Faith Before the Ten Commandments

What was Judaism before Judaism?

Okay, so imagine you’re about to play a board game, say Sorry, or Clue, or something. Something you know – not Monopoly because no one actually knows how to play that. Something with nice, organized rules.

Except then someone comes along and rips those rules out of your hand and tells you to start over and make a prequel.

“What?” you’re asking. “What are you on? What’s a prequel game?” (Some of you may in fact be asking, “What’s a prequel?”)

Okay, so, first off. A prequel is the opposite of a sequel. It is a story presented as the originator or backstory of a more well-known, previously published story.

Therefore, a prequel must set down certain rules or plot points, and you must be able to see as a member of the audience how this prequel logically sets up the story you already know.

SO, back to the prequel game.

What you are effectively being asked to do is create a game with rules, whose rules logically could transition, change, and grow over time into the game you’re familiar with.

This was me in trying to write Not by Sight: The Story of Joseph.

Because, GUESS WHAT FOLKS.

Joseph is considered a patriarch of the Jewish people and Jewish faith (and, therefore, the Christian faith). But, he lived around 400 years before the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament Law, and all those things that were the hallmarks of the Jewish faith, ever existed.

Joseph’s story as told in the Bible is a story steeped in the theme of faith through adversity, and I was completely gung ho and ready to dive in, until I realized I was going to have to construct the “prequel” to Judaism.

My head hurts just thinking about it again.

But something I realized early on was pretty key.

It turned out that the most important thing for me to wrap my head around was that just because I basically only had the book of Genesis available to me timeline-wise out of the all the books of the Bible, it did not mean that everything else went out the window.

You don’t write a prequel by completely ignoring the original. You have to know the original so that you can create foreshadowing and all that other nifty literary stuff.

So, I looked at what I had technically and I looked at what I didn’t have (technically).

What I had was Genesis. Basically anything in there was fair game. Unfortunately, that made some things pretty confusing. Because God never really sits down with anyone in Genesis and goes: “Okay, humanity, here’s how it should be …” Genesis is full of accounts of people serving God and falling away from God and utterly rejecting God, but since it was recorded for the first time in tandem with the Old Testament Law, there’s not much recorded by way of rules. Basically, people are just supposed to worship God and not worship idols. Aside from that, there’s mention of food-based sacrifices but no set rules for how and when to perform them. Sodom and Gomorrah are completely hedonistic, rape-based cultures, and we are told that they’re awful places. And lastly, we have this verse:

“Abram [also known as Abraham] believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

So basically, Genesis boils down to:

  • Believe God (God talks to a lot of people in Genesis, so at this point this would just mean: “follow God’s directions when He gives them to you”)
  • Don’t worship idols

If I could insert an emoji here it would be the gritted-teeth-guy.

Because HERE’S THE OTHER BIG PROBLEM FOLKS.

God never talks to Joseph. Not once. But somehow he turns into this super faith-filled guy? I was left scratching my head.

So I turned to what I didn’t have, which was basically the entire rest of the Bible, and, in a bit of desperation, I looked for little phases, wordings of the type that could have been passed down from generation to generation with an origin in the times of Genesis, only to be written down later on.

Because, I figured, God talks to a lot of people in Genesis, but he doesn’t talk to everyone. People must be sharing God’s instructions with each other.

So I edited the first rule:

  • Believe God: Follow God’s directions when He gives them to you, or someone you know (if applicable)

It still wasn’t a lot to work with, but it was something.

The phrases from other parts of the Old Testament (not Genesis) that I felt could have been passed down were:

“ … And what does the LORD require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“ … His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

These little bits of wisdom and knowledge, coupled together with the stories Joseph would have heard of God from his father and forefathers, created a strong enough “prequel” to Judaism, one that I felt could logically serve as the basis for faith in this story.

When you read it, I hope you’ll agree!

Do you have any specific questions you want me to answer? Topics you want me to cover? Comment below and I’ll answer, or even make a post on it! Also, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @headdeskliz .

Published by headdeskliz

Elizabeth Jacobson is the author of Not by Sight: The Story of Joseph. She lives and teaches in sunny California and loves fantasy, science fiction, and historically-based Christian fiction. She has multiple other titles in the works.

2 thoughts on “Faith Before the Ten Commandments

  1. Did your research into Genesis-era proto-Judaism include a look at the relationship between Abraham and Melchizedek? It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it passage in Genesis 14, but I personally find it very interesting.

    He is said to be a Canaanite priest-king and his name translates to “my king is Zedek”, with Zedek being both the name of a Canaanite deity and the Canaanite word for righteousness. The passage said he served “the most high God” (the English translation of El Elyon, a phrase of Canaanite origin that is often used in the Old Testament to refer to God) and offer Abraham his blessings after a victorious battle.

    Though his appearance is brief, later writers in the Psalms and in the New Testament refer to him as an important figure who laid the foundations for the Judeo-Christian priesthood tradition that King David and ultimately Jesus himself inherited, and outside the Bible some Christian writers have gone so far as to consider him to be an early appearance of Jesus!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That moment is so interesting!

      I took it into account, but I didn’t feel there was much I could do with it because the moment is so unusual. One of the most fascinating things about it is that he was both king and priest, which ended up being impossible in Israel once Old Testament Law and the Israelite kings both came into existence. The kings must be from the line of David (tribe of Judah) and the priests must be from the Line of Aaron (tribe of Levi).

      The idea that he was an appearance of Jesus doesn’t fly with me, but since Jesus is both King and Priest, I think it is a very purposeful moment showing that there *was* such a think in the deep past, and that Jesus renewed that idea.

      Liked by 1 person

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