Most Christians, Jews and even Messianic Jews all have pretty much the same answer in regards to the question, “To whom was the Law given?” Their answer is simply, “The Jews!” The buck stops there with most people. They recognize that the Law (Torah) was handed down by Moses while Israel was in the wilderness; after having left Egypt. But there is something missing. Or rather, multiple “somethings” are missing.
To begin, let’s establish what the “Law” really is. The word in our English Old Testaments is rendered “Law,” yet is more accurately rendered “instructions.” The word in Hebrew is Strong’s #H8451, Torah, meaning instructions, laws or teachings. It is derived from Strong’s #H3384, Yarah, meaning to teach, instruct, throw, point or aim. Yarah is actually an archery term. It means, in its original form, to take aim.
So to answer the original question, let’s look at Exodus 20. This chapter is best known for the giving of the Ten Commandments. The Ten were issued from Yahweh, while the rest were relayed by Moses. Not that Yahweh wouldn’t speak to the rest of the Israelites, but rather they begged Him to stop. Verse 19 describes them asking Moses to be the mediator because they couldn’t stand it. Fast forward the next few chapters. Yahweh continues issuing all sorts of commands. These, however, He speaks only to Moses, and instructs Moses to inform all the other Israelites. That is why most instructions begin with the phrase, “And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, ‘speak to the children of Israel and tell them…’” Now chapter 24 is very important.
Exodus 24:3 says, “3Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of Yahweh and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which Yahweh has spoken we will do!” 4Moses wrote down all the words of Yahweh…”
See that? Moses relayed ALL that Yahweh had instructed him, and ALL the people agreed to it! But the next question would be, who is “all?” Exodus 12:38 tells us who came out of Egypt; a mixed multitude, not just those who were Hebrew by birth. It was this “mixed multitude” that left Egypt, and the same multitude that is included in “all” the people. The same rules apply to non-natives as they do to natives. (See articles “What is the ‘Church’?” and “Who is Israel?”). So all the people agreed to keep the commands that Yahweh gave.
I have heard it said by many Christians that the Ten Commandments are the only “laws” from the Torah that still apply today, with all the rest having been “nailed to the cross.” I address “nailed to the cross” in a different writing, but suffice it to say that is not the meaning. A very prominent belief among Seventh-Day Adventists includes the belief that the Ten Commandments are eternal, while the rest of the Torah has passed away. To come to this conclusion they often cite Deuteronomy 31:26, which states that the Levites placed the Book of the Law (the Torah) beside the Ark. The two tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, however, were placed INSIDE the ark, not beside it (Exodus 40). These same Christians believe that since the Ark could not be opened, it meant that the Ten were eternal. However, they say, the Torah was placed OUTSIDE the Ark, indicating that it could be removed later when Yeshua would come.
This logic, however, is flawed. I could go into how Yahweh says His statutes are eternal (Lev. 16, 17, 23, Numbers 15, etc.) but I will instead use their own line of thinking. It is true, Deuteronomy DOES say the Torah was placed outside the Ark. The reason, however, is not so that it could be removed PERMANENTLY, but rather so it could be removed temporarily. That is, taken up and read aloud, then placed back. The Torah Scroll would have to be reachable in order for people to read it. A king would have to write his own copy (Deuteronomy 17) and we see that the Scroll WAS taken and read in the hearing of multitudes of people (Nehemiah 8, 2 Chronicles 34, etc.). So the whole reason the Scroll was OUTSIDE the Ark was so that it be could easily accessible, NOT so it could be “removed.”
So the Torah (Law) was given to all Israelites. All the people who were in covenant with Yahweh accepted His Torah. But what is the purpose of the Torah? The Torah does three primary things: 1) It blesses those who hear it and obey it. 2) It curses those who hear it and disobey it. 3) Defines sin. Let’s go through and prove these three in order.
So first, the Torah blesses those who hear it and obey it.
Deuteronomy 28:1-2, “1″Now it shall be, if you diligently obey Yahweh your Elohim, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, Yahweh your Elohim will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey Yahweh your Elohim:”
The next few verses proceed to list some of the blessings with which the Israelites would be blessed for their obedience. Blessings such as offspring for man and beast alike, blessings in produce, blessings in basket and kneading bowl. All these things exemplify daily life at that time. One was considered well-off and wealthy if he had a lot of land, crops, flocks, herds and children.
Leviticus 26:3-13, “3If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, 4then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. 5Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. 6I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making [you] tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. 7But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; 8five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. 9So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you. 10You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new. 11Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12I will also walk among you and be your Elohim, and you shall be My people. 13I am Yahweh your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that [you] would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”
Same kind of picture here. Blessings for obedience. We see more evidence of this in the Gospels and Apostolic Writings as well.
1 Corinthians 3:7-8, “7So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but Elohim who causes the growth. 8Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own work.”
Here Paul speaks of ministry. Teaching is equated to planting and watering, as many of us have heard before. But in verse 8 he says, “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own work.” Same as blessings coming according to your level of obedience. Obedience (in doing what Elohim commands) IS work; good work, like Paul speaks about in Ephesians 2:10, giving the reason we (humans) were created.
Matthew 16:26-27, “26For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” Very similar to what Paul said, right? The level of “work” you put in determines the level of reward.
1 Peter 1:17, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;”
Peter says the same thing that Yeshua said and Paul repeated. Last, consider another statement by Yeshua, this time in Revelation.
Revelation 22:12, “See, I am coming speedily, and My reward is with me; to render unto each man according to his works.” This recurring statement, “each man according to his works,” is not new. It was not a “New Testament” concept.
Proverbs 22:12, “12If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?”
Psalm 62:12, “12And lovingkindness is Yours, O Master, For You recompense a man according to his work.”
These are all examples of a very clear concept. To quote a friend, “It’s not new, just true.” The “according to his works” concept did not originate with the Apostolic Writers, nor did it begin with Yeshua’s earthly ministry. The first occurrence of this that we see is actually in Genesis.
Genesis 4:7, “7If you do well, will not [your countenance] be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
This is Yahweh speaking to Cain right before Cain goes and kills Abel. Yahweh tells Cain that “if you do well, you will be uplifted. If you do not do well, then there is sin.”
Now let me be clear. I am not saying this reward is salvation based on work. That is not the point here. “Salvation” occurs at the end, when one is “saved” from the second death. This “reward” is what Yeshua brings at His return (see Revelation 22). When he returns it isn’t the end of time. There is still a long period of time before “the end.” The entire Millennium plays out after He “brings His reward.” This is further evidenced by Revelation 14:12, “12Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of Elohim and their faith in Yeshua.” Also there is Revelation 12:17, that talks about the offspring of the woman (the ekklesia) being pursued by the dragon because they “keep the commandments of Elohim and hold on to the testimony of Yeshua.”
The last point to make along this line of thinking comes from John.
John 3:36, “All those believing in the Son shall have eternal life. But those who do not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of Elohim remains on him.”
There is a myriad of translations of this verse, but the one closest to the Greek text is as listed above. Again, whether a person gets “delivered” or “saved” at the end of time is dependent upon their faith, but the reward in the Kingdom varies based on one’s work. I will address this issue fully in a different writing. For now, we’ll move on to the second thing the Torah does.
The Torah curses those who choose to disobey it. Going back to the Scripture listed above, Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 show also the curses that come along with disobedience. In fact, Deuteronomy 28:60-61 says that Yahweh would actually bring curses on them WORSE than what He had brought upon Egypt. Curses that were not even recorded in the Torah. The very definition of the word “obey” is to follow commands or carry out instructions. To disobey is the opposite. It is to hear those instructions, and then NOT carry them out.
All the Gospel and Apostolic Scripture listed above applies to those who obey as well as to those who disobey. “Render unto each according to his works” can mean good works or bad works. It can mean obedience or disobedience.
The Torah defines sin.
1 John 3:4 says, “Everyone practicing sin also practices lawlessness. And sin is lawlessness.”
John has defined sin for us the easy way. “Lawlessness” means without or against law. So the breaking of the Torah IS sin. Paul says something similar in Romans.
Romans 7:7, “7What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.””
Paul states very plainly that the Law (Torah) itself is NOT sin. He states instead that the Torah allows one to have the knowledge of sin. As with what John said, sin is the breaking of the Torah.
So the three primary purposes of the Torah (bless those that hear and obey, curse those that hear and disobey, and define sin) has been uncovered. But what about who the Torah is meant for? Well, quite simply, it is meant for Israel. I have written other articles on Israel (“The People of Yahweh”) that should help with that. But essentially, if you are a true Believer and follower of Messiah Yeshua, and if you love Him (John 14:15) then YOU are an Israelite, and therefore Torah is for YOU.
Judaism states that non-Jewish converts are only obligated to keep what they have dubbed the “Noachide laws.” These are seven laws that are straight out of the Torah, yet there is so much more than that. As we have seen, the Torah was intended for ALL of Yahweh’s people. Not different little pieces for different people. The whole thing for all of His children because He is perfectly Just and perfectly Fair.
The Torah was not given to “the Jews” as many claim. It was given to ALL the people of Israel (Exodus 20); and ALL the people included not only the other tribes (Judah is only one tribe), but a mixed multitude as well. Kind of like the saying “All Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews.” Though Jews (along with anyone else) that reject the Messiah will no longer be part of Israel, but rather will be cut off (Romans 11).
I pray this study has blessed you, and assisted you in seeking and searching it out for yourself. Be Berean. Shalom.