What is the Old Covenant?

For probably hundreds of years professing Christians have been told by their leaders that they are not governed or guided by the Old Covenant. Generally speaking this has come to mean that the New Testament has superceded the Old Testament. God doesn’t therefore expect Christians today to be particularly concerned about the code of conduct under which He expected Israel to live. This includes the Ten Commandments which are treated with the utmost respect in the Old Testament.

Of course the Christian clergy are quick to point out this doesn’t mean lying, cheating, stealing and murder were irrelevant. Actually only one fundamental stipulation of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue, which God spoke directly to Israel supposedly can be ignored in practice. The teaching is typically it should be ignored. Is there something inherently wrong with recognizing God as the creator by taking a day off on Saturday?

So we have been told that the Old Covenant is the Ten Commandments, because Exodus 34:28, and Deuteronomy 4:13 indicate fairly clearly that the covenant is the Ten Commandments. "So He declared to you His covenant…the Ten Commandments" It seems rather straightforward that certainly the Ten Commandments were the absolute foundation of God’s covenant with Israel. If that covenant is, "becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Heb 8:13), can there be any value to its recommendations? If "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." (Gal 3:24-25) What possible value is there in maintaining a respect for the law?

The answer to all these questions lies in understanding exactly what the Old Covenant really is. Understanding the covenant is vital to understanding the Bible and God’s instruction for all mankind. It is also important to understand how the word ‘law’ is used in the Bible.

It’s time this matter was addressed and correctly understood. Much, critical to understanding the New Testament, is dependent upon this. Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

The Sinai Covenant

Most Bible students are fully aware that a covenant was made at Sinai, also known as Horeb (Deut 4:15). This is of course, where God spoke to the Children of Israel from Mt. Sinai. Indeed this must have been an awesome event. Certainly the crux of this covenant is the Ten Commandments. This undoubtedly is why Exodus 34:28 & Deuteronomy 4:13 identify the Ten Commandments as the "words of the covenant" and "His covenant". It is the crux and foundation of God's instruction to Israel.

However the Ten Commandments were not the only terms of this covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai. To quiet their fears, the people of Israel requested that God break off speaking to them directly. They requested that He speak through Moses. (Exodus 20:19) Exodus 20:22 then continues the terms of this covenant. The terms and additional judgements (Ex.21:1) continue through chapter 23:19. The rest of chapter 23 is mostly promises that would come as a result of obedience. Obedience was assumed. This is apparently the entire covenant God and Israel made at Sinai. Moses then wrote down all that God had said. (Ex 24:4,7) This was likely written on a parchment scroll, but could have been written on clay tablets or on papyrus as well.

A covenant in ancient times was a very serious matter. The covenant we often think of is the marriage covenant. Nowadays those are ratified and discarded so fast we have little respect for a covenant. This was not so in ancient times.

The ratifying of a serious covenant required the shedding of blood. This was done to graphically illustrate that the parties to the covenant were saying in effect, ‘May my blood be shed if I fail to uphold this agreement’. Consequently death was justified as a punishment for breaking this type of covenant. Death is mentioned as a punishment frequently throughout these chapters. (Ex 21:12, 29, 22:18-20, 24) (Regarding blood covenants, see: Our Father Abraham, by Marvin R. Wilson, p 306)

So after God gave the terms to Moses, Moses told them to the people, or at least their representatives. They agreed to the terms so Moses wrote them down (Ex 24:3-4). Then the next day Moses built an altar, and evidently gathered all the people together. He took blood from some oxen that had been offered, and sprinkled it on the altar. He read all the terms again, directly out of what he had just written, recorded for us as Exodus 20-23. (Ex. 24:4-7) The people agreed again, and the people were sprinkled with the ox blood, confirming the covenant. (vs7-8)

So now, let’s read about the confirmation of the old covenant. It is described in Hebrews 9:18-21. It needs to be read very carefully.

"Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." 21Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry."

Do you notice anything different and/or odd about this description of the confirming of the Old Covenant? Most people do not. However, according to Hebrews, Moses didn’t read from the book or scroll of the covenant, he spoke every precept of the law. He didn’t sprinkle ox blood on the people, he sprinkled calf and goat blood on both the people and the scroll. Then he turned and sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. Where is the Tabernacle in the Exodus 24 account? It didn’t exist. The plans weren’t even given to Moses until after the confirmation of Exodus 24:8. (see Ex 24:15- 27:21) Is someone confused, or are these merely minor details just describing the same event from two different angles?

The fact is, this account of the ratifying of the Old Covenant in Hebrews can not be describing the ratifying of the covenant made at Horeb (Sinai) as described in Ex 24. Did Hebrews make a mistake? Is it confused? To what could Hebrews possibly be referring?

The only covenant that could possibly fit the description in Hebrews is described in Deuteronomy beginning in 1:1 and drawing toward a conclusion in chap. 29:1. Moses spoke generally the text of Deuteronomy to the Children of Israel just before they went into the Promised Land. This was over 39 years after the Sinai covenant.

"These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb." (Deut. 29:1) ...   Vs. 9 " Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do…..   vs. 12 that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today….    14 I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today…… 21 And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law" 

Chapter 30 continues.

10"if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…….19I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."

Chapter 31 continues.

9 "So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel…..24So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26"Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you."

On the day Moses spoke these words of Deuteronomy to the children of Israel, God made a second covenant with the people. This covenant was placed near the crux of the Sinai covenant, the Covenant of the Lord, but it did not displace the Covenant of the Lord. It repeated the foundational terms or ‘words’ of the Sinai covenant, but this covenant was not the Sinai covenant. It was binding on Israel just as the Sinai covenant was, and Israel agreed to perform it, (Deut 26:16-17) but the Sinai covenant, was clearly a different covenant.

"These are the words of the covenant …., besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb". (Deut 29:1)

So what is the difference? In simple terms, the difference, is the difference between Exodus 20-23 and the entire Book of the Law, Genesis though Deuteronomy. Fully understanding the details surrounding this could take some time. I will try to link to major sections. If you think you need more background, take the link and then use your back button to return to this main document. Further down the line we will address a number of New Testament references that may be misunderstood to indicate the Ten Commandments are the Old Covenant, and therefore of no great importance.

"MY Covenant" is indeed the Ten Commandments just like Exodus 34:28 & Deuteronomy 4:13 say. "This Covenant", made just before entering the Promised Land, is a different covenant.  It is clear when one carefully examines what the scriptures say, as we will see.

Nowhere in Deuteronomy or anywhere else is there any indication that the Sinai covenant, or especially the Covenant of the Lord, has been replaced or amended by ‘this covenant’ made in Moab. Some have tried to say that it was simply a reiteration of the Sinai covenant, but there are a number of significant differences and things that were added in this covenant that are nowhere mentioned in the Sinai covenant, and in some cases disallowed by the Sinai covenant. There is also Paul’s straightforward statement that forbids adding to or nullifying a covenant.

"…Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it." (Gal 3:15)

Let’s review to remind ourselves of some of the details.

The year of the Exodus

Israel left Egypt very shortly after the Passover was offered on the fourteenth day of the new year. (Ex 12:2-6) After God killed the Egyptian firstborn, Israel was released and on their way. (Ex 12:29-37) Some have speculated they crossed the Red Sea about a week later, on the last day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (also known as Passover). This could easily be, since the Red Sea was not far east of Rameses, where they started. At this point they were out of Egypt. Israel was getting close to the area of Sinai by the middle of the next month. (Ex 16:1) They arrived at the foot of Mt. Sinai on the first day of the third month. (Ex 19:1)

Exodus 19 and Jewish tradition, particularly the book of Jubilees indicates that God gave the Ten Commandments on or about the time of the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost.

Of course at the appointed time God expounds His commandments. The people interrupted God’s speech. They were scared to death. (Ex 20:18-19) So God completed His instruction to Moses. Aaron must have been there as well (Ex 19:24). After this Moses consulted with the people, and wrote the instruction he had received in a scroll and the covenant was confirmed (Ex 24:3-8) as we saw earlier.

It was after the Sinai covenant was confirmed that Moses went up to Mount Sinai again with Aaron and some of the other elders. At that time God began to instruct him on the design of the Tabernacle. (Ex 24:15-27:21)

After forty days with God, Moses came down the mountain and found Israel worshiping the golden calf. This event was a watershed event in God's relationship with Israel. He knows they can not be trusted to keep up their part of the covenant they had just made.

It’s important to understand that Moses received a significant amount of additional instruction after the Sinai covenant was confirmed. There are occasional references noting that some particular instruction was received by Moses, on Mt. Sinai. This doesn’t necessarily mean it was part of the Sinai covenant. Technically, in order to be considered part of the Sinai covenant, instruction had to be spoken by God to the people and written on the tablets or written in the book mentioned in Exodus 24:4. This limits the technical requirements of the Sinai covenant to Ex 20-23. Of course the legal Words of the covenant are specifically the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:28). The Covenant of the Lord is the foundation and basis for the Sinai covenant.

Some instruction was not even received on the mountain, but down near where Israel was camped (Ex 33:7-9). Israel was still camped at the base of Sinai throughout the period covered by the latter part of Exodus, all of Leviticus and part of Numbers (Num 10:11-12).

Paul clearly stated in Gal 3:15, "…Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it." So once confirmed even error prone men did not tamper with a covenant. This is still true of some legal documents today. The Sinai covenant consists only of Exodus 20-23. But Israel was obviously not capable of abiding within that covenant. So we begin to see some stipulations show up that are not really in line with the Sinai covenant like the role of Levi and centralized worship at the tabernacle.

On the other hand, Exodus 31 and 34 tie in closely with the Sinai covenant. In these chapters God wrote the tablets of the Sinai covenant and then wrote them again. (Moses broke the originals when he realized what Israel had done in the episode of the golden calf.) God is not making a new covenant, but properly documenting what he spoke from the mountain. (Ex 31:18, 34:1, 28) So because the subject is the Sinai covenant we have to understand that the discussion is directly connected with the Sinai covenant. However this instruction is not technically part of the Sinai covenant even though it is evident that God intended the terms of the Sinai covenant to include what God is saying in Exodus 31 & 34.

This is probably not new instruction to Moses even though from a chronological point of view we may not have seen some of it before. More than likely God is just taking the opportunity of these occasions to remind Moses and his company of what they had already discussed.

New instruction includes the building of the Tabernacle and other objects. There is no indication of, or requirement for, a tabernacle in the Sinai covenant. Of particular interest is the Arc of the Covenant. (Ex 25:1-15) It was built to house, "the testimony that I shall give you". (Ex 25:16) On the tablets God wrote the Ten Commandments "And when he had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God." (Ex 31:18)

The other judgments and statutes included in Exodus 20:22-23:33 were probably not written on these tablets of stone. These other judgments and statutes were not the foundation of the covenant, but important judgments to be respected within the Ten Commandments.

These judgments go hand in hand with the Ten Commandments themselves. They are expanding on one or more of the Ten Commandments. They clarify some applications of the Ten Commandments that might not otherwise be perfectly clear. Some of these judgments may seem irrelevant now, but they show us how God thinks, and are examples of how God would judge matters within the framework of the Ten Commandments.

The Arc of the Covenant held a copy of only the Covenant of the Lord, the Ten Commandments, the law written by God Himself. Moses "took the Testimony and put it into the ark…" (Ex 40:20). It is then easy to understand why "His Covenant" (Deut 4:13) is identified as the Ten Commandments. That is all that God wrote, "These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me" (Deut 5:22). That is the only covenant that was kept in the container, the Arc of the Covenant. The arc held the words of the covenant.

Exodus 34:10-28 describes the occasion of the replacement of the tablets of the covenant that Moses broke. At this time God rehearsed and filled in some more details of the original Sinai covenant. It is fairly clear that this is not another covenant, but a restatement of the original (see vs. 27). The words spoken were from God to Moses. No one was asked whether or not they wanted to be a part of it. The terms had already been agreed upon (Ex 24:7).

At the new year, the Tabernacle was completed and set up (Ex 40:1,17). This was about nine months after the confirming of the Sinai covenant (Ex 19:1, 24:1-8). It was almost a full year after Israel started out of Egypt after the Passover.

Apparently until this time the firstborn of Israel were acting as priests (Ex 13:2, 19:22) or at least spiritual leaders. Typically the firstborn were also the heads of the various clans and tribes. We also saw that Moses had ‘young men’ assist with the ox sacrifice of Exodus 24:5. There is no indication they were any relation of Aaron’s. Aaron and his sons were not actually anointed for that job until Leviticus 8:10-13. This was about the time the Tabernacle was completed in the first month a year after they left Egypt (Ex 40:12-17). The Levites were not made to serve with Aaron until later, (Num 1:50, 3:6). So even at this relatively early stage of their wandering in the wilderness things were changing. Sacrifice had to be officiated by Aaron's clan, sin offerings were introduced, Levi began acting as a buffer between Israel and God.

It might be assumed Levi was chosen because they were of the same tribe as Aaron. This may well have had something to do with the choice. It should also be noted that they were the tribe that stood with Moses against the rebellion of Israel with the golden calf (Ex 32:26-27). There is no evidence that they had been designated to serve with Aaron before the tabernacle was prepared. If they had been it seems that Moses would not have asked for volunteers, but would have simply directed they get their swords and clean house.

Of course many other issues are addressed in Leviticus. The Priests are responsible for their own errors. God makes no allowance for them, but holds them to a higher standard. Clean and unclean people and houses, blood, sexual practices and foods, all of these are touched upon. Many of these things have a link with the instruction of the Sinai covenant. Actually many of these regulations are directly called 'My statutes' and were probably known to Moses and/or Israel before Sinai. They may have even been given on Moses first trip up the mountain, before the incident of the golden calf. However the legal terms of the Sinai covenant were set. Even so, certainly we can understand that where there is a direct connection, we can take the instruction as a clarification of what was intended by the Sinai covenant. The document that became Deuteronomy and assumed the existence of the rest of the law, was a witness against Israel (Deu 31:26). As such it and the rest of the law detailed more completely what was intended in the Ten Commandments and the associated judgments.

Leviticus 19 mentions many things that require one to respect the poor and deal fairly and show concern for one’s fellow man. If everyone who claims to be a Christian just respected this chapter the world would be a much better place. The principles here require faith, which seems to be lacking today. We’re all concerned about ourselves. We have no faith that God will take care of us if we are about His business of concern and support for our fellow man. This is the root problem in the world today, 3400 years later.

Departing the Mountain

Numbers continues with other miscellaneous instruction, much of which revolves around the Tabernacle and the priesthood. In Numbers 10:11-13, about eleven months after the Sinai covenant was confirmed, they fold down the tabernacle and leave the immediate area around Mount Sinai. This is when most of the complaining started. Ultimately God rejects the faithless that are legal adults and they die in the wilderness. The complaining and errors continue, yet no animal sacrifice is recorded as atoning for any of these problems (although the overall offering on Atonement was probably done yearly, see Lev 16).

In Numbers 15:32-36 a Sabbath breaker is found, but "..it had not been explained what should be done to him" (vs. 34). Even Exodus 31:14 had not yet been published or made known. The Sinai covenant does not specifically say what the penalty should be. However since Exodus 31:14 is so closely tied with the Sinai covenant (see Ex 31:17-18) it is apparent what God intended in the Sinai covenant. Indeed when asked directly, death was His judgment. So Moses directed the penalty according to God’s instruction and the tenor of the covenant (Num. 15:36). The Sabbath breaker was stoned.

Why didn’t he just offer a sacrifice? The legal covenant at the time did not specifically indicate a penalty. However in instruction regarding the covenant, God had already determined the penalty was death (Ex 31:14-15, 35:2). In any case with a blood covenant the default was death. Although the instruction had been given to Moses that allowed an offering, it was not yet the law. It had evidently not yet been published either.

I suppose one could say God was just being hard in His judgment. Often special examples are made of first offenders. However it is also true that He was being just and fair. This man was potentially endangering God’s relationship with the entire congregation in the wilderness. The covenant with the nation had been broken. They could have all lost their lives. This man was disrespecting not only God and the Sabbath, but also everyone in the congregation. If this was a 'special example' it was an example of what the true penalty should be. Any lesser penalties for the same offense would have been simply examples of Gods grace and mercy.

Even though Moses had possibly received the bulk of the Pentateuch it had apparently not been made known to the people by this time. It had not been agreed to by the people. It was not yet the law. The Sinai covenant was the governing covenant at that time. A blood covenant typically required the blood of anyone that was party to the covenant, if they broke the covenant. This was the just option.

Israel continued in their wandering until just before coming near the Promised Land. They were still having difficulty obeying. Numbers 25:4-13 details the killing of a number of Israelites because they took Midianite wives who were intent on luring them away from God. Those killed, were the atonement themselves (vs. 4, 13). There is absolutely no doubt when this occurred. Phinehas was Aaron’s’ grandson. Aaron himself was dead. His son, Phinehas father Eleazar, was the High Priest (Num 21:28, & 26:1). Yet again, there was no suggestion of an animal sacrifice or sin offering.

In Numbers 28 & 29 again the Pilgrimage Festivals are mentioned and details are given concerning sacrifices associated with them. This is apparently after Joshua was named to succeed Moses (ch. 27:18-19). So for all these years as the Festivals rolled around, it is unlikely they offered sacrifices in the manner prescribed in chapter 28 & 29 of Numbers. Now just before Moses died he received this instruction.

In Numbers 31:1-3 Moses is given instruction to attack and destroy Midian and then be prepared to die. The rest of the book gives some final instructions. Israel is just a few weeks from crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land. The story of Israel’s’ wondering in the Wilderness with Moses is complete. It resumes with Joshua in charge in Joshua 1:1, preparing to enter the Promised Land. So why do we need Deuteronomy?

Why Deuteronomy?

‘These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain opposite Suph…. (vs. 3), ‘ in the Fortieth year in the eleventh month…Moses spoke, according to all that the Lord had given him commandment.’ (Deut 1:1-3)

So just slightly over two months before they crossed the Jordan, (about the 10th day of Abib, the first month). Moses assembled Israel and ‘spoke… according unto all that the Lord had given him…’ He apparently did not read the entire book of the law, but spoke the ‘Words’ by and large of Deuteronomy, which is a pretty good summary of the adventures of Israel and all the instruction Moses had received from God.

The conclusion of this address starts about chapter 29 with, "These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb" (Deuteronomy 29:1).

24"So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you" (Deuteronomy 31:24-26).

The Hebrew name for Deuteronomy is ‘Davarim’ which means ‘Words’, as in "words of the covenant". The core of the Moab covenant was significantly larger than the core of the Sinai covenant. It was addressed to a people that were unable to understand the spirit or intent of the Covenant of the Lord.

If the Covenant of the Lord, which the Sinai judgments helped clarify, was to be replaced, the tablets should have been removed from the arc of the covenant. Deuteronomy 31:24-26 is quite clear. They were not. The words of the Moab covenant were placed beside the arc, as a covenant under which Israel was also to live, but the words of the Covenant of the Lord held the place of honor.

Since one doesn’t add to a covenant, and considering all the problems, and dead brethren, Israel left in its wake, God set forth a second covenant to help them remain connected with God. Otherwise their sins would have demanded their death.

A major purpose for this covenant was to help Israel stay in compliance with especially the Covenant of the Lord, but also the Sinai covenant. It set up a human priesthood in Aaron and buffer of Levi, those who stood with Moses in the episode of the golden calf.

In Levi the people of Israel were given a local representative (Num 35:2) with whom they could consult on matters of appropriate conduct. This was not God's original intent. He wanted them all to be His representatives, priests (Ex 19:5-6), but He recognized they could not do this (Deut 5:29, 29:4). They didn't have the heart to obey.

"O that they had such an heart in them that they would fear Me, and always keep all my commandments, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" (Deu 5:29 KJV)

This covenant of Moab also established guaranteed forgiveness with the sacrifice of an appropriate sin offering. It also allowed for punishments or curses in the event of non-compliance. Under the Sinai covenant death would have been the likely penalty.

‘The Covenant of the Lord’, was in the ark. ‘This covenant’, the Moab covenant, was outside, beside the arc, not necessarily attached to the ark in any physical way. It did not replace the Covenant of the Lord nor was it merged with the Covenant of the Lord, but it was binding on Israel as the Covenant of the Lord was binding.

The Hebrew word zo’th translated ‘this’ covenant, in Deuteronomy 29:9, 14 & 5:3 is not a passive word. It denotes a specific thing. It is a ‘Demonstrative Pronoun’. In Hebrew, "It is used to point out and designate certain objects in distinction from others." (emphasis mine) (The Complete Word Study of the Old Testament" p.2274) It is intended to identify and isolate something specific. ‘THIS covenant’, as distinct from the Covenant of the Lord, or Horeb covenant with which they were already familiar. The demonstrative pronoun in English is typically used to distinguish objects in relation to the speaker or listener. So ’this’ does not convey the exact sense of the Hebrew word zo’th.

Deuteronomy 29:20, 21, 30:10 & 31:26 designate ‘this book’. Deuteronomy 29:29, 31:9,11,12 & 24 designate ‘this law’. Also ‘these words’ in ch. 31:1 & 28 are handled the same way, as is "These are the Words" in Deuteronomy 1:1 & 29:1, and "observe these statutes" in Deuteronomy 26:16. The references to the Covenant of the Lord in ch. 29:25, 31:9,16,20,25 & 26, are not distinguished this way. Israel was already familiar with that covenant and that law. ‘These Words, this book, this law' are being distinguished from the Covenant of the Lord and any other words, book or law, with which they may have already been familiar.

Deuteronomy makes reference to the covenant made at Horeb, or Sinai a number of times besides those just indicated above. Often it is clearly designated as having been made in the past. There is no indication that it is one and the same covenant as 'this covenant' that is being made that day in Deuteronomy. (Deut 4:13, 23, 9:9, 8:18)

Of all the scrolls found in the Dead Sea area, the book of Deuteronomy is second in number only to Psalms. (The Dead Sea Scroll Bible, by Abegg, Flint & Ulrich, P.145) This is a reasonable indication of the importance placed on this book by Jews of the first century AD/CE. They recognized the completeness of the instruction and its application to them. It contained all the precepts of the law and the essence of the Sinai covenant as well. They evidently didn’t find any of the other books quite so practical.

Deuteronomy is very much in the format of a covenant between a people and their Lord, from the prologue, all the way down to and including the final chapters. This is well described in Treaty of the Great King, by Meredith G. Kline. Mr. Kline states, "For Deuteronomy 31-34 is consistently concerned with the continuity and perpetuation of the covenant relationship and all the elements in this section serve to corroborate the identification of Deuteronomy in its entirety as a unified suzerainty treaty." (p 34) The Sinai covenant fits the pattern of a covenant to a large degree as well.

So God made two covenants with Israel in the wilderness. Deuteronomy is the Words of the second covenant, distinct from the Horeb covenant, which was completely based on the Covenant of the Lord. The Words of the Horeb covenant are the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:28). The Words of the Moab covenant is the book, Words, Davarim, known to English speakers as Deuteronomy. The purpose of the Book of Deuteronomy is to lay out in detail the conduct God expected of Israel in the Promised Land and make it of equal weight with the Sinai covenant.

What is the LAW?

It is generally agreed by Christian theologians, that ‘the law’ refers to the Pentateuch, Genesis through Deuteronomy. I’ve not heard anyone dispute this. Generally in the New Testament when it speaks of ‘the law’ it is referring to these books or something within these books. It is the same as the ‘Law of Moses’. That is, the law that Moses wrote. This could easily be in distinction to the Law of God, i.e. the law God wrote. When one understands what ‘the Covenant of the Lord’ is, this seems like a reasonably easy way to identify the two. There is probably at least one other more precise differentiation that we will see later.

Deuteronomy 31:9, "So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel…..24So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26"Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you."

Although these scriptures are not perfectly specific, there may be a reason the writing of the ‘law’ was recorded twice. The record in vs. 9 is probably referring to Genesis through Numbers and may or may not include Deuteronomy, "Moses wrote this law". With what ‘Law’ are we dealing? We’re dealing with the Law of Moses. Verse 24 appears to be talking specifically of "this Book of the Law" that was placed beside the arc, Deuteronomy. From what Book of the Law are we reading? We’re reading from Deuteronomy.

The name ‘Deuteronomy’, comes from the name given the book when it was translated into Greek, ‘Deuteronomion’, which is a composite of ‘deutero’ meaning second and ‘nomos’ meaning custom or law, (Arndt & Gringich). So ‘deuteronomion’ would typically mean ‘second law’. Some think this became the name of the book because ‘deuteronomion’ is used in Deuteronomy 17:18 in the Septuagint text. However, this is hardly a pivotal scripture in the book, deserving of the entire book being named in its honor. It is far more likely that the translators simply translated another common Hebrew reference to this book, ‘mishneh torah’, or second law. The phrase can also designate a repetition or copy of the Torah as in Deuteronomy 17:18. A copy of the Torah is a second of the Torah. However, it is evident that Deuteronomy is not a repeating of the Sinai torah, but another set of instructions that add a number of things nowhere indicated by the Sinai covenant and sometimes runs contrary to the intent of the Sinai covenant. Hence the name ‘second law’, Deuteronomion.

It is indeed a second law. In some cases it seems to simply clarify pieces of the Sinai covenant, i.e. Sabbaths. In other cases it recommends actions nowhere indicated by the Sinai covenant, i.e. sin offerings. In still other cases it runs against the intent of the Sinai covenant, i.e. the designation of a particular tribe as the priestly tribe. The terms of the Sinai covenant had been fixed and could not be changed (Ex 24:1-8, Gal 3:15). If God is going to propose a new plan with new regulations for Israel and options for God, it can not simply be tacked on to the previous agreement. A second covenant is the only option.

Deuteronomy is the ‘words’ of the Moab covenant just as the Ten Commandments are the ‘words’ of the Sinai covenant (Ex 34:28). It assumed the existence of the rest of the law, Genesis though Numbers, for some of the details. Genesis through Numbers had already been delivered to the Levites (Ex 31:9). ‘This Book of the Law’ (Ex 31:24) was the final book of the Law, Deuteronomy. That contained, "the words of the covenant" (Deut 29:1). There would be no additions since covenants do not permit that.

The New Testament agrees with this understanding of ‘the law’ as well. "‘The law’ came though Moses" (John 1:17). "Did not Moses give you the law" (John 7:19). "…the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law" (Heb 7:11). Also "So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi .." (Deut. 31:9). It included even Genesis, though we may not always consider Genesis a book full of laws (Gal 4:21-22). Along with the Prophets, the Law made up the great bulk of what we now know of as the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament (Mat 5:17, Luke 16:31, 24:44).

'The Law' did not exist as law before Moses received it, wrote it and it was confirmed in Deuteronomy 26:16-18 and 30:19. The account of Deuteronomy 1 indicates that this was completed at about the time Moses spoke Deuteronomy, i.e. about two months before Israel entered the Promised Land. "Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them. … On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law,"(Deu 1:3, 5).

Unfortunately, by the time of Jesus, the Jews had been ‘studying’ the law for a long time. Sometimes questions came up as to the meaning intended by Moses in the law. Sometimes the teachers of the law interpreted Moses instruction correctly, and sometimes they did not. In any case after 1400 years there was a lot of misunderstanding, sometimes from very well respected individuals. Some of this teaching became well known and regarded actually of greater weight than the scriptures themselves. This interpreting of the law became known as the ‘oral law’, and was sometimes included when Jews of Jesus day talked of ‘the law’. Actually some Jewish scholars today would probably include this ‘oral law’ as part of ‘The Law". Some in New Testament times did. This has caused misunderstanding in parts of the New Testament.

Judaism holds that along with the written Books of the Law, God spoke some instructions to Moses that were not written down. Supposedly this instruction was passed along orally. This is the more official position of where the ‘oral law’ came from. It was finally written down and became the Talmud and especially the earlier books, the Mishneh, beginning about 200 AD/CE.

In any case, Deuteronomy contains the official "words of the covenant" (Deut 29:1). That is the binding legal document of this, the Moab covenant. The rest of The Law, Genesis through Numbers, also detailed some areas of this covenant. So Deuteronomy contained the general precepts of the Law. "…Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them." (Deut 1:3b). Any secret agreement Moses might have had with God would not stand in court.

What is Hebrews Old Covenant?

Hebrews is one of only two books of the Bible that specifically mentions an ‘Old Covenant’ as such. Of course not all of Hebrews directly deals with any covenant. In Hebrews 1-6, the word is not mentioned. First let’s examine some of the more familiar and/or critical text. We’ll keep count of the number of comparisons between the new order and the old order, or Old Covenant, and note anything that allows us to identify the covenant under discussion.

We need to look at Hebrews very carefully. It talks directly about the new covenant and the old. Hebrews 8:7 indicates that the covenant at fault was the ‘first’. Wouldn’t this indicate the Sinai or Horeb covenant?

The Greek for ‘first’ here and also in vs. 13 & 9:1, 15, 18 is prote, as opposed to proto which is the typical word for first in Greek. It actually means ‘the first of two’ (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, p 555). This is not referring to the Sinai covenant in opposition to the Moab covenant, but rather the first of the two under discussion here in Hebrews, i.e. the old covenant, and the new covenant. There is no direct connection between either the Moab covenant or the Sinai covenant in this use of the word ‘first’. One must look elsewhere in the context to determine which, if any, of those covenants is intended.

Especially important is Hebrews 9:16-28, which contrasts the dedication of the old blood covenant with the new blood covenant. The sprinkling of blood on the scroll and the people and the tabernacle and the vessels all occurred at the dedication of the old covenant. The subject is the dedication, which required blood. "Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood" (Heb 9:18). "And almost all things are purged with blood" (vs.:22). Hebrews 9:18-22 is all one thought, describing the event of the dedication of this ‘first’ covenant. We looked at this description earlier, but let’s do it again now that we have more closely examined exactly what the Law and these covenants are.

Vs. 18 again uses the designation, prote, ‘first of two’ or ‘former’. So Hebrews is about to describe some very specific details that will identify this ‘first’ covenant, the covenant of Hebrews 8:13, that was growing old.

Vs. 19 indicates that at the dedication of this old covenant Moses explained 'every precept’ of the Law. That law is the Book of the Law or Law of Moses. As we have seen, ‘the law’, being referred to here, didn’t exist at the time of the Sinai covenant. The Sinai covenant consisted of Ex 20-23. It would be over 39 years after the Sinai covenant before the Law of Moses was fully available. Moses gave the Law to the Levites at the time of the Moab covenant (Deut. 31:9, 24-26). This was after explaining it to the people as recorded in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy does not explain every detail of the law. It covers the main points. It does not include all detail by itself. It assumes the existence of the other books of the Law (Deut 31:9, 1:3). For some things Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and even Genesis, must be consulted to get the whole picture. The ‘words’ of Deuteronomy are the Words of the Moab covenant and a summary of the precepts of the Pentateuch, the Law. This is exactly as Hebrews states it. "…Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them". (Deut 1:3c) "For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law" (Heb 9:19a). On the other hand, at the confirming of the Sinai covenant, Moses "took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people" (Ex 24:7, 3). He read all the terms of the Sinai covenant in total. Many of the precepts of the law were not included, i.e. sin offerings, the priesthood of Levi, central worship before the temple or tabernacle. These are very important precepts in the Law. They are absent from the Sinai covenant and what was read to the people at that time.

Why did Moses read the Sinai covenant, but speak the precepts of the law for the Moab covenant? Because reading Exodus 20-23 is one thing, reading Genesis 1 through Numbers 36 along with pieces of Deuteronomy, is something else again. Horeb 0, Moab 1.

There is no detailed description of the actual offering, or cutting of the Moab covenant in the Old Testament. For whatever reason, God chose not to record this event in total detail in Deuteronomy. However much of it is described in Deuteronomy 26:16-27:1 & chapters 29-33. It is clear that this covenant came from God, through Moses (Deut 26:16-18, 29:1, 9-12 & 30:15-16, 19). Israel had requested God speak through Moses. They didn’t want another Sinai experience. This covenant at Moab is the only one that could possibly qualify as the Old Covenant, since it is the only one where every precept of ‘the law’ was covered. The book of the Law didn’t exist at the time of the Sinai covenant. When it did exist it had to be summarized in the book of Deuteronomy, the second law.

Hebrews 8:19 then says the people and the book were sprinkled with the blood of calves and goats, and water. The Horeb covenant was dedicated with ox (probably more accurately young bull) blood (Ex 24:5), not calf or goat blood. Horeb 0, Moab 2.

Hebrews also quotes Moses dedication statement made as he sprinkled the blood of the covenant on the people. Although there seems to be some differences with the Sinai covenant dedication, this could be due to translation. The basic meanings seem to be very similar. Of course this could easily apply to the Moab covenant as well. So this quote would not be unique to the Sinai covenant. Similar words could apply to any blood covenant made with God.

Hebrews says Moses then sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels. Of course neither the Tabernacle nor the vessels existed at the time of the Horeb covenant or the Exodus 24 account. The design was explained to Moses after the Sinai covenant was confirmed. It wasn’t completed until about nine months later. On the other hand, at the time of the Moab covenant the tabernacle had been in service for almost 39 years. Horeb 0, Moab 3.

So Hebrews is either very sloppy and confused about this matter, in which case we can’t trust what it says; or the author is clearly referring to the dedication of some covenant OTHER than the Horeb covenant. The author evidently had a source outside of the Book of the Law that documented some details of the dedication of the Moab Covenant more completely than Deuteronomy did. This should not be a surprise. Many historical works have been found in the Dead Sea area, which were heretofore unknown. The law, the Tabernacle and all the associated vessels only existed at the confirmation of the Moab covenant, none other.

Oxen or young bulls were offered at the Sinai covenant. Calves and Goats were offered at the dedication of the Old Covenant. The Moab covenant is the only covenant that could fit this description.

Hebrews 8:9, "Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt…’. Is the Sinai covenant indicated here?

Due to the false impressions of the past and the inaccurate teachings of traditional 'Christianity' we typically do not think about what this verse is really saying. This quote is talking of a covenant that is made in "the land of Egypt", "when I took them by the hand to lead them out". They were not out of Egypt when this covenant was made. God was about "to lead them out".

The Sinai covenant was made after they were out of Egypt. The historical record of Exodus does not indicate that there was any covenant made before Israel left Egypt. So to what covenant is this referring?

This verse in Hebrews is quoted from Jeremiah 31:32 and was spoken originally by God. Is God more interested in Israel’s geographical location or state of mind? Certainly many of the people still had their hearts in Egypt long after their physical crossing of the Red Sea (Num 11:18, 14:1-4, Acts 7:39).

It wasn’t until after Israel crossed over the Jordan that God considered they were separated from Egypt. "…This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." (Joshua 5:9) That was when God made the final separation between Israel and Egypt.

The wording, ‘in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out’, indicates it is talking of a covenant made just before being led out of Egypt. It seems obvious that God is more interested in state of mind than in geographical location. Since we have no record of a covenant being made in geographical Egypt it makes sense God is talking of Israel's mental location. This would indicate the Moab covenant is the one intended by the phrase above. That is the covenant that was made just before God separated them from Egypt.

The Sinai covenant was made after they were already out of Egypt, geographically speaking. Yet it would be almost forty years before they were completely separated from Egypt. The Moab covenant was made about two months before the reproach of Egypt was removed. This fits the wording much more closely. This will become even clearer as we see some other examples that do refer directly to the Sinai covenant. This refers more closely to the Moab covenant. Horeb 0, Moab 4

Of course Hebrews 8:9 continues, "because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them…" This obviously is referring to the covenant that was placed in the arc as the foundation of the Sinai covenant. However it is not being treated as something to be cast off like the Old Covenant. It is being distinguished from the Old Covenant.

There is a lot of other context that is pertinent to the identification of the Old Covenant in Hebrews. If you wish to go through this in detail click here. If you are satisfied that nothing connects the Sinai covenant with the Old Covenant mentioned in Hebrews, you can just continue reading.

Abraham and the Patriarchs


Early in Moses Deuteronomy speech, he talks of the covenant made at Sinai or Horeb. "The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb" (Deuteronomy 5:2). Moses knew that was historical fact. Then Moses says in vs. 3, "The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive." There are a wide variety of opinions as to what Moses is saying here.

To begin to understand let's reread Deuteronomy 29:12-15. "12 that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today,……14 I make this (zo’th) covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God…".

Now read Deuteronomy 5:2-4 again with a slight change in punctuation. "The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. (3 The LORD did not make this (zo’th) covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.) 4 The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire." God made a covenant with Israel in Horeb. However, this covenant, that Moses was speaking at the time - Deuteronomy, is not the covenant He made at Horeb or with their Fathers. This covenant was distinct, and began with those alive at the time of Moses speaking. At Sinai the Lord spoke directly to Israel. Moses stood between them after they became frightened, to declare the word of God. Now he is doing that again with ‘this’ covenant. This designation, (zo’th) is the same in Deuteronomy 5:3, 29:9,14 and even 2Kings 23:3.

Israel was already familiar with the Covenant of the Lord. ‘This covenant’, with ‘these words’ written in ‘this book’, which summarized ‘this law’, was distinct from any covenant they had known in the past.

Actually there is another Hebrew word (‘eth) that is not translated that stands before zo’th in Deuteronomy 5:3. It is generally, "used to point out more definitely the object of a verb... as such unrepresented in English," (The Complete Word Study of the Old Testament). It was not translated because it is used to definitively indicate the object of the verb. (This is usually a built in function of English.) For Hebrew speakers it eliminates confusion between the covenant made at Horeb and ‘this covenant’ made as Moses speaks. Its intent is to differentiate the Horeb covenant just mentioned and ‘this’ covenant. This indicates that Moses is making a distinction between the covenant made at Sinai and the covenant that he is now making with Israel in Moab.

We should closely examine who Moses is referring to when he talks of "fathers" in Deuteronomy. It is generally believed that as of Deuteronomy 1 only Moses, Joshua & Caleb were still alive of those of age when the Sinai covenant was made. Everyone over 20, legal age, at Sinai was dead, (Num 14:29). So certainly the great bulk of those of legal age with whom the Sinai covenant had been made were dead. If this is the case it is somewhat odd that Moses would say, "2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb".

Moses also uses similar terms in Deuteronomy 1:6, "The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: 'You have dwelt long enough at this mountain.'" Then in Deuteronomy 11:2 he says, "Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm". And then in verse 7, "but your eyes have seen every great act of the Lord which He did."

In spite of the death of the evil generation, those with whom Moses is speaking were old enough to have seen and remember the great deliverance from Egypt and the speech of God on Horeb. They were a very real party to that covenant. So why did Moses mention the evil generation, their immediate fathers who had also been a party to the Horeb covenant?

"2The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3The LORD did not make this (zo’th) covenant with our fathers " Evidently that was not Moses intent at all. "Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give your fathers" (Deu 1:35). "And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power." (Deu 4:37)

Here about 15 verses before Deuteronomy 5:3 it is evident in using 'fathers', Moses is referring to the patriarchs, not the evil generation. This is also the case in Deuteronomy 6:10, "And it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…"

Deuteronomy 8:1-3 is also important to verify Moses meaning when he refers to the 'fathers' in Deuteronomy. "Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers… So he humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know…"

Verse 16 connects again the fathers and manna. "who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know…" It is those same fathers, the patriarchs, which Moses intends in verse 18. "And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day."

"His covenant which He swore to your fathers", the patriarchs, was His covenant, the covenant of the Lord, because, "So he declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments..." (Deu 4:13)

There is only one definition for 'His covenant'. So yes, the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel in Horeb, His covenant, but this (zo’th) covenant that day was not made with the patriarchs like the Horeb covenant had been made with them.

David seems well aware of the continuity. 1Chronicles 16:15-17 gives a nutshell summary of the highlights of His covenant. "Remember His covenant always, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel for an everlasting covenant." On the surface it was a promise of nationhood. Underneath it guaranteed blessings forever. (Ps 111:5, 9, 10 see also 105:8-10)

Abraham is held up as an example to New Testament Christians. Did Abraham keep the covenant as recorded in Exodus 20-23? There is no specific mention of Abraham keeping the Sabbath, for instance. Since he walked with God before the Sinai covenant how could he know the regulations of the Sinai covenant?

Genesis 26:5 says Abraham kept Gods’ law, "My law", yet many stipulations of ‘the law’ he could not have kept. He never paid tithes to Levi nor did any Levite officiate at any sacrifice of his. But he kept "My Law". So God does not directly equate ‘His Law’ with the Law of Moses. However he does equate His Law with His Covenant.

"Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law." (Hosea 8:1)

Hebrew speakers like to repeat themselves for emphasis, using different words to say the same thing. This proclivity is alive and well in Hosea 8:1. It is equating My covenant with My law. "They did not keep the covenant of God; they refused to walk in His law" (Ps 78:10). This verse is doing the same thing.

The entire context of Psalms 78 discusses events that happened in the wilderness before the giving of the law in Deuteronomy. The covenant and the law that was in force during that time was His covenant, the Covenant of the Lord and His law, the Law of God. (see also vs 37, 56)

God gave His Covenant to Abraham. "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee"(Gen 17:7).

Indeed His covenant was established with Abraham’s seed as well as Abraham himself. Clearly he established His Covenant with Israel at Sinai. The witness in Deuteronomy, 2 Chronicles 16 and Psalms 105 agree. However many think the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis was different. Not so.

Actually the first mention of a "covenant" appears in Genesis 6:18. Jewish tradition calls this the Noahide covenant and holds that it's terms are different than "My covenant" in Genesis 17, Exodus 19:5 or Deut 4:13. Jewish tradition is certainly worth consideration. However based on what Genesis 6 and 9 say there is no reason to believe that what God expected in the terms of this covenant is any different than what He expected in His covenant of Deuteronomy 4:13.

Actually this 'Jewish tradition' seems to exist only in the later writings of the sages. "But will I establish my covenant with you" (to Noah, Gen 6:18a). How is that different from "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee" (to Abraham, Gen 17:7) or "But my covenant I will establish with Isaac," (to Abraham, Gen 17:21) or "For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you" (to the children of Israel, Lev 26:9 KJV).

Moses, the author of each of these quotes defined only one covenant of God, "So He declared to you His covenant…the Ten Commandments" (Deu 4:13). This was undoubtedly done after Genesis was written since this was spoken just days before He died. Again, Genesis was especially written to the generations immediately following Moses, some of whom had heard God speak His covenant aloud. They had, or should have had, a very solid grip on what God's covenant was. If the covenant of Genesis 9 had been some other covenant it seems it should have been clearly noted.

Different terms are not clearly stated. Some translations make it appear that God is establishing a new order, but this does not really come from the text, but the preconceived ideas of the translators. The first readers of Genesis would have had the idea that His covenant was the Ten Commandments. Moses did nothing to correct that understanding. There was no need to repeat the terms for Noah's covenant.

Relationship Between the Covenants

Within Hebrews (10:5-9) it is emphasized that God didn’t really want sacrifices in the first place. He preferred obedience. This is also reflected in I Sam 15:22, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams." Also Psalms 51:16 and the context around Jeremiah 7:22 reflect this.

The Moab covenant was to a large part a necessary evil. It was necessary to provide a way to eliminate the barrier that sin put between God and men, (Isa 59:2).

Scripture never refers to the Sinai covenant, or especially its basis, the Covenant of the Lord, in any way but positive. It was the way to wisdom, understanding and every good thing. It was not a temporary stopgap measure. The problem was disobedience. The Sinai covenant did not contain stipulations that would cope well with disobedience. One could repay their theft or make right an accident, but there was little remedy for anything else short of death (Ex 21:12,29 22:18-20,24, 31:14). Something else had to be done, or it seems, few would have lived very long because Israel did not have the heart to obey. This was not a problem with the covenant, but with the people with whom it was made.  (Deu 5:29)

Sin was an inherent problem by itself.  The Creator simply does not appreciate sin.  It repulses Him, forming an automatic separation between the sinner and the Creator.  So the law added detail to the law of God.  It set up the Levitical priesthood to stand between Israel and their Creator and established regular offerings to remind Israel of the price of disobedience.  These were established and implemented then formalized in the covenant at Moab.  Establishing mandated offerings was one of the first orders of business after the episode of the golden calf. (See Lev 1-6)


These two covenants are not intended to be at cross-purposes.  However one obviously contains more detailed and specific instruction.  Besides establishing the centralized priesthood and providing for forgiveness the Moab covenant documented many details of law.  Many of these are details one who truly understood and was living by the Covenant of the Lord at that time should have been able to figure out for themselves.  However for us, living some 3500 years later, the Law of Moses is vital for understanding what they would have easily understood.  So a second purpose for the Moab covenant was to make it clear what proper conduct was and therefore convict both them and us if we fail to live to at least this standard.


“Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord, then how much more after my death?” (Deu 31:26-27)


A third purpose for the covenant of Moab, was to provide for a human authority to teach, exemplify and judge according to God's law and the Law of Moses.  It was obviously not Israel's proclivity to naturally follow God's law.  The tribe of Levi stood with Moses in the episode of the Golden calf (Ex. 32:25).  This likely weighed heavily in God's decision to set them up as assistants to Aaron and the priests.  They were the enforcers on this occasion and they would become enforcers permanently a short time later.


It seems apparent that God had not determined by the time of Exodus 32:26 that the tribe of Levi would be set aside as Aaron's helpers.  If that had been so Moses would have simply told the Levites to get their swords and eliminate the idolaters.  Instead Moses asked those that were incensed by the conduct of Israel to come forward.  Levi voluntarily answered the call.  The Levitical priesthood was not a part of God's plan as of the confirmation of the Sinai covenant.


His original plan was that everyone would be a priest or representative of His (Ex 19:5-6).  Then within about 45 days He was about to destroy them all.  Obviously they would not represent Him as he wanted to be represented.  His first choice was to start again with Moses and fulfill His promises through him (Ex 32:10).  The law was created in an attempt to accomplish Moses plea for Israel.  It detailed more precisely some aspects of His law, provided a way to receive forgiveness and set up Levi to be the human representatives, judges and enforcers to keep carnal Israel in line with the original intent of the Sinai law.  The overall purpose of the Moab covenant was to keep Israel in compliance with My covenant.


The Creator also included an option of national curses and punishments for disobedience, so death was not the only option.  For many people today, this is probably the most important addition included in the Moab covenant.  In case of gross negligence, the Creator now had the option of punishing Israel with curses and national slavery as opposed to killing them all.  Even though sacrifices would provide a certain forgiveness, the sins of Israel occasionally separated them so far from their Creator that He simply could not accept them.  In the case of the golden calf He wanted to clean the slate and start over with Moses.  With the national curses he could clean the slate and start over with a new generation without killing the old.  He sent the old into captivity until they were gone.  He could then work with a new generation that was not so arrogant and complacent.


Shortly after the tabernacle was set up the tribe of Levi was moved to a camping position immediately surrounding the tabernacle (Num.1:53).  They began to function as a buffer between God and the rest of Israel.  Our sins separate us from God.  It appears God wanted this clearly illustrated in the placement of the tribes in relationship to the tabernacle.  From this point on they should become accustomed to going through the tribe of Levi to understand or approach God.


None of this is what God originally intended.  The Sinai covenant contained no hint of this, but God recognized that Israel as a whole could not properly represent Him.  His next choice was to eliminate them and build Moses family into his representatives (Ex 32:9-10).  Moses convinced God to extend mercy to His people and continue with His promise to Abraham to bring them into the Promised Land (vss. 11-13).  In fact Moses did this at least twice.  At the time of the spies evil report Israel again tempted God to destroy them and once again Moses interceded (Num. 14:12-13, Deu 9:23-25).


God calls this new law the 'Law of Moses' (Mal 4:4).  It was created at the behest of Moses.  Much of it detailed aspects of the Sinai law.  No part required the breaking of  God's law.  Neither was it as a body, God's law, exactly.  It provided Israel with additional latitude.  Sins could be forgiven and God had the option of punishing them with captivity and/or curses as their conduct became more and more repugnant.  Death was no longer the primary option.


Of course God knew ultimately it would not work (Deu 31:16).  They simply did not have the heart to obey (Deu 5:29, 29:4). 


Hebrews 10:16 indicates that with the new Covenant, people will finally have a heart desiring to keep God’s law, the basis and foundation of which is the Ten Commandments.  Abraham kept God’s law (Gen 26:5), but not the whole Law of Moses as described in the Book of the Law.  Abraham didn’t tithe to Levi.  He never worshiped at the tabernacle.  The Children of Israel unfortunately, didn’t have the heart to keep either law (Deu 5:29, 29:4, 31:16).  With the New Covenant people will have the heart they need.  The New Covenant is a replacement for the stop-gap fence that the Moab covenant built around Israel to help them stay within the terms of the Sinai covenant, and the Covenant of the Lord, and live. 


The Moab covenant is being replaced, but the covenant it was designed to help Israel obey is not being replaced.  We are no longer supposed to need a Levite to explain God's ways to us or coerce us into obedience.  We should have His laws written in our nature such that we do them.  Obedience is assumed.


The ark of the covenant was specifically made to hold the Covenant of the Lord, the Ten Commandments.  The Moab covenant, the specific words of which are the Book of Deuteronomy, is another covenant that was placed beside the arc.  It included the words of the Covenant of the Lord and a summary of the additional instruction God gave Moses while they were in the wilderness.  The total of that instruction became known as ‘The Law’, Genesis through Deuteronomy.


The Sinai covenant was a renewal of the Covenant of the Lord with a new sign or token and some clarification as to how it applied directly to ancient Israel.  Much of it is still directly applicable.  All of it is useful in principle.  It all directly derives from the principles of the Ten Commandments, the Covenant of the Lord.


The words of the Covenant of the Lord, which existed from at least the time of Noah, did not move when the Moab covenant was confirmed.  The words of the Moab covenant were placed nearby, but they did not replace the Covenant of the Lord even though the Ten Commandments were included in Deuteronomy 5.


There is no legal relationship between these two covenants.  Paul’s comment in Galatians 3:15 makes it clear there can be no legal relationship.  One doesn’t add to a covenant after it is confirmed.   Deuteronomy 29:1 makes it clear, These are the words of the covenant….of Moab, BESIDES the covenant which He made with them in Horeb”.  One covenant besides another covenant is not one covenant, but two.  The Moab covenant is a covenant of and by itself.  It was to be binding on Israel just as the Horeb covenant was binding.  It was not a replacement, nor was it a renewing of the Horeb covenant.  God did not make this covenant, the Moab covenant, with the patriarchs like he did His covenant. (Deu 29:12-15, 5:3, 8:18).


The Words of the Moab covenant clearly define the Covenant of the Lord.  His covenant was spoken at Horeb by God Himself (Deu 4:10-13, 23, 5:6-22).  This is historical fact according to Moses who was there.  The Words of this covenant, the Moab covenant, spoken 39+ years later, are a different covenant.


Of course there is also Deuteronomy 31:26, which shows a physical relationship.  The words of the Horeb covenant, the Covenant of the Lord, had a place of more honor in the ark.  Being along side of the ark was no small honor either.  However, they were separate, two; one in the ark, one beside.  One from the beginning, the other added to allow Israel to live in spite of their transgressions and to understand better what conduct was expected in the future.


The historical record of Exodus and Deuteronomy is quite clear in defining these two separate, individual, unique covenants.  They each stand or fall on their own.  The passing of the Moab covenant does not affect the everlasting (I Chr 16:17, Ps 111:9) Covenant of the Lord that was made with Abraham and reconfirmed with Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel.  The historical event we know most about is of the reconfirmation at Sinai.  Since it was written specifically to ancient Israel, the account includes some things that may not seem very relevant to us.  However, principles can be drawn from all of Exodus 20-23 so we can live within the intent of the terms of the Covenant of the Lord.


In the Old Testament, where ‘the Covenant of the Lord’, ‘My covenant’ or ‘His covenant’ is used, there is generally a close association with a part or the whole of the Ten Commandments.  Where there is no ownership like this, the connection with the Ten Commandments is not usually so clear.  From a practical point of view the citizens of Israel had little need to distinguish.  So often the difference is not highlighted in the Old Testament.  The Moab covenant contained the foundational words of the Covenant of the Lord and the judgments detailed in the Sinai covenant (Deu 5, Ex 20-23).  They didn’t need to differentiate between the two.  They were compliant with both if they kept this covenant made in Moab.  It came from God.  That was important to them and still is.


An example of this imprecision is found in II Chronicles 17:9.  "And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the LORD with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people."


This "book of the law of the LORD" was undoubtedly one and the same with the book of the Law of Moses (Deu 31:24-26, Josh 8:31).  Certainly it came from God and was commanded by God and it was equal to His Law in authority for ancient Israel.  There was little reason for them to distinguish. 


Although they did not always distinguish between the two sometimes they clearly did.  We saw how David in Psalms 78 bewails Israel not obeying 'His covenant' and 'His law' throughout their adventures in the wilderness.  All this was before 'the law'.  'His Law' was the only law extant at that time.  Daniel also makes a distinction.  Throughout chapter 9 He refers to 'His law' and 'His covenant',  'His precepts' and 'His laws'.  Yet when he mentions the curses that had come upon Israel Daniel does not say they came from 'His law', but from the Law of Moses (vs 11, 13).  The Law of Moses is not 'His law'.


God is really interested in “His”, “My”, the “Covenant of the Lord” that was in the ark.  Next best thing was “this covenant” of Deuteronomy.  It had in it everything Israel needed.  Why would Israel distinguish?  God however, often distinguishes ‘My covenant”, and mentions it specifically on a number of occasions distinguishing it as the Ten Commandments.  Israel had agreed to obey both, but since the Book of the Law contained the terms of both, NO distinction was necessary in Israel.  They were bound by everything in the Book of the Law, which included the Horeb covenant.


An interesting example is Deuteronomy 29:25. “25Then people would say: "Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; 26for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them.


Here in the middle of the chapter, Moses is warning Israel that disobedience will result in difficulties and curses.  Then he summarizes the problem as being one of breaking not ‘this’ covenant made that day, which the rest of the chapter discusses, but the ‘Covenant of the Lord God…which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt’.  Specifically the problem is they served other gods.  This is one of the stipulations of the Covenant of the Lord, i.e. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’.  Of course all these terms are included in the Moab covenant too, but their source is the Covenant of the Lord, which is clearly defined as the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 4:13, Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 31:26


The problem was disobedience to the Covenant of the Lord.


At the time of the dedication of Solomon’s temple it was still the same.  Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” (I King 8:9).  The covenant of the Lord had not been replaced.  It was still the only thing in the ark, the place of greatest honor.  Solomon knew this.  21And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt” (I King 8:21). 


We already noted the slightly different wording, ’when He brought them out…’, as opposed to, ‘when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt’ (Heb 8:9b).  Hebrews and Jeremiah (Jer 31:32) indicate they were still in Egypt and God was just about ‘to lead them out’.  This accurately reflects the circumstances of the Moab covenant if one considers they were still mentally in Egypt during their wanderings in the wilderness.  It doesn’t reflect so well the circumstances of the Sinai covenant. 


At the confirming of the Sinai covenant they were already out of Egypt physically, and would still be wandering almost 40 years in the wilderness before God separated them from mental Egypt. 'And the Lord said, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you"' (Josh 5:9a).  This was spoken just after Israel had crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.  It was over two months after the confirming of the Moab covenant.


The wording used in I Kings 8:21 & Deuteronomy 29:25 on the other hand, ‘when he brought them out’, would indicate the covenant was made just in the general time frame of the departure from Egypt. This phrase is true of the Sinai covenant, but not so true of the Moab covenant.  Actually, Jeremiah quotes God as using this wording as well in Jeremiah 34:13.  Here it refers directly to 'My Covenant' (vs. 18) and deals with issues of slavery as specified in Exodus 21:2.


So what is Hebrews 8:9 and Jeremiah 31:32 saying? "Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt: because they did not continue in My covenant…" (Heb 8:9b).  In other words, ‘Not like the covenant made when they were in Moab, under it they did not follow My covenant.  Under the Moab covenant they broke ‘My covenant’.  God did not appreciate that.  The overall purpose of the Moab covenant was to keep Israel in compliance with ‘My covenant’, but it didn't work.  With the New covenant, "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts" (Heb 8:10b).  Those grabbing hold of the New Covenant will continue in ‘My laws’ and therefore ‘My Covenant’, because His laws will be etched into their mind and heart.  They will do them by nature.  This is the Ten Commandments in particular, and the judgments and statutes based on that covenant (Ex 20:22-23:19), in general.


The text in Jeremiah is not quite as clear as that in Hebrews.  Since most translating is done by those that do not recognize a clear distinction between the Horeb and Moab covenants it is somewhat amazing that either of these accounts is clear.  However, Young’s Literal Translation of Jeremiah 31:32 makes it a little easier to see.  Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers, In the day of My laying hold on their hand, To bring them out of the land of Egypt, In that they made void My covenant”.  The message is the same as that in Hebrews.


Is there a conflict between Psalms 111:9-10 “He has commanded his covenant forever . . . A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” and Jeremiah 31:31 “I will make a new covenant”?  ‘New’ here is Hebrew chadash which is “fresh, new thing”. (CWSOT)  So does this mean a completely ‘new thing’, or a freshening or polishing up?  The answer is evident because of Jeremiah 31:33.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days…I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts… 


The terms are the same.  The original terms of My Law, My covenant, detailed at Sinai didn’t include any extraordinary or special help.  As a result they failed to live up to what God originally intended.  They didn’t keep ‘My Covenant’, the Ten Commandments.  With the New Covenant, people will have Gods’ Law written on their heart.  The terms of the covenant are the same.  His Covenant is the basis for the New Covenant just like it is the basis for the Sinai Covenant and for that matter, the Old Covenant.  It is the heart of the human participant that changes.  His Covenant is commanded forever (Ps 111:9, 105:10).  The New Covenant then is another renewal of the Covenant of the Lord.


The word 'new' used in the Greek text to describe the New Covenant is very similar to the Hebrew in meaning.  It is also used in Matthew 26:29, II Corinthians 5:17 & Galatians 6:15.  All of these samples include a past life of sorts for the 'new' thing, so renewal is the meaning, since the terms are not changing. 


'Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: "I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you."' (Jud 2:1)  The Covenant of the Lord will never be broken.  Since the Promised Land is not completely in Israelite control the covenant is not fulfilled either.  The land was promised to Israel forever (Gen 13:15, Ex 32:13).


Another possible intention in using the word 'new' is 'innovation'. (See the Greek English Lexicon of Liddell & Scott)  Certainly having the covenant written in the heart is an innovation.  Other covenants were written on stone or parchment.


God knew even as of Deuteronomy 31:16, something else would be required to get humans to respect the instruction of His covenant as detailed at Sinai.  He would write “My Torah”, the original eternal covenant, the Covenant of the Lord, in their hearts thus making it a part of them.  Only then would there be hope of them following it.  This would solve the problem of Deuteronomy 29:4.


This is also why Isaiah 56 can contain future events (vs. 1, 5, 7) along with what appears to be a reference to the covenant made with Israel.  Certainly the Moab covenant, the Old Covenant has faded into history now.  So what does it have to do with the future?


Isaiah 56:6 makes it look like God was very pleased with the covenant.  That’s because it’s not the Moab covenant He’s talking about here.  This is “My covenant”. That’s what God was really interested in them keeping, the Covenant of the Lord.  Sacrifices as atonement, in particular were added in the law required of Israel by the Moab covenant so there would be a ready means of dealing with their transgressions of His covenant, the Ten Commandments.  Thus the people could be reinstated to a proper relationship with their Lord.  Their sins would not cut them off (Isa 59:2).


“My covenant” is the eternal covenant, the one in which God is really interested.  “This covenant”, the one made in Moab, was found defective almost from the beginning.  Not because of the terms, but because of the humans involved (Heb 8:8).   Something needed to be done that would provide humans with the heart to keep “My Covenant”, which had been the intent all along.  The obsoleting of the Moab covenant does not obsolete the Covenant of the Lord.  It stands on its own as God’s covenant, God’s commandments, God’s law, the Ten Commandments.


II Kings 23:2b-3, …And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. 3Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this [zo’th] covenant that were written in this [zo’th] book.”  Here was an opportunity to confuse the issue by calling the book of the covenant, the Covenant of the Lord.  The book they found was undoubtedly the book of Deuteronomy, which had been beside the Ark of the Covenant, it contains “the words of this covenant”.  However the issue was not confused.  They were able to see at the time of Josiah that, ‘this covenant’ in 'this book' was not the Covenant of the Lord.


II Chronicles 34:31-2 also describes this event.  Again ‘this (zo’th) book’ of the Covenant is not called the book of the Covenant of the Lord.  It is the book of the Moab covenant.  Here it is mentioned that the people performed ‘the covenant of God’.  In keeping the words of this book, the Moab covenant, the Covenant of the Lord would be kept too.


“This covenant” contains “His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes”, but it also contains instruction that is not His.  It may have come from Him, but it was created at the behest of Moses and may or may not be a true measure of the will of God.


To reinforce that this book is not the Book of the Covenant of Exodus 24 we can also look at the context of II Chronicles 34.  Verse 24 talks of the curses in the Book of the Covenant.  There are no curses as such in the Exodus 24 book.  Of course Deuteronomy 28:15 - 68 is full of them. 


Also we should consider what Josiah did as a result of being convicted by the book of the Covenant.  He removed all the altars outside Jerusalem (II Chron 34:3-7).  Offering on an appropriately constructed altar outside Jerusalem was approved, though not required, by the Sinai covenant (Ex 20:24-26).  However, according to the Moab covenant all offerings were to be offered by the Priests at the altar in front of the Tabernacle (Lev 1-7, 17:3-4).  For a while when Solomon's temple was under construction sacrifices to God were done in the high places (I Kings 3:2).  Other kings had turned to God, but had not dismantled the high places (I Kings 15:14, 22:43, II Kings 12:3, 14:4, 15:4, 35).  So the book of the covenant with which Josiah was trying to comply was not the book described in Exodus 24.


This Book of the Covenant in II Chronicles 34:15 and II Kings 22:8 is called the "Book of the Law".  Later it is called the "Book of the Covenant" (II Chron 34:31, II Kings 23:2).  Of course we saw that Moses 'wrote this law' (Deu 31:9) and 'this Book of the Law" (Deu 31:26).  This was at the confirming of the Moab covenant.  It is apparent from Deuteronomy 1, 29 and 31 that the words of the Moab covenant were largely one and the same with this Book of the Law.  This is reflected in the account found in II Chronicles 34 and 2Kings 22 & 23 as well.


The existence of at least two national covenants is also apparent in the New Testament.  ..who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God and the promises.(Rom 9:4, see also Eph 2:12) 


Many may not know that there is no native word for ‘law’ in Hebrew.  The Hebrew word typically translated law, torah, is more accurately translated ‘instruction’.  The Moab covenant was the instruction of God just as the Sinai covenant was.  However it was composed for a people that did not have the heart to understand and properly apply the Law of God.  As such, to a degree, it assumed and perpetuated a separation from God, which He never intended.  The Sinai covenant assumed obedience.  The Moab covenant assumed disobedience.  So, while it came from God it is not what He always intended.


The Moab covenant was designed to help Israel atone for their sin so they would not put a permanent wall between themselves and God.  It provided for the Levites to work as the teachers, administrators and enforcers of God's law.  It detailed various aspects of the Sinai law so they could clearly understand what was expected.  It gave God leeway to allow the curses or captivity to punish them and hopefully cause them to repent of their wayward ways.  It was geared to fit their circumstances largely as possessors of the Promised Land. (Deu 12:1, 5 , 8)


There was no legal relationship between these covenants only a physical one.  The Words and judgments of the Covenant of the Lord, (Ex 24:1-8, 34:28) predate the Words of the Moab covenant (Deu 1:1) and the Law (Deu 31:9, 24) by at least 39 years.  In fact the Covenant of the Lord likely goes back to at least Noah. (Gen 6:18, 9:9).



Let’s Summarize. 


1.      There is no connection between the ‘old covenant’ designation and the Covenant of the Lord, or the judgments clarifying it at Sinai.  The ‘old covenant’ clearly refers to the covenant God made with Israel at Moab, ‘this covenant’.  It is summarized in the book of Deuteronomy.


2.      The Law of Moses is the law God made at the behest of Moses to have mercy on Israel after the episode of the Golden calf.  The precepts are covered well in the book of Deuteronomy.  Some details are covered more completely in Moses other books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus or Numbers. 



3.      ‘The Law’, also typically refers to the books of Moses or Law of Moses.  Sometimes the Jews of New Testament times included their ‘oral traditions’ when using this term.



4.      The Covenant of the Lord, My covenant or His covenant, is the Ten Commandments.  They were first specifically detailed for us at the occasion of the Sinai covenant recorded in Exodus 20, but predate that time by at least 430 years.  The Sinai covenant clarifies some of what is intended in the words of the Covenant of the Lord by including a number of judgments with that covenant.



5.      The term, “My law” is especially associated with the law God wrote, the Ten Commandments.  It is the basis for all the instruction of the Sinai covenant.  However all the instruction of the books of the law came originally from God too.  This instruction was an attempt to keep Israel in compliance with the Covenant of the Lord.  So anything within the Pentateuch could be called “the Law of God” as well, although God did not look at it that way.



Does this fit the New Testament?


With this in mind let’s look at some New Testament scriptures that some think indicate the Ten Commandments are no longer required for Christians.  This is not intended to be a complete treatise on this matter, but to just hit the highlights where the law or the covenant may seem to be the focus of the subject.  It’s not my purpose to go through every example that people have ever used.  However, a jump-start showing how these arguments melt away, seems in order.  A little bit of background and the proper understanding of the covenants, make a big difference.


Works of the Law

Galatians 2:16, …a man is not justified by the works of the law … ”.  Here is a great example of the Jews including their oral tradition as part of the law.  Paul certainly knew better, but what he said was perfectly clear in the context of his time. 


This statement made by Paul was part of a tongue-lashing given to Peter.  Peter had just proved himself a hypocrite by not eating with some Gentiles in the Galatian congregation (vs.12).  Peter withdrew himself from the Gentiles fearing some Jewish guests and the Jewish tradition that prohibited an observant Jew from eating with a Gentile.  This prohibition is not found anywhere in the Old Testament.  Paul in no uncertain terms says these types of “works of the law”, do not justify anyone. 


Refraining from eating meals with Gentiles is nowhere recommended in the Law of Moses let alone the Law of God.  Neither of these codes of law is under discussion.  What is under discussion is the tradition of the Jews.  Yet in ignorance people have assumed Paul was casting a shadow over the Law of Moses and the Sinai covenant.  In reality neither is part of the discussion.  Peter is being criticized for bowing to the traditions of men at the expense of Gentile believers.  The law actually dictates kindness (Deu 10:18, Ex 22:21).  Loving a gentile and refusing to eat with him is contradictory. 


Confusion on this matter is also eliminated by the Dead Sea scroll known as 4QMMT, which is the only other document roughly contemporary with Paul found that uses a phrase similar to ‘works of the law’ (Gr. ergon nomou).  Although 4QMMT is written in Hebrew, (Paul remember was a Hebrew) it clearly indicates the phrase refers to extra-scriptural customs practiced or encouraged probably by the Qumran community.  Actually their ‘miqsat ma'ase HaTorah’ 'works of the Law', were intended to keep them in compliance with the covenant as they understood it and separate from other Jews, probably especially the Pharisees.


This document refers to various subjects like the construction of pots and jugs, the handling of liquids, treatment of bones, and unborn animals.  It clearly says 'we think' such and such and 'we consider' such and such and 'we say' such and such.  It also says "And you know that we have separated from the masses of the people… and from mingling with them in these matters and from being in contact with them in these matters."  This indicates they have separated themselves from other Jews, not in issues of the Ten Commandments, or even the Law of Moses, but because of their own ideas on details of how to handle clean and unclean things.


They call these matters of the Law.  "We have also written to you (sing.) concerning some of the observances of the Law (miqsat ma'ase ha-torah), which we think are beneficial to you and your people." (The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p227 some reference markings not included) They are not appealing to the Law, but expressing their opinion on peripheral issues.  The equivalent Greek phrase is used in other places in Galatians.  It refers to traditions outside of scripture.


The Law was added

Galatians 3:19; “What purpose then does the law serve?  It was added because of transgressions.  This is fairly obviously referring to the Moab covenant and the Law of Moses, but let’s go through the preceding context to clarify what is being said.


First, lets notice that in chapter 3 the law does not begin to be directly tied into the discussion until Galatians 3:10, when it is quoted.  "The law" with the definite article, is not specifically named until Galatians 3:12.  The definite article in Greek typically identifies something as special and of some unique distinction.  The Law is distinct above the oral law, although the Jews sometimes did not distinguish any difference (Acts 10:28).  Keeping the law allowed ancient Israel to continue living.  Christ has taken the penalty, resulting from people not continuing consistently in the law, upon himself.  Now, even the Gentiles can receive of the promise given to Abraham.


Galatians 3:15; covenants are not added to (amended) or annulled.  This is undoubtedly why Hebrews is not clearly saying even the old covenant is totally dead.  It was growing old and about to become unworkable.


Vs. 16; the promises come to us because of Abraham and his Seed (singular) when we live by faith as Abraham did (vs. 14 see also vss.6-7).  Actually, it was a combination of faith and action.  Abraham actually received the promises of the covenant because he obeyed (Gen 26:1-5).  He obeyed because he believed.  Faith allows one to obey.  Faith without action is dead (Jam 2:17, 20).


Vs. 17; "the law, which was 430 years later", (after the promise came to Abraham) is the Sinai covenant. (Ex 12:40).  Although this is not clear in most Old Testament translations, Paul’s statement here, when compared with the Septuagint version  and the Samaritan Pentateuch indicate that the sojourn before Israel entered Egypt is included in this 430 years too. “And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years.” (Ex 12:40 LXX).

So the 430 years is indeed from the time of the promise to Abraham, until Israel left Egypt, exactly 430 years later.  The law of verse 17 then would be His Law, the Sinai covenant, since it was confirmed within 60 days of when Israel left Egypt.  This qualification precludes this law from being the Law of Moses, since that was not fully implemented until 40 years later, 470 years after the promises.  In any case, that law cannot annul the promise made to Abraham by covenant.


Vs, 18; If the inheritance is by law it is not of promise, but Abraham received it by promise.  This verse is not specific in defining ‘law’.  Although many translations use ‘the law’ here, the definite article is not included in the original Greek text.  This verse is not being specific and ‘any law’ more accurately reflects the original text.  This non-specific meaning can be seen in the Twentieth Century New Testament, The Emphasized Bible, and The Englishman’s Greek New Testament.


Vs 19; So, what then was the purpose of the Law?  This reference is specific, uses the definite article in the original Greek, and reverts again to the standard definition, i.e., the Pentateuch or Law of Moses.  It was added because of transgression.  And indeed that is reflected in the historical account of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  It was added over 39 years after the Sinai covenant and was confirmed almost 470 years after the promises to Abraham.  It added to Israel, the Levitical priesthood, sacrifices that brought the promise of forgiveness and national curses if their conduct deteriorated beyond what the Creator could stomach.  There is no promise of forgiveness in the Sinai covenant.  The Sinai covenant assumed obedience.  However, they didn’t obey.  Indeed they deserved death.  The Moab covenant, the Law, was added to handle their past and future transgressions.  This reference is talking of the Law of Moses, the Moab Covenant.  Clearly the context around the verse supports this.


This inability to ammend ought to make it clear the law was not a 100% repeating or explaining of the Sinai covenant, which was made 430 years after the promises.  The law WAS ADDED 39+ years later to include provisions for handling transgressions of the Sinai covenant.  One does not add to a covenant, (vs. 15).  Therefore the law had to be made into a second covenant as described in Deuteronomy 29-31. 


The law was added.  It was an addition, some of which was temporary, until the Seed would come to whom the promise was made, i.e. the Messiah.  Discontinuing the law as a binding covenant does not discontinue the Covenant of the Lord that predated the law and the covenant of Moab.  Neither does discontinuing the Law as a binding covenant mean that it is “done away” as assumed by traditional Christianity.  Within a few verses Paul will clarify the new relationship a true Christian will have with the Law.  It is not absolute authority as it was before Messiah, but neither is it to be cast aside.


Jeremiah 7:22, “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices…"  At the general time period when Israel was brought out of Egypt no commandment required sacrifices.  God expected obedience.  Yet they did not obey and went backward.  This is why the Moab covenant was added.  There needed to be an agreement on how to atone for sin, short of the death of the sinner.  They simply didn’t have the heart to obey. 


The timing in Galatians also reinforces the separateness of the Sinai covenant from the Moab Covenant.  It specifically identified the law that was made at Sinai, 430 years after the original promise to Abraham.  However, what the New Testament Christians and Jews commonly called “The Law” was delivered to the Levites and became law at the confirmation of the Moab covenant, almost 40 years after the Sinai covenant. (Heb 7:11, Deu 31:9, 1:1-5)  The designation “the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later” (Gal 3:17b) distinguished the law of the Sinai covenant from the second law (deutero nomos, Deuteronomy) that was added 39+ years later.  "Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God" (Deu 31:26ab).


Kept under the Law


Although those who minimize the Law of God do not rely on Galatians 3:23 heavily, it is instructive in our study.  The KJV Bible uses the words 'kept under the law'.  The NIV interpretation  has "we were held prisoners by the Law".  Some understandably think this indicates a loss of freedom from which they are relieved with the New Covenant.  Is this the thought that Paul intended?


The NKJV translates this phrase, "kept under guard by the law".  The Greek word in question here is phroureo.  According to the Liddell and Scott Greek English Lexicon it means "keep, watch or guard" and "to keep, watch over".  Thayer's lexicon lists the primary meaning as, "to guard, protect, by a military guard, either in order to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight".


The word is used again in II Cor 11:32 where the governor is posting guards throughout a city to look for someone.  It is also used in Philippians 4:7, where the peace of God keeps our hearts, and I Peter 1:5 where believers are being kept or protected by God.  This guarding is not for the purpose of restricting, but for the purpose of protection.  What Paul is saying here is that the Law was implemented as an extra precaution to protect and keep Israel until they could have access to the faith that was to come.  One could deduce that the guards were the Levites.


During the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness it became painfully obvious to God that Israel simply did not have the heart, faith or ability to walk in His ways (Deu. 8:5-6, 5:29).  The Law was given in an attempt to define more precisely for Israel how to conduct itself.  It also provided for a human representative whose job it was to know the ways of God.  Israel could consult with the Levite if they had any questions.  The intent was to keep them from wondering off the path until they could have the heart and the faith that they needed to walk the path without such an aid.  Being released from custody allows us to prove we can walk in the law of God without the aid of the Levite.


Under a tutor

But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:25).  Some try to use Paul’s explanation of the law being a tutor to prove that we no longer need the law.  Although Galatians is a Greek document it is referring to a Hebrew document.  We need to remember that there is no native word in the Hebrew language for ‘law’.  ‘Torah’, which is typically the word that would have been used by Hebrew speakers means more correctly, ‘instruction’.  However, it is certainly reasonable to treat God’s instruction as law.  It was considered the constitution of the Jews.  Of course it is also the common name of the Pentateuch, the Law of Moses.  Can we ignore God’s instruction?


The word for ‘tutor’ likened to the law here is the Greek word, ‘paidagogos’.  Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)   The paidagogos particular aim was to improve the soul, and to train his charge in virtue, not academics.  (See: William Barclay New Testament Words. P206-209).


These trusted slaves were protectors and moral educators to the sons of wealthy people until the sons reached adulthood.  When the charge reached legal age the paidagogos was no longer responsible for the boy.  However, if the paidagogos had done his job, the boy would not have suddenly repudiated everything he was taught.  As adults, do we no longer need manners or morals?  Typically the slave/tutor and his charge had a very close relationship, and the slave remained a trusted advisor for the rest of his life.  The slave was acting in the place we would put the parents today.  Should it be a surprise that a responsible adult child would sometimes seek the advice of the paidagogos?  (See further: “Novum Testamentum”, vol 29, 1987, “Paidagogos: The Social Setting”, by N.H.Young p174)


So like the function of this tutor, the law kept Israel under protective custody, (Gal 3:23) until maturity.  If we are mature believers we should fully understand the application and intent of the law.  We no longer then, automatically follow the letter of the law by rote, because we understand the spirit and intent.  The spirit and intent are not in opposition to the letter, but are in agreement.  Intent is simply at a higher plane because it allows the instruction to be applied correctly to situations that the letter might not specifically address.


We put our faith in Christ.  We don't primarily depend on ourselves to provide for our protection and daily living.  This allows us the confidence to know that we can fully keep the intent or at least make progress toward that end.  All of those detailed regulations that required helping the poor(Lev 19:9-10), being impartial in judgment (Lev 19:15), respectful of employees, slaves and foreigners, and fair in business dealings even with people we didn’t necessarily consider friends (Lev 19:11, 13, 18, Ex 23:4-5); all those selfless actions are now understood to be the way God would have us live, because that is the best way.  That conduct is good for others and good for us.  If we do it God’s way, He will take care of us.  It is that belief that allows us to obey.  Jesus lived that way.  He will keep us if we follow in His steps.


Neither the Covenant of the Lord nor the Sinai covenant is even under discussion in this account of the tutor.  Both predated the law and are not changed by the coming of the ‘Seed’, Jesus Christ, (Gal 3:19), although He did clarify the intent of some of it.  As we saw, the Law, has no legal connection with the Covenant of the Lord.  The law is the instruction, or old covenant, that was attempting to keep Israel within the terms of the Covenant of the Lord spoken at Sinai.  If we understand and live by the intent of the words of the Covenant of the Lord, the words of the law, or old covenant, are redundant.  However, if there were a question, we would do well to consult with a trusted advisor.  The Law may hold helpful or pertinent examples in this case.


Unfortunately, much time has past and we have lost a complete understanding of the times of Moses and the Exodus.  Thankfully we have the law, the books of Moses, to fill in details we would otherwise not know.  Actually we would be very ignorant of the way of God without the Law.


Elements of the World

Some think that ‘elements of the world in Galatians 4:3 refers to the Law of Moses.  Of course the Law of Moses was hardly enforced worldwide.  Paul included everyone as ‘we’ in this discussion (Gal 3:28).  Certainly all the Gentile population of Galatia had not lived under the Law of Moses.  Elements of the world” then, is referring to the customs of society, not the Law of Moses. 


Under the Law

Now Jesus was born under the Moab covenant, the Law (Gal 4:4), to redeem or buy back those who were subject to that covenant.  But not only did Christ redeem those under the law, but he also opened the way for the rest of the nations to be made clean before God as well (Eph 2:12-13).  Can we then ignore the Covenant of the Lord?  God forbid!  The Ten Commandments specifically define sin (Rom 7:7).  Because we can be forgiven, doesn’t mean we can ignore God’s instruction (Rom 6:15).


In New Testament times the gift of grace or any favor given without restriction, required a positive reciprocation.  To not respond appropriately was the height of ingratitude.  Jesus Christ offers to ransom our lives from death.  The appropriate response is to give Him our life.  Christ’s sacrifice not only covered the Jews, it atoned for everyone else too.  So we can all be restored and adopted by the Father (Gal 4:5).


Although Paul may have had more in mind than Greek or Roman style adoption, adoption in the Greco-Roman world is an interesting study.  The purpose was not like today, mainly to provide a home for orphans.  The relationship was born out of more of a mentor relationship, on steroids, so to speak.  Often the adoptee was a full-grown adult.  Upon adoption the son left his old life for a completely new one.  Any debts he had were cancelled, as the original person no longer existed.  The new son was then expected to totally embrace the new father and his way of life.  I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts: and I will be their God and they shall be My people.” (Jer 31:33).  (See, Adoption as Sons of God, by James Scott)


Anyone truly living under the new covenant will strive to think like God thinks, and act as God would act as a human.  The record we have of the life of Jesus is the foremost example.  Among other things he was fully Torah observant.  At his trial there was no fault found in him except that he claimed to be who he was (Mat 26:57-66).


Does this mean everyone needs to be fully Torah observant and obey the Law of Moses?  The intention of God, has always been that we obey the Covenant of the Lord, i.e. His Law.  If that is written in our heart such that we obey it, we will be in compliance with the intent of the Law of Moses too.


A number of times in Galatians (4:4, 5, 21, 5:18) Paul makes a statement about people being ‘under the law’.  He also uses this expression in Romans 6:14.  Now that we understand a bit more about what the law is and what it is not, we can certainly understand that, whether or not we are ‘under the law’, has no effect on the status of the Covenant of the Lord and the definition of sin.  Although included in the terms of the Moab covenant, the Covenant of the Lord stands by itself.  It is clarified somewhat in the Sinai covenant.  It predates the law, and is not void because the Law, the Moab covenant, is superceded by the change in priesthood (Heb 7:12), or any other event that has caused the Law to become unworkable as a covenant.


Romans 6 is not attempting to be instructive about the law.  The whole chapter is about avoiding sin.  It indicates this over and over again (cf.vss.1, 2, 4f, 6,7,11-13).  Then, vs. 14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace”.  This is attempting to encourage believers after they have sinned.  There is no way sin can have dominion, or own them, if they don’t sin.  That is not the issue.  Only if they sin, does sin have any hope to hold power over them.  If there is no Moab covenant and no Covenant of the Lord, there is no sin and no need for grace.  .. sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom 5:13b)


Only after sinning is it shown that sin has any power over them.  However because the blood of Christ will wash our sin clean, we need not offer the sin offering prescribed by the law (Lev 4-7, Heb 10:11-18).  We are not under that administration.  Our High Priest is the Messiah of Israel.  He calls us to live to a higher standard than that set by the Law (Mat 5, Heb 8:10).  Certainly that doesn’t mean we can ignore the Law.


For the Roman believers this must have been an incredible relief.  They were not required to cart their offering half way around the Mediterranean to the temple in Jerusalem in order to be made right before God.  Many would simply not have been able to make that trip.  Now we can all receive forgiveness simply for the asking, but since our heart yearns to love God and participate in His Covenant this shouldn’t need to happen very often.


Lest someone think I’m trying to slip something by, I will point out that Romans 6:14 does not have the Greek definite article associated with ‘law’.  So it really does not say ‘under the Law’, but ‘under law’ just as the NKJV translates it.  However, where Paul uses this expression in Gal 4:21 the NKJV does translate it ‘under the law’ even though there is no definite article in that case either.  The context in Gal 4:21 is clear.  Paul is chiding those who wish to be ‘under law’ to listen to ‘the law’.  In the latter instance the definite article is present.  It is apparent ‘the Law’ of Moses is the law they wish to be under.


This lack of the definite article in Romans 6:14 makes it appear to say that we are under no law, not just the Law of Moses.  As we will soon see we are not under the administration of the Sinai covenant either.


Ministry of Death

II Corinthians 3:7 is sometimes used to condemn the Ten Commandments written on stones as a law of death.  But if the ministry of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which was passing away”.


A careful reading will find that it is not the Sinai Law that is under discussion here, but the ministry of Moses.  It is referring to the function Moses was performing. 


“Ministry” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word, “diakonia”.  It refers especially “to those who execute the commands of others”.  Specifically, in this case, it is the “office of Moses”, (Thayer p137).  The functionaries in place to administer the Sinai covenant and the law are passing away.  Jesus Christ, our High Priest replaced them.  The Sinai covenant itself is not under discussion. 


Verses 8-11, & 13 all contrast Moses ministry, function or administration with the ministry, function or administration of the spirit.  Moses was the chief human judge of Israel and it sometimes fell his lot to dictate the penalty for breaking the then current law.  Too often that penalty was death.


Under the Sinai covenant especially, there was often no other option.  Even under the administration of the Moab covenant, the law, death was required too.  Fortunately it was not always the death of the human involved.  Later, during Jesus life the administration was done by the Sadducees, or scribes, and the Pharisees, “…The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.” (Mat 23:2).


Before the Moab covenant, Moses directly administered the covenant between God and Israel.  As that law was written, you could make restitution for stealing, or help restore someone to health who you had a hand in injuring, but most other offenses resulted in death.  When the Moab covenant was confirmed Israel came under that Law.  Atonement could be obtained with the blood of an animal.


"All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.  13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." (Rom 2:12-13 NIV)  They are not declared righteous because they have kept the law perfectly, but because on the rare occasion when they miss the mark, Jesus Christ will implore the Father on their behalf (I John 2:1).  Their sin is forgiven, preventing separation from God as one would normally expect.  However if they do not recognize Jesus Christ as their master they can only be forgiven by means of the sacrifice of the law. 


Paul then goes on to explain that the gentiles that are not schooled in the law nevertheless have some of God's law written in their heart (vs 15) because in some ways they conduct themselves according to the law.  It is clear that having the law written in the heart is evidenced by the believer doing, that which is enjoined in the law (Rom 2:14-15, Deu 8:2). 


With the new covenant, we can accept Jesus blood as our atonement, which provides a better means of grace and forgiveness.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Mat 26:28).  Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people(Heb 2:17).  Jesus died to provide a better means of forgiveness, not to void ‘My Covenant’, which defines sin. 


By "accepting Jesus blood" as our atonement, we acknowledge that our actions were directly responsible for His death.  If this is not personally devastating we have not likely seriously pondered the magnitude of the sacrifice of the specially begotten son of the Most High God that designed this universe and our very bodies.  Jesus Christ who evidently executed the plans of the Father, created our parents thousands of years ago and created us through them.  How many of us would die to save something we made that was being difficult at best and normally totally rebellious?  Our self-centered actions brought about His murder.


By accepting Jesus sacrifice we should be acknowledging that we understand we are guilty and worthy of death.  We should be anxious to cast off that destructive behavior and turn to serve our new master, Jesus Christ.  We should then live to represent Him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  If we are failing in this, we have not truly repented.  This could be because we don’t fully understand His ways or His Law.  That is why the subject of this document is vital to understand.


The better promises of the new covenant include forgiveness, Jeremiah 31:34.  “…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more”.  Of course this follows immediately after Jeremiah 31:31-33 where Hebrews got the very concept of the New Covenant.  For additional examination of the New Covenant consider the New Covenant study at www.creatorscovenant.com.


We are not under the Sinai covenant as administered by Moses.  We are not subject to the Law as administered by the Levites.  That law attempted to keep them in compliance with the original Sinai covenant and especially the Covenant of the Lord, but Israel never really ‘got it’.  Since Jesus came, He set the example and properly interpreted the Law and the prophets.  If we recognize Him and wish to take up His challenge to be perfect as the Father is perfect (Mat 5:48), we accept His sacrifice and go and sin no more.  The Covenant of the Lord is forever.  The New Covenant is written on the heart, so it is actually kept by the faithful believer.


We can, and unfortunately do, still sin.  If we do sin, sin will not own us, for we are not under any law as written on paper, but we are under the administration of grace.  Therefore we willingly yield ourselves to the Law of God.  God forbid that we would willingly sin.  I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people"  (Jer 31:33b, Heb 8:10b).


Under the Sinai law if someone was not careful to protect his fellows from a known dangerous situation and someone was killed as a result, the one responsible, who knew of the situation, was liable for the death.  In that case the one responsible was to be put to death (Ex 21:29).  Certainly the principle behind this law still applies.  If we are aware of and responsible for a dangerous situation, which then results in someone’s death, the Sinai covenant dictates we be put to death ourselves.  You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13).


Because of the incredible grace and mercy of God, we are not under the law as written in the Sinai covenant.   However, we must acknowledge our error and Jesus as Savior.  We must repent of our own ways and diligently seek to live as He lived.  The covenant of the Lord is administered differently than it was under Moses in the Sinai covenant. If we grasp the new covenant we will have His Law, the Covenant of the Lord written in our heart.  We will be anxious to obey that law in the spirit and the letter.  We will not be careless and cause injury to anyone.


We will keep dangerous animals securely contained.  We will drive our cars with courtesy and caution. We will not allow hazardous situations to develop around our homes or in our workplaces.  We will properly handle dangerous substances.  We will go to the same lengths to honor all the other instruction of the Sinai covenant as well.  This demonstrates our love of God and love toward our neighbor in its pure and full sense.


II Corinthians 3:14-16 is interesting.  Paul likens the veil that Moses had over his head, to the veil that covered the Jews when reading the “Old Testament”.  (The Greek word for testament is the same word as is used for covenant in Hebrews 8).  Paul was unaware the Hebrew scriptures would be called the ‘Old Testament’, since there was not yet a ‘New Testament’ when he wrote II Corinthians.  'Old Testament' here should really be translated ‘old covenant’.  So when the Jews read the ‘old covenant’, the Law or especially Deuteronomy, they didn’t understand it.  When we truly turn to the Lord that veil is taken away and we can then understand what the law has been saying for thousands of years.  Of course nowhere does the Law of Moses indicate that the Covenant of the Lord is to be cast aside.


What it does tell us is how to love, honor and respect God and how to respect and love our neighbor.  It gives specific examples of how the Patriarchs exercised faith, and recommends we do the same.  It also gives bad examples, so we can learn what not to do.  It’s all there if one reads it carefully and applies the principles, or spirit of what is being said.


…but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (II Cor 3:5b-6)  If we just read God’s instruction for the letter we will miss the point.  For instance Exodus 23:19 tells us to not seethe a kid in its mothers milk, which was a pagan tradition in Arabia.  If we determine not to do that, but continue to pay homage to other pagan traditions we will have obeyed in the letter, but still be liable for worshiping other gods, because we have missed the spirit.  Unfortunately this was much of the problem with ancient Israel.  They read the letter, but missed the spirit.  The veil Paul spoke of prevented them from completely understanding the intent of the law.  The result was ultimately their death.


God spelled things out more clearly in the Moab covenant.  "When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30. Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods?  I also will do likewise.'" (Deu 12:29-30)


Some may still see, ”written and engraved in stones” in II Corinthians 3:7 and be confused.  Although this seems to be referring to the tablets of the covenant Moses received in Exodus 34 that is not likely the case. 


It should be noted that a number of the early manuscripts do not include 'entetupomene' or 'and engraved' in the text.  This includes five of eight early texts that the Englishmans Greek New Testament considers significant.  So thinking that Paul is specifically referring to engraving in stone as opposed to writing in plaster is rather tenuous to begin with.  They were etching into the plaster, which is a form of engraving anyway.  However, since the thought of engraving is actually missing from many reputable texts, siting 'engraving' as a differentiation and that it only applied to the tables of the covenant is significantly undermined.   


It should also be noted that 'was glorious' also leaves out a significant thought in what Paul said.  Alternative translations are, "was produced with glory" (EGNT) and "was brought into existence with glory" (Emphasized Bible).  The word 'was' in the NKJV is actually ‘gennaw’, which means 'to engender'.  So the service of Moses was brought into existence with glory as evidenced by the brightness of his face.  The covenant was not engendered or made glorious by the brightness of Moses face.  God made perfectly evident whom He would use to administer the covenant by the shining of Moses face.


In any case Paul is saying that even Moses function written on stones was instituted with glory.  However, Moses function was not written on the tablets of the covenant (Ex 34:28, Deu 5:22).  Only the words God spoke from Sinai were written on them.  The context is talking of Moses function. 


The context is also contrasting the Old Covenant with the New Covenant (vs 6,14).  It does not really mention the covenant made at Sinai.  However Moses was especially the chief administrator of the Sinai covenant.  So the concept seems to apply.  Paul is not necessarily limiting himself to Moses function during Moses lifetime.  He is talking of the institution or beginnings of Moses office.  He indicates through the rest of the chapter that Moses office continued until being replaced by Christ.  This was of course 'Moses seat' that was occupied by the priesthood of Aaron and those who inherited that office.


Actually there is a set of stones on which Moses directed Israel write evidently the complete law of Deuteronomy that he had enjoined on Israel.  This is recorded in Deuteronomy 27:2-8.  As such these stones would have had the administration of Levi included in their text (Deu 17:9).  The priests especially, but also Levi in general, inherited the ‘seat of Moses’ after his death.  Many Levites served as judges.  This text written on these stones was from the covenant of Moab.  Of course, that is now the Old Covenant.


Righteousness apart from the Law

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets….” (Rom 3:21)  Righteousness without the law is now possible.  Was there righteousness, before the book of the Law was written?  Certainly in the persons of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses there was righteousness.  Was this separate from ‘My Covenant’?  Absolutely not! 


My Covenant was in effect from at least Genesis 9.  Just because the full terms weren’t detailed for us until Exodus 20, does not indicate hundreds of years passing before the patriarchs were made aware of the terms.  They knew the terms in their time.  Abraham kept ‘My law’ (Gen 26:5).  Joshua and the children of Israel would have understood this as the Covenant of the Lord in particular and the Sinai covenant in general.  They would also have understood, “My Covenant” as spoken by God (Gen 17:10), to be the same as, “His Covenant” as spoken by Moses (Deu 4:13).  The Books of Moses were written especially to these people.


Notice Romans 3:21 says the Law and the Prophets witness to righteousness coming “apart from the law”.  If this is intending to mean the Covenant of the Lord is to be void, where is the witness in the Law or the Prophets?  There is no hint of such in either the Law or the Prophets. 


What the Law and the Prophets do indicate is that people will be freely forgiven. (Jer 31:34)  No longer will the Romans, for instance, be required to pack up their goods and drag their offering half way around the Mediterranean to Jerusalem.  They can be made right with God though, apart from the requirement of the Law of Moses.  They are made righteous by the cleansing blood of Christ.  The sin offerings of the Law are no longer the only means of reconciliation.


The Law of Moses, as a covenant, is now probably impossible to keep because the temple no longer exists and the priests have been scattered.  The understanding we can glean from what was written in the law is however, invaluable in understanding the mind of God.  This includes the instruction on the sacrifices.


Without the ability to offer sacrifices according to the law, what is the remedy for someone who breaks the Covenant of the Lord?  According to the Sinai covenant, usually death.  Fortunately for us all, by the righteousness of God, He allows the sins of those who truly believe to be cleansed by the blood of the one who created them (Rev 1:5, Luke 22:20).  We are not under the administration of the Sinai law, as written, either.


This doesn’t mean His Covenant is void (Rev 11:19).  It means we can finally see that our way has been contrary to the peaceful functioning of the creation as intended by the Creator (Rom 7:18).  We have polluted His work and do not deserve to live (Rom 6:23).  We realize that even though completely undeserving, Jesus Christ, the one who created us (Eph 3:9, John 1:3, Col 1:16), was willing to subject Himself to ridicule, torture and death to redeem us from the just sentence of death (I Pet 2:21-25).  We collapse in repentance, determining to live His way in accord with His original intention (Rom 6:1-4, 8:3-5) even though it may not make sense from a human perspective.


His original intention is recorded in His covenant, the Law of God.  It is expanded on in the judgments documented in Exodus 21-23 and further expanded throughout the Law of Moses, although not everything in the Law of Moses is an expansion on the Law of God.  In any case, His covenant is the basis for His way (Deu 8:6, 4:13).  As His servants we support His way and order our lives trusting that He knows and knowing that we do not (Mark 8:35).


Two covenant allegory

The allegory of the two covenants of Galatians 4:21-31 would seem to indicate more strongly than anything else that the Sinai covenant is to be, “cast out”.  Indeed it seems odd that Paul would claim that ‘Hagar is Mount Sinai”, and “the one from Mount Sinai, which gives birth to bondage”.  Nowhere else is there any hint that the Covenant of the Lord engendered bondage.


Remember, Paul is talking to those who desire to be ‘under the law’ (vs. 21).  This is clearly referring to the Law of Moses.  Some were trying to convince the gentiles of the need to be circumcised according to the Law.  (The law does not require gentiles to be circumcised.  The Jews thought one needed to be part of the nation of Israel to receive salvation.  Circumcision was part of the initiation process of conversion to Judaism and full membership in the nation of Israel.)  His Law does not require circumcision at all.


Paul’s conclusion begins with Galatians 4:31.  We are not to be children of the bondwoman.  Stand fast in the liberty of Christ, and don’t be entangled in bondage.  If you become circumcised Christ profits nothing.  Almost half of chapter five is then devoted to circumcision.  Paul’s purpose is to show circumcision for gentiles as retrogressing to pre-crucifixion times.


The instruction to circumcise was given while Israel was still camped near Sinai (Lev 12:3, Lev 1:1) but it was after the Sinai covenant was confirmed.  Nowhere in the Sinai covenant is there any mention of circumcision.  Of course, it was assumed this practice would be followed even before Israel left Egypt because of Abraham’s covenant (Ex 12:44-48, Gen 17:10-11).  However, it was not practiced basically the entire time Israel was in the wilderness.  The Sinai covenant was confirmed at the very beginning of their time in the wilderness. God did not include it in the terms of the Sinai covenant, which was a renewal of His covenant with Abraham for them.  He seems totally unconcerned that those born in the wilderness were not circumcised (Josh 5:5).  He chose a different sign or token at Sinai.  So, was Paul mistaken in making what appears to be a connection with the Sinai covenant? 


Actually no.  It is our own confusion that makes this connection. Typically Christians today are ignorant of the timing of the giving of the law and circumcision that is documented in the Law and Joshua 5. Paul made the connection with the area of Sinai.  There are potentially two covenants associated with that place and time.  We must examine the context of his subject to determine to which he is referring.  Since circumcision is not mentioned in the covenant made at Sinai, but is added with the law given at Sinai after the golden calf, one must conclude that Paul is referring to the covenant that became the Law.  Certainly the Law is a major subject of this area of Galatians.


Indeed Malachi 4:4 confirms that God actually gave the Law of Moses to Moses in the area of Horeb or Sinai.  "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel."


Even though the Law of Moses was not confirmed until Israel was in Moab, about to enter the Promised Land, the bulk of it was actually given to Moses in the area of Horeb, i.e. Sinai.  God spoke to Moses on the mountain again after the episode of the golden calf (Ex 34:32, Lev 26:46, 27:34, 7:37-38). He also spoke to Moses in the tent he set up just outside the camp below the mountain (Ex 33:7-9, Num 11:16-17, 25-26).  After the tabernacle was constructed God also spoke from there to Moses. (Num 7:89)  The great bulk of the instruction that made up the Moab covenant came to Moses when Israel was still camped around Sinai although after the Sinai covenant was confirmed and after the episode of the golden calf. 


Remember they didn’t leave the Sinai area until Numbers 10:11 & 33 almost a year after the Sinai covenant was confirmed.  Much of the rest of Numbers describes their various adventures rather than rules and regulations.  Of course Deuteronomy, the words of the Moab covenant, also summarizes their adventures and all the instruction Moses had received.  The bulk of this instruction was received in the immediate area of Sinai.


So we need to ask, what is Paul’s purpose in the allegory of the two covenants?  This connection with Hagar, and some suppose, the covenant at Sinai is part of an allegory. The symbols used, i.e. Hagar, Jerusalem, Isaac, Ishmael and Sinai, are by definition, symbolic and/or fictitious.  It is the point of the allegory that should instruct us.  Stand fast in the liberty Christ gives us.  Circumcision of the flesh does not improve our spiritual standing with God.  The symbols Paul used are of secondary interest and should be filtered through the authoritative historical record of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  The instruction should come from the point Paul makes.  Paul’s purpose is to show circumcision as a return to the authority of the Law rather than a recognition of the authority of Jesus Christ.  It is not attempting to cast a shadow on the Covenant of the Lord, which doesn’t dictate circumcision in the first place.  Any shadow that falls, falls on the Law of Moses that actually does require circumcision.


A final Summarizing point

What Romans, Galatians and Hebrews are all saying is that we are not under the administration of especially the Moab covenant, the Law.  It is still instruction from God.  It is very useful, in some cases vital, for understanding the Sinai covenant and the covenant of the Lord.  But it is not the final authority.  If the scroll that was placed beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord deteriorates, what does that do to the covenant of the Lord in the ark?  The Covenant of the Lord is not void because a covenant made 39 years after Sinai is superseded.  It is still the Covenant of the Lord.  Fortunately though, how it is administered has changed.


We need to keep in mind that the Tabernacle constructed near Sinai was patterned after the heavenly tabernacle (Heb 8:5, 9:24).  Typically two copies of covenant documents were made in a covenant.  One kept by the subjects and the other by the lord or suzerain.  Revelation 11:19 states, ”Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.“  The indication in scripture is that the Tabernacle Moses made and all the furnishings were a copy of the temple in heaven.  "His covenant" has more than likely been in this heavenly temple since time began and will remain there until at least the time of the end.  Indeed sin is recorded in Genesis before Abraham was party to his special relationship with God (Gen 4:7).  The original ark in which the heavenly version resides is still in His temple to this day.  Its function is to still contain "His covenant".


Our High priest presides at the eternal temple of God.  He does not serve the shadow that the Levites served (Heb 8:1-5).  The covenant of the Lord still holds its place of honor at the throne of the Almighty.


A major purpose of the law was to keep Israel within the bounds of the Sinai covenant (Gal 3:23).  Even though we as believers ought not to need a tutor, or older guardian (vs. 24), it behooves us to remember what the tutor taught.  We would be wise to make the law our trusted advisor, as the paidagogos was to the mature heir.  In any case we should not make void the Covenant of the Lord.


It is imperative that we avoid sin, but if we don’t, our covenant is based on better promises, with an ever-living High Priest sitting in the presence of God who understands our difficulties and can renew us to the Father.  "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession (supplication) for them" (Heb 7: 25.).  "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (I John 2:1c)


Has the Law Shrunk?


Since the Covenant of the Lord is only the Ten Commandments, is that all we need to do?  If we perform each of the Ten Commandments without fail is salvation assured?  Jesus was asked this same basic question (Matt 19:16-19).  Jesus recommended the Ten Commandments emphasizing those in which his countrymen tended to be weak.  The young man continued, “…All these things I have kept from my youth.  What do I still lack?” (vs. 20).  Of course we know Jesus did not answer, ‘nothing’.  He invited the man to study under his direct instruction if the man really wanted to become perfect (vs.21).  So while keeping the Ten Commandments is highly recommended, it seems there is more that can be done.


Matthew 5:17 has something to say about this too.  Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  Actually to ‘destroy the law’ to a Jew of the first century meant to improperly interpret it, as much as void it.  In the same way ‘to fulfill’ meant to complete, or make evident the full meaning.  This is one specific reason Jesus came to earth.  So in all the hundreds of years that Israel wrestled with the law up to the time of Jesus, the full meaning may have never been totally understood or properly taught.


I suspect that any of us who might read the law would not even do as well as the Jews did in interpreting the law if that is all we read.  Of course their example is unacceptable (Mat 5:20).  Jesus then proceeded to list a number of things that various Rabbis had misinterpreted or which true meaning needed clarification.  Be careful with your anger (vs21-22).  Work to make peace (vs.23-26).  Avoid sexual lust, and spare no option in doing so (vs. 27-30).  Don’t divorce (vs. 31-32).  Be straightforward in your speech (vs. 33-37).  Make peace even if you are wronged (vs.38-42).


Notice especially the final verse of this chapter.  Matt 5:48, “Therefore you shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.  To a large extend Jesus laid out here what the man in Matthew 19:16 would have learned if he had accepted Jesus offer.  The place to start is with the Covenant of the Lord.  The Sinai covenant clarifies some of this.  The Law, explains and gives examples of the proper application of much of the Sinai covenant.  It also adds some instruction from which we can only draw principles, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the differences in modern society.  Christ’s example and instruction, along with the commentary of the New Testament, completed the instruction God intended for man.


The topics that immediately surround Mat 5:48 are extremely poignant.  Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (vs. 44), that you may be the sons of your father in heaven; for He makes His sun to shine on the evil and on the good…..” (vs.45).  This is the mind of God.  This is what we are to embrace if we are to become His children.


If you want to assure yourself of salvation get your mind in sync with the mind of God.  If we only go out of our way for our friends we are thinking only of ourselves.  You don’t necessarily need to always do some great thing.  Simple courtesy while driving would probably sometimes be an improvement.  Leave yourself time to give to people.  We can’t help if we’ve backed ourselves into a corner so tight we would inconvenience others if we stop to help someone.


Look at the verse after Mat 5:48.  Take heed that you do not your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them…,” (Mat  6:1).  This is also the mentality God expects of his children.  We help because that’s what God would have us do.  It’s good for our neighbors and it’s good for us.  We should be content with whatever personal satisfaction comes, and content knowing that the spirit of God, the mind of God, is working in us.  The Bible would be too heavy to carry if God had tried to include specific instruction for every possible circumstance.  Legislation is not the way to govern.  Thomas Jefferson or Thoreau, as the case may be, was not far off.  ‘That government is best which governs least.’  This would be a fantastic system if we all properly govern ourselves and support one another.  If we only do what is legislated we will fall short.  So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants.  We have done what was our duty to do.”’ (Luke 17:10). 


This doesn’t mean God expects you to live in poverty because you have not been concerned for yourself.  Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself?” (Ecc 7:16).  There is a balance.  But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."” (Jam 4:6)  But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I John 3:17)  When in doubt, reach for perfection.  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  38  ‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  39  ‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  40  "And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Mat 25:37-40)


Do we have the heart?


Ancient Israel obviously did not have the heart to obey.  Have we even looked at what was laid before them as a code of conduct?  Do we know what the Law of God entails?  God gave it in principle and in person to Israel and Moses in the Sinai covenant.  It has been recorded for us for some 3500 years.  Do we get bogged down in the letter and miss the spirit? 


Exodus 21-23 is chock full of instruction for living our lives.  However, one cannot just read for the letter and expect to extract the totality of what God expects.  Much of the teaching of the New Testament can be linked directly back to these judgments of the Sinai covenant.


For instance Exodus 21:7 talks about a young woman that is sold and betrothed or engaged to be married.  This is not typically how we enter into marriage in Western society.  Does that mean this instruction holds nothing for us?


Before the marriage is consummated the man changes his mind and decides he doesn't want the woman.  This put a significant stigma on the woman in those days.  The man is forbidden to just send her away.  The burden is on him to treat her with respect and dignity.  The spirit of the instruction is that he is to treat her like he would treat his own daughter.


Because we don't handle marriage like this doesn't mean we can't learn.  The man made a commitment and then backed out.  Exodus 21:8 calls this deceit.  Jesus teaches us to stick to our word (Mat 5:37).  There was no deceit or trickery in Him (I Pet 2:22 NIV).  He doesn't want there to be any in us either, intended or unintended.  If we find ourselves backing out of a commitment, we make it right.


Exodus 21:10 admonishes Israel to properly maintain the first wife if someone takes a second wife.  Again this seems to have limited application since multiple wives are typically illegal in the western world.


However this instruction may have played a significant part in Jesus teaching on divorce.  "…whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (really prostitution) and marries another, commits adultery…" (Mat 19:9bc).  There was a growing liberal attitude regarding divorce in Israel in Jesus day.  Some were of the opinion that if anything the wife did displeased her husband, he could divorce her. There is good reason to interpret 'and marries another' as 'in order to marry another'.  Some were using this new liberal approach as a way out of their responsibility to support their first wife.


This instruction again teaches us to be true to our commitments, especially our spouses.  In our case even if we are divorced we may have a responsibility to a former mate.  Even so, we should be faithful to every commitment we make, or don't make the commitment.


Exodus 23:4-5 tells us to return even an enemies escaped animal.  Would this apply to a neighbors' noisy dog?  "you shall surely bring it back to him again".  Verse 5 tells us to help our enemy when he is having difficulty.  "you shall surely help him". 


Of course Jesus expanded directly on Exodus 23:4-5 in Matthew 5:43-44.  "..love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you…" (vs 44,b).  Scholars say this was a revolutionary teaching for the Jews of Jesus day (Steven Notley: Jerusalem Perspective).  It should not have been.  The concept is firmly rooted in the law of God documented at Sinai.


The Jews of New Testament Israel in effect had a veil over their heads when it came to reading the law (II Cor 3:14).  They read the letter but didn't understand the spirit.  Consequently they missed the intent of the Law of God.


In Exodus 22:22-27 we are told not to afflict the underprivileged.  God considers Himself the protector of the poor (vs 23-4).  This judgment in the Sinai covenant is the bare minimum.  If one wishes to avoid the wrath of God and death, one should not afflict or take advantage of the poor.  Is this what we seek, just to avoid death?  Are we in tune with God if we then ignore or avoid the poor and disadvantaged?  If God is their protector shouldn't we support them?  We would then be doing the work of God.


Consider that Moses expanded on this thought in the Law. "If there is among you a poor man of your brethren within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother"(Deu 15:7).  God's intent was not just that we avoid kicking people when they are down, but that we help them up.  This should have been apparent to anyone who diligently sought God after reading only Exodus 22:22-27.


Jesus expanded on this too. "Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Mat 25:40b).  This is the spirit of Exodus 22:22-27.  God takes our treatment of the disadvantaged personally.  This instruction regarding the poor is the only one in the Sinai covenant where God keeps for Himself the prerogative to bring justice on behalf of the wronged.  Apparently justice in this case was never turned over to Moses or Levi.  Does that make us stop and think for just a moment?


Even the 'golden rule' has its roots in the Sinai covenant.  "Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Ex 23:9 , 22:21).  God expects us to consider and remember what it is like to be disadvantaged and do for the disadvantaged as we would that someone would do for us in those circumstances.


God's intent in upholding Ancient Israel and giving them His Law and His Covenant was so they would represent Him to the rest of the world.  "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Ex 19:6a, Deu 4:5-8).


God is still looking for people to represent Him.  This was the purpose He had for the nation of Israel when He gave them His law on Sinai.  This continues to this day.  "Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ…"(II Cor 5:20a).  What is the difference between a priest and an ambassador? Aren't priest and ambassadors representatives of their sovereign?  How do we go about representing our Sovereign?


Not by being like the Jews of Jesus day.  "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham" (John 8:39b).  They didn't conduct themselves like Abraham.  As far as God was concerned they were not Abraham's children.  They did not represent Abraham.


"But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven, for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mat 5:44-45).  As we emulate God we represent Him.  Is this natural?  NO, it takes faith that God will care for us, and the humility to recognize that by nature we are no better than anyone else, and we are of the same mentality as our persecutors.  If we wish forgiveness we should forgive (Mat 6:14).  If we willingly give of our self to further God's purpose instead of our own, He will give us real life.  "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mat 10:39)  "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom 12:1b).  A true follower will ignore the self-serving impulse and intuitive dictates of his own mind and replace them with the caring and sharing actions of the mind and spirit of God (Rom 8:5).


This world belongs to God.  "For the world is mine and all its fullness" (Ps 50:12b cf Ex 19:5).  Any of this world's possessions that we may have, come from God.  "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth," (Deu 8:18ab). 


"And I say unto you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations" (Luke 16:9).  Support the poor.  .Share what God has provided for you.  In doing so you buy the friendship of God.


God has shared with us a small bit of His wealth.  He also gave us our very lives.  If we are to represent Him we are to do good to all men  "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10).


"And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" (Luke 16:12).  The whole earth is God’s.  Everything we call our own is actually God’s.  God gave us our very life.  If we don’t share what is a gift to us from God, how could He expect us to correctly manage the inherent eternal life He wishes to give us in His kingdom?


Do we wonder why the early believers seemed to be living in a communal fashion?  "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common" (Acts 4:32).  The obvious answer is they recognized the source of and purpose for their possessions.  They understood what it meant to be children of their Father.


When we support our fellow man we are doing the work of God with wealth from God and our life from God.  He is the protector of the poor and provides warmth for the just and the unjust.  If we walk in God's ways we are His children doing His work.  We represent Him.  "So you should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord chastens you.  Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him." (Deu 8:5-6).  This is how we represent God, we walk in His ways, follow His law and fulfill His purpose.  We will then be His children and His priests not only in this life, but the next.  "And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev 5:10).


"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Eze 36:27).  Those who have the spirit of God will have an understanding of not only the Ten Commandments themselves, but also a deep understanding of the statutes and judgments of Exodus 20-23 that go along with His commandments.  They will be careful to follow their Father in all aspects of His law.  They will represent Him in all their dealings.


The New Covenant, which reaches fullness in the time referred to by Ezekiel above, is also a blood covenant (Mat 26:26-28).  When we share in the memorial of Jesus death we are renewing our commitment to honor 'My Covenant', the Ten Commandments. “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”(Mat 19:17d)  Instead of offering an animal sacrifice to confirm this covenant, we symbolically internalize the bread and wine, which picture the broken body and the cleansing blood shed for us.


As indicated by Hebrews 10:26-31, if we later reject that sacrifice, there is no other method whereby we may be forgiven.  The altar in front of the Temple is gone.  In taking those symbols we are committing ourselves to not make void My Covenant, but to uphold My Covenant.  If we then reject what Christ stands for, i.e. MY Covenant, we may have sealed our fate, permanent death.  Eternal life, remember, is a gift (Rom 6:23).


Those who seek God in the New Covenant will keep dangerous animals securely contained.  They will be courteous on the road.  They will not allow hazardous situations to develop.  They will share what God has given them with those less fortunate.  They will go to the same lengths to honor all the other recommendations of the Covenant of the Lord as well.


If we only do what can be legislated we are not in tune with the intent of the New Covenant, i.e. perfection.  We are to go beyond the legal terms and be an example of concern and source of help for everyone whenever possible.  We are to be his representatives on this earth (II Cor 5:20).  We should conduct ourselves as He would conduct Himself.  It’s a tall order, but we have a promise that the mighty Creator of the universe will help us and keep us.  If He is for us, who can be against us?  He will take care of His part.  We need to do ours.




Detailed Sources


A Short History of the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, by T.H.Weir, 1899, William S. Onorgate, London, Edinburgh, Oxford, UK


Adoption as Sons of God by James Scott, 1992,  Published by JCB Mohr, Tubingen, Germany


The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Edited by Geza Vermes,  1997, Pub: Allen Lane, Penguin Press,  New York, London, Auckland, Nz. Victoria, Australia, Ontario, Canada


The Complete Wohttp://www.blueletterbible.orgrd Study of the Old Testament, King James Version, General Editor Dr. Warren Baker.  Published by AMG International Inc. 1994, Chattanooga, Tn. 37422


Dead Sea Scrolls Bible translated by M. Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich, HarperColins Publishers, New York, New York, 1999


Emphasized Bible, translated by J.B.Rotherham, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Mi. 49501 1994,  (Original translation done between 1868 & 1902.)


English Septuagint Version of the Holy Bible translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton &
Paul W. Esposito as available at _ http://www.ccel.org/bible/brenton/_ from: The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament and Apocrypha with an English Translation, by Sir L.C.L. Brenton, Zondervan, Grand Rapids Mi. and Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd., London 1976.


Greek English Lexicon compiled by Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott 9th Ed. with revisions by Henry Stuart Jones  1940, Supplement added 1996.  Clarendon Press, Oxford.


Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich Second ed. (1979)  University of Chicago Press,  Chicago, from Walter Bauer 5th edition Griechisch-deutsches Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der frühchristlichen Literatur


Greek - English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm's Wilke's Clavis Novi Testamenti, Translated Revised and Enlarged by Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D.  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 4th edition, Sixth printing 1967.


Jerusalem Perspective, is a publication of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research see _ __http://www.JerusalemPerspective.org_  Steven Notley is a former member and director of the school that specializes in study of the Synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.


New Testament Words by William Barclay, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky. 1964


Novum Testamentum Vol 29 1987, p.150-176, “Paidagogos: The Social Setting of a Pauline Metaphor” by N.H.Young


Our Father Abraham, by Marvin R. Wilson, William Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Mi. 1989


The Englishman's Greek New Testament , edited by Samuel Bagster and Sons, Limited.   4 New Bridge Street, London, E.C.4.    Printed by Lowe & Brydone (Printers) Limited, London, N.W.10


Treaty of the Great King : the covenant structure of Deuteronomy: studies and commentary / by Meredith G. Kline. Grand Rapids : Eerdmans Pub. Co. [c1963]


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Young’s Literal Translation,.  As available at _ http://www.blueletterBible.com_ and http://bible.gospelcom.net/bible?