The Commandments: Biblical Reasons to Obey

There are a number of reasons given to obey God's laws.

Print this page Print this page

The Wisdom and Good Teachings of the Commandments

The Bible suggests that we should obey God’s commandments because it would be unwise not to. Thus, Moses says this to the Israelites:

“See, I have imparted to you laws and rules, as God has commanded me, for you to abide by in the land which you are about to invade and occupy. Observe them faithfully, for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment to other peoples, who on hearing of all these laws will say, ‘Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand as is the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him? Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching that I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

The Commandments Define the Ethical Life

The Torah affirms that God’s commandments are ethical and moral because God is a moral God, and it explains that the commandments help set for people the true standard of morality. For example, it states in Psalms:

“The teaching of God is perfect, renewing life; the decrees of God are enduring, making the simple wise. The commandments of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart; the instruction of God is lucid, making the eyes light up. The fear of God is pure, abiding forever; the judgments of God are true, righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:8-10).

The Commandments are Part of Our Covenantal Relationship with God

The Jewish promise to obey God is expressed in the covenant (brit) that our ancestors made with God at Mount Sinai. Here, God promised to enter into a long-term relationship with the children of Israel. This relationship included giving them a homeland and rewarding them with physical pros­perity. The Israelites’ side of the bargain was to obey those commandments that God revealed to them, saying “all that God has commanded, we will do and we will hear/obey” (Exodus 24:7).

The question that modern Jews ask is the following: If our ancestors voluntarily agreed to enter into God’s covenant, why are we obligated by it as well? Moses had already anticipated this objection when he spoke to the second generation of Israelites who had not been a part of the Sinai experience:

“God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that God made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today. Face to face God spoke to you on the mountain out of the fire” (Deuteronomy 5:2-4).

The Israelites and their descendants for all generations were expected to see themselves as if they themselves had stood at the mountain and obligated themselves to fulfill the covenant of God.

The Commandments Enhance God’s Reputation and Honor

The commandments also served as a way of sanctifying God’s Name (reputation) and making it holy and unique. Since God gave the Israelites commandments as part of the covenantal agreement, the commitment to follow and obey them reflected not only upon the Israelites themselves, but upon God as well. Good behavior, according to the Bible, brought honor upon God, whereas bad behavior profaned God’s Name and reputation:

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.