STUDY ONE: THE BOOKS OF LAW [THE PENTATEUCH]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2017

A. AUTHORSHIP

Traditionally the first five books of the Bible are known as the Law, the Pentateuch, or the Torah. Also traditionally, these books have been attributed to Moses, who wrote them, guided and inspired by God. This assumption places the writing of these books during the life of Moses, somewhere between 1280 and 1240BC. They are sometimes called ‘the five books of Moses’.

Mosaic authorship is affirmed by Jesus Christ and the apostles in the verses below:

Matthew 8:4: Jesus referred to ‘the gift Moses commanded’

Matthew 19:4-8: Jesus comments on Moses’ commands about divorce

Mark 7:10: Jesus attributes the command to ‘Honour your father and mother’ to Moses.

Luke 16:29-31: In Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham refers to the scriptures by using the term ‘Moses and the Prophets’

Luke 24:27,44: Jesus taught the disciples from ‘Moses’ and ‘the Law of Moses’.

John 5:46: having referred to ‘the Scriptures’ in verse 39, Jesus here refers to them as ‘Moses’.

Acts 3:22: Peter quotes a verse from Deuteronomy with the words ‘For Moses said …’

Romans 10:19: Paul quoted from Deuteronomy saying ‘Moses says’.

Over the centuries various questions have been raised over Moses’ authorship, and some scholars divide these five books among various authors and place them at various dates. If you wish to research these theories read the article on the Pentateuch in the New Bible Dictionary [IVP] or similar resource.

B. GENESIS

In the preface of his book Genesis in space and time, written on the first eleven chapters of Genesis, Francis Schaeffer wrote:

‘The battle for a Christian understanding of the world is being waged on several fronts. Not the least of these is biblical study in general, and especially the question of how the opening chapters of the Bible are to be read. Modern writers commenting on the book of Genesis tend to treat the first eleven chapters as something other than history. For some this material is simply a Jewish myth, having no more historical validity for modern man than the epic of Gilgamesh or the stories of Zeus. For others it forms a pre-scientific vision that no one who respects the results of scholarship can accept. Still others find the story symbolic but no more. Some accept the early chapters of Genesis as revelation in regard to an upper-story, religious truth, but allow any sense of truth in regard to history and the cosmos (science) to be lost.

How should these early chapters of Genesis be read? Are they historical and if so what value does their historicity have? In dealing with these questions, I wish to point out the tremendous value Genesis 1 – 11 has for modern man. In some ways these chapters are the most important ones in the Bible, for they put man in his cosmic setting and show him his peculiar uniqueness. They explain man’s wonder and yet his flaw. Without a proper understanding of these chapters we have no answer to the problems of metaphysics, morals or epistemology, and furthermore, the work of Christ becomes one more upper-story “religious” answer.’ Francis Schaeffer Genesis in space and time, pp 9-10.

B.1 Genesis content summary

Beginnings (1-11)
Creation – [1-2]
Of the universe,
Of man in the image of God
The prohibition

The fall – [3]
Satan’s deception
Man’s rejection of God
The beginning of sin and suffering

The flow-on of the fall – [4-11]
The first murder – Cain & Abel
Saturation-point sinfulness: The flood – destruction of mankind, covenant with Noah
Genealogies
The tower of Babel – confusion of the languages

Covenant and Patriarchs [12-50]
Abraham and the covenant of promise - [12-25]

Call of Abraham.
God’s promises of a land, a nation, and world-wide blessing.
Various adventures with Lot
Birth of Ishmael
Sodom and Gomorrah
Birth of Isaac

Isaac, Jacob, Joseph - [26-50]

The promise and covenant affirmed
Esau and Jacob’s stories
Jacob’s 12 sons – who became heads of the twelve tribes of Israel
Joseph’s story

B.2 Major doctrinal concepts in Genesis

Biblical understanding of God
Genesis is fundamental to our understanding of who we are and who God is.
Creator, Provider, Judge, Sovereign, Saviour

Biblical understanding of man:
Image of God – basic to our understanding of the purpose and meaning of life.
Man’s God-given role in the world.
Equality and distinction of man and woman.
God’s plan for marriage.
Man’s relation to his environment

The fall – rebellion against and rejection of God. Its impact: From this point on the human race lives in a changed world – into which sin, suffering and death entered because of our choice, and in which we are bound in separation from God, from ourself, and from each other, until God redeems us.

Also introduced here:
The concept of God’s judgment
The concept of grace
The concept of sacrifice
The concept of covenant
The cosmic battle between God and Satan
The dominant theme of God versus all else that seeks or claims to be God

Covenant
The concept of covenant – as God’s initiative, God’s choice. [The Abrahamic covenant]

The covenant people of God – raised up for a purpose: world-wide blessing through the seed of Abraham.

Salvation
First promise of salvation [Genesis 3:15]
The first reference to righteousness credited through faith [Genesis 15:6]. [Abraham is the father of all who believe.]
Concept of substitutionary sacrifice [Genesis 22]

Reflection and response: What is the significance of Genesis for:

[1] our understanding of the whole of Scripture,

 

[2] our understanding of who God is,

 

[3] our understanding of who we are,

 

[4] our understanding of sin and salvation.

 

[5] our understanding of judgement and grace

 

 

Additional information: Study these references to find Christ in Genesis
Creation as the work of Jesus Christ - John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-3

Christ, the ultimate image of God - Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3

The first promise of the Saviour – Genesis 3:15

Anticipation of the sacrifice of Christ – Genesis 3:21

The ark – a symbol of Christ and salvation

Jesus Christ - the seed of Abraham through whom all the nations find blessing [Romans 4; Galatians 3]

The purpose of the chosen covenant people fulfilled in the coming of Christ.

Those who believe in Christ are blessed with the gift of righteousness just like Abraham

Christ foreshadowed in Genesis 22 – God provides the sacrifice.

Approximate Dates: Abraham: 2000-1850BC Isaac: 1900-1750BC Jacob: 1800-1700BC Joseph: 1750-1650BC

 

C. EXODUS

A comment on the relevance of Exodus:

‘It is very difficult to say which book stands at the heart of the Old Testament; but certainly the claims of Exodus are hard to match. To those who see theology as essentially the recital of the saving acts of God, Exodus 1-15 gives the supreme example, around which the rest of the biblical narrative can be assembled. To those who see the Old Testament as the product of the worshipping life of the community, at the heart of the book of Exodus lies the account of the institution of the Passover, greatest and most characteristic of Israel’s festivals. Indeed, the Exodus narrative may be seen as the explanation of the origin of that festival, recited or read aloud (as today) during its celebration. To those who see God’s tora, his law, as central to the life and thinking of later Israel, Exodus enshrines the law giving and contains the very kernel of the law in the form of the Ten Commandments. To later Jewish writers of priestly interests, who saw the maintenance of worship in the temple as one of the pillars of the universe, Exodus contained the account of the building of the Tabernacle, forerunner of the Temple. … Moses stands also as the prototype of all the prophets in Israel… and the later prophets … are best seen as essentially reformers, returning to the spirit of the Mosaic revelation, and to Israel’s experience of salvation from Egypt.

‘It is therefore natural that the exodus from Egypt, interpreted by Israel’s faith as being the supreme example of God’s grace, faithfulness and power, dominated all the thought of later Israel. …

‘But if the … book of Exodus, was precious to the Jew, it became doubly precious to the Christian. When Moses and Elijah are portrayed as discussing Christ’s coming death, in the story of the transfiguration, the Evangelist deliberately uses the Greek word exodus to describe that death (Luke 9:31). Whatever the exact day of Christ’s death, it was clearly in the general context of the great Passover feast (Lk. 22:13). Paul makes this identification specific by calling Christ the Passover lamb (1Cor. 5:7). John, in his allusive way, hints at the same identification by stressing that no bone of Christ was broken on the cross (Jn 19:33, 36), just as no bone of the Passover lamb might be broken (Exodus 12:46). From then on, throughout the whole of the New Testament, the allusions flow thick and fast …

‘No book therefore will more repay careful study, if we wish to understand the central message of the New Testament, than this book, the centre of the Old Testament and the record of the establishment of the Old Covenant.’
Alan Cole Exodus – An Introduction and commentary, pp 16-18

C.1 Exodus content summary

Redemption from slavery [1-18]
Slavery and deliverance [1-15]

Moses preserved and prepared by God [1-4]
The plagues and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart [4-10]
The final plague and the first Passover [11-13]
The Red Sea crossed [13-14]
Jubilation [15]

On the way to Sinai [15-18]

Grumbling and complaining [15-18]
About the water [15,17]
About the food [16]
God provided [15-17]

Approximate date: The exodus from Egypt: 1280BC.

On being God’s people [19-40]
At Mount Sinai

Reminder of what God has done and who they are [19]
The Ten Commandments [20]
Application of the principles of the commandments in specific circumstances [20-23]
Confirmation of the covenant [24]
The Tabernacle and its furniture [25-27; 36-38, 40]
Failure [32-33]
The priests and their garments and cleansing [28-30; 39]
Holy days and feasts [23,31,35]
Moses and the glory of God [33-34,40]

C.2 Major doctrinal concepts in Exodus

God
God’s self-identifying name: I AM – the LORD [YHWH – Yahweh, Jehovah]
The almighty sovereign power of God demonstrated over the gods of Egypt, over the Pharaoh, and over nature
The LORD is the Redeemer.
The LORD is the glorious Victor.
The unapproachableness of God – his awesome holiness and glory.
God’s strong prohibition and hatred of idolatry – of the worship of any god other than himself God’s graciousness in his self-revelation
God’s provision of our needs

Man and sin
The slavery in Egypt has symbolic significance: Sin holds us enslaved to itself, to condemnation, to judgment, to death and to Satan.
The ultimate sin of rejecting God and substituting a god of one’s own devising
God’s hatred of grumbling – it is an opposite of faith

Grace and Salvation
Salvation as redemption/freedom from inescapable slavery.
Passover
Death of a substitute
God’s gracious provision of priests to mediate between sinful man and himself.
Concept of covenant developed – the responsibilities of the covenant people. [The Sinai Covenant]
The Tabernacle – God’s ‘dwelling place’ on earth where he will meet with his people

Think about these pictures of Christ and his salvation in Exodus
Moses is a prophetic picture of Christ the ultimate Redeemer

The exodus from slavery in Egypt is a massive historical prophecy of the spiritual redemption [liberation] we have in Christ Jesus

The death of the Passover Lamb is a prophetic symbol of the death of Christ ‘our Passover’, through whose death those who believe escape the judgment of God. [1Corinthians 5:7]

The ‘manna’ from heaven, is a physical prophetic symbol of Jesus, the spiritual ‘Bread of life’ who came down from heaven [John 6]

The tabernacle as a prophetic symbol of God with us in Christ – in Christ God’s glorious presence is among us [John 1:14; 17:1-5; 2Corinthians 4:4-6]

Jesus, affirming the validity of the law, fully met the demands of the law on our behalf, so that he could then fully bear its punishment on our behalf. [Romans, Galatians, Hebrews]

The high priest, as a prophetic symbol of Jesus Christ the great high priest and mediator [Hebrews

The first and final sin is the rejection of God’s final self-revelation of himself in Jesus Christ – if we reject God as he comes to us in his Son we are guilty of unforgivable idolatry. We have chosen a god of our own creation, and in rejecting Christ as God have rejected God. [John’s gospel and first letter.]

Reflection and response: What is the significance of Exodus for our understanding of the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. LEVITICUS

Of Leviticus, Oswald T. Allis wrote:

“… there is no book in the Old Testament which more clearly sets forth the redemption which is in Christ than does Leviticus. It faces the question of Job, ‘How should man be just with God?’ and answers it in such words as the following: “He shall bring his offering …’ ‘And he shall lay his hand on its head …’ ‘And he shall confess that he hath sinned …’ … ‘And the priest shall sprinkle the blood …’ ‘And he shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.’

This is the New Testament gospel for sinners stated in Old Testament terms and enshrined in the ritual of sacrifice … To understand Calvary, and to see it in its tragic glory, we must view it with all the light of sacred story centred upon it. With Isaiah, the ‘evangelical’ prophet of the old dispensation, and with the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we must turn to Leviticus and read of the great day of atonement … thus we shall see the great drama of redemption unfolding before our eyes and, in the light of the type, begin to understand the Antitype.”
Oswald T Allis, article Leviticus in The New Bible Commentary

D.1 Leviticus content summary

Various sacrifices and offerings described [1-7]
About priests and their roles [8-10, 21-22]
Various laws of ritual and practical cleanliness [11-15]
The Day of Atonement [16]
Various rules about food, sex and social justice [17-20]
The holy days and sacred feasts [23]
The year of Jubilee [25]
Assorted rules [24,26-27]

D.2 Major doctrinal concepts in Leviticus

God
God, who is holy, requires purity
God can be approached only on his own terms
God provides the way of forgiveness.
God provides the priests to make intercession for the people.
God provides the way of escape from unpayable debt

Sin and Salvation
Substitutionary sacrifice to make atonement for sin.
Redemption, cancellation of debt
Mediatorial role of priests

Reflection and response: Christ in all the Scriptures – discuss these strong prophetic symbols of Christ in Leviticus:

The Levitical sacrifices

 

The priesthood

 

The Day of Atonement

 

The feast days, the Sabbath

 

The Year of Jubilee

 

The New Testament points out that all of these point towards Jesus Christ and take their meaning and effectiveness from him and his once for all sacrifice for sin and his eternal priesthood. This is the theme of the letter to the Hebrews, but is also found scattered right through the New Testament.

 

E. NUMBERS

E.1 Numbers content summary

Various statistics and rules [1-7]
The Passover celebrated [9]
Sinai to the edge of Canaan [10-12]
Unbelief and rebellion [13-14]
Various incidents and rules [15-20]
Sihon and Og defeated [21]
Balaam’s oracles [22-24]
Failure [25]
Statistics [26]
Joshua named as Moses’ successor [27]
Descriptions of offerings, feasts and vows [28-30]
About the Midianites [31]
Descriptions of boundaries and of the journey from Egypt to the Eastern border of the promised land. [32-36]

E.2 Major doctrinal concepts in Numbers

Sin and unbelief
Unbelief as the foundational sin
Not all who are in the physical group of people who identify themselves as God’s people, are actually true believers in the spiritual sense.

Finding Christ in all the Scriptures:
The letter to the Hebrews [Ch 3-4] takes up the Numbers 13-14 unbelief, and the subsequent failure to receive the physical promise, as a warning to Jewish Christians to demonstrate the integrity of their faith by continuing to trust in Jesus Christ - he is far greater than Moses, the salvation he gives is far greater than the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt – to disobey God’s command to believe in him is to miss out on the ultimate spiritual rest.

Entering the land is seen as a prophetic picture of spiritual peace of Christ’s salvation which is given to all who believe in Christ.

 

F. DEUTERONOMY

F.1 Deuteronomy content summary

Review of Israel’s history [1-4]
Restatement of the law [4-26]
Curses and blessings [27 – 28]
The covenant renewed [29]
Life or death [30]
Moses’ ministry ends [31-34]
Joshua to succeed
Prediction of Israel’s rebellion
The song of Moses
Moses’ death

F.2 Major doctrinal concepts in Deuteronomy

God
Strong affirmation of the uniqueness of God – the LORD is One – a jealous God who will not tolerate the worship of idols or contact with psychic or occult powers
Sovereign Judge of all nations [9:1-6]
The first great command: to love God with all heart, soul and strength [6:4]

Sin, salvation and covenant
Idolatry strongly forbidden
Occult involvement outlawed
Covenant responsibilities
Blessing and cursing

Christ in all the Scriptures:
Jesus is identified as the ‘prophet like Moses’ predicted in Ch 18.

The NT identification of Jesus Christ as ‘God over all’ etc is very powerful in the light of God’s hatred of and opposition to other gods.

The strong reaction of the Jews in John’s gospel when Jesus claimed equality with God stems from the Deuteronomic prohibition of other gods.

 

Reflection and response:
Deuteronomy has a heavy emphasis against idolatry, based on the fact that God is One [4:15-32,35,39; 5:4-10; 6:4,13-15; 7:3-6,25-26; 8:19-20; 10:12-21; 12:2-4; 13:1-18; 29:18; 30:17-20]

Check out these references and discuss the significance of this emphasis. Particularly consider:
[1] Israel’s prior and subsequent involvement in idolatry, exposed and condemned by the prophets, and

 

 

[2] The Jews’ violent reactions to Jesus’ claims to equality with God.

 

 

SUMMARY: Dominant themes of the Pentateuch:

1. God alone is God – the all-glorious Creator and the Redeemer
2. Sin is the rejection of God
3. Judgment
4. Covenant, God’s covenant people, responsibilities of God’s covenant people
5. Substitutionary sacrifice for atonement
6. Mediatorial priesthood