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The Seven Noahide Laws

Part 1

The following are the seven commandments, comprising six negative precepts and one positive. There is much more that remains as explanation and commentary, but this article will limit itself to a few insights after presenting the list itself.

  1. Idolatry is forbidden. Man is commanded to believe in the One G-d alone and worship only Him.
  2. Incestuous and adulterous relations are forbidden. Human beings are not sexual objects, nor is pleasure the ultimate goal of life.
  3. Murder is forbidden. The life of a human being, formed in G-d's image, is sacred.
  4. Cursing the name of G-d is forbidden. Besides honoring and respecting G-d, we learn from this precept that our speech must be sanctified, as that is the distinctive sign which separated man from the animals.
  5. Theft is forbidden. The world is not ours to do with as we please.
  6. Eating the flesh of a living animal is forbidden. This teaches us to be sensitive to cruelty to animals. (This was commanded to Noah for the first time along with the permission of eating meat. The rest were already given to Adam in the Garden of Eden.)
  7. Mankind is commanded to establish courts of justice and a just social order to enforce the first six laws and enact any other useful laws or customs.

"These seven laws are implicit in God's commandment to Adam and Eve in Gen. 2:16-17, "And the Lord God commanded the man saying 'From all the trees of the garden you may freely eat'."

In the Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan explains:

  1. The word "commanded" (VaYetzav) is a reference to laws of justice for it says in Gen. 18:19, "For I have known him so he will COMMAND (Yitzaveh) his children after him to keep the way of the Lord and righteousness and justice."
  2. "And the Lord" (HaShem) implies the prohibition of blasphemy. As it says in Lev. 24:16, "He who blasphemes the name of THE LORD (Hashem) shall die."
  3. "God" (Elokim) is a reference to idolatry for it says in Ex. 20:3 "You shall have no other Elokim before me".
  4. "The Man" (Ha Adam) is the prohibition of murder. God explicitly commands Noah (Gen. 9:6), "If one sheds the blood of THE MAN (Ha Adam), by man shall his own blood be shed."
  5. "Saying" (Laymor) refers to sexual misconduct or adultery, as the prophet Jeremiah (3:1) says, "Saying (laymor), if a man divorces his wife..."
  6. "From all the trees of the Garden" is an implicit prohibition of theft. It shows that permission is needed to take something that is not explicitly yours.
  7. Likewise, "you may eat" implies that there are things which may not be eaten (the limbs of a live animal).

Part 2

  1. THEFT
    1. against stealing
    2. against committing robbery
    3. against shifting a landmark
    4. against cheating
    5. against repudiating a claim of money owed
    6. against overcharging
    7. against coveting
    8. against desiring
    9. a laborer shall be allowed to eat of the fruits among which he works (under certain conditions)
    10. against a laborer eating of such fruit (when certain conditions are not met)
    11. against a laborer taking of such fruit home
    12. against kidnapping
    13. against the use of false weights and measures
    14. against the possession of false weights and measures
    15. that one shall be exact in the use of weights and measures
    16. that the robber shall return (or pay for) the stolen object

    1. to appoint judges and officers in each and every community
    2. to treat the litigants equally before the law
    3. to inquire diligently into the testimony of a witness
    4. against the wanton miscarriage of justice by the court
    5. against the judge accepting a bribe or gift from a litigant
    6. against the judge showing marks of honor to but one litigant
    7. against the judge acting in fear of a litigant's threats
    8. against the judge, out of compassion, favoring a poor litigant
    9. against the judge discriminating against the litigant because he is a sinner
    10. against the judge, out of softness, putting aside the penalty of a mauler or killer
    11. against the judge discriminating against a stranger or an orphan
    12. against the judge hearing one litigant in the absence of the other
    13. against appointing a judge who lacks knowledge of the Law
    14. against the court killing an innocent man
    15. against incrimination by circumstantial evidence
    16. against punishing for a crime committed under duress
    17. that the court is to administer the death penalty by the sword
    18. against anyone taking the law into his own hands to kill the perpetrator of a capital crime
    19. to testify in court
    20. against testifying falsely

      * This point is disagreed upon by different writers: "The Noahites are not restricted in this way but may judge singly and at once."

    1. against anyone murdering anyone

    1. against (a man) having union with his mother
    2. against (a man) having union with his sister
    3. against (a man) having union with the wife of his father
    4. against (a man) having union with another man's wife
    5. against (a man) copulating with a beast
    6. against a woman copulating with a beast
    7. against (a man) lying carnally with a male
    8. against (a man) lying carnally with his father
    9. against (a man) lying carnally with his father's brother
    10. against engaging in erotic conduct that may lead to a prohibited union

    1. against eating a limb severed from a living animal, beast, or fowl
    2. against eating the flesh of any animal which was torn by a wild beast ... which, in part, prohibits the eating of such flesh as was torn off an animal while it was still alive

    1. against entertaining the thought that there exists a deity except the Lord
    2. against making any graven image (and against having anyone else make one for us)
    3. against making idols for use by others
    4. against making any forbidden statues (even when they are for ornamental purposes)
    5. against bowing to any idol (and not to sacrifice nor to pour libation nor to burn incense before any idol, even where it is not the customary manner of worship to the particular idol)
    6. against worshipping idols in any of their customary manners of worship
    7. against causing our children to pass (through the fire) in the worship of Molech.
    8. against practicing Ov
    9. against the practice of Yiddoni
    10. against turning to idolatry (in word, in thought, in deed, or by any observance that may draw us to its worship)

    1. to acknowledge the presence of God
    2. to fear God
    3. to pray to Him
    4. to sanctify God's name (in face of death, where appropriate)
    5. against desecrating God's name (even in face of death, when appropriate)
    6. to study the Torah
    7. to honor the scholars, and to revere one's teacher
    8. against blaspheming