Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ten Commandments are where?

The Ten Commandments of the Bible aren't where or what most Christians are taught. Normally, most Christians believe that the Ten Commandments is at Exodus 20: 1-17. However, these verses are neither identified as the Ten Commandments, nor are they just ten commandments. These verses are at the head of a whole series of commandments that go on and on about building an alter to God, how to treat slaves, family matters, national matters, etc.

So what? Well, there is only one set of ten commandments that are labelled as the Ten Commandments in the Bible. These are found at Exodus 34: 12-28. Here's the confusing part, Deuteronomy 4: 13 and 10: 3-4 mention the Ten Commandments by name, but do not identify their contents. However Deuteronomy 5: 7-21 does list a set of commandments that mirrors Exodus 20: 1-17, though with somewhat different words. Also, neither Exodus 20: 1-17 nor Deuteronomy 5: 7-21 has a list that adds up to ten. It is really eleven, or even just nine depending how one reads the texts, but definitely not ten.

So, there are three different lists which are purported to be the Ten Commandments. The ten commandments found at Exodus 34: 12-28 is official Ten Commandments in the Bible. However, one will never find this Ten Commandments on display in front a Church, Courthouse or anywhere else that claims to represent God. Why? The answer lies in comparing each (from New American Standard Bible):


Red: Deuteronomy 5: 7-21 (eleven commandments)
Blue: Exodus 20: 1-17 (also eleven commandments)

I.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall have no other gods before Me.

IIa.
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 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.

IIb.
You shall not worship them or serve [idols]
You shall not worship them or serve [idols]
(This commandment is often not counted because it's essentially a repeat of the first two. However, it could also be argued that these first three commandments are really one commandment being explained three different ways. Of course that means there are only nine commandments here; not ten or eleven)

III.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain

IIII.
Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy [to remember you where slaves in Egypt]
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 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.
(Notice the justification for this commandment is significantly different between the two versions.)

V.
Honor your father and your mother
Honor your father and your mother

VI.
You shall not murder.
You shall not murder.

VII.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not commit adultery.

VIII.
You shall not steal.
You shall not steal.

VIIII.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

X.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
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.
Those two versions are very similar to each other, but do have an interestingly different explanation for why the Sabbath should be kept. Now compare these to the commandments that are officially labelled as the Ten Commandments. This list can be tedious since it provides so much explanation for some of the commandments, so I've bolded each within its context.

Green: Exodus 34: 12-28

I.
Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim --for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God-- otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods.

II.
You shall make for yourself no molten gods.

III.
You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt.

IIII.
The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.

V.
You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest.

VI.
You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.

VII.
Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God.

VIII.
You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning.

VIIII.
You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God.

X.
You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.
Wow, the official Ten Commandments don't make much sence in modern context. In fact, the last five are kinda creepy. I can understand why the Churches ignore this official set of Ten Commandments in favor of the much easier to follow lists elsewhere in the Bible. However, this picking and choosing which verses to use and which to hide is yet another example of the hypocrisy that seethes from organized religion and a very good reason not to have their ten commandments plastered in front of our Courthouses and government buildings.

3 comments:

Jason Hughes said...

Wow...

This s the first time I've ever even seen such a post about the ten commandments in this context--nice work!! I'm going to have to look into this further!!!

Jonathan Tooker said...

How did he absolutely rule out the possibility that the commandments might add to 10 by letting the first one be about Gods and the 2a and 2b being a second one about idols?

Matthew Lorono said...

Making something and using something are two separate acts. You can use something without making it, and you can make something without using it. This really is two separate commandments. A modern example is how many laws regulate the manufacturing of cars, and a whole separate set of laws regulate how you use a car. Considering traffic laws as being the same as manufacturing laws is pretty silly.

Overall, this issue points out the flaws of using the Exodus 20 list as the "10 commandments".