Ten things they don’t know about CommandmentsSeptember 4, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
It’s been a while since the Ten Commandments have come up in the news, but I’m going to go ahead and post this anyway, because you still hear believers spouting off now and then about how the Ten Commandments are supposedly God’s “moral law,” applicable to everybody. What they don’t know is what the Decalogue really is, or what it says. With that in mind, here are 10 Things Most People Don’t Know about the Ten Commandments.
1. The original Hebrew word for “commandments” is mitzvah (as in bar mitzvah, right).
2. Nowhere in the original Hebrew Scriptures is there ever a reference to “ten commandments” (mitzvah).
3. There is no New Testament reference to “Ten Commandments” either.
4. Where modern English translations say “Ten Commandments,” the Hebrew word being used is dabar, which means “discourses,” or “decrees,” or “accounts.” (The title of I and II Chronicles uses the word dabar for “chronicles”.)
5. None of the commandments in Exodus 20 is ever referred to as being “the First Commandment” or “the Second Commandment” or “the Nth Commandment” (with the possible exception of “honor thy father and mother,” which Paul refers to as “the first commandment with a promise”).
6. None of the commandments referred to as being “the First Commandment” or “the Second Commandment” comes from Exodus 20 (or the parallel passage in Deut. 4).
7. The phrase “Ten Commandments” was not used to describe Exodus 20 until some time in the late Middle Ages.
8. There are not “ten commandments” in Exodus 20. Exodus 20 contains 17 specific injunctions, grouped together under 9 distinct topics: (1) forbidding idolatry, (2) forbidding blasphemy, (3) requiring 6 days of work and one of rest, (4) requiring honor for parents, (5) forbidding murder, (6) forbidding adultery, (7) forbidding stealing, (8) forbidding bearing false witness, and (9) forbidding coveting.
9. There are Ten Discourses between Exodus 20, where God began giving His commandments from Mt. Sinai, to Exodus 31, where it says God gave Moses the 2 stone tablets with the Decalogue written on them.
I. Ex 20:1 “Then God spoke all these words, saying…” through Ex 20:17.
II. Ex 20:22 “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel…” through Ex 20:26.
III. Ex 21:1 “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them…” through Ex 23:33.
IV. Ex 25:1 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying…” through Ex 30:10.
V. Ex 30:11 “The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying…” through Ex 30:16.
VI. Ex 30:17 “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying…” through Ex 30:21.
VII. Ex 30:22 “Moreover, the LORD spoke to Moses, saying…” through Ex 30:33.
VIII. Ex 30:34 “Then the LORD said to Moses…” through Ex 30:38.
IX. Ex 31:1 “Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying…” through Ex 31:11.
X. Ex 31:12 “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying…” through Ex 31:17.
10. These commandments include provisions for putting people to death for working on Saturday, and selling your daughters into sexual slavery. It also instructs Hebrew slave owners on how to beat their slaves to death without being guilty of murder. (Keep the poor devil alive for 3 days, and you’re off the hook.) And, of course, animal sacrifice.
So the next time someone tells you they think the Ten Commandments need to be in our public courts or other government functions, ask them just how much they know, really, about the original Decalogue.