What are the main divisions of the Old Testament Law?

by Matt Slick

There are three main divisions within the Old Testament law. Following is a categorization. Please note that occasionally the civil and moral laws overlap.

The main differences between the civil, ceremonial, and moral aspects of the Law of Moses as revealed in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are in their purposes.  The civil law deals mainly with relationships between individuals, the settling of disputes, and the description of proper behavior. The ceremonial law deals with the priesthood initiation and the priestly procedures as they related to the various sacrifices through which the people of the Old Testament were cleansed of their sins. The moral law is based on the character of God and extends from the Old into the New Testament. Therefore, as it was wrong to lie in the Old Testament, it is still wrong to lie in the New Testament.

  1. Civil - Deals with disputes between individuals.  Expired with the demise of the Jewish civil government
    1. Be just with the poor, (Lev. 19:15)
    2. Cattle, of neighbor (Deut. 22:1-4)
    3. Children, rebellious (Deut. 21:18-21)
    4. Debt (Lev. 23:34-43; Deut. 31:10)
    5. Divorce (Deut. 22:19)
    6. Dress, attire (Deut. 22:5)
    7. Do not hate in your heart (Lev. 19:17)
    8. Inheritance (Num. 18:26; 26:53-56; 36:8-12)
    9. Justice practices (Lev. 24:17-23)
    10. Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16)
    11. Landmarks (Deuteronomy 19:14)
    12. Property redemption (Lev. 25)
    13. Murder and killing (Deut. 21:1-4)
    14. Retain just scales in commerce (Lev. 19:35f)
    15. Robbery, extortion, false witness, and restitution (Lev. 6:1-7)
    16. Sabbath breaking punishment (Num. 15:32-36)
    17. Theft (Deut. 5:19; Lev. 19:11)
    18. Warfare (Deut. 20:1-20)
  2. Ceremonial - Expired with the fulfillment of priestly work of Christ (Matt. 3:15)
    1. Cleaning house of leper (Lev. 14:33-57; Num. 5:2)
    2. Festivals (Lev. 23:1-25; Nu. 29:39)
    3. Laws on animals for food (Lev. 11:1-47)
    4. Law of Atonement (Lev. 16:1-28;17:1-16)
    5. Offerings (Num. 29:39)
    6. Priest, consecration of (Ex. 29:1-46)
    7. Priestly duties (Lev. 7:1-37)
    8. Regulations for Priests (Lev. 21,22)
    9. Various sacrificial offerings for sin (Lev. 1,2,3,4,5,6)
  3. Moral - No Expiration because it is based on God's character.  "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy," (Lev. 19:2)
    1. Idolatry (Lev. 26:1-13)
    2. Love God (Deut. 6:4)
    3. Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)
    4. Oppress your neighbor (Lev. 19:13)
    5. Stealing or lying (Lev. 19:11)
    6. Sacrifice children to Molech forbidden (Lev. 20:1-5)
    7. Sexual sins: adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, etc. (Lev. 18:20; 20:9-21; Num. 5:12-15)

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.