Monday: Mosaic Law: Civic

Although the Jews were under Roman rule at the time of Jesus, they were granted authority over those issues that were unique to their customs and religion (see Acts 18:15). The legislative body responsible for administering Jewish law was called the Sanhedrin. Sometimes referred to as the council (John 11:47, Acts 5:27), the Sanhedrin consisted of 71 men selected from among the priests, elders, and rabbis and was presided over by the high priest. It served as a type of Supreme Court that dealt with Jewish customs, traditions, and laws.

Image © Frank Gampel from

Image © Frank Gampel from

Jewish societal law was founded upon the civil codes revealed in the five books of Moses. Because Moses was the author of the first five biblical books, the laws are referred to as the law of Moses. When God originally gave the laws to Moses, He envisioned a state where He would be the head and the people would enforce His legal mandates. By the time of Jesus, the Jews were subject to Roman law. However, the Roman government allowed them to use Mosaic law in order to settle issues relating to their customs. Here is where the work of the Sanhedrin was especially important.The New Testament provides several examples of the Mosaic law being applied, or alluded to, in civic matters: Jewish men were still expected to pay the half shekel temple tax (Matt. 17:24-27, Exod. 30:13); divorces were still being governed by the stipulations set forth by Moses (Matt. 19:7, Deut. 24:1-4); people still adhered to the law of levirate marriage, in which a widow was to marry her husband’s brother (Matt. 22:24, Deut. 25:5); boys were still circumcised on the eighth day (John 7:23, Lev. 12:3); and adulterers were to be punished by stoning (John 8:5; Deut. 22:23-24).

Read Matthew 26:59-61, Hebrews 10:28, and Deuteronomy 17:2-6. What important principle is seen here? What does this tell us about biblical concepts of justice and fairness?

Read some of the civil legislation found in the early books of the Bible. Some of those laws do seem strange to us, don’t they? (See, for example, Deuteronomy 21.) Considering who the Author of these laws is, what should this tell us about how we must learn to trust the Lord in all things, especially those things we don’t fully understand?



Monday: Mosaic Law: Civic — 21 Comments

  1. It helps to remember that God adapted the laws for the nation of Israel to their current situation. He gave them laws that were not only just but appealed to their sense of justice as it had been shaped by their environment.

    God told them that if they would obey His laws, the surrounding nations would notice their resultant prosperity and would recognize that no other nation had laws as good and as just as those of Israel.

    When we take the historical context into account, we can still abstract valid principles from those laws - principles that are as good today as they were then. And insofar as our situation is similar, the exact application of the laws given to Israel are still better than anything else. For example, the Israelites camped in the desert, and God gave them laws that ensured that human excrement was buried outside the camp. When we are camping, the same rules are still good, but when we live in houses with indoor plumbing, the flush toilet fulfils the same purpose.

  2. The fact that we are living in a country, in a village, in a family full of laws does not guarantee us not to obey the biblical laws.just as Jews were under roman rule and were also subject to the mosaic law so do every one today. We need to obey each and every law.

    • Felix, when you write, "we need to obey each and every law," you seem to be referring back to the biblical laws of the Old Testament.

      Is that what you mean?

      If you do, I believe you are forgetting that many of the OT laws were related to the sanctuary services which became obsolete with Christ's death.

      Other laws were peculiarly adapted to local conditions and local times and are thus obsolete in our time, not to mention that when we live under a local government, we have no power to carry out the penalties prescribed in the Hebrew economy under the theocracy.

      However, we can still abstract valid principles from those laws. And, as I pointed out above, if we find ourselves in a similar situation as the Hebrews in the desert, the exact same laws are still good today.

  3. all laws in the said ancient israel were all consistent with The Supreme Law. it is important to note that in general any other law is derived from the Bibilical law

    • This is true. All of the laws of the land are based on God's 10 commandments. It's seems strange to me that we have to include laws that should be understood from existing laws. For instance: Thou shalt not kill. It seems pretty straight forward, especially when Jesus expounded upon it during His ministry. Today, however, we have laws about hate crimes, because people think hatred is not as bad as killing, not realizing that if one hates he is guilty of murder already, not necessarily because he plans to carry out his hatred by killing the one he hatred, but because he is killing himself with the poison hatred releases in the bloodstream.

      • I think the idea behind hate crimes laws is not to criminalize hatred, but to protect populations (usually smaller, vulnerable communities) from the effects of these crimes.

        You see, hate crimes are unlike other crimes in that their main purpose is to cause fear and instability in a particular community--usually to show them that they are unwelcome. This can adversely affect their quality of life.
        By design, these crimes do not affect other communities in the same way.

        This is different to crimes of opportunity--which on average would have even odds for everyone (to put it a little simplistically).

  4. There is no institution be it family, organizations, states or otherwise that claim to be orderly without certain rules and regulations. Simply put it is the law that governs the members of that institution and help them to live harmoniously. However law in itself implies some authority or unquestionable source of that authority. It also must be seen to fair.

  5. I am impressed how God considered the welfare of the children in the Moasic law. Children were entitled to inheritance without partiality. In other words, when love becomes diluted in spousal relationship, this by no means should alter parental responsibility. Put this in the contex of separation and divorce where children suffer because of fractured spouse to spouse relationships.

  6. There are several laws, for example; International laws, National laws, States laws, municipal laws, borough laws, health laws, civic laws, moral laws etc, etc. All of these laws we will be touching on as we study the quarterly for this quarter. Today we studied if someone had anything against another, without two or three witnesses, your case was invalid. I found that to be fair in judgment. In our times anyone can bring anything against another without a witness and suceed in their maliciousness. Anyone can be their own judge, jury and lawyer.
    As God's people let us not obey the civic laws when they make sense to us or when the please us, but all the time whether we are sure or not and the do not conflict with the bible. I have a friend who likes to drive fast above the speed limit and he says he does not see anything wrong with it because it was man who made the laws.

  7. I found it very interesting that on 31 March on the Mosaic law topic, commentary says people still adhered to the law of leverite marriage.....and adulterers were to be punished by stoning but on 10 February on the topic of under the topic 'in the very act' it commented that capital death penalty ...had been withdrawn from Jewish courts. Rather opposite comments

    • Yes, indeed!

      The February 10 comment is correct in that the Jews did not have the power to execute the death penalty without first getting approval from Roman authorities. That's why Jesus was taken to Pilate. They wanted Him dead!

      The March 31 comment misses the point that, although Jews thought the laws were still applicable, they, in fact, had no power to enforce them.

  8. "Considering who the Author of these laws is, what should this tell us about how we must learn to trust the Lord in all things, especially those things we don’t fully understand?"

    This is a statement disguised as a question.

    This is what they used to tell us as kids when we found something was strange and untenable in the Bible: "It's God, so He can do whatever He wants to and it'll be right. Who are you to question?"

    Through the lens of Jesus, much of what we read there should make us uncomfortable. I think Inge Anderson is reading this right in her interpretation.

    • Andrew, I do agree. God is really not interested in blind faith. The entire ordeal of the great controversy was to increase understanding and knowledge about God and the effects of sin. Texts such as, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me" (Hos. 4:6 NKJV) seems to support that idea. Then there is, "'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD" (Isa. 1:18 NKJV).

      What we should understand is that a very young child cannot understand much of what they are told. As they grow up, however, they gain the ability to logically put things together so that they can deal with abstract ideas. It is then that they need to know why things are so, not merely that they are. And so it is with Christ who gives us reasons for us to have faith by way of evidence (Heb 11:1). All of that we are to past on to others, for instance, "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:15 NKJV).

      • Amen.

        And amen to the following in particular:

        "The entire ordeal of the great controversy was to increase understanding and knowledge about God and the effects of sin."

        Far too few church members understand this.

  9. I agree.

    The thing is--and I hope it'll be addressed later in the quarter--when you elevate many of these laws; you end up with problems identifying/explaining why they are not kept today.

    So there must be more to this than "You wouldn't understand so just trust the Lord".

  10. Concerning Deuteronomy 21 and what God had them do in certain situations that seems like really strange things to us today. we have to realize that God's ways are not our ways. We may not understand everything He says to us to do, but we are still to trust Him. He is God.

    • Kathie Shaw
      Interestingly enough, we find many of the same principles from the Old Testament adapted,refined (contextually) in the New Testament. Read Matthew 18: 15-17 on settling disputes. Our wise and wonderful God has provisions and answers for all of the challenges we face in life in His word.
      We just need the spiritual maturity to accept them and the trust to wait for Him to show us His way.


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