The title doesn’t do the post justice, but a good title would be too long. Here’s an alternate title:
Is there a difference between laws based on morality and laws based on getting a large group of people to be able to live together in harmony?
I’ve reading in Exodus lately, and I’m getting to the point where God starts giving the people all kinds of laws and regulations. Growing up, I always assumed that the laws in the Bible were for moral purposes: telling us what’s right and wrong. But the more I read some of the laws in the Old Testament, the more I question that stance.
It seems to me that God gives two different types of laws: Moral and Governmental. Moral laws would be those like the ten commandments where God says “Thou Shall Not Kill.” That law is not saying anything about getting punished for kiling someone… it’s just saying “Don’t do it ’cause it’s wrong.”
Governmental laws, on the other hand, are laws like “If you have a slave that you gave a wife to, then after 7 years, you have to let the slave go, but not necessarily his wife, and the slave can stay if he wants.” That seems a lot less like it’s telling us what’s right and wrong, and more like it’s telling the Isrealites what the laws are.
Any time you have a group of sinful people together (*ahem* any of us), there must be rules about how to conduct ourselves so that life is somewhat fair and nobody gets hurt. The speed limit is one of those laws. Is it morally wrong to drive a motorized vehicle at more than 90 miles per hour? No… but if everyone were allowed to do that, there would be a lot of accidental wrecks that caused a lot of death and damage. Therefore, the speed limit is a governmental law designed to keep us safe (By the way, I believe it is morally wrong to break the law, as per the beginning of Romans chapter 13, but that’s another story).
Until Saul was annointed king in Israel, their form of government was a Theocracy. Literally a government where the person in charge is God. Therefore, the government (God), had to make rules that weren’t necessarily based on morals, but were designed to keep people safe and settle disputes. In fact, in the last couple centuries, a lot of the “silly” laws in the old testament (Like not combining meat and dairy) have been found to be a good idea for overall health and wellness. So is it morally wrong to eat meat and cheese together? I have no idea. This post is more about asking questions than answering them.
I guess I believe that there is a difference between the moral and governmental laws in the Bible. The main difference, I think, would be their longevity. Several of the laws for the nation of Israel are made obsolete by other laws that our government has in place, and rightly so. But there are moral laws in the Bible that our government can never replace or modify, because they are based on what is right and wrong, and the nature of God. And since God is unchanging, those basic moral laws are also unchanging.