Academic Apologetics Hebrew Roots Theology
R. L. Solberg  

The Law & the Land

“The legal materials in Exodus–Numbers and Deuteronomy include explicit indication that they are meant for the new land, itself already promised to the forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the book of Genesis (cf. Gen. 12:1–3, 7; 26:2–5; 28:10–15; Deut. 1:8; 12:1; Lev. 18:1–5).”1

The laws given to Israel were tied not only to the covenant given at Horeb (and renewed on the plains of Moab) but were also linked to the land. That is the unique context in which those laws applied to the nation of Israel. The language in which the commandments were couched confirms their correlation to the land. In some cases, directly:

“Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

Deuteronomy 4:40, ESV (cf Deut. 6:2, 11:21)

Here the reason why the laws as a whole were given corporately to Israel was “that it may go well with you . . . in the land.” Many individual laws are also linked to the possession of the land. For example, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod. 20:12, cf Deut. 5:16).

God’s legal commands are also predicated on a civil authority that Israel could only wield as a sovereign nation in its own land. This includes, most overtly, the employment of the death penalty. For instance, “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death…Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death” (Exod. 21:15, 17, cf Lev. 20:9; Deut. 27:16).

Ultimately, the Torah laws would not persist as they were given. The covenant they belonged to was broken by Israel and ended (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:13) and was replaced by a new and better covenant that was “enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:6). And the land to which they were linked was taken away from the ancient nation of Israel because of their disobedience, just as the Lord warned Solomon,

But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins.”

I Kings 9:6-8

Thus, in Jesus’ discussion of the Law at the Sermon on the Mount, R. T. France notes that He “does not state, as it is sometimes interpreted, that every regulation in the Old Testament law remains binding after the coming of Jesus. The law is unalterable, but that does not justify its application beyond the purpose for which it was intended.”2

Indeed, the Mosaic law was given to bring us to Christ.

Now, before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Galatians 3:23–26

The New Covenant is “not like the [old] covenant” (Jer. 31:31-32). It brought a new expression and a new locus for God’s law. Now that Christ has come, “we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6).


1 Pekka Pitkänen, “The Settlement Period,” in Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, ed. Jonathan S. Greer, John W. Hilber, and John H. Walton (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2018), 201.

2 R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 118.

2 thoughts on “The Law & the Land

  1. Tony Pino

    Rob,

    “Ultimately, the Torah laws would not persist as they were given. The covenant they belonged to was broken by Israel and ended (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:13) and was replaced by a new and better covenant that was “enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:6). And the land to which they were linked was 👉🏻taken away from the ancient nation of Israel because of their disobedience,👈🏻 just as the Lord warned Solomon,”

    For clarification, are you saying the land no longer belongs to Israel in the New Covenant? They permanently lost the land in 70ad?

    Blessings
    Tony

    1. R. L. Solberg

      Hi, Tony. Thanks for asking rather than presuming. That statement merely refers to the exile as recorded in Scripture.
      Shalom, Rob

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