27 June 2022
Normally, we would not trust anything coming out of the Talmud. Not only is it a dishonest record of what God said, but it doesn't even accurately portray the life of common Jews. Rather, it is an elitist document from the wealthy Pharisees, as if their experience was wholly normative for all Jews, when they knew darned well it wasn't. The various comments Jesus made about them should put that lie to rest. So we might have good reason to be suspicious of the Talmud's report on the "Seven Noachide Laws". However, it seems, this time at least, broader research from Gentile sources bears out the list.
Supposedly this was more or less what Israel handed to nations within the Land of Canaan that were not driven out for whatever reason. Thus, we know that the Gibeonites were bound by this, as well as the Jebusites who had occupied the fortress David conquered as his new capital (they weren't slaughtered). There were a few others, like the Kenites who had shown kindness to Israel on the Exodus, Jethro's clan, the Rechabites, and so forth -- all of them were bound under this code so long as they lived among the Israelis and were subject to Israelite feudal sovereignty.
Which brings us back to (1) justice required. The definition of "justice" starts with the Ancient Near Eastern tribal feudal covenant social structure, government and economics. It's not a strict order of stratified feudalism as with western European history, but a much simpler approach. Feudal authority in the Bible wasn't based on land ownership sovereignty, but on ownership of the people. It's the reverse of western feudalism, where a lord owns the land and the people come with it. And in typical Ancient Near Eastern fashion, a lord regarded his people as his greatest treasure. He could lose all his property, but if he still had good people, he could regain property again.
It's not a complex batch of laws as with Moses, but the idea itself of having a government that wielded the sword in justice. Your government must be related to you by blood or marriage. Their authority must be a birthright, rising to prominence from among you. If anyone is going to punish you, it has to be your own family, people close enough to know you and having to live with whatever they do to you. Any judgment executed must be a response to some moral threat so serious that they know it will be their loss, too. They need to recognize your actions as a danger to their standing with God.
The quintessential chief of the clan, or warlord or king, is a shepherd over the people in his flock. That is the proper image of care and compassion over your extended family household. Exercising any kind of human authority must be based on familial relations. Any other form of government is defiling.
The issue of defilement will show up throughout this study, because it's a key concept for understanding moral truth. What defiles you must be cleansed, or you will stand in the place of God's wrath, outside the Covenant boundaries. Thus, every law is based on putting distance between the people and defilement. It doesn't matter if, for example, some Old Testament law had a very practical application, the ultimate issue was defilement before God. That's how you understand Moses, and it's how you understand Noah.
One of the larger objectives of this whole thing is to create an atmosphere in which people find it easier to obey God's Law than to stray into defilement. The structure of society and daily human activity must promote holiness. It was not simply the government keeping the people under the code, but everyone must actively do their part to keep peace with God. And it required a multi-generational outlook, building one generation after another to a stronger covenant life. This is the Law.
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