Spirit

The Ten Commandments?

As I was studying the Ten Commandments (impress your friends by referring to them as the Decalogue) I realized something… I have no idea which commandments are the ten commandments. I actually knew this a long time ago, but it hit me like a ton of bricks just recently.

Here are the ten commandments (From Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5):

  1. v.3 You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. v.4-6 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  3. v.7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
  4. v.8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
  5. v.12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
  6. v.13 You shall not murder.
  7. v.14 You shall not commit adultery.
  8. v.15 You shall not steal.
  9. v.16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. v.17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

At least, that is the protestant version of the ten… this is what Catholics think are the ten:

  1. v.2-6 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  2. v.7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
  3. v.8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
  4. v.12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
  5. v.13 You shall not murder.
  6. v.14 You shall not commit adultery.
  7. v.15 You shall not steal.
  8. v.16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  9. v.17a You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
  10. v.17b You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Why the difference? Well as I was studying this I decided to count how many “commands” are found in these passages. From my count there are ten “You shall not,” one “You shall have no,” one “Remember,” and one “Honor your Father and Mother.” That makes 13 possible commands that we need to fit into a nice 10 commandment mold. Scripture clearly tells us that God “writeth on the tables the matters of the covenant — the ten matters.” (Exodus 34:28 YLT, sim. Deuteronomy 4:13) — I chose the YLT here because it seems to be the one translation with the least amount of translation baggage. Another possible translation is “ten words” or “ten things” (it is the very broad Hebrew word – דבר)

What if the “ten commandments” that we quote are not at all the ten matters/words/things that were written on the tablet? Is there anything in Scripture that links Exodus 34:28 with what we recognize as the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20?

Perhaps Exodus 34’s context (v.10-28) sheds a little more light on what was actually written on the tablets:

And He saith, ‘Lo, I am making a covenant: before all thy people I do wonders, which have not been done in all the earth, or in any nation, and all the people in whose midst thou art have seen the work of Jehovah, for it is fearful that which I am doing with thee. Observe for thyself that which I am commanding thee to-day: lo, I am casting out from before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite; take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitant of the land into which thou art going, lest it become a snare in thy midst; for their altars ye break down, and their standing pillars ye shiver, and its shrines ye cut down; for ye do not bow yourselves to another god — for Jehovah, whose name is Zealous, is a zealous God. Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitant of the land, and they have gone a-whoring after their gods, and have sacrificed to their gods, and one hath called to thee, and thou hast eaten of his sacrifice, and thou hast taken of their daughters to thy sons, and their daughters have gone a-whoring after their gods, and have caused thy sons to go a-whoring after their gods; a molten god thou dost not make to thyself. The feast of unleavened things thou dost keep; seven days thou dost eat unleavened things, as I have commanded thee, at an appointed time, the month of Abib: for in the month of Abib thou didst come out from Egypt. All opening a womb are Mine, and every firstling of thy cattle born a male, ox or sheep; and the firstling of an ass thou dost ransom with a lamb; and if thou dost not ransom, then thou hast beheaded it; every first-born of thy sons thou dost ransom, and they do not appear before Me empty. Six days thou dost work, and on the seventh day thou dost rest; in ploughing-time and in harvest thou dost rest. And a feast of weeks thou dost observe for thyself; first-fruits of wheat-harvest; and the feast of in-gathering, at the revolution of the year. Three times in a year do all thy males appear before the Lord Jehovah, God of Israel; for I dispossess nations from before thee, and have enlarged thy border, and no man doth desire thy land in thy going up to appear before Jehovah thy God three times in a year. Thou dost not slaughter with a fermented thing the blood of My sacrifice; and the sacrifice of the feast of the passover doth not remain till morning: the first of the first-fruits of the land thou dost bring into the house of Jehovah thy God; thou dost not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.’ And Jehovah saith unto Moses, ‘Write for thyself these words, for, according to the tenor of these words I have made with thee a covenant, and with Israel.’ And he is there with Jehovah forty days and forty nights; bread he hath not eaten, and water he hath not drunk; and he writeth on the tables the matters of the covenant — the ten matters. (Exodus 34:10-28 YLT)

(UPDATE: I realized I had quoted the NASB, I decided to continue with the more wooden YLT for this post, in order to reduce any confusion it may cause when using the word ‘commandment’)

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