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The Law of Moses or Torah of Moses (Hebrew Torat Moshe תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה, Septuagint Greek nomos Moyse νόμος Μωυσῆ) is a biblical term first found in the Book of Joshua 8:31-32 where Joshua writes the words of "the Law of Moses" on the altar at Mount Ebal. The text continues "And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law." (Joshua 8:34). The term occurs 15 times in the Hebrew Bible, another 7 times in the New Testament, and repeatedly in Second Temple period, intertestamental, rabbinical and patristic literature.
The usage of the Hebrew term Torah (which was translated into Greek as "nomos" or "Law") as equivalent to the English term "Pentateuch" (from Latinised Greek), meaning the "Five Books of Moses" of the Hebrew Bible, is clearly documented only from the 2nd Century BCE. In modern Hebrew the term Torah (typically translated into English as "instruction") refers to both the first section of the Tanakh and to the "Law of Moses" itself, the actual regulations and commandments found among the 2nd to 5th books of the Hebrew Bible. Rarely in English "the Law" can also refer to the whole Pentateuch including Genesis, but this is generally in relation to New Testament uses where nomos "the Law" sometimes refers to all five books, including Genesis. This use of the term Torah for the first five books is considered misleading by some scholars since the Pentateuch consists of about one half law and one half narrative. The adjective "Mosaic" meaning "of Moses" is also found in the description "Mosaic Law" in which case only the actual law, not the five books is intended.
The "Law of Moses" in Ancient Israel is distinguished from other legal codes in the ancient Near East by its reference to offense against a deity rather than against society. This compares with the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100-2050 BCE), then the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (c. 1760 BCE), of which almost half concerns contract law. However the influence of the ancient Near Eastern legal tradition on the Law of Ancient Israel is recognised and well documented. For example the Israelite Sabbatical Year has antedents in the Akkadian mesharum edicts granting periodical relief to the poor. Another important distinction is that in ancient Near East legal codes, or in more recently unearthed Ugaritic texts, an important, and ultimate, role was assigned to the king, whereas in the Law of Ancient Israel, Israel was intended to be a theocracy, not a monarchy.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Moses was the leader of early Israel out of Egypt and traditionally the first five books of the Hebrew Bible are attributed to him, though Mosaic authorship is disputed. The law attributed to Moses, specifically the laws set out in Deuteronomy, as a consequence came to be considered supreme over all other sources of authority (the king and his officials), and the Levite priests were the guardians and interpreters of the law.
The Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 31:9 and Deuteronomy 31:24–26) records Moses saying "Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD." Similar passages include, for example, Exodus 17:14, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven;" Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel;" Exodus 34:27, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel;" and Leviticus 26:46 "These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established on Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses."
The Book of Kings relates how a "law of Moses" was discovered in the Temple during the reign of king Josiah (r. 641–609 BCE). This book is mostly identified as an early version of the Book of Deuteronomy, perhaps chapters 5-26 and chapter 28 of the extant text. This text contains a number of laws, dated to the 8th century BC kingdom of Judah, a time when a minority Yahwist faction was actively attacking mainstream polytheism, succeeding in establishing official monolatry of the God of Israel under Josiah by the late 7th century BC.
The content of the Law is spread among the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and then reiterated and added to in Deuteronomy (deutero-nomy is Latinised Greek for "Second reading of the Law"). This includes:
The content of this law, or in Hebrew Torah, was excerpted and codified in Rabbinical Judaism, and in the Talmud were numbered as the 613 commandments. The Halakha (not Torah) given to Moses at Sinai is a halakhic distinction in the Law.