Exodus 20:

The Ten Commandments (“The Decalogue,” or deca logos – “the ten words”):
Yahweh makes sure everyone knows that the Ten Commandments do not come from Moses or any human.  He says: “And God spoke all these words, saying,

(1) “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 a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous (“impassioned” is a better translation). God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousandsof those who love me and keep my commandments.”

(2) “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

(3) 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 to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

(5) “You shall not murder.”

(6) “You shall not commit adultery.”

(7) “You shall not steal.”

(8)  “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

(9)  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” [you shall not cover your neighbor’s wife]

(10) “or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” [you shall not cover your neighbor’s goods]

The Ten Commandments are summed up with the words of Jesus, who quoted the Shema from Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12:29-31)  The first three Commandments are for worshiping God, and the next seven Commandments are respecting your neighbor.  The Israelites greatly feared Yahweh as they witnessed Him in the “thunder and lightning, the trumpet blast and the mountain smoking,” and “so they took up a position much farther away.” (Ex. 20:18) Moses answers the people saying, “God has come to you only to test you and put His fear upon you, lest you should sin.”

Moses as Mediator:
The awestruck Israelites beg Moses to speak and mediate for them before Yahweh.  Following the theophany and the Ten Commandments, Moses is instructed in the “Covenant Code” of how to judge all matters related to Israel.  The Ten Commandments offer a general guideline for Israel to follow and established Moses as Yahweh’s regent and arbiter before the people.  Yahweh instructs Moses to make an altar of un-cut stones upon which “you shall sacrifice your holocausts and peace offerings, your sheep and oxen.” (Ex. 20:24)

De-Sexualizing Religion:
Yahweh also tells Moses that when he makes the altar “And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’” (Ex. 20:26)  In the ancient pagan religious cults, sacrifices to the “gods” were often times accompanied by sexual orgies and prostitution. Yahweh here is reiterating in no uncertain terms the de-sexualization of religion.

The Uniqueness of the Ten Commandments:
They are the only example of a covenantal relationship between a deity and an entire people.  The Commandments focus not only on the people’s relationship with their ruler, but morality is also intimately defined by their relationship toward their individual neighbor.  One cannot be moral and holy while treating their neighbor sinfully, thus raising the interpersonal and social moral obligations of each individual.  They are very simple rules and statements.  Not ambiguous or subjective.  They are simple, and absolute.  Yahweh gave the Commandments outside of Israel so as to be binding to all peoples, not just Israel or any one tribe.  They are binding for all peoples in all places and all times.  The Commandments are not relative, but absolute.  Each Commandment is directed to each person individually, addressing each person in Hebrew in the singular to emphasize the personal nature of the obligations.  Yahweh identifies Himself as the liberator of slaves.  And, what God demands in exchange for leading the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt is simply moral behavior.  The proper treatment of their fellow human beings is a foremost on God’s mind.  We are to love God first, but also to love God through loving our neighbor.

Other Insights into the Commandments:
(1) There are many false idols in today’s world.  It is not just a relic from ancient history when people bowed down to carved statues and other “gods.”  People obviously make idols out of many things today which they bow down to worship in effect, such as: money, sex, materialism, status in society, etc.

(2) Yahweh declares if anyone takes His name in vain that He will not them “hold guiltless” (Hebrew word y’nakeh), or in effect, if they sully God’s name then God will not cleanse their name.  One can think of Jesus’ statement about future persecution saying: “the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2) Not only are they breaking the fifth commandment to not murder, but they are also taking the name of the Lord God in vain, and in the most perverse way imaginable, by murdering another person in the name of God.  One thinks of the murderous Islamic jihadis killing people in service to Allah while yelling Allahu akbar (“God is great”).

(3) Keeping the Sabbath “holy” is to keep it “separate” or “distinct” (Hebrew kadosh).  The Sabbath is to be set aside and separated from the rest of the work-week.  It is not only work that matters.  God matters too.  We are to honor God in our rest, just as He rested after the six days of creation.  A day of rest, a sacred time, is also when generally speaking family and friends come together.  The Sabbath highlights that man is made for more than just work, but for leisure. Leisure in a philosophical sense of resting one’s body and spirit, enjoying the world.  We partake in leisure of the Sabbath also by worshiping God (we go to Church!) and honoring the family.  The family is the domestic church, which produces and nourishes souls for eternal communion with their Creator.  The family also is Trinitarian in nature.  The love of the husband and wife produces a child, just as out of the love of the Father and the Son comes the Holy Spirit.  The parents are co-creators with God the Creator.  The Sabbath is like a weekly retreat from our lives to reflect on all that we have done.  The Sabbath, or going to church on Sunday, is like a weekly public announcement to the world that God created the world and we are going to honor Him.

(4) The father and mother are co-creators with God.  We honor parents because they gave us life.  Parents then form the building blocks of civilization through having children and establishing families.  Totalitarian regimes and ideologies often times try to tear down the family, so as to assert state or political control over individuals, such as what happened in communist Russia and China.  The building up of families bolsters society and civilization, while the tearing apart of families destroys society and civilization.  How many woes today in society, such as drugs and crime, are brought about by the dissolution of the family?

(5) The Fifth Commandment does not say do not kill, but do not “murder” (Hebrew word for murder is ratzach).  Do not murder innocent people.

(6) Obviously adultery is contradictory to the good of spousal and family life. It threatens the fabric of society and civilization.  It is an offense against the spouse, the family and community at large, and God.  Jesus often spoke of His relationship with the Church as a husband and wife marriage.  Yahweh in the Old Testament also speaks in spousal language between Israel and Himself bound in a Covenantal marriage.  To cheat on ones’ spouse is to mock the sacramental character of the marriage.  It makes a mockery of the sacred union between God and the Church, which marriage is an image of.  Husband and wife mirror Jesus and the Church.  To break the sacramental vow is to sin against the image of Jesus and His Bride.  Yahweh often times chastised the Jews as an unfaithful spouse when they slipped back into idolatry to worship other “gods.”

(7) In His prohibition against stealing, God is affirming the other Commandments.  Do not steal another person’s life, that’s murder.  Do not steal another person’s wife, that’s adultery.  Do not steal another person’s justice or reputation, that’s bearing false witness.  Do not steal another person’s belongings, that’s coveting.  Stealing human beings, such as in human trafficking, kidnapping, and slavery, is forbidden.  In the prohibition about stealing, and coveting your neighbor’s goods, Yahweh is declaring then that ownership and private property are good things. Private ownership is a good thing for people and society.  Tyrannical regimes (such as the Communists and Socialists have done) often times begin oppressing the people by stealing their land and private property. This is an offense against not stealing.

(8) Do not bear false witness means essentially do not lie.  Lying is strictly prohibited.  Jesus very harshly condemned lying saying it is in imitation of the Devil, for “When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)  Many of the great scandals and evils in history have been built upon lies, such as African slavery, Communism, Nazism, anti-Semitism, etc..

(9 & 10) Not coveting your neighbor’s spouse or your neighbor’s goods is prohibited because it leads to more sins, and worse sins, of murder, adultery, theft, lying, etc..  Lust in the heart, if not held in check, can lead to sinful actions.  Jesus knew this, and so, He further warned against even looking lustfully at a woman, “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:28)  The Nine and Tenth Commandments are unique in that they legislate thought, not actions. Jesus reaffirmed this regulation of thought and heart.  We must keep our minds and hearts in check to not covet and to not lust.

The Ten Grumblings of the Israelites in the Wilderness, The Ten Commandments (“Statements”), Ten Utterances at Creation, and The Ten Plagues:
The pattern of ten goes throughout the Exodus. There were ten plagues on the Egyptians, ten grumblings or murmurings in the wilderness by the Israelites, and Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.  These match the ten utterances of God in Genesis on the creation of the universe and the world. This bears witness that Exodus is in fact a type of second creation (or, third creation after Noah and the flood).

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