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I am aware that Ramba"m lists the commandment of "Be fruitful and multiply" (Breishit 1) as being the first mitzvah listed in the Torah (See Minyan Hamitzvot #212). However, this mitzvah is not one of the 7 Noahide mitzvoth.

Prior to the flood, there was nothing as the 7 Noahide commandments. Yet, we see that G-d was angry at Kayin for murdering his brother, Hevel. Was Kayin supposed to know that murder was forbidden? There were no explicit commandments as such!

Likewise, mankind (except for Noach and his family) was destroyed in the flood, partially because of idolatrous worship (See Rash"i on Bresihit 6:10). Why were these people punished if there was no explicit Noahide law directing them against idolatry?

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According to Rambam in Mishne Torah (Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamot 9:1) there was 6 laws prior to Noah and they were given to Adam (includind the prohibition of idolatry and murder). Therefore, yes there was knowledge of such laws since Adam, they did not were instituted only after Noah, but confirmed at his time with the addition of a 7th one.

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all the rational precepts dictated by reason/conscience were binding as brought down in chovos halevavos gate 3

Whoever considers G-d's bounties, bestowed upon him, which are in common with all other human beings, will faithfully accept the obligation of the service of G-d in the ways indicated by his intellect. Whoever reflects on the Creator's special bounties to him by which his nation has been distinguished from other nations, will faithfully accept the special obligation to obey the precepts that are binding on his people, on the authority of the Torah (i.e. the received commandments in the torah) and which are not binding on other peoples (except the 7 commandments of Bnei Noach).

I heard a shiur a while back from Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt'l who explained "derech eretz kadma l'torah" (derech eretz preceded torah) to mean the world existed and was judged solely on derech eretz (common sense ethics) before the torah was given.

  • Great answer. Follow-up, thought, though. End of parshat Breishit (or is it in Noach) says that the "inclination of man is EVIL from his youth". Would that not contradict Chovot Halevavot's statement? – DanF Oct 8 '15 at 18:43
  • @DanF not sure i understand your point. why would it contradict? – ray Oct 10 '15 at 18:03
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/81232 – msh210 Mar 30 '17 at 23:19

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