More on the Post-Moses Era Possibly Not Knowing about Moses’ Torah 


As I previously stated,[1] scholars insist that there is no indication in the biblical books that the Israelites knew about Moses’s Torah or observed the laws contained in it until the time of King Josiah (641–609 BCE). An example is the Mishkan which was a core element of the religious practices according to the Five Books of Moses but is not mentioned in post-Pentateuch books.


                                                    Did the Mishkan Exist in the Post-Moses Eras?

Exodus 25 begins an extensive description of the tabernacle that Moses built in the desert, a dwelling used for religious inspiration and sacrifices. The Torah emphasizes that the building, called Mishkan in Hebrew, based on the root s-k-n meaning “dwelling,” and suggesting the divine dwelling place,[2] was directed by God who described precisely how it and the implements placed in it were to be constructed.[3] The careful description of the Mishkan details makes it clear beyond cavil that the Mishkan was a significant part of early Israelite history, the focus of Israelite worship. Yet there is only one possible, but debatable, mention of the Mishkan outside of the Five Books of Moses.

Arnold Ehrlich[4] and others argue that the authors of the subsequent biblical books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, the prophets, and the others, knew nothing of the Mishkan and Moses’s Five Books, and that various documents were composed, as Bible critics contend, around the time of the second Temple and were assembled into the Five Books by Ezra in the fourth century BCE.

Ehrlich does not mention Joshua 22:19, the only source that has the word Mishkan. The Israelite leaders tell the tribes that remained in Transjordan to reconsider and settle in Canaan, “the land of the possession of the Lord where dwells the Mishkan of the Lord.” In support of Ehrlich, this is most likely not a reference to Moses’ tabernacle: the term Mishkan here could be a poetic repetition of shakhan, “dwells,” which has the same root and precedes it, and should be

translated, “where dwells the dwelling of the Lord,” and means “you should settle in Canaan, God’s land.”

Ehrlich’s observation about apparent ignorance of the Mishkan reflects to the more disturbing problem that I mentioned in my earlier discussion. The Five Books of Moses have many laws, traditionally 613 commandments mandated by God. Yet there is no mention of Moses’s Five Books or the divine commands in any of the subsequent biblical volumes until the seventh century BCE. This absence seems to verify the critique of the Bible critics. If Joshua, the judges, Samuel, and the other biblical figures such as the prophets knew of the Torah commands, why is there no mention of them? Since Jews feel that the commands are or should be an integral part of their lives, why is there no incident describing any of the post-Moses Israelite leaders observing laws such as the Sabbath and keeping kosher? Why, for example, does Boaz go through a levirate marriage procedure in the book Ruth that is different than the one mentioned in the Five Books? Why when prophets such as Amos, Hosea, and Micah and leaders such as Joshua and Samuel criticize the people for many wrongs the people committed focus on immoral acts and never mention that they failed to observe the Torah of Moses; and why are there some things in these books that are contrary to the Torah?

There are many dozens of examples that can be cited that seem to indicate that the post-Moses Israelites knew nothing about Moses’ Torah. For example, I Samuel 2 raises this question: The priest Eli’s sons committed many wrongs and a prophet, called ish elohim, appeared to Eli and goes into some detail in delineating the wrongs committed by his sons, yet he does not mention that they violated the law of the Torah regarding sacrifices which was their primary offense.[5]

Also, verse 2:18 states that Samuel wore a linen ephod. The Torah has only the high priest wear the ephod, not an ordinary priest and certainly not a non-priest.[6] The same problem exists in II Samuel 6:14 which states that King David donned an ephod. Neither Samuel nor David were priests.

Another of many examples from Samuel is that 3:3 describes Samuel sleeping “in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was.” The rabbis pointed out that this was not allowed and amended the text.[7] The Targum, for instance, states that he slept in the chamber of the Levites, and Gersonides wrote that he slept in an adjacent room, both saying what is contrary to the plain reading of Samuel 3:3.

In Samuel 7, to site another of many examples, the people demanded that Samuel appoint a king to rule over them. Samuel did not want to do it and only agreed when God told him to accept the people’s demand. Why didn’t the people and God say to Samuel that the Torah explicitly allows the appointment of a king?

Why were the people surprised when a book of the Bible was discovered in the seventh century BCE which prompted King Josiah to reform the religious practices in Judea?[8] Was this, as Bible critics argue, when a part of the Five Books was developed?


[1] In my essay “Did the Generation of Post-Moses Israelites Know about the Torah?”

[2] 25:8.

[3] 25:9.

[4] In Mikra ki-Pheschuto.

[5] Leviticus 7:34 which states that the priests’ share was the breast and right thigh, and Leviticus 3:3ff which states that nothing should intervene between the giving of the offering and the burning of parts that are set aside for God.  Eli’s sons violated these laws.

[6] Exodus 28:6ff is understood to say that only the high priest wore the ephod.

[7] Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 78b and Tanchuma Leviticus 6:2

[8] A story told in II Kings 22–23 and II Chronicles 34–35