Summary: How does the Law of Moses compare to the legal codes of mere men? And does it still apply to us today?
OPEN: Commenting on the Bible, Ronald Reagan once said:
“I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.”
History gives a lot of credence to that comment.
Someone has made a list of some of our nation’s more famous documents and they found that:
The Gettysburg address is 286 words.
The Declaration of Independence is 1,300 words.
BUT, the U.S. Government regulations on cabbage sales: 26,911 words.
The Lord’s prayer: 66 words.
The 10 Commandments: 179 words.
If you notice, God is the master of brevity
It doesn’t take Him long to say what He’s got to say.
I believe that’s because He knows we have a very short attention span.
Now there are times when God can get kind of long-winded, as He does for the remainder of what is called the Law of Moses.
The rest of the law actually contains 613 distinct commandments. But most of those (613 separate laws) are explanations of the 10 that we just read.
In fact, someone has called the 10 Commandments “God’s Table Of Contents” because they sum up the bulk of the rest of God’s Law.
God’s Law has always been unique.
There were other laws that were written back in the days of Moses. In fact, one of the most famous was called the Code of “Hammurabi”. This caused quite a stir amongst critical scholars several years ago because those who didn’t believe the Scriptural record said this “code” must have been one of the sources used by Moses as he composed Israel’s laws. However, this legal system, written about 300 years before God gave His law on Mt. Sinai, has some distinct weaknesses when compared with God’s code.
One source said that “in the Hebrew laws a greater value is generally placed on human life”. The article goes on to say that in the Code of Hammurappi, “There is no control of lust, no limitation on selfishness, (an article entitled, “Mosaic and Ancient Near Eastern Laws,” from www.theology.edu/Eqypt3).
Essentially, laws written by man rarely attempted to control what we’d call morality.
“Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts, Vol. “2 tells of another difference:
“Biblical law was public law” it was supposed to be read aloud one or more times a year. (cf. Deut. 31:10-13). BUT pagan laws were created by pagan kings and “in many nations of the ancient Near East, the King carried the laws in his head, as they were his personal possession. He did not publish them until he was ready to give up his throne. Thus a person could be arrested for breaking a law he had never known. The laws were kept secret, even when a person was put on trial for breaking them (there are few instances in which anyone cited royal codes in a court case).
But in Israel, the leaders of government read God’s Law to the people at regular times of the year. Thus every citizen could learn the laws he had to obey…”
Essentially, the 10 commandments were far superior to any legal code ever created by man.
Let’s go back over those 10 Commandments
1. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
3. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
4. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
5. "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
6. "You shall not murder.
7. "You shall not commit adultery.
8. "You shall not steal.