Q. What are the Seven Noahide Laws and to whom do they apply?
As enumerated in Tractate Sanhedrin 56a in the Babylonian Talmud and explained by Maimonides (Hil. Melachim chapter 9), they are:
1. Do not worship idols.
2. Do not curse God.
3. Do not murder.
4. Do not commit immoral sexual acts.
5. Do not rob, steal money, or kidnap.
6. Establish courts of justice: judges and magistrates must exist in each district to administer the Noahide laws.
7. Do not eat a limb or flesh from a living animal.
The Rambam relates (Mel. 9:1) that the first six of these laws were given to Adam. The seventh was promulgated to Noah after the Flood, when mankind was given permission to kill animals for meat (Gen. 9:3-4).
It is unclear why all the seven are termed the “Seven Mitzvot of the Sons of Noah” or the “Seven Noahide Laws”, for the first six were taught to Adam, not Noah. Perhaps it is because Adam represented the first genesis of man, Noah the second. Noah became the progenitor of mankind after the Flood and thus every gentile is called a “son of the covenant of Noah”.
An English rabbi, Solomon Schonfeld, explains in his book, “The Universal Bible”: “It was the failure of anti-diluvian mankind to observe even these seven basic laws which brought destruction to the world. After the deluge Noah’s descendants were given a second chance. Thus… (we term the laws) the Teaching for the Sons of Noah”.
The Rambam categorically states that “all who accept the Seven Mitzvot and are careful in observing them, are counted among the pious of the peoples of the world and have a portion in the World to Come” (8:11).