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Bible Dictionaries
Law of Moses

Smith's Bible Dictionary

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Law of Moses. It will be the object of this article to give a brief analysis of the substance of this law, to point out its main principles, and to explain the position which it occupies in the progress of divine revelation. In order to do this the more clearly, it seems best to speak of the law, first. In relation to the past; second. In its own intrinsic character.

1. (a) In reference to the past, it is all-important, for the proper understanding of the law, to remember its entire dependence on the Abrahamic covenant. See Galatians 3:17-24. That covenant had a twofold character. It contained the "spiritual promise" of the Messiah; but it contained also the temporal promises subsidiary to the former.

(b) The nature of this relation of the law to the promise is clearly pointed out. The belief in God as the Redeemer of man, and the hope of his manifestation as such, in the person of the Messiah, involved the belief that the Spiritual Power must be superior to all carnal obstructions, and that there was in man, a spiritual element which could rule his life by communion with a spirit from above. But it involved also, the idea of an antagonistic power of evil, from which man was to be redeemed, existing in each individual, and existing also in the world at large.

(c) Nor is it less essential to remark the period of the history at which it was given. It marked and determined the transition of Israel from the condition of a tribe to that of a nation, and its definite assumption of a distinct position and office in the history of the world.

(d) Yet, though new in its general conception, it was probably not wholly new in its materials. There must necessarily have been, before the law, commandments and revelations of a fragmentary character, under which Israel had hitherto grown up. So far, therefore, as they were consistent with the objects of the Jewish law, the customs of Palestine and the laws of Egypt would doubtless be traceable in the Mosaic system.

(e) In close connection with, and almost in consequence of, this reference to antiquity, we find an accommodation of the law to the temper and circumstances of the Israelites, to which our Lord refers in the case of divorce, Matthew 19:7-8, as necessarily interfering with its absolute perfection. In many cases, it rather should be said to guide and modify existing usages than actually to sanction them; and the ignorance of their existence may lead to a conception of its ordinances not only erroneous, but actually the reverse of the truth.

(f) In close connection with this subject, we observe also the gradual process by which the law was revealed to the Israelites. In Exodus 20-23, in direct connection with the revelation from Mount Sinai, that which may be called the rough outline of the Mosaic law is given by God, solemnly recorded by Moses, and accepted by the people. In Exodus 25-31

Bibliography Information
Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'Law of Moses'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​sbd/​l/law-of-moses.html. 1901.
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