A Question I Was Asked:

Which Law Does Genesis 26:5 Refer to Abraham Obeying?

The Actual Question:

If the Abrahamic covenant was based on the fact that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Galatians 3:6), and the Mosaic law did not come about until 430 years later (Galatians 3:17), then what commandments and laws did Abraham obey according to Genesis 26:5 ?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay. Let's look at this Scripture in Genesis:

Genesis 26:5: Because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws. (NIV).

Since Abraham walked with the Lord in his own, earlier time, God would have revealed to him certain principles of holy, spiritual conduct, the sort of behaviour which God wants to see in all of us. Certainly Abraham obeyed the Lord and his heart was fully committed to a close walk with God. So this is undoubtedly a reference to the Seven Laws of Noah which applied to all of human life (not just the Jews):

The Noahic covenant [Genesis 8-9] applies to the whole of humankind. In this covenant, God:

1. God blessed Noah and his sons, and told them to populate the earth [9:1]
2. Placed all plants and animals under human command [9:2-3]
3. Forbade the eating meat with the blood still in it [9:4]
4. Murder was forbidden [9:5]
5. Humankind were commanded to shed the blood of those who shed blood [9:6]
6. The Lord promised that he would never again destroy all life on earth by a flood [9:11]
7. The Lord created the rainbow as the sign of this covenant for all ages to come [9:12-17]

However, these laws are sometimes listed differently. The Talmud also mentions these laws, which are sometimes listed in the following manner:

1.Do not deny God.
2.Do not blaspheme God.
3.Do not murder.
4.Do not engage in incestuous, adulterous or other immoral sexual relationships.
5.Do not steal.
6.Do not eat of a live animal.
7.Establish courts/legal system to ensure law and obedience.

In 'The Noahide Laws,' Jeffrey Spitzer offers us this further information:

The children of Noah were commanded with seven commandments: [to establish] laws, and [to prohibit] cursing God, idolatry, illicit sexuality, bloodshed, robbery, and eating flesh from a living animal (Sanhedrin 56a; cf. Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4 and Genesis Rabbah 34:8). Source:https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-noahide-laws/

Any possible differences here should not bother anyone since everything is complimentary, also, points 6-7 in the first listing are divine promises rather than laws. In the same manner, the 'Law of Christ' (Sermon on the mount, Matthew 5-7) can never have listed and numbered points but should be written on the heart.

In the Book of Acts, we see the Jerusalem Conference of around AD50 applying these principles to all Gentiles who were coming to Christ:

24. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.
25. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—
26. men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.
28. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:
29. You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. (Acts 15:24-29).

Galatians 3 clearly shows us - not only that this is not a reference to the Mosaic law package (Galatians 3:17) - but also highlights for us the supremacy of the covenant with Abraham which was based on faith, it is closer to the present Christian walk in faith under the New Covenant. Please read the entire Scripture which follows:

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no-one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
(Galatians 3: 6-14, NIV).

So let us be in no doubt that the blessing of Abraham, now inherited by Christians, is a greater blessing than the Old Covenant laws and regulations.

We hope that these comments might help you.
Robin A. Brace, August 5th 2009.