Wisdom Principles of the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch (aka: Torah) tells a personal story of God setting up and leading His theocracy before their entrance into the promised land. What we can ascertain about studying these books is God’s undeniable redemptive nature that He shows to His people. These books also show a personal relationship that God makes with His people based on faith, justice, and obedience. If anything can be said about narratives in these five books is that God was very deliberate in His leading the “nation of priests”.

The Exodus story is one of deliverance and relationship. It shows God’s redemptive nature twice; once in deliverance from Egypt and another with the Golden Calf. Although God is setting up his Holy nation that will show all the nations that of the will of the true living God: Yahweh; He is also showing that nation His grace that results from His covenant with Moses.  “This self-description of Yahweh occurs several times in the Old Testament in a variety of forms. It stresses Yahweh’s grace and loves to forgive sins and to fellowship with his people.”[1] Exodus refers to Israel as God’s nation of priests:  “Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” [2] This is reiterated in Deuteronomy: The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways.  And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.”[3] God is using the nation of Israel to spread God’s redemptive power of grace and justice to a world riddled with false worship and sin.

Leviticus through Numbers shows a special relationship that God has with humanity. This relationship is built on faith in Yahweh, obedience to His rules, and judgment set forth by God to man when faith and obedience are absent; “One function of this narrative is to fulfill the promise made to the Patriarchs that God would enter into a special relationship to them.”[4] The book of Leviticus sets up the parameters and laws about God and His people while the book of Numbers shows how those laws and parameters are acted upon.

The book of Deuteronomy is the bookend of the Pentateuch and sums up God’s will for the Nation of Israel. A particular principle within this great book can be found in the 29th – 30th chapters. The main principle to be gleaned from Deuteronomy 29-30 is that of strict obedience to Yahweh alone, one God above all. It is about faith in the one true God and his protection and reciprocal love to all those who believe. If you look closely at the word in 29: “It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, 15 but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.”[5] This shows God’s covenant is generational and does not end with individual death. The descendants of who will eventually come later, as long as faith in one true God is adhered to. The key principle is faith and total commitment to God. This still is vastly understated in today’s world of part-time Christianity and pew warmers. God still insists on total allegiance to him and his sovereign rule over the earth. This allegiance is an extension of love and receives God’s love in return. Jacqueline Lapsley opines; “all agree that the obedience of vassals to their overlords, and of Israel to God in Deuteronomy, must be a total commitment (so accounting for Deut 6:5).”[6] This shows that God’s love is contingent on Israel’s commitment to its faith.

It is imperative to realize that God’s intention here is to fulfill his Edenic vision originated in the garden. This was to be done now through the Israelites and their strict adherence to this relationship is necessary for them to become this nation of priests. “Israel’s peculiar relationship with YHWH is accented, but without denying that YHWH has a decisive relationship with all that is outside and beyond Israel.”[7] Humanity’s relationship with God is distinct and personal but most importantly purposeful. We see this played out all through the Pentateuch, and beyond. Humans, faithful to Yahweh and in obedience to His will, are tasked to live a life of purpose.

Footnotes:

 [1] William Sanford La Sor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 78.

 [2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ex 19:5–6.

 [3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Dt 28:9–10.

 [4] William Sanford La Sor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 81.

 [5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Dt 29:14–15.

 [6] Jacqueline E. Lapsley, “Feeling Our Way: Love for God in Deuteronomy,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 65 (2003): 350-369.

 [7] Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Theology: An Introduction (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010).

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