Book Report: The Law (s): Covenant Stipulations For Israel

The Law (s): Covenant Stipulations For Israel

 Presentation of Chapter 9 of the book, #How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth. by #Gorden D. Fee# and #Douglas Stuart#. Zondervan  c. 2003 3rd edition  (p 163-180)  Presented by Kevin Jesmer at the UBF Publishers Meeting Chicago UBF. 5-12-12

 Three defining narratives for Israel

  1. Miraculous deliverance (from slavery)
  2. The return of the presence of God (Ex 33:40)
  3. God reconstituting them as a totally new people at Mt Sinai (Ex 19-Num 10:10)

This is the role of the law inIsrael’s history. (to live in community; relate to and worship God; limits to their relationships with other nations.


We must begin an understanding of the law inIsrael’s history and be aware of its covenantal nature. Then we can understand the role of the prophets and the new covenant of the New Testament.


How do any of these specific legal formulations apply to us or do they? What does it mean that no stoke of the pen would ever drop from the law? (Lk 16:16-17)   The NT age brings the fulfillment of the law which is the law of love. We are not expected to express loyalty to God by keeping the OT law since we are under a new covenant.  We can not. There is noTemple. How does the OT law still function today? Even if we are not expected to keep the laws we must read and know them if we are to appreciate the Biblical story.


None of its stipulations are binding on us, unless they are renewed in the New Testament. (p. 167; Rom 6: 14-15)


Some aspects of the OT law are renewed in the NT.  Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”   (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18)   What about the Ten Commandments? Yes. (Matt 5:21-37, Rom 13:9-10)


Remember: All of the OT law is still the word of God even though it is not the command of God to us. There are guiding principles to be applied in our lives. (Examples parapets on the roof.)  Deut 22:8)


May God guide you into an understanding of the nature and the role of the Law and how these laws apply to us living in the new covenant age.



Hermeneutical: Definition:   the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible)        2: a method or principle of interpretation  (


Law;     a. The 600 + specific commandments

b. to all these laws collectively

c.  The Pentateuch (4 of the 5 books of Moses)

d. The Old Testament religious system


The Pentateuch has the narratives and the law mixed, in because the law and a relationship is part of the covenant relationship God has with his people.


Covenant: A binding contract between two parties. Both have obligations.  OT= Lord and vassal relationship. Yahweh =Lord God. The vassal shows loyalty by obeying the terms. If not then there would be punishment.


The covenant format:  6 parts a. Preamble  (id’s parties)                                      p. 166

b. Prologue (brief history)

c. stipulations (the laws themselves)

d. witnesses (those who will enforce the covenant)

e. sanctions   (blessings and curses= incentives)

f. document clause (regular review so as not to forget)


Two Statements of the Law: 1st at Mount Sinai (Ex 20-Lev 27)  2nd (prior to the conquest)

p. 166


Two types of law are not renewed in NT times. 1. The Civil Law  2. The Ritual Law

1. The Civil Law:  penalties for various crimes. Think about their role and God’s character. (p. 167)


2. The Ritual Law:  Largest portion of law. Tells how to carry on the practice of worship.

Useful in understanding Jesus’ shedding of his own blood on the cross (Heb 9:22)




It functions to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24) and it helps us to understand what it meant forIsraelto be God’s people. (p. 169)


It is God’s gift to his people. Sets boundaries, sets stipulations, tells how to love God and each other, When we see the law from this light, we can understand how people delight in the law of God. (Psalm 19; Psalm 119)


Sure God expected ancientIsraelto keep the law, but God also provided a way for them to receive forgiveness.


In the law we see examples of God’s own character being expressed.  It was not a means of salvation, but a way of establishing loyalty between God and his people. It contains examples of what it means to be loyal to God.


Apodictic Law – commands like those that begin with “do” or “do not” Direct commands.

Leviticus 19:9-14, “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. 11 “‘Do not steal. “‘Do not lie. “‘Do not deceive one another. 12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. 13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. 14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.”

Notice, “I am the Lord”. They were expected to worship and also to be like God. These laws were meant as a religious guide with general applicability. The OT law is more like theUSAconstitution-setting out in a broad sweep and outline the characteristics of justice and freedom in the land. (p. 173)


This is where we have the term, the spirit of the law. These laws are very comprehensive in the spirit of the law.

The law shows how impossible it is to please God on our own. (p. 172)  Romans 3:20, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”


When we read the OT law we ought to be humbled to appreciate how unworthy we are to belong to God. We ought to be moved to praise and thanksgiving that he provided a way to be accepted in is site, other than by obeying the law perfectly. otherwise we would have no hope of pleasing God. But now we can, through faith in Jesus Christ.


Paradigmatic law:  it sets a standard by example, rather than by mentioning every possible circumstance.


Functioning paradigmatically: Examples of how people should behave. a few hundred laws function this way. (p, 175)


Casuistic Law – This is case by case law.  Laws give examples of a case that may happen, and what ought to be done if it does; it is conditional and does not apply to everyone in every situation. It singles out particular cases that apply only to some people in some situations, but not to everyone in all situations. (p. 173) It is conditional – based on possible condition that may or may not apply to a given person at a given time.

Deuteronomy 15:12-17, “12 If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. 13 And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. 14 Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today. 16 But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, 17 then take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your female servant.”

These constitute a large portion of the OT laws. None are renewed in the NT.


But there are hermeneutical principles for the Christian to learn. Ex. God’s rules about slaves are hardly brutal. God loves slaves. Slavery can be practiced in such a way that slaves felt better off being in slavery. The slave owner did not own his slaves. God was. Man’s power was subject to the laws of God.


We can learn fairness, ideals, God’s relationship with his people and the meaning of redemption and God’s love. It provides a foundation for understanding the NT Gospel.


The law contains sorts of standards God set for his old testament people  therefore they are enormously instructive to us as we Christians seek to do his will.


The Old Testament Law and Other Ancient Law Codes


The Israelites were not the first people to live by laws.

  1. Laws of Eshnunna  (Akkadian law code 1800 BC)
  2. Law Code of Hammurabi (Babylonian law code 1726 BC)


The laws of other nations were benefited the noble class. Women, children and people of the lower classes were treated unjustly. Nobles who killed other people had minor penalties and others can even be executed for their sin. This is totally unjust.


But the law ofIsraelwas classless. People died for their own sin. There were protections for the slave, for women and children and the alien living among them… The Hebrew law was light years ahead of the others. It reflected the mercy and justice of our God. But it still does not come near the height of moral and ethical teaching give to us by Jesus Christ. (p. 175)


The Old Testament as Benefit to Israel


The OT law is an example of God’s mercy and grace to his people.


The Food Laws: 


Protective purpose. Eating some animals is foolishly uneconomical. Some foods were favored for sacrifice by the pagans. There were also food allergies to be considered.


Laws about the Shedding of Blood:


It let’s us know that sin demands punishment, even death. (Heb 9:22) But God accepted the sacrifice of an animal instead. This provides a background for the understanding the meaning of Christ’s substitutionary atonement. Christ’s death provides a fulfillment of the law’s demand and is the basis for our acceptance with God. (p. 178)


Unusual Prohibitions:


Deuteronomy 14:21b, “…Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”  Does this mean that we can’t serve milk with meat? or that we can not eat a cheeseburger?


These laws were given to protect the Israelites from engaging in fertility cult# practices. They were doing these things to ensure a good bounty in their flocks and in the fields. There practiced did not make any sense and bordered on cruelty. These practices were against God and his character.


Laws Giving Blessings to Those Who Keep Them:   


Deuteronomy 14:28-29, “At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”


This law provides benefits for the needy. It is not restrictive, nor punitive. It is good practice. It is instructive to all people of all generations.

In Summary, Some Dos and Don’ts


  1. Do see the Old Testament as God’s fully inspired word for you. Don’t see the Old Testament as God’s direct command to you.
  2. Do see the Old Testament law as the basis for the old covenant, and therefore forIsrael’s history.  Don’t see the Old Testament law as binding on Christians in the new covenant except where specifically renewed.
  3. Do see God’s justice, love and high standards revealed in the Old Testament law. Don’t forget to see that God’s mercy is made equal to the severity of the standards.
  4. Do see the Old Testament law as a paradigm – providing examples for the full range of expected behavior. Don’t see the Old Testament law as complete. It is not technically comprehensive.
  5. Do remember that the essence of the law (the Ten Commandments and the two chief laws) is repeated in the prophets and renewed in the New Testament. Don’t expect the Old Testament law to be cited frequently by the prophets or the New Testament.
  6. Do see the Old Testament law as a generous gift toIsrael, bringing much blessing when obeyed. Don’t see the Old Testament law as a grouping of arbitrary, annoying regulations limiting people’s freedom.

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