This article is part of the series Adventures in Biblical Interpretation.
There are many debates on how to handle the law of the Old Testament. We have many questions. How much of it is binding on us today? What are the specific meanings of certain laws? What is the purpose of the law and how should we take it? There are many other questions. There are all kinds of problems trying to interpret the law.
The Hebrew word for law is Torah. It can mean to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), the specific portions of Law contained within the Pentateuch, or all of Scripture.[1a] The ideal translation for Torah into English is not ‘law’, but ‘instruction’.[1a] This is an important distinction that will be revisited below.
Not all laws in the Torah are of the same kind. For example, there are dietary and purity laws that only apply to Israel, to show their special status to God.[1b] These laws do not apply to Gentiles.[1c] There are laws that only apply to Levites and priests. Because not all laws are the same kind, their relative applicability and importance are not equivalent. Therefore, we can make no specific judgments about a law solely because it is included in the Law portion of the Torah.
For example, this article shows that Genesis 2:23-24 (“shall cleave” and “shall become one flesh”) describes both the act of marriage and sex as equivalent. However, later the claim was made that the rules on a virgin making vows and having sex found in the Law are a valid exception and that the marriage never happened even though sex took place.
“[The father] can’t change the fact that a marriage (sex) took place and the two became one flesh.”
“By definition, the agreements get reviewed *after the fact* and the father has the authority to forbid them…when it comes to the Law of Marriage, this situation is an exception due to the authority of the father.”
This claim says that the there is an exception to the Genesis rules on marriage. A father can make it so that the two were not one flesh even though they had sex, that is, the marriage never happened even long after it did happen. This is absurd. The authority of a father laid out in the Law of the Torah is not able to override the precepts of the designed marriage plan in Genesis, for there is nothing about being in the Law of the Torah that makes it automatically of highest moral authority (see the discussion on the morality of the law below).
Now if, as laid out in Genesis 2:24, a man and virgin woman become one flesh and are married when they have sex, then a father ending the relationship would necessarily be a divorce. In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus replies to a question on divorce by saying that from the beginning (quoting Genesis 2:24) a man and woman have sex and become one flesh, a joining that God brings together that no man may separate. He then explains that divorce was allowed in the Law because their hearts were hard.
Notice what Jesus says: the law permitting divorce is not normative solely by virtue of it being in the Law of the Torah. The existence of a law that permits divorce does not mean that divorce is fine. The Law is just a regulation of things to do or not to do.
Jesus affirmed that God’s design for marriage from the time of Creation up to the giving of the Law was unconditional. When a man and woman have sex, they are married. The father is indeed permitted by the Law to end the marriage, but because Jesus declared that sexual immorality is the only valid reason for divorce, the father should not exercise his legal right to cancel the marriage unless that is the reason.
In response to the definition of “sexual immorality”, another claim was made that pertains to the understanding what Law of the Torah is:
“Immorality is a violation of the Law”
This has already been demonstrated to be false as not all laws in the Law are moral laws, including the purity regulations. Moreover, while much of the law is based on morality, it is not morality itself. One must look at a law and ask what the purpose behind that law is.[2a] While the law regulates things to do and not do, it does not cover every situation or always explain its purpose. This is why the meaning of Torah is best described as “instruction.”
Jesus, in Matthew 18:18 use the terms “binding” and “loosing” to tell his disciples that they would have this authority. This is rabbinical language to permit and forbid teachings of the law. That is, they would be have authoritative explanatory power under God’s direction. Torah is instruction that must be authoritatively explained. Legalistic, that is especially formulaic, explanations must be avoided. This is, of course, why the Rabbis existed in the first place: to explain the Law. There was great disagreement about how to interpret the Law and what actions qualified as a violation of the Law.
Jesus weighed in on a number of these issues. It’s why he taught that the laws on divorce should further restrict divorce. Not because there was a problem with the Law, but because the binding and loosing of the instruction was wrong. The teachers of the Law did not explain it properly. The permissive law on divorce (like the permissive law on a father’s right to cancel his daughter’s marriage) must be subjected to the restrictions set down by God’s initial design.
Some instructions in the Torah are for specific people, times, and places. There are civil, legal, ritual, dietary, priestly, and moral instructions. It would be a great mistake to treat the entire Torah as if it should be interpreted in exactly the same way. The only reason to use a legalistic and simplistic interpretation is if it supports preconceived notions that support a particular doctrine.
 “Paul was Not a Christian.” Pamela Eisenbaum.
 “Binding and Loosing“. Truth or Tradition. Spirit & Truth Fellowship International.
[a] “if a man’s fire got out of control and burned up his neighbor’s crop, he was responsible to replace what was burned (Exod. 22:6). The point of the Instruction (Torah) is not that we are responsible only for fires we cause, but that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions, and must repay people who are hurt by what we do.” — The man is not immoral, but he is responsible.
 See the formal proof: Genesis 2:24 uses ‘dabaq’ (translated ‘shall cleave’). Matthew 19:5-6 quotes Genesis in Greeek using the word ‘kollao’. 1 Corinthians 6:16 uses the term ‘kollao’ in the context of having sex and becoming one flesh with a prostitute. Therefore ‘shall cleave’ must be equivalent to having sex. There is no other marriage ceremony.
 See: Numbers 30:3-5, Exodus 22:16-17, and Deut. 22:28-29.
 Pamela Eisenbaum later argues that not only don’t they apply to Gentiles, but that Paul specifically states that they cannot apply to Gentiles because only those who convert to Judaism are under those Laws. Gentiles have not entered into that covenant with God and therefore have no legal right to the duties and benefits specific to that agreement. In other words, while Gentiles may be God’s children, they are not his special chosen people.
 This is implicit time travel, extreme legalism, and/or hocus-pocus. The man and woman are husband and wife (married by having sex) up to the time when the father of the bride decides to revoke the marriage at his discretion. This could literally be many years later and they may have had children together. At this point, the sex that took place is retroactively undone, they are instantly no longer one flesh, and the marriage never happened. This horribly twisted absurdity is described here in the comment section. It is illustrative of the depths and lengths sometimes taken to justify a particular doctrine.
 Logically at least some, if not all, seduction of a virgin woman must be considered sexual immorality for two reasons. (1) There is an unconditional penalty for the seduction, the payment of the bride price, so we know that something wrong took place; (2) The teaching on divorce was in the law because there existed at least one legitimate use of it (divorce due to sexual immorality), therefore there must be at least one legitimate use of a father’s power to end his daughter’s marriage. Because sexual immorality is the only legitimate reason to end a marriage and the father’s right to end the marriage is optional, then at least some seduction must be immoral. The conclusion, therefore, is either that all ‘premarital sex’ or some seduction (deceiving the woman) is immoral.
 Is it possible that Genesis 2:23-24 is conditional? That is, are there cases where sex does not lead to a joining of flesh? I have not been presented with any argument that proves this but would be eager to hear any possible explanation for this notion.
 Sexual immorality is participating in sexual acts that are immoral or wicked. All sex outside of a husband and wife marriage (which includes the initial sex that created the marriage) is immoral because it is adultery.