This article is part of a sub-series: Should We Obey The Entire Law Of Moses? - What The Old And New Testaments Say, which is about Old Testament laws on morality and tithing, customs like animal sacrifice and the celebration of the Passover Festival, and what the New Testament says about them.
This is Part 13 (of 13) in Section 5: "Should We Obey The Entire Law Of Moses? - What The Old And New Testaments Say".
To read an overview of the way Christians should regard the Law of Moses, visit: Bible Quotations on Whether Christians Should Obey the Law of Moses.
Some parts of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation are very unpleasant. If you become offended by anything, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.
The purpose of the Old Testament seems to have been mainly to try to scare lawless societies into behaving decently, giving up the cruel ways the Bible says they were guilty of. Hence much of the gruesomeness, which is at least in part meant to warn people committing cruel and hurtful actions to change.
2 Timothy chapter 3 (NIV)
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
These articles on holiness show how the Old Testament Law was full of picture language, external ways of illustrating how God wanted his people to live pure lives. It was symbolism, expressing in external ways what the New Testament expresses as inner truths, meaning guidelines on living.
For instance, the Old Testament ordered that all Jewish males must be circumcised as a sign that they were God's people. The New Testament teaches that the physical act of circumcision is actually worthless as regards turning someone into a person of God, because it's a mere outward thing. The real circumcision is a spiritual thing- a cutting away of old bad behaviours, a change of lifestyle and attitudes so behaviour becomes more pure.
Some of the picture language in the Law of Moses is quite nice. Some, on the other hand, involves commands that seem barbaric. Having strict laws about what was acceptable to do and what was holy and forbidden was apparently a way in which ancient cultures sought to control their communities, at a time when lawlessness was more of a present threat, and when disobedience could have much more drastic effects on people's survival chances. For instance, disobedience to commands related to sexual abstinence before marriage could lead to many babies being born out of wedlock in an age where there was no welfare state to support them, and an inability to support oneself could mean starvation.
There are commands which impose a penalty of death for what would seem trivial offences, like going up to God's altar without washing first. It was harshly symbolic of how important it is to be pure from sin, so far as possible. Disrespect for God's commands on the way to live could have led to anarchy, in an age where means of social control were so much less sophisticated. The harsh punishments in the Law of Moses were to some extent illustrations and warnings for the people of the importance of staying within the law.
Rather than imposing symbolic and sometimes harsh external purity rules, the New Testament, written for people who actually wanted to obey it rather than for a whole society, many of whom would probably have preferred not to, focuses on purity of thought and action, rather than on the picture language of symbolic holiness. This article shows how much of the external ceremony of the Old Testament has its reflection in guidelines about attitudes and behaviour in the New Testament.
Numbers chapter 9 (NLT)
1 The LORD gave these instructions to Moses in early spring, during the second year after Israel's departure from Egypt, while he and the rest of the Israelites were in the wilderness of Sinai:
2 "Tell the Israelites to celebrate the Passover at the proper time, 3 at twilight on the appointed day in early spring. Be sure to follow all my laws and regulations concerning this celebration."
4 So Moses told the people to celebrate the Passover 5 in the wilderness of Sinai as twilight fell on the appointed day. And they celebrated the festival there, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 6 But some of the men had been ceremonially defiled by touching a dead person, so they could not offer their Passover lambs that day. So they came to Moses and Aaron that day 7 and said, "We have become ceremonially unclean by touching a dead person. But why should we be excluded from presenting the LORD's offering at the proper time with the rest of the Israelites?" 8 Moses answered, "Wait here until I have received instructions for you from the LORD."
9 This was the LORD's reply: 10 "Say to the Israelites: 'If any of the people now or in future generations are ceremonially unclean at Passover time because of touching a dead body, or if they are on a journey and cannot be present at the ceremony, they may still celebrate the LORD's Passover. 11 They must offer the Passover sacrifice one month later, at twilight on the appointed day. They must eat the lamb at that time with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast. 12 They must not leave any of the lamb until the next morning, and they must not break any of its bones. They must follow all the normal regulations concerning the Passover.
13 "'But those who are ceremonially clean and not away on a trip, yet still refuse to celebrate the Passover at the regular time, will be cut off from the community of Israel for failing to present the LORD's offering at the proper time. They will suffer the consequences of their guilt.
Titus chapter 2 (NLT)
11 The grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.
1 Corinthians chapter 5 (GWT)
7 Remove the old yeast [of sin] so that you may be a new batch of dough. ... Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 So we must not celebrate our festival with the old yeast [of sin] or with the yeast of vice and wickedness. Instead, we must celebrate it with the bread of purity and truth that has no yeast.
Numbers chapter 15 (NLT)
1 The LORD told Moses to give these instructions to the people of Israel:
2 "When you finally settle in the land I am going to give you, 3 and you want to please the LORD with a burnt offering or any other offering given by fire, the sacrifice must be an animal from your flocks of sheep and goats or from your herds of cattle. When it is an ordinary burnt offering, a sacrifice to fulfill a vow, a freewill offering, or a special sacrifice at any of the annual festivals, 4 whoever brings it must also give to the LORD a grain offering of two quarts of choice flour mixed with one quart of olive oil. 5 For each lamb offered as a whole burnt offering, you must also present one quart of wine for a drink offering.
6 "If the sacrifice is a ram, give three quarts of choice flour mixed with two and a half pints of olive oil, 7 and give two and a half pints of wine for a drink offering. This sacrifice will be very pleasing to the LORD.
8 "When you present a young bull as a burnt offering or a sacrifice in fulfillment of a special vow or as a peace offering to the LORD, 9 then the grain offering accompanying it must include five quarts of choice flour mixed with two quarts of olive oil, 10 plus two quarts of wine for the drink offering. This will be an offering made by fire, very pleasing to the LORD.
11 "These are the instructions for what is to accompany each sacrificial bull, ram, lamb, or young goat. 12 Each of you must do this with each offering you present. 13 If you native Israelites want to present an offering by fire that is pleasing to the LORD, you must follow all these instructions. 14 And if any foreigners living among you want to present an offering by fire, pleasing to the LORD, they must follow the same procedures. 15 Native Israelites and foreigners are the same before the LORD and are subject to the same laws. This is a permanent law for you. 16 The same instructions and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigners living among you."
17 The LORD also said to Moses at this time, 18 "Give the people of Israel the following instructions: When you arrive in the land where I am taking you, 19 you will eat from the crops that grow there. But you must set some aside as a gift to the LORD. 20 Present a cake from the first of the flour you grind and set it aside as a gift, as you do with the first grain from the threshing floor. 21 Throughout the generations to come, you are to present this offering to the LORD each year from the first of your ground flour.
22 "But suppose some of you unintentionally fail to carry out all these commands that the LORD has given you through Moses. 23 And suppose some of your descendants in the future fail to do everything the LORD has commanded through Moses. 24 If the mistake was done unintentionally, and the community was unaware of it, the whole community must present a young bull for a burnt offering. It will be pleasing to the LORD, and it must be offered along with the prescribed grain offering and drink offering and with one male goat for a sin offering. 25 With it the priest will make atonement for the whole community of Israel, and they will be forgiven. For it was an unintentional sin, and they have corrected it with their offering given to the LORD by fire and by their sin offering. 26 The whole community of Israel will be forgiven, including the foreigners living among you, for the entire population was involved in the sin.
27 "If the unintentional sin is committed by an individual, the guilty person must bring a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest will make atonement for the guilty person before the LORD, and that person will be forgiven. 29 This same law applies both to native Israelites and the foreigners living among you.
30 "But those who brazenly violate the LORD's will, whether native Israelites or foreigners, blaspheme the LORD, and they must be cut off from the community. 31 Since they have treated the LORD's word with contempt and deliberately disobeyed his commands, they must be completely cut off and suffer the consequences of their guilt.
Matthew chapter 10 (NLT)
1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness. 5 Jesus sent the twelve disciples out with these instructions:
11 Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy man and stay in his home until you leave for the next town. 12 When you are invited into someone's home, give it your blessing. 13 If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. 14 If a village doesn't welcome you or listen to you, shake off the dust of that place from your feet as you leave. 15 I assure you, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off on the judgment day than that place will be.
16 "Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as snakes and harmless as doves.
Hebrews chapter 13 (NLT)
16 Don't forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to God.
Exodus chapter 30 (TEV)
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 "Take the finest spices - 12 pounds of liquid myrrh, 6 pounds of sweet-smelling cinnamon, 6 pounds of sweet-smelling cane, 24 and 12 pounds of cassia (all weighed according to the official standard). Add one gallon of olive oil, 25 and make a sacred anointing oil, mixed like perfume. 26 Use it to anoint the Tent of my presence, the Covenant Box, 27 the table and all its equipment, the lampstand and its equipment, the altar for burning incense, 28 the altar for burning offerings, together with all its equipment, and the washbasin with its base. 29 Dedicate these things in this way, and they will be completely holy, and anyone or anything that touches them will be harmed by the power of its holiness. 30 Then anoint Aaron and his sons, and ordain them as priests in my service. 31 Say to the people of Israel, "This holy anointing oil is to be used in my service for all time to come. 32 It must not be poured on ordinary men, and you must not use the same formula to make any mixture like it. It is holy, and you must treat it as holy. 33 Whoever makes any like it or uses any of it on anyone who is not a priest will no longer be considered one of my people.'"
34 The Lord said to Moses, "Take an equal part of each of the following sweet spices - stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense. 35 Use them to make incense, mixed like perfume. Add salt to keep it pure and holy. 36 Beat part of it into a fine powder, take it into the Tent of my presence, and sprinkle it in front of the Covenant Box. Treat this incense as completely holy. 37 Do not use the same formula to make any incense like it for yourselves. Treat it as a holy thing dedicated to me. 38 If anyone makes any like it for use as perfume, he will no longer be considered one of my people."
Matthew chapter 7 (NLT)
21 "Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. 22 On judgment day many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' 23 But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.'
Leviticus chapter 22 (NLT)
1 The LORD said to Moses, 32 Do not treat my holy name as common and ordinary. I must be treated as holy by the people of Israel. It is I, the LORD, who makes you holy. 33 It was I who rescued you from Egypt, that I might be your very own God. I am the LORD."
Deuteronomy chapter 26 (NLT)
18 The LORD has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands. 19 And if you do, he will make you greater than any other nation. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the LORD your God, just as he promised."
Leviticus chapter 27 (NLT)
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Give the following instructions to the Israelites:
14 "If you dedicate a house to the LORD, the priest must come to assess its value. The priest's assessment will be final. 15 If you wish to redeem the house, you must pay the value set by the priest, plus 20 percent. Then the house will again belong to you.
16 "If you dedicate to the LORD a piece of your ancestral property, its value will be assessed by the amount of seed required to plant it - fifty pieces of silver for an area that produces five bushels of barley seed. 19 If you decide to redeem the dedicated field, you must pay the land's value as assessed by the priest, plus 20 percent. Then the field will again belong to you. 20 But if you decide not to redeem the field, or if the field is sold to someone else by the priests, it can never be redeemed. 21 When the field is released in the Year of Jubilee, it will be holy, a field specially set apart for the LORD. It will become the property of the priests.
28 "However, anything specially set apart by the LORD - whether a person, an animal, or an inherited field - must never be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted in this way has been set apart for the LORD as holy. 29 A person specially set apart by the LORD for destruction cannot be redeemed. Such a person must be put to death.
Leviticus chapter 19 (NLT)
1 The LORD also said to Moses, 2 "Say this to the entire community of Israel: You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
5 "When you sacrifice a peace offering to the LORD, offer it properly so it will be accepted on your behalf. 6 You must eat it on the same day you offer it or on the next day at the latest. Any leftovers that remain until the third day must be burned. 7 If any of the offering is eaten on the third day, it will be contaminated, and I will not accept it. 8 If you eat it on the third day, you will answer for the sin of profaning what is holy to the LORD and must be cut off from the community.
Romans chapter 7 (NLT)
6 Now we have been released from the law, for we died with Christ, and we are no longer captive to its power. Now we can really serve God, not in the old way by obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way, by the Spirit.
Hebrews chapter 6 (NLT)
4 It is impossible to restore to repentance those who were once enlightened - those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come - 6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people to repentance again because they are nailing the Son of God to the cross again by rejecting him, holding him up to public shame. 7 When the ground soaks up the rain that falls on it and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has the blessing of God. 8 But if a field bears thistles and thorns, it is useless. The farmer will condemn that field and burn it.
11 Our great desire is that you will keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God's promises because of their faith and patience.
Titus chapter 2 (GWT)
1 Tell believers to live the kind of life that goes along with accurate teachings. 2 Tell older men to be sober. Tell them to be men of good character, to use good judgment, and to be well-grounded in faith, love, and endurance. 3 Tell older women to live their lives in a way that shows they are dedicated to God. Tell them not to be gossips or addicted to alcohol, but to be examples of virtue.
Titus chapter 3 (TEV)
1 Remind your people to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey them, and to be ready to do good in every way. 2 Tell them not to speak evil of anyone, but to be peaceful and friendly, and always to show a gentle attitude toward everyone. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, and wrong. We were slaves to passions and pleasures of all kinds. We spent our lives in malice and envy; others hated us and we hated them. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior was revealed, 5 he saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of his own mercy that he saved us, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life by washing us. 6 God poured out the Holy Spirit abundantly on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that by his grace we might be put right with God and come into possession of the eternal life we hope for. 8 This is a true saying.
I want you to give special emphasis to these matters, so that those who believe in God may be concerned with giving their time to doing good deeds, which are good and useful for everyone.
1 Peter chapter 3 (GWT)
15 Dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord. Always be ready to defend your confidence [in God] when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect.
16 Keep your conscience clear. Then those who treat the good Christian life you live with contempt will feel ashamed that they have ridiculed you.
Exodus chapter 25 (TEV)
1 The Lord said to Moses,
Exodus chapter 30(TEV)
1 "Make an altar out of acacia wood, for burning incense. 2 It is to be square, 18 inches long and 18 inches wide, and it is to be 36 inches high. Its projections at the four corners are to form one piece with it. 3 Cover its top, all four sides, and its projections with pure gold, and put a gold border around it. 4 Make two gold carrying rings for it and attach them below the border on two sides to hold the poles with which it is to be carried. 5 Make these poles of acacia wood and cover them with gold. 6 Put this altar outside the curtain which hangs in front of the Covenant Box. That is the place where I will meet you. 7 Every morning when Aaron comes to take care of the lamps, he is to burn sweet-smelling incense on it. 8 He must do the same when he lights the lamps in the evening. This offering of incense is to continue without interruption for all time to come.
1 Chronicles chapter 23 (TEV)
13 (Aaron and his descendants were set apart to be in charge of the sacred objects forever, to burn incense in the worship of the Lord, to serve him, and to bless the people in his name.)
Deuteronomy chapter 5 (NLT)
1 Moses called all the people of Israel together and said,
Deuteronomy chapter 12 (TEV)
5 Out of the territory of all your tribes the Lord will choose the one place where the people are to come into his presence and worship him. 6 There you are to offer your sacrifices that are to be burned and your other sacrifices, your tithes and your offerings, the gifts that you promise to the Lord, your freewill offerings, and the first-born of your cattle and sheep. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, who has blessed you, you and your families will eat and enjoy the good things that you have worked for.
Deuteronomy chapter 16 (TEV)
1 "Honor the Lord your God by celebrating Passover in the month of Abib; it was on a night in that month that he rescued you from Egypt. 2 Go to the one place of worship and slaughter there one of your sheep or cattle for the Passover meal to honor the Lord your God.
9 "Count seven weeks from the time that you begin to harvest the grain, 10 and then celebrate the Harvest Festival, to honor the Lord your God, by bringing him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing he has given you. 11 Be joyful in the Lord's presence, together with your children, your servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows who live in your towns. Do this at the one place of worship.
13 "After you have threshed all your grain and pressed all your grapes, celebrate the Festival of Shelters for seven days. 14 Enjoy it with your children, your servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows who live in your towns. 15 Honor the Lord your God by celebrating this festival for seven days at the one place of worship.
16 "All the men of your nation are to come to worship the Lord three times a year at the one place of worship: at Passover, Harvest Festival, and the Festival of Shelters. Each man is to bring a gift 17 as he is able, in proportion to the blessings that the Lord your God has given him.
1 Chronicles chapter 29 (NIV)
26 David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. 27 He ruled over Israel forty years--seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem.
1 Chronicles chapter 22 (TEV)
6 He sent for his son Solomon and commanded him to build a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel.
17 David commanded all the leaders of Israel to help Solomon. 18 He said, ... 19 Now serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. Start building the Temple, so that you can place in it the Covenant Box of the Lord and all the other sacred objects used in worshiping him."
2 Chronicles chapter 5 (TEV)
1 When King Solomon finished all the work on the Temple, he placed in the Temple storerooms all the things that his father David had dedicated to the Lord-the silver, gold, and other articles.
2 Chronicles chapter 6 (TEV)
1 Then King Solomon prayed, "Lord, you have chosen to live in clouds and darkness. 2 Now I have built a majestic temple for you, a place for you to live in forever."
3 All the people of Israel were standing there. The king turned to face them and asked God's blessing on them. 4 He said, "Praise the Lord God of Israel! He has kept the promise he made to my father David when he said to him, 5 "From the time I brought my people out of Egypt until now, I did not choose any city in the land of Israel as the place to build a temple where I would be worshiped, .... 6 But now I have chosen Jerusalem as the place where I will be worshiped, ...'"
John chapter 2 (TEV)
13 It was almost time for the Passover Festival, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.
23 While Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in him as they saw the miracles he performed. 24 But Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew them all. 25 There was no need for anyone to tell him about them, because he himself knew what was in their hearts.
John chapter 4 (NLT)
1 Jesus ... 3 ... left Judea to return to Galilee.
4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. 9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.
16 "Go and get your husband," Jesus told her. 17 "I don't have a husband," the woman replied. Jesus said, "You're right! You don't have a husband - 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now." 19 "Sir," the woman said, "you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?"
21 Jesus replied, "Believe me, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know so little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."
25 The woman said, "I know the Messiah will come - the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." 26 Then Jesus told her, "I am the Messiah!"
Romans chapter 12 (TEV)
1 So then, my friends, because of God's great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God-what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
1 Corinthians chapter 3 (NLT)
16 Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God's temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple.
Hebrews chapter 2 (NLT)
10 And it was only right that God - who made everything and for whom everything was made - should bring his many children into glory. Through the suffering of Jesus, God made him a perfect leader, one fit to bring them into their salvation. 11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.
2 Corinthians chapter 7 (TEV)
1 So let us purify ourselves from everything that makes body or soul unclean, and let us be completely holy by living in awe of God.
The harsh punishments decreed in the Old Testament are an indication of the difficulty of disciplining a wayward theocracy. The differences between the approaches of the Old and New Testaments are a reflection of the different audiences they were written for. The Old Testament was written for a society who needed strict discipline and a sense of the awesomeness of God in order that they remain obedient, and thus that society didn't degenerate into corruption, crime and chaos. The New Testament was written to people who actually wanted to obey God. Thus, the emphasis could be on encouragement and on the beauty of following God rather than on judgment. For more on this, see: Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development.
This is the last file in this section. The next section is entitled "What Moses Said To The Jews To Prepare Them To Capture The Land Now Known As Israel", and the first file in it is entitled "What The Bible Says About What Moses Said To Prepare The Israelites to Go To War To Capture The Promised Land".
If you have found parts of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation offensive, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.
The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.
Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).Other initials: