Are The Laws That Deal With Death Eternal?

In our taxonomic analysis of the laws Moses received, we identified that there are positive commands that instruct Israel how to deal with situations involving death (see Exhibit for list of laws). But death is not only found in the Torah, it is also found in the Prophets and Writings. Isaiah and Daniel foretell the day when death will be abolished.

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord G-d will wipe tears away from all faces…(Isaiah 25: 8)

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

A day is coming when Messiah will arrive, the resurrection of the dead will occur, and death will be abolished. In light of these prophetic facts, it is absurd to think that the laws of Moses dealing with death will be meaningful in the Messianic Age. For example, consider the manslayer. According to Moses, if a man accidentally kills another man, he must flee to a city of refuge and stay there for the duration of the high priest’s life.

The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled; and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. (Numbers 35: 25)

Since in the Messianic Age there will be no death, there will therefore be no manslaughter. Not once will the situation ever arise when two men are chopping wood in the forest and one man loses control of his axe and fatally strikes his friend. But, if for the sake of argument manslaughter were possible, there is another problem. The manslayer, upon entering the city of refuge, would find himself in what software developers call an infinite loop. He would wake up in the morning, wait for news of the high priest’s death (so he could leave the city), and go to sleep at night, not having received the news. The next day he would wake up in the morning, wait for news of the high priest’s death (so he could leave the city), and go to sleep at night, not having received the news. This daily cycle of waking and waiting would continue ad infinitum, because even if manslaughter were possible in the Age of Messiah, natural death would not be, and therefore the high priest would never die (unless he himself were accidentally killed by a comrade).

This is but one example of how an era with no death makes meaningless laws that deal with death. We can conclude with certainty that the laws of Moses dealing with death are finite, and their point of termination is the Age of Messiah.


Exhibit: Finite Laws Relating To Death1

Command Reference
In honor of certain dead close relatives the priests should make themselves ritually unclean Leviticus 21: 2 – 3
Those who were ritually impure in Nisan should slaughter the paschal lamb on the 14th of Iyar and eat it Numbers 9: 11
Those who were ritually impure in Nisan should eat the paschal lamb on the 14th of Iyar with matzah and bitter herbs Numbers 9: 11, Exodus 12: 8
Anyone who touches a carcass becomes ritually unclean Leviticus 11: 8, 24
Anyone who touches one of the eight species of reptiles becomes ritually unclean Leviticus 11: 29 – 31
Food becomes unclean by coming into contact with a ritually unclean object. Leviticus 11: 34
A human corpse is ritually unclean Numbers 19: 14
You must appoint a king Deuteronomy 17: 15
Six cities of refuge should be established Deuteronomy 19: 3
You must build a fence around your roof and remove potential hazards from your home Deuteronomy 22: 8
You are commanded to destroy the seven Canaanite nations Deuteronomy 20: 17
You are commanded to blot out the memory of Amalek Deuteronomy 25: 19
Should a man die childless his brother must either marry his widow (if he does not release her) Deuteronomy 25: 5
Should a man die childless his brother must release his widow (if he does not marry her) Deuteronomy 25: 9
You must exile the unwitting homicide Numbers 35: 25

1 The wording of the commands and corresponding Scripture references derive from the Torah Checklist at http://bethelcong.org/app/uploads/2015/06/613_commandments.pdf.

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What Types of Laws Did Moses Receive?

Taxonomy is the science of classification. So far we have applied that science to the Torah and have come to the conclusion that all of the laws of Moses must either be eternal or finite in duration.

But there is another taxonomy we can apply to Torah. Rather than classifying laws by their duration, we can group them together by theme. Focusing solely upon the 248 positive commands, we find five main types of laws:

Type # of Laws % of Positive Torah
Sin 78 31.45
Death 15 6.05
Disease 13 5.24
Moral 20 8.07
Ceremony 122 49.19
Total 248 100.00
This data derives from my own personal study of Torah. Although I am confident in the overall accuracy of the survey, I do not guarantee I have classified every law accurately, and therefore the percentages may slightly change if I find the need to reclassify a particular command.

Here is a pie chart, displaying the same data as above in a different way:
torah-pie-chart
Here is an example of each type of positive command:

Type Example Positive Commmand #
Sin A woman suspected of adultery has to submit to the required test Command 223 (Numbers 5: 15 – 27)
Death You must exile the unwitting homicide Command 225 (Numbers 35: 25)
Disease Until cleansed the leper must be bareheaded with clothing in disarray so as to be easily distinguishable Command 112 (Leviticus 13: 45)
Moral The Jew is required to love G-d Command 3 (Deut 6:5)
Ceremony The priests must also light the menorah daily Command 25 (Exodus 27: 21)

One is most certainly on the path to understanding if one can categorize the laws of Moses by both type and duration. After all, can one really say they understand the specific details of a law if they can’t even understand its general purpose and how long it is intended to last?