Book Review: Digest Of The Divine Law

Digest Of The Divine Law, by Howard B. Rand

When I finished with choir practice and stepped to my seat at the of the middle section of chairs in the room we use for services at our congregation this past Sabbath, this book was on my chair. When I ate dinner after services with the person who gave me the book, the person expressed some impatience about reading the review to the book. Interestingly enough, when I started reading the book this morning, I found that a bookmark had been placed on the page where the author talks about the seventh commandment, which I found to be a very intriguing though a not necessarily personally relevant location, although I thought it not an accidental placement either. At any rate, while I had good motivation to read this book, and to read it fairly quickly, at just over 200 pages of very concise and direct prose, this is a book that is easy to read, and organized in such a straightforward fashion about such important material that it is likely to be an easy book to reread as well as a worthwhile resource for continued reflections on God’s laws and their applications in the contemporary world. Although the printing of the book I have was made slightly more than 30 years ago, the book itself was originally published in the period just after World War II, although given its style it could have easily been written in the Victorian era, except for its reference to the Bretton Woods economic system that was just beginning as the book was published.

The contents of this book are far more concise and to the point than would be expected from such a robust pronomian book. After all, this book is in the same general genre of books as those by Theonomists, though it is far more congenial to biblical thought and far less beholden to mistaken Calvinist theology [1] or bogus and social darwinistic Austrian economics [2], and is therefore a better book than many of the others within the same broad category of books in favor of the universal application and enforcement of God’s laws by a considerable amount. The book is just over 200 pages, including an appendix that speaks out against the use of the gold standard and the continual economic manipulation of central bankers, and the book’s contents are far-ranging and very sound. After an introductory chapter that seeks to define the scope of God’s law as remains important for Christians to follow and that existed before the covenant with Israel at Sinai, the author gives a history of the importance of God’s law throughout biblical history and a critique of Christian anarchists who act without any regard for God’s laws and ways. The author then discusses the importance of the Kingdom of Israel, past and future, in understanding the scope of biblical law, before discussing the importance of God’s laws in providing for the well-being of individuals and families. There are then two chapters that discuss the Ten Commandments, first as they apply to man’s relationship with God (the first five commandments), and the second part as they apply to our relationship with other people (the last five commandments). After this the author discusses three important laws relating to economic systems, the forbidding of interest, and taxation before including pointed and practical chapters on matters like the proper relationship between management and labor, property rights, the organization and administration of government, the judicial system, war and military service, and the king’s instruction to His cabinet, which includes a thoughtful exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount as it applies to the application of God’s laws for Christians today.

Overall, this is a fantastic book. While there are some minor points in which I would quibble about the application of laws, or for the author’s agnostic stance on the proper day of the week on which the Sabbath should be observed, where the author’s discussion seems mainly focused on a particular argument about an unbroken series of Sabbaths going back to the times of Moses, or the question as to whether it is acceptable to eat mushrooms or not, these are very minor quibbles for the most part when considered with the massive agreement, particularly in the overall approach to God’s laws, that can be found in this book. The author is among the few people who has thought seriously about the application of God’s laws to contemporary society [3], and as his thoughts are based on the view that God is the only being who is allowed to make laws, and that all godly law either comes about from direct divine revelation or from judgments of case law that spring from divinely given laws, it is little surprise that he should so consistently hit the mark when it came to applying God’s laws to mankind. The book is old fashioned in the best way–direct, uncompromising, and openly honest, with a clarity of thought and a sober, critical attitude towards contemporary political ideologies that is nonpartisan, except as a partisan of the kingdom of heaven. This is a book that is possibly out of print, but deserves to be read, not least so that readers who are of the same belief system that God’s laws are to be universally applied in the prophetic future can think about some of the applications to God’s laws that can take place today on an individual or congregational and institutional level. It is impossible to guess whether this book had a past influence on the Church of God and its views on the Law, or if this book was influenced by the Church of God, but regardless of which way the influence, if any, lies, this is a book that deserves to be better known today, not least because its warnings about the oppressive nature of contemporary government are so prescient.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/the-five-point-biblical-covenant-model/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/the-trouble-with-goldbugs/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/a-modest-proposal-concerning-business-counseling-and-the-application-of-gods-laws/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/have-you-not-read-in-the-law-that-on-the-sabbath-the-priests-profane-the-sabbath-and-are-blameless/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/on-the-applicability-of-divorce-law-to-the-recognition-of-new-sovereign-states/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/you-shall-not-eat-an-examination-of-the-biblical-food-laws/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/leviticus-19-20-laws-against-mediums/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/the-price-of-honor-an-application-of-exodus-2216-17/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/hebrews-41-11-there-remains-therefore-a-sabbath-rest-for-the-people-of-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/the-difference-between-prohibition-and-regulation/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/exodus-231-19-the-relationship-between-the-sabbath-and-justice/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/deuteronomy-2115-17-if-a-man-has-two-wives/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/leviticus-1928-nor-tattoo-any-marks-on-you/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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