AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NOAHIDE LAWS

 

Mercy

Mercy is the element that keeps Justice from devouring the universe. Absolute justice has no room for imperfect human beings. Mercy tempers justice. Only by combining justice and mercy can human beings have courts that are truly just.

Justice, Mercy and the Noachide Laws

The Torah of Israel was never meant to be an oppressive instrument. In fact, its purpose has always been to perfect the individual and create a world where people act in brotherhood with one another. Challenges to this claim are the seeming harshness of the Noachide Laws. The Lack of minimum amounts and the automatic death penalty of each of the Laws encourage a perspective of injustice in some toward the Torah.

As we see in the Torah Laws of the Jewish people God is both just and merciful. The purpose of the courts is to be a force for good. Their primary focus is to be teachers of the Law not executioners.

Even under the Noachide system attaining a capital conviction is nearly impossible. How many times are we even able to provide one eye witness for a crime? The purpose of punishment in the Torah is to instill the fear of Hashem in human beings. However, such punishments are rarely carried out. A Sanhedrin that kills one person in 70 years is called a “bloody” Sanhedrin.

Hashem desires us to live so that we can turn away from sin and draw close to him. A person who is dead can no longer serve Hashem. For those who still feel that the punishment for Noachide offenses are cruel and blood thirsty let them point to specific examples of cruelty and bloodthirstiness within the Observant Jewish communities (as a result of their Torah). They will never find such examples.

Conclusion

The Noachide Laws have been the standard that God has judged humanity by since he first created us. It is by that standard that nations rise and fall, their reward and punishment based on their adherence or rejection of those laws.  In our world when confusion over the complexity of religion prevents us from attaining a relationship with God and our fellow human beings. It is reassuring to know that God’s plan for us is straight forward and that he has set forth his Torah and its laws that guide and establish perfection, peace and unity for all human beings.


[i]Rambam, Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamoteihem 9:1 (Moznaim Publishing Corporation. New York/Jerusalem) 1987.All references to Hilchot Melachim are taken directly from this version unless specified otherwise.

ibid.

Hilchot Melachim 8:10-11

Hilchot Melachim 9:1

This would be true even if an independent tradition from the Jewish tradition of the Noahide laws existed. However, no such tradition exists. We only know of the obligation and the Noahide Laws because of Jewish oral traditions.

Exodus 34:10, Deuteronomy 4:34

Exodus 20:10

Steinsaltz, 11

The Book of Jonah shows us how repentence can overturn an evil decree. The city, Nineveh, was a non-Jewish city. Nebuchadnezzar, in the book of Daniel, was turned into a wild animal as punishment for his actions; however, he was able to hold off this decree for a time by giving to charity.

The Law to establish courts of justice is actually both positive and negative. “Establish courts of justice” is the positive aspect and “do not pervert justice” is the negative aspect.

Hilchot Avodah Zarah V’Hakot HaGoiim 1:1

Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim (“Guide for the Perplexed”). (Dover Publications, Inc. New York) 1956. All quotes from Moreh Nevuchim are taken from this edition unless specified otherwise.

Moreh Nevuchim. 320

Derech Hashem (“The Way of God”)

The following verses attest that God is alone. Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 32:39; I Samuel 2:2; II Kings 19:19; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6-8; 44:24; 45:5-6; 45:21-22; 46:5; 46:9; 48:11; Malachi 2:10; and Nehemiah 9:6

Moreh Nevuchim. 59

Moreh Nevuchim. 60

The following verses attest that God is not a physical being. Numbers 23:19; Deuteronomy 4:11-12; 5:23 I Kings 8:27

Examine the following verses concerning the unique identity of God.

The God of the Exodus and Sinai: Exodus 20:2-3; I Kings 8:60; II Kings 19:19; Isaiah 40:18; Isaiah 44:6-8; 44:24; Hosea 13:4; Joel 2:27; Malachi 2:10; Nehemiah 9:6 The God of Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob: Gen. 17:9; 26:3, 24; 28:13; 32:9; Exodus 3:6; 15-16; 4:5; 33:1 Lev. 26:42; Num. 32:11; Deut. 1:8; 6:10; 9:5, 27; 29:13; 30:20; 34:4; I Kings 18:36; 2 Kings 13:23; I Chr. 1:28; 16:16; 29:18; 2 Chr. 20:7; 30:6; Ps. 47:9; 81:4; 105:6, 9, 42; Is. 29:22, 41:8, 51:2The God that gave the Torah: Deut. 4:5-8; 10:12-13; Ps. 81:4 The Holiness of the Torah: Psalm 19:8-9 (7-8); 119:44, 72, 97, 155, 163, 165 The eternality of the Torah: Deut. 29:28 (29); Psalm 111:7-8; Ezekiel 11:19-20

The following verses mark out the differences between God and the gods of the nations. Deuteronomy 6:14; I Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 40:18; 40:25; 40:25; 43:10-11; 44:6-8; 46:5; Malachi 2:10; Psalms 81:8-9; I Chronicles 17:20

Review the following verses. I Kings 8:50; II Kings 19:19; Isaiah 45:21-22; Malachi 2:10

In the Talmudi c literature (Sanhedrin 56a) and the Mishnah Torah (Avodah Zarah 2:7, Hilchot Melachim 9:3) and other works; the term “blessing the name” is used euphemistically to mean cursing the name of God.

This is because the only place where death penalties are mentioned in relation to non-Jews is in Bereishit 9:6. There we are told: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed…” meaning, we are told that in order for a person to be put to death their blood must be shed. The only death penalty mentioned in the Torah involving shedding blood is decapitation. The Torah describes other death penalties for Jews. Beheading is said to be the least painful death penalty.

Exodus 20:7, the prohibition against swearing falsely by God’s name is one of the Ten Commandments.

Rambam, Guide for the Perplexed, p. 222

“Woe to those who call evil *good,* and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter…” (Isaiah 5:20).

For More information see “Philosophy, Reason and Revelation”—coming soon

The Oral tradition is very clear that “A gentile who slays a human being, even a fetus in its mothere’s womb, must be executed [in retribution] for its [death]. Hilchot Melachim 9:4.

Exodus 21:22

Hilchot Melachim 9:4

Bereishit 2:24

Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot

Such Jews are appointed by the Sanhedrin because Noachides have not fulfilled their obligation to establish courts of justice. This seems particular to the Land of Israel with Garim Toshavim (resident aliens) see Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 10:11.

Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 9:14

Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 9:14. A major city is one that contains 120 men in it.

ibid.

ibid.

There are those that teach that even the utensils become unusable for Noachides. However, laws involving “koshering” utensils are largely Rabbinic. Rabbinic Laws do not apply to Noachides, unless they are Rabbinic Laws from an actual Sanhedrin. Such a Rabbinic Law would need to be aimed at explaining Noachide Halachah.

Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 9:12

Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 10:5 and the means of execution is always decapitation “except in cases when he has slept with the wife of a Jew or a betrothen maiden (ibid).”

Of course, the circumstances under which a child could be put to death for violation of this law are so limited that so far no one has been put to death for it.

“Its ways are pleasant ways and all its paths are Peace (Proverbs 3:17).”

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