The Book of the Covenant

20:18 to 23:33

    The laws in this section are called the Book of the Covenant based on that phrase in 24:7. They are different and distinct from the Ten Commandments. They were written by the hand of Moses and not from the hand of God like the Ten Commandments will be. Moshe presented the commandments on behalf of God to the people (21:1). The Hebrew word mishpat means to judge or to rule, and implies a law that rests upon prior precedent. Therefore, compared with Suzerainty Treaties, the Torah had specific conditions; these are laid out in the Book of the Covenant. Other specific social and economic issues are also mentioned in Deuteronomy 12:1 to 26:15.

    This means that the Book of the Covenant is made up of descriptive commandments that met the needs of the new budding nation of Isra'el. But those descriptive commandments were based upon the prescriptive law of the Ten Commandments. For example, in 22:1 we see a commandment dealing with the repayment for the theft of another’s animals. That was based upon the principle of the Eighth Commandment: You shall not steal (20:5). In other words, the Ten Commandments emphasize the fundamental legal principles for any society to function properly. Those principles are just as valid today as they were when Moshe brought them down from Mount Sinai. The principles of the Book of the Covenant, like the Ten Commandments, are a blueprint for living for us today.

 

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