The Five Books of Moses

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The Five Books of Moses

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The New Testament tells us that Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and many scriptures show us that Moses was responsible for the first five books of the Bible. These books are usually called the Torah, a Hebrew term, and sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch, a Greek expression. According to Jewish tradition, another hand, possibly that of Joshua or Ezra, added the account of Moses’ death to the end of Deuteronomy—and made other adjustments to complete the text we read today.

Early Jewish tradition is unanimous in accepting Moses’ authorship of the Torah. The last of these books tells us that this prophet wrote the law in a book and gave it to the priests so they could read it to the people (Deuteronomy 31:9-13 Deuteronomy 31:9-13 9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it to the priests the sons of Levi, which bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, 11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD your God in the place which he shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and your stranger that is within your gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: 13 And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land where you go over Jordan to possess it.
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). It was also placed at the side of the ark of the covenant (Deuteronomy 31:26 Deuteronomy 31:26Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.
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). Although it is presented in five parts, the Torah is one integral book.

In all four Gospels Jesus Christ repeatedly referred to Moses as the giver of the law (Matthew 8:4 Matthew 8:4And Jesus said to him, See you tell no man; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.
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; Matthew 19:8 Matthew 19:8He said to them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
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; Mark 1:44 Mark 1:44And said to him, See you say nothing to any man: but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.
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; Mark 7:10 Mark 7:10For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother; and, Whoever curses father or mother, let him die the death:
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; Mark 10:4-5 Mark 10:4-5 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said to them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
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; Mark 12:26 Mark 12:26And as touching the dead, that they rise: have you not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
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; Luke 5:14 Luke 5:14And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.
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; Luke 20:37 Luke 20:37Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
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; John 1:17 John 1:17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
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; John 5:46 John 5:46For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
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; John 7:19 John 7:19Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law? Why go you about to kill me?
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).

What did God tell Moses to do? Did he obey the Lord’s instructions?

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book’ . . .” (Exodus 17:14 Exodus 17:14And the LORD said to Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
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).

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write these words’ . . .” (Exodus 34:27 Exodus 34:27And the LORD said to Moses, Write you these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.
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).

“And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD” (Exodus 24:4 Exodus 24:4And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
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). Although these are limited commands to write specific portions of God’s Word, the principle is clear. Moses is the prophetic scribe through whom God worked. Remember that he “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22 Acts 7:22And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
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).

Does Numbers, the fourth book attributed to Moses, say anything about his literary activity?

“Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the LORD” (Numbers 33:2 Numbers 33:2And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.
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).

Although some scholars question Moses’ authorship of Numbers, this passage near the end of the book cannot be dismissed (compare Numbers 36:13 Numbers 36:13These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.
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). The Bible attributes this whole section to Moses. Many other sections of Numbers begin with the words “the LORD said to Moses . . .” The book of Leviticus does not specifically mention its author, but the contents from first to last record God speaking directly to Moses (Leviticus 1:1 Leviticus 1:1And the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
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; Leviticus 27:34 Leviticus 27:34These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.
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).

At the time of Moses the art of writing had been developed in Egypt and the Mesopotamian region. Permanent museum records inscribed on obelisks and cuneiform tablets provide clear evidence that writing was well established before and during the time of Moses.

What is different about Genesis?

The historical activities recorded in the book of Genesis occur before Moses was born. Clearly, he had access to written records or accurate oral traditions, or God dictated the contents to him.

Genesis is a Greek word meaning “beginning.” What is the significance of the name of this biblical book?

Is there an obvious genealogical structure to the book of Genesis?

This is the history [ ‘These are the generations,’ KJV ] of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4 Genesis 2:4These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
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).

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1 Genesis 5:1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
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).

This is the genealogy of Noah” (Genesis 6:9 Genesis 6:9These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
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; compare Genesis 10:1 Genesis 10:1Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and to them were sons born after the flood.
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; Genesis 11:10-27 Genesis 11:10-27 10 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: 11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: 15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg: 17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. 18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: 19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters. 20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug: 21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. 22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor: 23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: 25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. 26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. 27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
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; Genesis 25:12-19 Genesis 25:12-19 12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bore to Abraham: 13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, 14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, 15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: 16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. 17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered to his people. 18 And they dwelled from Havilah to Shur, that is before Egypt, as you go toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brothers. 19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:
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; Genesis 36:1-9 Genesis 36:1-9 1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. 2 Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; 3 And Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth. 4 And Adah bore to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bore Reuel; 5 And Aholibamah bore Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born to him in the land of Canaan. 6 And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob. 7 For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle. 8 Thus dwelled Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom. 9 And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:
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; Genesis 37:2 Genesis 37:2These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought to his father their evil report.
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).

Here we have the literary structure of Genesis in briefest outline. It is made up of 11 “books” or “genealogies.” Genesis tells of the beginning of all things, how the population of the earth grew and how God began to work through one man’s family, that of the patriarch Abraham. The Genesis story is told through the framework of family histories.

Genesis is the beginning of the knowledge of God. It has been preserved down through the ages for our benefit. It begins the precious knowledge of God’s great purpose that we can learn from no other source. Genesis doesn’t contain all knowledge, but it represents the essential spiritual foundation that is fundamental to the understanding of the rest of the Bible.

It reveals, for example, that we are created in the very image of God and that Adam and Eve chose a path that would take them and their descendants—every one of us—away from a relationship with God. The prophets had much to say about this latter point.