‘For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King.’ (Isaiah 33:22)
The books of the Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, establish those commands necessary for us to follow if we are to arrive at eternal life.
Elsewhere St Thomas defines a law as, “An ordinance of reason by he who has care of the common good and is promulgated.”
St Thomas likens the role of God in the Law to that of a king. A king is one who has care of the common good of his people and thus is responsible for ensuring that laws are established which make it possible for his people to be happy.
Reason is that power by which we order various means to their ends. For example when an animal is hungry they have a vary limited variety of food to consume because of the power of their instinct. We however have the power to choose anything edible, indeed we sometimes choose things that are inedible or not to eat at all. In order to choose rightly we need the power of reason to understand what is and is not edible, or if fasting is more appropriate than satisfying hunger.
The very first chapter of sacred scripture in Genesis, provides an illustration that God not only has the power to order and arrange things to their end, but what is more that His power of reason also creates the very things and ends to which they are ordered.
It may not be clear in our own day but Sacred Scripture has certainly been promulgated. Not only is it the most published book of all time but it was the first book ever published. If the purchase of a book is to expensive it can be found online at a myriad of websites. Scripture is read and preached in every church every day of every year for thousands of years.
Thus God is the Law Giver par excellance, whose act of reason is not only capable of ordering things to their end but creates the very things which He in turn orders to their end and His law has been most perfectly promulgated.
The Law is established in two parts: privately to individuals and then publicly to the whole people bound to it. Genesis presents a series of laws which private individuals bind themselves to. Abraham’s agreement to follow God’s law is called a covenant. As it continued to grow each generation of Abraham’s family bound themselves to this covenant with God.
Once Abraham’s descendants had grown into a great people they all received commandments from God. This law was mediated between God and the people by Moses. This mediation comes in two forms: God gives the Law to Moses and Moses gives the Law to the people. God gives the Law to Moses in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Exodus contains those laws which apply to all the people, whereas Leviticus relates special commands for the priests and Numbers instructs the leaders of the people. Finally Moses gives the Law to the people in Deuteronomy.