INTRODUCTION – 2 /
Noah’s Commandments as a Group
There are several lists of the Seven Laws of Noah, presented in different order. In our class we’ll use the following one:
VII: PROHIBITION TO CONSUME BLOOD and LIMBS FROM A LIVING ANIMALS
Our list, as we’ll learn, follows the order of the Commandments seen in the Book of Genesis.
There are, however, important legal and logical reasons behind the choice order in our list, as we’ll soon see.
Note that each Commandment is a huge headline, containing many subtitles.
Tradition holds that the first six of these seven Commandments were given to “Adam and Eve in Eden.” Then, after the Flood, G-d added the seventh one was to Noah, along with the Rainbow Covenant, under which we still live.
Survey of our Course
The title of this course implies that we examine the Book of Genesis
from the view point of Noah’s Seven Laws.
We look for the Seven Laws in the Book of Genesis.
Let’s note that understanding the Seven Laws is essential for Noahides, Bnei Noah,
for the Seven Laws are the ‘ID card’ of that movement.
You can’t claim to be a Noahide, while ignoring the Seven Commandments.
Hence, as much as a Noahide may love the study of the Torah in general,
a Noahide is uniquely expected to be familiar with the Noah’s Seven Laws,
know their origin and understand their meaning thoroughly, intimately.
Though there are many ways to study the Seven Commandments of Noah,
in this course we’ll derive them directly from the Book of Genesis. How?
Let’s ask: where in the Torah the issue of IDOLATRY is mentioned the first time?
The answer is: in Genesis Chapter One, where G-d is introduced the first time, as The CREATOR, while IDOLATRY is introduced by the verse describing the creation of Adam, where G-d is saying in plural: “Let us make an Adam in Our Form and Our Image.’(1:26)
Speaking in plural – explains Rashi – has opened the door for idolaters to think that there are more than One Creator . In fact, that verse introduces ALL THE POSSIBLE IDOLS IN THE WORLD, as we’ll learn in details.
Hence Chapter One introduces both the CREATOR, whom we should recognize and worship, and the IDOLS whom we should recognize and worship not.
In the same token let’s ask, where is the first time that ADULTERY appears in the Torah?
The answer is: in the story of the Garden of Eden, Genesis Chapters 2-4.
ADULTREY of course needs a man and a woman, married to each other,
and a lover by the side. Indeed, immediately after forming the “woman” in Eden,
the verse says: “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother, cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.” That miraculous verse introduces both marriage and adultery,
listing all the possible sexual prohibition, as we’ll learn.
Interestingly, the story of Eden not only introduces ADAULTERY and Sexual Promiscuity,
but does it in the context of eating the Forbidden Fruit, which “opened their eyes” so that they became ashamed by their nakedness, that came along with the perception of the Shechinah in their heart, as we’ll learn. Thus, the story gives us a full, deep understanding what MARRIAGE and ADULTERY are.
Again, we may ask: where is the first time that BLOODSHED appears in the Torah?
The answer is clear: immediately after the story of Eden, where Cain kills Abel.
In fact, BLOODSEHD permeates the entire segment of the Book of Genesis up to Noah and the Great Flood.
During that period, humanity have stumbled over BLOODSHED in a big time as described in the stories of Tubal Cain and his gangues, who conducted MURDER and THEFT – hamas – under the watching sun with no shame.
At the end of that section, after the Flood, G-d entered with Noah and his sons the Rainbow Covenant, where the BLOODSHED Laws are listed in details. The entire new Covenant is based on BLOODSHED. We all still live on contingency under the Rainbow Covenant, and breaching it would bring back the Flood.
At the same time, to enforce Noah’s stance against BLOODSHED, G-d gave Noah a new Commandment, the seventh, one above Adam’s primordial six, which prohibits the consumption of blood and a limb torn from a living anima
The new, seventh Commandment is designed to teach humanity to be less cruel
and more sensitive to the pains of others, including pains of animals.
After dealing with BLOODSHED, the Book of Genesis takes us to Adam’s next law, THEFT.
We may ask: Who is the first person in the Torah whose life revolves around struggling against THEFT and promoting LAWFUL OWNERSHIP?
The Answer is: Abraham. He is not “the father of monotheism” as people claim, since he was preceded by Noah and Adam who believed in the true G-d and His Oneness.
The text shows that Abraham faced THEFT in its new, bigger version compared to Noah and his generation. A new phenomenon came to Earth: Empires grabbing land and manpower for slavery from other nations – committing THEFT in big time. Whereas in Noah’s time THEFT was done on individual level, by Tubal Cain’s gangues, now in Abraham time it was performed by armies and kings.
Struggling against that new phenomenon, Abraham was careful to purchase land with good money. He fought the four kings of the north to redeem captivity while refusing to share the loot, in particular with the master of thieves, the king of Sodom, with whom he would not share “from a thread to a shoelace.” Abraham declared that the only true owner is G-d who “owns the Heavens and the Earth” (14:22) by the virtue of creating them. Since He owns me, Abraham said, no one else may own me. He even gave G-d a new name – AaDoNai, my OWNER- to whom I am a ‘slave.’ To enforce his posture, he received a new Commandment, Circumcision, one above Noah’s seven, in which he “stamps the Owner’s emblem in our flesh.” (Soforno).
Here again the Torah introduces the topic of THEFT through the stories of Abraham, who fought against it and introduced a new Commandment, the Eight, to enforce his posture.
Hence Commandment number eight enforces Adam’s number four,
the same way that Commandment number seven of Noah enforces Adam’s number three, BLOODSHED.
CIVIL OREDER AND JUSTICE
Who is the first person in the Torah whose life revolves around the struggle for JUSTICE and CVIL ORDER? He is Jacob. We see him fighting not for faith, but rather for his birthrights, for his right to marry his beloved woman without being cheated by her father, and for his right to be fairly compensated for his work and for his right to live in a city without his daughter being abducted and raped by the mayor’s son – a CIVIL ORDER issue. He also fights against the lies of his brother, as his name is changing to Israel. If you wonder what the task of Israel is in the world, here is your answer: Israel is born to fight for the truth despite misunderstanding and lies.
And like Noah and Abraham, Jacob receives a new Commandment, the ninth, as a token for his struggle for JUSTICE and TRUTH. He and his children took upon themselves to avoid consuming the sciatic nerve, as a reminder of his struggle with Esau and his lies. Thus, the ninth Commandment came to enforce the struggle against violating Adam’s Fifth.
Thus, we see that the Book of Genesis takes us through Adam’s Six Commandments one by one. It is as if humanity was destined to engage those Commandments and be challenged by them in history. Since humanity failed each time, G-d sent us precious souls like Noah, Abraham and Jacob who struggled against those failures and in the process introduced new Commandments, the eighth and the ninth, thereby enforcing their stance.
Now, in the same token, we may ask: Who are the first people in the Torah who committed a bad BLASPEMY? As it turns out, this was done by no other than Jacobs’ own sons, who sold their brother Joseph to slavery. When a royal family like that of Jacob’s sons, the ones who knew the Torah and were supposed to give humanity a good example of a righteous society, when such adored family commit such a treacherous act as selling their own brother, it means that they committed an act of BLASPHEMY, since they made other people despise the Torah.
The brothers did correct their sins and they asked forgiveness. But their BLASPHEMY continued till Israel stood at Sinai and received the Torah. At that point HOLINESS descended on our world and chased away the BLASPHEMY that had prevailed.
In our course we’ll use the above as a guideline, studying the Seven Commandments from the text through the Book of Genesis. It looks as if Moses wrote the Book oof Genesis with Adam’s Commandments on his mind. As we’ll see, studying the Commandments in that fashion gives us the best insight to their meaning.
THE COMMANDMENT’S CORRECT ORDER
Amazingly, the Commandments appear in the Book of Genesis in the same classical order as depicted above: IDOLATRY, ADULTERY, BLOODSHED, THEFT, INJUSTICE, BLASPHEMY. This precludes other putative orders of the Commandment that have been suggested by many authors.
The fact that humanity is challenged in the Book of Genesis by the Commandments one by one suggests that each individual, each person is also challenged by them one by one throughout our lives. We therefore must have them on our minds, taking care not to fall a prey to their challenge.
The Commandment’s Cascade
There is a logic behind the Commandments’ order.
If you have violated one, the next Commandment would challenge you.
IDOLATRY comes first, for if a person does not believe in G-d,
there is no reason to observe the others.
ADULTERY follows, for if you don’t fear G-d,
what would stop a man from having a wonderful affair
with his best friend’s spouse?
BLOODSHED follows, for once a person has committed ADULTERY,
wouldn’t he/she expect the offended spouse to avenge with
a knife or a pistol?
THEFT follows, for once a person has stolen someone’s spouse,
why not steal his assets?
INJUSTICE follows, for having done all the above,
wouldn’t the offender attempt to cover up his/hers dee
BLASPHEMY follows, for living in such filth,
wouldn’t a person curse his mother and father and curse G-d,
for having brought him to this world?
The commandments’ cascade is so much embedded in our souls
that they are often used in the Bible and the general literature
to describe the moral downfall of a person. Here are some examples:
King David as an Example
King David, at the peak of his kingship and glory, stumbled over Bat Sheva.
Feeling so powerful, almost “worshipping himself”,
he stumbled over ADULTERY (though technically Bat Sheva was divorced.)
David then arranged the death of her husband Uriah,
thereby committing the next Commandment on the list: BLOODSHED.
The prophet Nathan, then, charged David with STEALING Uriah’s wife,
thereby committing INJUSTICE. Then the prophet shouted:
“You are the King of Israel and by giving a bad example,
you’ve also desecrated the name of G-d!” – BLASPHEMY!
Thus David stumbled over the entire cascade!
Another example: The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby story is well known. The story shows how he slides down
the entire cascade of Adam’s Six Commandments, one by one.
Gatsby is a godless, successful business man (IDOLATRY)
who lusts for his old girl-friend, though she is now married (ADULTERY.)
Her hurting husband plans to have Gatsby killed (BLOODSHED)
and steal his money (THEFT.)
But when the adulterous wife attempts to escape her husband,
her car hits a woman, fatally.
The Great Gatsby attempts to cover up her deeds (INJUSTICE)
but he is shot dead by the injured woman’s husband (JUSTICE.)
The story is so popular, since it follows the cascade of Adam’s Commandments,
which are embedded in our psyche from Eden,
becoming our Natural Moral Code!
The Historical Impact of Noah’s Commandments
The impact of Noah’s Seven Commandments on history is immense. Thus –
was born by St. Paul, who was ‘dispatched’ by the elders of
the nascent Christian Jewish sect to teach the gentiles the Seven Laws of Noah,
along with the “good news of the coming of the Messiah. (Acts)
was born when two Jewish tribes of the city of Yathrib (now Medina)
opened their schools to the local pagan Arabs, teaching them the Seven Laws of Noah,
along with other stories of Genesis and some prophets. The rest is history.
Let’s pray that today, as the nations are stirred up to accept the Seven Commandments,
humanity won’t repeat the errors of the past and would not introduce a new religion.