Hebrew for ‘instruction’ or ‘teaching’. The translation ‘Law’ is too restrictive: there is a body of legal enactments but it is within a corpus of divine revelation and teaching—the whole being known as Torah. In addition to the statutes (Exod. 18: 16) the Torah contains instructions for worship (Lev. 6: 14), sacrificial procedure, right conduct, and precautions to preserve purity (Lev. 10: 10; 14: 57; Deut. 4–7; 11–15; 23). In Deuteronomy the Torah refers to the whole book, all that went to maintain Israel's cultural and religious identity, based on the law book that was allegedly found in the Temple (2 Kgs. 22: 8). Josiah's contemporary, Jeremiah, uses Torah in a wide sense as in Deut., and in the psalms (e.g. Ps. 1: 2) the study of Torah is praised as being the whole point and purpose of existence. Disobedience or neglect would bring exile, disaster, and death, even for kings (Deut. 17: 18–20). In later Judaism the Pentateuch came to be known as the written Torah, while the oral Torah consisted of the traditions that were eventually written in the Mishnah, forming the basis of the Talmud.
Moses is credited with enunciating the Torah (Deut. 4: 44) but subsequently Torah in its widest sense was promulgated by kings, priests, and wise men (Prov. 6: 20). It was a divine revelation and responding to it was the devout Israelite's greatest joy (Ps. 119). In the NT Jesus warns his followers that the precepts of the Law take them only to the threshold of the kingdom: the Law forbade murder; within the kingdom there cannot even exist anger (Matt. 5: 22). Paul regards observance of the Law as the badge of Judaism, from which Christians are released, for Christ alone is the agent of salvation.