Mosaic Law


Moses writingGenesis 14:14 describes Abram’s rescue of Lot as follows: “When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.”  

Dan was the name given to a city in the northern-most territory in Canaan, occupied by the descendents of Dan, the son of Jakob.  Given the fact that the descendents of Dan did not occupy this area until after the Conquest of Canaan, this could be pointed to as evidence that Genesis (or at least this periscope within Genesis) was not written until some time after the conquest of Canaan.  Seeing that Moses died before the Israelites entered Canaan, he could not have written this account. 

There are at least two possible rebuttals.  One would be to suggest that the identification of this area as “Dan” was due to a later updating of the text.  On this view, Moses wrote this periscope and used the name of the city/region as it was called in his day.  Later scribes, however, updated the text to reflect the modern names of the cities and regions Moses spoke of since modern readers would not be familiar with the ancient names.  

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One of the distinguishing marks of the new atheists is that they not only think religion is false, but that it is dangerous and immoral too.  Even God himself is not above their judgment.  They regularly chide the God of the Bible as being a moral monster!  They accuse Him of being pro-genocide, anti-women, pro-rape, pro-slavery, etc.  Rather than the paradigm of moral goodness, God is an evil despot that is to be shunned.  You know it’s a bad day when even God is evil!

Is what they say true?  Is God – particularly as He is portrayed in the OT – morally evil?  Many Christians are sympathetic to this charge because they themselves struggle to understand God’s actions and commands, particularly as revealed in the OT.  Thankfully there have been some well-written responses to the problem of “theistic evil” written in recent years to dispel this negative portrait of God.  

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Not many months ago I finished reading John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch.  If you are only going to read one book on the Pentateuch, this should be it.  Prior to reading this book I can honestly say I never saw much more than a chronological structure in the books, and never saw how the five books fit together.  Sailhamer has illuminated the meaning of the Pentateuch in a way I never thought possible.

Sailhamer argues that the structure of the Pentateuch reveals the meaning of the Pentateuch.  While most of us think the purpose of the Pentateuch is to record the Law of Moses for Israel, Sailhamer argues convincingly that this is not Moses’ primary intention (if it were, the inclusion of Genesis would be inexplicable).  The Pentateuch was not the first written record of the Law (Dt 27:1-8), and it was written well after the giving of the Law at Sinai, so its purpose must go beyond a mere record of the Law.  Sailhamer argues that the structure of the Pentateuch reveals that its primary purpose was to confront its readers with their inability to keep the Law, and the need to live a life of faith while they wait for the promised seed: the future king from Judah (Gen 15:6; Ex 19:9; Num 14:11; 20:12).  The golden calf incident lies at the heart of the Pentateuch, exposing the heart of Israel’s problem: their heart.  That’s why the Pentateuch ends with an acknowledgment that something needs to be done with the human heart for people to be able to keep God’s covenant (Dt 30:6).

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Do you give 10% of your income to the work of God?  Do you think by doing so you are fulfilling the Mosaic command to tithe?  Think again.  Israelites were commanded to pay upwards of ~23% in tithes, not a mere 10%.

The Mosaic Law required the children of Israel to pay three different tithes: levitical tithe (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21,24), annual festival tithe (Dt 14:22-27), and tri-annual poor tithe (Dt 14:28-29).  The levitical tithe was the standard tithe.  It required all Israelites to give 10% of their increase (crops, fruit, livestock) to the Levites.  This tithe was probably offered sporadically throughout the year.

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