Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach: The Seven Noahide Laws

The  Earth Belongs to HaShem and the Fullness Thereof.
"The Earth Belongs to HaShem and the Fullness Thereof."

Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach
The Seven Noahide Laws

By Yochanan ben Avraham (John of AllFaith) � 2004 (last updated 7.06.10)

One of the best-known biblical accounts is Noah and the Global Flood. Many ancient cultures recorded or remarked on their remembrances of this historic event. Modern science -- with its discoveries of frozen animals found at the North Pole with freeze dried vegetation still in their mouths -- supports that something like this did indeed occur. The preponderance of ancient confirmations from the Middle East to India to the Americas of this event lends solid support to Moses' original biblical description of what happened. Our interest in this study is in what happened immediately after the flood as recorded in Genesis.

Immediately after leaving the ark our common Father Noah released the animals he had rescued. He then built an alter and worshiped HaShem with thanksgiving (Genesis 8:20). Likewise we should all be so thankful to HaShem for the innumerable blessings He showers on us each and every day. The worship of HaShem should be the central focus of our lives. When birds sing and wolves howl they are glorifying the Creator. All life is a testament to His creative works and goodness. Humanity, according to the Torah, exists in a very special role as caretakers of HaShem's creation. As Noah and his family left the ark therefore they glorified HaShem.

After accepting their offering:

Genesis 8:21 ADONAI smelled the sweet aroma, and ADONAI said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, since the imaginings of a person's heart are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy all living things, as I have done. 22 So long as the earth exists, sowing time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease."

It is significant to note here that HaShem decided "... nor will I ever again destroy every living being..." as the New JPS has it. Rather than destroy humanity HaShem established a global covenant and provided a way for all of Noah's descendants to find favor and acceptance in His sight. HaShem declared the rainbow would forever symbolize this universal Noahide Covenant (9:12) and serve as a reminder of Adonai's love for His creation.

Genesis 9:1 God blessed Noach and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will be upon every wild animal, every bird in the air, every creature populating the ground, and all the fish in the sea; they have been handed over to you. 3 Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I gave you green plants before, so now I give you everything - 4 only flesh with its life, which is its blood, you are not to eat.

Next Noah was told that the animal creation would henceforth have a natural "fear" of humankind. Prior to this time Scripture teaches that no such fear existed between man and beast. Animals felt no "dread" that their human caretakers might harm those they watched over. Prior to this point humans did not consume the flesh of the animals and so there was no need for them to fear us. After the flood however Adonai granted humans authority to begin eating the animals (under certain conditions). In the Messianic Age this fear will again be removed as humans return to a peaceful, healthful vegetarian diet (Isaiah 11:1-10). I discuss this topic in depth elsewhere if you are interested so we will move on. For now I simply note that humans are currently biblically allowed to eat the flesh of most other creatures (I Corinthians 8:8) however this does not mean it should be done.

Now the topic turns to maintaining justice in human society: If one person kills another person it is to be considered a most serious matter. Noah is told that it is our social responsibility to deal with such cases when they occur. He is told that such a person is to be put to death by the community. The rationale given for this is that HaShem made man in His own image (Genesis 9:8). This means that humanity is Adonai's legal and political representative on earth and so such a crime is actually an attack on God Himself. If humanity does not uphold righteousness and justice who will?

There is a very important point here. At Genesis 8:21 HaShem states that our hearts are continually evil. By empowering humanity to handle our own rectification in this way we are being forced collectively to take responsibility for our actions and thereby to acknowledge our sinful proclivities and strive to better ourselves as His representatives. Hence it is said that the sins of HaShem's people blasphemes His Name or reputation. Humanity is intimately associated with our Creator.

At Genesis 9:8 HaShem says that this Noachide Covenant or contract is being made with Noah and "his offspring to come" as well as with the animals and every living thing on the planet. The Noachide Covenant therefore is a universal commitment with global implications.

It has been alleged by some that HaShem cares nothing about the earth, that the natural world is sinful and vile and beyond redemption. Some who believe this wrongly expect to spend eternity in Heaven and hence care little about the earth. This is not what Adon (Master) Y'shua nor the Holy Scriptures teach however.

Adam was instructed by Adonai to care for the planet as its caretaker. Here HaShem shows His extreme concern for the natural order by including all life in the Noachide Covenant, not just humans because:

Romans 8:19 The creation waits eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed; 20 for the creation was made subject to frustration - not willingly, but because of the one who subjected it. But it was given a reliable hope 21 that it too would be set free from its bondage to decay and would enjoy the freedom accompanying the glory that God's children will have. 22 We know that until now, the whole creation has been groaning as with the pains of childbirth; 23 and not only it, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we continue waiting eagerly to be made sons - that is, to have our whole bodies redeemed and set free.

Hence it is clearly stated that we humans are to be the wise caretakers of this planet and the representatives of HaShem (Genesis 3:15,16) to its inhabitants. Clearly we are not supposed to recklessly exploit the planet, to destroy its environment, to wage senseless wars of aggression, to bring misery and extinction upon the other species and so on. No! We are the sons and daughters of HaShem! We have been charged with upholding the instructions of the Creator for the well being of all creation (Psalm 82:8). This is an awesome responsibility and one we are failing to observe properly!

Likewise the current attempts by Secular Humanists and others to lower humanity to the level of being simply another species of terrestrial life is in direct opposition with the revealed Will of HaShem. Our God-ordained role is much more than that. We are called to be the representatives of God for the well being of the earth's inhabitants. We must neither shirk that responsibility nor abuse the authority it brings.

The next section of our text is very important because here HaShem sets up the order for how human relations are to be conducted in the future by delegating the responsibilities He has given us. This information begins as Noah's son Ham goes into his father's tent and "sees his father's nakedness" -- which probably means that he sexually molested his father as he slept in his drunken state (Genesis 9:20-23). It certainly was more than simply seeing his father naked.

After this event Noah declares the roles of his sons and their offspring and announces the authority of the earthly governance established by HaShem:

Shem: This oldest son of Noah is granted the rights of the firstborn. He is the leader of the b'nei Noach, the children of Noah. The descendants of Shem include Abraham and his physical descendants -- which include the Semitic Jews through Sarah and Semitic Arabs through Hagar, the people living to the east of Babylon and the Persian Gulf, the Assyrians and others. Eventually the blessings of this lineage was narrowed to the descendants of Abraham and Sarah (i.e. excluding the Arabs of the line of Ishmael and his mother Hagar and others: Genesis 17:20,21).
There is also a "spiritual seed of Abraham" that includes all those who convert to Judaism. This includes those who enter into the B'rit Hadashah (New Covenant) established by Y'shua as Cohen Gadol and Mashiach (Romans 2:28). Converts to Judaism become Jews and are thus adopted into lineage of Shem. This includes those who are "grafted into" that lineage through acceptance of Adon Y'shua HaNatzrati (Master Jesus of Nazareth). For clarity of terminology it can be said that the talmidim (students) of Y'shua are "Nazarene Israelites" rather than Jews but this is a matter of semantics.

Ham: Canaan (Ham's son) and his offspring are specifically cursed by Noah. It is declared that these people will be servants to their brothers. Ham's descendants are said to include Ethiopians, Egyptians, Libyans, Phoenicians, Hittites and others. In no way does this justify discrimination against these people as some maintain even today.

Japheth: His descendants will be "enlarged" and blessed as they "dwell in the tents of Shem." They will live by the blessings of Shem. Later on in Genesis this relationship becomes clearer. If the descendants of Japheth use their material blessings to bless and bolster the descendents of Shem (the Jews), they will be blessed. Conversely if they 'leave the tents of Shem' and turn their backs on the Jews, refusing to support and bless the Shemites, then HaShem will curse Japheth's descendants. This blessing/cursing applies to the descendants of Ham as well, however it is especially applicable for the descendants of Japheth who are specifically instructed by HaShem to live in "the tents of Shem."
The descendants of Japheth include the Cimmerians, Cimbri, Celts, Scythians, Russians, Greeks, Anglo-Saxons, Syrians, Thracians, Armenians, peoples of Asia Minor, Sicilians, Cypriots etc.

The Jews (or Shemites) are ordained by HaShem in the Torah to be the priests of the earth (Exodus 19:6). The other branches of the human family are called to establish the earth under their direction as HaShem's emissaries. Unfortunately these biblically mandated responsibilities have not been followed by any of the three principle people groups (Romans 11:32). The Jews have failed to maintain proper submission to HaShem. They have disobeyed Moshe and those sent to them, including Adon Y'shua. The Noachide nations have often turned against the Jews with fierce wrath and antisemitism and have fundamentally altered the B'rit Hadashah placed in their care. The foundations of the earth are out of balance and will continue to be so until the manifestation of Adon Y'shua as Mashiach.

The Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach or Seven Noahide Laws are incumbent upon us all:

Acts 17:26 "From one man he made every nation living on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the limits of their territories and the periods when they would flourish. 27 God did this so that people would look for him and perhaps reach out and find him although in fact, he is not far from each one of us, 28 'for in him we live and move and exist.' Indeed, as some of the poets among you have said, 'We are actually his children.'

Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach

  • Avodah Zarah: Prohibition on idolatry.
  • Birchat HaShem: Prohibition on blasphemy and cursing the Name of God.
  • Shefichat Damim: Prohibition on murder.
  • Gezel: Prohibition on robbery and theft.
  • Gilui Arayot: Prohibition on immorality and forbidden sexual relations.
  • Ever Min HaChay: Prohibition on removing and eating a limb from a live animal.
  • Dinim: Requirement to establish justice systems and courts of law to enforce the other 6 laws.

The Noahide Laws Extrapolated

Based on these universal laws Noahide Nazarenes understand the following:

Avodah Zarah: Do not worship images, anyone or anything except HaShem Himself. This prohibits the worship of prophets, angels, saints, teachers and so on. This includes the worship of Adon Y'shua HaNatzrati as part of a Trinity. Adonai is One. While due honor may be shown to others, especially to our Adon Y'shua, only HaShem is to be worshiped.

Birchat HaShem: The Name of God is holy and above all other names. For this reason it should only be uttered with ones full concentration and respect. For this reason titles like HaShem (the NAME), Adonai (the LORD) are used. There are many gods but only one true God. For this reason some people write G-d and L-rd. I feel this is not needed as these are only titles. One should not make vows in the name of HaShem nor swear in any way as such is presumptuous and treats the Name as a commodity to be bartered.

Shefichat Damim: Murder is the unauthorized taking of a human life. Not all killing is murder. Law 7 requires lawful governments to uphold these laws and in some cases to exact capital punishment. Likewise sometimes wars are not only just but righteous acts (such as defending Israel from its aggressors). Likewise in the defense of human life and property it is sometimes necessary to take the life of criminals in defense. Such takings of human life are not to be considered as murder. This law is not a call to pacifism. In all cases one must act with compassion.

Gezel: Do not take what is not yours.

Gilui Arayot: This prohibition aims at preserving the family unit and human dignity.

Ever Min HaChay: Those who consume animals must do so as compassionately as possible. Animals are not "things" but living beings created by HaShem through Adon Y'shua. For this reason kashrut (the kosher laws of the Torah) were enacted. Under the B'rit Hadashah we are not required to observe all the details of kashrut however we must maintain compassion for the animals. For more information on this topic see my study Should Noahide Nazarenes Eat Meat?

Dinim: It is the duty of the Noahide nations to maintain legal system that enforce and advocate these Laws for the well being of all creatures and the spiritual edification of humanity.

Genesis 8:15-9:28

Genesis 8:15 God said to Noach, 16 "Go out from the ark, you, your wife, your sons and your son's wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing you have with you - birds, livestock and every animal that creeps on the earth - so that they can swarm on the earth, be fruitful and multiply on the earth." 18 So Noach went out with his sons, his wife and his sons' wives; 19 every animal, every creeping thing and every bird, whatever moves on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark.

20 Noach built an altar to ADONAI. Then he took from every clean animal and every clean bird, and he offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 ADONAI smelled the sweet aroma, and ADONAI said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, since the imaginings of a person's heart are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy all living things, as I have done. 22 So long as the earth exists, sowing time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease."

Genesis 9:1 God blessed Noach and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will be upon every wild animal, every bird in the air, every creature populating the ground, and all the fish in the sea; they have been handed over to you. 3 Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I gave you green plants before, so now I give you everything - 4 only flesh with its life, which is its blood, you are not to eat. 5 I will certainly demand an accounting for the blood of your lives: I will demand it from every animal and from every human being. I will demand from every human being an accounting for the life of his fellow human being. 6 Whoever sheds human blood, by a human being will his own blood be shed; for God made human beings in his image. 7 And you people, be fruitful, multiply, swarm on the earth and multiply on it."

8 God spoke to Noach and his sons with him; he said, 9 "As for me - I am herewith establishing my covenant with you, with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you - the birds, the livestock and every wild animal with you, all going out of the ark, every animal on earth. 11 I will establish my covenant with you that never again will all living beings be destroyed by the waters of a flood, and there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth." 12 God added, "Here is the sign of the covenant I am making between myself and you and every living creature with you, for all generations to come: 13 I am putting my rainbow in the cloud - it will be there as a sign of the covenant between myself and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow is seen in the cloud; 15 I will remember my covenant which is between myself and you and every living creature of any kind; and the water will never again become a flood to destroy all living beings. 16 The rainbow will be in the cloud; so that when I look at it, I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of any kind on the earth."

17 God said to Noach, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between myself and every living creature on the earth."

18 The sons of Noach who went out from the ark were Shem, Ham and Yefet. Ham is the father of Kena'an. 19 These three were the sons of Noach, and the whole earth was populated by them.

20 Noach, a farmer, was the first to plant a vineyard. 21 He drank so much of the wine that he got drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Kena'an, saw his father shamefully exposed, went out and told his two brothers. 23 Shem and Yefet took a cloak, put it over both their shoulders, and, walking backward, went in and covered their naked father. Their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father lying there shamefully exposed.

24 When Noach awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 He said, "Cursed be Kena'an; he will be a servant of servants to his brothers." 26 Then he said, "Blessed be ADONAI, the God of Shem; Kena'an will be their servant. 27 May God enlarge Yefet; he will live in the tents of Shem, but Kena'an will be their servant."

28 After the flood Noach lived 350 years. 29 In all, Noach lived 950 years; then he died.

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