All Bible translations are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted.
This verse–read literally–would seem to indicate that all mention of idolatrous names are prohibited:
12 Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. 13 Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. 14 Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. (Exodus 23:13 emphasis mine)
However, there are a few questions to ask:
1 Are there punishments for violations of this commandment?
2 Did this command apply to foreigners?
3 What does this command mean?
Not All Commandments Have Punishments
The Torah is known for having some harsh punishments but a lot of commands have no punishment–specifically you can make the case that only some of the negative commands have punishments and none of the positive commands have punishments. The ones that do appear to have punishments are really just a lack of obtaining the benefit gained from the command.
This Commandment Does Not Apply to Foreigners
It should also come as no surprise that some foreigners are explicitly permitted to break laws without punishments–an example–eating something that dies of itself:
The fat of an animal that died or was torn by wild animals may be put to any other use, but you must not eat it. (Leviticus 7:24)
You shall be people consecrated to me; therefore you shall not eat any meat that is mangled by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs. (Exodus 22:31)
It’s interesting in one verse it is thought to not be fit for human consumption (something that is only thrown to the dogs) but if there are aliens that disagree with that idea they can still partake in it.
You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to aliens residing in your towns for them to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. (Deuteronomy 14:21)
I’m not arguing for moral relativism, I think all of God’s commands are good, I just think for practical purposes you couldn’t expect foreigners to follow a lot of the commands when they had not heard of them and it was not the Israelite’s domain of authority to make sure the foreigners obeyed them. Foreigners were given freedom in many regards, however there are some exceptions:
This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. (Leviticus 16:29)
All persons, citizens or aliens, who eat what dies of itself or what has been torn by wild animals, shall wash their clothes, and bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening; then they shall be clean. (Leviticus 17:15)
These laws give strong indication that not all the laws in the Torah apply to, or should be, enforced on aliens–otherwise why would it need to specify that laws applied to both? There is also some leeway with certain types of commands–for instance I think Lev 17:15 indicates that a foreigner can become unclean just like a native but no one is required to be clean–only with regards to interacting with the temple/tabernacle.
There are places where it says “the same law shall be for a foreigner and a native” however if we take this literally it would contradict with the laws about foreigners versus native servants and the laws about lending at interest to foreigners and natives in the land:
35 If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them; they shall live with you as though resident aliens. 36 Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. 37 You shall not lend them your money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.
39 If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. 40 They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority; they shall go back to their own family and return to their ancestral property. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves are sold. 43 You shall not rule over them with harshness, but shall fear your God. 44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. 45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. 46 You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness. (Leviticus 25:35-46 emphasis mine) 
In addition “the same law shall be for a foreigner and a native” is only said in the context of certain laws:
48 If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the Lord, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it; 49 there shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.(Exodus 12:48-49)
21 One who kills an animal shall make restitution for it; but one who kills a human being shall be put to death. 22 You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God. 23 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel; and they took the blasphemer outside the camp, and stoned him to death. The people of Israel did as the Lord had commanded Moses. (Leviticus 24:22)
28 And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the one who commits an error, when it is unintentional, to make atonement for the person, who then shall be forgiven. 29 For both the native among the Israelites and the alien residing among them—you shall have the same law for anyone who acts in error. 30 But whoever acts high-handedly, whether a native or an alien, affronts the Lord, and shall be cut off from among the people. (Numbers 15:28-30)
14 An alien who lives with you, or who takes up permanent residence among you, and wishes to offer an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord, shall do as you do. 15 As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the Lord. 16 You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance. (Numbers 15:14-6)
13 But anyone who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet refrains from keeping the passover, shall be cut off from the people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at its appointed time; such a one shall bear the consequences for the sin. 14 Any alien residing among you who wishes to keep the passover to the Lord shall do so according to the statute of the passover and according to its regulation; you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native. 15 On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant; and from evening until morning it was over the tabernacle, having the appearance of fire. (Numbers 9:14)
Exodus 23:13 Means to Not Worship Other Gods
First lets agree on one thing, Exodus 23:13 cannot be taken as it is literally read:
Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. (Exodus 23:13)
There are multiple places where the titles of other gods are mentioned in the Torah such as “Baal” Jdg 2:11, Jdg 2:13, Jdg 3:7 etc . . . https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1168&t=KJV and “Baal” was indeed the name associated with that god because the Biblical writers replaced names that had “baal” in it with “bosheth” to signal a rejection of “baal.” 
So what does this mean?
Do not “invoke” the names
Hebrew is a language more focused on action than english. “To invoke” in English when associated with a god has the idea of “invoking to worship.” “Invoke” is a better translation of the word than the KJV has (“remember”) but even “to invoke” doesn’t give the idea that this word seems to be associated with action almost all the time: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2142&t=KJV
5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” 6 The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed,
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. (Exodus 34:5-8)
do not let them be “heard“
Even “heard” can mean “heed” or “pay attention” with your actions:
But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their wickedness and make no offerings to other gods. (Jer 44:5)
17 And to the man he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (Gen 3:17)
and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (Gen 16:2)
And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has givenheed to your affliction. (Gen 16:11)
I would argue that none of this is about words or names but about actions and possibly worship. At most this restriction on speech would prevent you from “invoking” the name of another god in a worshipful way but it wouldn’t prevent you from talking about that god, the worship of that god, or possibly even advocating for such worship. There are other verses that imply that the “name on the lips” and “name being remembered” are indeed idioms for worship:
Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke h2142 the names h8034 of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. h6310 (Exodus 23:13)
For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, h6310 and they shall be mentioned h2142 by name h8034 no more. (Hosea 2:17)
On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names h8034 of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered h2142 no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit. (Zechariah 13:2)
Another reason we can see this active worship interpretation is correct is because of the clear punishment for idolatry elsewhere and the fact that it only prohibits people advocating the worship of other gods “in secret” not openly:
6 If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, 8 you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. 9 But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11 Then all Israel shall hear and be afraid, and never again do any such wickedness.
12 If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in, 13 that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you, 15 you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword. 16 All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt. 17 Do not let anything devoted to destruction stick to your hand, so that the Lord may turn from his fierce anger and show you compassion, and in his compassion multiply you, as he swore to your ancestors, 18 if you obey the voice of the Lord your God by keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 13:6-18 emphasis mine)
2 If there is found among you, in one of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and transgresses his covenant 3 by going to serve other gods and worshiping them—whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden— 4 and if it is reported to you or you hear of it, and you make a thorough inquiry, and the charge is proved true that such an abhorrent thing has occurred in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or that woman who has committed this crime and you shall stone the man or woman to death. 6 On the evidence of two or three witnesses the death sentence shall be executed; a person must not be put to death on the evidence of only one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised against the person to execute the death penalty, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)
This command does not prohibit speech except possibly the worship of a god by invoking his name. However, advocating for worship or speaking about the god may not have been prohibited. Even if it was this would only apply to natives not foreigners. In addition advocating for worship elsewhere is only prohibited if it is done in secret and not allowed to be evaluated by the community.
1 Are there punishments for violating this commandment? No
2 Did this command apply foreigners? No.
3 What does this command mean? Not to worship other gods and possibly not advocate for such.
 Just to clarify, I don’t think the word translated “advance” interest is talking about something different than regular interest, see the following:
Two Types of Interest?
The Hebrew term for interest, נֶשֶׁךְ (nešekh), appears in all three of the Torah’s legal collections prohibiting interest, and in Leviticus, it is paired with תַרְבִּית (see also Ezek 18:8, 13; Prov 28:8), which also means interest. This seeming redundancy has led many commentators to understand these terms as two different types of interest.
* NJPS translates נֶשֶׁךְ as “advanced interest” (i.e., paid at the time of the loan or earlier) and תַרְבִּית as “accrued interest” (i.e., paid upon the repayment of the loan or after).
* The Mishnah (Bava Metzia 5:1), however, understands נֶשֶׁךְ as an advance agreement that the borrower will pay back more than the amount of the original loan and תַרְבִּית as paying back the loan of one form of produce with another form of produce that has risen in value, that the borrower did not have on hand at the time of the deal.
Although the verse in Leviticus may very well be including more than one form of interest, it is unlikely that the inverse is the case, namely that Exodus and Deuteronomy meant to forbid only one form of interest. Instead, these sources probably meant נֶשֶׁךְ as a catch-all term for interest. In all three sources, the point appears to be that an Israelite should not apply the “bite” of interest to loans given to his poor brethren.
 Ishbosheth, also spelled Isboseth, also called Ishbaal, or Eshbaal, (flourished 11th century BC), in the Old Testament (II Samuel 2:8–4:12), fourth son of King Saul and the last representative of his family to be king over Israel (the northern kingdom, as opposed to the southern kingdom of Judah). His name was originally Ishbaal (Eshbaal; I Chronicles 8:33; 9:39), meaning “man of Baal.” Baal, which could mean “master,” was a title of dignity. Because the name came to be increasingly associated with Canaanite fertility gods, Hebrew editors later substituted bosheth, meaning “shame,” for baal.
What you cannot do to a covenant would necessarily apply to the commandments. The commandments are just the instructions from an amalgamation of covenants. You can also have the same commandments in multiple covenants i.e. the law of pouring out blood for slaughter is in the Gen 9 covenant and the Sinai covenant of Leviticus 17.
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. . . . 13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 3:1-4:13)
Romans 3:31 says positively that they “establish” https://studybible.info/strongs/G2476 the law (Sinai covenant) this is viewed as being opposed to καταργέω and “establish” is in this tense (note “law” is singular):
Based on Romans 3:31 and Galatians 3:17 it is hard to make the argument that Sinai can be λύω or καταργέω. Galatians 3:17 also says that a covenant cannot be made void G208 so to καταργέω the promise. This I think indicates that G208 has a similar meaning to καταργέω.
Romans 3:31 seems to be talking about properly interpreting the law . . . that is to say, they do not throw down Sinai but they establish it by proper interpretation since an improper interpretation would make it broken down. This idiom of interpretation only works if it is in parallel with the actual state of the law. If the law is broken down or in the process of being broken down Paul’s statements don’t make sense. The fact that it is used in this interpretive idiom can be evidenced by observing the parallels here: https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G208 Matthew 15:6 and Mark 7:13 use G208 as an idiom for properly interpreting or practicing and Galatians 3:17 uses G208 in parallel with καταργέω
Most of the time Paul uses covenants as analogies for soteriologies. See here:
However, I think in Hebrews Paul uses covenants as analogies for the priesthoods and ministries of those covenants. He uses kal-vahomer to argue that the new priesthood is greater than the old just like the new covenant is greater than the old. In fact, the new covenant priesthood is so much greater than the old priesthood that it is as if the old priesthood was “faulty” and “weak” because they could not perfect Israel. However, Paul does not mean this literally since he elsewhere states that the Levitical priesthood was never designed to take away sin:
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!
The first problematic chapter is 7:
11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, 16 one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of him,
“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
18 There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.
(Hebrews 7:11-18 emphasis mine)
Notice the subject is the priesthood and the fact that the Levitical priesthood could not accomplish what Christ could. There is no indication of a change of rules that humans are supposed to follow rather a transposition of priesthoods. In verse 12 “change” means “transpose” and is used that way in Hebrews 11:5 to speak of Enoch being “transposed” into heaven: https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G3346
This same idea is stated more explicitly here:
23 Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
So the law was not changed from one thing to another but rather moved in practice from earth to heaven.
for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Following this new translation then in verse 18 Paul is speaking only in terms of the transgression of the laws of the Levitical priesthood. Those laws were transgressed either because the priesthood was made of imperfect humans unlike Christ or–more likely–the priesthood’s temple was destroyed and made them unable to carry out the laws. If the later, then this was because Israel was not perfected and God allowed the enemies of Israel to destroy the Temple. Observe the context which is all about the priesthood. If we translate Hebrews 9:26 and Hebrews 7:16-22 with the same meaning that the Greek has in 1 Samuel 24:11 then we end up with the following:
for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age [as an offering for] sin by the sacrifice of himself.
16 one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of him,“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 18 There is, on the one hand, the [transgression] of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God. 20 This was confirmed with an oath; for others who became priests took their office without an oath, 21 but this one became a priest with an oath, because of the one who said to him,
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”—
22 accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.
(Hebrews 7:16-22 emphasis mine with the translation changed to the Hebrew meaning of “abrogation” in verse 18)
This is one of the quirks of Hebrew where “transgression” can mean “offering for transgression” which makes the “offering” literally become the “transgression” being consumed on the alter.
Finally, we see that the reason the priesthood in verse 18 was weak was because of the ministry of the Levitical priesthood that was not designed to take away sin unlike the new covenant ministry. Paul does not mean this literally though because he is aware that the Levitical priesthood was never designed to take away sin—just to point to Christ and bring the knowledge of sin. Observe the parallels here:
(for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
This understanding will help us with the most problematic chapter 8:
1 Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They offer worship in a sanctuarythat is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellentministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7 For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.
8 God finds fault with them when he says:
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. 10 This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of “[a] new [covenant],” he has made the first [one] obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.
(Hebrews 8:1-13 emphasis mine)
I have put in brackets where the word “covenant” is supplied in the NRSV. In verse 13 most Christians interpret the covenant as a whole as growing old and disappearing. However we must look at this in light of the subject of the previous verses:
6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7 For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.
8 God finds fault with them when he says:
(Hebrews 8:6-8 emphasis mine)
1. The new covenant is said to be better only to the degree that Jesus is a more excellent minister, this implies that the law/instruction remains the same for humans who aren’t priests.
2. God finds fault with a plural entity: the Levitical priesthood and Israel, not a singular covenant.
4. Verse 7 has parallels implying it is about the priesthood:
For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one (Hebrews 8:7)
Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron?
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,
So moving on to verse 13:
In speaking of “[a] new [covenant],” he has made the first [one] obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear [i.e. be destroyed].
(Hebrews 8:13 NRSV with my changes in brackets)
The focus of the “fault” is on the priesthood and the ministry of that covenant which just was not designed to take away sin: it only brought knowledge of that sin and was used to point to the one that makes an offering for sin. However, you could even say that inserting/supplying “covenant” is correct because of Paul’s use of the “law” analogy to refer to the priesthood and ministry (as we see elsewhere e.g. Hebrews 7:17-19). However, “covenant” could even be literally supplied correctly if Paul is using the idea of “covenant” in the broader sense of the rules and administration of those rules under the priesthood. This would be in contrast to 2 Corinthians 3 where he makes a distinction between the ministry and the covenant:
In speaking of “new,” he has made the first obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon be destroyed.
(Hebrews 8:13 NRSV with my changes)
So it is entirely consistent with Torah to say literally that the “covenant” will be destroyed in the broader sense that it will become obsolete because the ministry that is part of it will be destroyed and is already in the process of being made obsolete by the Holy Spirit. Once the law is written on the heart by the Holy Spirit and is obeyed the curses incurred by Israel at Sinai become obsolete by their lack of a sinful target. However, Paul is probably just using the idea of “covenant” as an analogy for the priesthood. Either way I think he is using the idea of “covenant” in Jeremiah to explain the destruction of the Temple and the eventual destruction of the priesthood’s ministry. (there is some evidence that the sacrifices continued after the temple was destroyed) What is interesting is that Paul never supplies the word “covenant” why not? We shall see later.
Hebrews implies this destruction elsewhere:
8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. 9 This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,
To shore up the fact that Hebrews 8:13 is indeed focusing on the priesthood and not the covenant rules you can observe the parallel in Hebrews 10:9 where it implies God is in the process of “taking up” the old sacrifices to replace it with the new ministration (probably the Holy Spirit). However, notice that when Paul talks about the “sacrifice” of Christ on the cross he uses the past tense perfect “sanctified” in contrast to him progressively “taking up” the priesthood in Hebrews 10:9 or the old covenant ministration progressively becoming obsolete in Hebrews 8:13. This is because the law takes time to be written on Israel’s heart in contrast to the discrete death of Christ on the cross.
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He [takes up] the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 10:8-10 NRSV with my modification in verse 9)
Why does Paul leave out the word “covenant” in Hebrews 8:13? The entire context is about the priesthood but as an extra percaution Paul I think leaves out the word “covenant” because he doesn’t want you to think that the “covenant” in the more specific sense of God’s rules at Sinai will be done away with. God’s Sinai covenant is fine and its Levitical priesthood acted as the shadow to point to the greater priesthood of Christ. The Levitical priesthood can only be said to be “faulty” in that it did not accomplish what the new covenant priesthood will. Paul is using the covenants as analogies for the priesthoods: in a sense the new priesthood is so great that it is as if the Levitical priesthood was faulty. (kal-vahomer!)
Finally, Paul says it is becoming obsolete. This is at variance with those who insist this is related to the discrete work of Christ on the cross or in his resurrection:
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,”
Rather, what Christ did on the cross was only the beginning of a process of the ministry of the Holy Spirit writing the law on our hearts which is better than the human priests who cannot actually take away sin:
And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
The first covenant only becomes obsolete in the sense of its ministry because of the work of Christ through the holy spirit to write the law on Israel’s heart makes pointing to that work obsolete. However, that process was started by the discrete event of Christ going to heaven to send the Holy Spirit:
For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.
” 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,”
17 he also adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
The last problematic chapter is 10:
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He [takes up] the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 10:1-10 NRSV with my modifications)
In verse 10 I’ve changed the word “abolishes” since it can also mean “take up” like how Pharaoh’s daughter “took [Moses] up” in Acts 7:21 https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/337/start/60 so it could mean that God took up the ministry of the covenant into heaven with a heavenly priesthood or it could mean that the ministry of the earthly priesthood is destroyed in order that the second ministry is established: to explain the destruction of the Temple.
Paul well knows that the Levitical priesthood will be reestablished in Ezekiel 44-48. Also Zechariah 14 talks of the festivals being reestablished at Jerusalem (so presumably the priesthood and the Temple is again in action) This is just Paul’s way of reassuring people in a time where it looked like the world had ended for Jews. The Temple was destroyed and the sacrifices ceased (or were soon going to) and people were wondering if they could still carry on. Paul tells them that this could have been completely expected and that it really isn’t a big deal after all since what the Temple pointed to was the true Temple in the heavens. I hope you are also reassured.
I think we see throughout this that the focus is on the priesthood being changed and that the “law” is just used as an analogy for it’s ministry and priesthood. The old covenant could only be said to become obsolete in the sense that the ministry of it (death) is no longer needed to bring awareness of sin with the new covenant perfecting people. Paul leaves no room in the context to say he is speaking of anything but the priesthood and even goes so far as to leave the word “covenant” out when making his analogy–yet people still misunderstand him.
The new covenant is said to be better only to the degree that Jesus is a more excellent minister, this implies that the law/instructions remains the same for humans.
Paul uses covenants as analogies for priesthoods just like he uses covenants as analogies for soteriologies or ministries in his other works.
God finds fault with a plural entity: the priesthood or Israel, not a singular covenant.
Paul knows that the Levitical priesthood was never designed to take away sin. If he calls it “faulty” it is only because of the failings of that priesthood or more likely because it is so inferior to the new priesthood that it is “faulty” by comparison.
Paul is reassuring people. He does this by saying that the Temple could be expected to be destroyed since Christ had just come to inaugurate the new covenant and that when the old priesthood ceases to operate completely we will have an even better priesthood so take heart!
Let start with some context. When the elders said to Paul “Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law” (Acts 21:24) What this says (if you read the context) is the following:
1 Paul was not telling Jews to forsake the mosaic law
2 He was showing he was not doing this by his personal example of following the law
3 Paul himself observes and guards the law
It can be inferred from this that Paul thought the law was still valuable at least for Jews. What we have Paul say in 2 Corinthians 3 cannot contradict that. In addition Paul says that “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” (Romans 2:25) “we uphold the law” (Romans 3:31) “having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth” (Romans 2:20) “I delight in the law of God” (Rom 7:22) Paul connects sinning with being lawless and needing forgiveness: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7) To say the law is no longer relevant or truthful or defines what sin is at the time of Paul’s writing is to make Paul contradict himself.
Paul also says a covenant cannot be annulled and he often uses “law” as synonymous with “Sinai law” as he does in the following:
15 Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal 3:15-22)
However many people state that Paul declared an “end to the law.” This is a misconception that Jason Staples corrects in a comment on his blog referencing Romans 10:4. His response will give us context for interpreting 2 Corinthians 3:
Good question. This is a very difficult and controversial verse, as the word telos can mean a range of things, including “goal,” “end,” “culmination,” “climax,” etc.
I think the verse is best translated “For Christ is the culmination of the law for righteousness in everyone who trusts.”
What Paul’s referring to here is that Christ’s death and subsequent sending of the spirit has enabled righteousness in those who put their trust in Jesus, facilitating the righteousness the prophets had promised God would grant to Israel (e.g., Jeremiah 31:31–34, Ezek 36:24, Deut 30:1–10). That’s why he proceeds to explain that Jesus is the “one who does these things” and thereby lived by them—the resurrection is the proof that Jesus is the righteous one of the Torah, and it’s why he then quotes Deut 30 to explain that those who believed Israel needed to be sufficiently righteous to bring the messiah had things backwards—it’s not that Israel’s righteousness would bring the messiah, it’s that the messiah came to make Israel righteous.
Paul often uses the idea that the law brings death and knowledge of sin which allows Israel to accept grace and life under the new covenant. Paul seems to apply this idea to individuals in these passages using crucifixion as analogous with death and life in the new covenant as analogous with Israel’s and our righteousness/justification by faith. Essentially our failure to keep the law (similar to Israel) makes aware of our need for grace and allows us to be humble and accept it–we have faith in God and his grace and practice the law in thankfulness for being saved, rather than rely on the law itself:
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; (Gal 2:19)
21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longersubject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal 3:21-26)
For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. (Romans 4:15)
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)
12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:12-23)
4 In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. 7 What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10 and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. (Romans 7:4-12)
Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we?
I think David Guzik said it well on enduringword.com:
a. Epistles of commendation: Such letters were common and necessary in the early church. A false prophet or apostle could travel from city to city and easily say, “Paul sent me, so you should support me.” To help guard against problems like this, letters of recommendation were often sent with Christians as they traveled.
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; 3 and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
3 . . . you are a letter of Christ: Letters of commendation are good but we having living commendations: you! (kal-vahomer)
5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God: We do not rely on ourselves for commendation just as we do not rely on ourselves to keep the letter of law (Sinai) to save us. We rely on Christ for commendation just as we rely on Christ to make Israel able to keep the law. Paul is using this an analogy to “works of the law” (an Essene teaching of purity and that keeping certain works distinguishes and saves you) compared with a soteriology of grace: the law simply makes you aware that you need to be saved so that you do works out of thankfulness to God for his grace.
6 . . . To be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life: The ministration of the law would bring death on its own since Israel broke Sinai just like a works of the law soteriology. However, Christ enables us to achieve the blessings of Sinai–life–by enabling Israel to keep the law by writing it on our hearts through the holy spirit (a down-payment of the coming fullness of the promises of Abraham)–a soteriology of grace. In fact, in the dead sea scrolls the “new covenant” refers to “the exact interpretation of the law” of the law. ( see: https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592104.001.0001/acprof-9780199592104-chapter-4 )
To quote from the book:
The oldest reference to the new covenant (CD 6:19) occurs in a document that is essentially a list of precepts (CD 6:19) occurs in a document that is essentially a list of precepts (CD 6:11-7:4) followed by a hortatory epilogue (CD 7:4-8:3). The way in which a number of the precepts are formulated indicates that their function was to server a reminders of points in a more detailed body of legal material, namely, the laws contained in CD 9-16. Thus, for example, the admonition ‘Keep the sabbath day according to its exact rules’ (CD 6:18) is meaningless without the precise legislation of CD 10:14-11-18. This legislation mentions two other covenants, the ‘covenant of Abraham’ (CD 12:11) and the ‘covenant which Moses concluded with Israel’ (CD 15:8-9). The relationship between these two covenants need not detain us here; it has been discussed thoroughly by R. F. Collins. What is important is the relationship between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant.
The context of the allusion to the Mosaic covenant furnishes a partial answer:
Likewise is the ruling during the whole epoch of wickedness with regard to everyone who turns from his corrupt way. On the day that he speaks to the overseer of the Many, they shall muster him with the oath of the covenant which Moses concluded with Israel, namely, the covenant to return to the Law of Moses with all his heart and all his soul. (CD 15:6-10)
page 55 Keys to Second Corinthians Jerome Murphy-O’Connor https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592104.001.0001/acprof-9780199592104)
It is evidently a question of the reception of a new member into the Essene community, an interpretation that is confirmed by the renntetion of the central element in the recption ceremony at Qumran:
When they join the community, let whoever comes to the council of the community enter into the covenant of God in the presence of all the volunteers, and let him undertake by oath of the obligation to be converted to the Law of Moses according to all of his commands with all his heart and all his soul (1QS 5:7-9)
. . .
In essence the new covenant was but a renewal of the Mosaic covenant revitalized by the exploitation of its virtualities (cf. CD 5:8-11).
The intimate connection of the Essene new covenant with the law is confirmed by the other reference in the later stratum of CD:
All who entered the new covenant in the land of Damascus and who returned, and who acted treacherously and departed from the well of living water, shall not be reckoned in the council of the people and shall not be written in their records from the time the Teacher is gathered in until the arrival of the Messiah from Aaron and from Israel. (CD 19:33-5)
The shall receive the same judgment as their companions who turned back with the men scoffing, for they spoke heresy against the ordinance of righteousness and rejected the covenant and bond which they affirmed in the land of Damascus, that is, the new covenant. (CD 20:11-12)
(page 56 Keys to Second Corinthians Jerome Murphy-O’Connor https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592104.001.0001/acprof-9780199592104)
It should be noted however that the “The new covenant in CD is not thought of as the fulfillment of prophecy of Jer 31:31, and it is doubtful that it had any eschatological connotation in pre-Qumran usage.” (pg 55 ibid)
This makes sense since the new covenant will teach all men the law through Christ and write it on their heart so that they will not even need to teach each other. It has to be teaching more than just the words of the law if they are not teaching each other–since just knowing the words they would still need to interpret and teach the exact interpretation of those words.
Here we start seeing that it is talking about the “ministry” of the new and old covenants and not the covenants themselves:
7 Now if the ministry of death, [chiseled] (just means “impressed”) in letters on stone [tablets], came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, 8 how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! 10 Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; 11 for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory! (2 Cor 3 NRSV with my modifications)
7 . . . came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside: I thought for a while that “came in glory” (in verse 7) and “came through glory” (in verse 11) might be making a distinction. Maybe one is talking about the covenant and the other is talking about the ministry of the covenant. However, I think that would be too confusing even for Paul. I think the subject is the ministry of the covenants throughout 2 Corinthians 3:3-13.
The fact is that the “ministration” (διακονία) of the old covenant is the subject here, not the covenant itself and this is referring to the same thing that is spoken of in 2 Cor 3:7-10 since Paul does vary his prepositions to express the same relation and it would be at variance with the context. Even Christian commentators have agreed with this, such as Meyer’s N.T. Commentary which also says that this cannot refer to the “mosaic religion in general”
τὸ καταργούμενον] that which is in the act of passing away. This the reader was to apply to the διακονία of Moses spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:7-10, in so far, namely, as this ministry is in the course of its abolition through the preaching of the gospel by means of the διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης. . . .
διὰ δόξης] sc.ἐστι. διά expresses the situation, condition, and so is a circumlocution for the adjective. Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phileb. p. 192; Bernhardy, p. 235; Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. 138. ἐν δόξῃ (2 Corinthians 3:7) is not different in sense; but the supposition of Estius, Billroth, Olshausen, Osiander, Neander, Hofmann, that διά indicates only what is transient, and ἐν what is abiding, is mere fancy. Paul is fond of varying the prepositions in designating the same relation. Comp. Romans 3:30; Romans 5:10; Romans 15:2; Galatians 2:16; Philemon 1:5. Comp. also Kühner, II, p. 319.
 Not to the Mosaic religion in general, which ceases through Christ (Theodoret, Theophylact, and many others, including Emmerling and Flatt),—which is quite at variance with the context. See vv. 7–10.
Interestingly the form of the word indicates the glory of Moses face is in the process of being set aside which means it’s not literally talking about Moses’s face but rather the ministry of death. Once Sinai brings death and makes Israel aware of it’s sin, Israel can then accept grace and humbly repent allowing the law to be written their hearts.
8 how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory: If the ministry of death was awesome the ministry of the new covenant will be even better because it redeems from death. Kal va-homer!
Note that it contrasts the ministry of death with the ministry of the Spirit. Thayer’s in fact defines the word “ministry” as:
1) service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others 2) of those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men 2a) of the office of Moses 2b) of the office of the apostles and its administration . . .
The Spirit writes the law on our hearts but it is not the law itself. The ministry of death is the ministry of Sinai but is not Sinai itself. Sinai brings death because of transgression, yet it is not death itself: so the separation between the covenant and the ministry spoken of here is of two degrees: death not being Sinai, and the ministry not being death itself. Later Paul in fact parallels himself with Moses a minister of a covenant:
12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. (2 Cor 3:13)
So why does it refer to the “the ministry of death, [impressed] in letters on stone?” It might be referring to the giving of the law by mediators at mount Sinai of which Moses was one:
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. (Galatians 3:19-20)
2 For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, (Hebrews 2:2-3)
You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.” (Acts 7:53)
However, the word “chiseled” could be translated “impressed” (as the ABP) and the word “tablets” is supplied, so I think this language is not even referring to the giving of the law at Sinai but talking about the symbols used for the work of the ministry of Sinai as opposed to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in other places. The word “letters” has already been used by Paul in 2 Cor 3 to speak of the ministry of Sinai https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G1121 and it uses the same language to contrast the “stone” with the “Spirit” in Ezekiel:
19 I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Even if it is really talking about the covenant and not the ministry we are left with the fact that Paul is using ministry of death as a symbol. If this is a symbol then Paul could be using the ministry of death as a symbol for the covenant’s effects or for works of law like he does in other places in Galatians and Romans. However, I have taken the ministry view since it is repeated consistently throughout 2 Corinthians 3:3,7,8,9a,9b, 2 Corinthians 4:1,2 and Corinthians 5:18 and Paul seems to be drawing attention to this qualifier to avoid talking about the covenants themselves.
9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory!: The ministry of Sinai came in glory and it brought death, how much more glorious is the ministry of the new covenant that will bring life? Again this could be an analogy for comparing a soteriology of works of law to faith/grace which Paul does in his other writings. Notice, that the glory of that ministry is in the process of being “set aside” that is associated with the ministry of Sinai not the covenant of Sinai itself. It is set aside by the natural reason that Israel no longer needs to experience the curses of Sinai if they have been perfected under the new covenant and are following the law–instead they will achieve the blessings of Sinai–life–through the promises of Abraham and through the Moabite covenant. I talk about this in more detail here:
11 for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!: The glory of Moses’s face faded after he talked with God and his ministry (the ministry of the old covenant) will be set aside but in the new covenant everyone will have direct access to God through the holy spirit and the glory of the new covenant will never fade because that ministry is forever!
According to Galatians 3 and Romans 7 the old covenant curses must still apply–otherwise why do we need to be saved from it? In addition, we will see why the old covenant cannot be set aside because of Matthew’s statements and by what is implied by Paul in Ephesian 2 and Colossians 2. The fact is what is being “set aside” here is not the old covenant.
We will see the journey of Israel being used as an analogy for the journey individuals as we move on in 2 Cor 3. However, the analogies used here are more subtle than they are in Romans and Galatians:
12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.
We do not hide the glory of the ministry of the law like Moses did but preach the correct understanding of the law boldly! This is because the ministry of the new covenant brings us closer to God unlike the ministry of the old covenant which only had the letter and not the spirit. The ministry of the new covenant allows us to come more boldly to God and have confidence in our understanding of the law because of the holy spirit writing it on our hearts.
14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Only Christ through the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the new covenant allows you to break the barrier between the law and your heart (what the NRSV more accurately translates as “mind”) which is the hardness of our hearts so we can receive the law in our hearts.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:1-18)
Christ allows us to keep the law and have freedom from the Curses of Sinai. The new covenant through the holy spirit makes us more into an image of Christ who fulfilled the law.
Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4
1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
We do not water down the gospel by saying (as some of Paul’s opponents have said) that works of the law are necessary along with Christ for salvation. To put your trust in keeping the law well enough or certain works of the law (like circumcision) well enough is to veil the gospel and make Christ useless.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The gospel can also be misunderstood just like the law and this will cause people to perish.
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is a quote from Isaiah 9:2 in the context of the Millennial kingdom and the return of the lost tribes (both things that Christ started the process for with his sending of the holy spirit) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+9 the NKJV notes also include Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78 and 2 Peter 1:19 which I think have similar messianic themes. Meyer’s N.T. Commentary also includes Isaiah 60:1
 Ewald, following the reading λάμψει, supposes an allusion to Isaiah 60:1, Job 12:22, or to some lost passage.
There are some parallels to observe with Isaiah 60 and Paul’s mission to Israel and the lost tribes here:
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
This same word for “clay jars” is used in Jeremiah 19:1,19:11,19:14. This is right after chapter 18 which speaks of the Israel as clay being shaped by a potter and evil being intended for Israel in the form of exile from the land and loss of nationhood:
6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.
Jeremiah 19 speaks of the breaking of these vessels, hence the exile of Israel and hence the lost tribes:
10 Then you shall break the jug in the sight of those who go with you, 11 and shall say to them: Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. In Topheth they shall bury until there is no more room to bury. 12 Thus will I do to this place, says the Lord, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. 13 And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah shall be defiled like the place of Topheth—all the houses upon whose roofs offerings have been made to the whole host of heaven, and libations have been poured out to other gods. (Jeremiah 19:10-13)
Likewise the same word for clay jars in 2 Corinthians 4:6 is used in Isaiah 30:14 and in Isaiah chapter 29 it speaks also of Israel as clay vessels:
13 The Lord said: Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; 14 so I will again do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing. The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.
15 Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:13-16)
Likewise Isaiah 30 speaks of the breaking of these vessels:
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: Because you reject this word, and put your trust in oppression and deceit, and rely on them; 13 therefore this iniquity shall become for you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant; 14 its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a sherd is found for taking fire from the hearth, or dipping water out of the cistern.
Similar language is used to refer to Israel in Hosea as vessels of wrath (Israel who was exiled) and vessels of mercy (Judah who stayed in the land) Paul uses this language also in Romans 9 to refer to the same thing.
What I think Paul is doing in 2 Cor 4:6-7 is talking about the light of Christ in the new covenant that would have been hidden in Israel if the lost tribes had not been exiled and suffered. It is only by the suffering and exile of the lost tribes that the clay vessels are broken and the light of Christ is revealed to all the nations:
6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
(2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
For more information on these symbols see:
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak,
It continues on talking about the suffering of Israel and the lost tribes. “I believe, and so I spoke” is a quote from Psalm 116:10 and Psalm 116 is about the millennial kingdom where all peoples will worship God:
It is a question of the praise of the Lord by all peoples. The second verse expresses the reason for the first verse: the goodness of the Lord has been experienced in the past, and his faithfulness will last forever. If we take into consideration the whole book of psalms, we see that this psalm comes to sum up and conclude all the psalms of the hallel, and even all the preceding psalms since Psalm 107, for they invite Israel and all nations to praise ‘Eternal.
Psalm 116:10 specifically refers to speaking of the deliverance from death that was received in verse 8-9:
8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. 9 I walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 10 I kept my faith, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; (Psalm 116:8-10)
Moving on in 2 Corinthians 3:14-15:
14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
The Resurrection of Israel in the millennial kingdom will be extended to more and more people from other nations with the deliverance from the ministry of death.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:1-18)
This present life is temporary and is a forshadowing of life with God since we are saved through the new covenant enabling Israel to keep the law and by having the law written on our hearts.
Paul compares Moab to Sinai in Romans 10 and the Abrahamic Covenant to Sinai in Galatians 3–as an analogy for faith and works of law. In 2 Corinthians 3 I believe he is comparing Sinai (specifically its curses) to the new covenant an analogy of works of law verses faith .
What is Set Aside?
Ephesians 2:15 uses the same language for “set aside” as in 2 Corinthians 3:7, 2 Corinthians 3:11, and 2 Corinthians 3:13. Ephesians cannot be referring to the law being “set aside” because it has a parallel in Colossians 2:14 which specifically talks about human philosophy and elemental spirits not law. Therefore the language of “set aside” must refer to something human there and I believe it does refer to that in 2 Cor 3 too: salvation by works of the law.
If the law is καταργήσας [in Eph 2:14] then it is no longer in effect at all–it is not just surpressed. This is because the “law of commands and ordinances” is referred to as the “hostility between us” and it says that he has “broken down” or “loosed” the hostility between us:
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace” (Eph 2:14-15)
This is the same word used in Matthew 5:19, 6:19
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (matthew 16:19)
It can’t use the same word to describe what has been done to the law that it uses to say in Matthew 5:19 will never be done to the law. Therefore, in Ephesians 2:14-15 it can’t be referring to the law and if you look at the parallel in Colossians 2 this is evident since it refers to proto-gnostic human teachings:
Paul described the heresy in Colossae as a “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world” (Col. 2:8 cf. Col. 2:4, 18). Gnostics believed that they alone had wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (gnōsis). Paul stated, however, that true wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3).
A pre-gnostic or syncretistic heresy was also being taught in the church at Ephesus. Paul addressed aspects of this heresy in his letters to Timothy. Timothy was caring for the church at Ephesus at that time.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:8-22)
So to sum up 2 Corinthians 3 I believe it is talking about an understanding of the law. Just as a true understanding of the law can be veiled and misunderstood so can a true understanding of the gospel and hence salvation. Observe the following:
2 Cor 3 is referring to the ministry of the covenants and not the covenants themselves.
. “NOT OF THE LETTER but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” The letter without the work of the spirit will bring death since we cannot keep the law without the holy spirit writing it on our hearts.
“the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” refers to the curses of Sinai (Sinai had blessings too)
Paul uses the Sinai covenant as an analogy to compare a soteriology based on works of law (since that understanding would lead to death since Israel broke the Sinai covenant and needed redemption from it’s curses) to a soteriology based on faith (since Christ would enable Israel to be righteous under the Sinai covenant through the holy spirit writing the law on our hearts) I talk about some of these ideas here: https://hebrewroots.intentionalcommunities.world/2018/11/04/the-two-covenants-of-galatians-4/
“the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside” Notice it is the glory that is “set aside” not the old covenant itself since through the work of the holy spirit Israel will attain the blessings of the old covenant.
As we have already discussed the language of “set aside” is used in Ephesians and Colossians to talk about human teachings being set aside.
For a kal va-homer argument to work the thing you are comparing needs to be good already. I can’t say that my living room is well-lit because “my basement has no lights how much brighter is my living room?” The argument is meaningless. Maybe my living room is brighter than my basement but it doesn’t mean my living room well-lit because there is literally no light in my basement. For the new covenant to be great the old covenant has to be good at least and not something that is just set aside.
All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. The first occurrence of the word “torah” H8451 in the Bible is here:
because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” H8451
That is parallel with Deuteronomy 11:1 which uses all those words but replaces “torah” with “mishpat” (judgments) and that word “mishpat” is also used in Gen 18:19:
No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; H4941 thaso that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
We also have Moses instructing the Children of Israel in these concepts before Sinai, specifically “torah” H8451 and “choq” H2706
15 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes H2706 and instructions H8451 of God.
So there’s a parallel between Gen 26:5 and Deut 11:1 and these words are used to describe what Abraham obeyed from God and they are all used to describe what God gave the children of Israel at Sinai. In addition, the one-word “tsadaka” in Gen 18:19 that doesn’t occur in the places we already mentioned is used here:
No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; H6666 so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
And it will be righteousness H6666 for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’
(Deu 6:25 ESV)
In addition the word mitzvah used in Deu 6:25 is also in Gen 26:5
because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, H4687 my statutes, and my laws.”
I’m not saying that every law in the Torah was known or followed before Sinai, the tabernacle did not exist and the levitical priesthood was not setup so there are plenty of laws that just didn’t apply at that time. What I am arguing however is that the law does not change unless the situation changes.
The Festivals Were Setup in Genesis
In addition the word “Moed” in Genesis 1:14 can be argued to be referring to “festivals” see the following paper:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons H4150 and for days and years,
Shavuot Was Celebrated by Noah
The idea that Shavuot (one of the festivals) was observed before Sinai appears early in the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jubilees according to britannica.com:
Jubilees, in its final form, was likely written about 100 BC, though it incorporates much older mythological traditions.
Here is the passage from Jubilees:
17* Therefore, it is ordained and written in the heavenly tablets that they should observe the feast of Shebuot in this month, once per year, in order to renew the is covenant in all (respects), year by year. 18* And all of this feast was celebrated in heaven from the day of creation until the days of Noah, twenty-six jubilees and five weeks of years. And Noah and his children kept it for seven jubilees and one week of years until the day of the death of Noah. And from the day of the death of Noah, his sons corrupted it until the days of Abraham, and they ate blood. 19 But Abraham alone kept it. And Isaac and Jacob and his sons kept it until your days, but in your days the children of Israel forgot it until you renewed it for them on this mountain.
20 And you, command the children of Israel so that they might keep this feast in all of their generations as a commandment to them. One day per year in this month they shall celebrate the feast, 21* for it is the feast of Shebuot and it is the feast of the first fruits. This feast is twofold and of two natures. Just as it is written and engraved concerning it, observe it. 22 This is because I have written it in the book of the first law, which I wrote for you, so that you might observe it in each of its appointed times, one day per year. And I have told you its sacrificial offering so that the children of Israel might remember them and observe them in their generations in this month one day each year.
23* And on the first of the first month and on the first of the fourth month and on the first of the seventh month and on the first of the tenth month are the days of remembrance and they are the days of appointed times in the four parts of the year. They are written and inscribed for an eternal witness. 24 And Noah ordained them for himself as feasts for eternal generations because they were a memorial for him. 25 And on the first of the first month, he was told to make an ark. And on it the land dried up, and he opened up and saw the land. 26* And on the first of the fourth month, the mouths of the deeps of the abysses which were beneath were shut. And on the first of the seventh month, all of the mouths of the depths of the earth were opened, and the water began to go down into them. 27 On the first of the tenth month the heads of the mountains appeared, and Noah rejoiced. 28 And therefore he ordained them for himself as feasts of remembrance forever, and thus they are ordained. 29 And they set them upon the heavenly tablets. Each one of them is thirteen weeks from one to another of the remembrances, from the first to the second, and from the second to the third, and from the third to the fourth. 30 And all of the days which will be commanded will be fifty-two weeks of days, and all of them are a complete year. 31 Thus it is engraved and ordained on the heavenly tablets, and there is no transgressing in a single year, from year to year.  (Charlesworth, J. H. (1985).
The Old Testament pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Expansions of the “Old Testament” and Legends, Wisdom, and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works (Vol. 2, pp. 67–68). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.) (Jubilees 6.16–31)
Genesis Had the Same Dietary Laws
Changing the subject slightly there are a few places where people say Genesis implies that the dietary laws changed, one is here:
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so (Gen 1:28-30)
I think this is a misconception. In Gen 1 God creates the food chain (in general) from the bottom up: Gen 1:11 (vegetation), Gen 1:20 (sea creatures and birds), Gen 1:20 (cattle and creeping things and wild animals), Gen 1:26 (humans). It even says that man shall:
“. . . have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen 1:28)
So this seems to be about God giving sustenance to all animals through his provision of plants. In addition it seems that either the accounts in Gen 1 and 2 are contradictory (since God in Gen 2 has not yet made animals at all) or that God had not actually provided animals in the garden for Adam at first. (hence Gen 1 is an account of creation overall and Gen 2 is more specific to the garden) Therefore when God says “I give you every green plant for food” he is speaking to a state where there are no animals to choose from yet so he can’t be said to imply “you can’t eat meat.” See below:
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. (Gen 2:18-20)
There are a couple arguments against the idea that this was a state where there are no animals yet:
1 The ESV translates 19 as “Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field . . .” This suggests that it is referring to the creation of animals in Gen 1
2 “I will make him a helper as his partner” actually refers to Eve and not the animals.
The problem is that “So” (in my preferred translation the NRSV) at the beginning of the verse connects the creation and presentation of the animals with finding a helper for Adam and that verse 18 “I will make him a helper as his partner” is parallel with verse 20 “but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner,” so we have the animals being presented as possible helpers to Adam
Also compare with the fact that it focuses on the garden at the beginning of the chapter:
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. . . . 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
Interestingly enough the story in Genesis 2 seems to have the order of creation differently (if you try to say it is talking about the same thing that Gen 1 is and is not just talking about the garden)
. . . In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:4-9)
This shows it must be talking about specifically the land of Israel or the land around Eden, not the entire earth.
What about the dietary requirements in Gen 9:3?
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (Genesis 9:3)
No, the context is clearly about having the power and ability to eat said animals, not about being given permission. The phrase “just as I gave you the green plants” merely means “you will have the ability to eat ALL the animals just as you have with the plants.” Obviously not all plants or animals are good to eat:
1 God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.
6 Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.
7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.” (Gen 8:1-7)
If you don’t believe me then why could Israelites as far back as they can remember eat mushrooms? https://www.aish.com/atr/Mushrooms-Kosher-Status-Blessing.html The mushroom’s unkosher status should have been restated later in the Torah or there should be at least some traditions saying that mushrooms are non-kosher if the lists in Genesis were exclusive. Yet the lists in Genesis are not exclusive, they are merely declaring God’s provision in different ways.
Genesis Had Similar Sacrifices
Why did God tell Noah specifically to take extra “clean” animals on the ark and why did Noah sacrifice them? Many sacrifices require the priest who is sacrificing them to eat some of the animal. In addition the same word that is used for “clean” animals that Noah took on the ark is only used in reference to animals to talk about dietary cleanness:
46 This is the law pertaining to land animal and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms upon the earth, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, H2889and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.
1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean H2889 animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, H2889 the male and its mate; 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5 And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.
Abel Drained the Blood and Separated Fat Portions
Now it is possible that the specific sacrifices that Noah gave are simply whole burnt offerings that weren’t eaten. However, offerings are elsewhere always food and it would break the pattern if Abel and Noah were offering animals that weren’t supposed to be food. In addition Abel seems to separate the fat portions from his flock, which is parallel with later laws in the Torah:
and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat H2459 portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,
9 You shall present its fat H2459 from the sacrifice of well-being, as an offering by fire to the Lord: the whole broad tail, which shall be removed close to the backbone, the fat H2459 that covers the entrails, and all the fat H2459 that is around the entrails; 10 the two kidneys with the fat H2459 that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver, which you shall remove with the kidneys. 11 Then the priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as a food offering by fire to the Lord.
Then the priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as a food offering by fire for a pleasing odor. All fat H2459 is the Lord’s.
Interestingly the word used for Abel’s sacrifice is also used to describe a non-bloodly sacrifice :
This means that draining the blood may have been known at this time, possibly from the law expressed in this verse:
“Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
Why would Abel know about this if he wasn’t eating animals? Even though this isn’t explicitly stated in Genesis we must remember that Genesis leaves a massive amount of information out of the story: let the reader investigate this on their own. Once again I don’t believe the law changes unless the situation changes since the law is good and unless the situation changes there is no reason to suggest a different law would be good. If people or animals changed in a way that was relevant to dietary laws at some points in Genesis this would be a good reason to say that maybe the dietary laws changed. However, we just don’t have the information to decide this. In addition, I think I’ve found information that implies that this wasn’t the case.
Laban The Priest Avoids Becoming Unclean
There’s multitude of evidence for other laws being practiced before Sinai: Laban (a priest) avoids looking in the baggage that Rachel is sitting on when she is menstruating. This is similar to the laws of the priests of Aaron for having to purify themselves if they touch anything unclean. However, since Rachel says she cannot rise and Laban could have purified himself and continued serving as a priest the next day this particular parallel with Sinai law is weak:
34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. Laban felt all about in the tent, but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me.” So he searched, but did not find the household gods.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Direct Aaron and his sons to deal carefully with the sacred donations of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they may not profane my holy name; I am the Lord. 3 Say to them: If anyone among all your offspring throughout your generations comes near the sacred donations, which the people of Israel dedicate to the Lord, while he is in a state of uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the Lord. 4 No one of Aaron’s offspring who has a leprous disease or suffers a discharge may eat of the sacred donations until he is clean. Whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse or a man who has had an emission of semen, 5 and whoever touches any swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or any human being by whom he may be made unclean—whatever his uncleanness may be— 6 the person who touches any such shall be unclean until evening and shall not eat of the sacred donations unless he has washed his body in water.
Finally we have Exo 19:22 where priests are talked about before the laws for priests are given:
Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them.”
We have many examples of the law being practiced before Sinai:
Abraham followed a parallel of the requirements in Deuteronomy 11:1. Also, all the same words were used to describe God’s laws and statutes before Sinai. In addition Moses taught the Israelites the law before Sinai.
The feasts being practiced before Sinai based on “moedim” translated as “festivals” in Genesis 1 and the book of Jubilees saying that Shavuot was kept as far back as Noah
Sacrifices in Genesis
Clean and not clean animals in Genesis
Sacrifices in Genesis that respect these distinctions
Implied dietary laws in Genesis based on the distinction of clean and not clean and the fact that Abel poured out the blood and distinguished the fat portions in his sacrifices just as the levitical priesthood did
Laws regarding priests with David and his servants eating the showbread and Tamar being ordered to be killed and burnt with fire which is the punishment for a priest’s daughter who engages in harlotry
Ok so this is super controversial. First there is the opinion from Finny Kuruvilla at http://www.watchmangospelsigns.com/ (which is rather well thought out) that divorce is permitted but only in extreme circumstances and remarriage is forbidden in all circumstances:
I endorse Finny’s critique of the literal Erasmian interpretation which I think has multiple problems. However, there are a few problems I have with Finny’s view:
1. To hold Finny’s view you need to interpret Deuteronomy 24 as regulating something that is wrong under all circumstances.
While this is possible, it seems unlikely due to the fact there is no punishment listed for the behavior except not marrying your previously married wife. Also, we must assume that if divorce and remarriage are wrong under all circumstances then remarriage to the original husband is worse:
1 Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house 2 and goes off to become another man’s wife. 3 Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); 4 her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)
I will add the caveat that divorce is certainly something that is wrong under many circumstance, or is at least more wrong than some of the offenses that people often have divorced over:
13 And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. 14 You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. 16 For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. (Malachi 2:13-16 NRSV)
2. Finny’s view implies that the certificate of divorce has no effect
The certificate of divorce has the effect of separating you from your spouse. This is because it has the effect of making it impossible for your wife to come back after marrying someone else according to Deuteronomy 24. If you can’t remarry after a divorce then the divorce certificate seems to have no effect: you are still tied to your spouse. This does not fit with a whole law written regulating the certificate of divorce. If all it does is allow you to leave then you are still married to them; therefore what is the problem with remarrying the same person?
3. If you take literally what Mark 10:11-12 says that remarriage after divorce for any reason is adultery . . .
If you take literally what Mark 10:11-12 says then you must believe that what Jesus says in Mark 10:5-9 means that divorce for any reason is unlawful. However, Paul explicitly states that in some cases divorce can happen even though it should not happen:
10 To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Cor 7:10-11)
4. The context in which Finny argues “eunuchs are divorced people who can’t remarry” doesn’t fit.
The only place where this occurs is in Matthew 19 and here we see what they are objecting to is the difficulty of divorce in the context of not being able to divorce your wife for “any cause.” They aren’t afraid of marrying then getting divorced and having to be Eunuchs (which they would be without marrying anyway), they are afraid of marriage itself:
3 Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” . . .
8 He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”
10 His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
(Matthew 19:3-12 NRSV)
5. Matthew tends to clarify Mark.
The fact that Matthew makes the context of Jesus’s statement about being able to divorce for “any reason” means that Jesus was reacting to a lax standard of divorce. His response therefore would be in the context of frivolous divorces.
Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” (Matthew 19:3)
Another example of possible clarification is the following:
As another example, within Matthew’s community unchastity was evidently recognized as legitimate grounds for divorce. It may have been in the communities of Mark and Luke as well, but they failed to stipulate the exception in this particular saying of Jesus. Matthew clarifies the issue by inserting the phrase “except for unchastity:”
Some may respond that Jesus’s statement would have to be summarized as “you may not divorce your wife for any cause but only except for unchastity” This makes sense but it seems like he still had a strict view on it. What about if one spouse was trying to kill the other? Well, this author https://www.divorce-remarriage.com/ argues that Jesus was only addressing a certain type of divorce. See the Pharisees had split up the grounds for divorce of “some indecency” in Deuteronomy 24:1 into “adultery” and “a cause.” Jesus was addressing only this type of divorce and saying you couldn’t divorce for any cause. When he says “except for porneia” (“porneia” is the word translated “adultery”) it is literally “not porneia” https://studybible.info/interlinear/Matthew%2019:9 That is, he is implying “any cause” by saying “not porneia” because that is how those divorces were split up: into “adultery” and “a cause.” It is just a restatement of the “any cause” phrase in their earlier question: “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” These divorces were the most common since you didn’t have to prove anything in court but only present “a cause.” Jesus does not address the other types of divorce where other grounds are presented like in Exodus 21:10-11 Also, the cultural context backs this up:
By the first century there was general agreement concerning most aspects of divorce and remarriage within rabbinic Judaism. According to divorce law, the decision to end the marriage contract was that of the husband, because he had to write the divorce certificate. A wife could force a husband to divorce her if she could prove to a rabbinic court that he had broken the marriage contract, but it seldom happened. The author claims that one development during these times influenced almost all divorces among Jews. The Hillelites introduced a new interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 by which they allowed divorce for “any matter”, while the Shammaites interpreted the same text as saying “for a matter of indecency”. Most Jewish divorces therefore took place on Hillelite grounds, because there was no need to prove anything in court. It is worth noting that the Shammaites accepted the validity of this type of divorce even though it was contrary to what they would have decided. Meanwhile, in the greater Greco-Roman context it became easier for both men and woman to initiate a divorce, and anyone could divorce simply by separating from one’s spouse.
I have reached my conclusions mostly just by comparing the texts of the gospels and the Hebrew Bible and being aware of the tendency of Matthew to clarify things. Here we see that a scholar has reached similar conclusions by looking at the cultural context of the first century:
Instone-Brewer approaches the problem of Jesus’ radical teaching about divorce and remarriage from an interesting angle. An important investigation in this regard concerns the abbreviated texts that we find in the Gospels. He claims that usually the exegesis was largely absent from these debates because these text were regularly used in the synagogue and because it was widely known at the time. By the second century what used to be common knowledge was quickly disappearing, largely because of the disappearance of the Shammaite group. Commonly understood phrases were also removed, but would have been mentally added by first century readers. The added phrase “for any matter” as it appears in Matthew 19:3 which does not appear in Mark or Luke, is one such example.
This phrase referred to the Hillelite interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1, an interpretation Jesus did not agree with at all – hence the view that remarriage after this type of divorce is invalid. As far as this issue is concerned, Jesus differed from opinions within Judaism, including that of the Shammaites. Furthermore, the author concludes that in instances where the Gospels are completely silent about an important matter like the silence about remarriage after the death of a spouse or Jesus’ opinion about the grounds for divorce in Exodus 21:10-11, Jesus’ silence can be ascribed to the fact that on these points he agreed with the unanimously held opinion of Judaism. One such example is Jesus’ silence about the Old Testament grounds for divorce. The author claims that the assumption that Jesus regarded the exception of porneia as the only ground for divorce is wrong, because it would mean that the Shammaites too had allowed divorce only on the grounds of adultery, which is simply not the case. At first these arguments appear to be rather weak but the author’s extensive research is convincing. The author delicately adds to the exegeses and arguments from their abbreviated forms and concludes six separate matters about which Jesus taught.
6. What about Paul’s sayings in 1 Corinthians 7? Do they imply remarriage is impossible after a divorce?
10 To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)
Paul’s sayings may only apply to the Roman custom of divorce through separating since he was writing to people living in the secular city of Corinth:
Chapter seven shows that the world in which Paul lived was completely different from that in which Jesus lived. It is shown that Paul reacts mainly to the practice in the Greco-Roman world in terms of which anyone could divorce simply by separating from one’s spouse. Like Jesus, Paul emphasized ways to stay married, rather than ways to divorce.
7. Jesus as the New Covenant Mediator may have been focusing on the heart
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
In context, Jesus’s statements could be more about intent than about the physical requirements of a divorce. For instance, above where Jesus says “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus is not literally saying that they are guilty of adultery but that as the New Covenant Mediator he trying to allow the law to be written on people’s hearts and coveting in your heart is against that purpose. (you have to take your thoughts captive as Paul says) Similarly, Jesus is not saying if your eye or your hand causes you to sin once then you have to cut them off because your eye or your hand can’t cause you to sin. He is saying to value your eternal existence more than your present existence in your physical body.
Therefore Jesus’s comments on divorce may be about divorce that was caused by a heart intent/condition that was not concerned with trying to keep the marriage together. Also, maybe the context is a heart intent that wanted to divorce in order to marry someone else.
Why is this important?
I talked to a woman whose husband was beating her (and if I remember correctly–threatened to kill her) and she felt she couldn’t divorce him until he committed adultery because of Matthew 19:8. Luckily he did eventually commit adultery. Let me ask you this, what if she was one of the very early Christians who didn’t have access to all the gospels and only had access to Matthew or Luke? (Mark is also supposed to have been written before Matthew) If she only read Mark and read it literally (like she did Matthew) she might be dead.
Threatening to kill someone violates the marriage covenant because if one person dies the covenant is nullified and shows you are willing to break it yourself. Beating someone I would think is worse than committing adultery. (I know the law says you can stone someone for adultery but this seems to have only been done in rare cases and forgiveness seems to be allowed, such as the case of Hosea)
I definitely think you can divorce for more causes than adultery. I think if your life is in danger or your emotional health is in danger those are reasonable causes. Emotional abuse can be physically dangerous to you–it can be unhealthy and take years off your life. It can make you at risk for suicide. I’m not as sure about remarriages after divorce. However, I’ve presented some evidence that remarriage is justified in certain cases as well.
One thing that has bothered me about marriage is the question of “what is it and for what purpose?” Does marriage begin when you have sex with someone because you are “certainly” supposed to marry someone afterward according to Exodus 22:16-18? If that is it then why is remarriage allowed upon death according to Romans 7? It would seem that if marriage is started with sex and it lasts forever then having sex with multiple people during your lifetime would be wrong. Yet if someone had multiple spouses die during their lifetime they would be able to do this. Therefore, limiting sexual partners isn’t of the utmost importance for the intent of marriage. In fact, there is no part of the Torah that prevents you from going into a cancer ward and marrying people one right after the other as they are dying. In addition, sex with a betrothed woman is treated just like adultery in the Torah, so marriage has to be about more than just regulating sex or commitment to one person for each individual.
More likely, it seems that marriage is a combination of sex and a covenant (betrothal), although if you have the sex you are supposed to make the covenant. Marriage then is not primarily concerned with limiting the number of people you have sex with during your life (although that tends to be one of its effects) but marriage may be primarily concerned with maintaining societal health, providing a stable environment for children, and ensuring people and households are emotionally/financially stable. If a marriage is so bad that it damages those things more than it upholds them then maybe it should be terminated.
Based on my own observations the following conclusions and summary are likely correct:
The Bible’s message for those suffering within marriage is both realistic and loving
Marriage should be lifelong, but broken marriage vows can be grounds for divorce
Biblical grounds for divorce include adultery, abuse and abandonment
Jesus urged forgiveness but allowed divorce for repeated unrepentant breaking of marriage vows
Only the victim, not the perpetrator of such sins, should decide when or whether to divorce
Anyone who divorces on biblical grounds or who is divorced against their will can remarry.
Very quick summary:
This book interprets the words of Jesus and Paul through the eyes of first century readers who knew about the ‘Any Cause’ divorce which Jesus was asked about (“Is it lawful to divorce for ‘Any Cause’” – Mt.19.3). Christians in following generations forgot about the ‘Any Cause’ divorce and misunderstood Jesus.
The ‘Any Cause’ divorce was invented by some Pharisees who divided up the phrase “a cause of indecency” (Dt.24.1) into two grounds for divorce: “indecency” (porneia which they interpreted as ‘Adultery’) and “a cause” (ie ‘Any Cause’). Jesus said the phrase could not be split up and that it meant “nothing except porneia”. Although almost everyone was using this new type of divorce, Jesus told them that it was invalid, so remarriage was adulterous because they were still married.
The Old Testament allowed divorce for the breaking of marriage vows, including neglect and abuse, based on Exod.21.10f. Jesus was not asked about these biblical grounds for divorce, though Paul alluded to them in 1Cor.7 as the basis of marriage obligations. This book argues that God never repealed these biblical grounds for divorce based on broken marriage vows. They were exemplified by Christ (according to Eph.5.28f) and they became the basis of Christian marriage vows (love, honour, and keep).
I want to examine two paradoxes here. 1. The poor being rich. 2 The law not saving you and saving you.
In the story of the rich young ruler, the commandments are sufficient for attaining eternal life. However, notice that even though the rich young ruler says he keeps the commandments he still believes that he isn’t doing something right. Maybe it is his method of keeping them that may be at fault? Could it be that the commandments naturally lead to a communal life? (love your neighbor as yourself) This may especially be the case after the holy spirit came at the church in Acts. The holy spirit writes the laws on our hearts. The holy spirit dwells in the body of believers. To attain selflessness and have the law written on our hearts we may need to act as one part of a greater body. I argue in detail for similar things here: https://hebrewroots.intentionalcommunities.world/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Unless-He-Gives-up-All-His-Possessions.pdf There may have been a tendency to use “poor” to mean people who lived communally in the Greek scriptures (Christian writings)
The term “Ebionite” was widely used in proto-orthodox and orthodox sources to refer to “Jewish-Christian” groups, or at least one group (it is likely that there were lots of these groups, and it may be that the church fathers assumed they were all the same group when in fact they had different views, different theologies, different practices, and so on). Some of the church fathers indicate that the name came from the founder of the group Ebion. But that’s a legend. Almost certainly the term came from the Hebrew word “Ebyon” which means “poor.” The normal hypothesis is that these Jewish-Christians accepted the early Christian policy of giving away their possessions for others and so took on lives of voluntary poverty. The church fathers who know the linguistic meaning of their name claimed that they were called “the poor ones” because they were “poor in faith.” (!)
The Ebyonim were the original Christian movement. It was a community that was centered in Jerusalem, led by James the brother of Jesus and Peter, who looks to have been one of Jesus’s closest companions. Their name (ebyonim is Hebrew for “the Poor”) would seem to be reflective of their communal life (as reflected in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament). All who entered the community called the Ebyonim “sold everything they had and gave it to the Poor.” We can glean a sense of who they were, in part from the condemnations of Irenaeus and others in the Apostolic Christian movement, in part from their own writings, and in part by reading between the lines of the New Testament. Today, an increasing number of scholars are asking whether Ebionite tradition is the closest follow-up to the real Jesus.
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:45 NRSV)
34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:34-35 NRSV)
29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:25-34 NRSV)
Notice the kingdom is associated with selling your possessions and living communally in Luke. It is interesting that the same terminology could have been used for the “poor” in the Greek Scriptures. Jesus actually says that those who leave everything will receive a hundredfold more in this life which matches the paradoxical language here:
As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, G4434 yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (2 Corinthians 6:10)
The same word may be used in these verses to speak of the “poor” who live communally (although this is by no means certain and some may have double meanings)
For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor G4434 saints which are at Jerusalem. (Rom 15:26 KJV)
Only they would that we should remember the poor; G4434 the same which I also was forward to do. (Gal 2:10 KJV)
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: G4434 for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luk 6:20 KJV)
Blessed are the poor G4434 in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:3 KJV)
Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: (Act 11:29 KJV)
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor G4434 of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (James 2:5)
The same paradoxical language is used in a negative way in Revelation. Previously, poverty on paper through communal living is meant to convey greater real material riches and spiritual riches, while here the opposite is meant:
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, G4434 and blind, and naked: (Rev 3:17 KJV)
The following parallels include everyone who joins the kingdom of heaven movement being rewarded a hundredfold with houses and other material possessions. This means that they would have hundreds of people that would share their houses and possessions with them and ensure that the would never lack their basic needs including food or drink, see: Matthew 6:31-33 and Luke 18:29-34. Also pay attention to the what Yeshua says about keeping the commandments:
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
(Mark 10:17-31 NRSV)
16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
27 Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
(Mattthew 19:16-30 NRSV)
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”
28 Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
(Luke 18:18-30 NRSV)
Compare this to the following:
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
(Galatians 2:15-21 NRSV)
I think we need to consider three things for this second paradox:
The language is different “keep” as opposed to “work” In Luke 18:21 “keep” is G5442 in Matthew 19:17 “keep” is G5083 in Mark 10:20 “keep” is G5442
The Essene context that “works of the law” has https://www.jstor.org/stable/4193122 suggest this was obtaining salvation through observances and purity rather than Mathew’s list of substantial matters and heart/attitude conditions Matt 19:18-19 (Jesus the new covenant mediator focuses on heart: Matthew 5:38~, Jer 31:33) This may also be why communal living is emphasized since living communally requires putting the community first rather than yourself.
Galatians is using “law” for “Sinai law.” Paul’s not comparing the “old” and “new” covenants but the unconditional-blessings given to Abraham with conditional-blessings at Sinai (which Israel broke). He’s using the covenant of Abraham as an analogy for repenting and accepting mercy (Jeremiah 3:12-14) with the work of Christ and grace compared with justifying yourself through “works of law” and being susceptible to Sinai curses: Gal 3:16-18, Gal 3:10-12, Deuteronomy 27:26. Likewise in Romans 10:5-10 Paul compares the Moab covenant to Sinai with quotes from Lev 18:5 and Deut 30:11-14. Some Jewish tradition considers Sinai lacking and hence the need for Moab: https://www1.biu.ac.il/indexE.php?id=15430&pt=1&pid=14638&level=0&cPath=43,14206,14376,14638,15430 Paul uses a similar analogy in Galatians 4:21~ See the following article:
The Covenant on the Plains of Moab By Haggai Ben-Arzi*
At the end of this week’s reading, the Torah summarizes Moses’ orations, emphasizing that another covenant was made between the Holy One, blessed be He, and the people of Israel: “These are the terms of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to conclude with the Israelites in the land of Moab, in addition to the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb” (Deut. 28:69).
This raises a fundamental question: why was there need for another covenant? After all, when the covenant was made at Mount Sinai the people of Israel undertook to obey the Torah and its commandments, as we read in Exodus:
“Then he [Moses] took the record of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will faithfully do!’ Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord now makes with you concerning all these commands’” (Ex. 24:7-8).
An answer to this question is given in Tractate Shabbat (88a). Regarding the verse, “and they took their places at the foot of the mountain” (Ex. 19:17), Rabbi Abdimi said, “This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, overturned the mountain upon them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them, ‘If you accept the Torah, ‘tis well; if not, there shall be your burial.’” In other words, according to the gemara, the covenant at Mount Sinai was made under duress, and any agreement made under duress is not legally and morally binding.
Indeed, that is what the gemara concludes: “This furnishes a strong protest [modaa rabba] against the Torah.” Modaa rabba signifies legal grounds for cancelling a contractual agreement; “If the Holy One, blessed be He, were to take them to court on charges of not upholding their undertakings, they could answer: we agreed under duress” (Rashi, loc. cit., s.v., “moda`a rabbah”).
The coercive element in the covenant at Mount Sinai can be interpreted in various ways. Rabbenu Tam ascribes the coercion to Divine Revelation at Mount Sinai: “For it was by the Word [of G-d], lo, under duress” (loc. cit., Tosefot, s.v., “moda`a rabba le-oraita). In other words, direct Revelation of the Lord created a situation in which there was no free choice, for who can refuse the direct word of G-d?
The element of coercion can also be explained in terms of the emotional state of the Israelites at Mount Sinai. They were still in a state of shock and utter confusion; having left Egypt only seven weeks earlier, they were still agitated by the dramatic events of fleeing the country, being chased by the Egyptians, the Red Sea being split, and encountering tremendous hardships in the wilderness. In such an emotional state any consent or undertaking could have no “resolve,” a necessary condition for making consent binding. For this reason they accepted an undertaking whose terms and implications they barely knew.
If the covenant at Mount Sinai was faulty and lacking, then another covenant was needed that would not have the deficiencies of the previous covenant. Indeed, the covenant on the Plains of Moab was made at the end of the trek through the wilderness, forty years after the exodus from Egypt. During these forty years the people learned the entire Torah and knew exactly what obligations they were taking upon themselves. During these forty years they learned the significance of obeying the commandments, both as individuals and as a nation.
The covenant on the Plains of Moab was thus concluded with full awareness and clarity of mind. This covenant is the one that binds later generations, and not the covenant at Mount Sinai. Only here does Scripture say, “I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the Lord our G-d and with those who are not with us here this day” (Deut. 29:13-14). The midrash (Tanhuma 3, and Rashi, loc. cit.) learns from this: “[The covenant was made] also with future generations.”
Regarding the covenant on the Plains of Moab one can ask where the people’s consent appears. At Sinai, the Israelites declared their consent three times: “All the people answered as one, saying, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do!’” (Ex. 19:8); “and all the people answered with one voice, saying, ‘All that things that the Lord has commanded we will do!’” (Ex. 24:3), and “Then he took the record of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will faithfully do!’” (Ex. 24:7).
In the covenant on the Plains of Moab, which as we said was binding on the people for future generations as well, only Moses spoke and the people remained silent. What sort of covenant is this if the people do not express their explicit consent to be party to it?
The people’s response turns out to have been given in actions, not in words. Immediately after the covenant on the Plains of Moab they crossed the Jordan River to the Plains of Jericho, where a great circumcision ceremony took place for all the Israelites born in the wilderness. “This is the reason why Joshua had the circumcision performed…none of the people born after the exodus, during the desert wanderings, had been circumcised…and it was these that Joshua circumcised, for they were uncircumcised” (Josh. 5:4-7). The people’s consent to the covenant found expression in their agreeing to observe the commandment of circumcision, just as Abraham entered a covenant with G-d by circumcising himself and his son:
God further said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and You…Thus shall My covenant be marked in your flesh as an everlasting pact.” (Gen. 17:9-13)
Indeed, immediately after the covenant of circumcision at Jericho, the Holy One, blessed be He, told Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt” (Josh. 5:9). The process of the exodus from Egypt and forging the bond between the Holy One, blessed be He, and the people of Israel, did not reach its conclusion at Sinai, rather in the covenant on the Plains of Moab, which begins with Moses, on the eastern side of the Jordan River, and concludes with Joshua son of Nun, on the western side of the Jordan River.
The covenant on the Plains of Moab is what created mutual accountability within the Jewish people. Regarding the verse, “Concealed acts concern the Lord our G-d; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching” (Deut. 29:28), Rashi says, based on the gemara (Sanhedrin 43b): “Even for overt acts [transgressions committed openly] He did not punish the people collectively until after they crossed the Jordan River…and became accountable one for another.”
This mutual accountability, which requires that we care and be responsible for every Jew, is what turns us from a collection of individuals into a well-formed national entity. The Israelites became a people in the full sense of the word only after the covenant on the Plains of Moab: “to enter into the covenant of the Lord your G-d, which the Lord your G-d is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; to the end that He may establish you this day as His people and be your G-d, as He promised you” (Deut. 29:11-12). We became a people neither with the exodus from Egypt, nor at Mount Sinai, but only upon entering the land that we were to settle.
Actually, one could also argue “moda`a rabba le-oraita” regarding the covenant on the Plains of Moab. According to Rabbenu Tam, the covenant at Mount Sinai was lacking because there was no free choice in the face of Divine Revelation. But revelation did not come to an end at Mount Sinai. Throughout their wanderings in the wilderness the people witnessed overt miracles—the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud that went before the people and protected them; the manna, the quail, and Miriam’s well, which fed the people in an unnatural way. Although a distinction should be drawn between direct Revelation at Mount Sinai and the miracles in the wilderness, as Maimonides notes (Sefer ha-Mada, Hilkhot Yesodei Torah, ch. 8, halakhah 1 and 2), does not latter state of ongoing miracles in which the Israelites lived for decades essentially deprive a person of free choice?
This is apparently why Joshua did not make do with the covenants of Moses, and towards the end of his life arranged a ceremony renewing the covenant in Shechem: “Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned Israel’s elders and commanders, magistrates and officers; and they presented themselves before G-d” (Josh. 24:1). On this occasion he gave them anew the choice whether to stand by the Lord and His Teaching or to abandon the Lord and go in the ways of other peoples: “Now, therefore, revere the Lord and serve Him with undivided loyalty…Or, if you are loath to serve the Lord, choose this day which ones you are going to serve” (Josh. 24:14-15). As in the covenant at Mount Sinai, here too the people rose to the challenge placed before them by their leader and undertook to worship the Lord:
But the people replied to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord.” Thereupon Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses…” And the people declared to Joshua, “We will serve none but the Lord our G-d and will obey none but Him.” (Josh. 24:21-25)
The advantages of the covenant at Shechem are clearly evident. By the end of Joshua’s life the people had experienced decades of fighting for conquest of the land, most of the battles being in difficult conditions and without supernatural intervention. Here the people not only knew the Torah but also were familiar with the combination of the Promised Land and the Torah, not only with overt Divine Providence, but also and primarily with covert Providence, operating through nature and history. Here the people were no longer “a people that dwells apart,” rather a people that rubs up against the peoples of Canaan and is influenced by their culture.
This is where the true test came, and the Israelites stood it with flying colors, evincing the highest level of faithfulness to the Lord and adherence to the Torah: “We will serve none but the Lord our G-d, and we will obey none but Him” (Josh. 24:24). Henceforth the relationship between God and His people does not end with Revelation at Mount Sinai, rather it begins there, continues with the covenant on the Plains of Moab and the Plains of Jericho, concludes with the covenant of Joshua at Shechem. This city was rightfully dubbed “the city of the Covenant,” for there alone was the covenant between the people and their G-d concluded.
Translated by Rachel Rowen
Dr. Haggi Ben-Arzi teaches at the Center for Basic Jewish Studies, as well as Yellin College and Lifschitz College in Jerusalem. His book, Megillat Sheshet ha-Yamim was recently published.
 “Resolve” requires an emotional state of consciousness enabling a person to make a decision on the basis of responsible consideration. Therefore the Halakhah stipulates that any agreement made without absolute and complete resolve is not legally binding. For further reading, cf. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Sefer Kinyan, Hilkhot Mekhirah, ch. 11, esp. hal. 2 and 6.
 The place where this covenant was made is called Gilgal, based on the Hebrew verb, galoti (= “I have rolled away”). Some people identify biblical Gilgal with the Deir Hajla (the monastery of St. Gerasimos), situated one kilometer west of the Jordan River, near Kibbutz Beit Ha-Arava and the outpost Beit Hogla. Near the monastery on the Jordan River is a prominent hill that some people identify as Gibeath-Ha’araloth (“Hill of Foreskins”).
 This invocation is reminiscent of the invocation introducing the covenant on the Plains of Moab: “You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your G-d—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel” (Deut. 29:9).
 Save for the miracles that accompanied the first stage of crossing the Jordan River and the people entering the land (at Jericho, Beth Horon, and the Valley of Ayalon).
12. Misconception “A woman’s vows in her father’s house could only be annulled when she was young.”
This may not be a misconception but I thought I’d add my alternate interpretation here as well. The verses in question are here:
3 When a woman makes a vow to the Lord, or binds herself by a pledge, while within her father’s house, in her youth, 4 and her father hears of her vow or her pledge by which she has bound herself, and says nothing to her; then all her vows shall stand, and any pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 But if her father expresses disapproval to her at the time that he hears of it, no vow of hers, and no pledge by which she has bound herself, shall stand; and the Lord will forgive her, because her father had expressed to her his disapproval.
6 If she marries, while obligated by her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7 and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her at the time that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8 But if, at the time that her husband hears of it, he expresses disapproval to her, then he shall nullify the vow by which she was obligated, or the thoughtless utterance of her lips, by which she bound herself; and the Lord will forgive her. 9 (But every vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, by which she has bound herself, shall be binding upon her.) 10 And if she made a vow in her husband’s house, or bound herself by a pledge with an oath, 11 and her husband heard it and said nothing to her, and did not express disapproval to her, then all her vows shall stand, and any pledge by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 But if her husband nullifies them at the time that he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning her pledge of herself, shall not stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the Lord will forgive her. 13 Any vow or any binding oath to deny herself, her husband may allow to stand, or her husband may nullify. 14 But if her husband says nothing to her from day to day, then he validates all her vows, or all her pledges, by which she is obligated; he has validated them, because he said nothing to her at the time that he heard of them. 15 But if he nullifies them some time after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her guilt. 16 These are the statutes that the Lord commanded Moses concerning a husband and his wife, and a father and his daughter while she is still young and in her father’s house. (Numbers 30:3-15)
What if “youth” here just means “under authority” like a “servant.” Indeed some people are more mature than others regardless of their age. The fact that it speaks about the woman’s vows being able to be annulled by her husband later means there isn’t necessarily a concern for the woman’s youth or inexperience just a concern for the authority structure in the household and of protecting the woman from making rash vows (men are not protected in this way at any point) However, women and men are always allowed to run away from any authority. (as we have learned in my previous post)
In other places boy is rather the name of function, and denotes servant . . . Gen. 37:2 נַעַר הוּא “he (was) servant with the sons of Bilhah,” etc. . . 2 Kings 5:20; 8:4: Exod. 33:11; 2 Ki. 4:12; used also of common soldiers . . . 1 Kings 20:15, 17, 19; 2 Kings 19:6
Indeed, it uses the same term for “youth” when a woman returns to her father’s house when older “as in her youth” and says she can eat the same things she could in her “youth.” In addition, along with the family, it was only servants bought with money that could also eat these holy things:
10 No lay person shall eat of the sacred donations. No bound or hired servant of the priest shall eat of the sacred donations; 11 but if a priest acquires anyone by purchase, the person may eat of them; and those that are born in his house may eat of his food. 12 If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the offering of the sacred donations; 13 but if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced, without offspring, and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food. No lay person shall eat of it. 14 If a man eats of the sacred donation unintentionally, he shall add one-fifth of its value to it, and give the sacred donation to the priest. 15 No one shall profane the sacred donations of the people of Israel, which they offer to the Lord, 16 causing them to bear guilt requiring a guilt offering, by eating their sacred donations: for I am the Lord; I sanctify them. (Leviticus 22:10-16 NRSV)
The annulling of vows by the father may have partially been to prevent the curse in Genesis from taking place, compare the following:
To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16 NRSV)
16 When a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married, and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17 But if her father refuses to give her to him, he shall pay an amount equal to the bride-price for virgins. (Exodus 22:16-17 NRSV)
A woman may rashly vow to marry a controlling husband but think better of it later as this research may show:
Even worse, these masculine men often embody the Dark Triad, a personality constellation that encompasses Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism. So, what in the world is appealing about these objectionable individuals? Quite simply, they possess high-quality genes that they will pass down to their future children.
. . . What did the researchers find? Women preferred aggressive men as short-term mates, and particularly during ovulation. This finding builds on previous work demonstrating that women find male characteristics such as dominance and masculine facial features especially attractive when they are fertile.
We have also learned the following in my previous post:
A. Even sons in their father’s house had no income of their own and had to follow all the orders of their father. (Luke 15:11-32)
B. Good sons are said to “serve” their fathers with the same word used for “servant” in Malachi 3:17.
C. That a servant is not different from a son until inheritance. (Galatians 4:1-3)
D. That sex with the capability of producing children is an obligation of men to women.(Ex 21:10) (Gen 30:14-18) (Gen 38:8-10)
In addition to D. one of the Jewish interpretations of Leviticus 19:29 in the Talmud is to not deny your daughter her right to get married when she is young:
(Fol. 76) You shall not profane your daugher (Lev. 19, 29). R. Eliezer says: “This refers to one who marries off his [young] daughter to an old man.” R. Akiba says: “This refers to one who leaves his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.” R. Cahana in the name of R. Akiba said (Ib. b) Who is to be considered poor and shrewd-wicked? He who has left his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.”
Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition), Sanhedrin 9:1
Gesenius has this for the word used in Leviticus 19:29:
(3) to lay open, to give access to [“to profane, from the idea of opening”], hence—(a) חִלֵל הַבַּת Lev. 19:29, to prostitute one’s daughter, comp, Lev. 21:7,14.
So these things about making sure the father lets his daughter get married may fit with my interpretation but it would also fit with the standard interpretation of “youth.” If that standard interpretation is correct then by specifying “in her youth” it’s implying the father should make sure she doesn’t have to remain in his house afterward. Given what we know about household authority and not being able to resolve “why are her vows able to be annulled when she is older by her husband” this would make some sense.
The last question is “could the word be interpreted both “youth” and “under authority” in this case?” If that was the case the associated meanings I have come up with for both interpretations would seem to apply.
Here I’ve compiled a list of common misconceptions about the Torah. The number comes first with the misconception in quotes and my response follows below. These are ordered in a way so the later responses are based on the previous but other than that the order is arbitrary.
1. Misconception: “The Torah endorses slavery.”
Calling servants in the Torah “slaves” in the modern sense is an anachronism. Servants are free to run away. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16) This today would be called “a job” but with a long contract. The servant was free to break that contract but would face consequences from not being trusted to keep contracts with other people or employers. Indeed owners of actual slaves sometimes prevented slaves from reading parts of the Bible that were against what they were doing: https://www.history.com/news/slave-bible-redacted-old-testament
2. Misconception: “You could force your daughter to marry someone.”
Although there are cases where women seem to be promised in a way that treats them like property, e.g. ‘Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, I will give him my daughter Achsah as wife.”’ (Judges 1:12) this is not endorsed anywhere in the Torah. While women may have felt cultural pressure to comply with their father it follows from 1. that you couldn’t force someone to marry you or someone else because they could run away even if they were only a servant. How much more a daughter? In addition, you couldn’t capture someone in the first place and hence you couldn’t force anyone physically to do anything without a legal reason, see Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7. Later in Jewish law this principle still remains: there is no such thing as “jail” in Jewish law, only a temporary holding for judgment. This is incredibly libertarian for ancient law which was usually less individualist than today. I would argue that jail today is immoral according to the Torah, just give someone their punishment and let them go.
3. Misconception: “After a waiting period you could force a captive to marry you.”
The passage in question follows:
10 When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, 11 suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, 12 and so you bring her home to your house: she shall shave her head, pare her nails, 13 discard her captive’s garb, and shall remain in your house a full month, mourning for her father and mother; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you are not satisfied with her, you shall let her go free and not sell her for money. You must not treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her. (Deu 21:10-14)
It follows from the previous that Deuteronomy 21:11 does not mean you can force someone to marry you. Marriage was arranged with the father of the woman and this law states that you are still allowed to marry someone that has no father. The phrase in Deuteronomy 21:13 “go in to her” does not describe sexual relations as you might think from reading other parts of the Bible because the Hebrew words there are literally “go in” and “husband” and are not elsewhere used to imply sex. Therefore there is not even a possible implication that you can have sex with her simply because the time is over. The word translated “dishonor” is used in Deuteronomy 22:24 for consensual sex so there is no implication of rape.
4. Misconception: “Rape wasn’t taken very seriously in the society of the Bible.”
This idea is often used in order to make excuses for interpretations of the Bible that are rape-friendly but nothing could be further from reality. There’s no case in that Bible where rape was taken lightly. The rape of the concubine in Judges was avenged by a national civil war. (Judges 19-21) The rape of Tamar by Amnon was avenged by Amnon’s death and possibly was the cause of another national civil war because David didn’t punish Amnon. (2 Samuel 13) What’s commonly called the rape of Dinah in Gen 34:2 was avenged by genocide. (Gen 34:25-31) According to this article, it may have even been consensual, but the crime was just taking advantage of an inexperienced young woman: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/dinah/ Do we even take rape that seriously today? I think not.
Women were protected from having their conjugal duty diminished “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.” (Ex 21:10) and Rachel and Leah were able to trade a night with Jacob for mandrakes Gen 30:14-18. Also note that it’s the less attractive Leah that tells Jacob: “‘You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.” God killed Onan for not having sex in a way that would cause pregnancy when he was supposed to perform the duty of the Levarite in Genesis 38:8-10. Rather than sex being an obligation of women, it seems that it was an obligation of men especially for the purpose of giving women children. This probably breaks a lot of the preconceptions most people have about the Biblical culture.
5. Misconception: “A virgin was supposed to marry her rapist.”
Given that Israelite culture tended to avenge rape with genocide and civil war, slipping this idea into the law would be difficult. The passage in question follows:
28 “If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days. 30 “A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor uncover his father’s bed. (Deuteronomy 22:28-30)
The word in Deuteronomy 22:28 (“taphas” Qal Perfect form in Hebrew) is never used for rape elsewhere and is totally different and unrelated to the word used in Deuteronomy 22:25 for rape “chazaq” which is also in the causative form the “hiphil.” If they wanted to say this was rape they could have easily used the same word with the same form again to describe it in the previous case. In verse 28 it says “and they are found out” implying both are responsible and consenting in contrast to the rape in Deuteronomy 22:25-27 which refers to the man and the woman separately. The location (town or city) is not specified, unlike the situations before making this a seemingly different situation than the rape that is described before. “Taphas” is used in the same form in Gen 4:21 for playing the lyre and pipe . . . Here “taphas” is translated “seize” but is used in the context of persuasion:
Someone will even seize a relative, a member of the clan, saying, “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule.” (Isaiah 3:6)
He is holding onto him in order to persuade him. Any forcible seizure would be short-lived given the power of kings in that day and age. In addition, Num 5:13 uses the niphal stem (Aspect: Perfect) as a reflexive to mean a woman who is “caught in the act” (NRSV) of adultery. In Deu 21:19 it is used in the Qal Perfect form to mean “take hold of him” to bring to the judges.
While “taphas” is used in contexts of war for the “capture” of people in battle or otherwise (hence probably why the NRSV above translates it as “seize”) it does not by itself imply force was used on those people (the threat of force is only implied by the situation). The question is: do we know how it is used in the context of a sexual encounter with a woman? No, it is only used in that context here in Deuteronomy 22:28. However, even if Taphas means “capture” or “non-consent” in this case there are other options besides interpreting it as rape which I will explain.
While Taphas is a different word than that used for rape immediately prior, it is also not used in Deuteronomy 22:22,23 to describe consensual sex. Instead of “hold” (taphas) H8610 and “lie with” (shachav) H7901 in Deuteronomy 22:28; the words used in verses 22 and 23 are “find” (matza) H4672 and “lie with” (shachav) H7901. So why the difference? If “taphas” implies a lack of consent or a “capture” then we may answer that both the father and the daughter had to consent to the marriage. The father’s authority can be established in many different places. The daughter’s authority to refuse can be established if you read the entirety of this blog post. If the father didn’t consent then that implies a “non-consent” or “capture” of the daughter which would fit with the word “taphas” being used to describe the non-consensual (but not necessarily violent) capture of people. In fact, the parallel of Deuteronomy 22:28 in Exodus 22:16 is in the context of damages to the household possessions via theft or negligence and Keil and Delitzsch say of Exodus 22:16:
The seduction of a girl, who belonged to her father as long as she was not betrothed (cf. Exodus 21:7), was also to be regarded as an attack upon the family possession. Whoever persuaded a girl to let him lie with her, was to obtain her for a wife by the payment of a dowry (מהר see Genesis 34:12); and if her father refused to give her to him, he was to weigh (pay) money equivalent to the dowry of maidens, i.e., to pay the father just as much for the disgrace brought upon him by the seduction of his daughter, as maidens would receive for a dowry upon their marriage. The seduction of a girl who was betrothed, was punished much more severely (see Deuteronomy 22:23-24).
This is backed up by the following verse Exodus 22:17 “But if her father refuses to give her to him, he shall pay an amount equal to the bride-price for virgins.” Therefore, if “taphas” H8610 in Deuteronomy 22:28 is used at all to describe a “capture” or “non-consent” then verses 29-30 give the context of what the “capture” or “non-consent” was from:
29 the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives. 30 A man shall not marry his father’s wife, thereby violating his father’s rights. (Deuteronomy 28:29-30)
If it is a “capture” it is a “capture” from the father’s authority not from the woman’s own will since both the father and the woman must be willing to accept the man. The rights of the father are not randomly started in verse 30 but are a continuation of the right of the father to not have his daughter taken away (“captured”) without his consent and his right to the bride-price. In addition, this law is merged with the law about seduction in Exodus 22:16-17 in Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (11Q Temple Scroll) showing that they all interpreted it as being the same situation. This law is merely specifying the bride-price that was mentioned in Exodus and as a common-law addition, it is clarifying that you couldn’t use the loop-hole of divorce for the marriage commanded in Exodus.
All that being said there are plenty of examples where “taphas” is used to mean “wield” or “play” which seems like a much more likely association for a sexual encounter. I’m just giving an argument that even if you take it in the stronger ways it is used it doesn’t necessarily imply rape. This article has more details on the Hebrew in question: https://cbmw.org/2018/03/05/did-old-testament-law-force-a-woman-to-marry-her-rapist/
6. Misconception: “Masters could break up the marriages of slaves that they arranged to have married.”
The verses in question:
1 These are the ordinances that you shall set before them: When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” 6 then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life. (Ex 21:1-6)
You couldn’t break up a marriage even if you were the employer of a servant. The servant that is said to go out in Ex 21:4 is clearly just becoming an independent (non-servant) if you read the context. This says nothing about the status of his marriage. However, he might want to stay employed with you so he could see his wife and kids consistently. Also according to Jesus:
3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:7-9 emphasis mine)
7. Misconception: “You could trick someone into being your servant forever by giving him a wife.”
You couldn’t trick someone into serving you forever by setting them up with a wife they wanted to be around consistently, see Exodus 21:1-6 and Deuteronomy 15:16-17.
then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life. (Ex 21:6)
Although it says “serve him for life” this doesn’t tell us exactly how their relationship changes. A son is also said to serve the father. Consider the following:
B. You are taking him to the doorpost where the law of God was posted.
C. God gave the Israelites the right to stay on the land and own the houses and land they had. (Leviticus 25:22-34)
D. Sons are said to serve the father. The same word for servant is used in Malachi 3:17 and a son is not different than a servant until inheritance comes into play Galatians 4:1-3
E. Sons had to follow all the commands of the father and did not have their own source of income as implied by Luke 15:11-32.
F. A servant is said to become an heir if he is pampered in many translations of Proverbs 29:21, see ESV and YLT for examples. However, the Hebrew is uncertain and different translations render it differently.
G. The only other examples of blood being put on the earlobes in a ceremony is of a transfer from a lower status to a higher one: the cleansing of the leper and the consecration of the priests: Lev 14:1-4, Leviticus 8:1~
H. Karel van der Toorn is a secular theologian who has studied the Biblical ceremony of piercing the ear with an awl and has concluded that it is was an adoption ceremony. (see the book “God in Context”)
8. Misconception: “You could beat your servants for no reason and you weren’t punished unless they died within a day.”
The relevant verses follow:
20 When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property. (Ex 21:20-21 NRSV)
Now it’s obvious you couldn’t beat someone to death as it says here where the same word is used for “strikes:” “Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:12) Actually, if you did any significant (or maybe permanent) damage to your servant they would become an independent: Exodus 21:26-27 The reason you could punish servants (assuming you were the head of a household) is that you were part of the legal system. Just as today we might post the law of the land on the courthouse so in that time the laws of God were posted on the gates (where the elders sat) and on the doorposts of houses: Deuteronomy 6:9 and Deuteronomy 11:20. Regardless of whether you agree with the implications of where the law was posted, it is a fact that the legal system was much more distributed in the Torah than in most modern societies. Take for example the avenger of blood in Deuteronomy 19:11-12 which was just a person in the victim’s family.
The mention of the servant as “property” is literally “money” and there is a curious similarity to the previous verses which talk about compensating individuals for loss of work and cost of recovery in a fight:
18 When individuals quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or fist so that the injured party, though not dead, is confined to bed, 19 but recovers and walks around outside with the help of a staff, then the assailant shall be free of liability, except to pay for the loss of time, and to arrange for full recovery. (Exodus 21:18-19)
The case in verse 21 for the servant living one or two days is not for when it looked like they had died of their injuries because beating someone near death would do significant and probably permanent damage and hence make the servant an independent causing the death of the servant to be avenged as an independent person. (this is just for those who think Ex 21:12 didn’t apply with servants for some reason) Rather verse 21 is for a case where it is unknown what killed the servant.
However, is there a connection to the two independent men fighting and compensation? I think verse 21 simply specifies that since the servant was a source of income and value to the employer that any uncertainty in what caused the death should be decided in the employer’s favor since he is presumed to have suffered a loss from this. This seems to not be the case with independent men since nothing is said about whether the victim dies a day or two later.
Another view (that I’m not in favor of) is that the employer would not be liable for the loss of time of the servant unlike the two men fighting since the employer suffers a loss from having to support the servant while recovering. If this were the case it would suggest that the punishment for a servant could be rather harsh. I don’t agree with this for several reasons: 1. The passage does not specify what to do when the servant is confined to bed but recovers. It only specifies what to do if the servant is confined to bed and then dies. It would be nonsensical to assume anything about compensating the servant in a case where he dies. 2. The Bible also prevents harsh beatings even if they would only be “degrading:” “Forty lashes may be given but not more; if more lashes than these are given, your neighbor will be degraded in your sight.” (Deuteronomy 25:3 NRSV) Life-threatening beatings would seem to be excluded by preventing “degrading” beatings.
9. Misconception: “The Torah Condones Burning People Alive”
The relevant verses follow:
When the daughter of a priest profanes herself through prostitution, she profanes her father; she shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NRSV)
This wasn’t actually “burned to death” but “burned after death.” Compare this more literal translation with the story of Achan in Joshua 7 where he is condemned to be burned with fire but is stoned then burned with fire:
`And a daughter of any priest when she polluteth herself by going a-whoring — her father she is polluting; with fire she is burnt. (Leviticus 21:9 YLT)
See the excerpt on Achan below:
15 And the one who is taken as having the devoted things shall be burned with fire, together with all that he has, for having transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and for having done an outrageous thing in Israel.’” . . . 25 Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord is bringing trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast stones on them, 26 and raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore that place to this day is called the Valley of Achor. (Leviticus 7:15-26 NRSV)
10. Misconception: “The punishments in the Torah are exact.”
The punishments in the Torah are actually maximum punishments. For instance, the punishment for adultery is said to be death (Leviticus 20:10) but Hosea was able to not punish his wife for adultery and it also speaks of accepting compensation for adultery in Proverbs:
32 But he who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33 Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away. 34 For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. 35 He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe, however great it is. (Proverbs 6:32-35)
In addition, the punishment listed for adultery in Numbers 5 does not include death:
18 The priest shall set the woman before the Lord, dishevel the woman’s hair, and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. In his own hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. 19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. 20 But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has had intercourse with you,” 21 —let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse and say to the woman—“the Lord make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge; 22 now may this water that brings the curse enter your bowels and make your womb discharge, your uterus drop!” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”23 Then the priest shall put these curses in writing, and wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her and cause bitter pain. 25 The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman’s hand, and shall elevate the grain offering before the Lord and bring it to the altar; 26 and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and turn it into smoke on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27 When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be immune and be able to conceive children.
It also states that the owner of an ox that is accustomed to gore shall be put to death–but then states right after that payment can also be required of the owner instead:
28 When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not restrained it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on the owner, then the owner shall pay whatever is imposed for the redemption of the victim’s life. 31 If it gores a boy or a girl, the owner shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. (Exodus 21:28-32)
David also gives a deviant judgement from the letter of the law based on circumstances:
4 When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and did obeisance, and said, “Help, O king!” 5 The king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6 Your servant had two sons, and they fought with one another in the field; there was no one to part them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7 Now the whole family has risen against your servant. They say, ‘Give up the man who struck his brother, so that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he murdered, even if we destroy the heir as well.’ Thus they would quench my one remaining ember, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.”
8 Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.” 9 The woman of Tekoa said to the king, “On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father’s house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.” 10 The king said, “If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.” 11 Then she said, “Please, may the king keep the Lord your God in mind, so that the avenger of blood may kill no more, and my son not be destroyed.” He said, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.” (2 Samuel 14:1-33)
Also, the phrase “an eye for an eye” in the lex talionis passages could be literally translated as “an eye under an eye” and there is a different phrase used in Deuteronomy (where a false witness attempts to incriminate someone) to say that the same punishment should be implemented on that witness.
11. Misconception: “The Torah was a rule-book that had to followed exactly like today’s modern law”
Rather I think the Torah was very situational. This idea follows partially from 10. I think this and number 10 might be on of the main misconceptions that prevent Christians from thinking the Torah is relevant today–otherwise it is too harsh and can’t be molded to our present situation. To give an example by what I mean by this, even though I have been talking about the household in the Torah as being run by one man (the pater-familias or the father–which one I am uncertain) I don’t necessarily think that it needs to be run by men or that there needs to be a single head of the household. I think the rules in the Torah were more general guidelines that could be changed based on the situation. For instance, Deborah was a leader of the whole of Israel and she was married. It wouldn’t make sense if her husband was the authority over her given that situation and her leadership skills and given that she needed to be free from her husband’s rules at every moment since there would have been emergencies where she needed to accomplish her leadership tasks. Instead, I think the rules that assume males are in charge in the Torah are more of a general situation. You might be able to get from this that men in general are better leaders, or that it is better generally to have them in charge because otherwise they will be upset and cause problems, but it doesn’t mean that this is a hard and fast rule. I speak more about Deborah and the misconception of necessary male authority in the church here:
Here is a good summary of this idea:
The idea that divine law can be as malleable as human law no doubt sounds counterintuitive. Humans are fallible and limited in their perspective; God’s wisdom is infinite, and surely His laws cannot be altered. This intuition, however, rests on a misunderstanding. The fluid nature of common law stems only partially from the limitations of the human jurist. It also stems from the fluidity of society itself, a quality of human life to which even divine law must adapt.
This position was forcefully advocated by one of the most creative rabbinic minds of the 19th century: Tzadok ha-Cohen Rabinowitz of Lublin (1823-1900), a great hasidic master. As against the many voices in the rabbinic tradition who have seen halakhah as a relatively static inheritance passed down through an unbroken chain of transmission, Rabinowitz adheres to an alternative view that emphasizes its changing and dynamic nature. This alternative view is substantiated by the way Scripture itself approaches the law. There, laws do not assume a single, immutable form. Rather, the basic institution undergoes restatement and receives new expression through the generations.
To Rabinowitz, the Ten Commandments themselves were subject to adaptation. The Decalogue, after all, appears in two versions in the Torah. The first is at Sinai, in Exodus 20. The second is in Deuteronomy 5, where Moses “recounts” what God said at Sinai. Remarkably, there are discrepancies—some only of style, but others of substance.
The rabbis of the Talmud resolve these discrepancies by attributing them to the unique nature of divine speech. When God spoke at Sinai, they explain (Sh’vuot 20b), the complexity of His word could be conveyed only by preserving two separate records of that communication. But Rabinowitz rejects this explanation. For him, God spoke the version recorded in Exodus, while Moses’ retelling of the Decalogue in Deuteronomy is a reapplication of God’s word in accordance with the needs of the new generation about to enter the land.6
The same patterns of reinterpretation and reapplication of a biblical command can be seen with regard to the laws of the Sabbath, Passover, levirate marriage, and many other commandments throughout the Bible. Who controlled these processes of scriptural interpretation and reapplication? Were all laws open to endless revision? Were there foundational principles that guided the process? The Bible is remarkably silent on these issues, registering no anxiety about what for observant Jews today are matters of burning import.
But if the limits and controls of the legal process in biblical times are shrouded in mystery, we do know this: when Israel flagrantly ignored a particular instruction, the prophets would register divine disapproval. Thus, for example, Israel is criticized for completely ignoring the injunction against working the land during the sabbatical year.7 Yet, despite censuring Israel for these and many more grievous failings—theft, murder, idolatry—nowhere do the prophets throw the book at the people for performing a law in a fashion that happens to differ from the Torah’s specific prescription. “So it shall be written; so it shall be done!”—the essence of codified law—was fine for Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 film The Ten Commandments. But the actual Ten Commandments and many other commandments were interpreted and applied by judges and leaders through the processes of common law.
There are negative and positive commandments and there are not (in general) legal punishments for breaking the positive ones. Negative commands use the Hebrew words for “no” and “not” which are לא and אין to describe what one should avoid doing, such as “thou shalt not” in the ten commandments. However a negative can also be implied, like describing a rebellious son and issuing punishment for him. (implication: don’t be a rebellious son)
18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. 20 They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NRSV)
However, what if this is actually the case throughout? It would be another rule of interpretation we could use. Just like the rules of Hillel are found throughout the Bible, Hillel just described the rules as Newton described the law of gravity. Hillel no more instituted the rules of Hillel than Newton instituted gravity. So it is possible that this is a principle of biblical law and we can make an argument based on the idea of positive commandments not having a legal punishment.
One of the positive Passover commandments states:
10 Speak to the Israelites, saying: Anyone of you or your descendants who is unclean through touching a corpse, or is away on a journey, shall still keep the passover to the Lord. 11 In the second month on the fourteenth day, at twilight, they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute for the passover they shall keep it. 13 But anyone who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet refrains from keeping the passover, shall be cut off from the people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at its appointed time; such a one shall bear the consequences for the sin. (Numbers 9:10-13)
My argument follows:
1. The Passover is a positive command and therefore does not have a legal punishment.
2. “Cut off from the people [of israel]” taken literally, means not being considered an Israelite.
3. “Cut off a from people [of israel]” would not be punishment for foreigners who were already not israelite.
4. Therefore if you gain the status of Israelite via the Passover then being considered a foreigner would not be a legal punishment, you would just not get the benefit of the Passover.
5 But if “cut off from people” is legal punishment this contradicts with number 1.
6. To reconcile, we suppose the Passover gave the legal right to be Israelite. Therefore, being cut off is not a legal punishment, just a lack of benefit from the positive command.
Additional evidence seems to imply the Passover was a conversion ritual:
If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the Lord, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it; (Exodus 12:48)
It’s interesting that this idea of positive and negative commandments assumes that God can decide to write things in a specific way in order to convey a message. “God said let there be light and there was light” is written as “וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אֹור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור” you’ll notice that “and there was light” and “let there be light” are written in the same way ” וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור” and ” יְהִי אֹור” except for the vav (meaning “and”) and the nikkud (nikkud weren’t added till later). How can this be? Because of the vav conversive which changes the tense of the statement, so they can be written the same way even though the tenses are different. However, the vav does not force this to be the case all the time. Therefore, this may be conveying “it happened exactly as God said it would” through the syntax. If I see a pattern in the way punishment is given for negative and positive commandments then that may be evidence of a pattern that has meaning.
For instance, with the positive command of honoring your father, you can do things that wouldn’t honor your father that should not be legally punished like squandering your inheritance. Another example, Christ criticized some Pharisees for teaching that people can make offerings of things instead of supporting/honoring their father. Mark 7:10-12. However, it would be inappropriate for the legal system to step in and tell them that you had to give your parents things to support them, this is a family matter. (at the very least it would be inappropriate if it dictated the specifics)
But can “cut off” really mean that? The LXX has what may appear to a more violent interpretation of “cut off.” “that soul shall be utterly destroyed from it’s people” https://studybible.info/interlinear/Numbers%209:13 For those who aren’t familiar with the Septuagint (LXX), it is simply a translation of the Hebrew and is trying to convey the meaning behind the Hebrew. It will also reflect their understanding of the Hebrew at that time. I think it is a good reference which was quoted by Jesus and his disciples but I don’t view it as the final authority on something. It is something that must be weighed with the rest of the evidence. It is also useful because it is translated sometimes from more ancient Hebrew texts than the Masoretic so you can use the Dead Sea scrolls as a second witness to see if a certain reading is correct (for example it turns out the Goliath is not as tall as he is the Masoretic text according to the witness of the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls)
In addition, the LXX also uses some greek words that mean violence in much less forceful ways, for example, read the context of these and often “force” just means “persuade” https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G971Also, the LXX translates “cut off” as “destroyed from his race” which isn’t the same thing as destroyed. Also, observe that that same word is used to just mean “destroyed” without the corresponding “from his race” qualification: https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G1842 If something is qualified it is usually not the same as the unqualified thing and should be restricted to that context, another example would be “olam” or “forever” it is sometimes used in context of a human life where it just means “forever until death” The LXX actually uses “forever” to translate “all of his days” from the Hebrew multiple times (i.e. https://studybible.info/interlinear/ex%2021:6 )
Going back to positive commandments, another interesting set of verses is:
25 The priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the Israelites, and they shall be forgiven; it was unintentional, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their error. 26 All the congregation of the Israelites shall be forgiven, as well as the aliens residing among them, because the whole people was involved in the error. 27 An individual who sins unintentionally shall present a female goat a year old for a sin offering. 28 And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the one who commits an error, when it is unintentional, to make atonement for the person, who then shall be forgiven. 29 For both the native among the Israelites and the alien residing among them—you shall have the same law for anyone who acts in error. 30 But whoever acts high-handedly, whether a native or an alien, affronts the Lord, and shall be cut off from among the people. 31 Because of having despised the word of the Lord and broken his commandment, such a person shall be utterly cut off and bear the guilt. (Numbers 15:30)
This would seem to include any sin, including breaking positive commands. So is “cut off from among the people” a legal punishment here? Not in my mind; the law is part of the covenant and if you reject part of the law by sinning purposely then you reject the whole covenant. (James 2:10) Therefore it’s hard to see if this is actually punishment or is just a statement of the result of purposely rejecting part of the covenant. You get the benefit of the covenant by being Israelite, if you reject it you lose that benefit. Therefore this may not actually be punishment but a lack of obtaining the benefit of the covenant.
Interestingly, in addition to sinning on purpose, verse 30 may refer to taking an improper place of judgment for oneself. The previous context is about forgiving sins and the following context is about them asking what to do to a man who had picked up sticks on the sabbath so the would judge properly.
It actually uses the same word to talk about claiming responsibility for something yourself: (“ought” is supplied in the KJV)
Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, H7311 and the LORD hath not done all this. (Deu 32:27 KJV)
But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, H7311 whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. (Num 15:30 KJV)
The Septuagint uses the same word here for people who refuse to listen to the priest to carry out the law properly:
And the man who ever should do in pride G5243 to not obey the priest standing beside to officiate in the name of the lord your God, or the judge who ever should be in those days, then [2shall die 1that man], and you shall lift away the wicked one from out of Israel. (Deut 17:12)
And the soul who shall do a thing by hand through pride G5243 — of the native born, or of the foreigners — [3God 1this one 2provokes], and [2shall be utterly destroyed 1that soul] from out of its people,(Num 15:30)
11 You must carry out fully the law that they interpret for you or the ruling that they announce to you; do not turn aside from the decision that they announce to you, either to the right or to the left. 12 As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the Lord your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again. (Deut 17:11-13 NRSV)
While none of that conclusively shows it also refers to presumptuous judgment it does provide an interesting parallel. If you purposely reject God’s authority structure by taking up judgment and not listening to the priest you also reject God’s covenant.
Update 2020-03-14: I have found a possible flaw in my idea of “cut off from people” (KJV version) This seems to parallel “put to death” with “cut off from people”:
Exo 31:14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work H4399 therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Exo 31:15 Six days may work H4399 be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work H4399 in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
Exo 35:2 Six days shall work H4399 be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work H4399 therein shall be put to death.
One possible explanation to save my theory is that both happen. Not only is the person killed but they are no longer considered an Israelite since working is a purposeful act of breaking the covenant.
All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. When I first started writing this I thought I had to admit that the Bible did not explicitly prohibit rape of an unmarried unbetrothed woman. However, I have now realized that the Bible does explicitly prohibit rape in Ex 21:16 and Deut 24:7 because it prohibits the capture/seizure of people which is part of rape. I argue that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is connected with Exodus 22:16-17 and is about seduction and not rape but I don’t have time to make that argument here, instead see this article: https://cbmw.org/topics/sex/did-old-testament-law-force-a-woman-to-marry-her-rapist
I do think rape is explicitly against other laws–for instance it would at least be covered under the laws concerning damages to people and certainly against the law to love your neighbor. However, I will argue that just because it is not explicitly named that the Bible’s attitude should not be taken as lax towards it. In fact, I will argue that under the biblical law that rape is a death penalty offense.
So why isn’t rape itself explicitly mentioned in the law? For a few reasons I suspect
1 The first one is pretty obvious: it was covered directly by other laws against capturing and indirectly by laws against slavery which came almost immediately in the giving of the law.
There was no reason to add specific cases to a good comprehensive general one. This comes by observing that the Tanakh is very much against capturing and slavery:
Whoever kidnaps h1589 a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:16)
If someone is caught kidnaping h1589 another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 24:7)
Notice it uses the same Hebrew word for “steal” in the 10 commandments. There are some translations that have “and” in-between each case here rather than “or” which causes some to argue that it only prohibited the combination of them: kidnapping, selling, and found in their possession. However, in YLT this seems to be the result of translating the vav literally and consistently as “and” and is not a mandate for how to understand the vav in that particular context. Keil and Delitzsch correct the misconception that vavs can only mean “and” and note the severity with which this capturing was treated:
Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (Exodus 21:15), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), and cursing parents (Exodus 21:17, cf. Leviticus 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the “smiting” (הכּה) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case ומת would be added as in Exodus 21:12, but any kind of maltreatment. . . . Man-stealing was also no less a crime, being a sin against the dignity of man, and a violation of the image of God. For אישׁ “a man,” we find in Deuteronomy 24:7, נפשׁ “a soul,” by which both man and woman are intended, and the still more definite limitation, “of his brethren of the children of Israel.” The crime remained the same whether he had sold him (the stolen man), or whether he was still found in his hand. (For ו – ו as a sign of an alternative in the linking together of short sentences, see Proverbs 29:9, and Ewald, 361.) This is the rendering adopted by most of the earlier translators, and we get no intelligent sense if we divide the clauses thus: “and sell him so that he is found in his hand.”
This attitude is consistent with the Bible’s libertarian treatment of individual freedom and the prohibition against forced servitude:
15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )
It even says the type of slavery that happened in Egypt was wrong since it says that you shall not crush (H3905) the sojourners like has been done to you in Egypt:
You shall not wrong or oppress H3905 a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)
This is because the same word H3905 is used to describe the oppression of the Egyptians upon the Israelite:
The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress H3905 them. (Exodus 3:9)
You shall not oppress H3905 a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. H3906 (Deu 26:7)
It in fact says that you should treat sojourners as natives:
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
It says that you should never rule over anyone like the Egyptians did to the Israelites (the context in Ezekiel is criticizing their behavior):
The Egyptians became ruthless H6531 in imposing tasks on the Israelites, (Exo 1:13)
You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled H6531 them. (Ez 34:4)
So if they couldn’t behave like the Egyptians and they couldn’t capture or force people to stay with them then what motivation could servants have for staying? I think this was a way for people who had gotten into debt (by committing a crime or otherwise) to get back on their feet by making an extended contract with someone. The servant could break that contract but if they broke it for no good reason then other people would be less likely to want to have them as a servant. It also says to provide them with resources when they went out, this may have been partially motivation for staying. In addition this may imply that they came in with nothing, hence were working to get back on their feet:
And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. 14 Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 15:13)
There are intricacies to these contracts that often escape our notice; servants could be given authority to manage the household and manage the marriage of a son (Genesis 24:2) and also may have been heirs automatically when no children were present (Genesis 15:3). They could own property (2 Samuel 19:17), and they, or a relation, could buy their freedom regardless of the master’s will to keep them (Lev 25:47–50).
And it seems to have had a positive connotation:
Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13)
You could replace “servant” with “daughter” and it would still make sense. Interestingly a son is said to serve the father and it uses the same word that means “servant” elsewhere:
They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve H5647 them. (Mal 3:17)
Since you have to capture someone to rape them and you can’t capture people this would outlaw rape. Also raping a person is like taking them temporarily as a sex slave so the prohibition against forced servitude or slavery would indirectly outlaw rape as well.
2 The second reason it does not explicitly mention rape is because of the nature of ancient law which is not meant to be comprehensive:
Excursus: The Paradigmatic Nature of Biblical Law
Modern societies generally have opted for exhaustive law codes. That is, every action modern society wishes to regulate or prohibit must be specifically mentioned in a separate law. Under the expectations of this exhaustive law system, state and/or federal law codes run to thousands of pages and address thousands of individual actions by way of requirement or restriction or control or outright banning of those actions. By this approach, all actions are permitted that are not expressly forbidden or regulated. Thus it is not uncommon that criminals in modern Western societies evade prosecution because of a “technicality” or a “loophole” in the law—their undesirable actions are not exactly prohibited or regulated by a written law, so they cannot be convicted even though an objective observer may be convinced that what they did surely deserved punishment.
Ancient laws did not work this way. They were paradigmatic, giving models of behaviors and models of prohibitions/punishments relative to those behaviors, but they made no attempt to be exhaustive. Ancient laws gave guiding principles, or samples, rather than complete descriptions of all things regulated. Ancient people were expected to be able to extrapolate from what the sampling of laws did say to the general behavior the laws in their totality pointed toward. Ancient judges were expected to extrapolate from the wording provided in the laws that did exist to all other circumstances and not to be foiled in their jurisprudence by any such concepts as “technicalities” or “loopholes.” When common sense told judges that a crime had been committed, they reasoned their way from whatever the most nearly applicable law specified to a decision as to how to administer proper justice in the case before them. Citizens of ancient Israel, and especially its judges, had to learn to extrapolate from whatever laws they had received from Yahweh to whatever justice-challenging situation they were dealing with. The number of laws dealing with any given application of justice might be few, but that would not prevent justice from being applied. It would simply have been the case that all parties were expected to appeal for guidance to those laws that did exist, whether or not expressed specifically in terms that dealt with the case under consideration. In other words, the Israelites had to learn to see the underlying principles in any law and not let the specifics of the individual casuistic citation mislead them into applying the law too narrowly.
God’s revealed covenant law to Israel was paradigmatic. No Israelite could say: “The law says I must make restitution for stolen oxen or sheep (Exod. 22:1), but I stole your goat. I don’t have to pay you back,” or “The law says that anyone who attacks his father or mother must be put to death (Exod. 21:15), but I attacked my grandmother, so I shouldn’t be punished,” or “The law says that certain penalties apply for hitting someone with a fist or a stone (Exod. 21:18), but I kicked my neighbor with my foot and hit him with a piece of wood, so I shouldn’t be punished.” Such arguments would have insulted the intelligence of all concerned and made no impact on those rendering judgments. It is in connection with the paradigmatic nature of Israel’s covenant law that Jesus, following the established tradition in Judaism, could make so sweeping an assertion as that two laws sum up all the rest [Matt. 22:34-40]. Properly understood, two laws do indeed sum up everything in the entire legal corpus of the Old Testament. So do ten laws (the Ten Words/Commandments); so do all six hundred and thirteen. The numbers go no higher, nor would they need to. If a reasonable number of comprehensive and comprehensible laws (as few as two, as many as six hundred and thirteen) are provided to a people as paradigms for proper living, there is no excuse for that people to claim ignorance of how to behave or to claim innocence when their sins are found out.
. . .
A final implication of paradigmatic law: not all laws will be equally comprehensive in scope. That is, some will be very broad in their applicability (love Yahweh your God) and some much more narrow (do not bear false witness). One might ask, “Why not say ‘don’t be dishonest in any way,’ which would be broader and more comprehensive than ‘don’t bear false witness’?” But that would be missing the way paradigmatic law works: through a somewhat randomly presented admixture of rather specific examples of more general behaviors and very general regulations of broad categories of behavior, the reader/listener comes to understand that all sorts of situations not exactly specified (either because a law is so broad or so narrow) are also implicitly covered. In other words, when all the laws are considered together, one’s impression is that both the very narrow, precise issues and the very broad, general issues fall under the purview of God’s covenant. The wide variability of comprehensiveness is intended to help the person desiring to keep the covenant to say, “I now see that in the tiniest detail as well as in the widest, most general way, I am expected to try to keep this law—in all its implications, not just in terms of its exact wording.” Some commandments are thus less broad in scope in the way they are expressed than is necessary to cover all the intended actions; others are so broad in scope in the way they are expressed that one could never think up all the ways they might be applied. This is just as it should be. The narrow and the broad taken together suggest the overall comprehensiveness of God’s covenant will for his people. (p. 442-45) https://www.rodneychrisman.com/2010/08/11/the-paradigmatic-nature-of-biblical-law/ see original source: https://books.google.com/books?id=8H9E00e5PSwC&pg=PA442#v=onepage&q&f=false
3 There was already a law mandating that servants not be held against their will. This can be combined with the rule of “light and heavy” to also outlaw holding anyone against their will which is a prerequisite for rape.
15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )
Essentially servants would have had the least rights in the society, so if people with the least rights couldn’t be held against their will then how much more the non-servants? Light and heavy is described below:
Kal Vahomer (Light and heavy)
The Kal vahomer rule says that what applies in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case. A kal vahomer argument is often, but not always, signaled by a phrase like “how much more…”
The Rabbinical writers recognize two forms ok kal vahomer:
kal vahomer meforash – In this form the kal vahomer argument appears explicitly. kal vahomer satum – In which the kal vahomer argument is only implied. There are several examples of kal vahomer in the Tenach.
For example: Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner. (Proverbs 11:31)
And: If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? (Jerermiah 12:5a)
Other Tenach examples to look at: Deuteronomy 31:27; 1 Samuel 23:3; Jerermiah 12:5b; Ezekiel 15:5; Esther 9:12
There are several examples of kal vahomer in the New Testament. Y’shua often uses this form of argument.
For example: If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (Jn. 7:23)
And: What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Mt. 12:11-12)
Other examples of Y’shua’s usage of kal vahomer are: Matthew 6:26, 30 = Luke 12:24, 28; Mathhew 7:11 = Luke 11:13; Matthew 10:25 & John 15:18-20; Matthew 12:12 & John 7:23
4 The fourth reason rape may not have been mentioned is because of cultural differences that made it not as important to address directly.
Unlike the Greeks and Romans, the ANE was not very ‘into’ using slaves/captives for sexual purposes, even though scholars earlier taught this:
“During the pinnacle of Sumerian culture, female slaves outnumbered male. Their owners used them primarily for spinning and weaving. Saggs maintains that their owners also used them for sex, but there is little actual evidence to support such a claim” [OT:EML:69]
There’s no case in the Bible where rape was taken lightly. The rape of the concubine in Judges was avenged by a national civil war. (Judges 19-21) The rape of Tamar by Amnon was avenged by Amnon’s death and possibly was the cause of another national civil war because David didn’t punish Amnon. (2 Sam. 13) What’s commonly called the rape of Dinah (Gen 34:2) (which may have even been consensual) was avenged by genocide. (Gen 34:25-31) Do we even take rape that seriously today? I think not.
The one possible exception to this pattern is in judges 21 where the men of Benjamin are given women that were captured from Jabesh-Gilead, in addition, they are invited to steal women at a festival which they accomplish. However, a few points: 1. This was a terrible time in Israel and the story illustrates that. 2. There is also genocide and killing going on left and right so the fact that another atrocity is overlooked is expected. 3. The women of Jabesh-Gilead that Benjamin take are specifically those that have never lain with a man. There is no way to test for virginity reliably–especially in that day–and so this was most likely because the women were too young to have been with a man, hence they would have had to wait for them to mature before marriage. 4. It is never said that they raped anyone, rather the women seeing that they were taken and that their fathers were not going to do anything about it may have eventually acquiesced willingly (although admittedly this still terrible and is not consensual since it is done under duress and manipulation). Nevertheless, these cases differ from the explicitly stated cases of rape and do not show an–overall–cultural acquiescence to those cases.
In the Torah women were protected from having their conjugal duty diminished “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.” (Ex 21:10) and Rachel and Leah were able to trade a night with Jacob for mandrakes Gen 30:14-18. Also note that it’s the less attractive Leah that tells Jacob: “‘You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.” God killed Onan for not having sex in a way that would cause pregnancy when he was supposed to perform the duty of the Levarite in Genesis 38:8-10. Hannah’s prayer was answered by God when she cried because she was not able to become pregnant and was ridiculed by her rival 1 Samuel 1:1-28. Part of one of the Jewish interpretations of Leviticus 19:29 in the Talmud is to not deny your daughter her right of marriage for too long:
Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition), Sanhedrin 9:1 (Fol. 76) You shall not profane your daugher (Lev. 19, 29). R. Eliezer says: “This refers to one who marries off his [young] daughter to an old man.” R. Akiba says: “This refers to one who leaves his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.” R. Cahana in the name of R. Akiba said (Ib. b) Who is to be considered poor and shrewd-wicked? He who has left his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.”
Rather than sex being an obligation of women, it seems that it was an obligation of men especially for the purpose of giving women children. This probably breaks a lot of the preconceptions most people have about the Biblical culture.
Here’s an interesting statement on how culture really determines what people are likely to do:
At the same time, many of the men who have violated a woman sexually do not meet clinical diagnostic criteria as either sociopaths, sexual deviants, or for that matter neurologically (or intellectually) impaired. While “stranger danger” stirs deep, easy dread (and is hence a useful trope for screenwriters and politicians), most sexual violence takes place among otherwise normative people who are familiar with each other and are involved in some type of relationship. This raises the possibility that to these perpetrators, the violence appears, in context, normative. By this argument, a sizable proportion of the men who attack women are following, rather than flaunting, social dictates.
The role of social dictates in shaping individual behavior is often overlooked because we are inclined to favor internal causes when explaining other people’s behavior. This tendency is so fundamental that it has a name: The Fundamental Attribution Error. (When evaluating our own, particularly negative behavior, however, we often rely on less damning external explanations. To wit: you’re late for work because you’re lazy. I’m late because of traffic. This is called the “actor-observer effect”).
It turns out, however, that social and situational variables often override individual characteristics in predicting one’s behavior and overall future. If I need to predict whether you’ll be dancing next Friday night, it’s better for me to inquire about where you’ll be that night than about your extraversion score on a personality test. If I want to know whether you’ll become wealthy, I’m better off basing my prediction on whether your parents are wealthy than on the conscientiousness score on your personality test. We are more beholden to our circumstances than we tend to believe. This is true in general; and it’s true for sexual violence in particular. For example, contextual and group factors (such as orders from the leadership, pre-conflict rates of sexual violence, intra-group dynamics, gender inequality) predict the prevalence of war rapes better than the personalities or characteristics of individual soldiers.
Circumstances matter in part because they set (or remove) certain hard parameters. Regardless of your personal characteristics, if you’re at your wedding, you’re going to dance. The fact also remains that if you are born in Afghanistan to poor parents, you have no access to capital. If you’re born in Manhattan to wealthy parents, you do. Circumstances, particularly social ones, also matter greatly because as herd animals, we are utterly dependent on the approval, acceptance, cooperation, and support of others. Thus, we are wired to notice, take into account, and align with the behavior of those around us.
If you’re still telling yourself that you are your own person, doing your thing, not giving a damn about what others think—then you need to grow up and face the (social) facts. Society gives you life. It is your main source of strength and identity. Without it you’re hopeless—an ant that has lost its colony. Society provides you with the tools and rules for living. It has fearsome powers of reward and retribution. In other words society, as the sociologist Randall Collins has argued brilliantly, is God. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201902/when-men-attack-why-and-which-men-sexually-assault-women
We expect people back then to be like they are today. However, this isn’t always the case. The first difference we do know is that they were a polygynist society which is sometimes caused by a need to deal with the issue of lack of men (sometimes caused by war):
However, this is speculation. I haven’t had any luck on finding what the actual gender ratio was in biblical times and when I have found articles there seem to be different opinions.
However, some things I can observe from the law and culture is that: 1. there is no premarital sex, a man who sleeps with a woman is supposed to marry her “he shall surely marry her” and “unless the father absolutely refuses” in Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:29 (I argue that this is indeed a seduction but don’t have time to go into this now) Here’s something I wrote that touches on premarital sex: https://hebrewroots.intentionalcommunities.world/2019/02/03/gesenius-and-leviticus-1929/ This makes early sexual competition over mates virtually non-existent if followed correctly. 2. Marriage is arranged by the family at a young age which also prevents any rejection based on sexual prowess that seems to increase the risk of men becoming rapists. It is possible however that someone’s wife would reject them and that might increase the risk of rape. However, based on my arguments on the Torah the consent of both the person being married and the guardian was required because the Torah gives the freedom to run away for any reason based on not holding servants against their will and the rule of light and heavy. Also, the modern rise in narcissistic personality disorder may be a result of modern living and individualism all of which would be absent in the tribal society of the Bible: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201401/why-is-narcissism-increasing-among-young-americans
The following is about rape being associated with narcissism:
Heavy drinking, perceived pressure to have sex, a belief in “rape myths” — such as the idea that no means yes — are all risk factors among men who have committed sexual assault. A peer group that uses hostile language to describe women is another one. Yet there also seem to be personal attributes that have a mediating effect on these factors. Men who are highly aroused by rape porn — another risk factor — are less likely to attempt sexual assault if they score highly on measures of empathy, Dr. Malamuth has found. What about the idea that rape is about power over women? Some experts feel that research into hostile attitudes toward women supports this idea. In general, however, researchers say motives are varied and difficult to quantify. Dr. Malamuth has noticed that repeat offenders often tell similar stories of rejection in high school and of looking on as “jocks and the football players got all the attractive women.”As these once-unpopular, often narcissistic men become more successful, he suspects that “getting back at these women, having power over them, seems to have become a source of arousal.”
I should be clear when arguing this that I am not blaming women rejecting men for causing men to rape. I am saying based on science allowing men to freely compete and be rejected by women on an individual basis seems to increase the likelihood that narcissistic men will rape. A family-based method of choosing mates would redirect anger towards a rival family which could be bad as well, it’s just not likely to result in rejected narcissistic men blaming women. There’s a similar behavior in orangutans for those who find animal studies helpful in explaining human behavior:
One possible reason for the rapes, she said, is because it takes so long for males to mature in the rain forest. In zoos, captive male orangutans usually become mature at age 13 or 14. In the rain forest of Borneo, however, they do not become mature until age 20, only then developing the cheek pads and large throat sac of a male adult. Although they are capable of sexual activity before that, females in heat are not attracted to them, so their only sexual option becomes force.
There’s a Biblical ethics paper I am working on that will address more misconceptions like this and fill in some details on how ancient Israelite law was supposed to work. I think there is a huge amount of bias in the way people interpret the Bible from chronological bigotry. Us moderns looking backwards/downwards like to feel good about ourselves and like we are making moral progress. We also just like to be able to feel outraged about something, whether it’s Harambe’s killing or ancient people mistreating their women. This seems to be the case irrespective of our level of knowledge on these topics. However, the bias that comes with interpreting the law through a lens that assumes words like “slave” (used by some translations of the Bible) meant the same thing back then as it does today is even worse. If we poison the well with misunderstandings as bad as that, it’s no wonder that we see other parts of the law as barbaric.
Just to note. I didn’t come up with this on my own but I adapted it from the work of someone else. I’ve asked that person previously if he wants me to credit him and he hasn’t responded.
The theory is that originally the mark of the beast meant “man-made torah” in Hebrew or Aramaic while when it was translated into Greek some translators changed it to mean “man-made Christ” (the two are actually connected)
Looking at the context of the verses  you get the idea of man-made Torah.
So why did some translators of the Hebrew/Aramaic (or copiers of the Greek) change the number in Greek? Since 616 is in the earliest documents maybe the later translators were worried that as Christianity spread the audience wouldn’t understand the meaning of Hebrew gematria and since the Greek letters also had meanings they changed the number to get a similar meaning in Greek (with Christ being thought of as the living Torah) 
In the Greek 666 is represented as chi (600) xi (60) stigma (6) and the meanings are “Christ detached-from piercing” This is a reference to the gnostic version of Christ  It would take me too much space to describe all the animosity between early Christianity and Gnosticism but basically that there are a lot places in the new testament that criticize the Gnostic rejection of the law or “antinomianism”.
Just to include the mainstream theory in the mix as well the other idea is that 666 means “Neron Ceasar” and that 616 means “Nero Ceasar” 
It is important in this connection to note the Hebraisms of the whole of this part of the book, which prove that the writer or—if he himself originally wrote Hebrew or Aramaic—the translator could neither write nor speak Greek correctly. As to the relation of this to the apocalypse which follows see below. http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12712-revelation-book-of
Compare the following Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30 and uses “Christ” in place of “Torah” (one idea you can get is that Christ is the living torah in that he fulfilled the law: Matthew 5:17)
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Mark head hand affixed = torah
Deut 6:8″You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
“And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.
“So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”
Context dictates it means something related to the torah and is man-made “it is the number of a man”
Rev Chapter 13
16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
14:1 Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads
It also contrasts this with those who keep the Torah:
9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
(Rev 14:9-12 NRSV)
“The name, stigma (στίγμα), is originally a common Greek noun meaning “a mark, dot, puncture”, or generally “a sign”, from the verb στίζω (“to puncture”); the related but distinct word stigme (στιγμή) is the classical and post-classical word for “geometric point; punctuation mark”. Stigma was co-opted as a name specifically for the στ sign, evidently because of the acrophonic value of its initial st- as well as the analogy with the name of sigma.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xi_(letter)
“Those Gnostic texts that discuss Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection display a variety of views that, nevertheless, reveal some common themes. James is consoled by Jesus in the First Apocalypse of James: “Never have I suffered in any way, nor have I been distressed. And this people has done me no harm.”19 In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Jesus says, “I did not die in reality, but in appearance.” Those “in error and blindness….saw me; they punished me. It was another, their father, who drank the gall and vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was rejoicing in the height over all….And I was laughing at their ignorance.”20” http://www.equip.org/articles/gnosticism-and-the-gnostic-jesus/
The first people accused of antinomianism were found, apparently, in Gnosticism; various aberrant and licentious acts were ascribed to these by their orthodox enemies; we have few independent records of their actual teachings. In the Book of Revelation 2:6-15, the New Testament speaks of Nicolaitans, who are traditionally identified with a Gnostic sect, in terms that suggest the charge of antinomianism might be appropriate. https://www.theopedia.com/antinomianism
The seven heads of the beast are seven emperors. Five of them the Seer says are fallen. They are Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. The year of Nero’s death is A.D. 68. The Seer goes on to say “One is”, namely Vespasian, A.D. 70-79. He is the sixth emperor. The seventh, we are told by the Seer, “is not yet come. But when he comes his reign will be short”. Titus is meant, who reigned but two years (79-81). The eighth emperor is Domitian (81-96). Of him the Seer has something very peculiar to say. He is identified with the beast. He is described as the one that “was and is not and shall come up out of the bottomless pit” (17:8). In verse 11 it is added: “And the beast which was and is not: the same also is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into destruction”.
All this sounds like oracular language. But the clue to its solution is furnished by a popular belief largely spread at the time. The death of Nero had been witnessed by few. Chiefly in the East a notion had taken hold of the mind of the people that Nero was still alive. Gentiles, Jews, and Christians were under the illusion that he was hiding himself, and as was commonly thought, he had gone over to the Parthians, the most troublesome foes of the empire. From there they expected him to return at the head of a mighty army to avenge himself on his enemies. The existence of this fanciful belief is a well-attested historic fact. Tacitus speaks of it: “Achaia atque Asia falso exterrit velut Nero adventaret, vario super ejus exitu rumore eoque pluribus vivere eum fingentibus credentibusque” (Hist., II, 8). So also Dio Chrysostomus: kai nyn (about A.D. 100) eti pantes epithymousi zen oi de pleistoi kai oiontai (Orat., 21, 10; cf. Suetonius, “Vit. Caes.”; s.v. NERO and the SIBYLINE ORACLES). Thus the contemporaries of the Seer believed Nero to be alive and expected his return. The Seer either shared their belief or utilized it for his own purpose.
Nero had made a name for himself by his cruelty and licentiousness. The Christians in particular had reason to dread him. Under him the first persecution took place. The second occurred under Domitian. But unlike the previous one, it was not confined to Italy, but spread throughout the provinces. Many Christians were put to death, many were banished (Eusebius, Church History III.17-19). In this way the Seer was led to regard Domitian as a second Nero, “Nero redivivus”. Hence he described him as “the one that was, that is not, and that is to return”. Hence also he counts him as the eighth and at the same time makes him one of the preceding seven, viz. the fifth, Nero. The identification of the two emperors suggested itself all the more readily since even pagan authors called Domitian a second Nero (calvus Nero, Juvenal. IV, 38). The popular belief concerning Nero’s death and return seems to be referred to also in the passage (13:3): “And I saw one of its heads as it were slain to death: and its death’s wound was healed”. . .” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01594b.htm
” . . . In ancient Greek and Hebrew, letters also represented numerals (as in Latin), their values assigned according to the order of the alphabet, alpha and aelph, for example, having the numerical value of 1. By adding these values, words could be represented as the sum of their numbers. This literation of numbers and numeration of letters was known as isopsephia by the Greeks and gematria by the Jews (which, in cabalistic practice, has been used to interpret Hebrew scripture). Suetonius relates an example of isopsephia when he records that graffiti appeared in both Greek and Latin lampooning Nero after he had his mother killed: “A calculation new. Nero his mother slew” (Life of Nero, XXXIX.2). In Greek, both “Nero” and “killed his own mother” have the same numerical value (1005).
If the Greek spelling of Nero Caesar (Neron Kaisar) is transliterated into Hebrew (nrwn qsr), the numerical equivalent is 666—although it should be remembered that this number was not represented as a figure but as letters of the alphabet or written in full. In other words, the “number of the beast” was not expressed as “666” (indeed, discrete Arabic numerals would not be invented for another five hundred years) but by the phrase hexakosioi hexekonta hex or the numerical values of the Greek letters themselves, chi (600), xi (60), and stigma (6).
But what is curious is not so much that 666 can be decoded to signify Nero but that the name is encoded in this particular number, especially since it could have been represented as readily in other ways. It only is when the words are transliterated from Greek into Hebrew and then calculated that the numeration adds up to 666 (nrwn qsr, 50 + 200 + 6 + 50 + 100 + 60 + 200). Even so, this is an alternate spelling, a letter being transliterated in “Neron” (nrwn instead of nrw) but not in “Caesar” (qsr instead of qysr). Although these forms do appear in the Talmud and an Aramaic scroll from Qumran, they no doubt complicated the solution to the puzzle.
For Watt, the significance of 666 is that its expression in Latin is the sequential Roman numerals DCLXVI, which parallels but is the antithesis of the “Alpha and Omega” that John uses to characterize both Christ (22:13) and God (1:8, 21:6). As the Deity represents the beginning and end, so the Antichrist is a reversal of the first and last, D (500) preceding I (1). To phrase this another way, 666 (or rather DCLXVI) signifies the Antichrist because that number signifies Nero, and Nero—who was a matricide, proclaimed his divinity on coins as the “Savior and Benefactor of the World,” and was the first emperor to persecute Christians—signifies the Antichrist.
If the Latin (rather than the Greek) spelling “Nero Caesar” is transliterated into Hebrew (nrw qsr), the final “n” in Neron being omitted (and its corresponding value of 50), the name computes as 616, which is the number indicated in the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament (the fragment illustrated below). If “Neron Caesar” is correct, it may be that the Latin was transcribed incorrectly, perhaps because the copyist realized that this transliteration did not equate to 666 and so omitted the letter, which changed the sum to 616. Still, each digit of 666 is one less than seven, the perfect number, and such mathematical play may have tended to establish 666, rather than 616. . .” http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:AlKMuuobaggJ:penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/gladiators/nero.html+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
1 On Paul’s “former conduct” in “Judaism.” It’s clear to me that he couldn’t have said that he is no longer a jew because Christianity didn’t exist yet. Also, for the following reasons:
Acts 28:17 New King James Version (NKJV) 17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,
Acts 23:6 New King James Version (NKJV) 6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
Acts 22:3 New King James Version (NKJV) 3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
Acts 25:8 New King James Version (NKJV) 8 while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.”
Consider also Paul’s statement that he is a member of what is called a sect of Judaism before the Romans:
13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. (Acts 24 NKJV)
. . . Ἰουδαϊσμῷ The rendering of this word in our versions, Jewish religion, is unfortunate: it implies a definite separation between the two religions which did not then exist, for Christians were still habitual worshippers in the synagogue; and it puts this view into the mouth of Paul, who steadfastly persisted in identifying the faith of Christ with the national religion. The word Ἰουδαϊζειν denotes the adoption of Jewish habits, language, or policy (cf. Galatians 2:14). So here Ἰουδαϊσμός denotes Jewish partisanship . . .
(Expositor’s Greek Testament)
. . . the Jews’ religion] One word in the original, which does not occur elsewhere in the N. T. except in Galatians 1:14. From the use of the corresponding verb, we may regard it as referring not to the religion revealed to the Jews in the writings of Moses and the prophets, but that which was its actual development in St Paul’s day, when the word of God had been overlaid and ‘made of none effect’ by the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the puerile conceits of the Rabbinic expositors. . . .(Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) https://biblehub.com/commentaries/galatians/1-13.htm
“former” modifies “conduct” not “Judaism” (G2454)
So Paul had a former behavior in “Judaism” and now he has a different behavior in “Judaism” after learning the gospel of Christ.
13–14 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
The word “Judaism” ( jIoudai>smov~, ioudaismos) is used only here (twice, once in v. 13 and once in v. 14) in the whole Apostolic Scriptures. It is found only five times in the Lxx (2Mac 2.21; 8.1; 14.38(2x); 4Mac 4.26) and then only in the Maccabees. Y. Amir, in a study entitled “The Term Ioudaismos: A Study in Jewish-Hellenistic Self-Identification,”50 comes to the conclusion that the word means a “a sort of fenced-off area in which Jewish lives are led.”
the word this is derived from G2450 (verb form) which is only used in Ester 8:17 and Galatians 2:14 https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G2450 In Gal 2:14 it is used to denote specific Jewish practices. In Ester 8:17 it is used for “jewish-like” in “were circumcised and were jewish-like” indicating that it might mean something other than circumcision. A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE SEPTUAGINT defines it as:
Dunn thinks that the term may indicate something other than “circumcision” (=becoming a proselyte), since its only other use (the Lxx of Esther 8:17) has both the term “circumcised” as well as “made themselves Jews” (the verb ‘to circumcise” is lacking in the Hebrew). But the Lxx phrase (“and many of the Gentiles were circumcised, and became Jews, for fear of the Jews”) may well be simply a commentary on “becoming a Jew.” From the Lxx translators’ standpoint, this surely involved the ritual of the proselyte. It hardly seems possible that Paul would have so sharply denounced Peter if he was simply trying to persuade the Gentiles to take on Jewish customs. This hardly goes
contrary to the gospel. Rather, it seems to me far more likely that Peter, for what ever reasons, was attempting to sway the Gentile believers over to the viewpoint of the “party of the circumcision,” that full covenant membership was only available to Jews.
From the viewpoint of the influencers, the whole matter turned on the observance of established halachah. But for Paul, the issue was that of the gospel: “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel ….” The word translated “straightforward” by the NASB (“not acting in line,” NIV; “their conduct was not in step,” ESV) is interesting. It is ojrqopodevw, orthopodeõ, being made of two words; ortho, meaning “straight” (note our English “orthodontist”) and pous, “foot.” The obvious idea is “to walk in a straight path,” “to be on the right road.” Our modern idiom, “walk a straight line” fits the meaning well. It was not that Peter and those he was following were denying the gospel, nor attempting to undermine it directly. Rather, their approach to this whole matter was a detour from the gospel, and one that Paul feared would so sidetrack the Gentile believers as to keep them from reaching the goal
In the context of Galatians 2, G2450 may be related to a halacha or Jewish practice: 1 a false gospel or good news (how you are saved) and 2 justifying yourself by works of the law. . . This seems to fall outside of torah vs. non-torah observant, rather it is a certain take the Torah or on Judaism. (mainly the false idea that you needed to become a Jew to be saved) In this case it was false but that doesn’t mean the word G2450 implies falsity. See below:
13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew (G2450), live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Gal 2)
Note: “we are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” is tongue-and-cheek (explained later)
Peter’s hypocrisy consisted of his having engaged in table fellowship
with the Gentiles when unobserved by the Jerusalem folk, but separating from the Gentiles when the group from James arrived, and even compelling them to submit to proselytism in order to be accepted by the party of the circumcision. The Greek has ijoudai÷zw, ioudaizõ, “to live like a Jew,” used only here in the Apostolic Scriptures. The Lxx utilizes this same verb in Esther 8:17 (the only time found in the Lxx) to translate the hapax legoumena . . . , mityahadim, “made themselves Jews.” Though the term is used only these two times in biblical literature, the meaning is clear: Peter had been swayed by the “party of the circumcision” to compel (ajnagkavzw, anagkazõ45) the Gentiles to submit to the ritual of a proselyte. Interestingly, Paul used this same word (Acts 26:11) to describe his attempts to “force” the believers in Yeshua to blaspheme in order to have a sure judgment against them https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/study-in-galatians/galatians_commentary.pdf
2 How was Peter compelling Gentiles to live as Jews? By making them undergo the proselyte ritual in order to consider them saved and hence worthy of table fellowship. Similar to how Paul was put in a situation where he was “compelled” to call on Cesar where same word is used: Acts 28:19 https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G315
3 The Revelation that Paul had was about Yeshua’s salvation for the nations. It seems like this revelation started on the road to Damascus and continued afterward:
15 But when God thought well to separate me from out of the belly of my mother, and called me by his favor, 16 to reveal his son in me, that I should announce him good news among the nations; immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood; (Gal 1 ABP)
4 A suggestion on how the New Covenant is different:
The New Covenant covenant is different in that it is God writing the law on the heart rather than man. This I think is significant. Let’s say I make an agreement with you that you will build a house with certain specifications and that I will pay you a certain amount of money. Then I propose a different agreement where the only difference is that I will build the house instead of you. That’s pretty significant, even if I don’t change the money or any of the other specifications. I think maybe the other difference is that God is able to write the law on the heart much better than man (hence why no one will need to teach another which is also different): this is possibly why it also differs in that God will write the law “on your inward parts” or “inside of you” in the New Covenant (maybe a deeper writing than just the mind)
Compare inward parts to heart (I thought this was kind of interesting)
There seems to be some significance to the writing surface and instrument used in metaphors involving writing: As a side note ￼ Jer 17:13 is used to explain what Jesus wrote in the dust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZSG7p5DQ-M
￼ Jer 17:1 The sin of Judah is written H3789 with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; (KJV)
Jer 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written H3789 in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. (KJV)
Deu 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. (KJV)
It says in proverbs to either write God’s law on your heart or to write the instructions of whoever is writing proverbs on your heart:
￼ Pro 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write H3789 them upon the table of thine heart: (KJV)
￼ Pro 7:3 Bind them upon thy fingers, write H3789 them upon the table of thine heart. (KJV)
Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write H3789 it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (KJV)
It seems like God would have better instruments than us to write the law. Keil and Deilitzche in their commentary on Deut 10:6 make the observation that the writing surface will be entirely different as well:
The Lord will then circumcise their heart, and the heart of their children (see Deuteronomy 10:16), so that they will love Him with all their heart. When Israel should turn with true humility to the Lord, He would be found of them, – would lead them to true repentance, and sanctify them through the power of His grace, – would take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, a new heart and a new spirit, – so that they should truly know Him and keep His commandments (vid., Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33. and Deuteronomy 32:39.). “Because of thy life,” i.e., that thou mayest live, sc., attain to true life. The fulfilment of this promise does not take place all at once. It commenced with small beginnings at the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, and in a still higher degree at the appearance of Christ in the case of all the Israelites who received Him as their Saviour. Since then it has been carried on through all ages in the conversion of individual children of Abraham to Christ; and it will be realized in the future in a still more glorious manner in the nation at large (Romans 11:25.). The words of Moses do not relate to any particular age, but comprehend all times. For Israel has never been hardened and rejected in all its members, although the mass of the nation lives under the curse even to the present day.
5 Something interesting “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles” might be Paul being sarcastic. Hence, he is also speaking against the idea of “works of the law” in this case going through the ritual of proselyte and becoming a “Jew by nature” is not going to automatically save you are make you not a sinner.
Paul quotes (perhaps a bit “tongue-in-cheek”) the primary premise of the party of the circumcision: “we are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners.” This is not Paul’s perspective, but that of the influencers. Dunn agrees:
This language rings oddly on the lips of Paul, until we realize what hewas doing. Paul was putting himself in the shoes of a typical Jew who looked out at the rest of the world as outside the realm of God’s covenant righteousness and sinful (cf. Eph 2:12). More to the point, he was using the language of typical Jewish factionalism, which was ready to condemn those Jews who disagreed with the sect’s interpretation of what the law required as ‘sinners’— outside their sectarian understanding of the covenant, which meant, of course, from the sectarian viewpoint, outside the covenant. In fact, Paul was probably echoing the language used by the ‘individuals from James’ when they spoke against the Jewish Christians’ table-fellowship with the Gentile believers: such table-fellowship with ‘Gentile sinners’ was unacceptable.46
Thus, when Paul writes, “we are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners,” he is deliberately using the language of those who were distancing themselves from the Gentiles, encouraging them to become proselytes in order to leave the status of “sinner” and enter the circle of “Jews by birth.”
Conclusion: I think G2454 and G2450 refers to practice or halacha of Judaism. That is, Paul had abandoned his former practice in Judaism that viewed converting to Judaism (or jewish-like) as a prerequisite for salvation. To quote Tim Hegg:
There is no doubt that Paul made a clear distinction between his former life, lived under the acceptance of the prevailing Pharisaic belief that Jewish status rendered one a member of the covenant, and his current life lived in the reality of the risen Messiah. But such a distinction said nothing about the place of the divinely inspired Torah, and its central importance in the life of the believer. What it did contrast, however, was the life of faith in Messiah Yeshua and the
message of the influencers which insisted upon Jewish status as a prerequisite for covenant membership.
All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. This is a document written in response to some things about the law we were discussing at Bible study.
To understand the two covenants we must start with Paul’s introductory comments here:
Tell me, you who desire to be subject G5259 to the law, will you not listen to the law? (Galatians 4:21)
or more literally:
Tell me, ye who are willing to be under G5259 law, the law do ye not hear? (Gal 4:21 YLT)
What does “under G5259 law G3551” mean? Paul earlier compares “works of the law”–which is an Essene teaching that one could be justified by keeping certain laws–to the work of Christ. Paul argues against “works of the law” and contrasts it with faith in many different places.
There are several directions you can go with the meaning of “under law.” Gesenius connects H8478 to G5259 “under” in Greek and lists places when it can be used to designate being under to “authority” for instance “under her husband” means “under the authority of her husband”  In addition Luke 7:8 and Matthew 8:9 clearly make this connection of being “under” someone to being “under the authority of” someone. Gesenius gives Nu. 5:19 and Eze. 23:5 as examples which both have the context of punishment for the wrong-doing while “under” the husband.  However, what does it mean to be “under authority?” If we go with this meaning I would suggest it means close to “under power”  the usage in the new testament seems to fit better with “power” than plain “authority.”  After all, what good is authority if you don’t have the power to carry it out? However, the meaning of “under” seems to depend on what is metaphorically on top.  The closest I could find to being under “law” in the Greek Septuagint was in 2 Maccabees 7:36 which speaks of dying “under (God’s) covenant” i.e. ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ). The result or consequence of dying while “under God’s covenant” is “everlasting life.”  “Under covenant” is the closest parallel to “under law” I have found, therefore, keep in mind this meaning of “under the results of the law” when we read “under law” in the following. Let’s start in Romans to see if “under results” fits. In addition, I believe you can prove that Paul did not view being obligated to follow the law as the same as being under the law. Here he claims that he is not under the law but still with the law. Hence he won’t have to face the consequences or penalty of the law but still believes he should follow the law:
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20-21)
First some context:
6 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
This is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4 and the context is about the Chaldeans being eventually judged for plundering Israel and other nations even though they are about to destroy the temple and attack Israel. This was brought about by Israel’s sin:
4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. 5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough. They gather all nations for themselves, and collect all peoples as their own.
6 Shall not everyone taunt such people and, with mocking riddles, say about them,
“Alas for you who heap up what is not your own!” How long will you load yourselves with goods taken in pledge? 7 Will not your own creditors suddenly rise, and those who make you tremble wake up? Then you will be booty for them. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, all that survive of the peoples shall plunder you— because of human bloodshed, and violence to the earth, to cities and all who live in them. (Habakkuk 2:4-8)
Tim Hegg notes:
The context of the Habakkuk text is the conclusion of the prophet’s cry of woe, in which he questions God over the use of the Chaldeans to punish the chosen people. For the prophet, this brought into question God’s justice and even His holiness (1:13f). In raising the question of how God could use such a wicked nation to punish His people, he awaits God’s answer (2:1). The Lord’s answer comes in the form of a revelation or vision that Habakkuk was to record and make known. It’s application would be for the appointed time, and those who believed in God would await its fulfillment, even though it might appear for the interim that it was not correct. The proud in heart would doubtless refuse to accept the revelation given to the prophet, but the one who had faith (and would thus accept the revelation) would live, i.e., preserve his life on the basis of acting in accordance with the revelation which God would give the prophet. Thus, “the just shall live by faith.” https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf
We find important clues as to the meaning of “faith” in this quote of Habakkuk by understanding the Hebrew word ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah. The first time we find the word in the Tanach, it refers to the hands of Moses held up by Aaron and Hur (Ex 17:12)—“his hands were ה ָמוּנֱא until the going down of the sun,” i.e., they were raised continually and incessantly. In every other passage where the term ה ָמוּנֱא is found, it refers to the conduct of persons or of God, sometimes categorizing such actions as attributes (“faithful,” “genuine,” “reliable,” etc.). Jepsen notes:
Thus ‘emunah is not so much an abstract quality . . . but a way of acting which grows out of inner stability, “conscientiousness.” Whereas ‘emeth [a related word meaning “truth”] is always used in relationship to something (or someone) on which (or whom) one can rely, ‘emunah seems more to emphasize one’s own inner attitude and the conduct it produces. The frequently suggested translation, “conscientiousness,” would seem to come closest to the meaning intended in many passages.26
On the basis of the meaning of ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah, it seems warranted that some translations (NEB, JPS, margin of RSV and NRSV) have opted to translate Hab 2:4 along the lines of “the righteous will live on the basis of his faithfulness.” Indeed, in BDB’s Lexicon (p. 53) Hab 2:4b is translated as “a righteous man by his faithfulness liveth.” https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf
Keil and Delitzsch state:
אמוּנה does not denote “an honourable character, or fidelity to conviction” (Hitzig), but (from ‘âman, to be firm, to last) firmness (Exodus 17:12); then, as an attribute of God, trustworthiness, unchangeable fidelity in the fulfilment of His promises (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4; Psalm 89:34); and, as a personal attribute of man, fidelity in word and deed (Jeremiah 7:28; Jeremiah 9:2; Psalm 37:3); and, in his relation to God, firm attachment to God, an undisturbed confidence in the divine promises of grace, firma fiducia and fides, so that in ‘ĕmūnâh the primary meanings of ne’ĕmân and he’ĕmı̄n are combined. This is also apparent from the fact that Abraham is called ne’ĕmân in Nehemiah 9:8, with reference to the fact that it is affirmed of him in Genesis 15:6 that האמין בּיהוה, “he trusted, or believed, the Lord;” and still more indisputably from the passage before us, since it is impossible to mistake the reference in צדּיק בּאמוּנתו יחיה to Genesis 15:6, “he believed (he’ĕmı̄n) in Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him litsedâqâh.” It is also indisputably evident from the context that our passage treats of the relation between man and God, since the words themselves speak of a waiting (chikkâh) for the fulfilment of a promising oracle, which is to be preceded by a period of severe suffering. “What is more natural than that life or deliverance from destruction should be promised to that faith which adheres faithfully to God, holds fast by the word of promise, and confidently waits for its fulfilment in the midst of tribulation? It is not the sincerity, trustworthiness, or integrity of the righteous man, regarded as being virtues in themselves, which are in danger of being shaken and giving way in such times of tribulation, but, as we may see in the case of the prophet himself, his faith. To this, therefore, there is appended the great promise expressed in the one word יחיה” (Delitzsch). And in addition to this, ‘ĕmūnâh is opposed to the pride of the Chaldaean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon God. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/habakkuk/3.htm
This type of “faith” is different than checking off a rule list. In the verses before the vision of justice was said by God to not come for a while but that it would surely come so a long-suffering trust is implied in God’s promises:
2 Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)
Paul is using this to say that the basis for justifying sinners (sinners such as Israel) was always this type of faith. Habakkuk later makes a connection to eschatology according to Keil and Delitzsch. This is possibly why Paul says he is “not ashamed” of the gospel since he knows Christ will have victory in the end:
In Habakkuk 3:12 there follows a description of the judgment upon the nations for the rescue of the people of God. Habakkuk 3:12. “In fury Thou walkest through the earth, in wrath Thou stampest down nations. Habakkuk 3:13. Thou goest out to the rescue of Thy people, to the rescue of Thine anointed one; Thou dashest in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one, laying bare the foundation even to the neck. Selah. Habakkuk 3:14. Thou piercest with his spears the head of his hordes, which storm hither to beat me to powder, whose rejoicing is, as it were, to swallow the poor in secret. Habakkuk 3:15. Thou treadest upon the sea: Thy horses, upon the heap of great waters.” The Lord, at whose coming in the terrible glory of the majesty of the Judge of the world all nature trembles and appears to fall into its primary chaotic state, marches over the earth, and stamps or tramples down the nations with His feet (compare the kindred figure of the treader of the winepress in Isaiah 63:1-6). Not all nations, however, but only those that are hostile to Him; for He has come forth to save His people and His anointed one. The perfects in Habakkuk 3:13-15 are prophetic, describing the future in spirit as having already occurred. יצא, referring to the going out of God to fight for His people, as in Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 5:24; Isaiah 42:13, etc. ישׁע, rescue, salvation, is construed the second time with an accusative like an inf. constr. (see Ewald, 239, a). The anointed of God is not the chosen, consecrated nation (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Ewald, etc.); for the nation of Israel is never called the anointed one (hammâshı̄ăch) by virtue of its calling to be “a kingdom of priests” (mamlekheth kohănı̄m, Exodus 19:6), neither in Psalm 28:8 nor in Psalm 84:10; Psalm 89:39. Even in Psalm 105:15 it is not the Israelites who are called by God “my anointed” (meshı̄chai), but the patriarchs, as princes consecrated by God (Genesis 23:6). And so here also משׁיחך is the divinely-appointed king of Israel; not, however, this or that historical king – say Josiah, Jehoiakim, or even Jehoiachin – but the Davidic king absolutely, including the Messiah, in whom the sovereignty of David is raised to an eternal duration, “just as by the Chaldaean king here and in Psalm 2:1-12 we must understand the Chaldaean kings generally” (Delitzsch), wince the prophecy spreads from the judgment upon the Chaldaeans to the universal judgment upon the nations, and the Chaldaean is merely introduced as the possessor of the imperial power. The Messiah as the Son of David is distinguished from Jehovah, and as such is the object of divine help, just as in Zechariah 9:9, where He is called נושׁע in this respect, and in the royal Messianic psalms. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/habakkuk/3.htm
If we realize that this type of faith (or the belief Abraham: “he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” or the obedience of Abraham: compare Hebrews 11:8) is different than having everything checked off with regards to your observance of the law–then we can see how Yeshua can tell the rich young ruler to “keep the commandments” to inherit eternal life:
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-22)
16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:16-21)
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21)
Paul as well can say:
6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” (Romans 4:6-8)
This is because “keeping the commands” is not the same as doing specific works.
In Luke 18:21 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5442
in Matthew 19:17 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5083
in Mark 10:19 “know” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G1492
in Mark 10:20 “kept” is https://studybible.info/strongs/G5442
If you look at these words and their context this has to do with guarding and respecting/remembering. Check the following occurrences. Really, I think this is not about the laws but about honoring the lawgiver himself. You can safely ignore the word for “know” because I think Yeshua was just pointing out that the man already knew what to guard not that this was a prerequisite for guarding but I’ve posted it below for completeness sake)
To summarize: “guarding the commandments leads to eternal life because by guarding the commandments you show you honor the commander but doing any number of specific things in the law will not gain you salvation.” Paul also uses different covenants to make analogies. He compares Moab to Sinai in Romans 10 and the Abrahamic Covenant to Sinai in Galatians 3. Some Jewish tradition considers Sinai to be lacking in some ways. In addition Israel broke Sinai and so were already subject to the curses of Sinai. See the following relevant post for more information on this:
As we move on we will see that Paul uses the journey of Israel (from Sinai to the new covenant or the fulfillment of the promises of Abraham) as an analogy for our individual journey: being shown to be imperfect by the law and turning to God’s grace and in thankfulness keeping the law.
Paul continues Romans by talking about idolatry:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)
Continuing on we have something interesting:
1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:1-11)
Paul uses Israel’s idolatry to point out that both they and the pagan nations are without excuse as Tim Hegg notes this is addressed to the Jewish part of the congregation:
The opening word of the second chapter, “Therefore,” has caused some difficulty in understanding how what Paul is now saying connects to what he has already said in chapter one. But to answer this question we must first ask ourselves to whom Paul addresses his remarks in the present text: to Gentiles who were a “cut above” in their moral outlook, or to Jews, or to a mixed group? While each of these options have been held by scholars, I would think that several factors weight the case toward Paul addressing Jews beginning in 2:1. Here are the reasons: 1) the language of v. 4 fits the history of Israel but does not fit God’s activity toward the nations. While it is true that He does show mercy to the Gentiles (such as at Ninevah), the strong language of mercy and patience in view of Israel’s often rebellion seems to underly Paul’s words here. 2) Since it seems clear that Paul has two groups in mind in 1:18-3:20, i.e., Jews and Gentiles, it seems most likely that he refers to Jews when he characterizes a group as morally superior, as he does in 2:1ff. 3) It is clear that he addresses the Jew at v. 17, but it does not seem that he begins to address someone different at this point than he has from the beginning of the chapter. Therefore, one would conclude that he addresses Jews from the beginning of the chapter. 4) It was characteristic, at least by the report of our extant literature, of some (perhaps a majority of) Pharisees that they had an attitude of superiority toward the Gentiles, so that the attitudes described in the opening verses of our chapter best describe the Jew rather than the Gentile. In light of these things, I would think it best to interpret Paul’s words in 2:1ff as addressed primarily to the Jewish congregant in the synagogue at Rome https://www.torahresource.com/radio-files/through-romans/RomansVol1.pdf
Notice Paul is not speaking to people as individuals but people as part of Israel and God’s people in the greater historical context. This is thinking that seems to be prevalent in the Bible and hence Israel’s particular tribal culture. Another example of this type of corporate non-individualist thinking appears in the prayer that Daniel makes for Israel in Daniel 9. Paul then uses this to establish that everyone is guilty. However, he notes that different people will be judged in different ways:
12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God. (Romans 2:12-29)
Verse 2:27 is more literally translated as:
27 and the uncircumcision, by nature, fulfilling the law, shall judge thee who, through letter and circumcision, [art] a transgressor of law. 28 For he is not a Jew who is [so] outwardly, neither [is] circumcision that which is outward in flesh; 29 but a Jew [is] he who is [so] inwardly, and circumcision [is] of the heart, in spirit, not in letter, of which the praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:27-29 YLT)
Notice how “letter”, “flesh”, and “outward” are contrasted with “spirit”, “spiritual” and “inward.” The school of Hillel was lenient and followed the “spirit” of the law while Shammai followed the “letter” of the law and was strict. Yeshua seems to side with Hillel most of the time. Also, the school of Hillel accused Shammai of following after flesh and blood and not after spirit with regards to the kingdom of God. (more on this later) Circumcision here may refer to the group distinction rather than the physical sign. (you could be circumcised but still not be considered Jewish, this will be discussed in another article) If it does refer to physical circumcision it may be saying that he who fails to keep the requirements of the law loses the right to bear the physical sign of circumcision. (Essentially: physical circumcision has become hypocrisy.) Paul says that circumcision benefits in some way but he is not saying this is a matter of salvation. He seems to refer to it as one of identity and representation.
Another interpretation of the spirit/inward versus letter/flesh/outward is that it is analogously contrasting Sinai with the new covenant. Sinai brought curses which lead to death, and Sinai only had writing not the spirit to write the law on the heart. The holy spirit is given as an assurance of the promises of Abraham:
13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
The new covenant and Sinai are used as analogies for how to relate to the law and salvation. If you are looking at salvation through the lens of Sinai you are trying to observe “works of law” to attain it. These are outward signs such as circumcision that will let God recognize you as being different from pagans. However, God looks at the heart. If you are looking at salvation through the new covenant lens then you recognize that the law does not save you but grace. Just as Israel is saved by God’s grace through the spirit writing the law on their hearts. The law is observed as thankfulness for the salvation you have by grace through faith. This is also a difference between and inward and outward focus: the heart or the letter. Also Jeremiah says that God will write the law in the new covenant on their inward parts:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.(Jeremiah 31:33)
1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2)
Here we see that the Jews have an advantage because they were raised in the oracles of God, not from the specific act of circumcision. If this refers to physical circumcision it seems to refer to them who were circumcised on the eighth day, not those who would convert and become circumcised as adults. If this refers to physical circumcision there are some questions this raises about whether circumcision was actually required by the law for adults: “So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?” might imply a negative answer but Paul later uses the same Greek word to talk about fulfilling the law through being justified by Christ:
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-5)
This leaves the meaning uncertain. Even if Paul did say something positive or negative about adult physical circumcision we would need to evaluate the context in which he said it. If Paul said something negative we must ask: could he just be referring to its irrelevance to salvation? If positive we must ask: in what sense? as a requirement that fulfills part of the law? or as a sign of being raised in the oracles of God? This is beyond the scope to get into detail I just want you to know that this question exists. I do not believe adult circumcision is required in any way but only if one wants to eat of the Passover sacrifice, see: Exodus 12:48. This is not something someone should do right away since they will be counted as native born when they do it. Rather, it is something someone should do after they have learned and gotten used to observing the Torah, so for gentiles circumcision is indeed an outward observance that does not have to do with salvation since the only circumcision command required in their case is to circumcise their children–if their father did not circumcise them then it is his fault not their’s. Let’s continue:
3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
“So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.”
5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved! (Romans 3:3-8)
Here Paul is saying that God is just, whether or not people, even Jews, believe in God. Commenting in more detail would be irrelevant to the topic. In the following, we see that Paul does indeed view his previous arguments as putting everyone “under (the results of) sin.”
9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” 13 “Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery are in their paths, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20)
Paul is not pulling out of the air: “no human being will be justified in his sight.” Paul gets this from Psalm 143:
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness. 2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:1-2)
Paul starts his quotations with Psalm 14 (also see the almost identical Psalm 53). Psalm 14 begins:
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.(Psalm 14:1)
Maybe Paul is making the point that goodness only comes from God and that God can only justify man. The fool who uses the lack of God to justify his actions is an example of this. One might say: “man – God = sin”
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one. (Psalms 14:2-3)
Is it broadening the context or still talking about fools that reject God? I think the latter. Paul goes on to say that since man without God cannot do good we cannot be justified by God except by grace. Adam (as a representative of humanity) had sinned causing all to suffer for it, Israel (as priesthood to the world) had broken Sinai hence imparting the curses of not following the law to all God’s followers. What could solve this problem? Since we were unable to write the law on our own hearts God would do it for us. Compare the following:
32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write H3738 it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:32-34)
You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. (Deuteronomy 11:18)
It is true that the law was in their hearts in some sense in Deuteronomy 30:
No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart H3824 for you to observe.(Deut 30:14)
However this seems to be about a future occurrence if you look at the context:
1 When all these things have happened to you, the blessings and the curses that I have set before you, if you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, 2 and return to the Lord your God, and you and your children obey him with all your heart and with all your soul, just as I am commanding you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, gathering you again from all the peoples among whom the Lord your God has scattered you. 4 Even if you are exiled to the ends of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will bring you back. 5 The Lord your God will bring you into the land that your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.
6 Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on the adversaries who took advantage of you. 8 Then you shall again obey the Lord, observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, 9 and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 30:1-13)
This seems to be a covenant for God to make the law easy to observe in the future with Israel as a collective–not in the present. So the covenant at Moab in Deuteronomy 30 seems to be a promise of the new covenant work in Jeremiah 31. There are also several differences with the wording in Jeremiah 31:33
1 God puts the law in the heart and not man. (hence grace)
2 The law is “written” now. (possibly suggesting more permanence)
3 It adds “put My law in their minds H7130” (a totally different word than h3824 for “heart” in Deut 30:14)
4 Tim Hegg has observed that the new covenant is a nationalistic covenant with both houses of Israel. Therefore the idea of Israel being united and following the law seems to be part of what makes it new since throughout the Bible Israel and even the good kings are described as failing in various respects.
Considering points one and two we can observe some significance attributed to the writing instrument used and of the writing surface:
The sin of Judah is written H3789 with an iron pen; with a diamond point it is engraved on the tablet of their hearts, and on the horns of their altars, (Jer 17:1)
O hope of Israel! O Lord! All who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be recorded H3789 in the underworld, for they have forsaken the fountain of living water, the Lord. (Jer 17:13)
It seems like God would have better instruments than us to write the law. Keil and Delitzsch in their commentary on Deut 10:6 make the observation that the writing surface will be entirely different as well:
The Lord will then circumcise their heart, and the heart of their children (see Deuteronomy 10:16), so that they will love Him with all their heart. When Israel should turn with true humility to the Lord, He would be found of them, – would lead them to true repentance, and sanctify them through the power of His grace, – would take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, a new heart and a new spirit, – so that they should truly know Him and keep His commandments (vid., Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33. and Deuteronomy 32:39.). “Because of thy life,” i.e., that thou mayest live, sc., attain to true life. The fulfilment of this promise does not take place all at once. It commenced with small beginnings at the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, and in a still higher degree at the appearance of Christ in the case of all the Israelites who received Him as their Saviour. Since then it has been carried on through all ages in the conversion of individual children of Abraham to Christ; and it will be realized in the future in a still more glorious manner in the nation at large (Romans 11:25.). The words of Moses do not relate to any particular age, but comprehend all times. For Israel has never been hardened and rejected in all its members, although the mass of the nation lives under the curse even to the present day. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/deuteronomy/30.htm
However I think the covenant at Moab in Deuteronomy 30 is probably just referring to the same thing as Jeremiah 31 since although the wording is different the context is the same: Israel becoming a nation again, being able to observe the law, and having the law in their hearts. Knowing this may help us with the idea that in the final fulfillment of the new covenant “no man shall teach another.” Now lets read these two verses together that are positioned around Paul’s quotation:
9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:
. . .
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:19-23)
Verse 20 is more literally translated as:
wherefore by works of law shall no flesh be declared righteous before Him, for through law is a knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20 YLT)
If “under the law” means “under the results of the law” then by charging that the whole world is “held accountable” Paul is saying that everyone is subject to the penalty of the law which is death. Here, Paul is implying that the cursings of the law given at Mount Sinai now fall on all of mankind. Essentially, the law + sin caused death, and this is part of the law “bringing knowledge of sin” which is why it states that through the law “sin might become exceedingly sinful” but this will be explained later. For now, observe how everyone is under (the results of) sin and hence “death:”
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)
Grace and law go together because we need grace to be forgiven from transgressing the law. (sin)
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:21-23)
Here “apart from the law” just means “apart from the deeds of the law” see below:
“Works prescribed by the law” is literally “works of the law.”
therefore do we reckon a man to be declared righteous by faith, apart from works of law. (Romans 3:28 YLT)
24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:24-34)
The statement “law of faith” makes a bit more sense if you remember that “Torah” (the Hebrew word that Paul is referring to with the Greek “nomos”) can mean “instruction.” The “instruction of faith.” As for the meaning of “circumcision,” for now, just observe, that here, it could mean “Judaism” with all the rules and traditions that they followed in addition to the Torah. If Paul is saying that the law no longer applies to us his whole argument of us needing grace is complete nonsense. We no longer have the results of the law apply to us but it still defines God’s unchanging character, see here: http://www.the-ten-commandments.org/the-ten-commandments-god.html Moving on:
1 What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)
Paul here is contrasting the physical with spiritual and works with faith. However, these are simply two different ways of viewing your relationship with the law using the covenants of Sinai and the new covenant as analogies. If you believe in works then you are not being saved by grace. Just as Sinai kills Israel because they broke it the new covenant will bring life by allowing them to observe the law and attain the blessing of Sinai. He will also do this in Galatians 4 (we’ll see this later). We have works that show our faith but they are just a sign of our faith, works don’t save us. The physical sign of circumcision does not show the character or spirit of the person bearing it. Spirit (ruach) in Hebrew can also be translated as “wind” or “breath.” It is the same thing that animates a lifeless body with a given personality. Compare the following:
so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4)
Her spirit H4151 returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. (Luke 8:55)
8 And I beheld, and behold, upon them nerves and flesh germinated, and [2ascended 3upon 4them 1skin] above; but [2breath G4151 1there was no] in them. 9 And he said to me, Prophesy over the wind! G4151 Prophesy, O son of man, and say to the wind! G4151 Thus says the Lord the lord; From out of the four winds, G4151 come wind G4151 and breathe onto these dead, and let them live! 10 And I prophesied in so far as he gave charge to me, and [3entered 4into 5them 1the 2wind G4151], and they lived; and they stood upon their feet, [4gathering 3great 1a very 2exceedingly]. 11 And the lord spoke to me, saying, O son of man, these bones [2all 3the house 4of Israel 1are]. And they say, [4dry 3are 2bones 1Our]; [3is destroyed 2hope 1our]; we are perished. 12 On account of this prophesy and say! Thus says the Lord the lord; Behold, I shall open your tombs, and I shall lead you from out of your tombs, and I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the lord, by my opening your graves, for me to lead you from out of your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my spirit G4151 into you, and you shall live. And I will put you upon your land, and you shall know that I the lord have spoken, and I will act, says the lord. (Ezekiel 37:8-11 ABP)
I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath H7307 came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. (Eze 37:10) (H7307 can also be translated as “spirit”)
Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual G4151 and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God. (Rom 2:29)
but a Jew [is] he who is [so] inwardly, and circumcision [is] of the heart, in spirit, G4151 not in letter, of which the praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom 2:29 YLT)
as it is written, “God gave them a sluggish spirit, G4151 eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (Rom 11:8)
so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4)
God seeks spirit and character, not physical appearance just as the new covenant makes Israel able to actively observe the law and puts the law in their hearts Sinai showed Israel the outward words of the law but did not put them inwardly on the heart so that Israel could act them out: this was Israel’s responsibility and regardless of whether they were able to write the law on their own hearts–they failed. For example, the temple and its rituals were physically impressive but Hebrews makes a list of its severe limitations which were eventually covered by Christ as our new high priest:
1 Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.
8 God finds fault with them when he says:
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. (Hebrews 8:1-9)
Similarly, Stephen states the following:
44 “Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, 46 who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. (Acts 7:44-51)
Now we can compare this to these verses:
like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13:15)
Also, the context of the verses Stephen quotes in Acts 7 is from Isaiah 66 about having the right heart condition:
1 Thus says the Lord: Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is my resting place? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)
All this is to say that Paul contrasts things associated with the physical such as “works,” “letter,” and “flesh” with “faith,” “spirit,” and “writing on the heart.” The “heart” is associated with the new covenant where we will be given new hearts and the law will be written on our hearts. Let us continue with Romans 4:
4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” (Romans 4:4-8)
Notice this is not about changing the law but about covering the transgression made against it. Paul is simply pointing out that if you make your salvation conditional on any action or any physical sign (manifestation of faith) you are not believing in salvation by grace just like Sinai gave the law in words outwardly but not the inward heart to do them. Again, this is all about how we have salvation despite the law applying to us:
9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:9-12)
This sign of circumcision was for the faith that Abraham had not vice versa which means all people can be justified by faith whether they are circumcised or not. In Romans 4, we can easily forget the verse that comes before that chapter:
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)
As for whether circumcision was required for gentiles converting there are several possibilities here: 1 circumcision is required for adults and the point is only that it is not a matter of salvation. 2 Circumcision was not required as an adult so it is not required for an individual to circumcise themselves except if they were going to eat the Passover sacrifice. 3 Circumcision means “Judaism” so it’s not even talking about circumcision literally. When Paul is talking about Abraham being declared righteous before he was circumcised he is saying that circumcision is just a sign, and the true circumcision is a circumcised heart. Note, there is no law commanding adults who join Israel to be circumcised (with the exception of eating the Passover sacrifice), only that you circumcise your son on the eighth day. I believe that option 2 is correct, and in this case what Paul is condemning is an outward appearance that has nothing to do with following God. Regardless of that we can say that Abraham was declared righteous because he believed, and while belief leads to obedience, the outward appearance of something is not to be confused with the heart condition, especially in the context of salvation.
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. (Romans 4:13-15)
Again, being under sin + results of the law = punishment = death. Faith, as we have seen leads to justification which is needed to save us from condemnation. Hence, grace, as is made clear in the following:
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. (Romans 4:16-25)
Again all that is going on here is that we are being promised redemption and we are not earning it by doing any specific works in the law:
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. (Romans 5:1-13)
Again sin + law = penalty = death. This means we need grace. The same idea is made clear in the following:
14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:14-19)
Again, without the law still applying to us this argument is nonsense.
20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)
The law was given so that sin would become painfully apparent or obvious. Paul, now has to explain why we need to not sin even without being under (the results of) the law because this means the penalties of the law won’t fall on us:
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:1-15)
Commenting on all of this is beyond the scope here. For now let’s look at the starting and ending verses to further establish our theory of what “under the law” means:
1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! . . .
15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:1-15)
The law still applies because grace abounds when we sin. Also, why would we start to sin simply because we are not “under the law?” If “not under the law” means the entire law no longer applies then we can’t sin . . . If we are now under a “law of love” (as some argue) which has no specific rules, just “anything we consider loving” why would not being under the old law imply we might break this law of love? However, if “under the law” means “under the results of the law” and by implication “under the penalty of the law” (because of all being under sin) then we might be tempted to sin because there are no more law-related results/consequences for sin. Paul relates the reason we do not continue in sin to the fact that we serve God and not sin:
16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:16-23)
Believers even in the old testament were always intended to be under grace: Daniel 9:18; Gen. 6:8; Ex. 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer. 31:2. However, Israel broke the covenant and the northern kingdom was divorced by God and yet Israel was promised to be restored:
She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. (Jer 3:8)
How would God restore Israel? This is what Jews expected the messiah to do. Paul uses an analogy here to explain this. Notice, the relation to Israel as a whole is easier to see if you remember that Paul is talking to people as being part of their larger groups in the greater historical context:
1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7:1-12)
Several things to notice here: 1. It is through our death that we become free from the condemnation of the Torah, not that the Torah dies in any way because it is specifically talking about the condemnation of the law and not of it ceasing to be: “she will be called an adulteress . . . she is no adulteress” 2. The law is good. 3. The law makes us aware of our sin 4. Without the law, sin could not cause punishment 5. The letter is contrasted with the spirit which are different ways of relating to the law. This is again an analogy between Sinai and new covenant. 6. Sin taking the opportunity of the commandment killed him . . . what does that mean? I think he’s using an analogy here. Sin is clearly being talked about as bringing curses/death through punishment. However, Paul is still alive therefore his idea of being righteous on his own has to be what was killed, allowing him to accept grace. Let’s read on:
Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:13)
The commandment showed sin as sin and it made it [appear] sinful beyond measure. (it made it obvious) I inserted “appear” to make it make more sense. However, if you know that “sin” can also mean “guilt” you’ll understand better how this happening:
ἁμαρτία,-ας+ N1F 186-54-94-92-119=545 Gn 15,16; 18,20; 20,9; 41,9; 42,21 guilt, sin Gn 15,16; sin-offering Lv 4,33 Cf. COX 1990, 119-130; DANIEL, S. 1966, 301-328; HARL 1986a, 62.63; HARLÉ 1988, 33; LE BOULLUEC 1989 294.297; →NIDNTT; TWNT http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf
Here, “guilt” makes sense as a translation for the last two occurrences of sin. Try this reading:
Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be [guilt], and through the commandment might become [guilty] beyond measure. (Romans 7:13)
It continues in the same vein lamenting guilt/sin:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25)
Again remember “law of” could mean “instruction of” and this is pretty self-explanatory and backs up the law being good. Everyone should still try to live by the law but when we fail to do this is where grace covers us. Paul continues to contrast the spirit with the flesh:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.(Romans 8:1-17)
Paul then harkens back to his quote of Habakkuk seeming to refer to the trials of Israel as a whole before it would be restored:
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
The context of Paul’s quote of Habakkuk is promised sufferings in the near future with redemption from the Chaldeans and other nations in the end. Paul continues to encourage patient endurance and hope:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:26-36)
The last verse is a quote from Psalm 44 which promises present troubles but hopes for future redemption. It also mentions Israel being scattered among the nations and asks God to rescue them. (a possible reference to Israel being reformed)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
Here Paul also makes the point of the irresistible nature of God’s grace that nothing physical can separate us from it, again relating it to his theme of contrasting physical and spiritual. Now, lets continue with the context in Galatians:
yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. (Gal 2:16)
The Essene MMT document argues that certain works of the law could justify you associates this with separation and purity.  (Paul was refuting this in some of his letters) This backs up one position of E.P. Sanders in his reading of 1st century Judaism in “The New Perspective on Paul” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Perspective_on_Paul He says that many Jews believed that by separating themselves from impurity and observing certain laws that they considered boundary markers of their distinctiveness among the nations would allow God to show his grace to them and save them. Those who didn’t observe these boundary markers had to be separated from. “Pharisee” means “separate.” This explains why issues of salvation and issues of separation or table fellowship are often mentioned together like they are the same thing. Here, in Galatians 2 Paul is simply making the point that law cannot justify you since we know that Christ justifies us and that is well accepted among us.
17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.(Gal 2:17-18)
Galatians 2:17-18 is a reductio ad absurdum to the position of “works of the law” that “if seeking to be declared righteous in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners” is saying that if we have Christ but we still need works of the law then Christ has misled us and caused us to sin.
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:19-21)
Here “through the law I died to the law” means that the law kills our idea of being self-righteous and of saving ourselves. Once we die to self, we can accept a savior outside of ourselves and paradoxically live more in line with the law which is part of the work of grace as Titus 2:11-14 explains:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)
The word for “iniquity” is literally “lawlessness”
who did give himself for us, that he might ransom us from all lawlessness, and might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; (Titus 2:14 YLT)
In addition, this may be because we are no longer being righteous in a self serving way. Without knowledge of sin we cannot humble ourselves and repent which is reflected in several old testament references describing what behavior God’s people will have to have if they are to be forgiven. (this will be alluded to later) This idea is developed in Galatians 3:
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” (Gal 3:10-12)
Here Paul relates the law to the cursings added at Sinai so we see “the law” in the general sense of “the first five books” or “God’s instructions” is not applicable here; rather it is a specific part of the instructions which started at the Sinai covenant. I’ll explain, there are many parts of the first five books which give instructions to God’s people and give unconditional promises like in the Abrahamic covenants in Gen 15,17 and 22. However, here “the law” seems to reflect curses and blessings, life and death, which started at Sinai:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes. 4 My ordinances you shall observe and my statutes you shall keep, following them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord. (Lev 18: 1-5)
11 I gave them my statutes and showed them my ordinances, by whose observance everyone shall live. 12 Moreover I gave them my sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, so that they might know that I the Lord sanctify them. (Ezekiel 20:11-12)
God promised the inheritance to Abraham with no strings attached but the law at Sinai came with blessings and cursings and was conditional on them following the law. Let’s see if this theory holds up:
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise. (Gal 3:16-18)
Here we see “law” is used in a specific context for that which was given at Sinai after Abraham “four hundred and thirty years later” he’s clearly distinguishing this from the other parts of the old covenant such as the Abrahamic covenants: “cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ” He’s not saying they are separate, those covenants/instructions all apply to us but Paul is using law specifically to refer to the blessings and cursings in this context starting at Sinai.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. (Gal 3:19-20)
Here clearly it says the law was given because of transgression. We see this in several ways, 1 it was given with a penal system to punish transgression, 2 it was given with a priesthood to atone for transgression. However, is this what Paul means?
21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, (Gal 3:21-25)
Here we see the third purpose relating to transgression for which the law was given: to make people aware of their transgression. Without humility and acknowledgment of sin, we cannot come to Christ and accept grace. Once you leave a tutor and go to university the tutor’s more elementary teachings should still hold (otherwise you went to a bad tutor). No longer being under the tutor means no longer being under the law. This means you know you are not righteous (since the law taught you that) and therefore you are no longer trying to justify yourself by doing the law which means the law is no longer needed to teach you that you need grace through its punishments: you already know you deserve punishment. This is shown clearly through the history of the curses that God brought on Israel. Israel can’t claim they are righteous on their own after breaking the law and being put through its curses. Hence being “under (the results of) the law” while being “under sin” means being “under the results of sin” and hence “under the penalty of the law.”
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26-29)
Paul relates Christ to the unconditional promises to Abraham as distinguished from the covenants starting at Sinai. Does this mean the Sinai covenant is no longer valid for us? No, if it isn’t valid for us then it makes Paul’s whole argument absolute nonsense: we don’t need Christ to save us from a penalty of a law that is no longer valid. To further establish this distinction lets jump ahead and look at what Paul says later:
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.(Galatians 4:22-25)
Why is being “under (the results of) the law” related to Mount Sinai? Because that is where the curses and hence death started to be piled up and while being “under (the results of) sin” those curses will fall us:
14 But if you will not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and abhor my ordinances, so that you will not observe all my commandments, and you break my covenant, 16 I in turn will do this to you: I will bring terror on you; consumption and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away. You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down by your enemies; your foes shall rule over you, and you shall flee though no one pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not obey me, I will continue to punish you sevenfold for your sins. 19 I will break your proud glory, and I will make your sky like iron and your earth like copper. 20 Your strength shall be spent to no purpose: your land shall not yield its produce, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. 21 If you continue hostile to me, and will not obey me, I will continue to plague you sevenfold for your sins. 22 I will let loose wild animals against you, and they shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock; they shall make you few in number, and your roads shall be deserted. 23 If in spite of these punishments you have not turned back to me, but continue hostile to me, 24 then I too will continue hostile to you: I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 I will bring the sword against you, executing vengeance for the covenant; and if you withdraw within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven, and they shall dole out your bread by weight; and though you eat, you shall not be satisfied.
27 But if, despite this, you disobey me, and continue hostile to me, 28 I will continue hostile to you in fury; I in turn will punish you myself sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars; I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. I will abhor you. 31 I will lay your cities waste, will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing odors. 32 I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword against you; your land shall be a desolation, and your cities a waste.
34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its sabbath years. 35 As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it. 36 And as for those of you who survive, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand against your enemies. 38 You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall devour you. 39 And those of you who survive shall languish in the land of your enemies because of their iniquities; also they shall languish because of the iniquities of their ancestors.
40 But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— 41 so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; 45 but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord.
46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws that the Lord established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses. (Lev 26:14-46)
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. (Galatians 4:4-5)
Christ is said to be born “under (the results of) the law” because he was born into a world where the cursing from mount Sinai could still be applied to God’s people.
Knowing this we can continue reading Galatians 4:
1 My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; 2 but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 3 So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. (Gal 4:1-5)
“Elements of this world” is interesting. He’s contrasting being redeemed from under the law with being in bondage to the “elements of this world.”
The root of the word G4747 for “elements” is G4748 and is in the Septuagint:
στοιχέω+ V 0-0-0-1-0=1 Eccl 11,6 to prosper, to go on to sprout Cf. HORSLEY 1982, 97; →NIDNTT; TWNT
This is clearly not referring to the law of God as the same word is used to describe the traditions of men in the same book. Here’s the usage in the new testament (there is none in the Septuagint version of the Tanakh )
But now, having known God, but rather having been known by God, how do you return again unto the weak and poor elements, G4747 in which again, as at the beginning [2to serve 1you want]? (Gal 4:9 ABP)
8 Take heed lest [2anyone 4you 1there shall be 3robbing] through the fondness of intellectual pursuits and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements G4747 of the world, and not according to Christ! (Colossians 2:8 ABP)
If then you died with the Christ from the elements G4747 of the world, why as living in the world do you subject yourselves to decrees? (Col 2:20 ABP)
For though you ought to be teachers because of the time, again [2need 1you have] of one to teach you what are the elements G4747 of the beginning of the oracles of God; and you have become [2need 1having] of milk, and not of solid nourishment. (Hebrews 5:12)
But shall come the day of the Lord as a thief in the night, in which the heavens by a loud noise shall pass away, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall be loosed; and the earth and the [2in 3it 1works] shall be incinerated. (2 Peter 3:10 ABP)
expecting and hastening the arrival of the day of God, by which the heavens being set on fire shall be loosed, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall melt away? (2 Peter 3:12 ABP)
“World” or “kosmos” (G2889) is the other word and is also used for “ornaments:”
κόσμος,-ου+ N2M 5-2-17-5-43=72 Gn 2,1; Ex 33,5.6; Dt 4,19; 17,3 world, universe Prv 17,6a; world, earth 2 Mc 3,12; world, mankind Wis 2,24; ornament, decoration Ex 33,5; honour, delight Prv 28,17a *Gn 2,1 ὁ κόσμος ornamentation-◊צבה or-צבי for MT ◊צבא host, army, see also Dt 4,19, 17,3, Is 24,21, 40,26, Sir 50,19; *2 Sm 1,24 μετὰ κόσμου ὑμῶν with your ornaments-עם־עדיכן for MT עם־עדנים with luxury, with ornaments Cf. DOGNIEZ 1992, 138; HARL 1986a, 98; SCHMITT 1974, 152; →MM; NIDNTT; TWNT http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf
Paul says we are crucified to the world through Christ. This other word also can’t be talking about some divine law:
14 But for me may it not be to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world has been crucified, and I to the world G2889.(Gal 6:12 ABP)
And [6were completed 1the 2heaven 3and 4the 5earth], and all the cosmos of them. (Genesis 2:1)
5 And the lord said to the sons of Israel, You are a people hard-necked; see that [2do not 5calamity 4another 1I 3bring] upon you! and should completely consume you. Now then remove [2apparels 1your glorious], and the ornament! and I will show to you what I will do to you. 6 And [4removed 1the 2sons 3of Israel] their ornamentation, and the attire at the mountain of Horeb. (Exodus 33:5-6 ABP)
It continues in the same fashion:
6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. 9 Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? 10 You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. 11 I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted. (Gal 4:6-11)
Commenting on verses 12-20 is beyond the scope here so we will skip ahead. Here we start out with the verse that caused us to ask the question “what does under the law mean?” in the first place:
21 Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. (Gal 4:21-25)
Notice that Paul is using symbolism here and the majority of translations here use “allegory” or “illustration.” If Paul is suddenly going to tell us that we don’t need to follow the law–here is not the place to do it, it would too easily be misunderstood as figurative. Let’s get into the allegory: the reason the Jerusalem at that time was in bondage was because they weren’t accepting the grace of Christ and they were trying to justify themselves through “works of the law.” Doing this makes the curses of the law fall on you. God instead wanted Israel to “acknowledge their iniquity as it says in Jeremiah 3:13-15:
But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. (Gal 4:26)
The reason the Jerusalem above is free is that by acknowledging their iniquity God will redeem Israel from the curses of breaking the covenant. The law is the thing that “brings knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20) and again we see that grace and law go together. To explain more fully, let’s continue:
27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the one who is married.” (Gal 4:27)
Here we see a picture of Israel being restored being quoted from Isaiah 54:
7 For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. 10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10)
Things to notice here: 1 God will keep this covenant of peace with them no matter what. 2 God keeping this covenant is based on mercy not on anything that they did 3 It is a promise like God made not to destroy the earth with water any longer so it was certainly not based on anything humanity did. When God made that promise there was no time for humanity to do anything after the flood to prove that it wouldn’t be corrupted again.
40 But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— 41 so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; 45 but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord. (Lev 26:40-45)
12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the Lord; I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the Lord your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and have not obeyed my voice, says the Lord. 14 Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:12-14)
As mentioned earlier, if they humble themselves and accept their guilt God will not bring death (i.e. the curses for breaking the covenant at mount Sinai) Again, notice Sinai is not the only covenant in the line of covenants with God’s people. There are the covenants with Abraham’s descendants is Gen 15, 17 and 22 and the covenant at Moab apart from the one at Horeb (Sinai) in Deuteronomy 29. However, Paul picks Sinai when talking about being under the penalty of the law and Sinai was the place where the penalties were laid out including the judicial penal system and the laws of the priesthood and the tabernacle for atoning for sin. (“the law was added because of transgression”) Paul continues:
28 Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. 29 But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Gal 4:28-29)
“even so it is now” clearly states that this is contrasting the ones persecuting “the way” with those of “the way” (part of this would later become known as Christianity) Paul actually participated in this persecution. You can confirm this by seeing the usage of the word in Galatians:
You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting G1377 the church of God and was trying to destroy it.(Gal 1:13 NRSV)
they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting G1377 us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Gal 1:23 NRSV)
But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted G1377 the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Gal 4:29 YLT)
But my friends, why am I still being persecuted G1377 if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Gal 5:11 NRSV)
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted G1377 for the cross of Christ. (Gal 6:22 NRSV)
If Paul is saying that we no longer should keep the law he is doing a terrible job of it since the early Church was made up of a mixture of those who totally kept the law and those that didn’t (as evidenced by Acts 15) In addition since Christ almost always sided with Hillel the analogy of spirit and letter also fits here. Paul is instead continuing to contrast the physical with the spiritual as he did with circumcision earlier:
Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (Gal 3:3)
This part is interesting:
30 But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” 31 So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. (Gal 4:30-31)
Here some people jump to the conclusion that since we are not “of” the bondwoman we no longer should keep the rules at Sinai. There are a few things to remember here: 1 he started off with the context of those who wish to be “under the law” and this is caused by using “works of the law” to justify yourself (we have already discussed this) 2 This is allegorical. 3 This can’t be only about the old and new covenant because of how he says the people of the bondwomen are persecuting the people that are free even now. In addition, Paul is not just contrasting the new covenant and the old covenant because the freewoman is symbolic of the promises given to Abraham which are older than Sinai.
However, it is possible that Paul is making some allusion to the new and old covenant here. Here’s why I think this: 1 The old covenant brought curses and the people who are of “works of the law” are “under the law” and therefore subject to its curses. 2 The promises given to Abraham are the precursors to Messiah who is the mediator of the new covenant. 3 The new covenant is about being restored and perfected by having the law written on our hearts (something that was not accomplished in the old covenant) and Christ followed the spirit of the law not the letter (he almost always sided with the house of Hillel) Also compare the following (YLT)
2 Corinthians 3:3 3 manifested that ye are a letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in the tablets of stone, but in fleshy tablets of the heart,
Ezekiel 36:26 26 And I have given to you a new heart, And a new spirit I give in your midst, And I have turned aside the heart of stone out of your flesh, And I have given to you a heart of flesh.
Jeremiah 31:33 33 For this [is] the covenant that I make, With the house of Israel, after those days, An affirmation of Jehovah, I have given My law in their inward part, And on their heart I do write it, And I have been to them for God, And they are to me for a people.
Hebrews 8:10 10 because this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord, giving My laws into their mind, and upon their hearts I will write them, and I will be to them for a God, and they shall be to Me for a people;
5 Finally, the Zealot’s (of Shammai) were referred to as following after flesh and blood by the Hillelites:
Flusser discussed the political aspect of the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, arguing that originally “the Kingdom of Heaven” was an anti-Zealot slogan. At the end of the Second Temple period there were various groups of militant Jewish nationalists who advocated armed revolt against the Roman Empire. These insurgent groups believed that national liberation could be achieved through violent means. They believed that their armed struggle would provoke divine intervention on Israel’s behalf and the eschatological events of the final redemption would be set in motion as a result of their terrorist activities. It seems likely that at least one stream of militant Jewish nationalism emerged from the School of Shammai. This militant Jewish nationalist ideology was countered by the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism with the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. According to Hillelite ideology, violent militant insurgence can only replace the Roman Empire with a kingdom of flesh and blood:
Rabbi Hananiah, prefect of the priests, says: He who takes to heart the words of the Torah is relieved of many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. But he who does not take to heart the words of the Torah is given over to many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. He used to say: Do not look at me because I am dark and the sun has tanned me [my mother’s sons were angry with me (Song 1:6)]—these are the assemblies of Judah who broke off the yoke of the Holy One, blessed be he, and caused a king of flesh and blood to reign over them. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 20 [ed. Schechter, 70-72]) . . . Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “From the time murderers increased, the calf’s neck rite was annulled, because the calf’s neck rite is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now murderers increased in the open. From the time adulterers increased, they stopped the ordeal of the bitter waters, because the ordeal of the bitter waters is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now those who see [their lovers] in the open are many. From the time the lovers of pleasure increased, wrath came to the world and the glory of the Torah was annulled. From the time whisperers increased in the Sanhedrin, deeds were perverted, the judges were cursed, and the Shekhinahceased from Israel. From the time respecters of persons increased, You must not show partiality in judgment…you must not respect persons [Deut. 1:17] was annulled and they cast off the yoke of Heaven and caused a yoke of flesh and blood to reign over them. (t. Sot. 14:1[1-4])
In this saying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticizes those who set up a yoke of flesh and blood and who cast off the yoke of Heaven. The terminology is similar to that of Hananiah the prefect of the priests. Does “murderers” who kill “in the open” refer to terrorist groups like the Sicarii? Does “whisperers…in the Sanhedrin” refer to the chief priests, and in particular those of the House of Hanan (cf. t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a)? If so, then Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticized both the militant Jewish nationalists on one extreme and the high priests who colluded with the Romans on the other. If so, Jesus was not unique in his rejection of violent insurgence and condemnation of the corrupt priesthood. https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/13546/
However, the explanation that Paul is only contrasting the new and the old covenant is completely impoverished as we have already seen. Rather if Paul is alluding to the old and new covenants he is only mixing it in with his main subject material. The last section we will look at backs this up again:
1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4 You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Gal 5:1-6)
This allegory is introduced as a response to those who wish to be “under the law” and ends with something about those who want to be justified by law: the context is clear. Here Paul is not making any comments about what we should or shouldn’t do physically but rather what we should or shouldn’t justify ourselves by. This is a mistake people often make when reading Paul’s writings, context is key. However, the language here is slightly confusing. It can’t be that just by becoming physically circumcised that Christ profits you nothing since a change in your physical appearance can never cut you off from Christ. Paul also circumcised Timothy because of the Jews so it couldn’t be that Paul was cutting Timothy off from Christ by circumcising him. This issue may be helped by some historical context that Tim Hegg presents in his commentary on Acts 15:
The prevailing belief of the Judaisms in Paul’s day was that only Jews had a place in the world-to-come since God had made the covenant of blessing with Israel and no other nation.
All Israel have a place in the world-to-come. [[m.Sanhedrin 10:1.]
This central theological axiom shows that from the perspective of the Rabbis, a Gentile could secure a place in the world-to-come only by becoming a Jew. This, the Rabbis taught, was possible through becoming a proselyte, a ritual based entirely upon their rules but without any foundation in the Torah itself. In fact, the added phrase “according to the custom of Moses”629 in the opening verse of Acts 15 may point to the fact that the disagreement taking place between Paul and Barnabas and the others was not over what the written Torah prescribed for Gentiles but whether or not the additional teachings of the Sages were binding upon them. Thus when men from Judea taught that “unless you are circumcised (undergo the ritual of a proselyte) according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved,” they were simply applying the standard theology of their day. This is what the Council was dealing with: Did all Israel have a place in the world-to-come? Did Gentiles therefore need to submit to the man-made ritual of the proselyte so that, in accordance with the prevailing theology, they too could secure eternal life, that is, be saved? Nowhere in God’s word is there a ceremony outlined for a Gentile to become a proselyte. . .
The issue was one of status. What status qualified a person to be assured of a place in the world-to-come—ethnicity or faith? What was essential for salvation: the status of Jewishness or the status of being “in Messiah?” Paul and the other apostles at the Jerusalem Council unanimously agreed that one’s ethnic status had no bearing whatsoever on one’s salvation. The crux was faith not ethnicity.
In conclusion, this has all been to show the context of what Paul is talking about in Galatians 4 with the two covenants. He is responding to those who wish to be justified by works of the law or want to be under the law. The two covenants in Galatians don’t seem to be directly related to the “old” and “new” covenants because Paul uses part of the old covenant (the older part before Sinai) in arguing for us being the children of promise. Rather Paul seems to be contrasting two parts of the old covenant and saying (to oversimplify things) that the blessings of it will save us from curses of it eventually. The new covenant rather is about the law eventually being written on our hearts by God since we were unable to do so. There is however a relation here: the writing of the law by God in the new covenant is accomplished by the work of Christ (through the holy spirit) as a mediator of the new covenant and Christ was predicted by the promises given to Abraham. In any case to say that the judgments of the law are done away with makes Paul’s argument nonsensical; rather, Christ needed to come to save us from the results of those judgments.
Compare the following:
For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.(Hebrews 9:15)
13 For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— 14 as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast. 15 Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favor; 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” 20 For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. 21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 22 by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment. (2 Corinthians 1:13-22)
 “The topic of the work is reflected in the phrase tohorat haqodesh, “the purity of the holy.” Stated simply: “Do not allow the holy to be profaned by what is impure.”
The issues include bringing Gentile corn into the Temple, the presentation of Gentile offerings, and the cooking of sacrificial meat in unfit (impure) vessels. Other rulings concern cleansing of lepers, admitting the blind and the deaf into the Temple; and permitting intermarriage with Ammonite and Moabite converts, long forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). Other issues involve the transmission of impurity by a flow of water (musaq), the intermixture of wool and linen (sha‘atnez), plowing with diverse animals (qilayyim) and perhaps the climax of the discussion: the intermarriage of priests with the common people.
Most of the rulings espoused by the author of MMT are based directly upon Biblical law (for example, the prohibition against plowing with unlike animals in Deuteronomy 22:10). A few others are interpretations or amplifications of Mosaic prescriptions (for example, bans on Gentile offerings and dogs in the Temple). The list clearly reflects a conservative reaction against a relaxation of Torah precepts.” http://www.sabbathreformation.com/article-paul-works-of-the-law-and-mmt-118800746.html
1) Paul’s έργων νόμου “works of the law,” Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16 [trs]; 3:2, 5 10) is likely a translation of מעשי התורה, found in all of ancient Hebrew literature only at 4QMMT C 27 (4Q398 14-17 ii 3). . . .
2) 4QMMT C 27 also echoes the languages of Gal. 3:6b where Paul quotes Gen 15:6 and argues that righteousness is reckoned on the bases of faith. The Qumran writer posits righteousness on the bases of works of the law. (pg. 1)
In addition it appears highly likely that Paul was reacting to a position that was espoused in 4QMMT by the Qumran covenanters, namely, that a person was reckoned righteous by keeping “works of the law. “
“Prep. below, beneath, under (ὑπό) . . . Of a woman it is said, she commits whoredom, adultery, under her husband, Nu. 5:19; Eze. 23:5, i.e. she commits whoredom who ought to obey the authority of her husband.”
 8 For I also am a man set under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Luke 7:8 New Revised Standard Version)
9 For I also am a man under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Matthew 8:9 New Revised Standard Version)
 Under husband’s authority: 19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. (Numbers 5:19 NRSV)
19 `And the priest hath caused her to swear, and hath said unto the woman, If no man hath lain with thee, and if thou hast not turned aside [to] uncleanness under thy husband, be free from these bitter waters which cause the curse;(Num 5:19 YLT)
19 And [3shall adjure 4her 1the 2priest], and he shall say to the woman, If no one has gone to bed with you, if you have not violated to be defiled being under [2husband 1your own], be innocent from [2by the 3water 4of rebuke 1this accursing]! (Num 5:19 ABP)
Gesenius’s usage in Ezekiel 23 may relate to “consequences” or “power” from doing something while “under” an authority
5 And go a-whoring doth Aholah under Me, And she doteth on her lovers, On the neighbouring Assyrians, (Ezekiel 23:5 YLT)
5 And Aholah fornicated from me, and doted upon her lovers, upon the Assyrians being next to her; (Ezekiel 23:5 ABP)
5 Oholah played the whore while she was mine; she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors . . . 9 Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. (Ezekiel 23:5-9 NRSV)
Compare the following usages of “under” with alternate translations, it seems the meaning of “under” is related to what is metaphorically on top:
2 And the fear of you and trembling will be upon all the wild beasts of the earth, upon all the winged creatures of the heaven, and upon all the things moving upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Under your hands I have given them to you. (Gen 9:2 ABP)
2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. (Gen 9:2 NRSV)
. . . to the future, that we may maintain the government in undisturbed peace for all men, adopting [needful] changes, and ever judging those cases which come under [our] notice, with truly equitable decision. . . . (Esther 8:13 Brenton Translation of the Septuagint)
. . . In the future we will take care to render our kingdom quiet and peaceable for all, by changing our methods and always judging what comes before our eyes with more equitable consideration. . . (Esther 8:13 NRSVACE)
And the Lord will give us strength, and lighten our eyes, and we shall live under the shadow of Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and under the shadow of Balthasar his son, and we shall serve them many days, and find favour in their sight. (Baruch 1:12 Brenton Septuagint Translation)
The Lord will give us strength, and light to our eyes; we shall live under the protection of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and under the protection of his son Belshazzar, and we shall serve them for many days and find favour in their sight. (Bar 1:12 NRSVACE)
2 Maccabees 7:36:
36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36 NRSVACE)
For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. (2 Maccabees 7:36 Brenton Septuagint Translation)
3 And he spared his people, and all the ones being sanctified by your hands; these [2under 3you 1are]; and he received of his words (Deuteronomy 33:3 ABP)
3 Indeed, O favorite among peoples, all his holy ones were in your charge; they marched at your heels, accepted direction from you. (Deuteronomy 33:3 NRSV)
3 Also He [is] loving the peoples; All His holy ones [are] in thy hand, And they — they sat down at thy foot, [Each] He lifteth up at thy words. (Deuteronomy 33:3 YLT)
6 But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (Esther 3:6 NRSV)
6 And he took counsel to remove all [2under 3the 5of Artaxerxes 4kingdom 1the Jews]. (Esther 3:6 ABP)
6 and it is contemptible in his eyes to put forth a hand on Mordecai by himself, for they have declared to him the people of Mordecai, and Haman seeketh to destroy all the Jews who [are] in all the kingdom of Ahasuerus — the people of Mordecai. (Esther 3:6 YLT)
6 and took counsel to destroy utterly all the Jews who were under the rule of Artaxerxes. (Esther 3:6 Brenton)
 hypó, hoop-o’; G5259 example usage in the Septuagint:
For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. (2 Maccabees 7:36 Brenton Septuagint Translation)
36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36 NRSV)
ὑπό+ P 61-42-43-140-212=498 Gn 9,2; 16,9; 18,4.8; 19,8 [τινος]: by (with a pass. verbal form indicating the agent) Gn 26,29; from Ps 73(74),22; under, in (indicating reason) Jb 30,4; under Jb 8,16
[τι, τινα]: under (with verb of motion) 1 Mc 6,46; under (place) Gn 18,8; under, at the foot of Ex 24,4; under (in geogr. sense) Dt 3,17; beyond Ex 3,1; about (time) Jos 5,2; little before Jon 4,10; in the course of, during 3 Mc 7,12; under (as subordination) 1 Ezr 3,1; under, in the hand of 2 Mc 3,6; under (reason) Ex 23,5 ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν under heaven, on earth Ex 17,14; ὑπὸ τὴν ὄψιν under (our) notice Est 8,12i; ὑπὸ χεῖρας in (your) hands Gn 9,2; ὑπὸ τὴν σκιάν in the shadow Bar 1,12; ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ) under (God’s) covenant 2 Mc 7,36; ὑπὸ φόρον under tribute 1 Mc 8,2; ὑπὸ καιρόν within the space of one day 2 Mc 7,20; ὑφ’ ἕν at one stroke Wis 12,9 Cf. DORIVAL 1994, 56; JOHANNESSOHN 1910 1-82; 1926 174-184; →NIDNTT