Parables and Word Play
Many people are aware that the Old Testament is the Hebrew book “Torah”. This word can be translated as “Instructions” or “Teachings”, but a more appropriate translation is “Law”. Critical thinkers might already be asking themselves why one would write a story about a law that’s called “law”, instead of just writing a list of laws, like Moses did… the answer to this should clear up any confusion about why the Bible seems to contradict itself when it talks about stoning certain people to death, but then says we should love everyone. If you’re not completely confused, right now, you might already be figuring it out.
This book is a parable, first and foremost. Parables are stories that are meant to teach lessons -the use of the name “Torah” is a sort of creative play on words. This isn’t some directive from God -it’s a story that is supposed to teach us something. The Law seems to represent mankind’s naivety to righteousness, despite our continuous efforts to return to the grace of God.
The Law of Moses is not exactly the high point of mankind’s relationship to God -it is actually a key element in not only the rise, but also the fall of Israel. While the Hebrews might be the people in the book chosen to lead God’s revolution, they were far from perfect and repeatedly misinterpret, ignore, and completely distort God’s wishes and warnings about the fate of their people, Israel, and mankind in general, all throughout the book -it’s kind of the running theme.
But, it’s not really Moses’ Law that is the problem -the Law and the Commandments (the whole story, really) represent mankind’s naivety and ignorance about righteous behavior. The real problem in the book is the fact that no one seems to understand the nature of sin (selfishness). This is a problem from the beginning of the book -it is the reason for the initial fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. However, eating from the Tree of Knowledge didn’t grant us knowledge immediately, but rather set us on a course that would demonstrate the nature of good and evil.
God kind of seems like a harsh and somewhat cruel guy, at times. Historically, this is the authors’ way of explaining how things came to be -it’s not like this God person is representing a perfect world, but the authors are seemingly challenging us to be better people, to rise above the past and free ourselves from the burden of selfish self-destruction.
As the “heathen” world is returning to sin, God finds Abraham. He tells Abraham about how certain cities have become corrupt and will be destroyed. This apparent judgment of self-indulgence sets the tone for the Law of Moses. What the Bible is telling us is that we have no discipline, and this lack of discipline is what continually plunges our cultures into chaos and destruction.