Pharisaic Laws

Pharisaic Laws

The Pharisees were the interpreters and keepers of Mosaic Law. Yahshua was particularly hard on the Pharisees, much more so than the Sadducees. They were the “rule makers.” They kept a close eye on the rules while totally ignoring the reason behind the rules. “Judgement rather than justice” under The Law. They taught The Law, but ignored it themselves. Yahshua mentioned the phrase Moses’ seat (also known as Bema seat) in Matthew 23:2 when He said, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in the chair of Moses. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach…” When the Torah was read on the Sabbath in the Synagogues, the reader was on the Seat of Moses or Bema Seat and could only read the Torah but was not allowed to interpret it until he stepped down from the seat. That’s why Yahshua said to them to do what they tell you (read from the Torah) but don’t practice what they practice.

The religious sect of Pharisees in ancient Judaism was notorious for being strict about religious law and for being insufferably hypocritical. The law for this sect was above all. It was to be followed meticulously, elevated to a standard where the spirit of it—the reasons why the law was established in the first place—were ignored in the end. All that mattered was obeisance to the law. The idea of interpreting the law in a thoughtful way, taking note of extenuating circumstances or even simple human reasoning, was the highest blasphemy. If the law was broken, it was an offense against God, they said. There was no room for compassion or ntellect. It was the Pharisees themselves, of course, who interpreted this literal “word of God,” holding themselves above all others in their self-righteousness.

The Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands, and 248 positive laws. By the time Christ came, it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws.

(1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations.

(2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men.

(3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern.

(4) It creates a judgmental spirit.

(5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law.

(6) It produces inconsistencies.

(7) It created a false standard of righteousness.

(8) It became a burden to the Jews.

(9) It was strictly external.

(10) It was rejected by Christ.

Concerning Sabbath observance, the Mishnah lists 39 primary kinds of labor that were not allowed on the Sabbath day (Shabbath 7. 2, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, pp. 348, 349). The first 11 of these were steps leading to the production and preparation of bread: sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking.

The next 12 apply to similar steps in the preparation of clothing, from the shearing of sheep to the actual sewing of garments. These are followed by seven steps in preparing the carcass of a deer for use as food or for leather. The remaining items listed have to do with writing, building, kindling, and extinguishing fires. And also they deal with the transportation of articles from one place to another. In addition to these major regulations, there were countless other provisions concerning the observance of the Sabbath. Most commonly known is the so-called “sabbath day’s journey” of 2,000 cu.— somewhat less than 2/3 mi.

It was also counted as Sabbath-breaking to look in a mirror fixed to the wall (Shabbath 149a, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p. 759). And also looking even to light a candle. Sadly, these same regulations permitted an egg laid on the Sabbath to be sold to a Gentile. And allowed for a Gentile to be hired to light a candle or a fire.

The Pharisees were continually employing the letter of man-made laws to destroy the spirit of the law of God. The Sabbath was designed by God to give man an opportunity to know his Maker. It allowed for time to reflect upon His love, mercy and bountiful blessings. But instead of it reflecting the character of God the Sabbath became a reflection of the cruel character of Pharisees and scribes.

YHWH teaches that regarding Sabbath rules, whatever draws us closer to Him, helps us to understand His Will and leads to the happiness and well-being of others—this would be true Sabbath observance (Isa. 58:13; Mark 2:27, 28). Many regarded these traditions as more important than the laws of Moses and the Ten Commandments. The Pharisees legalistically taught that salvation was to be obtained through observance of these rules. A pious Jew’s life tended to become one of endless efforts to avoid ceremonial uncleanness. This system of righteousness by works was in complete opposition to righteousness by faith.

During His ministry, Yahshua was in conflict with the Jewish leaders over the validity of their man-made laws and traditions (Mark 7:2, 3, 8). Yahshua kept the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments in every way.  And He taught His followers to do the same. He confirmed the binding nature of the moral law. For He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill (fully preach). For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17, 18; John 15:10; etc.). And He also recognized the validity of the ritual law of Moses as applicable to Jews (Matthew 23:3).