The Curse of the Torah

In Messiah there is now no condemnation for those who believe. Messiah has taken away the curse of the Torah. Does this mean that the Law has lost its teeth?

Symbol of law and justice in a courtroom. (Image: © Bigstock)


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Bechukotai (בחקותי | In my statutes)
  • Torah: Leviticus 26:3-27:34
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
  • Gospel: Matthew 16:20-28

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 26:14 | Penalties for Disobedience
    • Leviticus 27:1 | Votive Offerings
  • Prophets
    • Jer 16:14 | God Will Restore Israel
    • Jer 17:1 | Judah's Sin and Punishment
    • Jer 17:14 | Jeremiah Prays for Vindication
    • Jer 17:19 | Hallow the Sabbath Day

Portion Summary

The last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Bechukotai (בחקותי), which means "In My Statutes." The name comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words "If you walk in My statutes ..." (Leviticus 26:3). This last reading from Leviticus promises blessings and rewards for Israel if they will keep the Torah, but punishment and curses if they break the commandments of the Torah. The last chapter discusses laws pertaining to vows, valuations and tithes. In most years, synagogues read Bechukotai together with the preceding portion, Behar.

Have the curses of the law been removed by the death of the Messiah? Christians commonly teach that “Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Torah” (Galatians 3:13). This seems to indicate that the Torah has lost its teeth, so to speak. In Messiah, the curses are removed, but the blessings remain. Is this really true?

On closer examination, it becomes obvious that “the curse of the law” spoken of in Galatians 3:13 is not the curses for disobedience listed out in Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28. Instead, the ultimate curse of the law is death—not mortal death—but eternal separation from God. According to Paul, the curse of the Torah brings condemnation in the eternal court of judgment. The Messiah took upon Himself the curse of condemnation and death, and He redeems us from that condemnation.

In one of his often misunderstood passages (Colossians 2:14), the apostle Paul speaks of a written document of condemnation which is nailed to the cross. Christian teachers sometimes mistake this document for the Torah. Well-meaning brothers and sisters triumphantly declare that Messiah nailed the Torah to cross (God forbid). Translations like the New International Version encourage this kind of interpretation by translating the thing nailed as “the written code,” a term which seems to imply a law code, namely the Torah. It is not the Torah that has been nailed to the cross. It is a written verdict of condemnation, like the type delivered by a Roman court of law.

Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)

The “certificate of debt,” which has been taken out of the way and nailed to the cross, is a list of sins. The Messiah took upon Himself condemnation (i.e., death) for those sins when He became “a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

Therefore it is incorrect to suppose that there are no longer any consequences for sin. For those who have attached themselves to Yeshua, the ultimate consequence of eternal condemnation has been removed—nailed to the cross, but the laws of cause and effect are still very much at work. Sin still reaps punishment. Obedience to God still results in blessing. Disobedience to God still results in dire consequences.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Depths of the Torah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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