1 Jul 2019

Law of Moses and Non-Israelites: A Common Assumption Examined

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Exegesis, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Patternism, Restoration History, Sectarianism

Have you ever heard something repeated over and over to the point that people simply took it for granted as established fact. It is just beyond question? Nothing could be more dangerous to the pursuit of biblical understanding.

Sometimes we find out who has actually read sources (i.e. the Bible) themselves and those that simply read debate books.

One of the most repeated mantras I have heard, nearly my entire life, I heard it several times in the last week, is this (I heard it today):

“The Law of Moses was given to only Jews and was never binding on anyone other than Jews. It never applied to non-Israelites. The Sabbath day was forbidden to anyone no Jewish, Deut 5: 1-2, 12-15” (Quote from a self-identified minister in Church of Christ Facebook group)

Have you heard this before?? I can find this exact, verbatim, statement in several places on Facebook this very day. I repeated that statement myself in the early days of my work even when I started to have some issues with it.

My biggest problem with this repeated statement is that the Hebrew Bible does not seem to know anything about it. The very text this person cited from Deuteronomy contradicts, point blank, what is claimed.

But it is simpler to read debate books, by “faithful brethren” of course, on the “Old Covenant” vs “New Covenant” than going and reading the biblical text itself.

But what did the Holy Spirit write? What follows are fifteen examples where the Hebrew Bible itself declares that the Torah applied to non-Jews. We would rather just simply make a blanket (and untrue) statement than deal with the complexity of the biblical witness on the matter.

First, the Book of Exodus makes it crystal clear that non-Israelites form part of the core of the Exodus people, that is non-Israelites were “saved” by Yahweh in the Exodus event. A large “ethnically mixed diverse crowd” with lots of animals went with Israelites in the Exodus (12.38, citing HCSB). So from the first, the ekklesia that was gathered by God at the foot of Mt Sinai was ethnically MIXED. Non-Israelites also entered into the covenant that received the torah at the Mountain of God.

Second, what about the Sabbath day itself. It was claimed above that Sabbath was “forbidden” to non-Israelites. This is a strange claim. The very text he cited states the exact opposite. This is what the Law said itself.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy … the seventh day is a sabbath to Yahweh your God; you shall do no work–you, your son nor your daughter, your male nor female slave, your ANIMALS, nor the RESIDENT ALIEN in your towns” (Exodus 20.10; see Exodus 23.12; Deuteronomy 5.14.)

According to the Ten Words/Commandments the Sabbath was to be observed by everyone, Israelite, non-Israelites, males, females and even animals. This is incredibly difficult to twist this into a prohibition of non-Jewish observance of Shabbat.

Third. regarding the Passover/Unleavened Bread the most central acts of Israel’s worship. Law regarding unleavened bread applied to non-Israelites (Ex 12.19). Aliens were allowed to participate in the Passover. In Exodus 12 they must be circumcised. In Numbers 9.9-14 aliens are invited to participate in the Passover and the text states “there shall be one law for native and resident alien” (15.16).

Fourth, Other Worship festivals. First Fruits/Pentecost explicitly legislates that aliens participate in the sacrificial meals in the presence of the Lord (Deut 14.26-29)

Fifth. the law prohibited aliens, non-Israelites, from eating blood (Lev 17.10-13)

Sixth, the law prohibiting blasphemy is explicitly applied to aliens, non-Jews, (Lev 24.16) and worship of Molech brings the death penalty to both Israelites and non-Israelites (Lev 20.2), I guess if you can be killed for it then this would imply it applied to you.

Seventh, the same laws for sacrifice, of all things, apply to non-Israelites (Lev 17.8; Lev 22.17-20; Num 15.11-16)

Eighth, atonement for unintentional sin is to include the entire community, including “the resident aliens” (Num 15.22-26)

Ninth, the laws for “fair pay” is to apply to both Israelites and non-Israelites (Deut 24.14)

Tenth, The law required tithes to be shared with aliens or non-Israelites (Deut 26.12-13)

Eleventh, there is to be “one law for native and alien” (Lev 24.22) in the famous and misunderstood eye for an eye passage.

Twelfth, the laws for worship on the Day of Atonement applied to non-Israelites, one of the most sacred days in Israel’s worship.

This shall be a statute to you forever: in the seventh month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen NOR THE ALIEN who resides among you … IT IS A SABBATH of complete rest to you” (Lev 16.29-31).

Thirteenth, aliens who sin with a “high hand” are, like Israelites, to be excluded from the community (Num 15.29)

Fourteenth, resident aliens, non-Israelites, were to assemble with Israelites for covenant renewal worship (Deut 29.10-11)

Fifteenth, I finish with a remarkable text from Deuteronomy. Aliens, non-Israelites, were to participate in Sabbatical year worship liturgies of the Festival of Tabernacles. In this case they are commanded to become “church” with Israelites and hear the word of the Lord.

Every seventh year in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, when all Israel comes before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read the this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people–men, women and children, as well as the NON-ISRAELITES residing in your towns–so that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law …” (31.9-13)

This text is the very culmination of the Law of Moses in its canonical form. It expects that non-Israelites will hear the entire word so they will come to “fear Yahweh” and “observe” that Torah.

The Torah addresses aliens repeatedly. Sometimes I wonder why or how some make the statements they do but sadly many, even preachers and teachers, often repeat debate cliff notes rather than actually read God’s word.

Sometimes people repeat things … the Bible (as the Holy Spirit gave it (2 Timothy 3.15-16) does not teach what is claimed by so many debaters.

The Bible will mess up your assumptions if you let it.


2 Responses to “Law of Moses and Non-Israelites: A Common Assumption Examined”

  1. Dwight Says:

    Bobby, Very good assessment and so true. Often we repeat what has been repeated to us. If you can distort the past well enough you have control of the present.
    I have heard the same thing and I think much of it was distorted by those ECFs who hated the Jews and thought of them as inferior worshippers of God and we have carried on that thinking. But we have too many examples of the opposite.
    Moving into the N.T. there is a thought that Law was inferior. Compared to Jesus, yes, but compared to the Laws of other nations it was far superior. The Sabbath just wasn’t a law to follow, it was God to follow.

  2. Phil Says:

    “The Bible will mess with your assumptions if you let it.” Cool! I love that.

Leave a Reply