The Center for
Messianic Learning 

Unapologetically Pro-Torah
Unashamedly Pro-Israel
Irrevocably Zionist
ב״ה
“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)

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Please read the Introductory Notes to this commentary.

For a glossary of unfamiliar terms, CLICK HERE. For assistance in
pronouncing Hebrew terms, a pronunciation guide is located HERE.

My short comments on the text are notated in “maroon pop-up text tipsMy comment is displayed like this.” which are accessed by “hovering” your mouse over the text or tapping your touch screen. [A few short comments look like this.] Longer comments are included in footnotes or links to other pages. Sometimes my paraphrase provides all the commentary needed to clarify the passage. I have added emphasis to some phrases simply to call them to your attention. Explanations of Greek and Hebrew words are from the NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved Lockman.org. In order to get the most from these pages, please follow all the hyperlinks, nearly all of which will open in a new tab or window.


Introduction to Torah,
Divine Instruction

(The Books of Moshe)
[1]

The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, are the writings compiled by Moshe Rabeinu [Moses our Teacher] and form the historical and theological foundation upon which all the following sacred writings rest. In all of Judaism, both Traditional (Rabbinical) and Messianic, they are identified by the word “Torah” (תּוֹרָה, “teaching,” “direction,” “instruction”).

“Pentateuch,” the name by which these first five books are designated in the English versions of the Christsian Bible, is derived from two Greek words, pente, “five,” and teuchos, a “volume,” thus signifying the five-fold volume. Originally these books formed one continuous work, as in the Hebrew manuscripts they are still connected in one unbroken roll. At what time they were divided into five portions, each having a separate title, is not known, but it is certain that the distinction dates at or before the time of the Septuagint translation.

The names they bear in our English versions are borrowed from the Septuagint, and they were applied by those Greek translators as descriptive of the principal subjects — the leading contents of the respective books. In the later Scriptures they are frequently comprehended under the general designation, The Law,[2] or The Book of the Law, since, to give a detailed account of the preparations for, and the delivery of, the divine code, with all the civil and sacred institutions that were peculiar to the ancient economy, is the object to which they are exclusively devoted.

They have always been placed at the beginning of the Bible, not only on account of their priority in point of time, but as forming an appropriate and indispensable introduction to the rest of the sacred books. The numerous and oft-recurring references made in the later Scriptures to the events, the ritual, and the doctrines of the ancient Messianic Community would have not only lost much of their point and significance, but have been absolutely unintelligible without the information which these five books contain. They constitute the ground work or basis on which the whole fabric of revelation rests, and a knowledge of the authority and importance that is thus attached to them will sufficiently account for the determined assaults that infidels have made on these books, as well as for the zeal and earnestness which the friends of the truth have displayed in their defense.

The Mosaic origin of the Torah is established by the concurring voices both of Jewish and Christian tradition; and their unanimous testimony is supported by the internal character and statements of the work itself. That Moses did keep a written record of the important transactions relative to the Israelites is attested by his own express affirmation. For in relating the victory over the Amalekites, which he was commanded by divine authority to record, the language employed, “write this for a memorial in a book” [Hebrew, the book] (Exodus 17:14), shows that that narrative was to form part of a register already in progress, and various circumstances combine to prove that this register was a continuous history of the special goodness and care of divine providence in the choice, protection, and guidance of the Hebrew nation.

First, there are the repeated assertions of Moses himself that the events which checkered the experience of that people were written down as they occurred (see Exodus 24:4-7; Exod 34:27; Numbers 33:2).

Secondly, there are the testimonies borne in various parts of the later historical books to the Torah as a work well known, and familiar to all the people (see Joshua 1:8; Josh 23:6; Josh 24:26; 1 Kings 2:3, &c.)

Thirdly, frequent references are made in the works of the prophets to the facts recorded in the books of Moses (compare Isaiah 1:9 with Genesis 19:1; Isaiah 12:2 with Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 51:2 with Genesis 12:2; Isaiah 54:9 with Genesis 8:21-22; compare Hosea 9:10 with Numbers 25:3; Hosea 11:8 with Genesis 19:24; Hosea 12:4 with Genesis 32:24-25; Hosea 12:12 with Genesis 28:5;29:20; compare Joel 1:9 with Numbers 15:4-7;28:7-14; Deuteronomy 12:6-7; Deuteronomy 16:10-11; compare Amos 2:9 with Numbers 21:21; Amos 4:4 with Numbers 28:3; Amos 4:11 with Genesis 19:24; Amos 9:13 with Leviticus 26:5; compare Micah 6:5 with Numbers 22:25; Micah 6:6 with Leviticus 9:2; Micah 6:15 with Leviticus 26:16 , &c.).

Fourthly, the testimony of Yrdhus and the Apostles is repeatedly borne to the books of Moses (Matthew 19:7; Luke 16:29;24:27; John 1:17;7:19; Acts 3:22;28:23; Romans 10:5).

Indeed the references are so numerous, and the testimonies so distinctly borne to the existence of the Mosaic books throughout the whole history of the Jewish nation, and the unity of character, design, and style pervading these books is so clearly perceptible, not withstanding the rationalistic assertions of their forming a series of separate and unconnected fragments, that it may with all safety be said, there is immensely stronger and more varied evidence in proof of their being the authorship of Moses than of any of the Greek or Roman classics being the productions of the authors whose names they bear. But admitting that the Torah was written by Moses, an important question arises, as to whether the books which compose it have reached us in an authentic form; whether they exist genuine and entire as they came from the hands of their author. In answer to this question, it might be sufficient to state that, in the public and periodical rehearsals of the law in the solemn religious assemblies of the people, implying the existence of numerous copies, provision was made for preserving the integrity of “The Book of the Law.”[3]

But besides this, two remarkable facts, the one of which occurred before and the other after the captivity, afford conclusive evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of the Torah. The first is the discovery in the reign of Josiah of the autograph copy which was deposited by Moses in the ark of the testimony, and the second is the schism of the Samaritans, who erected a temple on Mount Gerizim, and who, appealing to the Mosaic law as the standard of their faith and worship equally with the Jews, watched with jealous care over every circumstance that could affect the purity of the Mosaic record. There is the strongest reason, then, for believing that the Torah, as it now exists, is substantially the same as it came from the hands of Moses. The appearance of a later hand, it is true, is traceable in the narrative of the death of Moses at the close of Deuteronomy, and some few interpolations, such as inserting the altered names of places, may have been made by Ezra, who revised and corrected the version of the ancient Scriptures. But, substantially, the Torah is the genuine work of Moses, and many, who once impugned its claims to that character, and looked upon it as the production of a later age, have found themselves compelled, after a full and unprejudiced investigation of the subject, to proclaim their conviction that its authenticity is to be fully relied on.

The genuineness and authenticity of the Torah being admitted, the inspiration and canonical authority of the work follow as a necessary consequence. The admission of Moses to the privilege of frequent and direct communion with God (Exodus 25:22;33:3;  Numbers 7:89;9:8); his repeated and solemn declarations that he spoke and wrote by command of God; the submissive reverence that was paid to the authority of his precepts by all classes of the Jewish people, including the king himself (Deuteronomy 17:18;27:3); and the acknowledgment of the divine mission of Moses by the writers of the Apostolic Scriptures, all prove the inspired character and authority of his books. The Torah possessed the strongest claims on the attention of the Jewish people, as forming the standard of their faith, the rule of their obedience, the record of their whole civil and religious polity. But it is interesting and important to all mankind, in as much as besides revealing the origin and early development of the divine plan of grace, it is the source of all authentic knowledge, giving the true philosophy, history, geography, and chronology of the ancient world.

Finally, the Torah is indispensable to the whole revelation contained in the Bible; for Genesis being the legitimate preface to the Torah; the Torah being the natural introduction to the Tanakh; and the whole a prelude to the gospel revelation, it could not have been omitted. What the four Gospels are in the Apostolic Writings, the five books of Moses are in the Tanakh.

The Books of Torah

B’resheet, In Beginning

GENESIS, the book of the origin or production of all things, consists of two parts: the first, comprehended in the first through eleventh chapters, gives a general history; the second, contained in the subsequent chapters, gives a special history. The two parts are essentially connected; the one, which sets out with an account of the descent of the human race from a single pair, the introduction of sin into the world, and the announcement of the scheme of divine mercy for repairing the ruins of the fall, was necessary to pave the way for relating the other, namely, the call of Abraham, and the selection of his posterity for carrying out the gracious purpose of God. An evident unity of method, therefore, pervades this book, and the information contained in it was of the greatest importance to the Hebrew people, as without it they could not have understood the frequent references made in their Tanakh to the purposes and promises of God regarding themselves. The arguments that have been already adduced as establishing the Mosaic origin of the Torah prove of course that Moses was the author of Genesis. The few passages on which the rationalists grounded their assertions that it was the composition of a later age have been successfully shown to warrant no such conclusion; the use of Egyptian words and the minute acquaintance with Egyptian life and manners, displayed in the history of Joseph, harmonize with the education of Moses, and whether he received his information by immediate revelation, from tradition, or from written documents, it comes to us as the authentic work of an author who wrote as he was inspired by Ruach HaKodesh (2 Peter 1:21)

Sh'mot, Names

EXODUS, a “going forth,” derives its name from its being occupied principally with a relation of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and the incidents that immediately preceded as well as followed that memorable migration. Its authorship by Moses is distinctly asserted by himself (Exodus 24:4), as well as by our Lord Yeshua (Mark 12:26, Luke 20:37). Besides, the thorough knowledge it exhibits of the institutions and usages of the ancient Egyptians and the minute geographical details of the journey to Sinai, establish in the clearest manner the authenticity of this book.

V’yakra, He Called

LEVITICUS. So called from its treating of the laws relating to the ritual, the services, and sacrifices of the Jewish religion, the superintendence of which was entrusted to the Levitical priesthood. It is chiefly, however, the duties of the priests, “the sons of Aaron,” which this book describes; and its claim to be the work of Moses is established by the following passages: 2 Chronicles 30:16; Nehemiah 8:14; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Ezekiel 20:11; Matthew 8:4; Luke 2:22; John 8:5; Romans 10:4; Romans13:9; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 3:12; 1 Peter 1:16.

B’midbar, In the Wilderness

NUMBERS. This book is so called because it contains an account of the enumeration and arrangement of the Israelites. The early part of it, from the first through the tenth chapters, appears to be a supplement to Leviticus, being occupied with relating the appointment of the Levites to the sacred offices. The journal of the march through the wilderness is then given as far as Numbers 21:20; after which the early incidents of the invasion are narrated. One direct quotation only from this book (Numbers 16:5 is made in the New Testament (2 Timothy 2:19; but indirect references to it by the later sacred writers are very numerous.

Devarim, Words

DEUTERONOMY, the second telling, a title which plainly shows what is the object of this book, namely, a recapitulation of the initial instruction. It was given in the form of public addresses to the people; and as Moses spoke in the prospect of his speedy removal, he enforced obedience to it by many forcible appeals to the Israelites, concerning their long and varied experience both of the mercies and the judgments of God. The minute notices of the heathen people with whom they had come in contact, but who afterward disappeared from the pages of history, as well as the accounts of the fertility and products of Canaan, and the counsels respecting the conquest of that country, fix the date of this book and the time of its composition by the hand of Moses. The close, however, must have been added by another; and, indeed, it is supposed by some to have formed the original preface to the Book of Joshua.


Moshe instructed Israel to read the entire Torah publicly every seventh year during the Feast of Sukkot (Booths, or Tabernacles) in the year of sh’mittah.[4]

9Then Moshe wrote down this Torah and gave it to the cohanim [priests], the descendants of Levi who carried the ark with the covenant of ADONAI, and to all the leaders of Isra’el. 10Moshe gave them these orders: “At the end of every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot in the year of sh’mittah, 11when all Isra’el have come to appear in the presence of ADONAI at the place He will choose, you are to read this Torah before all Isra’el, so that they can hear it. 12Assemble the people — the men, the women, the little ones and the foreigners you have in your towns — so that they can hear, learn, fear ADONAI your God and take care to obey all the words of this Torah; 13and so that their children, who have not known, can hear and learn to fear ADONAI your God, for as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Yarden to possess.”

After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE the need for public Torah reading intensified as the Jews were scattered into other parts of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, and their religious and cultural world became decentralized.

But it was not until the Talmudic era, about the 6th century C.E., that the Jews in the Land of Israel began to read the entire Torah in public and do so until all the Five Books of Moses were completed. At that time, the cycle took three years in a pattern called the Palestinian triennial, beginning the first year with the first book, Genesis, and finishing, at the end of the third year, with the fifth book, Deuteronomy.

The Jews of Babylon, however, followed a different custom, established by the beginning of the 7th century CE, and completed the entire cycle each year, which they did by dividing the Torah into 54 weekly portions. (Because the number of portions exceeds the number of weeks in a given year, more than one portion is read during certain weeks.) In Hebrew, the word for portion is parsha (plural, parshiyot).[5]

Each parsha (or parasha) is identified by the opening or other significant word or words of the section. These names were used to identify the Scripture sections until the introduction of chapters and verses, which were (and still are) used for reference and teaching purposes.

The first English New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham (c. 1524–1579). The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible published shortly afterwards in 1560. These verse divisions soon gained acceptance as a standard way to notate verses, and have since been used in nearly all English Bibles and the vast majority of those in other languages.[6]

In the text I use for my commentary on the Torah, I use both the parashot and chapter/verse identifications.

____________

  1. Introductory notes are edited from Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, “Introduction to the Pentateuch and Historical Books” by Robert Jameson. This one volume commentary was prepared by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown and published in 1871. [RETURN]

  2. As discussed at length at numerous places on this website, the designation of the Torah as “Law” is appropriate only so far as the Torah contains both the civil and religious statues for the Commonwealth of Israel and for Messiah’s coming earthly Kingdom. The Hebrew word תּוֹרָה (Torah), rightly understood, signifies “divine instruction.” The Torah shows humankind what HaShem’s heart desires for the benefit of His children, and describes how righteous people should conduct themselves. It is HaShem’s absolute standard of righteousness by which every human will one day be judged. [RETURN]

  3. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran between 1946 and 1947, nearly a century after Jameson wrote his introductory comments, should put this question to rest. These ancient scrolls have been compared to the most reliable currently-available manuscripts and have been found to be virtually unchanged over the course of the past two mellennia. See Wikipedia “Dead Sea Scrolls” and “Shrine of the Book.” [RETURN]

  4. Every seventh year was the year of sh’mittah, שְׁמִטָּה (a letting drop, a temporary remitting), in which every debt was to be forgiven and all parcels of land returned to their original owners. [RETURN]

  5. myjewishlearning.com/article/why-jews-read-torah-on-a-yearly-cycle/, accessed 18 August 2021. [RETURN]

  6. wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapters_and_verses_of_the_Bible, accessed 18 August 2021. [RETURN]

Page revised on Shabbat, 18 April 2020
Page revised on Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Page last updated on Wednesday, 18 August 2021 11:36 AM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return
ANXIOUSLY WATCHING FOR MASHIACH’S RETURN,
SPEEDILY AND IN OUR DAY. MARANA, TA!