EVIDENCE OF ORAL TORAH IN THE BIBLE
Dr. Paul Manuel—2016
When Christians think about Old Testament law, they often consider only the Decalogue, but the people of Israel had one of the most detailed legal codes in the Ancient Near East (613 precepts in the Pentateuch alone by rabbinic count). These regulations covered many aspects of life—religious and secular—for many classes of people—priests, merchants, farmers, kings. Because even such an extensive list cannot encompass every contingency, including new situations, there arose a need to supplement the list with additional laws. Hence, two legal corpuses developed, one written and another oral. Written law, the main legal body, was copied and recopied. Oral law, a lessor legal body (with varying degrees of authority), was memorized and transmitted by word of mouth. Consequently, what was written was more enduring, whereas what was oral was less enduring (until some of it was codified, first in the Mishnah). Still, remnants of oral law remain even today, as do later additions to meet new situations.
I. Early evidence of Oral Torah (in the Old Testament)
A. Some unwritten laws existed alongside the written law.There are hints in Written Torah of an Oral Torah that was transmitted with it. Two passages in particular suggest that God revealed more details to His people about what He expected than what Moses recorded:
If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exod 21:22-27)Oral Torah explains that the second group of infractions has a greater monetary fine.
Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel (Num 15:38).Oral Torah explains that the blue dye come from a particular mollusk.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads (Deut 11:18).Oral Torah explains the construction of tefillin.
If the place where the LORD your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you... (Deut 12:21).Oral Torah details the various requirements for ritual slaughter.
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house (Deut 24:1).Oral Torah details the various requirements for certifying divorce.
These laws came originally to Moses with additional information that explained how God's people should implement them.