Monday, 27 July 2020

Friday, 24 July 2020

Numbering the 10 Commandments

God gives the ten commandments in Exodus and reiterates them in Deuteronomy. They are alluded to elsewhere in Scripture but they are not further listed, nor numbered.

Various people and groups have enumerated the commandments differently. A defense can be made for the Protestant divisions based on how the commandments are documented in the Bible.

God first gives his commandment to the Israelites at Mount Sinai after they had come out from Egypt. God had been speaking to Moses on the mountain and told the Israelites to consecrate themselves ready for God but not touch the mountain.
And God spoke all these words, saying,
“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 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 thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“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.
“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.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against 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 is your neighbor's.” (Exo 20:1-17)
Later in Deuteronomy Moses reiterates these commandments. Moses states that God made a covenant at the mountain and Moses tells a new generation the commandments that God had given.
He [God] said
“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 on 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 God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“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.
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 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 or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“And you shall not commit adultery.
“And you shall not steal.
“And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“And 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 is your neighbor's.” (Deu 5:5-21)
After speaking these commandments from God Moses says,
These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. (Deu 5:22)
From this we know that these words direct from God were written on tablets and that they end with his commands against coveting. And they clearly start with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Elsewhere Moses notes the covenant and refers to the tablets as containing the ten commandments (ten words).
And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)
These two passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy contain the words spoken by God, and they also tell us that the commandments that were written on tablets, and that there are 10 of them.

There are a limited number of ways that these commands can be divided up. Several of the commands are brief and are not variants of the commands either side. The prohibition against murder is distinct from the prohibition against adultery which is distinction from the prohibition against stealing.

The potential divisions proposed, in order, are:
  1. I am the Lord your God
  2. You shall have no other gods before me
  3. You shall not make for yourself a carved image
  4. You shall not bow down to them or serve them
  5. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
  6. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  7. Honor your father and your mother
  8. You shall not murder
  9. You shall not commit adultery
  10. You shall not steal
  11. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  12. You shall not covet your neighbor's house
  13. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
  14. [You shall not covet] or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's
It seems clear that of the above items #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11 are 6 separate commands. All other proposals also separate #5 as a single command. The various proposals concern whether coveting is one or two commands (#12, #13, #14), and how to separate the first few commands (#1, #2, #3, #4).

The command not to covet specifies the verb "covet" twice in Exodus; it is prior to both neighbour's house and neighbour's wife; the other items of one's neighbour are also prohibited by inference of the prior verb. In Deuteronomy the order of the first two prohibitions is reversed. The command is first not to covet a neighbour's wife, then a neighbour's house; again the other items are inferred by the prior verb. Of note, the verb for "covet" in Exodus is "khamod." In Deuteronomy the same verb is used for coveting a wife, but a different verb for coveting a house: "╩żavah."

The command is: do not covet. Coveting is the primary issue. And Paul says that the vice is effectively the vice of idolatry; interestingly earlier prohibited.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5)
Further, the order in Exodus, which was when the commandments were first given by God, has the coveting of a wife after that of a house. If we are to enumerate coveting as two different commands then God is saying,
  1. Command 9: Do not covet a house
  2. Command 10: Do not covet a wife
  3. Corollary: And command 9 also includes other items that belong to one's neighbour.
While God gives reasons for a command within the command, it seems less likely that he would return to an earlier command after given a subsequent one.

Not coveting along with the other commands already mentioned totals 8 commands. Divisions #1 through #4 are also variously divided. Making images to act as gods and bowing to those same gods is in principle a similar action. While one can worship a false god without an image, the command is assuming images that are made in order to be worshipped. It was not against God's law to draw, sew or carve pictures of creatures. So the question is whether having no other god is distinct from setting up a physical idol to worship. One could group the command into a general anti-idolatrous command: Don't worship foreign gods; don't make images of gods; don't worship images. Nevertheless, these commands are more distinct than commands not to covet various things. If we group the directly idolatrous commands as a single commandment then we have a total of 9 commandments. The tenth commandment is variously identified as coveting or as the preamble. We have discussed coveting, and the preamble is hardly a commandment.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
The ten commandments are therefore as follows:
  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image; you shall not bow down to them or serve them
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet

Monday, 20 July 2020

Monday quote

People have a strange tendency to accept bramble-leadership, a fact which continues to baffle us.

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Monday quote

A science that still accepts exclusively force and matter at the start of the information age is medieval.

Reinhard Eichelbeck, The Darwin Conspiracy. Rise and fall of a pseudo-scientific worldview. (Das Darwin-Komplott. Aufstieg und Fall eines pseudowissenschaftlichen Weltbildes.)

Monday, 6 July 2020

Monday quote

Call me old fashioned, but I still maintain there is a critical difference between climbing out of stupid and climbing into it.

Doug Wilson

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