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Theology of the Pentateuch

The Theology of the Pentateuch is understood through the knowledge of the Holiness of the Creator God (Yahweh Elohim). There are two particular things in the Pentateuch that give us an idea of holiness; the first being the many appearances (theophany) recorded in the Pentateuch, and the second being the Law (regulations for worship) of Yahweh Elohim.[1] A theophany is a visible manifestation of God or a disclosure about Himself.[2] I believe that there is no greater theophany in all of scripture than the incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[3] But the second is the Lord’s declaration of His holy character to Moses, on Mount Sinai.
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."[4]
God’s Holy character is the foundation for the theology of the Pentateuch, and not only the Pentateuch, but the entire canon that is the Bible.
The cornerstone of the Lord’s holy character is that which has been translated in the NASB “lovingkindness”. “The Hebrew word חֶסֶד, variously translated kindness (JB), lovingkindness (KJV, NASB), love (NIV), or steadfast love (NRSV), has the basic meaning of unfailing love or loyalty. The Septuagint uses the Greek word ἔλεος (mercy or compassion) in translating חֶסֶד.”5 According to the NASB Exhaustive Concordance, the Hebrew word חֶסֶד is pronounced chesed[6], but the other sources used in this article pronounce the word hesed. Therefore, I will be using hesed.
Studies by F. I. Anderson and K. D. Sakenfeld have shown that hesed speaks of a favor given to someone who does not have a right to that favor, and it is given by someone who does not have to give that favor.[7] The kindness of God, lovingkindness of God, love, or steadfast love of God has the basic meaning of unfailing love or loyalty as it relates to His character trait of faithfulness; “abounding in lovingkindness and truth.”  Out of lovingkindness for His creation, and more specifically for His elect; God forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.  But this lovingkindness of God is not arbitrary, or without cost, because His holiness demands that He by no means leave the guilty unpunished. Therefore, the ultimate cost for His lovingkindness must be borne by God alone.
The Lord told Moses, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”[8] There was nothing particularly holy about the site itself, but it was holy because God made it holy.  Therefore, holiness is defined by the presence of, or being in proximity to God. If God is not present then the thing or the man is not holy, only God is holy. It is here in Exodus 3:5 that the word holy appears for the first time in the Pentateuch[9] and this appearance of the word holy appears in close proximity to a Theophany in which God proclaims His Holy name YHWH to Moses.
Moses being sent by the Creator God to the Israelites needed the ability to tell them about Him.  So did Moses not know his name? Had Moses never heard the name Yahweh? The name had been used by the Patriarchs, therefore, it is likely that Moses had heard the name before. So when Moses said, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you. ' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name? ' What shall I say to them?"[10] It was likely that he was asking God to explain Himself to him, to describe Himself; God what are You like?[11]
“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ' I AM has sent me to you.'"[12] He then told Moses to tell the Israelites that the God of their Fathers has sent me to you; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[13] At this point in the narrative Moses was not yet able to understand the nature of God. It wasn’t until a covenant had been made (Exodus 20-24), followed by the covenant being broken by the Israelites (the golden calf, Exodus 32), followed by God forgiving the iniquity, transgressions, and sins of the Israelites that Moses was then able to understand hesed.  It was then that Yahweh honored his request, "I pray You, show me Your glory!"[14]
This Hebrew word חֶסֶד (hesed) which we have previously shown to speak of a favor given to someone who does not have a right to that favor, and it is given by someone who does not have to give that favor; is the cornerstone for the theology of the Pentateuch. All of Yahweh’s dealings with man from The Garden of Eden to the Israelites being on the verge of entering The Land of Canaan is rooted in the Holiness of God as revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai.
 “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’”[15] Moses reaction to this revelation, “Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.”[16] This is the same reaction that anyone should have when they come to understand the holy unfailing, or loyal yet righteous love of our Creator God.
We see the holy, unfailing, or loyal yet righteous love of God exhibited through the many covenants throughout the Pentateuch. It is in a covenant with his elect (chosen) that we see and understand fully the Theology of the Pentateuch. There are many covenants in the Pentateuch, but for this article we will look at four of them; Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, and Mosaic. Each of these covenants builds upon the previous covenant to reveal more of the holy, unfailing or loyal, yet righteous love of God until we get to the Mosaic covenant and the Law.
But before going to the Mosaic covenant and the Law, let us first look at the covenants in Genesis. In the beginning there was a covenant between God and man, but unlike the covenants that would later come it was a covenant of death. Man already had life, "but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."[17] After Adam and his wife Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God would have been just in killing them, but instead He made garments of skin for Adam and his wife.[18] The protoevangelium in Genesis 3:15 alludes to a future covenant of hope.[19]
The Noahic covenant was a promise of life for Noah, his family, and all the living things that he brought on the ark.[20] It was not just a covenant with man alone, but with nature.[21] The covenant with Noah was an ancestral covenant, because it applied to all of Noah’s descendants as well as the animals on the ark. The postdiluvian Noahic covenant begins with the offering of animal sacrifices after the flood.[22] God gave the sign of the rainbow as a grace after the flood to help man remember, when you see a rainbow you are to remember God’s promise that no future storm would destroy the whole earth by flood.[23]
The Abrahamic covenant brought a new level to the covenant between God and man (national). It is through a nation (Israel), and an ancestor of Abraham (Jesus), that God would ultimately establish a new covenant with His elect that is universal in purpose.[24] “Now the Lord said to Abram,
Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.[25]

This covenant is promised again after Abram has doubts, and it is ratified with an animal sacrifice of a three-year-old heifer, goat, ram, turtle dove, pigeon, and Abram cuts the animals in two excluding the birds and divides them.  Abram sees a theophany in which the Lord passes through them with a flaming sword.[26] Then later the Lord changed Abram to Abraham and gave him the covenant sign of circumcision.[27]
Of all the people in the world God choose Israel. Moses said, “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”[28]
W. MacDonald said, “God had chosen Israel to be a people who were separated to Himself. He did not want them to be like the other nations. He did not…chose them because of their superior numbers (they were the fewest of all people). He chose them simply because He loved them, and He wanted them to obey Him in all things.”[29]
Yahweh spoke to Israel through Moses saying, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”[30] God made a covenant with Israel to make them His own possession and gave them the covenantal Law (The Ten Commandments) to make them priests and a holy nation. Both the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments) and the Levitical Law were given for the purpose of making unholy people look, and act like holy people who love God with all their heart, mind, and soul; and love their neighbor as themselves.
As the apostle Paul said in his first letter to Timothy, “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”[31] The Israelites were a stiff necked and obstinate people. “The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.”[32]
The Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) continued to demonstrate His Sovereign, unfailing, or loyal yet righteous love (חֶסֶד hesed) for His chosen people, Israel, for 40 years of wondering in the desert. He neither left them nor forsake them, He brought them as promised; a nation ready to enter the promised land of their position. In conclusion; the sovereign, unfailing, or loyal yet righteous love (חֶסֶד hesed) for the chosen people of the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) is the Theology of the Pentateuch.
  


[1] T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Pentateuch” Holy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 420.
[2] T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Pentateuch” Theophany (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 859.
[3] John 1:14 (NASB).
[4] Exodus 34:6-7 (NASB).
[5] J. Carl Laney, “BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 158” God’s Self-Revelation in Exodus 34:6-8 (Dallas Theological Seminary, January-March 2001), 46-47.
[6] 6. NASB Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible, h2617a (The Lockman Foundation, 1977), 1521.
[7] 7. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Pentateuch” Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 850.
[8] 8. Exodus 3:5 (NASB).
[9] William MacDonald, “Believer’s Bible Commentary” Exodus (Dallas, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 91
[10] Exodus 3:13 (NASB).
[11] Warren W. Wiersbe, “The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: the complete Old Testament” Exodus (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), 150-151.
[12] Exodus 3:14 (NASB).
[13] Exodus 3:15 (NASB).
[14] Exodus 33:18 (NASB).
[15] Exodus 34:6-7 (NASB).
[16] Exodus 34:8 (NASB).
[17] Genesis 3:5 (NASB).
[18] Genesis 3:21 (NASB).
[19] T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Pentateuch” Genesis (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 354.
[20] Genesis 6:18-20 (NASB).
[21] Warren W. Wiersbe, “The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: the complete Old Testament” Genesis (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), 47.
[22] T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Pentateuch” Covenant (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 140.
[23] Warren W. Wiersbe, “The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: the complete Old Testament” Genesis (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), 47.
[24] T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Pentateuch” Covenant (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 149.
[25] Genesis 12:1-3 (NASB).
[26] Genesis 15 (NASB).
[27] Genesis 17 (NASB).
[28] Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (NASB).
[29] William MacDonald, “Believer’s Bible Commentary” Deuteronomy (Dallas, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 208.
[30] Exodus 19:5-6 (NASB).
[31] 1 Timothy 1:9-11 (NASB).
[32] Exodus 32:8 (NASB).

Bibliography
Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, (2003).
NASB Exaustive Concordance of the Bible. The Lockman Foundation, (1998).
The Holy Bible, Updated New American Standard Bible. The Lockman Foundation, (1995).
Warren W. Wiersbe. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: the complete Old Testament. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, (2007).
William MacDonald. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Dallas, TX: Thomas Nelson, (19


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