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Old Testament Law

Reading through all the laws of the Old Testament can be confusing. When you do, it is important to remember that when God’s people left Egypt they left the legal system of the Egyptians and the jurisdiction of any civil or criminal law code (which didn’t provide them much as slaves of the Egyptians; nevertheless they were ‘under the law’ of the land). In Exodus God was separating them out as a “nation” and they needed a criminal and civil law under which to operate as a nation. The leaders served as judges to adjudicate criminal and civil situations, and what we are reading in Exodus served as the nation’s penal code. By NT times God’s people (in God’s plan) were no longer a single nation, but a scattered composite of people called in allegiance to Christ dispersed throughout the nations. In the NT God’s scattered people are called to live within their respective nations under their countries’ civil & criminal law codes (with the situational exception of when obedience to a nation’s particular law would violate God’s ethical or moral law). When modern Christians read the civil & criminal law codes of OT Israel, we cannot read it the same way we would read the ethical & moral instructions for God’s people in other parts of the Scripture. The OT civil and criminal law for the fledgling state of Israel was God’s provision for a nation that didn’t have one. This is not to minimize what we can learn here. It is simply to understand that a nation’s “eye for an eye” code of justice and remunerations adjudicated by the judges of Israel should not be seen to be in conflict with the “turn the other cheek” ethics for our personal relationships and fellowship.

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This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Dearest brother and pastor,
    I so agree with you that His people have been scattered, etc. But I would ask if I may, about what Jesus said in Matt. 5, about whoever does and teaches these things….and that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. The law, NT says is for the unrighteous…..not one dot or tittle will pass away.

    I wish you a long life and all good days….as it says, whoever wishes to see good days and live long life should keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceipt. I know GOD changes not and His ways remain forever. Jesus came as to reconcile all things to GOD, of which I pray you and I will all be fully reconciled and realizing that great hope of glory set before us.

    Love and faith,
    Sandra Almquist

  2. I read an idea this week that floored me. The OT law of “an eye for an eye” was not to push lots of punishment on people. Many people think this law is cruel and unusual. But this preacher said that what it was doing was insuring that people were not punished greater than their sin. If they broke a tooth, they couldn’t be punished by a beating or by any other stronger punishment. Their punishment was to be no more than their own sin against someone else. So, even there, God was being true to His nature. Love, love, love Him.

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