16. The Noahide Covenant
The human race consists of two distinct religious groups, each of which is to serve G-d in accordance with His expressed will. The first group, the Jews, are to study and observe the Torah, their Code of Law, and their other holy books.
The second group, the non--Jews, also have a code of law. This legal system is based on G-d's six commands to Adam and the additional prohibition He imposed on Noah.210
Since these seven laws are included in the Torah (some paralleling the Ten Commandments), they are to be observed by Jews as well. They consist of one positive command and six negative commands:
1) Establish courts of law:
Appoint yourselves judges and officers in all your gates, which the L-rd, your G-d, gives you, tribe by tribe; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.
2) Do not blaspheme:
Anyone who curses his G-d shall bear his sin.
3) Do not worship idols (the second of the Ten Commandments):
You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or on earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. You shall neither bow down to them nor serve them....
4) Do not murder (the sixth of the Ten Commandments):
You shall not murder....
5) Do not commit adultery (the seventh of the Ten Commandments):
...neither shall you commit adultery....
6) Do not steal.
You shall not steal....
7) Do not eat the limb of a living animal:
But the flesh with its living soul, its blood, you shall not eat.
The historical transmission of the Seven Laws of Noah was virtually identical to that of the Jewish Code of Law. Both systems remained oral for over one thousand years, until they were recorded in what has become known as the Talmud (see glossary).211
The Noahide Covenant is also acknowledged in the New Testament:
Therefore my (Jame's) judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to G-d, but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from unchasity and from what is strangled and from blood. For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.
In antiquity, non--Jews living in Israel and observing these seven universal laws were permitted to offer sacrifices in the Temple.212
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 68 C.E. and the dispersion of the Jewish people among the nations, constant persecution prevented the Jews from effectively teaching Gentiles the Noahide Code. However, in this age of reason and religious tolerance, with the world witnessing the miracles performed for the Jewish people in its restored homeland, the time is ripe for the nations to learn and observe the Noahide Code.
As an incentive for non--Jews to abide by their G-d--given covenant, it should be remembered the awful consequences that befell early mankind for its total disregard of it:
And G-d saw the earth and behold, it was corrupted, because all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth. And G-d said to Noah: "The end of all flesh has come before Me, because the earth is filled with wickedness."
And the reward which its lone observer merited to receive:
Noah was a righteous man, pious in his generation, and Noah walked with G-d.
A Gentile who accepts the seven commandments and observes them meticulously is a "Righteous Gentile," and will have a portion in the World to Come, provided that he accepts and performs them because G-d commanded so in the Torah.... But if his observance is based upon reason, he is not a resident alien, or one of the pious Gentiles, or one of their wise men.
I call heaven and earth to bear witness that any individual-man or woman, Jew or Gentile, freeman or slave-can have Divine Inspiration bestowed upon him. It all depends on one's deeds.
This anthology has now come to an end. We thank G-d for helping us every step of the way. May it be His will that soon all mankind will know the truth and act upon the words of the wisest man, King Solomon;
The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear G-d and keep His commandments, for this is the whole purpose of man.