To Keep or Not to Keep – The 613 Commandments of Yahweh

Yeshua says in Matthew 22 that the greatest commandment of all is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. These are not, however, new commandments. The first mention of these two greatest commandments goes all the way back to Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and Leviticus 19:18 and are part of the Torah. These are the two commandments that all of the other commandments hang on (see flow chart below).

And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18

So how do we love God and our neighbor? Every one of us has a different definition of what love is. Some people feel/give love with gifts, some with time spent, some with intimacy, some with kind words, etc. We all experience love differently. Love is not just an emotion. Love is an action. If I say I “love” you, but never impart any action into our relationship, there is no love. How would you feel if your spouse said they loved you, but never took any action to show you that love?

As followers of Messiah, our answers come from the Bible. How does the Bible define love? How does God tell us He wants to be loved? How do we love our neighbor? John 14:15, along with many other verses, says “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (See our blog titled “How Do YOU Love Him?“)

And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the Truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His Word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says He abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked. Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word that you have heard. 1 John 2:3-7

The Torah is the instruction manual that Yahweh gives us that teaches us how to love Him and how to love our neighbors. The first four of the Ten Commandments teach us how to love Yahweh. The second six commands teach us how to love others. The ten main commandments are an overview and the rest of Yahweh’s instructions given in the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) breakdown in more detail how to keep the main ten. Think of it like a flow chart:

The list of commandments found in the Old Testament can be intimidating. The majority of them are found in Exodus and Leviticus, with a recap in Deuteronomy. The list of commands starts in Exodus 20, although they were present as early as Creation (see our blog titled The Whole Duty of ALL Man). In Exodus, Yahweh offers and the people accept His covenant (contract) agreement. The covenant says, “If you obey Me and I will take you as My people.” They agreed and then Moses gave them the terms of the covenant, which was obedience to all of Yahweh’s commandments. Israel failed to keep Yahweh’s covenant terms, so they were punished by being made to wander in the desert for forty years and they were not allowed to enter into the promised land. In Deuteronomy, Moses gives the children of the first generation who died in the wilderness a recap of the commands before they enter the promised land – just to make sure they understood His rules. Then in Deuteronomy 29, Yahweh renewed His covenant with Israel and they agreed again to obey Him.

The numbering of the 613 Commandments was done by a Jewish philosopher and scholar in the 1100’s. The number 613 may seem overwhelming at first – but to put that in context, we have between 15,000 and 50,000 Federal laws and over 3,000 State of Michigan laws that govern us. Six hundred and thirteen doesn’t seem so bad when you look at it that way.

In addition to only being 613 of them, not all of the laws apply to every person. Many of the laws were for the temple and priests in Jerusalem. There is no temple today and we are not in Jerusalem, so these laws are not possible for us to keep at this time. Some of the laws are for farmers and those who plant food. If you are not a farmer, these laws don’t apply to you. Some laws are only for men. If you are not a man, these laws don’t apply to you. Some of the laws are only for women. If you are not a woman, these laws don’t apply to you. Some of the laws are for treatment of slaves and servants. We do not have slaves and servants today. Are you starting to get the point?

You will find that many of the laws have been incorporated into our current legal system and you already obey them, especially those that deal with murder, adultery, incest, stealing and legal justice. Some laws we already obey in our effort to “love our neighbor” – like respecting our neighbor’s property and providing for the widows, orphans, and poor. Some laws we already obey in an effort to love Yahweh – such as not having other gods, not making idols, not blaspheming His name and tithing.

The laws we CAN keep today, however, we should do our best to keep. Not for our salvation, but because of our salvation. Because we love Yahweh and we desire to please Him with our obedience. He never changes – so if He desired obedience from His people in the beginning, He desires obedience for His people now.

Several laws that we can keep, that are typically not kept in our culture today, are:

  • Honoring the Sabbath (Saturday) by resting and not working or making others work
  • Eating biblically-clean foods
  • Celebrating His Holy days – Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Shavuot (Pentecost), Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Booths
  • Wearing tzitzits
  • Following His agricultural guidelines

Yahweh’s Torah is not burdensome or too hard for us. Yahweh says in Deuteronomy 30:11 that His commandments are not too hard for us.

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the Word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), loved Yahweh’s Torah and called it perfect, a delight and wonderful. The very first book of Psalms starts out with a passage we often memorize, “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD.” Psalms 119 is just one of David’s writings that praises and glorifies the law of Yahweh. If you want to know what a man after God’s own heart looks like, read Psalms 119. Are we men and women after God’s own heart? Is the law a delight to us as it was to David? Do we meditate on it or do we despise it and think it’s been done away with?

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. Psalms 1:1-2

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. Psalms 19:7-9

I delight to do your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart. Psalms 40:8

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. Psalms 119:18-20

I long for Your Salvation, O LORD, and your Law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise You, and let Your rules help me. Psalms 119:174

The last words of Yahweh in the Old Testament, spoken through the prophet Malachi 4:4, say “Remember the law of My servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.” Some of the last words of Yeshua in Revelation 22:14 says “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” The last chapters of both the Old and New Testament remind us and direct us to obey Yahweh’s commandments. Being obedient to the Torah is and has always been about becoming the kind of chosen people that Yahweh wants to live with forever – those that have humbled themselves to obedience and have the fruits of the Spirit.

At the bottom of this post, there is a link to a PDF list of the 613 Commandments, as well as a link to an interactive website that groups common commands together. For those who prefer to listen instead of read, I attached a link to a detailed YouTube video series from Messianic Torah Observant Israel. Rabbi Steve is a Messianic teacher from the blood line of Levi. He is an excellent speaker and is very knowledgeable in Hebrew Scriptures. He goes through each command – explaining what each one means, who the command applies to and if it’s able to be kept today.

I pray that Yahweh will continue to open your eyes and ears to the amazing Truth found in His Word.

Shalom!

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