "moral, " "civil, " or "ceremonial."

Another approach is that of theonomy or Christian reconstructionism. Theonomists wish to work toward a theocratic state where Mosaic civil laws can again be instituted into modern society. However, this approach takes insufficient account of the new theological and cultural setting of the new covenant. Some laws became impractical and unenforceable if applied literally even in Old Testament times. The Year of Jubilee regulations, requiring the return of property to original families every forty-nine years, seem never to have been enforced as law because (among other reasons) by the time Israel controlled the land, there were no records of the original owners. Moreover, although Jubilee was a practical solution for a tribal, agricultural society, this model would already be somewhat antiquated under Israel's urbanization during the monarchy, and is certainly impractical in modern, mobile, urban societies. Some laws assume the existence of conditions such as debt slavery (  Exodus 21:2-11 ), specific species of animals ( Exodus 29:22 -fat; tail sheep ), or the climate of Palestine (feast held at end of harvest season,  Leviticus 23:33-39 ), which make these laws inapplicable in other cultural environments. Some laws seem tied to the specific theological context of the Old Testament. The death penalty for cultic offenses was based on the special holiness of Israel with the tabernacle of God among them. Violation could bring immediate wrath upon the people. However, the church is not a nation, and does not camp around the tabernacle.

Usage of Old Testament laws suggests that biblical authors sought out and applied the inherent religious and moral principles in the laws even when changed historical, cultural, and theological settings made literal application inappropriate. Ezra applied a law prohibiting marriage to Canaanites, who had ceased to exist historically, broadly to marriage with non-Canaanite foreigners, because in that situation the same principle (marriage to foreigners leads to religious assimilation) applied, even though the letter of the law could not (  Ezra 9:1-2; cf.  Deuteronomy 7:1-5 ).

The New Testament writers also apply the principles in the law. From  Deuteronomy 25:4 ("Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out grain"), Paul derives a principle that workers ought to be rewarded for their labors and applies that principle in the case of Christian workers (  1 Corinthians 9:9-14 ). In  1 Timothy 5:18 , Paul again quotes  Deuteronomy 25:4 , this time in parallel with a saying of Jesus ( Matthew 10:10 ) as if both are equally authoritative. Likewise, the principle of establishing truth by two or three witnesses ( Deuteronomy 19:15 ), originally limited to courts, is applied more broadly to a church conference ( 2 Corinthians 13:1 ). The principle that believers are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers is derived from a law concerning the yoking animals ( 2 Corinthians 6:14; cf.  Deuteronomy 22:10 ).

In  1 Corinthians 5:1-5,13 , Paul affirms on the basis of  Leviticus 18:29 that incest, a capital offense in the Old Testament, is immoral and deserves punishment. A person practicing incest in the church must be excommunicated to maintain the church's practical holiness. Paul maintains the law's moral principle, yet in view of the changed redemptive setting, makes no attempt to apply the law's original sanction.

The Law and the Christian Today . Mosaic law is of value for the Christian in several ways.

The Law Prepares Sinners for the Gospel . No one can receive eternal salvation by works of the law ( Galatians 2:16 ) because none perfectly keeps the law ( Romans 3:23 ), and violation of any part of it makes one guilty of the whole ( James 2:10; cf.  Romans 2:25;  Galatians 3:10 ). Instead, salvation is a gift obtained by faith, not works ( Romans 4:4-5;  Ephesians 2:8-10;  Philippians 3:9 ). Nonetheless, the law was meant to lead us to Christ ( Galatians 3:24 ). It makes the sinner conscious of sin ( Romans 3:20;  7:7;  1 John 3:4 ). It provokes and incites rebellion ( Romans 5:20;  7:13 ), thereby making one fully accountable before God for violation of God's moral requirements ( Romans 3:19;  4:15;  5:13;  7:8-10 ). By this means, the law shows sinners their need for a mediator to redeem them from the law's condemnation ( Galatians 3:13 ). Hence, the law is an essential prerequisite in preparing sinners for the gospel.

The Law Is a Guide for Christian Living . The believer, through the Spirit, keeps the righteousness requirements of the law ( Romans 8:3-4 ), following the principle of love which is the fulfillment of the law ( Romans 13:8-10;  Galatians 5:14;  Mark 12:31 ,; cf.  Leviticus 19:18 ). As the New Testament use of Old Testament laws shows, the moral aspect of the law continues to define proper and improper behavior for Christians. Old Testament laws supplement New Testament morality by addressing some issues not directly treated in the New Testament. God's commandments were intended to bring life ( Romans 7:10 ), and the promises of life associated with the law remain applicable ( Ephesians 6:2-3; cf.  Exodus 20:12 ).

The Law Is of Value for Jurisprudence . Law, when enforced by the state, serves to restrain evildoers ( 1 Timothy 1:9-10 ). Biblical civil laws, although not directly applicable under the new covenant, are at least suggestive for improving modern jurisprudence. The Bible treats theft and manslaughter as torts against the victim (or the victim's family) rather than crimes against the state, and requires monetary restitution to the victim's family rather than imprisonment or fines to the state. This is arguably superior to the modern system where victims often get nothing, and where incarceration is ineffective for rehabilitation and extraordinarily expensive. The capital offenses in the Bible are suggestive for what crimes might legitimately be permitted as capital offenses for today (e.g., intentional murder), and crimes that should never be capital offenses (e.g., crimes of property).

The Law Points Typologically to Christ . The laws foreshadow Christ typologically in many ways. Moral and civil laws reflect the righteousness of Christ and his kingdom, while the cultic laws emphasize his holiness. The tabernacle prefigures the presence of Christ among his people; the sacrifices foreshadow the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The priesthood anticipates Jesus' priestly function. The whole cultic system with tabernacle, sacrifices, and priests prefigures union with Christ through the atonement. The penalties in the law anticipate Christ's judgments; the annihilation of the Canaanites anticipates the judgment of hell. Commands concerning occupying the promised land anticipate the future kingdom of God, heaven and the blessings in Christ himself.Joe M. Sprinkle

See also Commandment Command; Decrees; Ordinance; Requirement; Statute; Ten Commandments

Bibliography . G. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics  ; W. S. Barker and W. R. Godfrey, eds., Theonomy: A Reformed Critique  ; H. J. Boecker, Law and the Administration of Justice in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East  ; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus  ; D. A. Dorsey, JETS 34/3 (Sept. 1991): 321-34; H.-H. Esser, NIDNTT 2:438-51; M. Greenberg, Yehezkel Kaufmann Jubilee Volume, pp. 3-28; idem, Studies in Bible: 1986, pp. 3-28; idem, Religion and Law, pp. 101-12,120-25; H. W. House and T. Ice, Dominion Theology: A Blessing or a Curse?  ; W. C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward Old Testament Ethics  ; idem, JETS 33/3 (Sept. 1990): 289-302; G. E. Mendenhall, Religion and Law, pp. 85-100; Dale Patrick, Old Testament Law  ; V. Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses  ; R. J. Rushdooney, The Institutes of Biblical Law  ; R. Sonsino, Judaism 33 (1984): 202-9; J. Sprinkle, A Literary Approach to Biblical Law: Exodus 20:22-23:19.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

The word ‘law’ is used in many ways in the Bible. It may be used of commandments or instructions in general, whether given by God, civil administrators, teachers or parents ( Genesis 26:5;  Exodus 18:20;  Proverbs 3:1;  Proverbs 6:20; see also Government ). Frequently it is used of the written Word of God ( Psalms 119:18-20;  Psalms 119:57-61), sometimes applying to the Old Testament as a whole and sometimes to part of the Old Testament, such as the five books of Moses ( Matthew 5:17;  Luke 24:44;  John 1:45;  John 15:25; see Pentateuch ). Occasionally it means a principle of operation ( Romans 7:21;  Romans 7:23;  Romans 8:2). The most common usage of the term, however, concerns the law of God given to Israel through Moses at Mt Sinai ( Exodus 24:12;  Deuteronomy 4:44;  Ezra 7:6;  John 1:17;  Galatians 3:17;  Galatians 3:19). This meaning of ‘law’ is the chief concern of the present article.

God’s covenant with Israel

In his grace God made a covenant with Abraham to make his descendants into a great nation and to give them Canaan as their national homeland ( Genesis 17:1-8). Over the next four hundred years God directed the affairs of Abraham’s descendants so that their numbers increased and they became a distinct people. They were then ready to be formally established as a nation and to receive the land God had promised them. At Mt Sinai God confirmed the covenant made previously with Abraham, this time making it with Abraham’s descendants, the nation Israel ( Exodus 24:7-8; see Covenant ).

God had chosen Israel to be his people, saved them from slavery in Egypt, and taken them into a close relationship with himself, all in fulfilment of his covenant promise made to Abraham. Everything arose out of the sovereign grace of God ( Exodus 2:24;  Exodus 3:16;  Exodus 6:6-8). But if the people were to enjoy the blessings of that covenant, they had to respond to God’s grace in faithful obedience. The people understood this and promised to be obedient to all God’s commands ( Exodus 24:7-8).

The law that God gave to the people of Israel at Sinai laid down his requirements for them. Through obedience to that law the people would enjoy the life God intended for them in the covenant relationship ( Leviticus 18:5; cf.  Romans 7:10;  Romans 10:5;  Galatians 3:12). The ten commandments were the principles by which the nation was to live, and formed the basis on which all Israel’s other laws were built ( Exodus 20:1-17).

Characteristics of Israelite law

No part of the lives of the Israelites was outside the demands of the covenant. The law applied to the whole of their lives and made no distinction between moral, religious and civil laws. Laws may have been in the form of absolute demands that allowed no exceptions (e.g. ‘You shall not steal’;  Exodus 20:15), or in the form of guidelines concerning what to do when various situations arose (e.g. ‘If a person borrows anything and it is hurt or dies . . .’;  Exodus 22:14), but the two kinds were equally binding.

Israel’s law-code was suited to the customs of the time and was designed to administer justice within the established culture. Unlike some ancient law-codes, it did not favour the upper classes, but guaranteed a fair hearing for all. It protected the rights of people who were disadvantaged or defenceless, such as orphans, widows, foreigners, slaves and the poor ( Exodus 22:22;  Exodus 23:6;  Exodus 23:9;  Exodus 23:12). The penalties it laid down were not brutal or excessive, as in some nations, but were always in proportion to the crime committed ( Exodus 21:23-24).

Jesus’ attitude to the law

The covenant made with Israel at Sinai and the law that belonged to that covenant were not intended to be permanent. They were part of the preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ, through whom God would make a new and eternal covenant ( Galatians 3:19;  Galatians 3:24;  Hebrews 9:15).

Jesus was born under the law ( Galatians 4:4) and was brought up according to the law ( Luke 2:21-24;  Luke 2:42). He obeyed the law ( Matthew 17:27;  John 2:13) and he commanded others to obey the law ( Matthew 8:4;  Matthew 23:1-3;  Matthew 23:23). Jesus did not oppose the law, though he certainly did oppose the false interpretations of the law that the Jewish leaders of his time taught. He upheld and fulfilled the law by demonstrating its true meaning ( Matthew 5:17-19;  Matthew 5:21;  Matthew 5:27;  Matthew 5:31;  Matthew 5:33;  Matthew 5:38;  Matthew 5:43).

Frequently Jesus pointed out that the law was good and holy and that God gave it for people’s benefit ( Matthew 22:36-40;  Luke 10:25-28; cf.  Romans 7:12;  Romans 7:14). By contrast the Jewish leaders used the law to oppress people, adding their own traditions and forcing people to obey them. In so doing they forgot, or even opposed, the purpose for which God gave the law ( Matthew 23:4;  Mark 7:1-9; see Tradition ). Jesus knew that the law, as a set of regulations, was part of a system that was about to pass away ( Matthew 9:16-17; cf.  Hebrews 8:13). His death and resurrection would mark the end of the old covenant and the beginning of the new ( Hebrews 9:15).

Under the new covenant people still have to respond to God’s covenant grace with obedience, but the expression of that obedience has changed. Instead of being bound by a set of rules, they have inner spiritual power to do God’s will. Instead of having to offer sacrifices repeatedly, they have their sins taken away once and for all. Instead of having to approach God through priests, they have direct fellowship with God ( Jeremiah 31:31-34;  Hebrews 8:8-13;  Hebrews 10:1-4;  Hebrews 10:16-18).

Salvation apart from the law

People have never received forgiveness of sins through keeping the law. Under the old covenant, as under the new, they were saved only through faith in the sovereign God who, in his grace, forgave them and accepted them. Abraham, David and Paul lived respectively before, during and after the period when the old covenant and its law-code operated in Israel, but all three alike were saved by faith ( Genesis 15:6;  Romans 3:28;  Romans 4:1-16;  Romans 4:22;  Galatians 3:17-18;  Ephesians 2:8;  1 Timothy 1:14-16). Salvation depended upon God’s promise, not upon human effort. It was a gracious gift received by faith, not a reward for keeping the law ( Galatians 3:18;  Galatians 3:21-22; see Promise ).

Contrary to popular Jewish opinion, the law was not given as a means of salvation ( Romans 9:31-32). It was given to show the standard of behaviour God required from his covenant people. As a set of official regulations, it was given solely to the nation Israel and was in force for the period from Moses to Christ. But as an expression of the character and will of God, it operated on principles that are relevant to people of all nations and all eras. It expressed in a legal code for one nation the principles that are applicable to people in general ( Romans 2:12-16;  Romans 13:8-10). Through the law given to Israel, God showed the righteous standards that his holiness demanded.

At the same time the law showed the extent of people’s sinfulness, for their behaviour repeatedly fell short of the law’s standards. The law therefore showed up human sin; but when sinners acknowledged their sin and turned in faith to God, God in his grace forgave them ( Romans 3:19-20;  Romans 3:31;  Romans 5:20;  Romans 7:7;  Galatians 3:11;  Galatians 3:19). (Concerning the rituals of the law for the cleansing of sin see Sacrifice .)

Those who broke the law were under the curse and condemnation of the law ( Deuteronomy 27:26;  Galatians 3:10). Jesus Christ, however, lived a perfect life according to the law, and then died to bear the law’s curse. By his death he broke its power to condemn those who take refuge in him. Believers in Jesus are freed from the law’s curse. They have their sins forgiven and are put right with God ( Romans 7:6;  Romans 8:1-3;  Romans 10:4;  Galatians 3:13;  Ephesians 2:15;  Colossians 2:14).

Jesus Christ is the true fulfilment of the law. The law prepared the way for him and pointed to him. Before his coming, the people of Israel, being under the law, were like children under the control of a guardian. With his coming, the law had fulfilled its purpose; the guardian was no longer necessary. Believers in Jesus are not children under a guardian, but full-grown mature children of God ( Galatians 3:23-26;  Galatians 4:4-5; cf.  Romans 10:4; see Adoption ).

Christian life apart from the law

It was some time before Jewish Christians in the early church understood clearly that the law was no longer binding upon them. They still went to the temple at the set hours of prayer and possibly kept the Jewish festivals ( Acts 2:1;  Acts 2:46;  Acts 3:1). Stephen seems to have been the first Christian to see clearly that Christianity was not part of the Jewish system and was not bound by the Jewish law ( Acts 6:13-14). Then Peter had a vision through which he learnt that Jewish food laws no longer applied. He was harshly criticized by certain Jews in the Jerusalem church when they found he had been eating freely with the Gentiles ( Acts 10:15;  Acts 11:2-3).

These Jews later tried to force Gentile converts to keep the law of Moses ( Acts 15:1), and argued so cleverly that Peter tended to follow them, until Paul corrected him ( Galatians 2:11-16). When some of the leading Christians met at Jerusalem to discuss the matter, they agreed that Gentiles were not to be put under the law of Moses ( Acts 15:19). It was now becoming clear, and Paul’s teaching soon made it very clear, that there was no difference between Jews and Gentiles concerning requirements for salvation and Christian living. People were saved by faith alone, not by the law, and they lived their Christian lives by faith alone, not by the law ( Romans 3:21-31;  Galatians 3:28).

When he met opposition to his teaching, Paul pointed out the impossibility of being saved through keeping the law ( Romans 9:30-32;  Galatians 2:16;  Galatians 5:4;  Philippians 3:9). An equal impossibility was to grow in maturity and holiness through keeping the law, or even selected parts of it ( Galatians 3:2-5;  Galatians 5:1-3;  James 2:10-11).

The actions of Paul in occasionally observing Jewish laws were not for the purpose of pursuing personal holiness. They were for the purpose of gaining him acceptance among Jewish opponents whom he wanted to win for Christ. Such actions were purely voluntary on Paul’s part ( 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; cf.  Acts 15:19-21;  Acts 16:3;  Acts 21:20-26). If people tried to force Paul to keep the law, he would not yield to them under any circumstances ( Galatians 2:3-5).

Paul explained the uselessness of trying to grow in holiness through placing oneself under the law. He pointed out that the more the law forbids a thing, the more the sinful human heart wants to do it ( Romans 7:7-11). This does not mean that there is anything wrong with the law. On the contrary, the law is holy, just and good. The fault lies rather with sinful human nature ( Romans 7:12-14; see Flesh ).

Free but not lawless

Although the law aims at righteous behaviour, people cannot produce righteous behaviour by keeping the law. They can produce it only by claiming true Christian liberty and living by the inner spiritual power of the Holy Spirit ( Romans 6:14;  Romans 8:3-4;  Galatians 5:13-23; see Freedom; Holy Spirit ) But the same Holy Spirit who empowers inwardly has given clear guidelines for behaviour in the written Word. It is not surprising, then, to find that those guidelines contain quotations from the law of Moses to indicate the sort of character and conduct that a holy God requires ( Matthew 22:36-40;  Romans 7:12;  Romans 13:8-10;  Ephesians 6:2;  Hebrews 8:10;  James 2:8-12).

Christians are not under law but under grace. Yet they are not lawless ( Romans 6:15). They have been freed from the bondage of the law and are now bound to Christ ( Romans 7:1-4). The law of Christ is a law of liberty, one that Christians obey not because they are forced to but because they want to. The controlling force in their lives is not a written code but a living person ( 1 Corinthians 9:21;  Galatians 6:2;  James 1:25;  James 2:12).

As Jesus demonstrated his love for the Father by keeping the Father’s commandments, so those who truly love Jesus will keep his commandments ( John 14:15;  John 14:21;  John 15:10;  1 John 2:3-4;  1 John 2:7;  1 John 5:3). And in so doing they will practise love, which itself is the fulfilment of the law ( John 13:34;  Romans 13:8-10;  Galatians 5:14;  1 John 5:2-3).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [6]

A — 1: Νόμος (Strong'S #3551 — Noun Masculine — nomos — nom'-os )

akin to nemo, "to divide out, distribute," primarily meant "that which is assigned;" hence, "usage, custom," and then, "law, law as prescribed by custom, or by statute;" the word ethos, "custom," was retained for unwritten "law," while nomos became the established name for "law" as decreed by a state and set up as the standard for the administration of justice.

 Romans 2:12,13 Romans 2:14 Romans 3:27 Romans 4:15  Romans 5:13 Romans 7:1  Galatians 5:23 Galatians 5:18 Romans 7:21,23  Matthew 5:18 John 1:17 Romans 2:15,18,20,26,27 3:19 4:15 7:4,7,14,16,22 8:3,4,7 Galatians 3:10,12,19,21,24 5:3 Ephesians 2:15 Philippians 3:6 1—Timothy 1:8 Hebrews 7:19 James 2:9 Romans 2:14  1—Corinthians 9:20 Galatians 2:16,19,21 3:2,5,10  Philippians 3:5,9 Hebrews 7:16 9:19 James 2:11 4:11 Galatians 2:16 Matthew 5:17 12:5 Luke 16:16 24:44 John 1:45 Romans 3:21 Galatians 3:10 John 10:34 15:25 John 12:34 Romans 3:19  1—Corinthians 14:21 Galatians 6:2 John 13:14,15 15:4 Matthew 20:28 John 13:1 Matthew 5:18 Matthew 5:21-48 Romans 3:27 Romans 7:23 Romans 7:23 Romans 8:2 James 1:25 2:12 1—Corinthians 9:21 Psalm 119:32,45,97 2—Corinthians 3:17 James 2:8 Matthew 22:34-40 Romans 13:8 Galatians 5:14 Romans 8:2 John 6:63 Romans 9:31 Galatians 3:21 Hebrews 7:16 Hebrews 7:19 Hebrews 8:6 Galatians 5:3 Galatians 5:14 Romans 8:3Justification.  Acts 19:38Court Luke 5:17 Acts 5:34 1—Timothy 1:7Doctor.

A — 2: Νομοθεσία (Strong'S #3548 — Noun Feminine — nomothesia — nom-oth-es-ee'-ah )

denotes "legislation, lawgiving" (No. 1, and tithemi, "to place, to put"),  Romans 9:4 , "(the) giving of the law." Cp. B, No. 1.

B — 1: Νομοθετέω (Strong'S #3549 — Verb — nomotheteo — nom-oth-et-eh'-o )

(a) used intransitively, signifies "to make laws" (cp. A, No. 2, above); in the Passive Voice, "to be furnished with laws,"  Hebrews 7:11 , "received the law," lit., "was furnished with (the) law;" (b) used transitively, it signifies "to ordain by law, to enact;" in the Passive Voice,  Hebrews 8:6 . See Enact.

B — 2: Κρίνω (Strong'S #2919 — Verb — krino — kree'-no )

"to esteem, judge," etc., signifies "to go to law," and is so used in the Middle Voice in  Matthew 5:40 , RV, "go to law" (AV, "sue ... at the law");  1—Corinthians 6:1,6 . See Esteem.

 1—Corinthians 6:7

B — 3: Παρανομέω (Strong'S #3891 — Verb — paranomeo — par-an-om-eh'-o )

"to transgress law" (para, "contrary to," and nomos), is used in the present participle in  Acts 23:3 , and translated "contrary to the law," lit., "transgressing the law."

C — 1: Νομικός (Strong'S #3544 — Adjective — nomikos — nom-ik-os' )

denotes "relating to law;" in  Titus 3:9 it is translated "about the law," describing "fightings" (AV, "strivings"); see Lawyer.

C — 2: Ἔννομος (Strong'S #1772 — Adjective — ennomos — en'-nom-os )

(a) "lawful, legal," lit., "in law" (en, "in," and nomos), or, strictly, "what is within the range of law," is translated "lawful" in  Acts 19:39 , AV (RV, "regular"), of the legal tribunals in Ephesus; (b) "under law" (RV), in relation to Christ,  1—Corinthians 9:21 , where it is contrasted with anomos (see No. 3 below); the word as used by the Apostle suggests not merely the condition of being under "law," but the intimacy of a relation established in the loyalty of a will devoted to his Master. See Lawful.

C — 3: Ἄνομος (Strong'S #459 — Adjective — anomos — an'-om-os )

signifies "without law" (a, negative) and has this meaning in  1—Corinthians 9:21 (four times). See Lawless , Transgressor , Unlawful , Wicked.

D — 1: Ἀνόμως (Strong'S #460 — Adverb — anomos — an-om'-oce )

"without law" (the adverbial form of C, No. 3), is used in  Romans 2:12 (twice), where "(have sinned) without law" means in the absence of some specifically revealed "law," like the "law" of Sinai; "(shall perish) without law" predicates that the absence of such a "law" will not prevent their doom; the "law" of conscience is not in view here. The succeeding phrase "under law" is lit., "in law," not the same as the adjective ennomos (C, No. 2), but two distinct words.

King James Dictionary [7]

LAW, n. L. lex from the root of lay. See lay. A law is that which is laid, set or fixed, like statute, constitution, from L. statuo.

1. A rule, particularly an established or permanent rule, prescribed by the supreme power of a state to its subjects, for regulating their actions, particularly their social actions. Laws are imperative or mandatory, commanding what shall be done prohibitory, restraining from what is to be forborn or permissive, declaring what may be done without incurring a penalty. The laws which enjoin the duties of piety and morality, are prescribed by God and found in the Scriptures.

Law is beneficence acting by rule.

2. Municipal law, is a rule of conduct prescribed by the supreme power of a state, commanding what its subjects are to do, and prohibiting what they are to forbear a statute.

Municipal or laws are established by the decrees, edicts or ordinances of absolute princes, as emperors and kings, or by the formal acts of the legislatures of free states. Law therefore is sometimes equivalent to decree, edict, or ordinance.

3. Law of nature, is a rule of conduct arising out of the natural relations of human beings established by the Creator, and existing prior to any positive precept. Thus it is a law of nature, that one man should not injure another, and murder and fraud would be crimes, independent of any prohibition from a supreme power. 4. Laws of animal nature, the inherent principles by which the economy and functions of animal bodies are performed, such as respiration, the circulation of the blood, digestion, nutrition, various secretions, &c. 5. Laws of vegetation, the principles by which plats are produced, and their growth carried on till they arrive to perfection. 6. Physical laws, or laws of nature. The invariable tendency or determination of any species of matter to a particular form with definite properties, and the determination of a body to certain motions, changes, and relations, which uniformly take place in the same circumstances, is called a physical law. These tendencies or determinations, whether called laws or affections of matter, have been established by the Creator, and are, with a peculiar felicity of expression, denominated in Scripture, ordinances of heaven. 7. Laws of nations, the rules that regulate the mutual intercourse of nations or states. These rules depend on natural law, or the principles of justice which spring from the social state or they are founded on customs, compacts, treaties, leagues and agreements between independent communities.

By the law of nations, we are to understand that code of public instruction, which defines the rights and prescribes the duties of nations, in their intercourse with each other.

8. Moral law, a law which prescribes to men their religious and social duties, in other words, their duties to God and to each other. The moral law is summarily contained in the decalogue or ten commandments, written by the finger of God on two tables of stone, and delivered to Moses on mount Sinai.

 Exodus 20 .

9. Ecclesiastical law, a rule of action prescribed for the government of a church otherwise called canon law. 10. Written law, a law or rule of action prescribed or enacted by a sovereign, and promulgated and recorded in writing a written statute, ordinance, edict or decree. 11. Unwritten or common law, a rule of action which derives its authority from long usage, or established custom, which has been immemorially received and recognized by judicial tribunals. As this law can be traced to no positive statutes, its rules or principles are to be found only in the records of courts, and in the reports of judicial decisions. 12. By-law, a law of a city, town or private corporation. See By. 13. Mosaic law, the institutions of Moses, or the code of laws prescribed to the Jews, as distinguished from the gospel. 14. Ceremonial law, the Mosaic institutions which prescribe the external rites and ceremonies to be observed by the Jews, as distinct from the moral precepts, which are of perpetual obligation. 15. A rule of direction a directory as reason and natural conscience.

These, having not the law, as a law to themselves.  Romans 2 .

16. That which governs or has a tendency to rule that which has the power of controlling.

But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  Romans 7 .

17. The word of God the doctrines and precepts of God, or his revealed will.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  Psalms 1 .

18. The Old Testament.

Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods?  John 10 .

19. The institutions of Moses, as distinct from the other parts of the Old Testament as the law and the prophets. 20. A rule or axiom of science or art settled principle as the laws of versification or poetry. 21. Law martial, or martial law, the rules ordained for the government of an army or military force. 22. Marine laws, rules for the regulation of navigation, and the commercial intercourse of nations. 23. Commercial law, law-merchant, the system of rules by which trade and commercial intercourse are regulated between merchants. 24. Judicial process prosecution of right in courts of law.

Tom Touchy is a fellow famous for taking the law of every body.

Hence the phrase, to go to law, to prosecute to seek redress in a legal tribunal.

25. Jurisprudence as in the title, Doctor of Laws. 26. In general, law is a rule of action prescribed for the government of rational beings or moral agents, to which rule they are bound to yield obedience, in default of which they are exposed to punishment or law is a settled mode or course of action or operation in irrational beings and in inanimate bodies.

Civil law, criminal law. See Civil and Criminal.

Laws of honor. See Honor.

Law language, the language used in legal writings and forms, particularly the Norman dialect or Old French, which was used in judicial proceedings from the days of William the conqueror to the 36th year of Edward III.

Wager of law, a species of trial formerly used in England, in which the defendant gave security that he would, on a certain day, make his law, that is, he would make oath that he owed nothing to the plaintiff, and would produce eleven of his neighbors as compurgators, who should swear that they believed in their consciences that he had sworn the truth.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [8]

A rule of action; a precept or command coming from a superior authority, which an inferior is bound to obey. The manner in which God governs rational creatures is by a law, as the rule of their obedience to him, and which is what we call God's moral government of the world. He gave a law to angels, which some of them kept, and have been confirmed in a state of obedience to it; but which others broke, and thereby plunged themselves into destruction and misery. He gave, also, a law to Adam, and which was in the form of a covenant, and in which Adam stood as a covenant head to all his posterity,  Romans 5:1-21 :   Genesis 2:1-25 : But our first parents soon violated that law, and fell from a state of innocence to a state of sin and misery,   Hosea 6:7 .  Genesis 3:1-24 :

See FALL. Positive laws, are precepts which are not founded upon any reasons known to those to whom they are given. Thus in the state of innocence God gave the law of the Sabbath; or abstinence from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, &c. Law of nature is the will of God relating to human actions, grounded in the moral differences of things, and, because discoverable by natural light, obligatory upon all mankind,  Romans 1:20;  Romans 2:14-15 . This law is coeval with the human race, binding all over the globe, and at all times; yet, through the corruption of reason, it is insufficient to lead us to happiness, and utterly unable to acquaint us how sin is to be forgiven, without the assistance of revelation. Ceremonial law is that which prescribed the rites of worship used under the Old Testament.

These rites were typical of Christ, and were obligatory only till Christ had finished his work, and began to erect his Gospel church,  Hebrews 7:9;  Hebrews 7:11 .  Hebrews 10:1 .  Ephesians 2:16 .  Colossians 2:14 .  Galatians 5:2-3 . Judicial law was that which directed the policy of the Jewish nation, as under the peculiar dominion of God as their Supreme magistrate, and never, except in things relative to moral equity, was binding on any but the Hebrew nation. Moral law is that declaration of God's will which directs and binds all men, in every age and place, to their whole duty to him. It was most solemnly proclaimed by God himself at Sinai, to confirm the original law of nature, and correct men's mistakes concerning the demands of it. It is denominated perfect,  Psalms 19:7 . perpetual,  Matthew 5:17-18 . holy,  Romans 7:12 . good,  Romans 7:12 . spiritual,  Romans 7:1-25 . exceeding broad,  Psalms 119:96 . Some deny that it is a rule of conduct to believers under the Gospel dispensation; but it is easy to see the futility of such an idea; for as a transcript of the mind of God, it must be the criterion of moral good and evil. It is also given for that very purpose, that we may see our duty, and abstain from every thing derogatory to the divine glory. It affords us grand ideas of the holiness and purity of God: without attention to it, we can have no knowledge of sin.

Christ himself came not to destroy, but to fulfil it; and though we cannot do as he did, yet we are commanded to follow his example. Love to God is the end of the moral law, as well as the end of the Gospel. By the law, also, we are led to see the nature of holiness, and our own depravity, and learn to be humbled under a sense of our imperfection. We are not under it, however, as a covenant of works,  Galatians 3:13 . or as a source of terror,  Romans 8:1 . although we must abide by it, together with the whole preceptive word of God, as the rule of our conduct,  Romans 3:31 Laws, directive, are laws without any punishment annexed to them. Laws, penal, such as have some penalty to enforce them. All the laws of God are and cannot but be penal, because every breach of his law is sin, and meritorious of punishment. Law of honour is a system of rules constructed by people of fashion, and calculated to facilitate their intercourse with one another, and for no other purpose. Consequently nothing is adverted to by the law of honour but what tends to incommode this intercourse. Hence this law only prescribes and regulates the duties betwixt equals, omitting such as relate to the Supreme Being, as well as those which we owe to our inferiors. In fact, this law of honour, in most instances, is favourable to the licentious indulgence of the natural passions.

Thus it allows of fornication, adultery, drunkenness, prodigality, duelling, and of revenge in the extreme, and lays no stress upon the virtues opposite to these. Laws, remedial, a fancied law, which some believe in, who hold that God, in mercy to mankind, has abolished that rigorous constitution or law that they were under originally, and instead of it has introduced a more mild constitution, and put us under a new law, which requires no more than imperfect sincere obedience, in compliance with our poor, infirm, impotent circumstances since the fall. I call this a fancied law, because it exists no where except in the imagination of those who hold it.

See Neonomians and Justification Laws of nations, are those rules which by a tacit consent are agreed upon among all communities, at least among those who are reckoned the polite and humanized part of mankind. Gill's Body of Div. vol. 1: p. 454, oct. 425, vol. 3: ditto; Paley's Mor. Phil. vol. 1: p. 2; Cumberland's Law of Nature; Grove's Mor. Phil. vol. 2: p. 117. Booth's Death of Legal Hope; Inglish and Burder's Pieces on the Moral Law; Watts's Works, vol. 1: ser. 49. 8vo. edition, and vol. 2: p. 443. &c. Scott's Essays.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

In the Bible, signifies sometimes the whole word of God,  Psalm 19:7-11   119:1-176   Isaiah 8:20; sometimes the Old Testament,  John 10:34   15:25 , and sometimes the five books of Moses, which formed the first of the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures,  Luke 24:44   Acts 13:15 . The Pentateuch was probably "the law," a copy of which every king was to transcribe for himself and study, and which was to be made known to young and old, in public and in private,  Deuteronomy 6:7   17:18,19   31:9-19,26 . In other places the Mosaic institutions as a whole are intend by "the law," in distinction from the gospel,  John 1:17   Acts 25:8 .

When the word refers to the Law of Moses, careful attention to the context is sometimes requisite to judge whether the civil, the ceremonial, or the moral law is meant. The ceremonial or ritual laws, concerning the forms of worship, sacrifices, priests, purifications, etc., were designed to distinguish the Jewish nation from the heathen, and to foreshadow the gospel dispensation. They were annulled after Christ's ascension,  Genesis 3:24   Ephesians 2:15   Hebrews 9:1-28   10:1-22 . The civil laws,  Acts 23:2   24:6 , were for the government of the Jews as a nation, and included the Ten Commandments. The whole code was adapted with consummated wisdom to the condition of the Jews, and has greatly influenced all wise legislation in later years. Its pious, humane, and just spirit should characterize every code of human laws. The moral law,  Deuteronomy 5:22   Matthew 5:17,18   Luke 10:26,27 , is more important than the others, from its bearings on human salvation. It was written by the Creator on the conscience of man, and sin has never fully erased it,  Romans 1:19   2:12-15 . It was more fully taught to the Hebrews, especially at Mount Sinai, in the Ten Commandments, and is summed up by Christ in loving God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves,  Matthew 22:37-40 . It was the offspring of love to man,  Romans 7:10,12; required perfect obedience,  Galatians 3:10   James 2:10; and is of universal and perpetual obligation. Christ confirmed and enforced it,  Matthew 5:17-20 , showing its demands of holiness in the heart, applying it to a variety of cases, and supplying new motives to obedience, by revealing heaven and hell more clearly, and the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some have argued from certain passages of Scripture that this law is no longer binding upon Christians; that they "are not under the law, but under grace,"  Romans 6:14,15   7:4,6   Galatians 3:13,25   5:18; and the perversion of these passages leads men to sin and perish because grace abounds. Rightly understood, they harmonize with the declarations of the Savior,  Matthew 5:17 . To the soul that is in Christ, the law is no longer the arbiter of doom; yet is still comes to him as the divinely appointed teacher of that will of God in which he now delights,  Psalm 119:97   Matthew 5:48   11:30 .

The word "law" sometimes means an inward guiding and controlling power. The "law in the mind" and the "law in the members," mean the holy impulses of a regenerated should and the perverse inclinations of the natural heart,  Romans 7:21-23 . Compare also  Romans 8:2   9:31   James 1:25   2:12 .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [10]

A. Noun.

Tôrâh ( תֹּרָה , Strong'S #8451), “law; direction; instruction.” This noun occurs 220 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.

In the wisdom literature, where the noun does not appear with a definite article, tôrâh signifies primarily “direction, teaching, instruction”: “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Prov. 13:14), and “Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart” (Job 22:22). The “instruction” of the sages of Israel, who were charged with the education of the young, was intended to cultivate in the young a fear of the Lord so that they might live in accordance with God’s expectations. The sage was a father to his pupils: “Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father” (Prov. 28:7; cf. 3:1; 4:2; 7:2). The natural father might also instruct his son in wise living, even as a Godfearing woman was an example of kind “instruction”: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov. 31:26).

The “instruction” given by God to Moses and the Israelites became known as “the law” or “the direction” ( ha- tôrâh ), and quite frequently as “the Law of the Lord”: “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 119:1), or “the Law of God”: “Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, [Ezra] read in the book of the law of God” (Neh. 8:18), and also as “the Law of [given through] Moses”: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel …” (Mal. 4:4). The word can refer to the whole of the “law”: “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children” (Ps. 78:5), or to particulars: “And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel …” (Deut. 4:44).

God had communicated the “law” that Israel might observe and live: “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deut. 4:8). The king was instructed to have a copy of the “law” prepared for him at his coronation (Deut. 17:18). The priests were charged with the study and teaching of, as well as the jurisprudence based upon, the “law” (Jer. 18:18). Because of rampant apostasy the last days of Judah were times when there were no teaching priests (2 Chron. 15:3); in fact, in Josiah’s days the “law” (whether the whole Torah, or a book or a part) was recovered: “And Hilkiah … said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord” (2 Chron. 34:15).

The prophets called Israel to repeat by returning to the tôrâh (“instruction”) of God (Isa. 1:10). Jeremiah prophesied concerning God’s new dealing with His people in terms of the New Covenant, in which God’s law is to be internalized, God’s people would willingly obey Him: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). The last prophet of the Old Testament reminded the priests of their obligations (Mal. 2) and challenged God’s people to remember the “law” of Moses in preparation for the coming Messiah (Mal. 4:4).

The Septuagint gives the following translations: nomos (“law; rule”); nomimos —(“conformable to law; lawful”); entole (“command[ment]; order”); and prostagma (“order; commandment; injunction”).

B. Verb.

Yârâh ( יָרָא , Strong'S #3384), “to throw, cast, direct, teach, instruct.” The noun yârâh is derived from this root. The meaning “to cast” appears in Gen. 31:51: “And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee.” Yârâh means “to teach” in 1 Sam. 12:23: “… but I will teach you the good and the right way.”

Morrish Bible Dictionary [11]

The subject of 'law' is not restricted in scripture to the law given by Moses. God gave a commandment (or law) to Adam, which made Adam's subsequent sin to be transgression. Where there is no law there is no transgression ( Romans 4:15 ), though there may be sin, as there was from Adam to Moses: "until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed [or put to account] when there is no law."  Romans 5:13 . This doubtless signifies that specific acts were not put to account as a question of God's governmental dealings, when there was no law forbidding them. Men sinned, and death reigned, though they "had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" ( Romans 5:14 ), for no definite law had been given to them. The nations that had not the law were however a law unto themselves, having some sense of good and evil, and their conscience bore witness accordingly. It is not a true definition of sin, to say that it is "the transgression of the law," as in the A.V. of  1 John 3:4 . The passage should read "Sin is lawlessness:" that is, man doing his own will, defiant of restraint, and regardless of his Creator and of his neighbour.

'Law' may be considered as a principle in contrast to 'grace,' in which sense it occurs in the N.T., the word 'law' being often without the article (though the law of Moses may at times be alluded to in the same way). In this sense it raises the question of what man is for God, and hence involves works. "The doers of [the] law shall be justified,"  Romans 2:13; but if, on the other hand, salvation be "by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace."  Romans 11:6 . The conclusion is that "by the deeds of [the] law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." None can be saved on that principle. In opposition to it "the righteousness of God without [the] law is manifested." The believer is "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  Romans 3:20-24 . 'Law' a principle stands also in scripture in contrast to 'faith.' "The just shall live by faith: and the law is not of faith; but the man that doeth them shall live in them."  Galatians 3:11 .

The word 'law' is also used for a fixed and unvarying principle such as 'a law of nature:' thus we read of the 'law of faith,' 'law of sin,' 'law of righteousness,' 'law of the Spirit of life,' etc.; cf.  Romans 7:21 .

The term 'law' is occasionally used in the N.T. as a designation of other parts of the O.T. besides the Pentateuch. The Lord said, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods ?" when the quotation was from the Psalms.  John 10:34 : similarly  1 Corinthians 14:21 .

The LAW OF Liberty  James 1:25;  James 2:12 , implies that, the nature being congruous, the things enjoined, instead of being a burden, are a pleasure. Doing the commandments of the Lord is the fruit of the divine nature: they are therefore both law and liberty.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [12]

In connexion with this problem we must also consider the peculiar relation of the Jewish Christians to the Law. According both to Acts and to the Pauline Epistles, the Apostle maintained that the Law had a peculiar binding force upon Christians belonging to the race of Israel. As regards Acts, we need refer only to  Acts 21:21-26;  Acts 16:3;  Acts 18:18. When St. James spoke to St. Paul of the rumour that he taught the Diaspora to forsake Moses, St. Paul promptly gave the required practical evidence for the falsity of the report, and for his own allegiance to the Law ( Acts 21:21 ff.). He even circumcised Timothy, a semi-Gentile ( Acts 16:3). According to his own Epistles, again, he was to the Jews as a Jew ( 1 Corinthians 9:19), and he counsels the Jewish members of the Church in Corinth not to undo their circumcision ( 1 Corinthians 7:18), since every man should remain in the condition in which he was called ( 1 Corinthians 7:20). In  Galatians 5:3 he solemnly declares that every one who receives circumcision is under obligation to keep the whole Law-an assertion designed to traverse the foolish idea which the Judaizers had tried to insinuate into the minds of the Galatians, viz. that circumcision was a matter of no great importance. This declaration, no doubt, was made from the stand-point of those who believed that justification was to be obtained by the works of the Law. At all events, where higher issues are at stake, the Apostle assumes that he is absolved from the strict letter of the Law, as, e.g. , for the sake of brotherly intercourse with the Gentile Christians (cf.  1 Corinthians 9:21 with  Galatians 2:12-14). There is another fact that points in the same direction. In Romans 11 St. Paul asserts that the Chosen People are to occupy a permanently distinct position in the Divine process of history. But the persistence of the distinctively religious character of Israel would seem to involve their permanent retention of circumcision and the Law.*[Note: on this point generally, A. Harnack, Neue Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte, Leipzig, 1911, p. 21ff.]

Copyright Statement These files are public domain.Text Courtesy of Biblesupport.Com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information Hastings, James. Entry for 'Law'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/l/law.html. 1906-1918.

Webster's Dictionary [13]

(1): ( n.) The Jewish or Mosaic code, and that part of Scripture where it is written, in distinction from the gospel; hence, also, the Old Testament.

(2): ( n.) Legal science; jurisprudence; the principles of equity; applied justice.

(3): ( n.) Collectively, the whole body of rules relating to one subject, or emanating from one source; - including usually the writings pertaining to them, and judicial proceedings under them; as, divine law; English law; Roman law; the law of real property; insurance law.

(4): ( n.) Any edict, decree, order, ordinance, statute, resolution, judicial, decision, usage, etc., or recognized, and enforced, by the controlling authority.

(5): ( interj.) An exclamation of mild surprise.

(6): ( v. t.) Same as Lawe, v. t.

(7): ( n.) An oath, as in the presence of a court.

(8): ( n.) Trial by the laws of the land; judicial remedy; litigation; as, to go law.

(9): ( n.) In philosophy and physics: A rule of being, operation, or change, so certain and constant that it is conceived of as imposed by the will of God or by some controlling authority; as, the law of gravitation; the laws of motion; the law heredity; the laws of thought; the laws of cause and effect; law of self-preservation.

(10): ( n.) An organic rule, as a constitution or charter, establishing and defining the conditions of the existence of a state or other organized community.

(11): ( n.) In arts, works, games, etc.: The rules of construction, or of procedure, conforming to the conditions of success; a principle, maxim; or usage; as, the laws of poetry, of architecture, of courtesy, or of whist.

(12): ( n.) In matematics: The rule according to which anything, as the change of value of a variable, or the value of the terms of a series, proceeds; mode or order of sequence.

(13): ( n.) In general, a rule of being or of conduct, established by an authority able to enforce its will; a controlling regulation; the mode or order according to which an agent or a power acts.

(14): ( n.) In morals: The will of God as the rule for the disposition and conduct of all responsible beings toward him and toward each other; a rule of living, conformable to righteousness; the rule of action as obligatory on the conscience or moral nature.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [14]

Law. The word is properly used, in Scripture as elsewhere, to express a definite commandment laid down by any recognized authority; but when the word is used with the article, and without any words of limitation, it refers to the expressed will to God, and in nine cases out of ten, to the Mosaic law, or to the Pentateuch of which it forms the chief portion. The Hebrew word, torah (law) lays more stress on its moral authority, as teaching the truth and guiding in the right way; the Greek nomos (law), on its constraining power as imposed and enforced by a recognized authority. The sense of the word, however, extends its scope and assumes a more abstracts character in the writings of St. Paul.

Nomos , when used by him with the article, still refers in general to the law of Moses; but when used without the article, so as to embrace any manifestation of "law," it includes all powers which act on the will of man by compulsion, or by the pressure of external motives, whether their commands be or be not expressed in definite forms. The occasional use of the word "law" (as in  Romans 3:27, "law of faith") to denote an internal principle of action does not really mitigate against the general rule. It should also be noticed that the title "the Law" is occasionally used loosely to refer to the whole of the Old Testament, as in  John 10:34 referring to  Psalms 82:6 in  John 15:25 referring to  Psalms 35:19 and in  1 Corinthians 14:21 referring to  Isaiah 28:11-12.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [15]

Also called testimony, commandments, statutes, precepts, judgments, the Word, and words.

Called "Law of Moses"  1 Kings 2:3

Called "Law of the Lord"  2 Kings 10:31

Called "Law of God"  Romans 7:22

Called "Law of the Spirit"  Romans 8:2

Called "Law of Righteousness"  Romans 9:31

Called "Law of Liberty"  James 2:12

 James 2:12 (a) This is the law that operates when there is no restraint nor hindrance. We judge a lion by the way he would act if free, and not by the way he acts in the cage. So GOD will judge people by the way they act when they are free to do as they please, and no one sees or knows of their actions.

GOD's law is like a light  Psalm 119:130

GOD's law is like a lamp  Psalm 119:105

GOD's law is like a hammer  Jeremiah 23:29

GOD's law is like a fire  Jeremiah 23:29

GOD's law is like a seed  Luke 8:11

GOD's law is like water  Ephesians 5:26

GOD's law is like a sword  Hebrews 4:12

People's Dictionary of the Bible [16]

Law, The. This term is applied in the New Testament to the old covenant and revelation, in distinction from the new; the dispensation under the law in distinction from the dispensation under the gospel; that by Moses and the prophets in distinction from the dispensation by Christ.  John 1:17;  Acts 25:8;  Hebrews 10:1-18. It was the title applied by the Jews to the first five books of the Bible. The law, the prophets, and the psalms,  Luke 24:27;  Luke 24:44;  Acts 13:15, thus designate the entire Old Testament. The term often refers more specially to the Mosaic legislation, including the moral,  Matthew 6:17, the ceremonial,  Ephesians 2:15, and the political, but particularly the first. Sometimes Paul uses the word "law" (without the article) in a wider sense—of principle, rule of moral conduct—and speaks of the heathen as having such a law written on their conscience or being a law to themselves.  Romans 2:14-15.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [17]

  • Moral positive laws are commanded by God because they are right.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Law'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/l/law.html. 1897.

  • Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [18]

    See Testimony.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [19]

    is usually defined as a rule of action; it is more properly a precept or command coming from a superior authority, which an inferior is bound to obey. Such laws emanate from the king or legislative body of a nation. Such enactments of "the powers that be" are recognized in Scripture as resting upon the ultimate authority of the divine Lawgiver ( Romans 13:1). We propose in this article to discuss only the various distinctions or applications of the term, in an ethical sense, reserving for a separate place the consideration of the Mosaic law, in its various aspects, ceremonial, moral, and civil.

    I. Classification Of Laws As To Their Interior Nature.

    1. "Penal Laws" are such as have some penalty to enforce them. All the laws of God are and cannot but be penal, because every breach of his law is sin, and meritorious of punishment.

    2. "Directing Laws" are prescriptions or maxims without any punishment annexed to them.

    3. "Positive Laws" are precepts which are not founded upon any reasons known to those to whom they are given. Thus, in the state of innocence, God gave the law of the Sabbath; of abstinence from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, etc. In childhood most of the parental commands are necessarily of this nature, owing to the incapacity of the child to understand the grounds of their inculcation.

    II. Certain Special Uses Of The Term.

    1. " Law Of Honor" is a system of rules constructed by people of fashion, and calculated to facilitate their intercourse with one another, and for no other purpose. Consequently nothing is adverted to by the law of honor but what tends to incommode this intercourse. Hence this law only prescribes and regulates the duties betwixt equals, omitting such as relate to the Supreme Being, as well as those which we owe to our inferiors, and in most instances is favorable to the licentious indulgence of the natural passions. Thus it allows of fornication, adultery, drunkenness, prodigality, duelling, and of revenge in the extreme, and lays no stress upon the virtues opposite to these.

    2. " Laws Of Nations" are those rules which, by a tacit consent, are agreed upon among all communities, at least among those who are reckoned the polite and humanized part of mankind.

    3. "Laws Of Natures." "The word law is sometimes also employed in order to express not only the moral connection between free agents of an inferior, and others of a superior power, but also in order to express the Nexus Causalis, the connection between cause and effect in inanimate nature. However, the expression Law Of Nature, Lex Naturae, is improper and figurative. The term law implies, in its strict sense, Spontaneity, or the power of deciding between right and wrong, and of choosing between good and evil, as well on the part of the lawgiver as on the part of those who have to regulate their conduct according to his dictates" (Kitto, s.v.). Moreover, the powers of nature, which these laws are conceived as representing, are nothing in reality but the power of God exerted in these directions. Hence these laws may at any time be suspended by God when the higher interests of his spiritual kingdom require. Viewed in this light, miracles not only become possible, but even probable for the furtherance of the divine economy of salvation. (See Bushell, Nature and the Supernatural.) (See Miracle).

    III. Forms Of The Divine Law. The manner in which God governs rational creatures is by a law, as the rule of their obedience to him, and this is what we call God's moral government of the world. At their very creation he placed all intelligences under such a system. Thus he gave a law to angels, which some of them have kept, and have been confirmed in a state of obedience to it; but which others broke, and thereby plunged themselves into destruction and misery. In like manner he also gave a law to Adam, which was in the form of a covenant, and in which Adam stood as a covenant head to all his posterity (Romans 5). But our first parents soon violated that law, and fell from a state of innocence to a state of sin and misery ( Hosea 6:7). (See Fall).

    1. The "Law Of Nature" is the will of God relating to human actions, grounded in the moral difference of things, and, because discoverable by natural light, obligatory upon all mankind ( Romans 1:20;  Romans 2:14-15). This law is coeval with the human race, binding all over the globe, and at all times; yet, through the corruption of reason, it is insufficient to lead us to happiness, and utterly unable to acquaint us how sin is to be forgiven, without the assistance of revelation. This law is that generally designated by the term Conscience, which is in strictness a capacity of being affected by the moral relations of actions; in other words, merely a Sense of Right And Wrong. It is the judgment which intellectually determines the moral quality of an act, and this always by a comparison with some assumed standard. With those who have a revelation, this, of course, is the test; with others, education, tradition, or caprice. Hence the importance of a trained conscience, not only for the purpose of cultivating its susceptibility to a high degree of sensitiveness and authority, but also in order to correct the judgment and furnish it a just basis of decision. A perverted or misled conscience is scarcely less disastrous than a hard or blind one. History is full of the miseries and mischiefs occasioned by a misguided moral sense.

    2. "Ceremonial Law" is that which prescribes the rites of worship under the Old Testament. These rites were typical of Christ, and were obligatory only till Christ had finished his work, and began to erect his Gospel Church ( Hebrews 7:9;  Hebrews 7:11;  Hebrews 10:1;  Ephesians 2:16;  Colossians 2:14;  Galatians 5:2-3).

    3. "Judaicia Law" was that which directed the policy of the Jewish nation, under the peculiar dominion of God as their supreme magistrate, and never, except in things relating to moral equity, was binding on any but the Hebrew nation.

    4. "Moral Law" is that declaration of God's will which directs and binds all men, in every age and place, to their whole duty to him. It was most solemnly proclaimed by God himself at Sinai, to confirm the original law of nature, and correct men's mistakes concerning the demands of it. It is denominated perfect ( Psalms 19:7), perpetual ( Matthew 5:17-18), holy ( Romans 7:12), good ( Romans 7:12), spiritual ( Romans 7:14), exceeding broad ( Psalms 119:96). Some deny that it is a rule of conduct to believers under the Gospel dispensation; but it is easy to see the futility of such an idea; for, as a transcript of the mind of God, it must be the criterion of moral good and evil. It is also given for that very purpose, that we may see our duty, and abstain from everything derogatory to the divine glory. It affords us grand ideas of the holiness and purity of God; without attention to it, we can have no knowledge of sin. Christ himself came, not to destroy, but to fulfill it; and though we cannot do as he did, yet we are commanded to follow his example. Love to God is the end of the moral law as well as the end of the Gospel. By the law, also, we are led to see the nature of holiness and our own depravity, and learn to be humbled under a sense of our imperfection. We are not under it, however, as a covenant of works ( Galatians 3:13), or as a source of terror ( Romans 8:1), although we must abide by it, together with the whole perceptive word of God, as the rule of our conduct ( Romans 3:31; Romans 7). (See Law Of Moses).

    IV. Scriptural Uses Of The Law. The word "law" (תּוֹרָה , torah', Νόμος ) is properly used, in Scripture as elsewhere, to express a definite commandment laid down by any recognized authority. The commandment may be general or (as in  Leviticus 6:9;  Leviticus 6:14, etc., "the law of the burnt- offering," etc.) particular in its bearing, the authority either human or divine. It is extended to prescriptions respecting sanitary or purificatory arrangements ("the law of her that has been in childbed," or of those that have had the leprosy,  Leviticus 14:2), or even to an architectural design ("the law of the house,"  Ezekiel 43:12): so in  Romans 6:2, "the law of the husband" is his authority over his wife. But when the word is used with the article, and without any words of limitation, it refers to the expressed will of God, and, in nine cases out of ten, to the Mosaic law, or to the Pentateuch, of which it forms the chief portion.

    The Hebrew word (derived from the root יָרָה , Yarah', "to point out," and so "to direct and lead") lays more stress on its moral authority, as teaching the truth, and guiding in the right way; the Greek Νόμος (from Νέμω , "to assign or appoint,") on its constraining power, as imposed and enforced by a recognized authority. But in either case it is a commandment proceeding from without, and distinguished from the free action of its subjects, although not necessarily opposed thereto.

    The sense of the word, however, extends its scope, and assumes a more abstract character in the writings of the apostle Paul Νόμος , when used by him with the article, still refers in general to the law of Moses; but when used without the article, so as to embrace any manifestation of " law," it includes all powers which act on the will of man by compulsion, or by the pressure of external motives, whether their commands be or be not expressed in definite forms. This is seen in the constant opposition of Ἔργα Νόμου ("works done under the constraint of law") to faith, or "works of faith," that is, works done freely by the internal influence of faith. A still more remarkable use of the word is found in  Romans 7:23, where the power of evil over the will, arising from the corruption of man, is spoken of as a "law of sin," that is, an unnatural tyranny proceeing from an evil power without. The same apostle even uses the term "law" to denote the Christian dispensation in contrast with that of Moses ( James 1:25;  James 2:12;  James 4:11; comp.  Romans 10:4;  Hebrews 7:12;  Hebrews 10:1); also for the laws or precepts established by the Gospel ( Romans 13:8;  Romans 13:10;  Galatians 6:2;  Galatians 5:23).

    The occasional use of the word "law" (as in  Romans 3:27, "law of faith;" in  Romans 7:23, "law of my mind" [ Τοῦ Νόος ]; in  Romans 8:2, "law of the spirit of life;" and in  James 1:25;  James 2:12, "a perfect law, the law of liberty") to denote an Internal principle of action does not really militate against the general rule. For in each case it will be seen that such principle is spoken of in contrast with some formal law, and the word "law" is consequently applied to it "improperly," in order to mark this opposition, the qualifying words which follow guarding against any danger of misapprehension of its real character.

    It should also be noticed that the title "the law" is occasionally used loosely to refer to the whole of the Old Testament (as in  John 10:34, referring to  Psalms 82:6; in  John 15:25, referring to  Psalms 35:19; and in  1 Corinthians 14:21, referring to  Isaiah 28:11-12). This usage is probably due, not only to desire of brevity and to the natural prominence of the Pentateuch, but also to the predominance in the older covenant (when considered separately from the new, for which it was the preparation) of an external and legal character. Smith, s.v.

    It should be noted, however, that Νόμος very often stands, even when without the article, for the Mosaic law, the term in that sense being so well known as not to be liable to be misunderstood. (See Greek Article).

    References