Posts Tagged ‘law’

Parashah 18: Mishpatim (Rulings)

Exodus 21:1-24:18

“These are the rulings you are to present to them …” (Exodus 21:1).

The Ten Commandments did not complete the instructions of Adonai. He continued to reveal His Torah with His mishpatim or rulings. Mishpat  is a Hebrew noun which means ‘judgment or rights.’ Mishpat deals with the act of sitting as a judge and rendering a verdict so that judicial issues are properly executed.

These rulings give more specifics for how Adonai’s people were to judge cases involving slavery, murder, personal attacks with people or animals, stealing, witchcraft, foreigners, and other gods.  These judgments detail how we are to “love God and our neighbor as ourselves.”

Hebrew Word Pictures
Rulings (Law) or mishpatim – משפטים – mem, shin, peh, tet, yod, mem
– chaos consumed by the mouth, twisting the mighty finished work

Hebrew slaves
The Hebrew word for ‘slave’ comes from the verb avod and means ‘to work.’ The noun ‘slave’ is avodah suggesting ‘hard labor.’ When avod is used for those who work for another in Isra’el, it means ‘to serve.’   With a slight change in a vowel point, avod becomes eved and means ‘servant.’  Servanthood was considered a mark of humility.

Slavery in Isra’el was not like slavery as the world defines. In Isra’el a servant was bought for money, but was not ‘enslaved’ like the Hebrews in Egypt.

A Hebrew servant worked 6 years for his master, but in the seventh year, he was given his freedom. If he began work as a single man, he was to leave single.  If he began work as a married man, his family would leave with him.  If the slave married and had children while working the 6 years, the wife and children remained the master’s possession unless the servant desired to stay with his wife and children.  The master would then take the servant to the doorpost of his home and pierce his ear with an awl. The servant would remain a servant for the rest of his life.

A daughter sold into slavery was not allowed to be set free.  If she marries her master and he decides she no longer pleases him, her freedom may be purchased, though not by a foreigner, as she has already been defiled.  If the master has her marry his son, she is to be treated like a daughter. If the son marries another woman, the first wife is to be given food, clothing, and marital rights.  If the master fails to provide these three necessities, she is to be given her freedom.

Sometimes it was necessary to hire oneself out as a servant in order to live. Once hired, the servant became the property of the master. Though the rules for marriage and leaving behind a wife and children seem harsh, it may have been the best option for a male servant who had to return to a life of poverty.

There are examples of servanthood in Scripture. Jacob worked 7 years for Leah and seven more for Rachel.  Though he was not sold into servanthood, his father-in-law treated him as a servant for 14 years.  This is why Jacob wanted to create his own flocks and leave with his family.  If Laban had his way, Jacob would have remained serving him forever.

Another example of servanthood is Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian servant, who had a child with Abraham. When Abraham no longer wanted Hagar and his son in his camp, he sent them away with provisions.

“The word came to Jeremiah from Adonai after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves. Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage.  So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free.  But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again” (Jeremiah 34:8-11).

Attacks and murder
No sentence of death was arbitrary. Each case was heard by a judge, with a minimum of two witnesses, before there could be a guilty verdict. It was important that the witnesses were not false nor took bribes because a sentence would be executed and a guilty verdict had serious consequences.

If one person attacks another and a death occurs, the murderer must be put to death.  If the killing was not premeditated, but accidental, then Adonai provided a place for the murderer to flee.  However, if someone kills another after deliberate planning, they are to be put to death.

This is the same command given to Noach in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds human blood by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”  There is a great controversy over capital punishment because humanity has forgotten they are made in the image of Adonai and each human life has value.

Kidnappers are to be put to death.  It doesn’t matter if the victim has been sold or is still held by the kidnapper; the kidnapper is to die. Children who attack their parents are to be put to death, and whoever curses his father or mother must also die.

If two people fight and one person is injured, being confined to bed, and then recovers and is able to walk around (even with a cane), the attacker will be free of liability. He must still compensate the victim time loss and take responsibility for his care until recovery is complete. The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is an example of this mishpat. It was not the priest or the Levite who obeyed instruction, but a Samaritan, a foreigner, who took care of the man beaten by robbers.

If two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is injured so that her unborn child dies, the man must be fined.  He must pay the amount set by the woman’s husband and confirmed by the judge.  The amount is determined by a judge so the husband doesn’t set an amount too low –– the unborn child has great value in the eyes of Adonai. If any harm happens to the woman after the baby dies, then it is commanded life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23-24). The ‘eye for eye’ judgment was restitution for an unborn baby and the woman who had lost her baby, not a command for more cruelty.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I [Yeshua] tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).

Yeshua does not the mishpatim; he expounds on them.  Restitution and compensation does not suddenly become obsolete because of Yeshua’s words. He includes forgiveness and mercy, the character of his Father to the rulings.   “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” was another way to express compensation for a wrong committed that needed justice, but needed to be followed by forgiveness. Yeshua teaches that there is more than just the outward expression of these mishpatim, there is a heart condition that needs to be resolved so that anger and bitterness would not grow among the people.

A master is to be punished for any slave who is beaten with a stick so that he or she dies. If the slave lives for a couple of days, the master is not punished since the slave is his property. If a master hits his slave’s eye and destroys it, he must let the slave go free in compensation for the eye.  If a tooth of a slave’s mouth is knocked out, the slave is to be set free as compensation for the tooth.

According to Adonai, human life is more valuable than an animal. If an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox is to be stoned.  The owner of the ox has no further liability after the animal has been put to death. If the ox has the habit of goring people and the owner was warned, but did not confine it so that it kept killing, then the ox and the owner are to be killed.  If a ransom is offered for the owner, the death penalty will be commuted.  If the ox gores a son or daughter, the same rules are to be followed.  If the ox gores a slave, the owner is to give the master 12 ounces of silver, and the ox is to be killed.

If one person’s ox hurts someone else’s ox so that it dies, the live ox is to be sold and the revenue divided between the two owners. The dead animal is also to be divided. If the ox was known to be in the habit of goring, the owner is to pay ox for ox, and the dead animal is his responsibility.  The compensation is five times for an ox and four times for a sheep.

If an uncovered cistern or well causes the death of an animal, the owner of the well must compensate the owner of the animal, but the dead animal is his.

Selah
The word ‘gore’ means ‘blood that has been shed as a result of violence.’ If someone is gored and they don’t die, the animal is to be put to death. Change the word ‘ox’ in the rulings to a ‘dog.’

Justice
One of the Ten Commandments is to not bear false testimony against a neighbor. More specifically, do not repeat false rumors (or even true ones). This is known as lashon hara or ‘a wicked tongue.’

Do not join hands with the wicked by offering perjured testimony. Do not follow the crowd when it does what is wrong. Do not allow the popular view to sway you into offering testimony for any cause if the effect is to pervert justice (Exodus 23:2).

Keep away from fraud, and do not cause the death of the innocent and righteous; for Adonai will not justify the wicked. You are not to receive a bribe for it blinds the sight and subverts the righteous. Do not favor a person’s lawsuit just because he is poor and do not deny anyone justice who is poor.

Restitution
A thief must make restitution.  If he has nothing, then he is to be sold to make restitution for the loss from the theft.  If what he stole is found in his possession, he is to pay double whether it is an ox, donkey, or sheep. If a thief is caught breaking into a person’s home and is beaten to death, it is not murder unless it happens after sunrise. 

If a person trusts a neighbor with personal property and it is stolen, then the thief must pay double.  If the thief is not found, then the neighbor must state before Adonai that he did not steal the property.   If there is a dispute over ownership of property, whether it’s an ox, donkey, sheep, clothing or any missing property, where one person says, “This is mine,” both parties are to come before Adonai; the one He condemns must pay the other double.

If an animal gets loose and grazes in someone else’s field, the owner is to make restitution from the best produce of his own field or vineyard.

If someone is looking after a neighbor’s property, a donkey, ox, sheep or any animal, and it dies, is injured or disappears, then the neighbor’s oath before Adonai that he has not stolen the property will settle the matter. The owner is to accept the oath without any restitution.  However, if the property was stolen from the neighbor, he must make restitution to the owner.   If there is evidence the animal was torn to pieces, then no restitution is required.

If someone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it gets injured or dies with the owner not present, he must make restitution.  If the owner was present, he does not need to make restitution.  If the owner hired it out, the loss is covered by the hiring fee.

If you see your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him.  If you see an animal that belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, do not pass him by, but help him free it.

Our family has had some of these issues with our neighbor’s cows. They break our fences, graze in our front yard leaving huge divots, and break sprinkler heads because of their weight. Though we have tried to work peacefully with our neighbor, he has no desire to fix our damaged property. Though the district justice says we can file a small claim in court and receive restitution, we know our neighbor will never comply. Over the years, we have let him know when his cows were on the road or on the railroad tracks. He is always grateful, but never willing to pay restitution for damages done on our property.

If a fire is started and spreads to thorns so that stacked grain, standing grain or a field is destroyed, the person who started the fire must make restitution.  This is the reason for an investigation into the cause of a wildfire. The person who starts it must make restitution for damage and loss of property.

Loans
Adonai’s people are not to charge interest when a poor person borrows money.  If a neighbor’s coat is taken as a down payment (collateral), it is to be returned to him at sundown because it is his only garment.

Immoral Behavior
A virgin, not engaged to be married, who is seduced by a man must pay a bride price and take the girl as his wife.  If her father refuses the man, he must pay a sum equivalent to the bride price for virgins.

Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal must be put to death. This is known as beastiality and is becoming more common in our world. In Europe, there are beast sex parlors. Not only is this unhealthy for humans, it is cruel to the animals.

Sorcery uses the occult practices to control forces in the spiritual realm. Adonai commands that witches along with sorceresses be put to death.

Food
Because the Israelites are to be Adonai’s treasured possession, they are not to eat meat torn by wild animals in the countryside. It is only good for feeding dogs.

“Do not boil a young animal in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19).

This command has been used to develop kashrut and the man-made kosher regulation that milk and meat are not to be eaten together. Abraham served meat with curds to the three angels, one of them being Adonai, proving this is not the foundation for the command.

Maimonides suggested that this type of ‘cooking’ was used in pagan worship. Archaeological findings in 1929 supported his theory. “In the Canaanite ritual, the milk in which the kid was cooked symbolized the milk that newly born gods were given when suckled by the pagan goddesses Athirst and Rahmay. The cooking of a goat in milk was forbidden in the Bible because it symbolizes the suckling [by the pagan goddesses} of the newborn gods!”

Sabbath
Six days were for work, but the seventh day was for rest so that animals, servants, and the visiting foreigner might be refreshed. The Sabbath was not only for the Israelites to rest, but also for the guests in their home. Even animals were to be given a day of rest; they did not work on the Sabbath.

Six years seeds were to be sown, but the seventh year, the land was to rest and lie fallow. The same was to be done with the olive grove and vineyards. Plant and harvest for six years, but give trees and vineyards rest in the seventh year. This is called sh’mittah or the Sabbath year. This command was given so the land could be refreshed. The poor were given the corners of the fields and the gleanings of the fields for six years; on the seventh year, they could harvest whatever continued to grow.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Shemita (Release) – שמיטה – shin, mem, yod, tet, hey
– consume chaos finished work twisting revealed

Other gods
Anyone who sacrificed to any god other than Adonai was to be completely destroyed.  The Israelites were not to invoke the names of other gods or even speak their names. This is the epitome of idolatry –– sacrificing to other gods. The Israelites were not to worship the gods of the Emorites, Hittites, Perrizites, Canaanites, Hivites or Jebusites nor follow their practices.  They were to demolish all idols and standing stones. They were not to make covenants with their enemies or their gods so that Isra’el would remain faithful to Adonai.


Because Isra’el had been foreigners in Egypt, they were not to oppress a foreigner; they understood how it felt to be oppressed (Exodus 23:9). Widows and orphans (the fatherless) held a special place in Adonai’s heart. If they were abused and He heard their cry, His anger would burn against the Israelites, and He would kill them with the sword making their own wives widows and their children fatherless.

Pilgrimages to Jerusalem

There were three ‘appointed times’ when the men of Isra’el were to appear before Adonai: Pesach in first month of the year followed by Shavuot 50 days later. The third gathering was to be at Sukkot in the seventh month.

During the festival of Matzah, unleavened bread was to be eaten for seven days. On Shavuot, the firstfruits of barley were to be brought to the House of Adonai. At the end of the year, at the ingathering, the final harvest was to be presented to Adonai.

The Messenger of Adonai

Adonai sent an angel to guard His people and to bring them to the place He had prepared.  They were to listen to what the angel said and not rebel against him. He would not forgive any wrongdoings since Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh’s name resides in him. If they listen to what the angel says and do everything he tells them, then Adonai will be an enemy to their enemies.

The Hebrew word for ‘angel’ is malak and means ‘messenger.’ This is the same ‘angel’ who acted as the Destroyer in Egypt. This is the same ‘angel’ that moved from the front of the children of Isra’el to their rear in order to protect them from the Egyptian army. This ‘angel’ is not a separate entity from Adonai, but does His will, in this case, teaching His commands to the Israelites in the wilderness. This ‘angel’ also has the authority to forgive. According to Malachi 3:1, this ‘angel’ is the ‘“messenger of the covenant.” The Israelites must listen to what the ‘angel’ says and do everything he says because he has the name Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh making the angel Adonai.

Yeshua is the Word that was with Elohim in the beginning at creation, and he is Elohim (John 1:1-2). He is the voice of Elohim and teacher of Torah to the Israelites. He has the authority to forgive sins and do the works of Elohim (Matthew 9:5-6, John 10:25,30). The ‘angel’ they see and the words they hear are the essence of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh in Yeshua.

Deliverance to Holiness

There are blessings for obeying the mishpatim and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28).  Until Adonai gave Isra’el His commandments and rulings, they had only taken the first step in the salvation process –– justification. They had put their faith in the blood of the lamb. They had been delivered from the idols of Egypt. They were immersed as they walked on dry land through the Red Sea.

Isra’el did nothing of themselves to be redeemed from Egypt nor did they earn it by being good people. Grace and mercy is the character of Adonai in the old testament as well as the new. Faith in the blood the lamb, victory over death, forgiveness of sins, and immersion in water are found in both testaments.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Grace (Kindness and Favor) or chen – חן – chet, nun
– protects life

Mercy (Compassion) or rachum – רחום – resh, chet, vav, mem
– highest authority protects and binds chaos

Sanctify (Consecrated, Holy) or kadosh – קדש – kof, dalet, shin
– what is behind the consuming pathway

Faith (Agreement) or emunah – אמונח – alef, mem, vav, nun, hey
– first strength binds chaos and protects life

‘Holiness’ or becoming set-apart to Elohim is the second step of the salvation process –– sanctification. The Israelites were led to Mount Sinai to meet with Adonai. They washed their clothes and prepared themselves to stand in His presence. At the foot of Mount Sinai, the children of Isra’el, along with the Egyptians who exited Egypt with them, were united and transformed into the nation of Isra’el through the instructions of Adonai .

With their obedience to Adonai’s Torah, they would be different from every other nation. They were to keep His Sabbath, His ‘appointed times,’ and follow His dietary regulations. They were to treat their personal property, slaves and animals with dignity. If they served other gods and assimilated into the cultures around them, they would no longer be recognized as His chosen people and would lose His blessing. If they obeyed Torah, Adonai would bless their food and water.  If they listened to His instructions, He would take away their sicknesses.

Yeshua turned water into wine and multiplied fives loaves and two fish in order to feed a multitude. Yeshua healed those who were sick, lame, and leprous. What if Yeshua had rebelled against his Father’s commands? Would the water have changed into wine? Would the loaves and fishes have been multiplied to feed 5000? Yeshua says that if we trust in him, we will not only do the works he did, but even greater ones. Are we doing the same miraculous things, or because we have been taught to disobey Adonai’s mitzvot are we impotent?

The blessing for Israelite women who obey Adonai’s instructions is birthing children. They will not miscarry or be barren. For the promise of descendants to Abraham to be fulfilled, women have to have babies. Through Adonai’s mercy, not all babies born in Egypt were murdered and lived to form a huge nation. Women are still women regardless of nationality and the regulations for niddah and childbirth still have value.

The promise for Israelite children who honor their parents is long life. Long life meant eternal in the Garden of Eden. After sin entered the world, the human life span was reduced to less than 1000 years.   After Noach, the life span was reduced even more. Psalm 90 says a man’s days are 70 to 80 years.  To enjoy the fullness of those years, children must honor their parents; the children of Adonai must obey their His Torah in order to receive long life.

“And everyone who has this hope in him continues purifying himself, since God is pure. Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah — indeed, sin is violation of Torah. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and that there is no sin in him. So no one who remains united with him continues sinning; everyone who does continue sinning has neither seen him nor known him. Children, don’t let anyone deceive you — it is the person that keeps on doing what is right who is righteous, just as God is righteous. The person who keeps on sinning is from the Adversary, because from the very beginning the Adversary has kept on sinning. It was for this very reason that the Son of God appeared, to destroy these doings of the Adversary. No one who has God as his Father keeps on sinning, because the seed planted by God remains in him. That is, he cannot continue sinning, because he has God as his Father. Here is how one can distinguish clearly between God’s children and those of the Adversary: everyone who does not continue doing what is right is not from God” (1 John 3:3-10).

Hornets

“I will send terror of me ahead of you, throwing into confusion all the people to whom you come; and I will make all your enemies turn their backs on you. I will send hornets ahead of you to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites” (Exodus 23:27-28).

‘Hornet’ in Hebrew is tzirah and means ‘stinging.’  The Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites will be driven out from the Promised Land by a stinging bug creating ‘terror.’ This ‘terror’ will throw the nations into confusion. In Isra’el, there are four species of hornets bearing a resemblance to the common wasp, but larger in size.  It is an extremely fierce and ravenous insect especially in a hot climate.  Its sting is dangerous and they attack human beings in a very furious manner. A swarm of hornets drives cattle and horses to madness and has even caused the death of the animals.

Spelled almost like hornet is tzarat meaning ‘to smite.‘   The town of Zorah in Joshua 19:41 may mean ‘town of hornets.’  In Isaiah 7:18, the fly and the bee are symbolic to the armies of Egypt and Assyria.  It could be interpreted that the hornet is symbolic of Adonai fighting for Isra’el as He did when He caused confusion within the Egyptian army (Exodus 24:14).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Hornet (Stinging) or tzirah – צרעה – tzade, resh, ayin, hey
– pull toward to the highest authority, understand and behold

National Boundaries
The nations will be driven out of the Promised Land by Adonai through terror. He will do it slowly so the land won’t become desolate or abundant with wild animals. He will drive out the nations until the Isra’el is large enough to take possession of the Land. The boundaries of the Land of Promise are much larger than the modern state of Isra’el. The true boundaries stretch from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea to the desert all the way to the Euphrates River. As the Israelites enter the Promised Land, they are to displace the nations so as not to sin against Adonai by worshiping their gods or making a covenant with them.

The Book of the Covenant

Moshe wrote down all the words of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.  He built and altar at the base of the mountain and set up 12 large stones to represent the 12 Tribes of Isra’el.  Young men collected burnt offerings and peace offerings from the people. Moshe took half the blood and put it in basins; the other half he splashed against the altar. He took the book of the covenant and read it aloud so that all the people could hear. But, before they even heard the words of the covenant, the Israelites responded, “Everything that Adonai has spoken, we will do and obey” (Exodus 24:7).

 “Moshe took the blood of the animals, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which Adonai has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Exodus 24:8).

This is the third covenant Elohim makes. The first covenant was with Noach, the second with Abraham, the third is with the nation of Isra’el. It includes Adonai’s instructions and was instituted with the sprinkling of blood –– “the blood of the covenant.” For the nation of Isra’el, this is their covenant because they had never been in a covenant relationship with Adonai before. The covenant with Isra’el doesn’t negate the first two covenants, but builds on them.

Moshe, Aaron, Nadav, Avihu and Isra’el’s leaders go up on the mountain to meet with the Elohim of Isra’el. Like the 70 palm trees at Elim, there are 70 men who meet with Elohim. Seventy is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter ayin meaning ‘to see.’ On the mountain, the 70 leaders are given a glimpse of the heavenly realm where Adonai sits on His Throne. While Moshe approaches the presence of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, the others prostrate themselves at a distance.

Under Adonai’s feet is a pavement like sapphire, clear as the sky.  The Hebrew word lebenah means ‘bricks’ or ‘pavement’ and only occurs this one time in Scripture. ‘Sapphire’ is Greek for lapis lazuli, a deep blue semi-precious stone known for its intense color.  The prophet Ezekiel describes the Throne of Adonai as being lapis lazuli (Ezekiel 1:26-28). One of the fringes of the tzizit is blue like the sea and the sky representing the ‘pavement’ and the Throne of Adonai (Numbers 15:38). Adonai does not reach out His hand against these men, instead they ‘see’ Him while they eat and drink, symbolizing a fellowship meal between the priestly leaders and Elohim.

The glory of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh hovered over Mount Sinai in a cloud for six days. To the Israelites, it looked like a raging fire on the top of the mountain.  On the seventh day Adonai called to Moshe from the cloud and he left his brother and the 70 leaders and entered the cloud where he remained 40 days and nights.  With the glory appearing like a raging fire on the top of the mountain, the Israelites feared that Moshe had been consumed by it. When Moshe did not return from the cloud, Aaron and the 70 men left the mountain for the camp. After Moshe had been gone for 40 days and 40 nights, the Israelites were sure he had died.

During his time in the cloud, Adonai gave Moshe the stone tablets on which He wrote Torah. He gave Moshe all of His commandments so he could teach the Israelites how worship Him and live holy lives honor Him.

Yeshua and the Mitzvot

Yeshua spent 40 days and 40 nights on a wilderness mountain. During his time of testing, he quoted from Torah to silence the Adversary. He tempted Yeshua to worship him, create bread for his hunger, and test the angels of his Father. Yeshua understood “man doesn’t live on bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of his Father” (Matthew 4:1-11).

“One of them who was a Torah expert asked a sh’eilah to trap him: ‘Rabbi, which of the mitzvot in the Torah is the most important?’ He told him, ‘You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important mitzvah. And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot” (Matthew 22:34-40).

Sh’eilah is the Hebrew word for ‘question.’ When used in this context, it means asking questions about Torah and halacha, expecting someone with authority to answer. Halacha means ‘to go’ and was the legally accepted way to live out a Torah command.

“So, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on [the Rock]. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew and beat against that house, but it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on [the Rock]. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand” Matthew 7:24-26).

“Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Messiah [Yeshua] does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion, the weekly readings of the Prophets and New Testament, and springboard for midrash, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

Law – Hebrew: Torah

תורה

Torah in Hebrew means ‘teaching and instruction.’ Torah is also known as the ‘commandments of God,’ ‘law of the LORD,’ the ‘law of Moses.’ According to God, it is to be guarded and observed in order to have abundant life. In the Complete Jewish Bible, Torah is found 410 times; 174 in the Old Testament and 236 in the New.

“Then he took the book of the covenant (instruction) and read it aloud so the people could hear; and they responded, “Everything that ADONAI has spoken, we will do and obey.’ Moshe took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which ADONAI has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Exodus 24:8, Complete Jewish Bible).

“Then he (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant (instruction) and read it to the people.  They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said we will obey” (Exodus, 24:8, New International Bible).

When Torah is mistranslated as ‘law,’ it gives sense of legalism which perverts the true meaning and purpose of the word Torah.

“ADONAI said to Moshe, ‘Come up to me on the mountain, and stay there.  I will give you the stone tablets with the Torah (direction and instruction) and the mitzvot (commands) I have written on them, so that you can teach them” (Exodus 24:8, CJB).

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law (torah) and commands I have written for their instruction” (Exodus 24:8, NIV).

Hebrew Word Picture

ת Tav – Crossed Sticks means ‘sign’ or ‘covenant.’

ו Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’

ר Resh – A Head means ‘highest authority.’

ה Hey – A Window means ‘behold’ or ‘reveal.’

The Hebrew Word Picture for torah: covenant binding to the highest authority revealed.

Greek – nomos means that which is assigned, prescribed by custom or statute.  This word implies administration of justice.

Vines Expository Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words says, “The statement maintains the freedom of the believer from the ‘law’ in its totality as a means of justification. Nomos is a term for ‘law’ comprising all Scriptures, not a ‘law’ of compulsion enforced from without, but meeting with ready obedience through the desire and delight of the renewed being who is subject to it; into it he looks and in its teaching he delights.”

©2011 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.

The ‘Law’ of Sin and Death

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’”(Genesis 2:15-17).

One of the biggest misconceptions within the tenets of Christianity is that the old testament ‘law’ has been ‘done away with’ and followers of Christ are no longer ‘under the law.’ Though I cannot be certain from where this doctrine originated, I’m going to guess it evolved from choosing only half of this verse in Romans as a doctrinal view:

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14-15). 

The word translated ‘law’ in this verse is the Greek nomos. This Greek word can mean anything from general principles of law to the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah. It’s such a general word that Strong’s Concordance actually states that the meaning of the word nomos must be derived from the context in which it is used.

Within the context of the Romans verse, the word nomos means ‘because.’ Because is used to introduce a word or phrase that gives an explanation or reason. To claim “I’m not under the law; I’m under grace” is not giving the reason why. The reason why in this verse has to do with sin no longer being the master of one’s life.

Law and Justice

According to an online dictionary, law is defined as “the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.” From a Biblical perspective, it would be necessary that the Kingdom of God have a system of rules that regulates the actions of its citizens. When one of the citizens breaks the law, they receive justice for doing so.

This is what happened in the Garden of Eden, the eternal paradise, the first glimpse at the Kingdom of God. Adam was given one rule. He was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he broke the rule, the penalty was death.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’” (Genesis 2:15).

Adam was given the command before the woman was made. It was his responsibility to teach this one command to his wife. However, because she was deceived by the serpent, she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam who committed the sin of disobedience. They realized their sin in their nakedness and tried to cover it up.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:6-7).

God was not fooled by their fig leaves. He knew their hearts. He saw their sin. He cursed the serpent who deceived Eve with slithering on his belly and eating dust. He gave Eve pain in childbearing and the desire to rule over her husband. He cursed the ground from which Adam was created so that Adam would toil all the days of his life for food. He proclaimed His justice on Adam’s sin –– death.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). 

Because of Adam, everyone sins. Because of Adam, sin and death entered the world. Because of Adam, everyone was kicked out of Paradise, the Kingdom of God.

Going Beyond God’s Boundaries

Some time ago, my son invited a friend to spend the weekend. This friend was not a Christian; he did not even believe in God. However, he had questions he wanted answered. Starting with the basics, I asked him to define sin. He thought deeply for a few minutes and said, “Doing bad things.” Of course my response could only be, “Who determines what things are bad, or good for that matter?” He answered, “Good question.” I explained that if someone puts their faith in God, it should be God, and no one else, who makes that determination. He agreed. A foundation was laid for the “law of sin and death” and the gift of eternal life.

As Creator, God gave one law to Adam. After the flood, God gave more laws to Noah for mankind. God gave laws to Abraham and his descendants. Through Moses, God gave 613 laws to Israel outlining how to love and worship Him, along with laws on how to live in a community and love your neighbor. All of these laws from Adam to Israel have one thing in common –– they are God’s laws. In Hebrew, the word ‘law’ is torah and means ‘teachings’ and ‘instructions.’ Sin is nothing more and nothing less than breaking God’s teachings and instructions.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

God defines sin as breaking ‘His law’ or Torah. Sin is ultimately disobeying His instructions and going beyond the boundaries of His established rules for our lives. The consequences for sin, as Adam learned, is death (Romans 6:23).

In Hebrew, the word for ‘sin’ is chata and means ‘to miss or go wrong.’ In Greek, the word for ‘sin’ is hamartia and means ‘to miss the mark.’ This is exactly what Adam did. He went beyond the boundaries that God established for him in the Garden, disobeyed God’s one instruction, and missed the mark. As a result, everyone sins and ‘misses the mark’ (Romans 3:23). Everyone. There is no one who escapes the ‘law of sin and death.’

God’s Grace and Sin

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15).

According to Paul, stating “We’re under God’s grace” is no excuse to continue breaking Torah. What if Adam and Eve’s conversation went something like this:

“God loves us unconditionally. He created this incredible Garden for us. He gave us authority over the animals that we named. We walk and talk with him every evening in the breeze. He has given us all the trees in the garden from which to eat except this one. Why would he kill us? He won’t care if we just taste the fruit. We will be like Him. Besides what does ‘death’ mean anyway? Just look at the abundance of fruit on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil!”

Oh yeah, those were the serpent’s words. Adam and Eve had no understanding of God’s grace, His empowering grace that overcomes sin and even the desire to sin. However, even in their sin, God’s grace abounded to Adam and Eve. He removed the fig leaves and covered them with garments of skin. In order to make the garments, blood had to be shed. Animal blood. This set up the law of blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). God’s incredible grace, however, did not stop Adam and Eve or their children from sinning –– Cain killed Abel.

The incredible grace of God was probably something they told to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They probably spoke about how they sinned against God, how He promised a Redeemer, and how He shed the blood of an innocent animal to cover their sin. God’s grace did not remove them from the “law of sin and death” nor did it change the fact that they had to live out God’s judgment for the rest of their lives. God’s grace allowed them to live many more years with the hope of a coming Redeemer. God’s grace empowered them to put the past in the past and press on toward the goal, the promised ‘Seed of woman’ who would restore all things to the way they were in the Garden, but, it included an even better promise –– the power to overcome the ‘law sin and death’ (Philippians 3:14).

Victory Over Sin and Death

“Because the Torah of the Spirit, which produces this life in union with Messiah Yeshua, has set me free from the law of sin and death … (Romans 8:2).

The “law of sin and death” brought to mankind by Adam’s disobedience to God’s one instruction was destroyed by the ‘Seed of woman,’ the second Adam, Yeshua. His blood atoned for sin and brought forgiveness. Through his resurrection, he destroyed the power of death. When Yeshua ascended into the heavenly realm, his Father poured out His Spirit in order to begin the restoration process. Those who are born again of the Spirit of God re-enter the Kingdom with the Spirit’s power to overcome sin and disobedience to Torah. Kingdom citizens no longer live as slaves to sin and disobey God’s laws. They no longer live under condemnation because they are set free from “the law of sin and death” through faith in the work of Yeshua. They now have freedom to live out the Torah written on their hearts by the Spirit.

“In fact, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed (the Spirit)  remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 5:18).

Does Sinless Mean Perfect?

“Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Not long ago I read a Letter to the Editor written by a local pastor. In the letter the woman commented several times that she was ‘not perfect’ as justification for a list of things that were less than virtuous and honorable in her life. I would have laughed, if it weren’t so sad.

‘Perfect’ in the Greek is teleios and means ‘mature and adult.’ When this pastor wrote, “I’m not perfect,” she was really saying, “Please excuse the sins in my life. I’m not behaving maturely and acting like an adult.” Though we are to forgive the sins of one another, this is a sad commentary on the power of God in the life of a pastor!

Most of the world and even people in the church think of ‘perfect’ in the same way this pastor does -– incapable of sinning. Consequently, they just muddle along justifying their disobedience and never experiencing the victory of God in their lives. As a pastor who should be teaching and guiding a flock of God’s people, her words mock the Father who is perfect, and Yeshua who told us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father.”

Sinning and ‘falling short’ are inevitable in life.  We must learn from our shortcomings and mistakes. We must be transformed into maturity, making wise decisions for our actions, not making foolish excuses regarding our ‘imperfection.’

Biblical Maturity

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:6).

Maturity involves “wisdom’ that is not of this world and does not act in the ways of this world.

“Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Maturity involves a “transformation of mind” to a way a person thinks with regard to evil.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, argued like a child; now that I have become a man, I have finished with childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:10-11).

Maturity “puts away childish behavior” and acts like an adult.

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). 

Maturity involves growing up spiritually, eating solid food, being “trained in righteousness,” and using discernment when it comes to evil. With another reference to evil, it must be an important concept to understand when growing from a babe drinking milk and learning basic elementary teachings into maturity (Hebrews 6:1-3).

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Messiah Yeshua, sends greetings.  He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12).

Maturity means being “fully assured” that you are in God’s will and standing firm.

Noah

“This is the account of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

The Hebrew word in this verse for blameless is tamim and means ‘perfect, blameless, sincere, whole, complete.’ This word carries with it the idea of being free from objectionable practices.

Tamim is used in reference to the people of God being called to avoid the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 18:13). Though there are no Canaanites today, there are many idolatrous practices that the people of God should be avoiding, but instead they lack the discernment that maturity provides so they embrace these sins.

Tamim implies that a person externally meets all the requirements of God’s Torah. In other words, there is nothing in a person’s outward activities that are odious to God. Because of the inward condition of their heart, they meet God’s standards of living rightly before Him. 

According to Genesis, Noah walked with God and tamim describes his relationship with God. Noah was a mature man. He used wisdom in a corrupt world, his maturity to discern good from evil. He took no part in the idolatrous activities going on around him; he remained separate and his life exemplified this separateness. He stood firm in God’s will to build an Ark while the world around him went from bad to worse and mocked his faith in an unseen God. Noah had a right heart and walked blameless or ‘perfect’ before God.

Did Noah sin? Of course he did. He planted a vineyard, got drunk, and lay naked in his tent. He was shamed by his son, Ham. However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord because he had obeyed God and witnessed His mercy.

Abraham

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God El Shaddai; walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).

Abraham left Babylon and its idolatrous ways. He lived in tents with his family apart from the rest of the world. He obeyed God’s commands, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. He is called the ‘Father of Faith’ and was given the sign of circumcision as evidence of his faith. He is also called tamim, mature and blameless.

Did Abraham sin? Of course he did. Twice he lied about Sarah not being his wife nearly killing the kings of Egypt. However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord because he believed God and witnessed His Provision.

King David

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

David had faith in God like no other Israelite soldier. He trusted in God when he stood before Goliath with only a few stones and a slingshot. When Goliath was killed, he credited God for delivering him from the hands of the Philistine and certain death. As a warrior, David cleansed the land of Israel from idolatrous people through war. With skillful hands, David led the armies of Israel. As a King, he shepherded the people of Israel with integrity of heart (Psalm 78:72).

Did David sin? Of course he did. He sinned when he had Uriah the Hittite killed. He sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord. He was called tamim, and a ‘man after God’s own heart’ because when he sinned, he didn’t justify his sin, he repented (1 Samuel 13:14).

Zechariah and Elizabeth

“Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were called tamim. As a descendant of Aaron, Zechariah performed his Temple duties as prescribed for his lineage through Abijah. Elizabeth was barren. They desired a child. An angel comes to Zechariah and tells him he is going to have a son. He doesn’t believe the angel and is rendered mute until the boy is born.

Did Zechariah and Elizabeth sin? There is nothing in Scripture that says they did; however they were human beings. Perhaps Zechariah not believing the angel could be considered a lack of faith and sin. If it was sin, it didn’t change Zechariah’s or Elizabeth’s maturity in the sight of God, and they raised the last prophet who proclaimed the coming Messiah.

The Body of Messiah

“You must be blameless (perfect) before the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 18:13).

Yeshua quoted this command from Torah because he understood the Kingdom of his Father and how its citizens must behave. If he didn’t believe it was possible to be ‘perfect,’ he would never had commanded his followers to be so. The Amplified Version Bible adds more understanding to Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:48:

“You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity] as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Accordingly, we must be ‘perfect,’ growing into spiritual maturity like Noah, Abraham, King David, and Zechariah and Elizabeth. As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we have been given His Spirit that empowers us to have victory over ‘the law of sin and death’ and live tamim, blameless lives in a world as corrupt as ‘the days of Noah.’ We must keep ourselves spotless from the world’s corruption and idolatrous practices so that we can discern good from evil and attain godly virtue and integrity. In order to do what Yeshua commanded, we must live according to the Spirit of life that is found in the Torah of God, erroneously believed to be the ‘law of sin and death.’ To claim ‘imperfection’ is no justification for sinful behavior any more than being ‘under grace’ should give us the freedom to disobey God’s commandments and break ‘the law.’ When we misinterpret ‘the law of sin and death’ that was actually destroyed on the cross, we put ourselves back under ‘the law’ that brings death and forfeit the amazing grace of God that was given to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and David –– the empowering grace of God to overcome sin and be ‘perfect.’

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Messiah” (Colossians 1:28).

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.