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The Noachide Laws

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

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The Seven Noachide Laws. 1

Rabbinic Authority. 3

The Seven Laws. 7

Seven Turns Into Sixty-Six. 10

The Death Penalty. 12

A Novel Concept 12

In The Nazarean Codicil 13

Correlations 14

In Seder Olam.. 15

Appendix: 16

Bibliography. 17

 

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In this study I would like to take a close look at the unversal laws for mankind.

 

In the beginning HaShem established a set of rules, with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to provide justice on the earth. These rules were given to Adam and all subsequent men. In the days of Noach, HaShem expounded an additional rule. These rules were and are incumbent upon all men. These seven rules make up the Noachide laws.

 

Pesiqta deRab Kahana, Pisqa TwelveR. The first man was assigned six religious duties, and they are: not worshipping idols, not blaspheming, setting up courts of justice, not murdering, not practicing fornication, and not stealing. And all of them derive from a single verse of Scripture: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, [but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you will die].[1] And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: this refers to idolatry, as it is said, For Ephraim was happy to walk after the command.[2] The LORD: this refers to blasphemy, as it is said, Whoever curses the name of the LORD will surely die.[3] God: this refers to setting up courts of justice, as it is said, God [in context, the judges] you will not curse.[4] the man: this refers to murder, as it is said, He who sheds the blood of man by man his blood will be shed.[5] saying: this refers to fornication, as it is said. Saying, will a man divorce his wife....[6] You may freely eat of every tree of the garden:this refers to the prohibition of stealing, as you say, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will not eat. Noah was commanded, in addition, not to cut a limb from a living beast, as it is said, But as to meat with its soul - its blood you will not eat.[7]

 

The Seven Noachide Laws

 

The Talmud delineates the laws of Noach:

 

Sanhedrin 56b Our Rabbis taught: seven precepts were the sons of Noah commanded: social laws;[8] to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal.[9]

 

Thus we have the follwing list of seven Noachide commands which are incumbent on the whole world:

 

1. Murder is forbidden.

2. Theft is forbidden.

3. Incestuous and adulterous relations are forbidden.

4. Eating the flesh of a living animal is forbidden.

5. Idolatry is forbidden.

6. Cursing the name of HaShem is forbidden (Blasphemy).

7. Mankind is commanded to establish courts of justice.

 

His Eminence Dayan Dr. Isidor Grunfeld,[10] explains how these laws are derived:

 

In order to understand how the Talmud[11] derives the Seven Laws of Noach from the verse preceding the commandment not to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, we must have the full Hebrew Scriptural text and its translation in front of us:

 

וַיְצַו יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הָאָדָם לֵאמֹר:  מִכֹּל עֵץ-הַגָּן, אָכֹל תֹּאכֵל וּמֵעֵץ, הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע--לֹא תֹאכַל, מִמֶּנּוּ:  כִּי, בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ--מוֹת תָּמוּת. – “And HaShem God commanded the man, saying: ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will not eat of it; for in the day that you eat thereof you will surely die’” (Gen. 2:16-17).

 

This is the Talmudical explanation of the first of the two verses –Vay’tsavהדינין אלו - ויצו ­ “And God commanded”: This refers to the administration of justice which is one of the general laws of morality to be observed by the whole of mankind.

 

Adonai ה׳ ברכת זו - ה׳ -The law was given to man in the name of God (HaShem) and man has a duty to keep the name of God holy. This implies the prohibition of blasphemy.

 

Elohim זרה עבודה זו - א׳ – God (Elohim) is not only the Creator of the Universe but also the universal Lawgiver, which is implied in the name א׳. Thereby the deification of any other being is automatically denied and forbidden as idol worship.

 

Al HaAdam דמים שפיכות זו - על-האדם - Human life is holy, as man was created in the image of God. Every human person is of irreplaceable value and the taking of human life is therefore a capital crime and a destruction of a micro-cosmos.

 

Lemor עריות גלוי זו - לאמר - The handing down of God's commandments from generation to generation presupposes an ordered family life which can only be guaranteed by the purity of sexual morals. The word לאמר - which means handing down – therefore includes the prohibition of adultery.

 

MiKol Etz HaGan גזל ולו - מכל עץ-הגן - Man was only to eat from what was his property given to him by God. The words מכל עץ-הגן exclude therefore theft and robbery.

 

Akol Tokel - החי מן אבר ולו - אכל תאכל - Man's food must be such that it prevents base animal substances and instincts from being introduced into the human body. This refers especially to

Nefesh Behemah ­ the animal soul -which can never be assimilated to the human soul, whereas animal flesh can be assimilated to human flesh. First, however, the animal life must have departed before man is allowed to consume any part of the animal. Apart from this it would be most inhuman and barbaric to tear off part of a living creature for human consumption. The words אכל תאכל exclude therefore Eber Min HaChai - the cutting off for food of a part of a living animal.

 

A Gentile who accepts these seven laws, and observes them meticulously, is called a Ger Toshav, literally, a stranger-settler, (a Proselyte of the Gate). He is a resident alien of a different race and of a different religion, since he respects the covenant of the law made by HaShem with all the children of Noach. His obedience to these seven laws, which form the elementary principles of civilized humanity, enable him to be a citizen enjoying all the rights and privileges of civil law. Some would say that he is "semi-convert".[12]

 

A Gentile who accepts these seven laws and observes them meticulously will have a portion in the Olam HaBa, the world to come, provided that he accepts and performs them because HaShem commanded so in the Torah. However, if his observance is based upon reason, he is not a resident alien, he is not a pious Gentile, and he is not even one of their wise men. It is not enough to obey these laws because they seem rational or reasonable. He must do them because HaShem commanded them!

 

It is the obligation of every Jew to teach the Gentile to begin with the laws of Noach! The Rambam explicitly rules:

 

"Moshe Rabeinu commanded from the mouth of G-d to convince all the inhabitants of the world to observe the commandments given to the Children of Noach."[13]

 

These Noachide Gentiles will be the inheritance of Israel.

 

Noachide theology is based upon the covenant that HaShem made with Noach. That covenant embraced seven categories of laws.

 

Noach and his sons (and by extension, all of mankind, since there were no others after the flood) had a relationship with HaShem based upon the Noachide covenant and Laws. Noach knew HaShem as Adonai (Lord and Master), Shaddai (Almighty), and as Elohim (Creator and the Judge). Obedience to the laws of Noach was principally motivated by fear of judgment and punishment according to:

 

Iyov (Job) 31:23 For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.

 

 

It is incorrect to think that since the Children of Israel have 613 commandments and the Children of Noach have seven commandments, that the ratio of spiritual worth is proportionally 613 to seven. The Seven Noachide laws are general commandments, each containing many parts and details, whereas the 613 Commandments of the Torah are specific, each relating to one basic detail of the Divine Law. Therefore, the numerical disparity in no way reflects the relative spiritual worth of the two systems of commandments.

 

Rabbinic Authority

 

Those who would keep the covenant of Noach must obey the commands of the Rabbis. It is the Rabbis who teach us how to keep these commands. The rebellion of Korah and his followers, was a rebellion against Rabbinic authority. The consequences of theis rebellion are well known:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:1-4 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: 2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: 3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and HaShem is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of HaShem? 4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:

 

Their rebellion against the authority of Moses and Aaron ultimately brought about their complete destruction when the earth swallowed them alive along with their families and all of their possessions.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:28-35 And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that HaShem hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. 29 If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then HaShem hath not sent me. 30 But if HaShem make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked HaShem. 31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: 32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. 34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.35 And there came out a fire from HaShem, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.

 

Thus we see that rebellion against the Rabbinic authority, the authority of those appointed by HaShem, is a very serious transgression.

 

The seven Noachide laws are based on the oral law and the authority of our Hakhamim, our Rabbis. The seven laws are not spelled out in the Tanach[14], though they are derived from the Tanach. This means that without the oral law there is no way to derive or understand the seven laws with all of their ramifications.

 

The seven laws are spelled out in the part of the oral law called the Talmud, in a tractate called Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin, during Temple days, was the highest court of Rabbinic authority. They provided justice for the people comparable to our Supreme Court. Additionally, we can find the seven laws in the Tosefta and the Nazarean Codicil[15]. Both of these works are codifications of Rabbinic rulings. In the Nazarean Codicil, for example, Hakham Yaaqov is the Rosh Bet Din of the Sanhedrin that adjudicates the questions of circumcision for the salvation of the Gentiles. In this ruling, Hakham Yaaqov (Jacob the brother of Yeshua) declares the seven laws to be the starting point for all Gentiles who are turning to HaShem. He goes on to indicate that full conversion is the goal, but it requires that they “learn Moses in the Synagogue on the Sabbath”. After they have learned from Moses, in the synagogue, they can choose to enter the Mosaic covenant with its 613 commands.

 

Without Rabbinic authority and the oral law it is impossible to understand the scope of the seven laws. For example, one of the seven laws forbids stealing. Now we need to ask, “What is stealing”? Most Gentiles would tell us that stealing is taking something that does not belong to you. Our Hakhamim (Rabbis) give quite a different answer. Our Hakhamim define stealing as: Taking something that does not belong to you, and that permission would have been denied if the owner had been asked. For example: If a wife takes her husbands car keys to bring in the groceries from the car; by the Gentile definition, she just stole the keys. By the definition of our Hakhamim, no theft was involved because if she had asked her husband, he would surely have given her permission. Thus we see that without Rabbinic authority it is impossible to know or understand the seven laws, let alone define them!

 

The Torah explicitly states this authority in:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which HaShem thy God shall choose; 9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: 10 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which HaShem shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: 11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. 12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before HaShem thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.

 

In this pasuk (passage) the Torah tells us that whatever the Kohanim (Priests) and the Hakhamim tell a person to do, that is what he will do. This tells us that HaShem will follow whatever the Hakhamim declare. It is no good to tell these men to make decisions and give them to the people if HaShem does not superintend these men and then follow the decisions that they have rendered. To put it another way, if the Hakham is wrong in his decision, and the people follow it, then HaShem will vindicate the people and bring judgment on the judge.

 

Most Christian will initially rebel against Rabbinic authority because they have been taught to do so by their pastors. Catholics will not have such trouble. This sect of Christianity has been taught to accept the authority of the Pope. They are likely to already understand the benefits of Rabbinic authority.

 

For Christians who have never been taught to submit to the authority of the judges of Israel (another way of saying Hakhamim), consider the following passages:

 

Mishlei (Proverbs) 8:14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. 16 By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

 

Bereans (Hebrews) 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

 

Bereans (Hebrews) 13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

 

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

 

Most Christians know that Mashiach will rule and reign over the whole earth, as we can see from the following pasuk (passage):

 

Revelation 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of HaShem, and of his Mashiach; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

 

However, most have never stopped to consider and understand what this means. Most Christians think of a guy with a crown and scepter ordering his minions around to serve him. This is not the Jewish perspective of a ruler. A ruler of the Jews is a man who provides justice for his people. The primary task of a king is to provide justice. This is ultimately true for every king, prime minister, and president. The primary task of every ruler is to provide justice for his subjects. That is why they have the ultimate authority to pardon and commute sentences. They mobilize armies to correct injustices wrought by other nations. They collect taxes in order to help the entire nation to obtain justice by building roads and equiping the army.

 

The king does not provide justice on his own, however. He has minions to assist. He has congressmen, and several layers of judges to work with him to provide justice. That is why the highest courts have their judges nominated by the president. When we submit to any judge, we have submitted to the president. This is why every court room has a flag of the United States and a flag for the state where the court is located.

 

This perspective suggests that the Chief Justice (Rosh Bet Din in Hebrew) of the supreme court of the Kingdom of Heaven is Mashiach (Messiah). This Chief Justice, like Moses before Him, has assigned subordinates to judge with Him. These subordinates administer the same laws as the Chief Justice. They take the easier cases and send Him the most difficult ones.

 

When the Mashiach ben David (The Messiah who is the son of David) rules, He will rule with those who have been trained in His Torah (law). He will rule with those who have the proper training. It will be like all judges in civil courts have to be trained as lawyers first. So, those who rule in the Kingdom of Heaven will have to be trained in the Torah which is the law of the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, I believe that the reason we have civil courts with their rules, is to teach us about the courts (Bate Dinae) of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of HaShem and of Mashiach, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

 

The ones who rule Israel are called Hakhamim (Wise Ones) by Sefardi Jews, and are called Rabbis (Great Ones) by Ashkenazi Jews. Both are thoroughly trained in Torah law. Both sit in a court (a Bet Din) and provide justice to Jews all over the world. Thus we would say that Israel is ruled by our Hakhamim and Rabbis who are our judges. They are subservient to Mashiach and He is subservient to HaShem.

 

A little known passage and its explanation can go a long way towards understanding how our Hakhamim rule. Consider what the following passages mean:

 

Tehillim (Psalms) 82:1 <<A Psalm of Asaph.>> God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. 2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. 3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. 4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. 6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. 7 but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

 

Yochanan (John) 10:33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34 Yeshua answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

 

In the above passage, John tells us that Yeshua calls the Pharisees Gods (Recall that neither Greek nor Hebrew have the concept of capitals or lower case). How can Mashiach possibly say that the Pharisees are Gods? Further, Mashiach uses the fact that they are Gods to prove that He is the Son of God. How can this be?

 

If we examine the Hebrew word for God used in Tehillim (Psalm) 82, we see that it is the Hebrew word Elohim. Our Hakhamim have taught us that this is the name that is used whenever justice is involved. It is used of HaShem and it is obviously used for men:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 7:1 And HaShem said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.

 

Elohim is used of HaShem when He judges and it is used of men when they judge. Justice is an essential attribute of HaShem. When we judge, as He judges, we are called by the same name He uses of Himself when He judges. I have written more on this subject in a study titled conundrum.

 

The Seven Laws

 

The Seven Noachide laws are all prohibitory, with the possible exception of the injunction to establish courts of justice (which can be viewed as a prohibition against injustice).

 

Sanhedrin 56a-b Our Rabbis taught: seven precepts were the sons of Noach commanded: 1 social laws; to refrain from 2 blasphemy, 3 idolatry; 4 adultery; 5 bloodshed;6 robbery; and 7 eating flesh cut from a living animal.

 

R. Hanania b. Gamaliel said: Also not to partake of the blood drawn from a living animal. R. Hidka added emasculation. R. Simeon added sorcery. R. Jose said: The heathens were prohibited everything that is mentioned in the section on sorcery. viz., There shall not be found among you any one, that maketh his son or daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them [sc. the heathens in Canaan] out from before thee.1 Now, [the Almighty] does not punish without first prohibiting. R. Eleazar added the forbidden mixture [in plants and animals]: now, they are permitted to wear garments of mixed fabrics [of wool and linen] and sow diverse seeds together; they are forbidden only to hybridize heterogeneous animals and graft trees of different kinds.

 

Whence do we know this? — R. Johanan answered: The Writ saith: And the Lord God commanded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. And [He] commanded, refers to [the observance of] social laws, and thus it is written, For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. The Lord-is [a prohibition against] blasphemy, and thus it is written, and he that blasphemest the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death. God-is [an injunction against] idolatry, and thus it is written, Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. The man-refers to bloodshed [murder], and thus it is written, Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. Saying-refers to adultery, and thus it is written, They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and became another man's. Of every tree of the garden-but not of robbery. Thou mayest freely eat-but not flesh cut from a living animal.

 

Surely it has been taught: Just as the Israelites were ordered to set up law courts in every district and town, so were the sons of Noach likewise enjoined to set up law courts in every district and town!

 

 

Our Hakhamim[16] derive from the Torah the six broad categories of laws that HaShem forbids all of humanity:

 

1. Killing

2. Stealing

3. Committing Sexual Immorality

4. Eating the flesh of a living animal

5. Serving idols

6. Blaspheming against HaShem

 

They also derived one positive category of laws:

 

7. Establishing a system of legal justice

 

This gives rise to the common expression of seven laws. According to the standard computation, these break down into sixty-six laws that non-Jews are obligated to observe. According to the Rambam, in order to merit the Olam HaBa, the World to Come, Gentiles must observe these obligations specifically because they were commanded by HaShem through the Torah (see Bereshit chapter nine).[17] The Rambam thus regarded anyone who observed these laws as one "assured of a portion in the Olam HaBa."

 

The Midrash also speaks of the seven laws:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XVI:6 AND THE LORD GOD COMMANDED THE MAN, SAYING: OF EVERY TREE OF THE GARDEN THOU MAYEST FREELY EAT (II, 16). R. Levi said: He gave him six precepts1: AND HE COMMANDED (WAY-YEZAW) alludes to 1 idolatry, as you read: Because he willingly walked after zaw-i.e. idols (Hos. V, 11). THE LORD alludes to 2 blasphemy, as you read, And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord (Lev. XXlV, 16). GOD alludes to the 3 [authority of] judges, as you read, Thou shalt not revile God-i.e. the judges (Ex. XXII, 27). THE MAN: this alludes to 4 bloodshed, as you read, Whoso sheddeth man's blood (Gen. IX, 6). SAYING alludes to 5 incest, as you read: Saying: If a man put away his wife, etc. (Jer. III, 1). OF EVERY TREE OF THE GARDEN THOU SHALT FREELY EAT: here He commanded him against 6 theft.3 The Rabbis interpreted the whole passage thus: AND THE LORD GOD COMMANDED. He said to him: ‘What am I? God, [and I command] that I be treated as a God and not cursed.’ How do we know [that Adam was forbidden] incest? [From the passage], And cleave unto his wife (Gen. II, 24), which implies, but not to his neighbour's wife, nor to a male, nor to an animal. OF EVERY TREE OF THE GARDEN THOU MAYEST FREELY EAT. R. Jacob of Kefar Hanan said: When does [an animal] become food, and when is it fit to be eaten? When it is ritually slaughtered. Thus He intimated [the forbidden character of] a 7 limb torn from a living animal.4 BUT OF THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL, THOU SHALT NOT EAT OF IT; FOR IN THE DAY THAT THOU EATEST THERE OF THOU SHALT SURELY DIE (MOTH TAMOTH) (II, 17): [this intimated] death for Adam, death for Eve, and death for his descendants. 5

 

The Zohar also speaks of the seven laws:

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 35b AND THE LORD GOD COMMANDED. According to our teachers, the word “commanded” here contains a prohibition of  1 idolatry; “the Lord”, of 2 blasphemy; “God”, 3 of the perversion of justice; “the man”, 4 of murder; “saying”, 5 of adultery and incest; “from all the trees of the garden”, 6 of robbery; “thou mayest freely eat”, 7 of eating flesh from a living animal; and so we agree.

 

The Tosefta also speaks of these seven laws:

 

TOSEFTA ABODAH ZARAH  8:4 Concerning seven religious requirements were the children of Noah admonished: setting up courts of justice, idolatry, blasphemy [cursing the Name of God], fornication, bloodshed, and thievery.

 

Concerning setting up courts of justice — how so? Just as Israelites are commanded to call into session in their towns courts of justice. Concerning idolatry and blasphemy —how so? Concerning fornication — how so?

 

“On account of any form of prohibited sexual relationship on account of which an Israelite court inflicts the death-penalty, the children of Noah are subject to warning,” the words of R. Meir. And sages say, “There are many prohibited relationships, on account of which an Israelite court does not inflict the death-penalty and the children of Noah are [not) warned. In regard to these forbidden relationships the nations are judged in accord with the laws governing the nations. “And you have only the prohibitions of sexual relations with a betrothed maiden alone.” 8:5 For bloodshed—how so? A gentile [who kills] a gentile and a gentile who kills an Israelite are liable. An Israelite [who kills) a gentile is exempt. Concerning thievery? [If] one has stolen, or robbed, and so too in the case of finding a beautiful captive [woman), and in similar cases: a gentile in regard to a gentile, or a gentile in regard to an Israelite — it is prohibited. And an Israelite in regard to a gentile — it is permitted. 8:6 Concerning a limb cut from a living beast — how so? A dangling limb on a beast, [which] is not [so connected] as to bring about healing, is forbidden for use by the children of Noah, and, it goes without saying, for Israelites. But if there is [in the connecting flesh sufficient [blood supply] to bring about healing, it is permitted to Israelites, and, it goes without saying, to the children of Noah. [If] one took a bird which is not of the volume of an olive’s bulk and ate it— Rabbi declares exempt. And R. Eleazar b. R. Simeon declares liable. Said R. Eleazar b. R. Simeon, “Now if on account of a limb from a bird [which is alive] one is liable, for the whole [bird] should not one be liable?” [If] one strangled it and ate it, he is exempt. R. Hananiah b. Gamaliel says, “Also on account of blood deriving from a living beast,” R. Hidqa says, “Also on account of castration.”

 

R. Simeon says, “Also on account of witchcraft.” R. Yosé says, “On account of whatever is stated in the pericope regarding the children of Noah are they subject to warning, “as it is said, There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer. or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer (Deut. 18:10—Il). 8:7 “Is it possible, then, that Scripture has imposed a punishment without imparting a prior warning? But it provides a warning and afterward imparts the punishment. This teaches that he has warned them first and then punished them. 8:8 R. Eleazar says, “Also as to ‘mixed seeds’” it is permitted for a child of Noah to sow seeds [which are mixed species] or to wear garments which are of mixed species [wool and linen]. It is prohibited to breed a hybrid beast or to graft trees.

 

 

How do we derive these seven laws from the Torah?

 

These categories are felt to be implicit in HaShem's commandment to Adam and Eve in Genesis (Bereshit) 2:16-17.

 

1. The following verse is a reference to the prohibition against murder. HaShem explicitly commands Noach:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 9:6 If one sheds the blood of the man (HaAdam), by man shall his own blood be shed.

 

2. The following is an implicit reference to the prohibition against theft. It shows that permission is needed to take something that is not explicitly yours.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another.

 

3. The below verse refers to sexual misconduct or adultery, as the prophet says,

 

Yeremyahu (Jeremiah) 3:1 Saying (laymor), if a man divorces his wife...

 

Additionally, sexual misconduct includes the laws of Niddah. Having sex with a woman who is Niddah is forbidden:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 18:19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.

 

4. The following verse implies that there are things which may not be eaten (the limbs of a live animal and meat with the blood still in it):

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 9:4 You must not, however, eat flesh with its life-blood in it.

 

5. The following verse is a reference to the prohibition against idolatry; for it says in:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 20:3 You shall have no other gods before me.

 

6. The following verse implies the prohibition against blasphemy.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 24:16 He who blasphemes the name of HaShem shall die.

 

7. The laws of justice are clearly understood from:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 18:19 For I have known him so he will command (Yitzaveh) his children after him to keep the way of HaShem and righteousness and justice.

 

Besides the Seven Noachide laws, the Children of Noach have traditionally taken it upon themselves to fulfill the commandment of honoring mother and father, and the commandment of giving charity.

 

Seven Turns Into Sixty-Six[18]

 

From these seven laws our Sages derived the following 66 laws:

 

1. MURDER:

(1) against anyone murdering anyone. [Some say that this also prohibits Lashon HaRa, evil speech.]

 

2. THEFT:

(1) against stealing;

(2) against committing robbery

(3).against shifting a land mark;

(4) against cheating;

(5) against repudiating a claim of money owed;

(6) against overcharging;

(7).against coveting;

(8) against desiring;

(9) a laborer shall be allowed to eat of the fruits among which he works (under certain conditions);

(10) against a laborer eating of such fruit (when certain conditions are not met);

(11) against a laborer taking of such fruit home;

(12) against kidnapping;

(13) against the use of false weights and measures;

(14) against the possession of false weights and measures;

(15) that one shall be exact in the use of weights and measures; and

(16) that the robber shall return (or pay for) the stolen object.

 

3. ILLICIT INTERCOURSE:

(1) against (a man) having union with his mother;

(2) against (a man) having union with his sister; (3) against (a man) having union with the wife of his father;

(4) against (a man) having union with another man's wife;

(5) against (a man) copulating with a beast;

(6) against a woman copulating with a beast;

(7) against (a man) lying carnally with a male;

(8).against (a man) lying carnally with his father;

(9) against (a man) lying carnally with his father's brother; and

(10) against engaging in erotic conduct that may lead to a prohibited union.

[Some have suggested that this list should also forbid intercourse with a woman who is Niddah. The Shulchan Aruch also has a chapter about adulterous thinking and discharging one's seed in vain, which is also forbidden.]

 

4. LIMB OF A LIVING CREATURE:

(1) against eating a limb severed from a living animal, beast, or fowl; and

(2) against eating the flesh of any animal which was torn by a wild beast, which, in part, prohibits the eating of such flesh as it was torn off an animal while it was still alive.

 

5. IDOLATRY:

(1) against entertaining the thought that there exists a deity except HaShem;

(2) against making any graven image (and against having anyone else make one for us);

(3) against making idols for use by others;

(4) against making any forbidden statues (even when they are for ornamental purposes);

(5) against bowing to any idol (and not to sacrifice nor to pour libation nor to burn incense before any idol, even where it is not the customary manner of worship to the particular idol);

(6) against worshipping idols in any of their customary manners of worship;

(7) against causing our children to pass (through the fire) in the worship of Molech;

(8) against practicing Ov;

(9) against the practice of Yiddoni [Sorcerer, Soothsayer, Magician]; and

(10) against turning to idolatry (in word, in thought, in deed, or by any observance that may draw us to its worship).

 

6. BLASPHEMY:

(1) to acknowledge the existence of HaShem;

(2) to fear HaShem;

(3) to pray to HaShem;

(4) to sanctify HaShem's name (in face of death, where appropriate);

(5) against desecrating HaShem's name (even in face of death, when appropriate);

(6) to study the Torah;

(7) to honor the scholars, and to revere one's teacher; and

(8) against blaspheming.

 

7. JUSTICE:

(1) to appoint judges and officers in each and every community;

(2) to treat the litigants equally before the law;

(3) to inquire diligently into the testimony of a witness;

(4) against the wanton miscarriage of justice by the court;

(5) against the judge accepting a bribe or gift from a litigant;

(6) against the judge showing marks of honor to but one litigant;

(7) against the judge acting in fear of a litigant's threats;

(8) against the judge, out of compassion, favoring a poor litigant;

(9) against the judge discriminating against the litigant because he is a sinner;

(10) against the judge, out of softness, putting aside the penalty of a mauler or killer;

(11) against the judge discriminating against a stranger or an orphan;

(12) against the judge hearing one litigant in the absence of the other;

(13) against appointing a judge who lacks knowledge of the Law;

(14) against the court killing an innocent man;

(15) against incrimination by circumstantial evidence;

(16) against punishing for a crime committed under duress;

(17) that the court is to administer the death penalty by the sword;

(18) against anyone taking the law into his own hands to kill the perpetrator of a capital crime (this point is disagreed upon by different writers: "The Noachides are not restricted in this way but may judge singly and at once.");

(19) to testify in court; and

(20) against testifying falsely.

 

 

In addition to these sixty-six laws, there is evidence to suggest several more laws that also apply to the Gentiles. Since the Bet HaMikdash was a house of prayer for all of the nations, it follows that the Ger Toshav would also have a siddur (prayerbook) to follow along during the prayers.

 

Since the Ger Toshav was forbidden to eat the limb of a living creature, it stands to reason that he must eat kosher. As we will shortly see, the Nazarean Codicil forbade “blood” to the Ger Toshav. This suggests that the animals must be slaughtered according to the laws of kashrut and that the meat must also be salted and soaked. Additionally, since Noach was forbidden to eat blood (Bereshit 9:3-4), it follows that this was the beginning of kosher meat.

 

Bereshit (Genesis 9:3-4 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. 4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

 

The Death Penalty

 

The Talmud also states the penalty for disobedience:

 

Sanhedrin 57a One additional element of greater severity is that violation of any one of the seven laws subjects the Noachide to capital punishment by decapitation.

 

A Novel Concept

 

In this essay, I would like to propose a novel concept in the understanding of Mashiach ben Yosef’s role. I would like to propose that the earliest written mention of the Noachide laws is in the Nazarean Codicil, in II Luqas (Acts) 15:19-21:

 

II Luqas 15:19-21[19] Wherefore my judgment is that we trouble not them which from among the Gentiles turn to God: but that we enjoin on them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from blood: and that whatsoever they would not should be done to them ye do not to others. For Moses from generations of old has in every city them that proclaim him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.

 

In this passage we can clearly see the seven laws of Noach:

 

2 Luqas 15[20]

Courts[21]

Blasphemy[22]

Idolatry

Adultery[23]

Bloodshed[24]

Robbery[25]

Flesh of a living animal[26]

 

Some are more clearly stated than others. For example the requirement to establish courts of justice is implied from the fact that a court is handing down this sentence. The prohibition from blood is seen as relating to murder and eating the limb of a live animal. Theft is understood as a minimum of ethical conduct for those who live in community. However, theft is also understood from the command to abstain from idols which are clearly a theft of that which belongs to HaShem alone.

 

That this is the earliest codification of these laws is confirmed by Aaron Lichtenstein in his book, “The Seven Laws of Noah”, when he states under the title, “ABSENCE OF TEXT”, on page 11:

 

“That we know anything at all about the Hammurabi, Hittite, or Assyrian Codes is due to the preservation of the ancient cuneiform tablets and stones upon which the statutes of these codes were engraved. However, there exists no original text of the Noahide code, and never was the existence of such a text ever reported. The earliest sources to give systematic treatment to Noachide Law are talmudic, and the earliest book of the Halakha which undertakes to deliniate the Seven Laws is the Tosefta, attributed to Hiyya bar Abba, born circa 160.”

 

Aaron Lichtenstein, in his scholarly treatise, could find only Talmudic sources for his earliest codification. An analysis of the II Luqas 15 suggests that the seven laws of Noach were codofied even earlier than the Talmud.

 

In The Nazarean Codicil

 

In II Luqas (Acts) 15, the Sanhedrin is asked to resolve the question: “Do Goyim (Gentiles) have to be circumcised to be saved?” This question is also the crux of the difference between Jew and the Goy:

rainbow.jpg

The decision of Yaaqov shows that he is clearly making a distinction between Jew and Goy and that he sees a progression from Goy to Jew through conversion and circumcision:

 

II Luqas (Acts) 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and fornication, and things strangled, and blood.

21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

 

In Hakham Yaaqov’s decision, the Goyim clearly have a court of justice, which just happens to be the Bet Din Gadole, the Sanhedrin. The command to abstain from blood includes the command against eating meat with blood in it. Additionally, abstaining from blood suggests that the Goyim are obligated to observe the laws of Niddah.

 

There are three kinds of commandments contained in the Torah: mishpatim, eidot and chukim. Chukim ("decrees") are laws which transcend our understanding and which we obey simply because they are the word of HaShem. Eidot ("testimonies") can be rationally explained, but they are not necessitated by rational considerations: had HaShem not commanded them, man would not have invented them. Finally, mishpatim ("laws") are laws which reason would have compelled man to devise even if they had not been Divinely revealed; as the Hakhamim say, "If the Torah had not been given, we would have learnt modesty from the cat and honesty from the ant."

 

This decision of Hakham Yaaqov makes sense only if we see this as the first formal detailing of the eidot that apply to the Goyim. This is the first delineation of the Noachide commandments! If a previous court had already rendered such a decision, then the responsa from that decision would have been disseminated and well known. That fact that Hakham Shaul (a Torah giant) is here asking for a decision, suggests that it was NOT known. This makes the Nazarean Codicil come alive as we realize that this is an historical decision for the Goyim. Never before in history had the Goyim an opportunity to have a portion in the Olam HaBa without circumcision and becoming full converts!

 

Thus we begin to understand why this historical decision is being rendered by the Bet Din Gadole and not a lesser court.

 

For those who see this decision as falling short of delineating the Noachide commandments, consider that there is no need to detail the mishpatim in this judgment because all rational men adhere to them without a command. Thus we see that Hakham Yaaqov had no need to command against murder, theft, or the establishment of courts of justice.

 

Few people realize that HaShem gave the Hakhamim of Israel His insight, and therefore Hakham Yaaqov, explanations of, and methods for, deriving His will from the written Torah. This is known as the Torah shebaal Peh, the Oral Torah. There is a fundamental principle in Torah Judaism that every part of the Oral Torah can be found hinted at in the written Torah. Using these methods of exegesis, the Mishna[27] derives the six Noachide commandments given to Adam from Bereshit 2:16, as we have seen previously.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 2:16 And HaShem God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

 

The Seventh Law is commanded outright to Noach in Bereshit 9:4:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 9:4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

 

These seven commands are formalized by the Rambam in his monumental Codification of Torah Law, Mishneh Torah[28]. The derivation of these laws is as follows:

 

And HaShem God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.

 

Idolatry: TSAV (command). As evident from Hoshea 5:11, TSAV is an allusion to the worship of idols. There, the word TSAV is used directly in reference people doing the command (TSAV) of idolatrous priests (Rashi) and the wicked kings (Radak).

 

Blasphemy: HASHEM. The word develops an association between this verse and the prohibition against cursing HaShem mentioned in the verse Vayikra 24:16, which explicitly uses the name HaShem.

 

Murder: AL HAADAM (To the Man). The words refer to the command against murder as mentioned in Bereshit 9:6 where the word ADAM is also used to describe man.

 

Sexual Immorality: LEIMOR (saying). The word LEIMOR establishes a connection between this verse and Yeremyahu 3:1, which starts with the word LEIMOR. Yeremyahu 3:1 discusses acts which are sexually immoral.

 

Theft: This is derived from the plain meaning of the verse to granting license to eat from the trees of the garden for otherwise Adam would have been forbidden to do so, because the property did not belong to him.

 

Courts of Justice: ELOHIM (God). Shemot 22:27 uses that Name in reference to judges and the judicial process.

 

Hakham Yaaqov clearly sees the Noachide commands as being a beginning point, for they will learn the laws of Moses in the synagogue on Shabbat.

 

The following chart lends credence to the understanding given me by my Teacher, Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai, that abstaining from blood includes Niddah, the blood of menstruation. The chart associates the eating of an animal’s limb with the sexual organs.

 

Correlations

 

The following chart by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh shows the relationship between the Sefirot and the Noachide laws, matched to the appropriate body part:

 

 


 

sefirah

Commandment

 

Body Part

chesed
"loving-kindness"

prohibition against
adultery

Blue

right
arm

gevurah
"might"

prohibition against
murder

Red

left
arm

tiferet
"beauty"

prohibition against
theft

Yellow

torso

netzach
"victory," "eternity"

prohibition against
idol worship

Green

right
leg

hod
"splendor," "acknowledgment," "thanksgiving"

prohibition against blasphemy

Orange

left leg

yesod
"foundation"

prohibition against eating flesh torn from a live animal or drinking its blood

Violet

organ of procreation

malchut
"kingdom"

establishing a legal system

Indigo

mouth

 


 

In Seder Olam

 

In chapter 5 we find that the author of Seder Olam gives a derivation of the Noachide laws from Bereshit (Genesis) 2:16-17. This breakdown is interesting.

 

From the Reed Sea they travelled to Marah as it is said (Ex. 15:23): "they came to Marah"; and it is said (Ex. 15:25): "there He gave them ordinances and laws and there He tried them". There Israel received 10 commandments, seven of those had already been given to all of mankind as it is written (Gen. 2:16-17): "There commanded the Eternal, God, to Man, saying: From any tree of the Garden you may certainly eat". "There commanded" refers to a system of laws, and so it says (Gen. 18:19): "For I knew him so that he should command his descendents after him to exercise justice and law in the land". "Eternal" refers to blasphemy as it is said (Lev. 24:16): "He who blasphemes the name of the Eternal shall certainly die". "God" refers to idolatry as it is said (Ex. 20:3): "You shall not have other gods before Me". "To Man" refers to murder, as it is said (Gen. 9:6): "He who spills the blood of a man, by man his blood shall be spilled". "Saying" refers to adultery as it is said (Jer. 3:1): "Saying: If a man send his wife away and she went and became another man's, could he return to her again? Would not the land be filled with immorality? But you committed harlotry with many friends, nevertheless return to Me, pronouncement of the Eternal". "From any tree of the Garden" refers to robbery as it is said (Lev. 5:24): "About anything that one would swear falsely about, he should pay its capital and at its fifths to it". "You may certainly eat" refers to eating limbs of a still living animal as it is said (Gen. 9:4): "But meat, when its life is still in its blood, you shall not eat". Israel added to these at that time Sabbath, the Procedural Law, and Honor of Father and Mother.

 



Appendix:

 

The oral law lists these seven commands in various orders depending on the genre of the oral law:

 

2 Luqas 15[29]

Talmud

Midrash

Zohar

Tosefta

Courts[30]

Courts[31]

Idolatry

Idolatry

Courts

Blasphemy[32]

Blasphemy

Blasphemy

Blasphemy

Idolatry

Idolatry

Idolatry

Courts[33]

Courts[34]

Blasphemy

Adultery[35]

Adultery

Bloodshed

Bloodshed[36]

Adultery

Bloodshed[37]

Bloodshed

Adultery[38]

Adultery[39]

Bloodshed

Robbery[40]

Robbery

Robbery

Robbery

Robbery

Flesh of a living animal[41]

Flesh of a living animal

Flesh of a living animal

Flesh of a living animal

Flesh of a living animal

 


 

Bibliography

 

"The Path of the Righteous Gentile", by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky.

 

“The Seven Colors of the Rainbow”, Torah Ethics for Non-Jews, by Rabbi Yiremeyahu Bindman.

 

“The Seven Laws of Noach” By Aaron Lichtenstein. The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press, New York. 1981.

 

Seder Olam, The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology, translated and with commentary by Heinrich W. Guggenheimer.

 

 

 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

Return to The WATCHMAN home page

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 

 


 



[1] Bereshit (Genesis) 2:16

[2] Hoshea (Hosea) 5:11

[3] Vayikra (Leviticus) 24:16

[4] Shemot (Exodus) 22:27

[5] Bereshit (Genesis) 9:6

[6] Yirmyahu (Jeremiah) 3:1

[7] Bereshit (Genesis) 9:4

[8] I.e., to establish courts of justice, or, perhaps, to observe social justice (Nahmanides on Gen. 34:13): Hast. Dict. (s.v. Noachian precepts) translates ‘obedience to authority’.

[9] These commandments may be regarded as the foundations of all human and moral progress. Judaism has both a national and a universal outlook in life. In the former sense it is particularistic, setting up a people distinct and separate from others by its peculiar religious law. But in the latter, it recognises that moral progress and its concomitant Divine love and approval are the privilege and obligation of all mankind. And hence the Talmud lays down the seven Noachian precepts, by the observance of which all mankind may attain spiritual perfection, and without which moral death must inevitably ensue. That perhaps is the idea underlying the assertion (passim) that a heathen is liable to death for the neglect of any of these. The last mentioned is particularly instructive as showing the great importance attached to the humane treatment of animals; so much so, that it is declared to be fundamental to human righteousness.

[10] Grunfeld, I.  (1972), The Jewish Dietary Laws, London: The Soncino Press, vol, I, pp. 41-44

[11] Sanhedrin 56b

[12] Av. Zar. 64b; Maim. Yad, Melakhim 8:10

[13] Code, Kings 8:10

[14] Old Testament

[15] New Testament

[16] in Sanhedrin 56b

[17] R' Shlomo Riskin, R' Nathan Cardozo Torah, Masorah, and Man, and Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim 8:11

[18] Aaron Lichtenstein in his book, The Seven Laws of Noach, published by Z. Berman Books, gives a full treatment of these other laws and details that complement the seven major categories

[19] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae.

[20] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae.

[21] Court is held in the synagogue by the bench of three.

[22] Derived from Idolatry

[23] Would also include incest as well as the fornication specifically mentioned.

[24] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae

[25] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae

[26] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae

[27] in Sanhedrin 56a

[28] Section Hilchot Melachim (The Laws of Kings), 9:1

[29] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae.

[30] Court is held in the synagogue by the bench of three.

[31] Social laws

[32] Derived from Idolatry

[33] Authority of judges

[34] Perversion of justice

[35] Would also include incest as well as the fornication specifically mentioned.

[36] Murder

[37] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae

[38] Incest

[39] An altar is the place of sacrifices = food where we connect with HaShem. This would include incest.

[40] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae

[41] Varient reading based on Codex Bezae