The Message and Major Themes of the Torah

INTRODUCTION

            This paper elucidates on the message of the Decalogue or the Torah generally as it gives evidences in scriptures recorded in the Old Testament to justify its thematic claim. It begins with the Genesis account taking into consideration creation, the rule of God, sin, the birth of nations, and election. It places main emphasis on the Abrahamic Covenant to guide the thematic justification of the gospel message climaxed of Jesus incarnation and birth to initiate the New Covenant.

            The second part gives synopsis of the individualistic theme of each of the Torahs backed by sources from journals and article.

MESSAGE OF THE TORAH

            The message of the Torah is the gospel explaining that man can not save himself through the observance of regulations or rules portrayed during the dispensation of the law. It teaches that the law is unable to save; on the other hand, God will save his people and restore his blessings to all nations by grace through faith in the New Covenant established and put into operation (inaugurated) by the covenantal promised seed of Abraham. This message is made known and portrayed in the primary chapter of Genesis. God the Creator of the universe prepares a land for his chosen people and places them as his royal, priestly representatives, and eventually lavished his blessings on them. In Genesis 2-3, God made provisions, gave the commandment, and urged them to alternatively choose the way of life and not death. Unfortunately, they decided to choose their own wisdom rather than the wisdom of God; as the result, they were sent into exile from the good land God had made and placed them. After their failures, God gave them a promise concerning the seed of the woman, a child born of Eve who would one day triumph over the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15)[1]. In Genesis 1-3, illustrates and prepares God’s people for Moses’ main challenge to Israel. Moses stood before the people of the Covenant as they gathered in the wilderness for a period of forty years due to disobedience. The journey continues as they gathered on the plains of Moab to enter and to settle down in the Promised Land. This was the message Moses preached to the children of Israel:

God has chosen you by grace and given you a good land. God calls you to represent him as His priests in the world. God has given you His good Law to guide you. You must choose the way of life, or you will be cast into exile. When you fail to follow God’s laws, and go into exile, God will provide a New Covenant for you, restore you from exile, and give you life.

After the above message, the final message of Moses to the children of Israel is recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15-20[2] where God through Moses spoke to the children of Israel to keep his commandments, statutes, and judgment so that they could multiply in the land he has given them. As God set the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life before Adam and Eve, so God set the choice of life and good versus death and evil before his people who were about to inhabit the good land he was giving them. The story of Eden is now being replayed on the plains of Moab as Israel prepares to enter the Promised Land. In the Torah, God predicts Israel’s failure under the law. Israel, like Adam and Eve will choose to follow their own wisdom rather than God’s commandments of life. Israel will be cast from the Land into exile in the latter days. Israel failed the stipulations; as the result, God allowed them to be exiled for seventy years in Babylon. The Law was not only given to Moses as a guide to the children of Israel, but it was given them and stated periodically as a reminder because of their inability to keep God’s Law. God promised the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34[3] and Deuteronomy 30:1-6[4]. God will restore his people from exile when all these things have happened to them. After they have known God’s blessing, failed to trust and obey him under the Law, they will go into exile and be scattered among the nations; then, God will intervene, gather them back to himself and back to the land. This New Covenant will be inaugurated after Israel experiences her exile and returns to the Land of Promise.

THE MAJOR THEMES OF THE TORAH

GENESIS THEME

            Genesis is about the beginning of the concepts of birth, genealogy, and history. In this book, creation, the rule of God, sin, covenant, and election are highlighted as the major theological outlines and teachings. Clines write, “The first theme to be considered is realized in the plot or story pattern of the major narratives of Gen 1-11. G. von Rad has pointed out how the narratives of the fall, Cain and Abel, the “sons of God,” the flood and Babel each exhibit a movement from (a) human sin to (b) divine punishment to (c) divine forgiveness or mitigation: God reacts to these outbreaks of human sin with severe judgments.”[5]

EXODUS THEME

            Exodus is about the going out of the people of God as the result of their liberation from bondage, the inauguration of God’s earthly kingdom through special national covenant with Him, and the erection of God’s royal tent in the earth for His dwelling among them. Terence writes, “The overriding interest in God’s actions in history led to the neglect of the creational dimensions of God’s activity. The focus upon the redemption of Israel slighted the significance of God’s creational activity for the larger world, both human and nonhuman. The emphasis upon the liberation of Israel diminished the place of worship and law. Certain understandings of covenant reduced Israel’s relationship with God to an impersonal, even contractual, reality with strict conditions in place.”[6]

            The focus of Israel’s redemption significantly demonstrates God’s character concerning he cares for the world, both Jews and Gentiles even including the nonhuman. God is against oppression and domination as the expense of people’s lives. This is what Exodus is concerned and portrayed dramatically indicated in God’s intervening action to deliver His people from bondage of slavery.

LEVITICUS THEME

            Leviticus is about regulations which enable God to set up His earthly throne among people of his kingdom. It explains how they are to be His holy people and how they are to worship Him in holy manner. This book as the result of its requirement for holy living, sacrificial items without blemish are offered on the altar to at peace God’s wrath and to indicate symbolic holiness of God. Indeed, His people are required to be holy before Him as they sojourned in the wilderness prior to their entrance into the Promised Land. According to the journal for the study of the New Testament, Sim states that Ross has structured the fifty chapters of his commentary into five parts: the laws of the sacrifices, the laws of the priesthood, the laws of purification, instructions for holiness, and redemption of vows.[7] These outlines indicate the theme of Leviticus discussed in this paper.

NUMBERS THEME

            Numbers is about the numbering of God’s people into military camp as they wandered in the desert. As they are numbered, they marched as a conquering army with the Lord to establish His kingdom in the Promised Land in the midst of the surrounding nations. Nicholas states in the study for the Journal of the Old Testament that the first four chapters of the book of Numbers concern the numbering and organization of the tribes of Israel. Following this, Num. 5.1 clearly commences a new section of the book, one which deals with certain ritual and cultic matters[8].

DEUTERONOMY THEME

            Deuteronomy is about preparing the new generation of the Lord’s chosen people to be His kingdom representatives in the land he has unconditionally promised them in the Abrahamic Covenant. The Lord pledged benefits for them and gave them stipulations as the condition for the Covenant. In this book, the restatement of the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus chapter 20 is stated. According to the article entitled, “Introduction to Deuteronomy” states that the major theme of Deuteronomy is covenant relationship between God and His people. God’s unmerited love is the basis not only for the covenant, but also for our trust in him[9].

            In conclusion, the message and major themes of the Torah have been discussed to indicate to the reader the coherent and cohesive nature of the Decalogue concerning its message to the larger society of antiquity and modernity, but on different levels and applications based on people, time, and place. The God of antiquity is the God of modernity. He is the same (immutable) yesterday today and forever[10].

Bibliography

Clines, David A. Themes in Genesis, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 38 no 4 O 1976, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials

Fretheim, Terrence E. “Because the Whole Earth is Mine”: Theme and Narrative in Exodus, God–Creator; Peer reviewed, no 3 Jl 1996, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials

Lunn, Nicholas P. Numbering Israel: A Rhetorico-Structural Analysis of Numbers 1-4, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 35 no 2 D 2010, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials

Sim, Ronald J. Leviticus in Hebrews: A Transtextual Analysis of the Tabernacle Theme in the Letter to the Hebrews, Peer reviewed, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 34 no 5 Ag 2012, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials

[1]http://www.worldvision.org/worldvision/imagelib.nsf, retrieved 6/7/15


[1]Genesis 3:15.

[2]Deuteronomy 30:15-30.

[3]Jeremiah 31:31-34.

[4]Deuteronomy 30:1-6.

[5]David A Clines, Themes in Genesis, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 38 no 4 O 1976, p 483-507, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials

[6]Terrence E. Fretheim,” Because the Whole Earth is Mine”: Theme and Narrative in Exodus, God–Creator; Peer reviewed, no 3 Jl 1996, p 229-239, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.

[7]Ronald J Sim, Leviticus in Hebrews: A Transtextual Analysis of the Tabernacle Theme in the Letter to the Hebrews, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 34 no 5 Ag 2012, p 105, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.

[8]Nicholas P Lunn, Numbering Israel: A Rhetorico-Structural Analysis of Numbers 1-4, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 35 no 2 D 2010, p 167-185, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.

[9]http://www.worldvision.org/worldvision/imagelib.nsf, retrieved 6/7/15

[10] Hebrews 13:8.