Previously: Written on hearts instead of stone
The English word “Law” is translated from the Greek Septuagint when it is used in Scripture. The Greek word for “Law” means something slightly different than the Hebrew word which is found in the Old Testament. The Greek word means what we think of when we think of “law”: Rules and regulations. Obligations. Courtrooms. Punishment. In Hebrew, however, the word is torah. This word means “instruction” or “teaching.”
“Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, For I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live; Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.” Proverbs 4.1-5
The first word translated “Instruction” in the above passage actually means, “chastisement, reproof, or warning.” The word translated “teaching” in the second sentence actually means, “instruction, learning, or doctrine.” Think school. When a child learns the laws of physics, he has learned the doctrine which governs the natural universe. But neither of these words are “torah.” The second word translated “Instruction,” in the second sentence, is not the same word as the first “instruction” (chastisement or reproof). This word is torah, the word which is translated in our English Bibles as “Law.” But in Proverbs, the writer is using the word as if it means the instruction or teaching of a father to his son! Fathers teaching their sons brings to mind (in my mind, anyway) gentle guidance, loving but firm authority, that which is appropriate for the age and capacity of the child, delight in passing on the knowledge or skill of previous generations. The instruction, or torah, of a father.
Torah is, in fact, used over and over again in Proverbs in the context of parents guiding their children. Now I am not thinking of courtrooms and anymore.
“And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isaiah 2:3
Torah, in Hebrew thought, is equivalent to the teaching of the Lord which illuminates His ways and His paths. If we desire to know the paths of the Lord so that we may walk in them, then we desire His torah!
The word torah comes from the Hebrew root yarah, an agricultural word meaning “to cast forth rain or fruit.” The idea behind torah, then, is just as the rain is cast forth and the ground produces fruit because of it, so the torah — the instruction and teaching of the Heavenly Father to His children — is cast forth into our hearts, which then produces the fruit of life and blessing.
According to Strong’s, yarah can also mean, “to throw, shoot, cast, or pour,” especially “to shoot arrows.” But sin also means, “to miss the mark.” Torah, therefore, directs us to hit the mark, while sin causes us to miss the mark.
Update: continued in The curse of the Law