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Law

The first part of the Bible is called the Torah, which means the Law. It is also called the Pen­ta­teuch which means the five books. These books are also called the Books of Moses. They include Gen­e­sis, Exo­dus, Leviti­cus, Num­bers, and Deuteron­o­my. The events described in these books, from the call­ing of Abra­ham to the death of Moses, prob­a­bly took place some­time in the sec­ond mil­len­ni­um before Christ (2000−1200 BC).

The Book of Gen­e­sis con­tains the pre-his­to­ry of the peo­ple of Israel. It begins with the sto­ry of the cre­ation of the world, the fall of Adam and Eve and the sub­se­quent, quite sin­ful, his­to­ry of the chil­dren of Adam. It then tells of God’s call and promise of sal­va­tion to Abra­ham, and the sto­ry of Isaac and Jacob, whom God named Israel, end­ing with the set­tle­ment of the twelve tribes of Israel—the fam­i­lies of the twelve sons of Jacob—in Egypt, dur­ing the time of Joseph’s favor with the Egypt­ian Pharaoh. In tra­di­tion­al Church lan­guage, Abra­ham, Isaac, and Jacob are called the patri­archs.

The Book of Exo­dus relates the deliv­er­ance of the peo­ple of Israel by Moses from the slav­ery in Egypt to which they were sub­ject­ed after the death of Joseph. It tells of the rev­e­la­tion of God to Moses of His divine name of Yahweh—I AM WHO I AM (3:14). It gives the account of the passover and the exo­dus, and the jour­ney of the Israelites, led by God, through the desert. Also, in this book is the nar­ra­tive of God’s gift of the Ten Com­mand­ments to Moses on Mount Sinai, and the oth­er laws which God gave to Moses con­cern­ing the moral and rit­u­al con­duct of His People.

The Book of Leviti­cus is a fur­ther book of laws, pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned with the priest­ly and rit­u­al offices of the peo­ple which were con­duct­ed by men tak­en from the tribe of Levi.

The Book of Num­bers con­cerns itself pri­mar­i­ly with a cen­sus of the peo­ple. It also con­tains laws giv­en by God to Moses, and fur­ther nar­ra­tives about the move­ment of God’s Peo­ple through the wilder­ness to the land which God promised them.

The Book of Deuteron­o­my, which means the “sec­ond law,” is again pri­mar­i­ly a law code in which is told again the sto­ry of the Ten Com­mand­ments and the insti­tu­tion of the Mosa­ic laws of moral and rit­u­al con­duct. It ends with Moses’ bless­ing of the peo­ple, and his vision of the promised land into which Joshua would lead God’s Peo­ple after his death, the account of which ends the Books of Moses.

Schol­ars tell us that the Law was not writ­ten by the per­son­al hand of Moses and that the books show evi­dence of being the result of a num­ber of oral and writ­ten tra­di­tions trans­mit­ted among the Peo­ple of Israel, con­tain­ing mate­r­i­al of lat­er peri­ods. Nev­er­the­less, in the Tra­di­tion of Israel and of the Chris­t­ian Church, the Law remains essen­tial­ly con­nect­ed with Moses, the great man of God to whom “the Lord used to speak… face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11).