What Does the Bible Say About the Religion of Israel?

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When God enters into covenant with Israel on Mount Sinai, he gives them the Torah, the Law of Moses, which Israel, as the people of God, promises to follow. If Israel kept the Law, God would bless them and give them the Promised Land, but if they did not keep the Law, they would be cursed and cast out of the land. God’s plan for Israel was that they would be a holy people by keeping to one God, Yahweh, ordaining a Levitical priesthood, keeping the Sabbath holy, celebrating the feasts God had designated, offering thanksgiving and/or atonement sacrifices to God in the Temple in Jerusalem, observing purity laws, and awaiting the promise of the Messiah. Since God is holy and man is unclean and sinful, it was important to God that Israel distinguish between what was holy, pure and unclean, and continually purify themselves and offer atonement sacrifices to God.

Bible Verses

1And God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before me. 4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13“You shall not murder. 14“You shall not commit adultery. 15“You shall not steal. 16“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”(Ex 20:1–17)

9The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways.(Dt 28:9)

26But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the Lord will choose, 27and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the Lord your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the Lord your God, but the flesh you may eat. 28Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.(Dt 12:26–28)

46This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, 47to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.(Le 11:46–47)

12Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them,(Ex 40:12–14)

31Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”(Nu 15:31)

11For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.(Le 17:11)

4“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.(Dt 6:4–5)

Study Questions

  1. Why should Israel follow the Law of Moses?
  2. Why was it so important to be pure and sinless?
  3. What would you do if you became unclean or had sinned?
  4. What is the difference between holy, clean and unclean?
  5. Why did Israel fail to keep the Law and what can we learn from it today?
  6. What are the similarities between Old Testament “religion” and New Testament “religion”?

Additional Bible Verses

Lev, Num 5:1-4, 2 Kings 18:12, Deut 6:3, Gen 49:10, Num 8:5-7, Deut 7:6, Lev 8:18-21, Josh 23:16, Hos 3:4-5

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