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(תּוֹרָה משֶׁה ) signifies the whole body of Mosaic legislation (1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 23:25; Ezra 3:2), the law given by Moses, which, in reference to its divine origin, is called תּוֹרָת יְהוֹה, the law of Jehovah (Psalms 19:8; Psalms 37:31; Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 30:9). In the latter sense it is called, by way of eminence, הִתּוֹרָה, THE law (Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 4:44; Deuteronomy 17:18-19; Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 27:8). When not so much the substance of legislation, but rather the external written code in which it is contained is meant, the following terms are employed: "Book of the Law of Moses" (2 Kings 14:6; Isaiah 8:31; Isaiah 23:6) " Book of the La of the lord," or "Book of the Law of God" (Joshua 24:26). "Judgments," "statutes," "testimonies," etc., are the various precepts contained in the law. In the present article (which has been carefully compiled from the most recent codifications, compared with the sacred text, and which strenuously maintains the perpetual obligation of the ten commandments), we propose to give a brief analysis of its substance, to point out its main principles, and to explain the position which it occupies in the progress of divine revelation. For the history of its delivery, (See MOSES); (See EXODE); for its authenticity, (See PENTATEUCH); for its particular ordinances, see each in its alphabetical place.

The law is especially embodied in the last four books of the Pentateuch. In Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers there is perceptible some arrangement of the various precepts, although they are not brought into a system. In Deuteronomy the law or legislation contained in the three preceding books is repeated with slight modifications. See each of these books.

'The Jews assert that, besides the written law, שבכתב תורה, νόμος ἔγγραφος , which may be translated into other languages, and which is contained in the Pentateuch, there was communicated to Moses on Mount Sinai an oral law, תורה שבעל פה, νόμος ἄγραφος , which was subsequently written down, together with many rabbinical observations, and is contained in the twelve folio volumes which now constitut e the Talmud, and which the Jews assert cannot be, or at least ought. not to be, translated. (See TALMUD) ).

The Rabbins divide the whole Mosaic law into 613 precepts, of which 248 are affirmative and 365 negative. The number of the affirmative precepts corresponds to the 248 members of which, according to rabbinical anatomy, the whole human body consists. The number of the negative precepts corresponds to the 365 days of the solar year or, according to the rabbinical work Brandspiegel (which has been published in Jewish German at Cracow and in other places), the negative precepts agree in number with the 365 veins which, they say, are found in the human body. Hence their logic concludes that if on each day each member of the human body keeps one affirmative precept and abstains from one thing forbidden, the whole law, and not the Decalogue alone, is kept. The whole law is sometimes called by Jewish writers Theraiog, which word is formed from the Hebrew letters that are employed to express the number 613, viz. 400 = ת +200 = ר +10-= י + 3 = ג Hence 613 = תריג theriog. Women are subject to the negative precepts or prohibitions only, and not to the affirmative precepts or injunctions. This exception arises partly from their nature, and partly from their being subject to the authority of husbands. According to some rabbinical statements women are subject to 100 precepts only, of which 64 are negative and 36 affirmative. The number 613 corresponds also to the number of letters in the Decalogue. Others are inclined to find that there are 620 precepts according to the numerical value of the word כמר =crown, viz., 400 = ת + 200= ר + 20 כ; and others, again, observe that the numerical value of the letters תורה, law, amounts only to 611. The first in order of these laws is found in Genesis 1:27, פרו ורבו, be fruitful and multiply. The transgressor of this law is, according to Rabbi Eliezer, as wicked as a murderer. He who is still unmarried at twenty years of age is a transgressor; and the law is binding upon every man, according to Schamai, until he has two sons; or, according to Hillel, one son and one daughter (compare Juris Hebraeorus leges, ductu Rabbi Levi Barzelonitae, auctore J. Henrico Hottinger). (See CABALA).

I. The Law with reference to the Past History of the People.

1. Here it is all-important, for the proper understallning of the law, to remember its entire dependence on the Abrahamic Covenant, and its adaptation thereto (see Galatians 3:17-24). That covenant had a twofold character. It contained the "spiritual promise" of the Messiah, which was given to the Jews as representatives of the whole human race, and as guardians of a treasure in which "all families of the earth should be blessed." This would prepare the Jewish nation to be the center of the unity of all mankind. But it contained also the temporal promises subsidiary to the former, and requisite in order to preserve intact the nation, through which the race of man should be educated and prepared for the coming of the Redeemer. These promises were special, given distinctively to the Jews as a nation, and calculated to separate them from other nations of the earth. It follows that there should be in the law a corresponding duality of nature. There would be much in it peculiar to the Jews, local, special, and transitory; but the fundamental principles on which it was based must be universal, because expressing the will of an unchanging God, and springing from relations to him inherent in human nature, and therefore perpetual and universal in their application.

2. 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. The promise was the witness of the one truth, the law was the declaration of the other. It was "added because of transgressions." In the individual it stood between his better and his worse self; in the world, between the Jewish nation as the witness of the spiritual promise, and the heathendom which groaned under the power of the flesh. It was intended, by the gift of guidance and the pressure of motives, to strengthen the weakness of good, while it curbed directly the power of evil. It followed inevitably that, in the individual, it assumed somewhat of a coercive, and, as between Israel and the world, somewhat of an antagonistic and isolating character; and hence that, viewed without reference to the promise (as was the case with the later Jews), it might actually become a hinderance to the true revelation of God, and to the mission for which the nation had been made a "chosen people."

3. Nor is it less essential to note 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. It is on no unreal metaphor that we base the well-known analogy between the stages of individual life and those of national or universal existence. In Israel the patriarchal time was that of childhood, ruled chiefly through the affections and the power of natural relationship, with rules few, simple, and unsystematic. The national period was that of youth, in which this indirect teaching and influence gives place to definite assertions of right and responsibility, and to a system of distinct commandments, needed to control its vigorous and impulsive action. The fifty days of their wandering alone with God in the silence of the wilderness represent that awakening to the difficulty, the responsibility, and the nobleness of life, which marks the "putting away of childish things." The law is the sign and the seal of such an awakening.

4. Yet, though new in its general conception, it was probably not wholly new in its materials. Neither in his physical nor his spiritual providence does God proceed per saltune. There must necessarily have been, before the law, commandments and revelations of a fragmentary character, under which Israel had hitherto grown up. Indications of such are easily found, both of a ceremonial and moral nature, as, for example, in the penalties against murder, adultery, and fornication (Genesis 9:6; Genesis 38:24), in the existence of the Levirate law (Genesis 38:8), in the distinction of clean and unclean animals (Genesis 8:20), and probably in the observance of the Sabbath (Exodus 16:23; Exodus 16:27-29). But, even without such indications, our knowledge of the existence of Israel as a distinct community in Egypt would necessitate the conclusion that it must have been guided by some laws of its own, growing out of the old patriarchal customs, which would be preserved with Oriental tenacity, and gradually becoming methodized by the progress of circumstances. Nor would it be possible for the Israelites to be in contact with an elaborate system of ritual and law, such as that which existed in Egypt, without being influenced by its general principles, and, in less degree, by its minute details. As they approached nearer to the condition of a nation they would be more and more likely to modify their patriarchal customs by the adoption from Egypt of laws which were fitted for national existence. This being so, it is hardly conceivable that the Mosaic legislation should have embodied none of these earlier materials. It is clear, even to human wisdom, that the only constitution which can be efficient and permanent is one which has grown up slowly, and so been assimilated to the character of a people. It is the peculiar mark of legislative genius to mold by fundamental principles, and animate by a higher inspiration, materials previously existing in a cruder state. The necessity for this lies in the nature, not of the legislator, but of the subjects, and the argument, therefore, is but strengthened by the acknowledgment in the case of Moses of a divine and special inspiration. 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.

5. In close connection with this, 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. Thus the punishment of filial disobedience appears severe (Deuteronomy 21:18-21); yet when we refer to the extent of parental authority in a patriarchal system, or (as at Rome) in the earlier periods of national existence, it appears more like a limitation of absolute parental authority by an appeal to the judgment of the community. The Levirate law, again, appears (see Mich. Alos. Recht, book 3, chapter 6, art. 98) to have existed in a far more general form in the early Asiatic peoples, and to have been rather limited than favored by Moses. The law of the avenger of blood is a similar instance of merciful limitation and distinction in the exercise of an immemorial usage, probably not without its value and meaning, and certainly too deep-seated to admit of any but gradual extinction. Nor is it less noticeable that the degree of prominence given to each part of the Mosaic system has a similar reference to the period at which the nation had arrived. The ceremonial portion is marked out distinctly and with elaboration; the moral and criminal law is clearly and sternly decisive; even the civil law, so far as it relates to individuals, is systematic, because all these were called for by the past growth of the nation, and needed in order to settle and develop its resources. But the political and constitutional law is comparatively imperfect; a few leading principles are laid down, to be developed hereafter; and the law is directed rather to sanction the various powers of the state than to define and balance their operations. Thus the existing authorities of a patriarchal nature in each tribe and family are recognized, while side by side with them is established the priestly and Levitical power which was to supersede them entirely in sacerdotal, and partly also in judicial functions. The supreme civil power of a "judge," or (eventually) a king, is recognized distinctly, although only in general terms, indicating a sovereign and summary jurisdiction (Deuteronomy 17:14-20); and the prophetic office, in its political as well as its moral aspect, is spoken of still more vaguely as future (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). These powers, being recognized, are left, within due limits, to work out the political system of Israel, and to ascertain by experience their proper spheres of exercise. On a careful understanding of this adaptation of the law to the national growth and character of the Jews (and of a somewhat similar adaptation to their climate and physical circumstances) depends the correct appreciation of its nature, and the power of distinguishing in it what is local and temporary from that which is universal.

6. 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 there is a similar outline of the Mosaic ceremonial. On the basis of these it may be conceived that the fabric of the Mosaic system gradually grew up under the requirements of the time. In certain cases, indeed (as e.g., in Leviticus 10:1-2, compared with Leviticus 10:8-11; Leviticus 24:11-16; Numbers 9:6-12; Numbers 15:32-41; Numbers 27:1-11, compared with Numbers 36:1-12), we actually see how general rules, civil, criminal, and ceremonial, originated in special circumstances; and the unconnected nature of the records of laws in the earlier books suggests the idea that this method of legislation extended to many other cases.

The first revelation of the law in anything like a perfect form is found in the book of Deuteronomy, at a period when the people, educated to freedom and national responsibility, were prepared to receive it, and carry it with them to the land which was now prepared for them. It is distinguished by its systematic character and its reference to first principles; for probably even by Moses himself, certainly by the people, the law had not before this been recognized in all its essential characteristics; and to it we naturally refer in attempting to analyze its various parts. (See DEUTERONOMY). Yet even then the revelation was not final; it was the duty of the prophets to amend and explain it in special points (as in the well-known example in Ezkiel 18), and to bring out more clearly its great principles, as distinguished from the external rules in which they were embodied; for in this way, as in others, they prepared the way of Him who "came to fulfill" (πληρῶσαι ) the law of old time.

II. Analysis of its Contents. It is customary to divide the law into the Moral, the Ceremonial, and the Political But this division, although valuable if considered as a distinction merely subjective (as enabling us, that is, to conceive the objects of law, dealing as it does with man in his social, political, and religious capacity), is wholly imaginary if regarded as an objective separation of various classes of laws. Any single ordinance might have at once a moral, a ceremonial, and a political bearing; and, in fact, although in particular cases one or other of these aspects predominated, yet the whole principle of the Mosaic institutions is to obliterate any such supposed separation of laws, and refer all to first principles, depending on the will of God and the nature of man. In giving an analysis of the substance of the law, it will probably be better to treat it, as any other system of laws is usually treated, by dividing it into

(1) Civil; (2) Criminal; (3) Judicial and Constitutional; (4) Ecclesiastical and Ceremonial.



(A) Father and Son.

The power of a Father to be held sacred; cursing, or smiting (Exodus 21:15; Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9), or stubborn and willful disobedience to be considered capital crimes. But uncontrolled power of life and death was apparently refused to the father, and vested only in the congregation (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

Right of the first-born to a double portion of the inheritance not to be set aside by partiality (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). For an example of the authority of the first-born, see 1 Samuel 20:29 ("My brother, he hath commanded me to be there").

Inuheritance by Daughters to be allowed in default of sons, provided (Numbers 27:6-8; comp. 36) that heiresses married in their own tribe.

Daughters unmarried to be entirely dependent on their father (Numbers 30:3-5).

(B) Husband and Wife.

The power of a Husband to be so great that a wife could never be sui juris, or enter independently into any engagement, even before God (Numbers 30:6-15). A widow or divorced wife became independent, and did not again fall under her father's power (Numbers 30:9). Divorce (for uncleanness) allowed, but to be formal and irrevocable (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Marriage within certain degrees forbidden (Leviticus 18, etc.).

A Slave Wife, whether bought or captive, not to be actual property, nor to be sold; if ill treated, to be ipso facto free (Exodus 21:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:10-14).

Slander against a wife's virginity to be punished by fine, and by deprival of power of divorce; on the other hand, ante-connubial uncleanness in her to be punished by death (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).

The raising up of seed (Levirate law) a formal right to be claimed by the widow, under pain of infamy, with a view to preservation of families (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

(C) Master and Slave.

Power of Master so far limited that death under actual chastisement was punishable (Exodus 21:20); and maiming was to give liberty ipso facto (Exodus 21:26-27).

The Hebrew Slave to be freed at the sabbatical year, and provided with necessaries (his wife and children to go with him only if they came to his master with him), unless by his own formal act he consented to be a perpetual slave (Exodus 21:1-6; Deuteronomy 15:12-18). In any case (it would seem) to be freed at the jubilee (Leviticus 25:10), with his children. If sold to a resident alien, to be always redeemable, at a price proportional to the distance of the jubilee (Leviticus 25:47-54).

Foreign Slaves to be held and inherited as property forever (Leviticus 25:45-46); and fugitive slaves from foreign nations not to be given up (Deuteronomy 23:15). (See SLAVE).

(D) Foreigners.

They seem never to have been sui juris, or able to protect themselves, and accordingly protection and kindness towards them are enjoined as a sacred duty (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34).


(A) Laws of Land (and Property).

(1) All Land to be the property of God alone, and its holders to be deemed His tenants (Leviticus 25:23).

(2) All sold Land therefore to return to its original owners at the jubilee, and the price of sale to be calculated accordingly; land redemption on equitable terms to be allowed at all times (25:25-27).

A House sold to be redeemable within a year; and, if not redeemed, to pass away altogether (25:29, 30).

But the Houses of the Levites, or those in unwalled villages, to be redeemable at all times, in the same way as land; and the Levitical suburbs to be inalienable (25:31-34).

(3) Land or Houses sanctified, or tithes, or unclean firstlings, to be capable of being redeemed at six-fifths value (calculated according to the distance from the jubilee year by the priest); if devoted by the owner and unredeemed, to be hallowed at the jubilee forever, and given to the priests; if only by a possessor, to return to the owner at the jubilee (Leviticus 27:14-34).

(4) Inheritance:

(1) Sons. (2) Daughters. (3) Brothers. (4) Uncles on the Father's side. (5) Next Kinsmen, generally.

(B) Laws of Debt.

(1) All Debts (to an Israelite) to be released at the seventh (sabbatical) year; a blessing promised to obedience, and a curse on refusal to lend (Deuteronomy 15:1-11).

(2) Interest (from Israelites) not to be taken (Exodus 22:25-27; Deuteronomy 23:19-20).

(3) Pledges not to be insolently or ruinously exacted (Deuteronomy 24:6; Deuteronomy 24:10-13; Deuteronomy 24:17-18).

(C) Taxation.

(1) Census-money, a poll-tax (of a half shekel), to be paid for the service of the tabernacle (Exodus 30:12-16).

All spoil in war to be halved; of the combatant's half, one tive hundredth, of the people's, one fiftieth, to be paid for a "heave-offering" to Jehovah.

(2) Tithes:

(a) Tithes of all produce to be given for maintenance of the Levites (Numbers 18:20-24).

(Of this, one tenth to be paid as a heave-offering [for maintenance of the priests] [Numbers 18:24; Numbers 18:32].)

(b) Second Tithe to be bestowed in religious feasting and charity, either at the Holy Place, or every third year at home (?) (Deuteronomy 14:22-28).

(c) First-fruits of corn, wine, and oil (at least one sixtieth, generally one fortieth, for the priests) to be offered at Jerusalem, with a solemn declaration of dependence on God, the King of Israel (Deuteronomy 26:1-15; Numbers 18:12-13).

Firstlings of clean beasts; the redemption-money (5 shekels) of man, and (shekel, or 1 shekel) of unclean beasts, to be givein to the priests after sacrifice (Numbers 18:15-18).

(3) Poor-Laws:

(a) Gleanings (in field or vineyard) to be a legal right of the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22).

(b) Slight Trespass (eating on the spot) to be allowed as legal (Deuteronomy 23:24-25).

(c) Second Tithe (see 2, b) to be given in charity.

(d) Wages to be paid day by day (Deuteronomy 24:15).

(4) Maintenance of Priests (Numbers 18:8-32).

(a) Tenth of Levites' Tithe. (See 2, a.)

(b) The heave and wave offerings (breast and right shoulder of all peace-offerings).

(c) The meat and sin offerings, to be eaten solemnly, and only in the holy place.

(d) First-fruits and redemption money. (See 2, c.)

(e) Price of all devoted things, unless specially given for a sacred service. A man's service, or that of his household, to be redeemed at 50 shekels for man, 30 for woman, 20 for boy, and 10 for girl.


1. OFFENCES AGAINST GOD (of the nature of treason).

1st Command. Acknowledgment of false gods (Exodus 22:20), as e.g. Moloch (Leviticus 20:1-5), and generally all idolatry (Deuteronomy 13; Deuteronomy 17:2-5).

2d Command. Witchcraft and false prophecy (Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:9-22; Leviticus 19:31).

3d Command. Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:15-16).

4th Command. Sabbath-breaking (Numbers 15:32-36). Punishment in all cases, death by stoning. Idolatrous cities to be utterly destroyed.


5th Command. Disobedience to or cursing or smitints of parents (Exodus 21:15; Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:18-21), to be punished by death by stoning, publicly adjudged and inflicted: so also of disobedience to the priests (as judges) or Supreme Judge. Comp. 1 Kings 21:10-14 (Naboth); 2 Chronicles 24:21 (Zechariah).

6th Command.

(1) Murder, to be punished by death without sanctuary or reprieve, or satisfaction (Exodus 21:12; Exodus 21:14; Deuteronomy 19:11-13). Death of a slave, actually under the rod, to be punished (Exodus 21:20-21).

(2) Death by negligence, to be punished by death (Exodus 21:28-30).

(3) Accidental Homicide; the avenger of blood to be escaped by flight to the cities of refuge till the death of the high-priest (Numbers 35:9-28; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Deuteronomy 19:4-10).

(4) Uncertain Murder, to be expiated by formal disavowal and sacrifice by the elders of the nearest city (Deuteronomy 21:1-9).

(5) Assault to be punished by lex talionis, or danmages (Exodus 21:18-19; Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-20).

7th Command.

(1) Adultery to be punished by death of both offenders: the rape of a married or betrothed woman, by death of the offender (Deuteronomy 22:13-27).

(2) Rape or Seduction of an unbetrothed virgin, to be compensated by marriage, with dowry (50 shekels), and without power of divorce; or, if she be refused, by payment of full dowry (Exodus 22:16-17; Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

(3) Unlawful Marriages (incestuous, etc.) to be punished, some by death, some by childlessness (Leviticus 20).

8th Command.

(1) Theft to be punished by fourfold or double restitution; a nocturnal robber might be slain as an outlaw (Exodus 22:1-4).

(2) Trespass and injury of things lent to be compensated (Exodus 22:5-15).

(3) Perversion of Justice (by bribes, threats, etc.), and especially oppression of strangers, strictly forbidden (Exodus 23:9, etc.).

(4) Kidnapping to be punished by death (Deuteronomy 24:7).

9th Command. False Witness; to be punished by lex talionis (Exodus 23:1-3; Deuteronomy 19:16-21).

Slander of a wife's chastity, by fine and loss of power of divorce (Deuteronomy 22:18-19).

A fuller consideration of the tables of the Ten Commandments is given elsewhere. (See THE COMMANDMENTS).



(a) Local Judges (generally Levites, as more skilled in the law) appointed, for ordinary matters, prolably by the people, with approbation of the supreme authority (as of Moses in the wilderness) (Exodus 18:25; Deuteronomy 1:15-18), through all the land (Deuteronomy 16:18).

(b) Appeal to the Priests (at the holy place), or to the judge; their sentence final, and to be accepted under pain of death. See Deuteronomy 17:8-13 (comp. appeal to Moses, Exodus 18:26).

(c) Two witnesses (at least) required in capital matters (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6-7).

(d) Punsishment (except by special command) to be personal, and not to extend to the family (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Stripes allowed and limited (Deuteronomy 25:1-3), so as to avoid outrage on the human frame.

All this would be to a great extent set aside

1st. By the summary jurisdiction of the king. See 1 Samuel 22:11-19 (Saul); 2 Samuel 22:1-5; 2 Samuel 4:4-11; 1 Kings 3:16-28; which extended even to the deposition of the high-priest (1 Samuel 22:17-18; 1 Kings 2:26-27).

The practical difficulty of its being carried out is seen in 2 Samuel 15:2-6, and would lead, of course, to a certain delegation of his power.

2d. By the appointment of the Seventy (Numbers 11:24-30) with a solemn religious sanction. In later times there was a local Sanhedrim of 23 in each city, and two such in Jerusalem, as well as the Great Sanhedrim, consisting of 70 members, besides the president, who was to be the high-priest if duly qualified, and controlling even the king and high-priest. The members were priests, scribes (Levites), and elders (of other tribes). A court of exactly this nature is noticed, as appointed to supreme power by Jehoshaphat. (See 2 Chronicles 19:8-11.)

2. ROYAL POWER. The King's Power limited by the law, as written and formally accepted by the king, and directly forbidden to be despotic (Deuteronomy 17:14-20; comp. 1 Samuel 10:25). Yet he had power of taxation (to one tenth), and of compulsory service (1 Samuel 8:10-18); also the declaration of war (1 Samuel 11), etc. There are distinct traces of a "mutual contract" (2 Samuel 5:3 (David); a "league" (Joash), 2 Kings 11:17); the remonstrance with Rehoboam being clearly not extraordinary (1 Kings 12:1-6).

T'he Princes of the Congregation. The heads of the tribes (see Joshua 9:15) seem to have had authority under Joshua to act for the people (comp. 1 Chronicles 27:16-22); and in the later times "the princes of Judah" seem to have had power to control both the king and the priests (see Jeremiah 26:10-24; Jeremiah 38:4-5, etc.).


(1)Tenth of produce.

(2) Domain land (1 Chronicles 27:26-29). Note confiscation of criminal's land (1 Kings 21:15).

(3) Bond service (1 Kings 5:17-18), chiefly on foreigners (1 Kings 9:20-22; 2 Chronicles 2:16-17).

(4) Flocks and herds (1 Chronicles 27:29-31).

(5) Tributes (gifts) from foreign kiings.

(6) Commerce; especially in Solomon's time (1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 10:29, etc.).


1. LAW OF SACRIFICE (considered as the sign and the appointed means of the union with God, on which the holiness of the people depended).

(A) Ordinary Sacrifices.

(a) The whole Burnt-Offering (Leviticus 1) of the herd or the flock; to be offered continually (Exodus 29:38-42); and the fire on the altar never to be extinguished (Leviticus 6:8-13).

(b) The Meat-Offering (Leviticus 2; Leviticus 6:14-23) of flour, oil, and frankincense, unleavened, and seasoned with salt. (c) The Peace-Offering (Leviticus 3:7; Leviticus 3:11-17) of the herd or the flock; either a thank-offering, or a vow, or free-will offering.

(d) The Sin-Offering, or Trespass-Offering (Leviticus 4, 5, 6).

[1] For sins committed in ignorance (Leviticus 4).

[2] For vows unwittingly made and broken, or uncleanness unwittingly contracted (Leviticus 5).

[3] For sins wittingly committed (Leviticus 6:1-7).

(B) Extraordinary Sacrifices.

(a) At the Consecration of Priests (Leviticus 8, 9).

(b) At the Purification of Women (Leviticus 12).

(c ) At the Cleansing of Lepers (Leviticus 13, 14).

(d) On the Great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

(e) On the great Festivals (Leviticus 23).

2. LAW OF HOLINESS (arising from the union with God through sacrifice).

(A) Holiness of Persons.

(a) Holiness of the whole people as "children of God" (Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 11-15, 17, 18; Deuteronomy 14:1-21) shown in

[1] The Dedication of the first-born (Exodus 13:2; Exodus 13:12-13; Exodus 22:29-30, etc.); and the offering of all firstlings and first-fruits (Deuteronomy 26, etc.).

[2] Distinction of clean and unclean food (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14).

[3] Provision for purification (Leviticus 12, 13, 14, 15; Deuteronomy 23:1-14).

[4] Laws against disfigurement (Leviticus 19:27; Deuteronomy 14:1; compare Deuteronomy 25:3, against excessive scourging).

[5] Laws against unnatural marriages and lusts (Leviticus 18, 20).

(b) Holiness of the Priests (and Levites).

[1] Their consecration (Leviticus 8, 9; Exodus 29). 9).

[3] Their rights (Deuteronomy 18:1-6; Numbers 18) and authority (Deuteronomy 18:8-13).

(B) Holiness of Places and Things.

(a) The Tabernacle with the ark, the vail, the altars, the laver, the priestly robes, etc. (Exodus 25-28, 30).

(b) The Holy Place chosen for the permanent erection of the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 12; Deuteronomy 14:22-29), where only all sacrifices were to be offered, and all tithes, first fruits, vows, etc., to be given or eaten.

(C) Holiness of Times.

(a) The Sabbath (Exodus 20:9; Exodus 20:11; Exodus 23:12, etc.).

(b) The Sabbatical Year (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7, etc.).

(c) The Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8; Leviticus 25:16, etc.).

(d) The Passover (Exodus 12:3; Exodus 12:27; Leviticus 23:4-14).

(e) The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) (Leviticus 23:15, etc.).

(f) The Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43).

(g) The Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25).

(h) The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32, etc.).

On this part of the subject, (See FESTIVAL); (See KING); (See PRIEST); (See TABERNACLE); (See SACRIFICE), etc.

III. Distinctive Characteristic of the Mosaic Law.

1. The leading principle of the whole is its THEOCRATIC CHARACTER, its reference (that is) of all action and thoughts of men directly antd immediately to the will of God. All law, indeed, must ultimately make this reference. If it bases itself on the sacredness of human authority, it must finally trace that authority to God's appointment; if on the rights of the individual and the need of protecting them, it must consider these rights as inherent and sacred, because implanted by the hand of the Creator. But it is characteristic of the Mosaic law, as also of all Biblical history and prophecy, that it passes over all the intermediate steps, and refers at once to God's commandment as the foundation of all human duty. The key to it I am Jehovah."

It follows from this that it is to be regarded not merely as a law, that is, a rule of conduct, based on known truth and acknowledged authority, but also as a revelation of God's nature and his dispensations. In this view of it, more particularly, lies its consecteion with the rest of the Old Testament. As a law, it is definite and (generally speaking) final; as a revelation, it is the beginning of the great system of prophecy, and indeed bears within itself the marks of gradual development, from the first simple declaration ("I am the Lord thy God") in Exodus to the full and solemn declaration of his nature and will in Deuteronomy. With this peculiar character of revelation stamped upon it, it naturally ascends from rule to principle, and regards all goodness in man as the shadow of the divine attributes, "Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2, etc. comp. Matthew 5:48). But this theocratic character of the law depends necessarily on the belief in God as not only the creator and sustainer of the world, but as, by special covenant, the head of the Jewish nation. It is not indeed doubted that he is the king of all the earth, and that all earthly authority is derived from him; but here again, in the case of the Israelites, the intermediate steps are all but ignored, and the people are at once brought face to face with him as their ruler. It is to be especially noticed that God's claim (so to speak) on their allegiance is based, not on his power or wisdom, but on his especial mercy in being their savior from Egyptian bondage. Because they were made free by him, therefore they became his servants (comp. Romans 6:19-22); and the declaration which stands at the opening of the law is, "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt." (Compare also the reason given for the observance of the Sabbath in Deuteronomy 5:15; and the historical prefaces of the delivery of the second law [Deuteronomy 4]; of the renewal cf the covenant by Joshua [Joshua 24:1-13]; and of the rebuke of Samuel at the establishment of the kingdom [1 Samuel 12:6-15].)

This immediate reference to God as their king is clearly seen as the groundwork of their entire polity. The foundation of the whole law of land, and of its remarkable provisions against alienation, lies in the declaration, "The land is mine, and ye are strangers and sojourners with me" (Leviticus 25:23). As in ancient Rome all land belonged properly to the state, and under the feudal system in mediaeval Europe to the king, so in the Jewish law the true ownership lay in Jehovah alone. The very system of tithes embodied only a peculiar form of tribute to their king, such as they were familiar with in Egypt (see Genesis 47:23-26); and the offering of the first-fruits, with the remarkable declaration by which it was accompanied (see Deuteronomy 26:5-10), is a direct acknowledgment of God's immediate sovereignty. As the land, so also the persons of the Israelites are declared to be the absolute property of the Lord by the dedication and ransom of the first-born (Exodus 13:23, etc.), by the payment of the half shekel at the numbering of the people " as a ransom for their souls to the Lord" (Exodus 30:11-16), and by the limitation of power over Hebrew slaves as contrasted with the absolute mastership permitted over the heathen and the sojourner (Leviticus 25:39-46). From this theocratic nature of the law follow important deductions with regard to

(a) the view which it takes of political society;

(b) the extent of the scope of the law;

(c) the penalties by which it is enforced; and

(d) the character which it seeks to impress on the people.

(1.) The basis of human society is ordinarily sought, by law or philosophy, either in the rights of the individual, and the partial delegation of them to political authorities; or in the mutual needs of men, and the relations which spring from them; or in the actual existence of power of man over man, whether arising from natural relationship, or from benefits conferred, or from physical or intellectual ascendency. The maintenance of society is supposed to depend on a "social compact" between governors and subjects; a compact, true as an abstract idea, but untrue if supposed to have been a historical reality. The Mosaic law seeks the basis of its polity, first, in the absolute sovereignty of God; next, in the relationship of each individual to God, and through God to his countrymen. It is clear that such a doctrine, while it contradicts none of the common theories, yet lies beneath them all, and shows why each of them, being only a secondary deduction from an ultimate truth, cannot be in itself sufficient; and, if it claim to be the whole truth, will become an absurdity. It is the doctrine which is insisted upon and developed in the whole series of prophecy, and which is brought to its perfection only when applied to that universal and spiritual kingdom for which the Mosaic system was a preparation.

(2.) The law, as proceeding directly from God, and referring directly to him, is necessarily absolute in its supremacy and unlimited in its scope. It is supreme over the governors, as being only the delegates of the Lord, and therefore it is incompatible with any despotic authority in them. This is seen in its limitation of the power of the master over the slave, in the restrictions laid on the priesthood, and the ordination of the "manner of the kingdom" (Deuteronomy 17:14-20; comp. 1 Samuel 10:25). By its establishment of the hereditary priesthood side by side with the authority of the heads of tribes ("the princes"), and the subsequent sovereignty of the king, it provides a balance of powers, all of which are regarded as subordinate. The absolute sovereignty of Jehovah was asserted in the earlier times in the dictatorship of the judge, but much more clearly under the kingdom by the spiritual commission of the prophet. By his rebukes of priests, princes, and kings for abuse of their power, he was not only defending religion and morality, but also maintaining the divinely-appointed constitution of Israel.

On the other hand, it is supreme over the governed, recognizing no inherent rights in the individual as prevailing against, or limiting the law. It is therefore unlimited in its scope. There is in it no recognition, such as is familiar to us, that there is one class of actions directly subject to the coercive power of law, while other classes of actions and the whole realm of thought are to be indirectly guided by moral and spiritual influence. Nor is there any distinction of the temporal authority which wields the former power from the spiritual authority to which belongs the other. In fact, these distinctions would have been incompatible with the character and objects of the law. They depend partly on the want of foresight and power in the lawgiver; they could have no place in a system traced directly to God: they depend also partly on the freedom which belongs to the manhood of our race; they could not, therefore, be appropriate to the more imperfect period of its youth.

Thus the law regulated the whole life of an Israelite. His house, his dress, and his food, his domestic arrangements and the distribution of his property, all were determined. In the laws of the release of debts and the prohibition of usury, the dictates of self-interest and the natural course of commercial transactions are sternly checked. His actions were rewarded and punished with great minuteness and strictness, and that according to the standard, not of their consequences, but of their intrinsic morality, so that, for example, fornication and adultery were as severely visited as theft or murder. His religious worship was defined and enforced in an elaborate and unceasing ceremonial. In all things it is clear that, if men submitted to it merely as a law, imposed under penalties by an irresistible authority, and did not regard it as a means to the knowledge and love of God, and a preparation for his redemption, it would well deserve from Israelites the description given of it by St. Peter (Acts 15:10) as "a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear."

(3.) The penalties and rewards by which the law is enforced are such as depend on the direct theocracy. With regard to individual actions, it may be noticed that, as generally some penalties are inflicted by the subordinate, and some only by the supreme authority, so among the Israelites some penalties came from the hand of man, some directly from the providence of God. So much is this the case, that it often seems doubtful whether the threat that a "soul shall be cut off from Israel" refers to outlawry and excommunication, or to such miraculous punishments as those of Nadab and Abihu, or Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. In dealing with the nation at large, Moses, regularly and as a matter of course, refers for punishments and rewards to the providence of God. This is seen not only in the great blessing and curse which enforces the law as a whole, but also in special instances, as, for example, in the promise of unusual fertility to compensate for the sabbatical year, and of safety of the country from attack when left undefended at the three great festivals. Whether these were to come from natural causes, i.e., laws of his providence, which we can understand and foresee, or from causes supernatural, i.e., incomprehensible and inscrutable to us, is not in

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Law of Moses'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​l/law-of-moses.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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