The following article has been adapted from my book, The Delusion of Christianity, Chapter 7.
What are the seven divine commandments? Where do they come from?
In the book of Genesis, we encounter several important teachings and judgments from G-d. In Genesis 2:16, G-d issues the very first commandment to man. Before considering its content, the commandment first implies that man is bound by what G-d asks of him and ought to comply. It also implies that there is no other divinity besides G-d. That is, we have a clear prohibition of idolatry, although for Adam and Chava (Eve) it was as clear as light that G-d is one.
Further in Genesis 4:5–7, G-d admonishes Cain over Cain’s fueling of the anger he felt in reaction to G-d’s preference over Abel’s offering. G-d instructs Cain (and us) that anger can lead to sin. “Whoever angers,” warn the Jewish Sages, “is as if he has performed idolatry,” which is prohibited as we saw above. “If one who angers is a scholar,” continue the Sages, “his wisdom will depart from him, and if he is a prophet his prophetic spirit will depart from him.”(1) Rage is a bad quality by G-d’s standard; one to be avoided by improving and refining one’s character, for otherwise it surely leads to sin. What does Cain do instead of subduing his anger? He fuels his rage and kills Abel (verse 4:8). As a result, G-d punishes Cain (verse 11), who then leaves the presence of G-d (verse 4:16). Therefore, we have a clear prohibition of murder.
Next, in Genesis 6 we read of man’s corruption and violence (verse 6:11) and G-d’s regret in having made man (verse 6:6). In verse 11 we deduce the prohibition of theft, for robbery is given a special mention out of the category of violence.(2) Due to Noah’s righteousness, G-d has compassion on him and his family and gives Noah a chance to save himself (verses 6:8, 18). On what grounds was Noah a righteous man? On what grounds would G-d wipe out mankind? Man must have obviously known what G-d had asked of them prior to G-d’s decree, for otherwise G-d would be unjust, a quality He does not possess (Isaiah 61:8). A logical consequence of this expectation on the part of G-d is that if man contravenes G-d’s commandments, he disrespects G-d (as did Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:26 by not obeying G-d’s simple instruction to avoid looking back as Sodom was being destroyed). If he does so intentionally, he obviously reviles G-d. This is the prohibition of blasphemy; man should not "bless" G-d. Thus, in addition to the prohibitions of idolatry and murder, which we deduced above, G-d prohibits violence, which may encompass injury, theft, rape, cruelty to creatures, deceit, and much more.
After the waters of the deluge subside, G-d establishes a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9) consisting of a variety of commandments. G-d instructs Noah (thus, mankind) to create a family (verse 9:1). Furthermore, man is to steward the animals, thus is prohibited to be cruel to them (verse 9:4). For the first time since creation, G-d gives mankind permission (verse 9:3) to eat meat “as I gave the green plant,” but not blood or meat from a live animal. This implies a prohibition of cruelty to animals. In verse 9:5, G-d requires man to establish societal order while stewarding Earth. Thus, we have the obligation to establish courts of law, in a more general sense. The prohibitions of murder and idolatry are reiterated in verse 9:6 (shedding blood is to be prosecuted and being made in the image of G-d implies no worshiping idols in whatever form). G-d establishes this covenant with Noah, his family, and their descendants (verse 9:8) using the rainbow as a symbol (verse 13). After Earth was repopulated and sin penetrated life once more, by virtue of the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19) for rape and other deviant sexual practices, we may deduce G-d’s prohibition of illicit sexual acts.
Brought By Yair Borici
Yair Borici embraced the opportunity to observe the Torah for Non-Jews in 2014 upon running into a talk on the Crown of the Torah by Rabbi Manis Friedman while learning Biblical Hebrew on his own. He studied the Sheva Miztwoth Hashem (Divine Code) by Rabbi Moshe Weiner and took the various courses with Rabbi Moshe Perets in the World Noahide Academy starting in 2016. Yair also attended courses with Sephardi Rabbis going beyond the seven categories, including studying Mishneh Torah by the Rambam. Yair has studied is'lam and ch'ristianity extensively for the past 22 years. His focus is raising awareness of and edifying various audiences on the ancient faith in the one true G-d that the Jewish Nation has carefully preserved since they received the Torah at Sinai.
Related Articles on the Noahide Academy
Rabbi Moshe Perets. Where is The Source of the Seven Noahide Commandments in the Torah?
Rabbi Yerachiel Altman. Seven Laws of Noah (Children's Introduction).
Rabbi Moshe Weiner. Is a Person Obligated to Know the Seven Commandments? (From The Divine Code)
More related posts here.
(1) Chabad Article: Anger is D-anger-ous.
(2) The Hebrew term chamas (Heb. חָמָס, violence, wrong done to someone, harsh treatment, extortion) includes the corruption of robbery (Gesenius’ Hebrew-English Lexicon, 1939, p. 329).
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further.
NoahideAcademy.org's copyright policy.