Was the Law of Moses given by the LORD, or by angels?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Exodus chapters 19-34—the giving of the Law of Moses so he could give it to the nation Israel—describe the LORD Himself talking with Moses face-to-face on Mount Sinai. Notice these three brief summaries. Exodus 31:18: “And he [the LORD] gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” Exodus 32:15-16: “[15] And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. [16] And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.” Exodus 34:1: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.”

After reading the above verses, some have experienced great difficulty with the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 3:19: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” I have actually received complaints from people who claim that Paul here contradicted Moses’ words written centuries earlier. They argue that Paul did not know his Old Testament Scriptures. (Some have gone so far as to say Paul lied!) Here, Paul claimed angels, rather than the LORD, had given the Law to Moses. Well, which is it—the LORD, or angels? Is Paul challenging what Moses wrote? In this Bible study, we will ignore the worthless conjecture and just let the Bible speak for itself.

No doubt about, friends, that Exodus is completely silent about angels being on Mount Sinai with Moses during the time he received the Law. That being said, is Galatians 3:19 automatically a mistake? Is this proof that Paul was a false prophet? (This is the conclusion of those who complain about this matter. They are not really interested in letting the Bible speak for itself. In fact, I am going to be so bold as to say that their real purpose is nothing more than to discredit Paul’s apostleship in whatever underhanded way they can. Let me show you how they actually pick on Paul, but never bother to mention other people in the Bible agree with Paul. Angels were most definitely present with Moses on Mount Sinai. Here are the non-Pauline verses to prove it!)

When the Prophet Stephen stood before Israel’s national leadership in Acts chapter 7, he spoke for just over 50 verses. Read this chapter in your time, my friend. It is an extensive “Old Testament” layout of Israel’s history—beginning with her origins in Abraham, all the way up to the time of Christ’s earthly ministry (which had concluded a year prior to Acts chapter 7). In that sermon, Stephen covered about 2,000 years of Jewish history. He stressed something important at the end. Israel’s religious leaders were so infuriated that they stoned him to death! Just before they violently massacred him, he mentioned the Law of Moses (religion is a most dangerous topic to mention!).

Stephen said to Israel’s national leadership, Acts chapter 7: “[51] Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. [52] Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: [53] Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. [54] When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”

The Holy Spirit speaking through Stephen told Israel about their betrayal and murder of Messiah. Instead of receiving and believing the Lord Jesus, they handed Him over to the Gentiles/Romans for crucifixion (which punishment was reserved for the most wicked criminals). Above all, Israel had failed to keep the Mosaic Law, that which depicted the righteousness of the God-Man they had just sentenced to death! But, my friends, I want you to stop and look closely at verse 53: Who have received the law by the disposition [instrumentality] of angels, and have not kept it.” Like I said earlier, we let the Bible speak for itself. The Holy Spirit through Stephen thought angels were involved with the giving of the Law. I have no problem believing what the Holy Spirit said here. Do you? (Then, we cannot make an issue of Paul saying the same thing!)

In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 2, we read: “[1] Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. [2] For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; [3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him….”

There is no question that the writer of Hebrews is here referring to the Law of Moses by using the expression, the word spoken by angels was stedfast.” The phrase “and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward” is a description of those who disobeyed the Law of Moses. The Mosaic Law was at the heart of Israel’s religion, and those who violated it suffered various punishments (from paying fines to death by stoning!). Stop again and think, my friend. Who did the writer of Hebrews assume played a role in Moses’ receiving of the Law? Angels! (Again, I have no problem believing what the Holy Spirit claims here. Do you? Therefore, we cannot make an issue of Paul saying the same thing!)


My dear friends, here is what we must understand about this matter. People who complain about Paul’s declaration of angels giving the Law (Galatians 3:19) ignore the fact that Stephen (Acts 7:53) and the writer of Hebrews (2:2) agree with Paul! These ignorant people do not know enough about the Bible to comment on it, and yet they remark about it anyway. Are they actually reading and studying their Bibles before making these shameful, malicious, reckless claims? Of course not! (And they accuse Paul of not knowing the Bible?!?) Having a blind prejudice against the Apostle Paul—which Satan encourages, no doubt!—people will malign him and pick up on the silliest of issues. If they are this busy focusing on such hair-splitting topics, no wonder they do not have time for serious Bible study! They will criticize Paul when he speaks on this matter, but they will not complain about Stephen’s wording or Hebrews’ wording that agrees with Paul’s statement. This is most unfair, and is borderline dishonesty.

What the above faultfinders fail to realize, or just refuse to apply to Paul like they do with the rest of Scripture, is that the Bible is a progressive revelation. (God commonly withholds information in one Bible book only to reveal it many years later in another Bible book. The technical term for this feature is “subsequent narrative.”) While Moses never wrote about such angels in Exodus, it is important to note he did not deny they were there. The Holy Spirit simply did not see fit to reveal that information in Exodus. Historically, the Holy Spirit revealed to Stephen first about angels being present with Moses on Sinai. The Holy Spirit then showed it to Paul when he was writing Galatians 3:19 (years after Stephen and Acts chapter 7). God the Holy Spirit also revealed it to the writer of the Hebrews. If Paul was wrong, we must also toss out Acts and Hebrews!

Exactly what capacity those angels served in giving the Law to Israel, we cannot be sure because the Bible never explicitly shows us. (Those angels were most definitely there as witnesses, to say the least.) Furthermore, it is not bizarre that angels were instrumental in giving the Law to Moses so he could then pass it on to Israel. Many times in Scripture, God sent angels to provide light and understanding to people (Genesis 16:7-13; Exodus 3:1-22; 1 Kings 19:5-7; Daniel 9:20-37; Matthew 2:13; Luke 2:9-15; Revelation 22:8; et cetera). Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that angels, from Genesis through the Revelation, are intricately involved in God’s dealings with Israel.

One more thing, my friends, before we wrap this up. Just because angels were involved in its delivery did not mean the Mosaic Law was less serious. Remember, “…the word spoken by angels was stedfast [firm, of force, sure]…” (Hebrews 2:2). Although angels were instrumental in its ratification, the Mosaic Law was still the Word of God, “the work of God… the writing was the writing of God… written with the finger of God.” Those angels had been given divine authority. When we consider Exodus, Acts, Galatians, and Hebrews as one giant unified testimony, we conclude that angels cooperated with the LORD in giving the Law to Moses so he could give it to Israel. Friends, let us believe the words of the Bible, and let its critics be wrong.

Also see:
» Do Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 contradict each other?
» Was the Apostle Paul a false prophet?
» Did Paul quote verses out of context in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1?