The Torah Inspires America’s Laws

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

With us entering November, Americans face two unrelated calendar events; Thanksgiving and what has been called our “civic sacrament”, election day. Interestingly, these two happenings, both civic duty and historical holiday, can easily fall under the one umbrella of the Torah. As you will see, we owe much of our history and government to God’s Holy Word.

When we go back to the early puritans, like the Israelites, we find that they were motivated to leave their hoist countries out of persecution.  For Israel, this was Egypt, and in the case of the puritans, it was Europe.  Also, like with Israel, much of this persecution stemmed from their religious beliefs.  Interestingly, one of the many things that made the puritans outcasts was their reverence towards the Tanakh1(Old Testament).  So, as Israel had Canaan, the Puritans had America as their promise land2.  Additionally, as evidence to this Exodus parallel, our first legal and guiding document was the Mayflower Compact (1620).  This document acknowledged  the sovereign authority of God, not the sovereignty of man (Exodus 18:16, 20:3, Deuteronomy 10:20, 2 Chronicle 7:14, Psalm 83:19, 91:2, Daniel 4:29).  This document was signed on board the Mayflower before our ancesters  disembarked into the promise land.  This event must have been reminiscent of Joshua’s speech to Israel before entering Canaan (Joshua 1:1-18).

After our predecessors, the pilgrims landed, and before we began as a nation, many of our forefathers had an affinity to God’s word.  We see this through many examples of the Torah being infused in our early legislation.  For instance, over a hundred years before the US Constitution was written, the New Haven Code of 1665 was created. Nearly half of this legal document consisted of statutes that were taken from the Torah. Likewise, many Old Testament texts were copied directly into early New England law books3.

Additionally, we see in early American colleges, such as Yale and Harvard, the need to study the Law of the Torah and understand the Hebrew language.  Harvard President Samuel Langdon is quoted for saying ‘the Jewish government, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic.’ He also stated to Congress days before the American Revolution “The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model.”4. With the study of the Torah within our institutions of higher learning and its amalgamation into local laws, there is no doubt as to it inspiring the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as other crucial documents.

We see this with John Adams, who was our Second President and First Vice President.  Adams was instrumental in the influence and drafting of the Declaration of Independence.  He is quoted for saying “The Jews have done more to civilize men than any other nation….”4.  Adam’s was, of course, talking about their implementation of God’s law given at Mount Sinai.  As we see here, much of our guiding documents are influenced by the Tanakh5:

Declaration of Independence:

PRINCIPLE

TANAKH

Existence of objective moral values, Fixed standards, Absolute truth, Sanctity of life Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 30:19, Psalm 119:142-152, Proverbs 14:34, Isaiah 5:20-21
Rule of law rather than authority of man Exodus 18:24-27, Deuteronomy 17:20, Isaiah 8:19-20
All men created equal Genesis 1:26
Establish justice Exodus 23:1-9, Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 1:17, 16:19-20, 24:17-19, 1 Samuel 8:3, 2 Samuel 8:15, 1 Kings 3:28, 10:9, Micah 6:8
Biblical liberty, Free enterprise Leviticus 25:10
Creation not evolution Genesis 1:1

 

US Constitution:

PRINCIPLE

TANAKH

Rule of law rather than authority of man Exodus 18:24-27, Deuteronomy 17:20, Isaiah 8:19-20
Judicial, legislative, and executive branches Exodus 18:22, 26, Deuteronomy 1:17-18, Isaiah 33:22
Republican form of government and warnings against kings but in favor of Godly rulers Exodus 18:21, Deuteronomy 1:13, Judges 8:22-23, 1 Samuel 8, Proverbs 11:14, 24:6

 

Constitutional Amendment:

PRINCIPLE

TANAKH

1st Amendment: Church protected from state control (& taxation), but church to influence the state Deuteronomy 17:18-20, 1 Kings 3:28, Ezra 7:24, Nehemiah 8:2, 1 Samuel 7:15-10:27, 15:10-31, 2 Samuel 12:1-18
5th Amendment: Private property rights Exodus 20:15-17
6th Amendment: Fair trial, witnesses Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 19:15, Proverbs 24:28, 25:18

 

It is amazing how much of God’s Word is a part of our everyday laws. Yet, if we read and study Exodus chapter 21 through 24, we see God’s complex and just intellect at work*. The idea that a great people would latch onto this concepts would not only make sense but likewise this could bring on the blessings of the Almighty.  As for those Christians that say we are not under the law (Acts 15:10, Romans 4:15,6:14, 2 Corinthians 3:11, Galatians 3:10), ask if they are law abiding citizens.  If their answer is “yes”, you may want to break it to them that they are still under the law.

Note:

Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 1, Intentional Crimes

Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 2, Neglect Crimes

Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 3, Unintentional Crimes

 

References:

 

  1. Isakson, Cory W. “The Puritans’ “Christian” Agenda?” The Puritans’ “Christian” Agenda? June 1998. Accessed October 30, 2016. https://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/amr/puritan.htm.

 

  1. Sivan, Gabriel. The Bible and Civilization. New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Book, 1974, Page 236

 

  1. Noll, Mark A., Nathan O. Hatch, and George M. Marsden. The Search for Christian America. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1983. Page 33-34

 

  1. Eidelberg, Paul, Prof. “Jewish Roots of the American Constitution.” -Arutz Sheva Israel National News. November 30, 2005. Accessed October 29, 2016.

 

  1. The Bible and Government, Biblical Principles: Basis for America’s Laws, Faith Facts
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