Book of the Law vs Book of the Covenant

Scripture speaks about the Book of the Law and the Book of the Covenant. Sometimes it is differentiated while other times it is used as interchangeable. To fully understand the Torah, we must first understand the book of the Law and the Book of the Covenant.

Parts of Deuteronomy: Book of the Law

So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;

Deut 31:24-26

The book of the law is between chapters 1 to 31 of Deuteronomy which was written by Moses himself. Then, the scribes finished it after the death of Moses, which we now have as the complete book of Deuteronomy. Moses himself refers to what he was writing in Deuteronomy as the book of the Law in several places – Deut 28:61; Deut 29:21; Deut 30:10.

  • Deut 28:61 “Also every sickness and every plague, which [is] not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed.
  • Deut 29:21 “And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law,
  • Deut 30:10 “if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, [and] if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Parts of Exodus: Book of the Covenant

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” … Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”

Exod 24:7,12

The Book of the Covenant was already in place even before Moses went to the mountain to get the tablets of stone the first time, assuming the book of Exodus is in chronological order. If this is correct, the Book of the Covenant is from Exodus 20:19 to 24:6.

Interchangeable?

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.

2Kgs 22:8

During the time of Josiah, the book of the Law was said to be found which was lost as per chapter 22 of 2nd Kings.

The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem–the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD.

2Kgs 23:2

However, in the next chapter, it was the book of the Covenant that was found. It seems that the term became interchangeable during the time of Josiah, after the book was lost.

Conclusion

During the period of Moses, the following terms refer to the mentioned parts of the books.

  • Book of the Law (Deuteronomy 1 – 31)
  • Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20 – 24)

However, after the evil king Manasseh, it seems both the above was lost and when it was found during the period of Josiah, the term became interchangeable.