What are the 613 Commandments?

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. Matthew 23:1-3

What are the 613 commandments, also referred a to as Miztvaot? Most people involved in Christianity are not familiar with these even though they are all throughout the Christian Bible. Others would say that it is a “Jewish thing”, but I have also heard sermons and read articles where Christians actually mock these 613 Mitzvaot. Is this what we should be doing? I realize it comes mostly from ignorance, and I had to spend many hours trying to understand this topic over several years; however, mocking these commandments is equivalent to mocking the holy scripture. This is where these commandments are found. At some point in history, someone in the Jewish faith itemized all the commands we find written in the Old Testament of the Bible, which the Jewish people handed down to us. In this blog post I will cover a few of the 613 commandments and let the reader decide if we should be ridiculing anyone for wanting to study and keep these commandments.

First, I make the claim that Christianity obtained the knowledge of the Creator through the Jewish people from the words of Paul written to the Romans.

Rom 3:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
Rom 3:2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.

Paul tells us that it was the Jewish people who were entrusted with the oracles of God. A neglected verse of scripture in the Christian churches, Matthew 23:3, is where Jesus tells His followers to do what the the scribes and Pharisees tell them to do, just not what they do. So, their works did not reflect the instruction they were teaching.

Mat 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
Mat 23:2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,
Mat 23:3 so do and observe whatever they tell you,
but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

If you want a complete list of the approximate 613 commandments found in scripture, do a search for them online, and they are easily found with scripture references. If you are a person who says “I believe everything between the covers of this book” referring to the Bible, then you may want to read about what it is you say you believe.

• To know that God exists (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6)
• Not to entertain the idea that there is any god but the Eternal (Exodus 20:3)
• Not to blaspheme Exodus 22:28), the penalty for which is death (Leviticus 24:16) •To hallow God’s name (Leviticus 22:32)
• Not to profane God’s name (Leviticus 22:32)
• To know that God is One, a complete Unity (Deuteronomy 6:4)
• To love God (Deuteronomy 6:5)
• To fear Him reverently (Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20)
• Not to put the word of God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16)
• To imitate His good and upright ways (Deuteronomy 28:9)

The first two Mitzvaot come from the Ten Commandments. I am not looking at these commandments in any particular order.

Exo 20:2 “I am Yahweh, your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves.
Exo 20:3 “There shall be for you no other gods before me.

Another commandment in the list of 613 tells us to love God:

Deu 6:5 And you shall love Yahweh your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might.

Jesus also quoted this verse stating it was the greatest commandment.

Mat 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Mat 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the great and first commandment.

Jesus continues to quote another one of the 613 commandments as the second greatest commandment. Jesus didn’t fabricate these words on the spot to impress the Pharisees. He was quoting Leviticus.

Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Lev 19:18 You shall not seek vengeance, and you shall not harbor a grudge against your fellow citizens; and you shall love your neighbor like yourself; I am Yahweh.

Another commandment we find in the list tells us to imitate His good and upright ways.

Deu 28:9 Yahweh will establish you for himself as a holy people as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of Yahweh your God and you walk in his ways.
Deu 28:10 And all of the peoples of the earth shall see that by the name of Yahweh you are called, and they shall fear you.
Deu 28:11 And Yahweh will make you successful and prosperous, in the fruit of your womb and on the land that Yahweh swore to your ancestors to give to you.

Here are a few more Mitzvaot with the scripture references:

• To love all human beings who are of the covenant (Leviticus 19:18)
• Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger (Leviticus 19:16)
• Not to wrong any one in speech (Leviticus 25:17)
• Not to carry tales (Leviticus 19:16)
• Not to cherish hatred in one’s heart (Leviticus 19:17)
• Not to take revenge (Leviticus 19:18)
• Not to bear a grudge (Leviticus 19:18)
• Not to put any person to shame (Leviticus 19:17)
• Not to curse any other Israelite (Leviticus 19:14)
• Not to give occasion to the simple-minded to stumble on the road (Leviticus 19:14)
• To rebuke the sinner (Leviticus 19:17)
• To relieve a neighbor of his burden and help to unload his beast (Exodus 23:5)
• To assist in replacing the load upon a neighbor’s beast (Deuteronomy 22:4)
• Not to leave a beast, that has fallen down beneath its burden, unaided (Deuteronomy 22:4)

This appears to be starting to sound similar to the teachings of Jesus. Could there be a correlation between the Word of God in the flesh, Jesus, and the Word of God recorded in scripture? Paul also speaks of these commandments in his letter to the Corinthians:

2Co 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.
2Co 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
2Co 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Many of the 613 Miztvaot require the temple and priests and have to be carried out in the land. It’s not that these are obsolete, because Jesus stated that nothing in the Torah would change until heaven and Earth pass away. However, it is impossible to uphold commandments of the temple when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

Mat 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Next, there are some commandments regarding relationships. One must ask themselves if there is anything here to mock and ridicule.

• Not to indulge in familiarities with relatives, such as kissing, embracing, winking which may lead to incest (Leviticus 18:6)
• Not to commit incest with one’s mother (Leviticus 18:7)
• Not to commit sodomy with one’s father (Leviticus 18:7)
• Not to commit incest with one’s father’s wife (Leviticus 18:8)
• Not to commit incest with one’s sister (Leviticus 18:9)
• Not to commit incest with one’s father’s wife’s daughter (Leviticus 18:9)
• Not to commit incest with one’s son’s daughter (Leviticus 18:10)
• Not to commit incest with one’s daughter’s daughter (Leviticus 18:10)
• Not to commit incest with one’s daughter (Leviticus 18:11)
• Not to commit incest with one’s fathers sister (Leviticus 18:12)
• Not to commit incest with one’s mother’s sister (Leviticus 18:13)
• Not to commit incest with one’s father’s brothers wife (Leviticus 18:14)
• Not to commit sodomy with one’s father’s brother (Leviticus 18:14)
• Not to commit incest with he’s son’s wife (Leviticus 18:15)
• Not to commit incest with one’s brother’s wife (Leviticus 18:16)
• Not to commit incest with one’s wife’s daughter (Leviticus 18:17)
• Not to commit incest with the daughter of one’s wife’s son (Leviticus 18:17)
• Not to commit incest with the daughter of one’s wife’s daughter (Leviticus 18:17)
• Not to commit incest with one’s wife’s sister (Leviticus 18:18)
• Not to have intercourse with a woman, in her menstrual period (Leviticus 18:19)
• Not to have intercourse with another man’s wife (Leviticus 18:20)
• Not to commit sodomy with a male (Leviticus 18:22)
• Not to have intercourse with a beast (Leviticus 18:23)
• That a woman shall not have intercourse with a beast (Leviticus 18:23)
• Not to castrate the male of any species; neither a man, nor a domestic or wild beast, nor a fowl (Leviticus 22:24)

Continuing with the list, let’s look at some of these commands regarding business practices.

• Not to do wrong in buying or selling (Leviticus 25:14)
• Not to make a loan to an Israelite on interest (Leviticus 25:37)
• Not to borrow on interest (Deuteronomy 23:20) (because this would cause the lender to sin)
• Not to take part in any usurious transaction between borrower and lender, neither as a surety, nor as a witness, nor as a writer of the bond for them (Exodus 22:24)
• To lend to a poor person (Exodus 22:24)
• Not to demand from a poor man repayment of his debt, when the creditor knows that he cannot pay, nor press him (Exodus 22:24)
• Not to take in pledge utensils used in preparing food (Deuteronomy 24:6)
• Not to exact a pledge from a debtor by force (Deuteronomy 24:10)
• Not to keep the pledge from its owner at the time when he needs it (Deuteronomy24:12)
• To return a pledge to its owner (Deuteronomy 24:13)
• Not to take a pledge from a widow (Deuteronomy 24:17)

• Not to commit fraud in measuring (Leviticus 19:35)
• To ensure that scales and weights are correct (Leviticus 19:36)
• Not to possess inaccurate measures and weights (Deuteronomy 25:13-14)

Do these commands seem to apply to only the “Jews”, or is it fair to say that they describe how a follower of Jesus should also conduct themselves? Jesus had a way of incorporating these commandments into His parables. The principles of conduct Jesus was stressing to His followers were all found in the Old Testament.

Mat 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.
Mat 18:24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
Mat 18:25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
Mat 18:26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’
Mat 18:27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
Mat 18:28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’
Mat 18:29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’
Mat 18:30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
Mat 18:31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
Mat 18:32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
Mat 18:33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
Mat 18:34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
Mat 18:35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Is it clear how Jesus was taking the principles of the laws of Yahweh and showing them in practice by His parable? The laws in the Old Testament that required death when broken are what Jesus’ death on the cross was the substitution, if a person repents and believes. How can a person be said to have repented and believed, yet not want to do what Yahweh commands from that point forward? Here are a few more from the list of the 613 commandments:

• Not to slay an innocent person (Exodus 20:13)
• Not to kidnap any person of Israel (Exodus 20:13)
• Not to rob by violence (Leviticus 19:13)
• Not to defraud (Leviticus 19:13)
• Not to covet what belongs to another (Exodus 20:14)
• Not to crave something that belongs to another (Deuteronomy 5:18)
• Not to indulge in evil thoughts and sights (Numbers 15:39)

The last command in this section sounds familiar as well. “Not to indulge in evil thoughts and sights” (Numbers 15:39)

Num 15:39 You will have a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commands of Yahweh and do them, and not follow after the unfaithfulness of your own heart and eyes,
Num 15:40 so that you will remember and do all my commandments, and you will be holy for your God.

What did Jesus say about our thoughts and secret desires?

Mat 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
Mat 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Mat 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
Mat 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Mat 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
Mat 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus is giving us examples of evil thoughts and sights. Does anyone still see justification for diminishing this list of Yahweh’s commandments from the Torah that Jesus and the Apostles seem to teach as well? I realize that there are many of these 613 commands that do not apply to someone living outside of the land, or that without temple or Levite priest system many of these commands cannot be followed. Do we scoff at the whole list because some are no longer possible to carry out? Jesus did not. These above verses from Matthew, chapter five show that Jesus was not making up something new at all. Jesus repeats what His Father does and explains its meaning. John 5:19: So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. Let’s continue with commands regarding the poor.

• Not to afflict an orphan or a widow (Exodus 22:21)
• Not to reap the entire field (Leviticus 19:9; Leviticus 23:22)
• To leave the unreaped corner of the field or orchard for the poor (Leviticus 19:9)
• Not to gather gleanings (the ears that have fallen to the ground while reaping) (Leviticus 19:9)
• To leave the gleanings for the poor (Leviticus 19:9)
• Not to gather ol’loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard (Leviticus 19:10)
• To leave ol’loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard for the poor (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:21)
• Not to gather the peret (grapes) that have fallen to the ground (Leviticus 19:10)
• To leave peret (the single grapes) of the vineyard for the poor (Leviticus 19:10)
• Not to return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deuteronomy 24:19) This applies to all fruit trees (Deuteronomy 24:20) • To leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor (Deuteronomy 24:19-20)
• Not to refrain from maintaining a poor man and giving him what he needs (Deuteronomy 15:7)
• To give charity according to one’s means (Deuteronomy 15:11)

“Not to afflict an orphan or a widow” (Exodus 22:21) sounds like a New Testament principle.

Exo 22:21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Exo 22:22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.
Exo 22:23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry,
Exo 22:24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Paul writes these words to Timothy:

1Ti 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,
1Ti 5:2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
1Ti 5:3 Honor widows who are truly widows.
1Ti 5:4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.

Finally, we will look at some commands that discuss speaking with the dead, witchcraft and idolatry.

• Not to adopt the institutions of idolaters nor their customs (Leviticus 18:3; Leviticus 20:23)
• Not to pass a child through the fire to Molech (Leviticus 18:21)
• Not to suffer any one practicing witchcraft to live (Exodus 22:17)
• Not to practice observing times or seasons as favorable or unfavorable, (using astrology) (Leviticus 19:26)
• Not to practice nachesh [doing things based on signs and portents; using charms and incantations] (Leviticus
• Not to consult ovoth (ghosts) (Leviticus 19:31)
• Not to consult yid’onim (wizards) (Leviticus 19:31)
• Not to practice kisuf (magic using herbs, stones and objects that people use) (Deuteronomy 18:10)
• Not to practice kessem (a general term for magical practices) (Deuteronomy 18:10)
• Not to practice the art of a chover chaver (casting spells over snakes and scorpions) (Deuteronomy 18:11)
• Not to enquire of an ob (a ghost) (Deuteronomy 18:11)
• Not to seek the maytim (dead) (Deuteronomy 18:11)
• Not to enquire of a yid’oni (wizard) (Deuteronomy 18:11)

A point worth mentioning is that these commands were also civil law at the time of Moses. Capital punishment was prescribed for breaking many of these laws. This is not to say we are to go on witch hunts as they did in Salem, Massachusetts. However, it does show the seriousness of these things in the sight of Yahweh. We must remember the curse of the law is death, and the way we can avoid this death is by repenting and putting our faith in Jesus. Salvation is a free gift for those who repent and have faith in Jesus. These commandments show us how to keep from falling back into the ways that are displeasing to Yahweh once we chose to serve Him. We can see the New Testament version of these commands on sorcery and witchcraft in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Gal 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Gal 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
Gal 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
Gal 5:21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Gal 5:23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Gal 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” This passage is often twisted to imply we are not required to behave the way the law commands us to act. It can be taken a couple ways. First, if we are led by the Spirit, we will not desire to do anything below the standard of the law, thus the law does not affect us. It is much like observing the speed limit while driving. We are not affected by the law stating the speed limit until we go faster than the stated speed. The second way we could look at this is that we are no longer under the curse of the law, which is death. Paul wrote, “that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” when writing to the churches of Galatia.

There is no license to break all these commandments of Yahweh, even if a Jewish Rabbi compiled them all in a list. Antisemitism has been woven into the fabric of Christianity for 1700 plus years. It is also the job of the adversary to hide the truth in scripture. Is there a better way to deceive many people than to convince them that they are following Jesus, and at the same time convince them they don’t have to do anything Jesus said to do? Unfortunately, many churches have been used as a tool to do this very thing. We could look at Jesus as our Rabbi who showed us how to properly live out the commands of Yahweh. Jesus was referred to “Rabbi” many times.

Mar 9:5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” English Standard Version

Rabbi is Strong’s G4461 and comes from the Hebrew word Rab, 𐤓𐤁, in the ancient Hebrew pictographic, which means head of the house.

Thayer Definition:
1) my great one, my honourable sir
2) Rabbi, a title used by the Jews to address their teachers (and also honour them when not addressing them)
Part of Speech: noun masculine
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: of Hebrew origin H7227 with pronominal suffix

Here are a few final words from Jesus regarding the commandments:

Rev 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.
Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Rev 22:14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
Rev 22:15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Rev 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

I don’t recommend mocking the commandments of Yahweh. These commandments were given to the people of Yahweh, by Yahweh, so they could lead a righteous, successful life, pleasing to the Almighty God. Jesus and the Apostles reinforced them in the writings of the New Testament for the people of Yahweh in light of the new covenant. Don’t be left outside with the dogs and sorcerers!

Feature image taken by Emma Vail in Welsford, New Brunswick.

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