Old Testament Survey - Lesson 4

Exodus and the Law

The three major themes in Exodus are Israel's deliverance from Egypt, establishment of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Other themes are how name repetition in a sentence is significant throughout Scripture, and how humility in the Jewish culture affects the actions and responses of many biblical characters. Exodus contains both apodictic and casuistic laws. There are also paradigmatic laws which are designed to give broad guidance for specific situations that arise. The first part of Exodus is mostly stories, and the second part is mostly a record of the laws which are the basis for how they interact with God and other people.

Douglas Stuart
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 4
Watching Now
Exodus and the Law

Origins:  Exodus

I.  Orienting Data for Exodus

A.  Content

1.  Israel's Deliverance from Egypt

2.  Establishment of the Covenant

3.  Tabernacle

B.  Human Author:  Moses

C.  Date of Composition:  1400 or 1220 BC

D.  Historical Coverage:  From the death of Joseph (ca. 1500 BC) to the encampment of the Israelites at Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula (either 1440 BC or 1260 BC)

E.  Emphases

1.  The development of Egyptian oppression

2.  God's miraculous deliverance of his people from Egypt via Moses

3.  The reception of the covenant at Mount Sinai, including the Ten Commandments and the "Book of Worship"

4.  The establishment of proper worship, including the priesthood and a central sanctuary

5.  The early tendency of the people to rebel against the covenant

II.  Name Repetition

A.  Examples

1.  Exodus 3:4

2.  1 Samuel 3:4, 10

3.  2 Samuel 18:33; 19:4

4.  Matthew 27:46

5.  Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14

6.  Matthew 7:21, 22

7.  Luke 6:46

B.  Repetition of Endearment

III.  Semitic Humility

A.  Abraham

B.  Moses

C.  Saul

D.  David

E.  Solomon

F.  Isaiah

G.  Jeremiah

H.  Paul


The Law

I.  Two Types of Law

A.  Apodictic Law

B.  Casuistic Law

C.  Laws of the Pentateuch

II.  Israelite Judges

A.  Exodus 18

B.  Moses = Supreme Court

C.  Other Judges = Lower Courts

III.  Paradigmatic Laws

A.  Extrapolation from Particular to General

B.  Examples

1.  Exodus 21:33

2.  Exodus 22:18

C.  Compared to Modern Law

IV.  Bifid Structure of Exodus

  • The purpose of this overview of the Old Testament is to focus on the content of each of the Old Testament books, the historical events that give context to the books, and specific questions that help draw out the overarching principles contained in the Old Testament. There is also an emphasis on identifying ways to use this material that can help people in their daily lives.

  • Genesis narrates ten stories that describe origins or beginnings. These include the origin of the “heavens and earth,” and the origin of specific families that are significant in God’s dealings with Israel and the nations.

  • Themes from selected passages in Genesis about which there are interpretations that differ greatly. These include Genesis 2 regarding creation of women and their roles, Genesis 6 about the "Sons of God," and Genesis 9 about the "curse of Ham." Other themes are the story of Abraham, and God as a punisher of evil.

  • The three major themes in Exodus are Israel's deliverance from Egypt, establishment of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Other themes are how name repetition in a sentence is significant throughout Scripture, and how humility in the Jewish culture affects the actions and responses of many biblical characters. Exodus contains both apodictic and casuistic laws. There are also paradigmatic laws which are designed to give broad guidance for specific situations that arise. The first part of Exodus is mostly stories, and the second part is mostly a record of the laws which are the basis for how they interact with God and other people.

  • In this lesson, the concept of a covenant is defined as a legal binding agreement between two parties. In the ancient world there were many covenants. There were covenants between individuals, and even between nations. For example, a superior ruling king would make a covenant with a lesser vassal king. Covenants in the ancient near east contained the following six elements.

  • Does God punish the grandchildren for what the grandparents have done? Some people read these passages (Exodus 20:5, 34:7) and assume that they mean God punishes grandchildren based on their grandparents' sins. Unfortunately, they misinterpret these texts because they fail to understand the phenomena of numerical parallelisms. The Hebrew language favors parallelism, so that numbers which are close to other numbers will often be put in parallel to exhibit literary balance.
  • The historical books--Joshua, Judges, and Ruth--are essential reading for understanding how the bible views the progress of history. These books help us understand what the basic stages are in the progress of God’s relations with humanity. There is development, and progress in history we can refer to as epochs. This lecture provides an overview of redemptive history and a summary of the book of Joshua.

  • When discussing violence in the Old Testament it is important to discuss the concept of Holy War. This lesson does not suggest that Christians are soldiers first and nothing else since Christians are also called to be peacemakers. However, this lesson does put forward the idea that God is fighting a holy war. That is, God is seeking to promote blessing for all people by eliminating evil everywhere. The final enemy is death itself, and God is resolute on destroying evil and death. Holy war is a complex set of ideas that should be interpreted in light of the entire corpus of scripture.

  • In this lesson the extent of the conquest is discussed to frame the book of Judges. The orienting data for the book of Judges helps explain how the book recounts the decline of the people of Israel. Finally, the Dueteronomic cycle which recurs in the book is explained and helps frame Israel’s history up to the time of the exile.

  • After the division of the kingdom, 40 kings reigned during this period of the divided monarchy. Only three Kings reigned during the united monarchy—Saul, David, and Solomon. We might be able to assume the time period of the united monarch to be something like 120 years with each of the three kings reigning forty years. But the term “forty” in Hebrew means something like the English expression “several dozen.” That’s why we see the idiomatic expression “forty” so often in Hebrew literature.

  • David is a man after God’s own heart. How is this possible when he made so many moral mistakes? Being after God’s own heart does not mean David is morally upright, but that he has unwavering faith in the one true God of Israel. That is unique to David in these narratives. The narratives are clear that both Saul and Solomon conjoined belief in the God of Israel with the worship of other gods. David, however, is never portrayed as worshipping other gods or setting up altars to Idols.

  • In this lesson several key elements from the lives of Saul, David and Solomon are briefly reviewed. The rejection of Saul as King is explained. The rebellions against David are highlighted. And the disobedience of Solomon is described. Although these three kings are imperfect, God keeps the Kingdom of Israel unified throughout their successive reigns.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart provides an overview of the ten types of Psalms found in Scripture, a few suggestions regarding preaching through the Psalms, and addresses how we are to interact with the hystoricizing statements within the Psalms.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the structure of Proverbs, which seems to be the most secular book of the bible. Proverbs is a book of wise memorable sayings collected by Solomon. These sayings are collected from various individuals in Israel and the Ancient Near East and serve to provide wisdom for how to live in the world.

  • There is a chiastic structure to the book of Job that begins with the prologue and ends with the epilogue. In a chiasm, the middle portion is a convenient hinge of the book, it is not necessarily the most important piece of textual material. The main question the book is asking is, where do you find wisdom? The answer is, wisdom is found in the LORD. Proverbs is monological wisdom, whereas Job is dialogical wisdom. People are debating back and forth throughout the book about the nature of wisdom.

  • This lesson briefly describes existentialism as a philosophical movement in order to frame Ecclesiastes as an ancient type of existentialist literature. Existentialism tends to argue that this life is all there is. Ecclesiastes entertains these various perspectives in the first six chapters, which serve as a literary foil, before ending with a surprise for the reader—life does have meaning because there is a God who will judge our actions.

    There is a storyline to the Song. A clue is found in the term Shulamite, which in Hebrew can be translated as Mrs. Solomon. So this is a story about Solomon marrying his wife. It conveys some of the challenges Solomon and his wife face in coming together in covenant marriage. The beginning of the book outlines their engagement. In the middle of the book they get married, and the end discusses their honeymoon. What we see in the Song is the biblical ideal of a monogamous marriage, which, ironically, Solomon failed to live up to.

  • While it is difficult to preach through the prophets it can be done well if some basic views are taken regarding the prophetic books in general.

  • This lesson provide an overview concerning three contemporaries Prophets during the period of the divided monarchy at the end of the 8 th Century BCE.

  • The passage discusses a period of time when great materials are produced, including the Book of Isaiah. The rise of the Assyrian Empire becomes a significant concern, as they expand their territory across various regions. Tiglath-Pileser III, also known as Pul, leads the Assyrians into the domain of Israel, Palestine, and Syria. The expansion is driven by economic considerations, as kings seek wealth for grand projects through tribute, tax, and tolls. The cycle of conquering and resistance repeats itself, impacting the Israelites. The passage also highlights the importance of 2 Kings, focusing on Elijah and Elisha, Jehu’s massacre of Baal worshippers, the kings of Judah, the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, and the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.

  • Historical context is vital when one moves to reading the prophets. After Solomon’s death in 931 BCE, the kingdom of Israel undergoes an extended period of civil war as rivaling leaders take control of the northern and southern regions of the kingdom. Unfortunately, this split eventually becomes permanent. In the north the kings reigned for short periods and when compared with the southern kingdom of Judah this shows a tremendous amount of upheaval. This may have to do with the fact that the north is never ruled by a descendant of David. In addition, the north fails to worship at the Jerusalem temple, and decides instead to worship idols.

  • In this lesson an overview is provided for the prophetical books of Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

  • An overview of the revival under King Josiah, the fall of King Josiah, and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

  • Jeremiah begins his ministry in 627 BCE. This is five years before the great revival under Josiah in 622 BCE. So Jeremiah spans the time from the Assyrian domination to the invasion of Judah by Babylon. Unlike other prophets who predicted a short exile, Jeremiah preached a long, though not unending exile. Because of this Jeremiah was not popular with the government establishment of Jerusalem.

  • Dr. Stuart provides an overview of Joel, Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah and how they each relate to end times and God’s eternal reign.

  • Lamentations is a massive, huge, compound, complex lament that seeks to help God’s people see God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.

  • Dr. Stuart provides a brief overview of Ezekiel, his difficult message of impending judgment on Jerusalem and his uplifting message of the hope to come.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart describes the characteristics of apocalyptic literature and gives an overview of the books of Daniel. Esther, and the latter half of Isaiah.

  • An overview of the background to the post-exilic books including the necessity of the temple and the role of the Persian empire in it’s rebuilding.

  • An overview of Haggai and Zechariah, the beginning of the rebuilding of the temple, the encouragement of God’s people to put the things of God first, God’s sovereignty, the need to be faithful, the nature of God’s covenant, and God’s promises being fulfilled.

  • A look at the latter days, the closing of the prophetic cannon, and the books of Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and tells us the stories of people whose lives still affect world events today? Are you familiar with the Old Testament prophets that describe in detail the characteristics of the Messiah and the events that happen when he comes, hundreds of years before they take place? Have you ever read the Old Testament books of poetry and wisdom literature that contain inspirational and instructional passages that we still use today to inspire, comfort and inform our lives during life events, and are ubiquitous in both classic and contemporary literary works?

In Dr. Stuart’s Old Testament Survey class, he guides you through each of the Old Testament books by giving you the historical background, major themes and insight into the stories, characters and teaching of the book. In the historical books, you will become familiar with Old Testament Names like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and David. In the Old Testament prophets, Dr. Stuart will introduce you to the lives and messages of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others. When you study the Old Testament books of wisdom literature, Dr. Stuart will give you insights into the teachings, structure and creativity in Proverbs, Psalms and other books in the Writings.

From the description of Creation in Genesis, to the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, the Old Testament contains stories and teachings that can inform, inspire and transform your life. Dr. Stuart’s years of training and his skill in communicating, provides you with this opportunity to study and learn from one of the best. Now it’s up to you!

You may download a syllabus for the class including the Course Outline by clicking on the link in the Downloads section. We do not have access to the notes or the 130 exam questions that he mentions in the lectures. The Syllabus is from the SemLink class that was originally offered online through Gordon-Conwell Seminary so you can see the class outline and suggested readings. The links are not active. If you want to participate in the assignments and tests and earn credit, you may contact Gordon-Conwell Seminary to find out if they still offer this class.

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes. Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and...

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

I. Orienting Data for Exodus

A. First by way of general coverage. This is a book that deals with three big things.

1. Israel’s deliverance, how they got out of Egypt. It spends some time on how they got in for that matter. In reviewing that, you have that summarizing some of the things that are described in the end of Genesis.

2. Then the establishment of God’s covenant; this special relationship between God and His people that governs the way they relate, that sets out the terms for how they relate.

3. Finally, the tabernacle, starting with the last third or so of Exodus. A big, big theme of the book is the building of the tabernacle. We will look more at that next week.

B. Again, Moses is the author.

C. Same date of composition issues.

D. The coverage here is from the death of Joseph, around 1500 B.C., to the time the Israelites get to Mount Sinai. When the Israelites get to Mount Sinai, which is described for you in Exodus 19, they stay there all the way through the rest of the book of Exodus, all the way through the book of Leviticus and all the way to Numbers 2. Everything starting with Exodus 19 and going all the way through Leviticus and the beginning of Numbers, all of that takes place at one location Mount Sinai because the Israelites stay there for thirteen months, a year and a month. What happens? Why do they stay there? The answer is they stay there to learn who they are as God’s people. They stay there to learn his covenant. Day by day Moses receives covenant teaching; he comes down, he teaches it to them and the priests teach it to the people and everybody learns it and they get used to it and they get familiar with it and they puzzle it out and understand it just like you do in seminary. They were all there learning what the facts were, getting oriented. Some of them actually probably had to learn Hebrew because, as I mentioned, Exodus 12 tells us that a great, mixed multitude of people went with them. The Israelites were not an ethically pure group but rather there was a massive crowd that joined them as they left Egypt and these people knew nothing of Israelite traditions and probably did not speak Canaanite either. Some of them were learning the language and others were learning basic cultural features and getting to know people, but everybody was getting God’s covenant. That is why there is so much about things like tabernacle and so on in the book.

E. Emphases

Here is one way to list them:

1. The development of Egyptian oppression. Whenever you speak about how hard things are for somebody in the Bible you will tend to see that this helps people in your church to whom you minister and who are having hard times also. People get through hard times partly by identification with others especially in stories where they know that God is aware of their suffering. It means an awful lot to anybody to know God understands, he is noticing, he is there every second and he is aware of how much I am suffering. That in itself is a great, great comfort. So, these kinds of stories can often help people be reminded of that deeply comforting truth and how long the oppression takes place. A lot of people lived and died as slaves in Egypt. God did not say, “I’ll give them an hour and a half of slavery, that will give them a feel for how bad things are, and I’m a nice guy, I’ll come right in and deliver them.” No, he let them go a long time.

2. His delivery was miraculous and it involved Moses as His agent.

3. Another theme, the reception of the covenant itself, The Ten Commandments, also the “Book of the Covenant” and the basic covenant laws that go from Exodus 20 to Exodus 23.

4. The establishment of proper worship; a great theme of the Pentateuch. The first responsibility of any believer is to worship the one in whom he or she believes; the first thing that should happen. So, if you lead anybody to Christ do not forget to say, “See you in church.” The first responsibility is to begin to worship and that is really clear from a book like Exodus—heavy, heavy emphasis on proper worship. You need help in worship, priests do that, priests are worship helpers. It is especially what they are. You need a place to worship. God emphasizes in the Old Covenant a central sanctuary. We see a really interesting phenomenon. In the Old Covenant you had to worship in one location only. All Israelites have to come together in one place. Deuteronomy 12 especially hits that hard. In the New Covenant you actually have a democratization of worship location. In the New Covenant Jesus says wherever two or three people are in my name, there I am. You can have a full-blown worship service in the back of a Mazda. You do not need a lot of space. You could not get that many people in but you could have a full-blown worship service. You cannot do that in Old Testament times. It has to be in one location. Wherever that Ark and the sanctuary are that is where you go. After this New Covenant Age on earth what will happen, again you revert to the ideal where in heaven every description of heaven is totality worship—everybody worshiping together. All the redeemed of all the ages worshipping together. It is a very interesting pattern. With regard to the basic teaching on worship we are in a funny kind of temporary mode where we have this worship at any location anywhere because we are all worshiping the same Savior. It is really quite interesting how that works. So, do not forget that central sanctuary emphasis because it really is the pattern of heaven. That is the way Hebrews says it, “Moses did what he did based on the patterns of heaven.” It is all supposed to symbolize what is the real, eternal situation that we look forward to. You teach this, things like the tabernacle and how it was built and why, and you will be helping people get ready for heaven. It is actually the function of it.

5. The early tendency of people to rebel against the covenant is seen because of while Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments and other commandments up on Mount Sinai, the people of Israel are down below making idols lead by Moses brother Aaron, that is pretty serious. These are just some of the big themes or emphases of the book.

II. Name Repetition

A. Just a couple more points that I want to make.

1. Exodus 3:4. One really interesting thing that is easy to miss but has quite a number of fascinating reflexes or reflections in Scripture is found in Exodus 3:4. I invite you to look at that. In Exodus 3:4 God sees Moses in this call out of the burning bush and says to him, “Moses, Moses.” He says his name twice. You might say, “Oh, that’s interesting. Hey Moses, Hey Moses, are you there?” You might think it has nothing at all to do with anything. In fact, it is a very significant concept in Scripture. Here are some examples.

2. 1 Sam. 3:4, 10. Samuel, Samuel. You may remember that if you have read that story. It occurs a couple of times in Samuel 3.

3. 2 Sam 18:33; 19:4. David talking about his son, “Absalom, my son, my son. Absalom, my son, my son. Absalom, Absalom.”

4. Matt. 27:46. On the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Name repetition.

5. Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14. God’s calling of Saul. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” By the way, Jesus is obviously using bad grammar, right? He should have said, “Why do you persecute them?” No, it’s a great point. He says, “Why do you persecute me?” One of the most eloquent instances in Scripture of the proof that when you suffer, God himself actually feels, “Why do you persecute me?” That is what he said. Not them. Saul, Saul, he repeats the story.

6. Matt. 7:21, 22. And then Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord. On that day many will say, Lord, Lord.”

7. Luke 6:46. Same thing in Luke. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord?”

B. It turns out that we find that in Semitic culture when you say somebody’s name twice it is a repetition of endearment, of deep, close friendliness. That is the point behind it. If I say to Fritzpert, “Hi Fritzpert, how are you?” That is fine. But if I say to him, “Fritzpert, Fritzpert,” I am saying, “My old pal Fritzpert, how are you brother? It’s great to see you.” That is what it means. The repetition of a name is a style in Semitic of giving indication of close, close friendship, endearment and so on. The usefulness of just knowing that comes especially in these passages where Jesus says, “Not everybody who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom.” “Oh, my old buddy, Jesus. Hey pal, we have been through it together. I’m ready for heaven.” Not everybody who makes that claim is going to get in because I will say, “I never knew you.” That is what he goes on to say, “I don’t know you. How come you’re claiming to be my pal? We don’t really know each other. We’re actually strangers.” That is the point. It is useful to see that. But since that is the system, when God calls Samuel or here calls Moses, you see what he is doing? God is in effect saying, “Moses, my good friend.” God is laying before Moses the fact, “Moses, I’m your friend. I’m your friend for life. I’m your buddy. I’m close to you. I love you. I care about you. You are dear to me.” He does it all by something that we do not have in English. Do you have this in Korean? Not many cultures have it but in Semitic you have got the double name as a technique in Semitic of saying the endearment.

III. Semitic Humility

One other thing, just one other point I want to make relative to a little phenomenon that can easily be missed as you are reading through. In Exodus 4:10 Moses is responding to God’s call and it is a big thing that God asks. There are a lot of stories of people being called in the Scripture to be prophets or whatever and typically they receive a call then they give what we call a ritual protest. “Oh, not me, you really don’t want me.” And God says, “Yes, I do.” Then there is the reassurance. That is a style that is very common in Semitic. People being properly modest by not saying, “Oh yeah! I was waiting for you to call.” You do not say that to God. Instead you say, “Really, me? I’m not worthy.” In some way you give what has commonly been called false eastern humility. It does not mean it is false in the sense of deceptive, it is just that it is exaggerated compared to what we are used to. I just thought if I gave you some examples just as a final little point tonight it would be useful enough because it comes up so often in Scriptural passages. Here is what Moses says in 4:10. “Oh Lord, I’ve never been eloquent either in the past or since you’ve spoken. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Many people have said, “Oh, there it is, Moses had a speech defect.” It is what it sounds like. So you can understand that people have thought that and taught it. I want to suggest to you that it really is not so. Moses goes on to do a lot of talking in the Bible. He is talking all the time, gabbing away. He can talk to huge crowds, they all understand him. It is not like he got up on Mount Sinai to give the Ten Commandments and no one could understand him. He was perfectly understandable. Here are some parallels.

A. Abraham says of himself in talking to the Lord, “I want to talk to you but I am just dust and ashes.”

B. And here is our passage, “I’m slow of speech and have a thick tongue.”

C. Saul, “I’m from the smallest tribe of Israel and my clan is the least of the clans.” It was not so. He was not from the smallest tribe and he did not have the least of the clan, he was a big shot in an important tribe, the tribe that dominated the north in his day.

D. David, “I’m only a poor man and little known.” Oh, yeah. Sure. Shimei goes out and says, “Oh King David, who are you cursing?” He says, “I’m just a dead dog, a flea, that is all I am.” Another flea one, “Dead dog like me,” says Mephibosheth. Hazael, who is a king says, “How could your servant, a mere dog accomplish such a feat?” He is not a mere dog, he is an important king of Syria.

E. Solomon, “I’m a little child, I don’t know how to go in and go out.” He is about thirty-years-old when he says this.

F. “Woe is me, I am a person of unclean lips,” says Isaiah. Now there is a truth behind this. I do not mean that these people are trying to fool somebody but they are using what we call exaggerated humility or false humility or excessive humility. In some cultures this is a style, as you know. Even in American culture you often will hear, “Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful kitchen.” “Oh, this?” Or, “What a lovely dress.” “This old thing.” It is a kind of a modesty and properly done it is very proper. It is not attempting to deceive but it is not also literal in its meaning.

G. Jeremiah, “I can’t talk, I’m only a child.” He goes on for fifty chapters talking perfectly well.

H. I think this informs us on Paul, “I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling.” I do not think that is entirely literal. Paul was, in many cases, very strong, very tough. It all depends on the situation. He talks of himself as the least of all the saints. That is still part of the style. Chief of sinners. And whoever wrote Hebrews says,” I wrote you only a short letter and I wrote Priscilla and wrote just kidding,” because we do not know who wrote Hebrews. It could have been Priscilla, it is a possibility. We do not know. Hebrews, as you may know, is just about the longest letter in the New Testament so this idea that it is only a short letter. Just bear that in mind as a little phenomenon because of all those places where this kind of language is employed and you can easily get the impression as I have heard that key people in God’s plan resisted the call. You can get the impression that Moses did not want it, Jeremiah did not want it, Isaiah did not want it; they did not want to do it and God made them do it anyway. That is not really what is happening. They are rather expressing themselves in a normal style of their culture and saying, “Do you really want me?” God is saying, “Yes, I do.” Then they say, “Okay, I’m yours.” And they become powerful at doing the very thing that they tended in that humility which is not literal to say they could not do.

The Law

I. Two Types of Law (Starts at 18:48)

That is that there are two types of laws. These have fancy names. We call them Apodictic and Casuistic. This is the standard terminology for these categories. That is because if we called them simply unconditional demand and conditional example then people would say, “You don’t need a PhD for that.” We do need PhD’s to have confidence in ourselves and prestige so we use these big terms, that is all there is to it. No, in fact, these terms have become rather standard and it is good for you to learn them.

A. Apodictic law is the kind of law that we have in the Ten Commandments for example. It is not conditioned on anything. When it says, “You shall have no other Gods before me,” that is it. It does not say, “If you are between the ages of 20 and 65, have no other Gods before me,” or “If you are not otherwise worshiping,” No, it just says, “Have no other Gods before me.” It is unconditional, it is general, it is unlimited, it may be expressed in the positive or the negative but the “you shall not laws” are among the things that keep people out of trouble. If you know that people have a certain natural tendency to do the wrong thing, and if that is true as it sure is, then it makes lots of sense to give quite a number of laws in the form of prohibitions, “Don’t do that,” which might well be your natural tendency; “Don’t do this, don’t do that.” People are liberated by such things. They are protected by such things. It is not some kind of negative thing that prevents you from having fun; it is a lot like telling a child, “Don’t run into the street without looking to see if cars are coming.” You are protecting the child. It is a loving prohibition.

B. The Casuistic laws, on the other hand, are what might be called case law where an instance of something is cited. In effect, an example or sample is cited so these are conditional. These do not usually apply absolutely to everyone. They apply only when the conditions described in the law are met. They are very specific as guidelines rather than being universal. So you have a law that says, “If you knock out the tooth of a servant who works for you, that servant goes free from his seven year contract and you lose all the money you paid.” That is the way it works. If you do not have a servant that law actually does not apply to you. It applies to those people who have servants and it applies when, and only when, they knock out the tooth of one of their servants. If you do not knock out the tooth or do something comparable, similar, related to it then that is not a law that applies to you.

C. Both kinds of laws are found among the laws that we call the laws of the Pentateuch starting with Exodus 20 and going all the way through the end of Deuteronomy or nearly the end of Deuteronomy. A lot of laws are in the apodictic form. It is useful to have general, all-purpose prohibitions and general, all-purpose statements like “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That covers an awful lot, it is always applicable, everybody has to do it. It is also useful for people to have particular instances laid before them. If an ox gores another ox here is how to handle the situation. You have both apodictic and casuistic and both kinds of laws give guidance to the people. Whether it is apodictic or casuistic, the instruction helps the nation as a whole know what to do. It helps the individual know what to do but also do not forget the Israelites had judges.

II. Israelite Judges

A. You can read about that in one of the important stories of the book of Exodus. If you were reading along in Exodus heading for today’s material you noticed that there was a story that really is quite an important one from the point of view of law in Exodus 18. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, visited him and he found that he was not having too much chance to have nice conversations with Moses because Moses was spending day after day judging cases for people who would come to him.

B. Moses was the legal system in ancient Israel. He was it. So, among those thousands and thousands of people when somebody said, “Hey, so and so drove his wagon over my goat kid and he refuses to compensate me,” they went to Moses and Moses would rule. Whatever the issue was. If somebody committed a crime among the Israelites, the case was brought before Moses. Moses would pronounce judgment. He was going from morning to evening and Jethro said to him, “This can’t be right.” In effect he says, “God can’t want this, this just can’t be what God wants.” So he says, “You need to take it to God and see if God approves but it seems kind of obvious to me that what you need to have is a legal system that puts you, Moses, as the Supreme Court taking all the difficult decisions, but you need to have lower courts.”

C. You need to have what we call trial courts and appellate courts and then you will be the final arbiter, the court of last resort. This God blessed and once it was undertaken it became a model ever after. You are not going to see outside of Exodus 18 any reference to that legal system. This is considered to be two chapters before the Ten Commandments something you just ought to realize that the Israelites, even before they got their whole law in terms of law code, in terms of their constitution and civil, religious, and criminal laws, they already had in place a court system, various levels of judges, to be able to enforce those laws. You are supposed to catch that and not miss it. Plenty of time was taken in the narrative to make that point. Therefore, the laws are also informative for the judge or if it is several judges, several judges. A lot of these laws as we will see give broad guidance but they do not give specific guidance. We will talk about how that works and why. If you have a legal system with judges there is not really a problem accordingly.

III. Paradigmatic Laws

The reason for that mainly is the way that law is what we call “paradigmatic”. That is a term that possibly is not known to everyone. You have to have several syllables in these words or people will not think you are a scholar. A paradigm is a sample that gives guidance.

A. In language study you learn a paradigm maybe the way a certain verb works in the first person, second person, third person and that allows you to reason by extrapolation from that particular verb to how other verbs of the same conjugation might also work. We think paradigmatically, we extrapolate all the time. This is a natural way that human beings operate. Israelite law clearly was paradigmatic. The idea was this, whether it be an apodictic law or whether it be a casuistic law it was appropriate to figure out from what is particularly said to what generally needed to happen in any particular instance.

B. Look with me at an example of a law.

1. We will turn to Exodus 21 and we will just look at a couple of examples that will give a feel for how to interpret it. In Exodus 21 you have laws that protect people. Then in Exodus 22, laws that protect property. Look at Exodus 21:33. “If somebody uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit has got to pay for the loss. He must pay its owner but then dead animal becomes his.” It is as if you bought it. You have to, in effect, buy that dead animal because the person who did own it has to get a fair price for his animal. This law is paradigmatic. It gives an example of how to handle a general kind of situation. You will not find a law that describes what happens if a person digs a pit and a goat falls into it. Does that mean that if goats fell in pits people just said, “We don’t know what to do?” No, they did not have the slightest problem. The judge or the elders of a village, if they were functioning as judges, simply said, “Look, we have the general guideline. It uses ox or donkey; it does not have to use any other animal. I do not care if it is a hamster. I do not care if it is somebody’s pet beetle. I do not care if it is a camel. I do not care if it is two oxen and one chicken, does not matter. I can reason from this law that whatever it is, you just figure out what a fair price would be for an animal in that condition and age and so on and you require that guy who made a dangerous thing, that is a pit, to pay for it. Once he has paid for it he does get to keep the animals, that is only fair. It is as if he had bought them at a fair market price. That means that the person who did own them can buy another one just like it. It also is the case that nobody in ancient Israel would say, “What do we do? It was not the case of digging a pit; it was a case of building a road that went off a cliff. There is nothing in the law about that.” The judge would simply say, “We have the law about the pit and the principle of the thing, the abstract concept is that a dangerous situation was created, of any kind, whatever it is. It could be a badly designed elevator. It does not matter. This pit law is the one from which I will extrapolate.” What is interesting about this is that in many ways it is superior to modern law. Ancient law, all of them, all the ones we know about were paradigmatic like the Old Testament law. Old Testament law has a total of 613 commandments. That is it. You must reason from those 613 to the millions and millions of actual situations that might come up. In modern times we do not normally use paradigmatic law. Some societies may but, certainly, most western societies do not. So what happens? Unless there is a law against it, specifically and precisely on the books the defense attorney says my client is not guilty. Indeed the prosecutors will not even make the charge. In other words you can get off on technicalities. People do it all the time. In American law almost every state has a law about what is called burglary. Burglary is defined as breaking and entering in the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony. That is burglary. You have to break in, you cannot walk in. If the door was already open it is not burglary. Your lawyer, first thing, will force the prosecution to prove that you broke into that building. If he could prove that you simply jumped in through the window or walked in through an open door that is not breaking and entering, and they will throw the case out because it is not burglary. If you did not enter the building but somebody threw stuff out to you, you can be a receiver of stolen goods but you cannot be convicted of burglary. You will get off. If it was not in the nighttime you will get off. The first thing the defense attorney does is to say, “Woe, when was sundown?” He goes to an almanac. “When did this happen? When did you get arrested?” It has to be with the intent to commit a felony. It cannot be with the intent just to look around the building. They have to prove that you wanted to do something that was a felony, not a misdemeanor but a felony. It has to be a serious theft of some kind. Lots of people who get charged with burglary get off every year because of a “technicality”. This could not happen in Old Testament times. Simply would not happen. The judge says, “What do you mean technicality?” in Old Testament times. “There are no technicalities here. I’m reasoning from what the law says. So if it was not quite nighttime I will reduce your penalty somewhat but you are not getting off. If it was not a felony but only a misdemeanor that you intended to commit, I will reduce the penalty somewhat but you are not getting off.” So the judges used their judgment in extrapolating from what was stated to what needed to happen. This is basically the principle of all biblical law and, as well, all biblical ethics. In the New Testament do we have every case covered? Does Jesus talk about what to do if your roommate keeps borrowing your toothpaste? Does he need to? Do you say, “Jesus doesn’t help me? My problem is that my roommate borrows my toothpaste. What do I do, it is not in the Bible? I can’t find it anywhere. The closest I can come is a verse about Beelzebub in Revelation but that is the closest.” No, with ethics, with everything, extrapolation from the paradigm is the way you operate. It is a great system. It is actually good. You have to have people who are willing to be careful and you have to have people who pray for guidance and you want to use your mind wisely to extrapolate carefully and you want to know the laws as well as you can know them in order to reason from what is stated to what needs to happen but that is the system. You did not have people being dismissed because nobody could prove a “governing legal authority, controlling legal authority” language like that. It did not happen. It really had many superior features to it. It did put a lot of power in the hands of judges. There is no question about that. It put a lot of power in the hands of the village elders if they were functioning as the judges in that local village area. It expected a lot of careful knowledge of the 613 commandments that were stated so that people could reason wisely from them.

2. Another example, this time using an apodictic law, Exodus 22:18. “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” In modern times somebody would say, “I’m not a sorceress, I’m a warlock.” Bible times, no problem because sorceress is an example, it is a paradigm and you can reason from that anybody doing the same level of severe, deceptive garbage is supposed to be put to death. Why, because you want to get mean to sorceresses? No, because the problem is sorceresses keep people from being saved. That is the problem. That is why God hates idols so much. Is he jealous? Is he petty? Does it make him feel bad? No. God is an evangelist and idols will keep you from being saved. If you believe in idols you will not trust in God and get saved. The same with sorceresses, they prevent people from keeping God’s covenant. The system of sorcery was a system of getting your information, your guidance, your standards, even to some degree your ethics from people who should not have been giving them to you so that level of deception is worth the death penalty. If the same level of deception is coming from somebody else in some other way and it is not a sorceress but a warlock or, for that matter, a rhabdomancer. A rhabdomancer is someone who takes a stick and holds it up and drops it in certain patterns and sees how it falls and judges from that how the future is to be predicted. Just as dangerous if somebody places full faith in rhabdomancy. It does not have to be a sorceress. That is how it worked in ancient Israel. As you read the law, as you teach it to others, as you deal with this in classes or Bible studies, or sermons, explain to people the paradigmatic nature of it because that will help them. We have grown up in a culture, most of us, in which there is an attempt to have exhaustive codification of law and you have thousands and thousands and thousands of laws and they are supposed to apply; huge law books and you work off of those law books constantly. In Bible times, people could really memorize the laws; it is not impossible to memorize 613 commandments, and could work from those by memory and could establish real justice. It is based upon the understanding that among the apodictic and casuistic laws, among the 613, there are a sufficient number of paradigms that a wise, honest and prayerful judge could, in fact, establish a decent level of justice among the people of Israel. That is a good thing. That is just the way it was. It is efficient, it is slim and trim, better than the newest, thinnest laptop computers, nice and thin, take it with you anywhere, you can memorize it and if properly followed was a good legal system.


From there I want to talk about what much of the book of Exodus contains and what much of it leads up to. Many people have noticed that the book of Exodus has a series of stories about the rescue of the people of Israel up to chapter 19; how the Israelites are in trouble; God shows his mighty hand by the plagues; he gets pharaoh finally to let the Israelites go; he protects the Israelites against the army of the Egyptians even after the pharaoh has second thoughts; he allows the Israelites to have miraculous deliverance from the Egyptians and to come into this place that is called Sinai and to gather there and to begin to receive His law. We have a couple of parts to Exodus. If you want to, you can think of Exodus in the same way that many, many Old and New Testament books can be thought of—that is as bifid. Let me explain that term. Some of you know it from biology; it describes plants and plant structures that have two equal parts or two complimentary parts. In biblical studies when we talk about a book being bifid, we do not mean that it has two exactly equal parts, we just mean that it is divided, it is a piece of literature that really has two major parts. Exodus is one of those. It has nineteen chapters of stories, narratives, about how the Israelites were made by God to have freedom and to come together as a people and to arrive at Mount Sinai to receive his covenant. Then it has the remaining, roughly half, it is not exactly but its remaining roughly half from chapter 20 on, devoted to receiving that covenant. Exodus is kind of two parts. Once you hit chapter 20 there are not any more stories, they are all laws of various kinds including the very extensive laws about building the tabernacle and all of the worship implements and even priests’ garments and so on, all the things related to worship. You have various laws including worship laws. In the first half of the book, “half” being roughly, you have stories of how it all happened. Many people have said that in its structure, Genesis in a kind of macro way, sort of duplicates what the covenant structure in general does. They would say that the first half of the book is mainly preamble and prologue, and the second half of the book is stipulation, sanction, witnesses, and documentation. That is just to fit the whole thing into Exodus, whether or not that is of interest to you, although I think it is very useful for preaching and teaching.