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Preaching The Bible– The Law of God

16 Apr

In this series there will be some overlap as different issues will be addressed and they are not all covered by one simple chapter in the Bible. Sometimes we need to go to several chapters to get the complete picture of the topic being discussed; thus this article will focus mostly upon chapters 4 & 5 of Genesis with an example or two from chapters 2, 7-9 to complete the picture. {Again and for the whole series, scriptures will be quoted from the NASB unless otherwise stated)

When a believer becomes involved in a discussion about the laws of God, given to Moses in Exodus and onward in the Torah, they usually encounter the defense that the laws of man predate God’s laws and God copied from sinful man when laying out to Moses his will for the children of Israel.

https://pastorreeder.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/the-date-of-the-law-code-of-hammurabi-and-the-ten-commandments/

They often point to the code of Hammurabi as an example supporting their argument

http://www.commonlaw.com/Hammurabi.html

They also point to the approx. date of that code,

http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/law/g/021208Hammurabi.htm

as further proof that God copied. They argue that since Moses lived in either the 1500s or 1300s BC, it is obvious that God was not original in his law giving. But dating the code is not easy as there are no supporting written records discussing the circumstance surrounding that law code and what we know of Hammurabi tells us that he may not be the originator of his own law code. he was the 6th king of Babylon, which not only means 5 other kings created laws before him but many previous civilizations , like the Sumerians, preceded him in establishing what was legal and what was not.

The Code of Hammurabi is among the first written legal systems in history. Hammurabi, the sixth king of Babylon, flourished in the 18th century before Christ, but the exact dates of his reign are uncertain: estimates extend over more than two centuries.(http://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/dating-hammurabi-the-sixth-king-of-babylon-1.1836796)

Historically we know that besides the Sumerians there were many societies or civilizations which regulated their people and their behavior. So to claim that Hammurabi was some sort of gifted leader to mankind would be erroneous at best. The people who make this argument that God copied supply no real reason why God would do so or why he would choose Hammurabi over all the other rulers of the ancient world. His law code really was not that much different from other nations from that time period.

Now some believers might find the formal law giving by God to be a bit challenging in face of this historical knowledge and be worried that God was surpassed be mere fallible humans. They do not have to be that worried for God has supplied us the answer to this dilemma. I used the word ‘formal’ in the previous sentence because Moses receiving the law on Sinai is the only recorded formal giving of the Law of God to humans. So it must be asked, how did the people live and please God if they did not have his law?

There are answers to this question and we can see the answers starting in Chapter 4 of Genesis:

10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

How did Cain know he did wrong by killing his brother? How could God punish Cain if the latter did not know what was legal or illegal? From this situation we can conclude that God had informally given to Adam and Eve his rules for them to follow after they left the garden of Eden. w We cannot surmise that he gave the first couple all of his laws in the garden for only 1 was needed at that time

16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not [n]eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Ch. 2)

Until Adam sinned, there was no need for the complete law of God to be known by either Adam and Eve for there was NO sin, corruption, evil present in the world at that time. No evil, then no need for a long list of laws. It was only after Adam sinned that a law code was needed to define what was right and what was wrong. We are not given a recording of that presentation because God did not see a reason for it to be given at that time. He left us enough clues to figure out that the pre-flood people were well aware of God’s law.

One clue is found in Chapter 6

These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, [g]blameless in his [h]time; Noah walked with God.

How could Noah be described as righteous and the rest of the pre-flood world as evil if they did not know the laws of God?  If they were not given any law code, how could God judge the world as being evil and only thinking of evil?  So these few words in Chapter 6 provide us the information that God had informed his creation of their restrictions.

We must return to the end of Chapter 4 to see an important clue:

26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call [s]upon the name of the Lord.

With men calling upon the name of the Lord they must have been aware of the need of rules and laws to guide their actions and they knew they needed help from God to determine what those rules and regulations would be. Or as they called on the name of the Lord, God instructed them in his ways and rules whereby men knew the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. They were fully informed of the law of God which is why later in human existence God could judge the people and declare that they were completely evil and corrupt. They were so bad that they all were worthy of the death penalty.

But to be declared bad, evil and wrong, God’s standard of sin had to be told them, just like we have the Bible today telling us what God’s rules are. We are fully apprised of God’s law and the punishment for breaking them. We do not have an excuse nor did the pre-flood world. In chapter 5 we read the following:

21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. 22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

How could Enoch walk with God if he did not already know that God hated sin and that he had to be holy?  How would he know if he was living right if he did not know the rules of God and decided to follow them over the rules of mankind at that time? If Enoch did not obey God’s rules then he would not have been able to walk with God and if he obeyed them then he had to know the law of God.

Two other examples that God gave his law to Adam in the beginning who then passed them down to subsequent generations:

So it came about [d]in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.(Ch. 4)

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said [k]to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the [l]intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again [m]destroy every living thing, as I have done (Ch. 8)

How would Abel, Cain and Noah know to bring an offering unto the Lord if they were not told the requirements of God? You will notice that the sacrificial law did not really change from the pre-flood world to Moses’ time. So if God copied later humans and used their laws as a framework for his own, how would these ancestors of those humans know these not yet written laws?

There is no logical or rational way for this to take place and since we know God had very personal interactions with different people of the pre-flood world it stands to reason that he was the originator of all laws and every subsequent law code is a poor imitation. But then we must ask, how did the post flood world know of God’s law in order to make alterations to it and present their people with this altered code of regulations?

Again we must turn to Noah and his family to answer that question:

28 Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died. (Ch. 9)

and

Shem was one hundred years old, and [j]became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters. (Ch. 10)

Noah did not cease being a righteous man after the flood. he would have made sure everyone knew and followed the law of God. Shem might have as well as his influence on the post-flood world extended another 150 years after his father died. As their descendents multiplied, so did their sins and straying from God.  The future generations not fully accepting the lessons of the flood their close relatives endured, began to go their own way, just like the pre-flood population and as they strayed evil got to influence them. This influence led to the many different but similar ancient human law codes.

But sinful man would not know what was right or wrong on their own. They had to have been taught at some point the law of God and when, like today, they became dissatisfied with it, they started to tinker with God’s law, making it into something closer to their own liking. That would explain the similarities between God’s law and ancient human laws.

The ancients could not come up with the laws on their own, nor could they know how to do what was right unless God has given his standard of right and wrong first. We know this by the evidence provided in Genesis 6

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

and

11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

To know to do good, one must be taught what is actually good and then choose to do so. if they choose to do evil, then there is little room for good to exist in their lives. as the NT tells us

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

We know that even a law code does not stop men from doing evil. Only salvation and redemption through Jesus accomplishes that and as we see, men love darkness so their choices are almost already known. It is choice that determines the path a man will walk.

God did not copy Hammurabi or any other ancient law giver. He gave his law to us in the beginning and most people have decided to reject it and seek their own way. The believer today doe snot need to be concerned or afraid of the accusations hurled their way that God copied. God copies no one. It is the others who copy God, then alter his ways, replacing them with their own ideas.

If the believer looks at the chronology of human history (the correct chronology is the biblical one) then they will get peace of mind as they will learn and know that God is above all even in the area of giving the law.

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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in academics, Bible, church, education, faith, history, Justice, leadership, theology

 

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