The Noahide Laws

Noahides are a group of people who are not Jewish, who wish to live a Jewish lifestyle, and wish to have that lifestyle sanctioned by Jews. In order to accomplish this end they abide by a set of laws called the Noahide Laws. These laws are set for them by Jews.

The Noahide laws are a set of seven laws found in the Talmud (and referred to as principles–not as a codex–in B’resheit [Genesis]), which claims they were handed down to Noah by YHVH (after all but number 6 were handed to Adam in the Garden of Eden). They bear a general resemblance to the Ten Commandments, and any Gentile who follows them is considered a “Righteous Gentile” guaranteed a place in the “afterlife.”

For the sake of specificity, I’ll include them here:

  • Prohibition of Idolatry
  • Prohibition of Murder
  • Prohibition of Theft
  • Prohibition of Sexual immorality
  • Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God’s name.
  • Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4, as interpreted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59a)
  • Requirement to have just Laws: Set up a governing body of law (eg Courts)

According to the Talmud, the commandments actually set forth in the Torah are only for Jews, and non-Jews are forbidden from observing them beyond the seven rules listed above. The Noahide laws are themselves subdivided into a longer series of more specific and detailed rules, although that interpretation varies according to rabbinic scholar and sect. The Chabad interpretation, which may be found here, is exhaustive to say the least. The interpretation promoted by Noahide Nations is simpler (although still extensive) and less oriented towards the segregation of Jew and Gentile.

In the case of either example (Chabad or Noahide Nations), the concept relies significantly on Talmudic and Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah rather than on the Word itself. While the citations provided at the Noahide Nations website does provide numerous examples of law extracted from the Torah, Rabbinic interpretation is heavily relied upon for understanding and implementation. A section of the website even provides Kabbalah commentaries (the concepts promoted by Kabbalah are considered by the authors of this blog to be idolatry drawn from the sexual imagery of the Dionysian Mystery Cult). In many ways the Noahide movement seems to promote even further the power of rabbis as middlemen between G-d and man.

Using a Torah-centric perspective, I believe the concept of Noahide Laws is contrary to YHVH’s Law and sets up unnecessary divisions between peoples (all of whom were created by YHVH). Nowhere does the Torah state that Gentiles are forbidden from observing the Commandments. The only thing Gentiles, at least those who are not circumcised, are not allowed to do is partake of the Pesach (Passover) sacrifice. Moreover, the Torah says explicitly and repeatedly that non-Israelites living among the Israelites are subject to the same laws and customs observed by the Israelites themselves–including the dietary laws, holidays, and circumcision.
The Torah also includes various examples of foreign people being absorbed into the Nation of Israel. These examples show that neither YHVH nor the Israelites found any insurmountable boundary between Jews and other groups. The Torah also states that the Torah in its entirety should be read aloud to the people every seventh year (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 31:10-13). At no point does this instruction say to exclude non-Jews from hearing the Torah. In fact, it says explicitly that the “stranger” should be gathered to hear it with everyone else “that they may learn…and observe and do all the words of this law” (31:12). However, the interpretation provided by the Chabad website says that Gentiles are forbidden from “learning irrelevant Torah,” a concept I find questionable to say the least.
From a modern perspective, the suggestion that Gentiles should follow a secondary set of laws and live as a subordinate class to Jews is insulting, patronizing, and more than a little prejudiced. From a biblical perspective, the suggestion is clearly in violation of YHVH’s Law. In Devarim (Deuteronomy) 2:2, for example, the Israelites are preparing to go through the land inhabited by the descendants of Esau, the Edomites. Despite the conflict between the patriarchs of the two groups, YHVH commands the Israelites to behave in a respectful manner towards their hosts. They are not to make war with the children of Esau and they are to pay with money for everything they take to sustain themselves. Even though the two groups have some bad blood between them, the Israelites are not to treat them as enemies to be thwarted or conquered, nor as inferiors to enslave, but rather as an independent, legitimate nation in their own right. More explicitly, YHVH specifically commands the Israelites only to have one law for all people (B’midbar [Numbers] 29-30).
Although YHVH commands the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites, through the Prophet Yeremiyahu (Jeremiah) 12:16 He sends a different message:
“And if they will learn the ways of My nation and swear by My name, saying ‘as YHVH lives’ -even as they taught the people of My nation to swear by Baal- then they will be built up among My people.”
Even the wicked Canaanites could become Israelites in their own right if they learned to observe the Torah and were converted by the Israelites (today by Jews). This is an open invitation for all peoples of all nations to become one with YHVH and His holy nation.
I believe that any non-Jew who is attracted to the Laws set forth in the Torah should do a close reading of them, study the history of the time so as to understand the Law in context, and study rabbinic practices. As a non-Jew, there should be no expectation that he adhere to Jewish traditions that lack a biblical foundation. He should know the difference between what is in the Torah and how most Jews interpret it, and he should reach his own conclusions about how best to serve YHVH in his own day-to-day life without outside interference. If he chooses to undergo conversion and join himself to the Holy Nation of Israel, then I will proudly call him my brother. If he chooses not to, then he is a ger (a sojourner) and the Torah tells me to love him, and to have one law for all as stated in Shemot (Exodus) 12:49 et al.
For information about conversion to Karaite Judaism, please contact Karaite Jewish University.
Contributed by Rachel Kight.

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