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The Book of the Law of God
by Robert Randle
6/18/2009 / Bible Studies
It is probably without much dispute or controversy among the three major World religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that the prophet Moses received the Law of God on Mount Sinai, the "Ten Commandments" ('Decalogue'), which he wrote down on stone tablets. This simple method for recording legal contracts and commercial transactions was widely practiced throughout the Mesopotamian Valley at that time. The various materials used during the Fourth Century B.C. consisted of wax-covered and soft clay or stone tablets hardened in the sun. Perhaps the earliest known script or alphabet was Phoenician, followed by cuneiform, and then, by the pictorial representation of the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Letters or symbols were impressed into the softened clay or stone using an instrument called a 'stylus.'
The brief historical overview will serve as a basis for the query as to how were these very sacred commandments of God written in a book (??) at such an early time period. Exodus 24: 7 is the first mention of 'book,' and right after that, 'tablets of stone' is recorded in Exodus 31: 18. It would be quite amazing for a book to have been manufactured or developed back then; at least in the sense of the way that such an item is produced since the invention of the modern printing press. Exodus 24: 3-4, 7
Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances (Exodus 20: 1 - 23: 19); and all the people answered with one voice, and said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!" And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord [on what??]. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he took the book of the covenant (??) and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!"
24:12, 18; 31: 18
Now the Lord said to Moses, "Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandments which I have written for their instruction." And Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. [See Exodus 25: 1 31: 17] And when He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
And when He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides, they were written on one side and the other. And the tablets were God's work, and the writing was God's writing engraved on the tablets
34.1-2 Now the Lord said to Moses, "Cut out for you two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered". "So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai
(33: 6??), and present yourself to Me on the top of the mountain.
The Lord said to Moses, "Write down these words. . ."
He took 'the Testimony' ["Ten Commandments"] and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark.
Deuteronomy 4: 44-45
Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel. These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt.
"At that time the Lord said to me, 'Cut out for yourself two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to Me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood for yourself. 'And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered, and you shall put them in the ark.' "So I made an ark of acacia wood ('Bezalel' made; Cp. Exodus 35: 30, 31, 37: 1??) and cut out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. "And he wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me. "Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the Lord had commanded me."
27: 2-3, 8
"So it shall be on the day when you shall cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones, and coat them with lime and write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over, in order that you may enter the land which the lord your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you. "And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly."
"If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear the honored and awesome name, the Lord your God.
Therefore, the anger of the Lord burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book.
31:19, 21-22, 24-26
"Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, in order that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. "Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore." So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel. And it came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, "Take this book of the law and place it beside (??) the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you.
And he said to them: "Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe; all the words of this law."
Joshua 1: 8
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do all that is written in it, for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."
As it is written in the book of the law of Moses.
And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up under the oak that is by the sanctuary of the Lord (where??)
I Samuel 10: 25a
Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and he wrote them in the book and placed it before (??) the Lord.
I Kings 8: 1, 3-4, 9 (Cp. II Chronicles 5: 1-14)
Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the City of David, which is Zion. So all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. Then they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tabernacle of meeting, and all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle. The priests and the Levites brought them up. 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.
NOTE: There is no mention of a book containing numerous statutes, regulations, and ordinances, but rather, two ['simple'??] stone tablets.
II Kings 22: 8, 10, 14 (Cp. II Chronicles 34: 8-24)
Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord". And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it. Morever, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book". And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.
23: 1, 2
Then the king sent, and they gathered to him all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant, which was found in the house of the Lord.
Then the king commanded all the people saying, "Celebrate the Passover to the Lord God as it is written in this book of the covenant". Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah. Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spirits and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. And before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.
II Chronicles 17: 1-3
Also in the third year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah to teach in the cities of Judah, and with them he sent Levites: Shemiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Ashael, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; the Levites, and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests. So they taught in Judah, and had the book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people.
Ezra 3: 2, 4-5a
Then Jeshua the son of Jehozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. They also kept the 'Feast of Tabernacles,' as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for 'New Moons' and for all the appointed feasts of the Lord that were consecrated.
NOTE: Nowhere does it mention that God accepted these sacrifices, but the narrative is silent on the Divine acknowledgement.
Nehemiah 8: 1, 14
Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. And they found written in the law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths ['temporary shelters'] during the feast of the seventh month.
Oral narrative accounts and histories preceded the science of writing by hundreds of years, and considering the sheer volume as well as the detailed information contained within the Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances of the "Torah" (Heb. 'Law;' Genesis-Deuteronomy), not to mention the other sacred 'Writings,' it is certainly worth consideration to inquire if it would be possible that everything was written down in a 'book' as such, in that contemporary situation. There are at least three methods of transmission: Oral, on tablets, and in a book. Jewish tradition venerates the Oral Torah just as much as the Torah ("Law") given gy God to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Some of the later prophets also use words like 'tablet' or 'scroll' (Cp. Isaiah 30: 8a), and Habakkuk has 'tablet' also (Cp. Habakkuk 2: 2b). The prophet Jeremiah might help shed some light on this matter because he uses the phrase, "scroll of a book" (Cp. Jeremiah 36: 2a; 4a, 8b, 10a). He also mentions the scribe's chamber (Cp. 36: 20-21), which could possibly have reference to a library of sorts. In that same chapter, verse 32 mentions that King Jehoiakim, after hearing a few lines from the book, cut it up and threw it in the fire.
Doubtless, pious Jewish scribes, to include perhaps, scholars of rabbinic schools, prophets, and those who descend from the Levites (Aaron and Moses) or priests, might have had a hand in composing, revising, and editing whole sections over many generations, centuries even, to preserve the cultural, historical, and religious legacy of the Jewish people, whether living within their homeland or as captives in foreign nations, about their relationship with the One True God, the God of Israel.
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