Theonomy is for Gentiles

Summary of Theonomy

  • The word "Theonomy" means "God's Law." It comes from two Greek words, theos, "God," and nomos, "law."
  • The Theonomic hermeneutic assumes that unless the Old Testament law in question has been specifically qualified by the New Testament, it remains in force. The Theonomic hermeneutic is one of continuity.
"Theonomy" is loosely equated with the "Christian Reconstruction" movement. Greg Bahnsen wrote a book entitled, Theonomy in Christian Ethics. He summarizes the book in this way:

God's will for our lives is found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, with the Old Testament Law and Prophets carrying in our day the full authority of God's written Word unless specifically qualified in the New Testament.

The relationship between the two Testaments is not adversarial. Jesus did not come to abrogate the Old Testament; He came to purify it (in opposition to Pharisaical distortions) and put its intentions into force (Matthew 5, esp. vv. 17-20) by empowering His People to obediently fulfill its promises.

Bahnsen's thesis is pretty much the view of Reformed Theology in general and the Westminster Confession of Faith in particular. So it acknowledges that the New Testament has definitely qualified many Old Testament laws, most notably the laws concerning animal sacrifices in general, and the Levitical priesthood in particular.

There are no more temple sacrifices, no more Levitical priesthood (and there never will be again), and the New Testament explains why (e.g., the book of Hebrews). In some cases we don't even need the New Covenant to tell us that some Old Testament laws are no longer letter-applicable: the Old Testament itself tells us about the dramatic change of priesthood that was to occur with the coming of the Messiah; many laws would someday obligate no more, and the New Testament confirms the Old in this respect. As Bahnsen puts it,

The Levitical priesthood, representing the Mosaic system of ceremonial redemption, could not bring perfection and so was intended to be superseded (Heb. 7:11f.,28) . . . . The former commandment with reference to ceremonial matters was set aside . . . in order that God's people might have a better hope, for the ceremony was imperfect and kept men at a distance from God (Heb. 7:18f.). [S]uch a change in stipulation is also a confirmation of the Older Testamental law as implied in Psalm 110:1,4. (Theonomy, pp. 208-209).

Making the transition from the Levitical priesthood instituted by Moses to the Melchizedek priesthood is an act of Theonomic obedience to the stipulations of God's Law.

Of course, in a sense, all of the Old Testament Laws are still binding upon us. For example, we are still responsible to bring before God the blood of a sacrificial lamb. But we also know that that Lamb is Christ (John 1:29). It makes sense, then, to expect, for example, that most of the Old Testament laws concerning the shedding of blood find their satisfaction in Christ.

The difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant is not the Standard of Righteousness, but the priestly path to forgiveness of sins (violations of that Standard), and the Spiritual ability we have to obey it (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:27; Jeremiah 31: 31-34 + Hebrews 8:8-13; Romans 8:3-5 + Ephesians 4:13).

Matthew 5:17-20
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Pretty hard to evade the pro-nomian attitude in this passage. Bahnsen's exegesis is sound. And it establishes prima facie the Theonomic thesis. Here is how Bahnsen summarizes the Theonomic thesis in his book No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics (another version of this summary is in the 2nd edition of Theonomy, and it has been published in numerous other works by Bahnsen):

  1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are, in part and in whole, a verbal revelation from God through the words of men, being infallibly true regarding all that they teach on any subject.
  2. Since the Fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one's own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith; commitment to obedience is but the lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God's redeeming grace.
  3. The word of the Lord is the sole, supreme, and unchallengeable standard for the actions and attitudes of all men in all areas of life; this word naturally includes God's moral directives (law).
  4. Our obligation to keep the law of God cannot be judged by any extrascriptural standard, such as whether its specific requirements (when properly interpreted) are congenial to past traditions or modern feelings and practices.
  5. We should presume that Old Testament standing laws[note26] continue to be morally binding in the New Testament, unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation.[note27]

26. Standing law" is used here for policy directives applicable over time to classes of individuals (e.g., do not kill; children, obey your parents; merchants, have equal measures; magistrates, execute rapists), in contrast to particular directions for an individual (e.g., the order for Samuel to anoint David at a particular time and place) or positive commands for distinct incidents (e.g., God's order for Israel to exterminate certain Canaanite tribes at a certain point in history).

27. By contrast, it is characteristic of dispensational theology to hold that Old Covenant commandments should be a priori deemed as abrogated - unless repeated in the New Testament (e.g., Charles Ryrie, "The End of the Law," Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 124 [1967], pp. 239-242).

  1. In regard to the Old Testament law, the New Covenant surpasses the Old Covenant in glory, power, and finality (thus reinforcing former duties). The New Covenant also supersedes the Old Covenant shadows, thereby changing the application of sacrificial, purity, and "separation" principles, redefining the people of God, and altering the significance of the promised land.
  2. God's revealed standing laws are a reflection of His immutable moral character and, as such, are absolute in the sense of being non-arbitrary, objective, universal, and established in advance of particular circumstances (thus applicable to general types of moral situations).
  3. Christian involvement in politics calls for recognition of God's transcendent, absolute, revealed law as a standard by which to judge all social codes.
  4. Civil magistrates in all ages and places are obligated to conduct their offices as ministers of God, avenging divine wrath against criminals and giving an account on the Final Day of their service before the King of kings, their Creator and Judge.
  5. The general continuity which we presume with respect to the moral standards of the Old Testament applies just as legitimately to matters of socio-political ethics as it does to personal, family, or ecclesiastical ethics.
  6. The civil precepts of the Old Testament (standing 'judicial" laws) are a model of perfect social justice for all cultures, even in the punishment of criminals. Outside of those areas where God's law prescribes their intervention and application of penal redress, civil rulers are not authorized to legislate or use coercion (e.g., the economic marketplace).
  7. The morally proper way for Christians to correct social evils which are not under the lawful jurisdiction of the state is by means of voluntary and charitable enterprises or the censures of the home, church, and marketplace - even as the appropriate method for changing the political order of civil law is not violent revolution, but dependence upon regeneration, re-education, and gradual legal reform.

Notice what these principles tell us about the theological and moral character of theonomic ethics. The foundational authority of scripture (#1) and the precious truth of salvation by grace alone (#2) provide the context within which every other theonomic thesis is developed and understood. "Theonomic" ethics is committed to developing an overall Christian world-and-life-view (#3) according to the regulating principle of sola Scriptura (#4) and the hermeneutic of covenant theology (#5). The new and better covenant established by Christ does offer Biblical warrant for recognizing changes in covenantal administration (#6), but not changes in moral standards, lest the divinely revealed ethic be reduced to situationism or relativism -- just one tribal perspective among many in the evolutionary history of ethics (#7). Righteousness and justice, according to Biblical teaching, have a universal character, precluding any double-standard of morality.

"Theonomic" ethics likewise rejects legal positivism and maintains that there is a "law above the (civil) law" to which appeal can be made against the tyranny of rulers and the anarchy of overzealous reformers alike (#9). Since Jesus Christ is Lord over all (cf. #3), civil magistrates are His servants and owe obedience to His revealed standards for them (#9). There is no Biblically based justification (cf. #5) for exempting civil authorities from responsibility to the universal standards of justice (cf. #7) found in God's Old Testament revelation (#10). Therefore, in the absence of Biblically grounded argumentation which releases the civil magistrate from Old Testament social norms (cf. #5, #6), it follows from our previous premises that in the exercise of their offices rulers are morally responsible to obey the revealed standards of social justice in the Old Testament law (#11). This does not mean, however, that civil rulers have unlimited authority to intrude just anywhere into the affairs of men and societies (# 11 #12); their legitimate sphere is restricted to what God's word has authorized them to do -- thus calling for a limited role for civil government. Finally, Christians are urged to use persuasive and "democratic" means of social reform - nothing like the strong-arm tactics slanderously attributed to the theonomic program (#12).[note28]

28. For example, the main thrust of a widely read article on theonomic ethics by Rodney Clapp in Christianity Today, vol. 31, no. 3 (Feb. 20, 1987), was captured in its title: "Democracy as Heresy." He recklessly accuses theonomists of seeking "the abolition of democracy" (p. 17), when surely Clapp is aware that the word 'democracy' is susceptible to an incredibly wide range of definitions and connotations (e.g., from an institution of direct rule by every citizen without mediating representatives to a governmental procedure where representatives are voted in and out of office by the people, to the simple concepts of majority vote or social equality, etc.). Theonomists are opposed to some of those ideas, but surely not to what is commonly understood by the word: namely, democratic procedures for choosing representatives to rule. Indeed, in reply to Mr. Clapp's inflammatory rhetoric, Dr. Gary North very appropriately pointed out as a historian the irony that it was precisely our Puritan (and theonomic) forefathers who fought for and established this kind of "democracy" in the Western world!

This is really pretty standard Bible-believing ethics. It should be surprising that "Theonomic ethics" should be at all controversial in evangelical circles.

The bulk of Bahnsen's lengthy treatise on Theonomy does not discuss politics, but only the basic concept of the abiding validity of the Old Testament generally. Indeed, the section which does address politics is called "Application of the Thesis to the State" (p. 315). Bahnsen's particular application of Theonomy to the State is not the Theonomic thesis itself, but only an "application of the thesis." Ditto for applications made by R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North.

Bahnsen writes in his summary volume, By This Standard: The Authority of God's Law Today,

[T]hose who agree with the foundational conclusion of [Theonomy] -- that God's Law is binding today unless Scripture reveals otherwise -- may very well disagree among themselves over particular matters in interpreting what God's law demands at this or that point, or ... may disagree over how these demands should be followed today (p. 9).

Leaders of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement have had their disagreements on the application of the Theonomic thesis. Rushdoony and North disagreed to such an extent that they weren't even talking to each other! Bahnsen disagreed with Rushdoony on several issues. Based on the Theonomic thesis, I personally do not believe in "capital punishment" for any crime. That might surprise many opponents of Theonomy, who assume that "Theonomy" means nothing if not the execution of homosexuals.

One critic of Theonomy writes:

For theonomy rests on a further assumption that is not quite as ostensible. That assumption is that the civil law was given to Israel for the purpose of governing the societal and political dimensions of Israel’s life, and that as such it was to function as a universal standard for socio-political ethics. It was not given to Israel for Israel’s sake alone but to Israel for the sake of the nations, that they too might be governed by the same socio-political standards.

This is an easy assumption. N.T. Wright has persuasively argued that Israel was chosen to be God's People for the world, not to withdraw into a ghetto. We will show below how God's Law has always applied to the world, not just Israel. Western Civilization is based on this assumption. Here is an example from the Supreme Court of Delaware, back in 1837:

Long before Lord Hale declared that Christianity was a part of the laws of England, the Court of Kings Bench, 34 Eliz. in Ratcliff's case, 3 Coke Rep. 40, b. had gone so far as to declare that "in almost all cases, the common law was grounded on the law of God, which it was said was causa causans," and the court cited the 27th chapter of Numbers, to show that their judgment on a common law principle in regard to the law of inheritance, was founded on God's revelation of that law to Moses.
State v. Chandler, 2 Harr. 553 at 561 (1837)

America was built on the assumption that the civil law was recorded in the Scripture and preserved for us so that statesmen and legislators would have a divine blueprint for the civil magistrate.

Where is "the civil law?" One component of Biblical "civil law" would surely be a prohibition of murder, and punishment by death. This is found in Genesis 9. (Actually, only the punishment for murder is found in Genesis 9. The actual prohibition against murder must have been "given" to man earlier; in fact, before the murder of Abel by Cain.)

Were the nations outside Israel in the Old Testament expected to prohibit murder and punish it by death? How about homosexuality? Irons says no. Leviticus 18:24-30 says that the nations (the people, collectively, the demos) in the Promised Land were to be executed (literally, "devoted" as a sacrifice -- "hormah") as a punishment (our modern word, not necessarily a Biblical word) for violating the laws "given" to Israel. So it seems rather obvious that God expected the laws relating to Israel as a society (not merely the laws governing individual Israelites personally) to be obeyed by Canaanite society, and all other societies as well (e.g., Jonah/Nineveh, and the prophets generally).

Deuteronomy 4:5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
40 Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Bahnsen argues that the civil magistrate in Israel was obligated to obey "the civil law," as were all other nations, as are all nations in New Testament times. Bahnsen says the following propositions were true of

  • Israel in the Old Testament,
  • other nations in the Old Testament, and
  • all nations in the New Testament:
  1. God Sovereignly Appoints and Removes Rulers
  2. Rulers, as God's Appointees, are Not to be Resisted
  3. Rulers Bear Religious Titles (e.g., "minister")
  4. Hence Rulers are God's Vicegerents, Avengers of His Wrath
  5. The Magistrate Must Deter Evil but Honor the Good
  6. The Magistrate Must Rule, then, According to God's Law
  7. Therefore, the Magistrate is Subject to Criticism and Judgment for Lawlessness

Bahnsen's exposition of these seven propositions as they are found in Scripture relating to Israel, to the nations around Israel, and in the New Testament, is overwhelming. M.G. Kline spoke of Bahnsen's "over-heated typewriter." There is a bedrock of civil continuity throughout the Bible.

As a general rule, the Theonomic thesis is sound, and it applies to society, government, and individuals. There are many ways to apply the thesis, as Bahnsen admits, but all nations are obligated to obey God's Law in the Christian Scriptures. For centuries, this has been an operating assumption of legislators and courts. It has also been part of Christian missionary endeavors which have shaped civil law in formerly heathen nations. Yesterday's missionary efforts are today called "colonialism."

Go back, now, and re-read the paragraph at left. A prima facie case for that assumption has been made. Western civilization was built on that assumption.  Lee Irons has the massive burden to disprove it. Declaring that "the civil law" is "theocratic" or that it is "typological" (we encounter those two terms in the next paragraph) does not disprove the assumption that it is also a model for all other nations. There is no Biblical reason why a law cannot serve more than one purpose.

It is not a valid Biblical principle to say that the Scriptures should not be applied by today's governments because the Scriptures are "theocratic" or "typological." Don't be baffled by 50-cent theological terms.

  • A verse in the Bible can serve as law in a "theocracy," it can serve as a law in a "monarchy," it can serve as a law in a "democracy." 
  • A verse in the Bible can serve as law in any conceivable human social arrangement, and also tell us something about Christ's reign as King, or about our salvation, or about the next life ("typology").


We've all been trained by secular schools and liberal (big-government) media to react with unthinking horror at the word "theocracy." Let's think (for a change).

The word "theocracy" means "God governs." The Greek word theos means "god." If a nation says "We're a nation under God," and if a nation is committed to obeying God's Commandments, rather than the commandments and traditions of men, then that nation is committed to being a "Theocracy" (whether it claims to be or not).

Clearly, an Islamic theocracy, committed to obeying the Koran and Hadith, is a very different kind of theocracy from a Christian Theocracy committed to obeying the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Scriptures.

A Christian Theocracy is under God -- the God of the Bible. America used to claim to be "under God" -- the God of the Bible -- and every historian of any competence will admit that all the American colonies were "theocratic." Even today, America's official national motto is still "In God We Trust," a theocratic motto.

But there's really nothing special about being a "theocracy." Every government in the history of the human race has been a "theocracy," and it is not possible to avoid being a "theocracy."  The question is not whether a government is a theocracy or not, but WHO is the "theos?"

  • An Islamic theocracy is under Allah.
  • A Hindu theocracy is under Shiva.
  • A Secular Humanist theocracy is one where every man is his own god.

All these false theocracies under false gods should repent and become Christian Theocracies. Their governments should follow the model of the Christian Scriptures. (Whatever that is, whether you adopt the Rushdoony version, the North version, the Bahnsen version, or some other "application of the thesis to the state.") There is no Biblical or logical reason why a Christian Theocracy -- such as that found in the Bible -- cannot be a model for all other theocracies.

Proving that Israel was a "theocracy" does not prove that only Israel should be governed by God's Law. All nations, all societies, all institutions, all individuals should be "Theonomic." Or perhaps we should say, All nations, all societies, all institutions, all individuals should be committed to becoming more perfectly "Theonomic," eventually out-doing Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen in their faithfulness to God's Theonomic blueprints.

Proving that a given statute in the Bible is "theocratic" therefore does not prove that governments today should not follow that law. Irons has not met his burden of proof.


Let's begin by remembering that all Scripture is Law. All Scripture is breathed-out by our Divine Lawgiver (2 Timothy 3:16; Isaiah 33:22). Rushdoony spoke of "the Law-Word of God." In John 15:25 a Psalm fulfills a prophetic function but is still labeled "Law." The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 145, finds civil law in Psalm 119:69. Psalm 65:2 "is by God required of all men" (WCF 21:3). "The civil law" that Irons writes against is not isolated in the books of the Torah, but is found throughout Scripture.

Some of these verses are also "typological." That doesn't mean they are no longer "law." They are still pronouncements of our Lawgiver. They command us and our institutions.

Psalm 72 was written about King Solomon of Israel (either by David or by Solomon), but is usually considered a "type" of the Messiah. Isaac Watts clearly thought this. The fact that Psalm 72 is a "type of Christ" does not preclude Solomon from being obligated to obey this Psalm as a model of Godly Government. That does not preclude any other king -- such as the kings mentioned in the Psalm ("Tarshish," "Sheba," "Seba"), or the nations mentioned by Watts ("Persia," "India") -- from using the Psalm as a model of Godly Government. No nation on earth in 1719, 1862 or in the 21st century is excused or precluded from using this Psalm as a model of just and righteous civil government -- just because the Psalm is labeled "typological" by some theologian. God put this song in the Bible to govern us, as well as to tell us something about Christ.

Don't be fooled by words like "theocracy" and "typology." Psalm 72 is clearly "theocratic," "typological," and authoritatively binding on all civil governments for all time, as long as they exist. If you are a king or other magistrate, God has legally obligated you to study and apply Psalm 72 to your civic responsibilities. This has been the common assumption of Christians for two thousand years.

Psalm 72

1 Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.
16 There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.
18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.
19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

“Jesus Shall Reign”
Isaac Watts, The Psalms of David, 1719.

  1. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
    Does his successive journeys run;
    His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
    Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
  2. Behold the islands with their kings,
    And Europe her best tribute brings;
    From north to south the princes meet,
    To pay their homage at His feet.
  3. There Persia, glorious to behold,
    There India shines in eastern gold;
    And barb’rous nations at His word
    Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.
  4. To Him shall endless prayer be made,
    And praises throng to crown His head;
    His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
    With every morning sacrifice.
  5. People and realms of every tongue
    Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
    And infant voices shall proclaim
    Their early blessings on His Name.
  6. Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
    The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
    The weary find eternal rest,
    And all the sons of want are blessed.
  7. Where He displays His healing power,
    Death and the curse are known no more:
    In Him the tribes of Adam boast
    More blessings than their father lost.
  1. Let every creature rise and bring
    Peculiar honors to our King;
    Angels descend with songs again,
    And earth repeat the loud amen!
  2. Great God, whose universal sway
    The known and unknown worlds obey,
    Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
    Extend His power, exalt His throne.
  3. The scepter well becomes His hands;
    All Heav’n submits to His commands;
    His justice shall avenge the poor,
    And pride and rage prevail no more.
  4. With power He vindicates the just,
    And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
    His worship and His fear shall last
    Till hours, and years, and time be past.
  5. As rain on meadows newly mown,
    So shall He send his influence down:
    His grace on fainting souls distills,
    Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.
  6. The heathen lands, that lie beneath
    The shades of overspreading death,
    Revive at His first dawning light;
    And deserts blossom at the sight.
  7. The saints shall flourish in His days,
    Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
    Peace, like a river, from His throne
    Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

G. J. Stevenson’s Notes on the Methodist Hymn Book relates:

Perhaps one of the most in­ter­est­ing oc­ca­sions on which this hymn was used was that on which King George, the sa­ble, of the South Sea Is­lands, but of bless­ed mem­o­ry, gave a new con­sti­tu­tion to his peo­ple, ex­chang­ing a hea­then for a Christ­ian form of gov­ern­ment. Un­der the spread­ing branch­es of the ban­yan trees sat some thou­sand na­tives from Ton­ga, Fi­ji, and Sa­moa, on Whit­sun­day, 1862, as­sem­bled for Di­vine wor­ship. Fore­most amongst them all sat King George him­self. Around him were seat­ed old chiefs and war­ri­ors who had shared with him the dan­gers and for­tunes of ma­ny a battle—men whose eyes were dim, and whose pow­er­ful frames were bowed down with the weight of years. But old and young alike re­joiced to­ge­ther in the joys of that day, their fac­es most of them ra­di­ant with Christ­ian joy, love, and hope. It would be im­poss­i­ble to de­scribe the deep feel­ing man­i­fest­ed when the sol­emn serv­ice be­gan, by the en­tire au­di­ence sing­ing Dr. Watts’ hymn…

Who so much as they could real­ize the full mean­ing of the po­et’s words? For they had been res­cued from the dark­ness of hea­then­ism and can­ni­bal­ism and they were that day met for the first time un­der a Christ­ian con­sti­tu­tion, un­der a Christian king, and with Christ Him­self reign­ing in the hearts of most of those pre­sent. That was in­deed Christ’s king­dom set up in the earth.

This interpretation is "postmillennial" and "Theonomic."
King Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of God and is extending His reign over all the earth.
The "premillennial" or "dispensational" interpretation is that
Psalm 72 does not commence fulfillment until after Christ returns and begins to sit upon a literal throne in Jerusalem for nine hundred years or more, after which Satan is loosed and causes so much trouble that a defeated Jesus grabs His football and goes home.

Just because you show that a passage of Scripture is "typological" or "theocratic" (as some try to do) does not mean that Persia and India should not hear the Word of God in that song, poem, exclamation, historical narrative, or question and obediently convert their Islamic and Hindu theocracies into Christian societies obedient to the Word of Christ our Lawgiver, Judge and King (Isaiah 33:22).

The idea that heathen governments should repent and become Christian governments -- obeying Genesis 9, Leviticus 18, Psalm 72, and the rest of the Scriptures -- minus the Levitical priestly requirements that foreshadowed Christ -- has been the mainstream understanding of Christendom for centuries. 

Whatever the phrase means, why is it mutually exclusive with the Theonomic conclusion of the Supreme Court of Delaware (above) or the Theonomic ideal of John Cotton's Abstract of the Laws of New England, in which the civil statutes were annotated with the appropriate verses from the Bible?

Theonomy Before Moses


Adam had God's Law before Moses. Cain and Abel both knew they had to bring offerings. Cain resented Abel's offering so he murdered him, and then worried that everyone was going to carry out capital punishment against him.


Noah separated the animals on the ark between "clean" and "unclean." He was commanded to shed the blood of anyone who shed innocent blood. Why should we assume that Noah was not also told what to do to rapists, adulterers, and homosexuals? Jews refer to these [civil] laws as the "Noahide laws," applicable to all nations. All subsequent legal codes are either imitations of or rebellion against God's Law as given to Adam, Noah, Abraham and the Patriarchs.

Abraham and Pharaoh (Genesis 12)

Pharaoh and Abraham had common legal ground to understand the consequences of Pharaoh seizing Abraham's wife (thinking she was Abe's sister).

Abraham's Household

And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Because that Abraham obeyed My Voice, and kept My Charge, My Commandments, My Statutes, and My Torah.
Genesis 26:4-5

Genesis 18:17-19
And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD , to do righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

Sounds pretty "theonomic."

Exodus - Slavery and Liberation

The behavior between Israel and the Pharaohs at the time of the Exodus shows evidence that God's laws on slavery were known to both sides. The following is from James B. Jordan's exposition of Exodus 21-23, The Law of the Covenant.

God and Pharaoh

The extended interchanges between Moses and Pharaoh are important to us for two reasons. First, they show the legal foundation for the exodus, and second, they show us one reason why the laws concerning slavery are placed first in the section we are investigating [Ex. 21-23].

Daube points out that "the authors of the exodus story represented Pharaoh as flouting established social regulations, and God as making him comply with them, malgri lui, or suffer the sanctions of his breaches. They construed the exodus as an enforcement of legal claims. As one example of many we may quote God's demand to Pharaoh: 'Israel is my son.... Let my son go.' " Daube continues, "What we are at the moment concerned with is the confidence and stability which resulted from this anchoring  in firm legal relations. As God had vindicated those relations in the exodus, one could be certain that he would vindicate them again, and again, unto the last. The kind of salvation portrayed in the exodus was not, by its nature, an isolated occurrence, giving rise to nebulous hopes for similar good luck in the future: It had its root in, and set the seal on, a permanent institution - hence it was something on which absolute reliance might be placed."16 God's vindication of Israel during the exodus simultaneously vindicated the legal structure which was to govern social life in the land of Israel. It was reliable and stable because God is reliable and stable.

16. David Daube,
The Exodus Pattern in the Bible (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), pp. 13ff.

God had prepared Moses to be His intermediary with Pharaoh through eighty years of education and experience, first in the court of Pharaoh, and then as son-in-law of Jethro, priest of Midian (Ex. 2:21). As a Midianite, Jethro was a descendent of Abraham (Gen. 25:2). Although not all the tribes of Midian retained the true faith (Gen. 25:4; Num. 22:4; 25:6), Jethro clearly was a worshipper of the God of Abraham (Ex. 18:12). Jethro was a priest somewhat like that of Melchizedek, that is to say, he was a priest-king, firstborn of the ruling house (Heb. 7:1; Num. 3:12; Reb. 1:6). Jethro was able to teach Moses about worship, and also about how to rule (Ex. 18:13-26). Moses doubtless had many occasions to observe Jethro sitting in judgment, and to learn from it.17
17. It is unclear how the church and state functions were carried out before Mt. Sinai among God's people. It seems that the patriarch of the clan (e.g., Abraham, or Jethro) served both as priest and as supreme judge. By the time of the Exodus, there were thirteen tribal republics in Israel, each with elders and princes, as we see from the book of Numbers. This matter receives further exploration in Chapter 3 of this study.

Also, it should be noted here that the priesthood ofJethro was not like that of Melchizedek, in that it was inherited. The priestly functions of such men as Jethro and Abraham were typical of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but their persons as priests were not typical. In contrast to this, both Melchizedek and the Levitical priesthood were types of the person of Christ. Perhaps another way of getting at the distinction would be to say that Jethro was not a type of Christ, though the sacrifices he offered were typical; while both Melchizedek and his sacrifices typified Christ.

The issues between God and Pharaoh were these: 1) Who is God? 2) Are the Israelites properly Pharaoh's slaves? The LORD went to war with the gods of Egypt to settle the first question. The gods of Egypt were not able to protect Egypt from the nine plagues, but it was in the death of Egypt's firstborn that the LORD'S victory was particularly won (Ex. 12:12; Num. 33:4). The firstborn were the heirs of birthright, blessing, rule, and priesthood - their death was the death of Egypt.

As regards the second -issue between God and Pharaoh —Were the Israelites properly Pharaoh's slaves? — we need to note that culture is an extension of religion, and Egyptian culture was no exception to this rule. Its statist organization shows it to have been an extension of blasphemous Babel, and its oppression of God's people showed it to have been Cainitic. At the top of the social pyramid, heir of Cain and Nimrod, was the Pharaoh, the incarnation of the sun god18 Although Israel was in cultural bondage to Egypt, this was because she was in religious bondage to Egypt 00sh.24:14). In spite of the fact that God had separated Israel from Egypt geographically (Goshen) and occupationally (shepherding), they went after the gods of Egypt, and so God gave them into the hands of these gods. This same principle operated during the period of the Judges. God's actions and judgments in history are never arbitrary.

18. Rushdoony,
The One and the Many, pp. 40ff. This is also discussed at length, from a Christian viewpoint, in Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Exodus (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984). The true pyramid, or ladder to heaven, is seen in Genesis 28:12, 17, and John 1:51.

Rather than let Israel settle down in Egypt, God made it miserable for them, showing them what slavery to the Babelic state entails. His grace reached them and they repented, crying out to Him for deliverance. Because culture is an effect of religion, when God set about to free Israel, it would have done no good to free them from cultural bondage without breaking their religious bondage foundationally. Thus, it was not necessary at the outset for God to say to Pharaoh, "Let My people go free." All that was needed was a demand to "let us go on a three day journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God" (Ex. 3:18). In our modern day of pretended religious neutrality and pluralism, this might appear to be deception: God intends to free Israel but He only asks that they be allowed to go on a religious retreat. That was not, however, the way it was understood then. Pharaoh knew that a man is a slave of whatever Godor gods he worships, and that culture flows from religion. Thus, Pharaoh knew that this request carried with it a demand for political freedom. Pharaoh would have to recognize the distinctive purpose of the Old Covenant seed-throne people, and in so doing, would have had to permit them to return to the throne land of Canaan.

Pharaoh could not have acceded to this request without freeing Israel. If Pharaoh had allowed their three-day trip, he would have been recognizing the Lord as Israel's God and Master. He would have had to free them. Pharaoh had himself converted to the Lord, he would have had to recognize the special status of Israel as a nation of priests of the Lord.

The fact that God demanded the release of Israel indicates that Israel was illegitimately held in bondage. According to the law, slaves from anti-God cultures, being slaves by nature, may be held indefinitely, but Christian slaves may only be held six years (Ex. 21:2). Pharaoh had broken this law. Moses' demand for Israelite freedom was grounded in this law, which was familiar to Pharaoh. Since Pharaoh did not recognize the Lord, he did not recognize that the Hebrews were true believers. In his eyes the Hebrews were the heathen, and so could be enslaved indefinitely.

Finally Pharaoh relented and said that the men might leave, but not their families (Ex. 10:7-11).19 Pharaoh was invoking the principle recorded in Exodus 21:4, "Ifhis master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone." From Pharaoh's viewpoint, it was he who had, provided the wives and children of the Hebrew men, so he had a legal claim to them. Again, however, Pharaoh was wrong, for Jacob had brought his women, children, livestock, and servants with him when he settled in Egypt, and so the Hebrews were under the law of Exodus 21:3, "If he comes alone,' he shall go out alone; if he is the lord of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him." There were, doubtless, some non-Hebrew wives who had been "provided by Pharaoh," and Pharaoh might have had a legitimate claim to these. The law states, however, that a female slave goes free if the master reduces her lifestyle (Ex. 21:10-11),20 and Pharaoh had certainly done that. Thus, Pharaoh had a legal claim neither on the Hebrews nor on their "mixed multitude" wives. On the contrary, Pharaoh was guilty of man-stealing, a capital offense (Ex. 21:16).21

19. "And Pharaoh's servants said to him, 'How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?'
"So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, 'Go serve the LORD your God. Who are the ones that are going?'
"And Moses said, 'We shall go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.'
"Then he said to them, 'Thus may the LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Take heed, for evil is before your face. Not so! Go now, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for you desire it.' So they were driven from Pharaoh's presence."

20. "'If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. And if he will not do these three for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.' "

21. "'And he who steals a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.' " That Pharaoh died at the Red Sea is cogently argued by Donovan A. Courville, The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications (Lama Linda, CA: Challenge Books, 1971) I:36ff.

God's law, familiar to the Pharaohs because of Joseph's influence and because it underlay the common law of the Ancient Near East, also orders that when a slave is set free, he is to be given going-away gifts (Dt. 15:12-16) to help him celebrate and to help him set up in business. God told the Hebrews to request (not "borrow") such presents from their neighbors (Ex. 3:22). Moses demanded such presents from Pharaoh (10:25). Those who give such presents are blessed by God (Dt. 15:18), and the Egyptians knew this. Thus, as the plagues grew more severe, they lavished gifts on the Hebrews (Ex. 11:2-3; 12:35-36).22 When Pharaoh gave his presents, he specifically asked for this blessing (12:32).23 Obviously, Pharaoh understood something about God's laws governing slavery.
22. Another reason for the payment of this money is that it was the wedding money owed by a seducer to a girl ifher father is unwilling for her to marry him. See the discussion in Chapter 8.

23. He did not receive any blessing, however. It was not legitimate for Pharaoh to ask a blessing, because he :was not lawfully freeing slaves which he had lawfully acquired. He could not free them lawfully because he had never lawfully possessed them; thus, he was not entitled to the blessing.

If a man takes a slave wife in addition to his free, insured wife, there is always the danger that the slave wife and her son will rise up to inherit the family estate. Thus, to eliminate this threat, the free wife in great fear would be motivated to drive out the slave wife, as Sarah did Hagar (Gen,. 21:10). As the Israelites became ever more powerful, it began to look as if they would conquer and inherit all Egypt. After all, Goshen was exempt from the catastrophic plagues (numbers four through nine) visited on the rest of Egypt. God told the Hebrews that Pharaoh would drive them out "as a slave wife" (Ex. 11:1).24- Here we see God's ironic humor, as He says to Pharaoh: "You have wrongly held My kin as slaves. Thus, you will set them free in great fear, as you would drive out a slave wife."
24. "Now the LORD said to Moses, 'One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely [as a slave wife].' "This translation is defended in several recent studies. Cf. Daube, Exodus Pattern, p. 58.

Specifically, Sarah feared that the firstborn son of Hagar would rise up and get Isaac's inheritance. Similarly, when their firstborn were slain, the Egyptians realized that the Israelites would surely acquire their inheritance, unless they were driven out.

Also, as a false god, Pharaoh was not a true and loving husband to Israel. Thus, Israel was free to divorce Pharaoh, as was the slave wife's privilege (Ex. 21:1Of.). The Lord, their true Husband and Master, would never mistreat them. Pharaoh had taken their property, the land of Goshen, and had definitely reduced their lifestyle, in violation of the law for slave wives.

The exodus was not a political revolution but a religious deliverance, entailing cultural change, but rigorously grounded in the law of God and in the common law of the Near East, familiar to all parties.

The reader may be skeptical of the discussion above. What evidence is there that Pharaoh was operating under laws which were given to God's people? Our answer is that Pharaoh's arguments with Moses make no sense unless we presuppose that he knew these laws. Remember, the exodus took place 857 years after the Flood.25 Shem, the Godly son of Noah, lived 502 years after the Flood.26 Thus there was doubtless much Godly influence· all over the ancient world until well into the history of the seed people, Israel. The mixing of God's law with local customary law is called "common law," and considering that at the outset, right after the Flood, God's law was the only law, it is reasonable to assume that at this point in history there was still a strong common law. The law codes of the ancient world are at many places quite similar to the laws recorded in the Pentateuch- again evidence of a common source (Noah, and behind him, God). The pagans, of course, increasingly perverted and lost God's law. In the case of Egypt, however, we must also reckon with their earlier conversion and the influence ofJoseph, who ruled Egypt in all but name for 80 years.27 Thus, there is every reason to believe that Pharaoh's concept of right and wrong, and therefore his legal beliefs, were still under the influence of God's law. This possibility is confirmed by the passage we have been looking at.28
25. Cf. Anstay,

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. This is not even to mention the teaching of Romans 2:14-15, "For when Gentiles who do not have law do perform by nature the things of the law, these, not having law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending themselves."

The Law Before Sinai

Paul tells us that the law was in operation before Sinai, when he says "for until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses" (Rom. 5:13, 14a). Before the law "came," the law was already in operation, for it was already dealing death to sinners. (Similarly, before the New Covenant "came," it was already in operation, for it was already granting resurrection life to repentant men.) At Sinai, the law was given a definitive publication, but it was already operating in the world, and was already known to men.4
4. In other words, in one sense the pre-Sinaitic period was one of "no law," for law had not yet "come." In another sense, however, the law clearly was in the world, because sin is not imputed apart from law, and sin was clearly being imputed, as the fact of death demonstrates. Before Sinai, the law had already but not yet come. This is parallel to the gospel, which had already but not yet come during the Old Covenant; and parallel to the consummation, which has already but not yet come in the New Covenant era.

Indeed, Paul says 'Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). In other words, the same law which came at Sinai was operating in the Garden. This is the connection between the Old (Adamic) Covenant and the Old (Sinaitic) Covenant.

It is often thought that at Sinai God set up something new, a new administration of law, which had not been in force previously. We have seen from Paul that this was not the case, for the law was in operation in the Garden, and in the period between the Fall and Sinai. We can also turn to passages in Genesis and in Exodus before Sinai and see that people knew the law before it was written down by Moses.

First of all, we have demonstrated that the laws of slavery were known and functioned in the life of Jacob and in the interaction between Moses and Pharaoh. Second) the law of evidence concerning torn beasts (Ex. 22:13) is referred to by Jacob in Genesis 31:39. Third, Exodus 21:1 and 24:3 call these laws mishpatim, and Abraham is said to know the mishpatim in Genesis 18:19. Also, in Genesis 26:5, Abraham is said to have "kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." This is surely more than the Ten Commandments!

Fourth, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 does not order capital punishment in the case where a young man forcibly seduces a young girl, but commands him to marry her. This law was clearly being followed to the letter in Genesis 34, which concerns the relations between Shechem and Dinah. Because Simeon and Levi broke the not-yet-written law, Jacob condemned their actions (Gen. 49:5-7).6
6. Why did not Jacob have them put to death for blasphemy (misusing the covenant sign) and murder? Probably because he was not a magistrate, and as a father did not have the power to pass civil judgments. Jacob obviously feare~
reprisal from the near kinsmen of the Shechemites, who could properly act as avengers of blood. Perhaps we should see Jacob as functioning as a sanctuary for his sons, just as Abram had functioned as a sanctuary for Lot in Genesis 14.

Fifth, the laws of sacrifice were known, including the distinctions among various kinds of sacrifices (Ex. 20:24, which comes before Leviticus 1-7). Sixth, Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean animals (Gen. 7:2), yet the rules for these distinctions were not given in written form until Leviticus 11. Seventh, even though we do not read of God's commanding the people to have a tent of meeting until He ordered the building of the Tabernacle, from Exodus 33:7-11 it is clear that there already was one. It was the place of religious meeting and worship, and God talked with Moses there, before the Tabernacle was built.

Eighth and last, although other examples can be found, the law of the Levirate, requiring a brother to raise up seed for his childless dead brother (Dt. 25:5,6), was clearly known and operative in the history of Tamar (Gen. 38). Of course, unbelieving scholars use passages such as these to argue that somebody rewrote the "original myths" of Genesis to make them conform to the "later Mosaic legislation." The fact is, rather, that God had been telling his people all along what He wanted them to do. The law was given many times before Sinai; but it was definitively written down by Moses, in connection with the preeminent redemptive event of the Old Covenant period (Dt. 4:2).7

Were the Ten Commandments in Effect Before Mount Sinai?

Were the Ten Commandments in Effect Before Mount Sinai?

~By COGwriter

Some, in their effort to justify not observing the ten commandments, have argued that the ten commandments were not enjoined in the Bible prior to Mount Sinai (Ex 20:2-17). This, however, is not biblically correct. As this article will show (through biblical quotes) all ten of the commandments are mentioned as being applicable in the Bible before they were codified on Mount Sinai.

Commandment 1: "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur" (Gen 15:7); "I am Almighty God, walk before me and be blameless" (Gen 17:1); "I am the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex 3:6). "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves" (Gen 35:2). "and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD" (Ex 12:12). "Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them" (Ex 18:11). "This also would be an iniquity deserving of judgement, for I would have denied God who is above" (Job 31:28). "Then Job answered the LORD and said, 'I know that you can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you'" (Job 42:1-2).

Commandment 2: "'Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves'...So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears and Jacob hid them" (Gen 35:2,4). "And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire of Molech...for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled" (Lev 18:21,27). "If I have observed the sun when it shines, or the moon moving in its brightness, so that my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand; This also would be an iniquity deserving of judgement, For I would have denied God who is above" (Job 31:27-28) (note this is believed to be part of idol worship).

Commandment 3: "nor shall you profane the name of your God...for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled" (Lev 18:21,27). "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts" (Job 1:5). "Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9). Interestingly, those called of God are not to be cursed either, "And I will curse him who curses you" (Gen 12:3).

Commandment 4: "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen 2:2-3). "Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD...So the people rested on the seventh day" (Ex 16:23,30). "The Sabbath was made for man" (Mar 2:27).

Commandment 5: "Adam, the son of God" (Luk 3:38), "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat it of it": Cursed is the ground for your sake" (Gen 3:17). Notice that later a blessing of land is promised for those who obey this commandment (Ex 20:12; Deut 5:16).

Commandment 6: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning" (Joh 8:44) (since the devil was a murderer from the beginning it seems clear that murder was not allowed before Mount Sinai). "Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him...And He said, 'The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth" (Gen 4:8,10). "Then the king of Egypt spoke...'When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him'...But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them" (Ex 1:15-17). "The murderer rises with the light; He kills the poor and needy" (Job 24:14).

Commandment 7: "his master's wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, 'Lie with me.' But he refused...'How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?'" (Gen 39:7-9). "Moreover, you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife to defile yourself with her...for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled" (Lev 18:20,27).

"The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, saying, 'No one will see me'; and he disguises his face" (Job 24:15). Job, a married man, said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1).

Commandment 8: "So my righteousness will answer for me...everyone that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me" (Gen 30:33). "'With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren identify what I have of yours and take it with you.' For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them" (Gen 31:32). "How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord's house. With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die" (Gen 44:8-9). "He kills the poor and needy; And in the night he is like a thief" (Job 24:14).

Commandment 9: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it " (Joh 8:44). "Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die"...The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate'. So the LORD God said to the serpent: 'Because you have done this, You are cursed'"(Gen 3:4,13-14). "But you forgers of lies, You are all worthless physicians" (Job 13:4). "Now if it is not so, who will prove me a liar, And make my speech worth nothing?" (Job 24:25). "My lips will not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit" (Job 27:4). "Should I lie concerning my right?" (Job 34:6). "For truly my words are not false" (Job 36:4).

Commandment 10: "So when the woman saw...a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate" (Gen 3:6). "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5); because this law in effect God decided to destroy humankind with the flood (Gen 6:7). "The enemy has said, "My desire (AV "lust") shall be satisfied on them" (Ex 15:9). "Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Ex 18:21). "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1). "If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbors door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down over her. For that would be wickedness; yes it would be deserving of judgement" (Job 31:9-11)

Did Any Non-Israelites Keep the Sabbath and Other Commandments Prior to Mount Sinai?

Over time, the children of Israel forgot the Sabbath, so at Mount Sinai, God had to again show it to them:

13 "You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. 14 You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, By the hand of Moses Your servant. (Nehemiah 9:13-14)

The above demonstrates that the Sabbath already had existed..

One argument against the ten commandments in general, and the Sabbath in particular, is that none allegedly kept them prior to Mount Sinai. Of course, as shown above, this is simply not the case.

There are two additional items that may be of interest here.

First notice what God said to Abraham:

Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws (Genesis 26:5).

And there is no way that Abraham kept God's laws and commandments unless he knew what they were.

It has been reported that Ethiopia has more people who keep some version of the seventh-day Sabbath than any other country on earth. Notice how long they claim to have been observing it:

W. W. Oliphant, an African church leader in the early years of the twentieth century says that the "Sabbath in Ethiopia [has] been kept from the days of Nimrod, about 2140 B.C. (read Gen. 10:8, 10), that is 700 years before the birth of Moses. . . . Africans or Ethiopians had been Sabbath observers from the days of Nimrod" (Quoted in Bradford C.E. Sabbath Roots, The African Connection. L. Brown and Sons, Barre (VT), 1999, p. 26).

Hence, since the Ethiopians claim they were keeping the Sabbath in 2140 B.C., they obviously knew about it and probably the other commandments (more on Africa can be found in the article Africa: Its Biblical Past and Prophesied Future). Thus it appears that Africans were familiar with the idea of a seventh-day Sabbath prior to the giving of the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. This makes total sense as God set-apart the Sabbath the day after creating humans.

Other Parts of the Bible Prior to Mount Sinai Also Teach the Importance of Keeping the Ten Commandments

Notice the following:

"How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?" (Ex 16:28).

There are other biblical examples, but the above scriptures prove the point. Isn't it interesting that God made sure that each of the ten commandments was shown to be important before Mount Sinai? Even the ancients knew,

"God is mighty...He also opens their ear to instruction, and commands that they turn from iniquity...But if they do not obey, they shall perish" (Job 36:5,10,11).

Notice what the Bible teaches:

"Sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4)

or as it says in the AV "trangression of the law".

Breaking the third and seventh commandments are specifically listed as sin prior to Mount Sinai.

How could there be sin if there was no law, since "sin is not imputed when there is no law?" (Rom 5:13). If the law was not in place, there would have been none who were "hating covetousness" (Ex 18:21).

Paul apparently agreed with these positions when he wrote,

"I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet'" (Rom 7:7).

Even Martin Luther admitted that the ten commandments were before Moses. Notice

For even if a Moses had never appeared and Abraham had never been born, the Ten Commandments would have had to rule in all men from the very beginning, as they indeed did and still do (Luther, M. Against the Sabbatarians:Letter to a Good Friend, Part II, 1538).

The fruits of this sin are afterwards the evil deeds which are forbidden in the Ten Commandments...we hold that the Law was given by God, first, to restrain sin by threats and the dread of punishment, and by the promise and offer of grace and benefit (Luther Martin. The Smallclad Papers. 1537. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau Published in: _Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church_. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), pp. 453-529).

Some have argued, that even if the ten commandments are mentioned throughout the Bible that since they are not listed in one place until Exodus 20, no one would have known what they were. This is particularly strange to argue since 

1) All are mentioned at least twice before Exodus 20,2) Abraham obeyed them and must have known what they were ("Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws", Gen 26:5)3) Job seemed to know them since he mentions most of them (see above quotes and the more detailed article Job and the Ten Commandments), 4) God said, about peoples who existed prior to Mount Sinai and broke several of the commandments (and were not at Mount Sinai), "For the land is defiled , therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitant" (Lev 18:25), thus it is clear that God considered violating the commandments to be wrong prior to Mount Sinai and that God required that non-Israelites were to have kept them! Interestingly Noah knew what clean and unclean animals were, yet clean and unclean animals are not listed in the Bible as such until Leviticus 11; remember God told Noah "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female, two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female" (Gen 7:2).)

In conclusion, it is clear that all the ten commandments were shown to be in effect prior to Mount Sinai. It would appear to be dangerous to ignore this biblical truth, "For if we sin willfully after we have received knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Heb 10:26).

Those of the Church that Jesus Christ founded, the genuine Church of God, still keep them.

Theonomy for the World

Leviticus 18 would be considered a very "Theonomic" passage of the Bible, by those who do not consider themselves "Theonomists." It lists a number of sins, including homosexuality. Then it ends by saying that the Gentile nations would be judged and destroyed for their disobeying these very "Theonomic" verses. God holds the Gentile nations accountable for violations of God's Law given to Moses (and Abraham):

Leviticus 18:24-30
  1. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
  2. And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
  3. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
  4. (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
  5. That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
  6. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
  7. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord your God.


Jonah preached to Nineveh. He did not say that Nineveh should repent of its violations of the ersatz laws of Assyria's false gods, or else Ninehveh would be judged by the false gods of Assyria. Jonah represented the only true God and Theonomy. Assyria would subsequently rape and pillage Israel, and be destroyed by God for doing so, in violation of God's Law (Isaiah 10).

Much of that section of the Bible called "the prophets" is against the Gentile nations for violating God's Law. Theonomy applies to all nations, not just Israel.


One major difference between Hammurabi’s Code and the Bible is that Hammurabi's laws applied only to aristocrats. Nothing is said about the legal relations between aristocrats and commoners. The law protected aristocrats in their relations with each other, but no legal protection was guaranteed for other classes.