The first five books of the Bible, in the Old Testament, are collectively referred to as Moses’ Law. It’s also called the Pentateuch, the Torah, the “Book of the Law,” or simply “The Law.” This ancient Scripture records the development of Israel as a nation, as well as the laws God gave them for fulfilling their destiny as his people.
Genesis records the early history of the world and the establishment of Abraham’s descendants as the nation of God. It follows Israel’s first four generations, from Abraham to the twelve patriarchs of Israel, ending with their settlement in Egypt. It also includes accounts of creation, the first sin, the worldwide flood with Noah’s ark, and Babel’s tower to heaven.
Exodus records Israel’s flight from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt. It also details God’s covenant with them as a nation.
Leviticus lays out instructions on holiness.
Numbers records 40 years of wandering in the desert and how Israel’s territory should be divided once they got there.
Deuteronomy records final commands to serve God as Israel prepared to enter their promised land.
These books served as the foundation for Jewish government, law, religion, and culture. Additionally, Moses’ Law dictated what was clean and unclean. God called Israel to be holy (set apart) for himself, and, as such, Israel’s rules about external purity were outward signs of that inward holiness. Specific uncleanliness was described in Moses’ Law.
Eating or handling certain animals, such as ravens, vultures, eagles, owls, hares, pigs, camels, mice, bats, lizards, shellfish, and all insects except locusts. Other animals were implied based on general characteristics, such as alligators, cats, dogs, horses, squid, snakes, and turtles.
People with certain physical conditions, such as menstrual periods, leprosy, open sores, post-childbirth, and having any discharge from the body.
Touching the dead bodies of both people and animals. Even the tent that a dead body was found in was considered unclean.
Purification rituals were detailed for all unclean conditions, which typically involved a period of social isolation, sprinkling of water or blood, immersion in water, and/or offering sacrifices to become clean again. These regulations about cleanliness were the cornerstone of Israel’s religious rituals.