The Seven Noahide Laws

In the post titled Gentiles and Jews, we described how the distinction between Gentiles and Jews came into existence and why. In this post we will list the Seven Noahide Law, discuss their authenticity, and refers to another tangentially related idea.

How do we know that the Noahide Laws are legitimate and not human fabrications? The first point here is to mention that the Noahide Laws are in fact part of the Oral Law, not the Written Law. This means that their authenticity is on par with any information in the Oral Law. Because the Oral Law is an independent and self-contained entity given along side the Written Torah, there is technically no need for the Written Torah to refer to the Noahide Laws in any way. However, God left actual references to elements of the Noahide Laws in the Written Law.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the Seven Noahide Laws are:
  1. Do not deny God.
  2. Do not blaspheme God.
  3. Do not murder.
  4. Do not engage in incestuous, adulterous or homosexual relationships.
  5. Do not steal.
  6. Do not eat of a live animal.
  7. Establish courts/legal system to ensure law obedience.
Now if you're like most people, you've probably stopped reading this to reflect on whether your religion fulfills these tenets. You might also be wondering why you've never heard of them before and why they aren't listed in the Torah.

Wait, did I just say that they aren't listed in the Torah?! If that's true, isn't it a bit of a stretch of the imagination to expect you to believe that they are authentic? As described in more detail in the post on the Oral Law, the Written Torah is not the only authentic component of the Torah. Nevertheless, God left implicit and explicit references to some of them in the Written Torah. Why some and not others is another topic.

Two of the Seven Noahide Laws are mentioned in the following verses:
  • But, flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat. (Genesis 9:4)
  • Whoever sheds the blood of man through man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man. (Genesis 9:6)

To finish with an interesting idea, because God made a covenant with the Gentiles before He made one with the Jews, we can safely lay to rest the idea that God grafted in the Gentiles, as Paul states occurred in Romans 11:17, "If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root..." Grafting is an agricultural process whereby branches of a tree are attached to another, receive nourishment from it, and become a part of it. Christians believe that they were grafted in to the Covenant with the Jews. Interestingly, God prohibits the grafting of trees (known as kilayim in Hebrew), as stated in Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9-11; "You shall not sow your vineyard [together with] a mixed variety of species." In actuality it assumes, however, that the Jews had a Covenant and the Gentiles did not. What we have presented in this post is the opposite; that the Gentiles had a Covenant before the Jews even existed. In this way, it can be said that the Jews were grafted in to the Covenant of the Gentiles.


Unknown said...

This is a new idea, and interesting twist, you saying that the Jews were grafted into the covenant with the gentiles, as the gentile covenant came first. Far from Christians being grafted into the covenant at Siani, I always thought Christians considered theirs a "new covenant"? so in that way separate.
But either way you view it, the bottom line is any relationship with God would be by nature covenantal, whether the person is Jewish or gentile. We as humans cannot have relationships with other humans that have at least implied expectation (that they won't harm us, steal from us, that they are generally trustworthy). And the closer and more intimate the relationship, the more covenantal it becomes. So it would follow a relationship with God would follow a similar nature. Ultimately, marriage would be the human relationship that would resemble the relationship with God and his people.
The Noahide laws are great, and establish a basic premise on laws that promotes basic human flourishing. I know there are Noahide communities, but these guidelines aren't something a gentile can embrace and find a fulfilling spiritual life, as they are so lacking because they are almost completely about what not to do.

OrthodoxJew said...

Hello Anonymous Commenter,

I first want to thank you for your insight. Second, I spoke about this with my Rabbi in length and realized that I made a mistake in my writing. I made it seem like there is a relationship between the covenant God made with the Gentiles and the Seven Noahide Laws, but that was an error on my part.

Based on the verses, there is no reference to anything the Gentiles need to do to uphold this covenant – it is simply an eternal promise with no conditions. See Genesis 9:9-17.

In direct response to your comment, the Seven Noahide Laws are not a part of this covenant. Instead, they are seven commandments that are binding upon Gentiles, but are not associated with the promise to never destroy the world again by a flood. Further, the verses referring to this covenant extends its protection to all animal life forms (And with every living creature that is with you, among the fowl, among the cattle, and among all the beasts of the earth with you, of all those who came out of the ark, of all the living creatures of the earth, [Genesis 9:10]) and we know that animals are not charged with these commandments. This just means that the observance of the Seven Noahide Laws is permanent and binding, but not covenantal. This does not mean that Gentiles don’t have a relationship with God, it just means that their relationship is not covenantal.

This doesn’t mean that the covenant with the Jews is conditional based on Jewish observance. See Jeremiah 33:23-25. What it means is that entering into the covenant required their consent.

haKiruv said...

Hey OrthodoxJew. I'm going to start posting again, but first, I "drafted" all my posts and will slowly repost them. The anonymous poster is right. The seven laws are not very spiritual and are actually designed to not be that way; at least at first.

Bnei Noach become more spiritual by becoming what is called a "ger toshav". The ger toshav is someone who accepts the sheva mitzvot/seven laws openly in front of 3 scholarly Jews. Once that happens, or he at least has the same spirit about him, he can study as much Torah as he wants and do just about anything he wants to without being obnoxious about it. If the ger toshav wants to do all 613 mitzvot, he can and he should come before an orthodox beit din and be sworn in as a ger tzedek.

Up until that point, the ger toshav should strive to do whatever his heart desires as long as he doesn't break the sheva mitzvot.

There is a ton of freedom and spirituality to be found in this. The ger toshav can study Chassidus, Kabbalah according to his soul level, Mishneh Torah, Parshas, etc. Anything he wants. Feel free to contact me if you want to know more or for a good starting place.

OrthodoxJew said...

HaKiruv! Thanks for this awesome comment. I was expecting something good, but this helps clarify it a lot. I realize I have to do more learning on this topic. What sources of information do you use to learn about this topic?

haKiruv said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that gerim toshavim are not received today, but they still exist. Gerim toshavim therefore can't expect things that gerim would normally get from the halachah. Rambam, Hilchot Melachem CH 8-10 talks about most of this in detail and also about ger toshavim in other places, such as Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 13-14

OrthodoxJew said...

Thanks, I'll look up those sources.