The Covenant with Noah And the Gentiles
By Robert ClantonIn Genesis 9: we see God making a Covenant with Noah and his family (Gentiles), just as God had made a covenant with The children of Israel. In his covenant with the family of the Gentiles, he makes these statements,
"1And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. 2And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. 3Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. 4But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. 5And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. 6Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. 7And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein."
First of the covenant, the covenant is made between God and Noah and his sons. It is God's covenant of righteousness by faith, with the acceptance of Noah and his generations to perform the will of God and keep the Noahide commandments. The relationship is what must I do to show my faith and obey God. God answers by first "blessing" Noah and his sons. Noah and his sons and all generations will be blessed by keeping this covenant. The true worshipers of God, from all generations forward are the keepers of this covenant. Therefore, they can have no other covenants with false gods.
God reestablishes the marriage laws of "being fruitful and replenishing the earth" . Within this COMMANDMENT, is the responsiblity to live a life of sanctity apart from adultery as well as to have children. This is called the commandment to abstain from "pronea" (translated "fornication" ) in Acts 15:20. By including the "adultery" commandment within this covenant the Jews have always understood with the scholars that the implied, "thou shalt not covet" and "thou shalt not steal" are contained within the commandment. Both "coveting" and "stealing" would be
Verse 3, God shows that "EVERY MOVING THING SHALL BE MEAT FOR YOU, unlike what God allows for the "Children of Israel" .
Verse 4, God COMMANDS that the blood of the animal should not be food. This is also stated in Acts 15:20 as "abstaining from blood"
Verses 5 and 6 record the initiation of the second divinely established institution. In 2:24 the institution of the family was established; here the institution of civil government is established. Later, God would establish His church. God has invested in mankind the right to govern itself; it is one of our inalienable rights. Those who are set in authority over us are to be a terror to evil works (Rom 13:3); and those who disobey the God-ordained powers of human government are liable for punishment because "the minister of God beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Rom 13:4). One of the statutes of the government "a sword" that is not borne in vain is found in 9:6. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. This divinely established statute of capital punishment is nowhere abrogated in Scripture and is as valid today as it was in the days of Noah.
"Homicide (which in a sense is always fratricide, v. 5) demands a punishment that matches the crime. The justification for capital punishment, here established, is the nobility of human life, which is made in the image of God" (Ryrie, p. 19). It is not instituted primarily as a deterrent for crime, but as a strong reminder of the uniqueness of man, created in the image of God. For the fourth time, God commands to man in general, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
Verse 6 is the COMMANDMENT to avoid murder, it is actually part of the commandment to abstain from blood.
Now let us see, we have a list of commandments contained in the Genesis 9, which God gives to Noah. And that is why they are called, "THE NOAHIDE LAWS" . Now what commandment is missing this list, that is missing in the New Testament? What commandment is missing in this list that is missing in from Acts 15? What commandment does Paul fail to tell the Gentiles to Keep? What Commandment does Christ fail to command the Gentiles to keep? What commandment does Peter and all the Apostles fail to tell the Gentiles to Keep? ANSWER: THE SABBATH! That is why these exact commandments are repeated in Acts 15. while the Sect of the Pharisees wanted the Gentiles to be "commanded to keep the Law of Moses" (Acts 15:5) but FIRST they had to be circumcised. Absolutely not, says the Apostles.
The covenant with Noah is with all peoples. Later God makes a separate covenant is made with Abraham while he is still under the Noahide covenant. The Abrahamic covenant declares that because of Abraham's faith, God promises him a son in whom all nations will be blessed. Abraham believes God, as a gentile and his faith is "accounted as righteousness" . This occurs before the covenant of circumcision in the flesh and 430 years before the covenant of law with is children of through Jacob ( the children of Israel). There is no covenant of the law of Moses in existence at the time of Abraham.
Years later, God makes another covenant with Abraham's particular children for the rest of their generations of man. In this covenant all the males and anyone employed by them or owned by one of Abraham's children must be circumcised in the flesh. In this covenant only those physical decendants from Abraham are to be circumcised in the flesh, it excludes the rest of the world. It is a "sign" between Abraham and "his seed" after him. From then on Abraham removes the foreskin of every male of his family and every servant of his family. It is only a covenant between God and Abrahams family. We understand then that only Abraham's descendants are required to be circumcised, not those that are not his descendants.
430 years later comes the covenant at Mount Sinai. This covenant is with the Children only from Jacob (Israel). Thus, they are called "children of Israel" who are physical descendants of Jacob only. In this covenant God gives them all the laws of the Law of Moses. Exodus 20-24. The children of Israel agree to keep the laws. It is covenant strictly between God and the children of Israel. The gentiles are not required to obey the laws of a covenant made with a separate people alone.
The sabbath, new moons, holy days, tithing, food laws, washing laws, sacrifices, offerrings and hundreds of other laws are all apart of the covenant. The gentiles are not expected to observe these laws because it is a special covenant between God and the children of Jacob. The gentiles didn't agree to keep any of it and are not commanded to observe it. This is referred to as the Old Covenant.
This covenant was to last until the promise of Abraham was to be fulfilled when the Messiah would come and not just the nation Israel would be blessed but the whole world, all nations and many nations as Paul would say. The world is still under the covenant with Noah, Israel is under its special covenant with God of which the Sabbath is the "sign" of the Old Covenant.
When the Messiah comes he will make a new covenant and the entire world will be blessed by it. It will be added to the Noahide covenant and Abrahamic covenant that promises to bless the entire world on the basis of the righteousness of faith. The Old Covenant will be completed and vanish away at the fulfillment of the last generation at the coming of Christ.
The New Covenant will save all peoples on the basis of faith apart from the covenant at Mt. Sinai. As Abraham and noah were saved by faith hundreds of years before the covenant at Mount Sinai. The laws of Noahide covenant still stand to condemn those who refuse the new covenant. The laws of the Old Covenant still stand for Israel , to condemn them for refusing the new covenant. So whether you are Jew or Gentile, if you refuse the New Covenant, you will be condemned. Not by the same laws but by the individual laws governing each covenant.
In the end, all mankind is saved by the righteousness of faith apart from the covenant of law made at Mount Sinai. Abel, Enoch Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Melchezedec and all of their wives was saved that way. So were all the righteous gentiles not mentioned in scripture and so are Christians today. So, Christ never commanded gentiles or Christians to keep the circumcision of the flesh, sabbath, new moon or holy days, neither does the apostles. All peoples are to live under the Abrahamic promise of being accounted righteous by their faith before Abraham was circumcised, and 430 years before the covenant not with the gentiles but with the children of Jacob in which they agreed to keep the laws of the covenant not gentiles.
The church is the administrator of the New Covenant as Moses and Levi were adminstrators of the Old Covenant.
Rom.4:" 16Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that ONLY which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, " 17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed,
Notice that Paul uses "many nations" not just the one nation of Israel. And the promise of salvation by grace through faith is not ONLY to those of the law but al who have the faith of the Abraham. 430 years before there was any covenant and commandment to keep the sabbath, new moons and holy days.
In the book, "Jewish Literacy, The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History" by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Chapter 278, "RIGHTOUS NON-JEWS/HASIDEI UMMOT HA-OLAM" the Rabbi begins the first line of the chapter in this manner: "Judaism has never taught that hone has to be Jewish in order to be saved." In other words one does not have to become Jewish in order to be saved. The third paragraph on the same page we read, " Whereas Jews are considered bound by the 613 Laws of the Torah, Judaism demons from non-Jews fulfillment only of the Seven Noahide Laws, modeled on the quintessenitally ethical non-Jew Noah (see Noah and the Seven Noahide Laws)". Later in the chapter on the same page 537 he remarks, "To this day, it is not uncommon to hear traditional Jews refer to a non-Jewish friend of the Jews as "one of the hasidei ummot ha-olam - literally "one of the righteous among the nations of the world". The Zohar, the major work of Jewish mysticism, states that ALL non-Jews who no not hate the Jews and treat them just are hasidei ummot ha-olam (Exodus 268a)"
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin author of Biblical Literacy, "The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible writes : "At the beginning of the Common Era, a divisive dispute circumcision, which the Jewish law demand of all male converts to Judaism, was one of the decisive issues that lead to the permanent split between Judaism and Christianityâ€¦However, the early Christian leader Paul declared that circumcision no longer was obligatory, which made it easier, and certainly less painful, to become a Christian than to become a Jew (Rom.2:26-39, see also Rom. 4:9-12, Gal.2:3 and most significantly Gal.5:2, 6 "Listen, I Paul am telling you that if you let yourself become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to youâ€¦For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anythingâ€¦" After Paul's ruling, Christianity ceased to be a sect within Judaism, and became a separate religion." While the author blames the Apostle Paul, he is in error because it is the church itself, which makes the decree concerning circumcision and the law in Acts 15. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, James and the elders are all in agreement. Hence it is said that it "seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to lay no other burden than these necessary things" Acts 15:28
In the book "Choosing a Jewish Life, A Handbook for a Jewish Life" by Anita Diamant, she writes, "During the first century C.E. early Christians debated whether conversion to Christianity required circumcision - in other words, whether a man had to be a Jew before he could become a Christian. When the anti-circumcision opinion prevailed the two faiths split irrevocably" Page 104.
Much concern has been raised over the commandments of God and which apply to Jews and which are for everyone.
According to the Rabbis, God made a distinction between His chosen people Israel and the rest of the world. To the world at large, God gave only the seven "Laws of Noah", which if kept would cause the non-Jewish people to be accepted as righteous in God's sight. As for the Israelites, God gave them six hundred and thirteen commandments to keep for righteousness.
The first question to arise is why did God choose the Jewish people? Gen. 26:5 "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." God chose the descendants of Abraham because of Abraham's obedience.
The next question is why did He burden the Jewish people with so many commandments? Exo. 19:5,6 "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. "
If the words spoken by Moses to the children of Israel were for the children of Israel and not the rest of the world also as seems to be indicated, then are there any other commandments which do apply to everyone else? Gen. 9:3-6 "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. . . . Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." These commandments were given long before Abraham and Moses. They do apply to all the descendants of Noah which include the whole world. See our article on Rav. Shaul (The Apostle Paul).
So if there are commandments which apply to the world at large, are there more or is that it? According to the rabbis, there are a total of seven which correspond closely to the ten commandments given by God's own voice at the mount in the wilderness. The seven laws of Noah are as follows; (Talmud Sanh.56a)
Noahide Law Ten Commandments
1. The practice of equity. #9&10 Not lying or coveting.
2. Blaspheming the Name. #2 Name of the Lord in vain
3. Idolatry #1&3 Making graven images
4. Sexual immorality #7 Commit adultery
5. Bloodshed #6 Murder
6. Robbery #8 Steal
7. Eating limb torn from a live animal.
The only commandments not directly addressed here are; (#4) Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy and (#5) Honour your Father and Mother. The ten commandments have been widely accepted by the church community at large and properly so, as the laws of Noah are contained herein. The only ordinances given to Noah not revealed in the ten commandments is the eating of blood and limbs torn from live animals. The blood was covered by the apostles in Acts 21:25 "As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from (#3) things offered to idols, and from blood *, and (#7) from strangled, and from (#4) fornication. "
There is much confusion over the issues of faith, works, law and grace. This is an attempt to reconcile these issues in the mind of Jew and non-Jew alike.
"The purpose of Judaism is not to make the whole world Jewish, but to make the world recognize that God is the Sovereign of the world" Page 394 Exploring Jewish Tradition
" Non Jews are not commanded to observe the Torah. The heathen, according to the Talmud Masechet Sanhedrin56, are to keep the Seven Noahide Laws upon which civilized society must rely are incumbent on all mankind. These Laws constitute a universal faith, which finds its origin in the precepts imposed on Noah and his descendants - the whole world after the flood. They apply to all. There are six law that is prohibition and one positive" Exploring Jewish Traditions, by Rabbi Abraham Witty and Rachel J. Witty.
"According to Jewish law, without circumcision and immersion there can be no conversion. Sincerity and observance are not enough". Page 396
Jewish People - Jewish Thought - page 286 "Although Israel is obligated to obey ALL the Law revealed commandments, there were certain laws considered binding on all men, "which if they had not been written, would have to be written" that is which the human intellect unaided by revelation can perceive (see B.T. Sanhedrin 56a & b and Yoma 67b) These are called the seven laws of Noah, an expansion of Genesis 9. These Seven universal Laws areâ€¦Inclusion of idolatry and blasphemy with other purely ethical laws express the rabbinic commitment that the monotheism is a necessity and precondition for righteousness. Rabbinic Judaism did not limit salvation in the world to come to those who belong to Israel. But it held that all men should believe in the oneness of God" He who repudiates idol worship maybe called a Jew" (E.T. Megellish)
Understanding Judaism by Benjamin Bleech Page 177 "The Jew may reach a higher level and hence be assured of greater proximity to the Almighty in the afterlife. But a non-Jew is not cut off from the creator. Non-Jews, too have their "Torah". A Torah of seven not 613. If a non-Jew observes those seven, then he or she is reckoned among "the righteous of the nations of the world" and can find favor in the sight of God. Eternal blessing and reward can await even one who is not a member of our faith community".
"A descendant of Noah is duty bound to obey those laws that define a person not as a Jew, but simply as a human being that obligation must be considered first in light of its dramatic meaning vis-a vis our understanding of the relationship between God and the entire non-Jewish world" page 175.
"It is on the festival of Shavout, which commemorates the receiving of the Torah, that we read not only from the portion of Yitro but also the story of Ruthâ€¦Ruth was a convert. She willingly accepted mitzvoth upon herself. Prior to here conversion, she was only obligated by universal law. She was committed to the Seven Noahide Laws" Page 175
"To take upon oneself for greater task is a wonderful thing. It is highly pleasing in the sight of God. But to make a commitment to Judaism knowing full well that one will not abide by its law is to assume culpability for countless transgressions that otherwise would have gone unrecorded. Simply put, to convert someone to Judaism who will clearly not observe the Sabbath Kashcut, family purity or celebrate the festivals is to make that individual liable to punishments that otherwise would not have been relevant" Page 180
"As stated in the Jewish Talmud, "The righteous of the nations of the world have a share in the world to come (Sanhedrin 10:1). They earn this share through observance of the Seven Universal Laws placed upon the descendants of Noah. We will not convert someone to Judaism unless changing seven into 613 offer an opportunity for greater compliance with the will of God and greater blessing" Page 181