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What precisely is His Law in Psalms 1:2?

1 Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

2 But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, And on His Law he meditates day and night.

Hebrew word used for law: בְּתוֹרַ֥ת .

Is that just the Ten Commandments?

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This idea is very common in the OT:

  • Ps 119:97 - Oh, how I love Your law [Torah]! All day long it is my meditation.
  • Ps 1:2 - But his delight is in the Law [Torah] of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.
  • Josh 1:8 - This Book of the Law [Torah] must not depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in all you do.

Very similar ideas are recorded in Ps 119:16, 23, 24, 27, 48, 52, 57, 70, 77, 104, 119, 174, etc.

The significant use of the "book of the Law" (= Deuteronomy, see appendix 1 below) means that most of the above statements are probably referring to the book of Deuteronomy as the expansion of the Moral code, made specific for the culture and time of ancient Israel.

This is should viewed as distinct from the "book of the covenant' which appears

APPENDIX 1 - "Book of the Law"

While the Ten Commandments are referred to as a law (Ex 34:28, Deut 4:13, 10:4), and also as a covenant (Ex 24:7, 2 Kings 23:2, 21, 2 Chron 34:30), the book of Deuteronomy itself is called “The Book of the Law”, Deut 28:61, 29:21, 30:10, 31:26, Josh 1:8, 8:31, 34, 24:26, 2 Kings 22:8, 11, 2 Chron 17:9, 25:4, 34:14, 15, Neh 8:1-3, 8, 18, 9:3. See also Deut 17:18.

The Biblical book of Deuteronomy means, “second law” because of the re-statement of the ten commandments in Deut 5:6-21 (and Deut 27:15-28). It often refers to the Israelite Covenant (Deut 4:13, 23, 31, 5:2, 3, 7:2, 9, 12, 8:18, 9:9, 11, 15, 10:8, 17:2, 29:1, 9, 14, 21, 31:9, 16, 20, 26, 33:9) and is a re-statement and expansion of the Moral Law based around the 10 Commandments. The centrality and importance of the book of Deuteronomy can be gauged by the requirement for each king of Israel to personally write out a copy of the book and keep it with him (Deut 17:18).

The book consists of the last 4 orations of Moses to the Israelites on the border of the Promised Land.

First Oration: Deut 1:6 – 4:43. Historical background

Second Oration: Deut 4:44 – 26:19. The Law of the Ten Commandments expanded

Third Oration: Deut 27:1 – 28:68. Blessings and Curses of the law

Fourth Oration: Deut 29:1 – 30:20. Renewal of the Covenant

Some authors suggest that the third and fourth orations listed above were part of the same speech. A more complete analysis of Deuteronomy is listed below:

  • Preamble Deut 1:1-5
  • Historical prologue Deut 1:6 – 4:49
  • General stipulations Deut 5 – 11
  • Secific stipulations Deut 12 – 26
  • Blessings and Curses Deut 27 – 28
  • Witnesses Deut 30:15-20
  • Deposition of Text Deut 31:9, 24-26
  • Public reading Deut 31:10-13
  • Lawsuits against vassals Deut 32

The specific stipulations listed above can be broken down more precisely into sections dealing with each of the commandments. 1 & 2: Deut 12:1 – 31 – Worship 3: Deut 13:1 – 14:27 – name of God 4: Deut 14:28 – 16:17 – Sabbath 5: Deut 16:18 – 18:22 – Authority 6: Deut 19:1 – 22:8 – Homicide/murder 7: Deut 22:9 – 23:19 – Adultery 8: Deut 23:20 – 24:7 – Theft 9: Deut 24:8 – 25:4 – False Charges 10: Deut 25:5 – 16 – Coveting

APPENDIX 2 - "Book of the Covenant"

The phrase, “Book of the Covenant” is found in Ex 24:7 and probably refers to the legal expansion of the 10 Commandments recorded in Ex 20:22 – 23:33. (Some Bible expositors prefer to terminate the Covenant Book at Ex 23:19 or even earlier.) It covers the same legal matters as the 10 Commandments but provides a legal framework and cultic significance to the 10 Commandments. Its structure appears as follows:

  • Pre-amble: Ex 20:22-26. Ritual basis for jurisprudence.
  • Legal Corpus: Ex 21:1-23:13
  • o Hebrew slaves/servants: Ex 21:1-11
  • o Personal Injury: Ex 21:12-36
  • o Personal Property: Ex 22:1-15
  • o Societal and Moral Regulation: Ex 22:16-31
  • o Good Will, Justice and Mercy: Ex 23:1-9
  • o Sabbath, Annual Calendar & sacrifice Laws: Ex 23:10-19
  • Postlude: Promises of Protection. Ex 23:20-33

It is immediately clear that many (if not all) of the regulations listed in this Book of the Covenant are amplifications of one or more of the 10 Commandments, ie, the Covenant itself. For example, there are laws about theft (Ex 22:1-4); laws about blasphemy (Ex 22:28); laws about worshiping only one God (Ex 22:20), idolatry (Ex 20:23), etc. Thus, the 10 Commandments became a summary of the Israelite legal system.

The purpose of this early legal corpus is stated in Ex 22:33 as, “You are to be my holy people”. Thus, the purpose here is identical to the purpose for the Covenant itself stated in Ex 19:5, 6, namely, that God wanted to create His “treasured possession”, “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”.

The Book of the Covenant distinguishes itself among similar ancient legal codes by providing (for the time) remarkable grace and mercy to even lowly people such as slaves. For example, slaves were not merely regarded as chattels.

The “Book of the Covenant” is again referenced in 2 Kings 23:2, 21, 2 Chron 34:30; however, it is not clear if this is referring to just Ex 20:22 – 23:33, or the book of Deuteronomy. I am inclined to the former view on the basis that it was read publically while people stood and so could not have been too long.

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  • So in simplest terms, if a modern Christian were to meditate on “His Law”, he would read and ponder Deut 12:1 – 25:16 ?
    – Al Brown
    Sep 16 at 15:16
  • 1
    @AlBrown - The "Law" of God is a transcript of His character as Paul makes similar comments, 1 Cor 7:22, 9:21, James 2:8, etc.
    – Dottard
    Sep 16 at 20:18
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No. To translate torah as "Law" in Psalm 1 is to profoundly misunderstand the word's meaning here. The Hebrew word תרה primarily means "instruction" or "teaching" and only secondarily means "law." In Psalm 1, torah is being used in this more general sense, to refer to God's instruction. Jewish translations render this line,

"the teaching of the LORD is his delight, and he studies that teaching day and night." (JPS Tanakh)

You can also find torah being used this way in several places in Proverbs:

Prov. 1:8    Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching (torah).

Prov. 3:1    My son, do not forget my teaching (torah), but let your heart keep my commandments.

Prov. 6:20    My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching (torah).

Prov. 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching (torah) of kindness is on her tongue.

In Psalm 1 the blessed person is meditating on the Scriptures and finds great happiness in being instructed by the very thoughts of God. They help him grow like a tree by a stream that flourishes and bears fruit, even when all around is withered and brown.

Even though the word Torah specifically refers to the Pentateuch, in Jewish parlance, "Torah" is often used as an affectionate reference to all of Scripture, the way Christians use the phrase "God's word." That's how the word is being used in Psalm 1.

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  • Oh. Yes before an edit, I had noted one version translated it as “instructions”. So meditating on God’s teachings, His ways and thoughts ( to the extent those can be imagined)?
    – Al Brown
    Sep 20 at 5:08
  • Thanks for the reply. Checked your profile; you may already be farmiliar, but if not then you might like this video, seven minutes.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 20 at 5:10

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