Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Sunday Sermonette: The however many commandments.

Administrative note: I'm switching to the Revised Standard Version because I find the NIV does too much fudging of the potentially embarrassing stuff.

Exodus 20 is where we encounter what is usually called the Ten Commandments, although the actual concept of Ten Commandments isn't articulated until later, and at that time they turn out to be different from these. Yes, there are two different sets. Also, the only thing that sets the ostensible Ten Commandments apart from the dozens of additional commandments that follow is a brief description of how the people are experiencing the signs and wonders (or volcanic eruption) on the mountain. They aren't identified as more important than the rest of the law. Finally, as I have mentioned before, the version we see on the wall and on monuments is edited. Here goes.

Then God spoke all these words:

It's generally assumed that he's speaking to Moses, although it is somewhat ambiguous whether the entire people can hear this.
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[a] me.
We still aren't monotheistic. This is the baddest God, but not the only one.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form 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 worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Most translations just say not to make any "images." The translators here assume that this doesn't intend to forbid painting or sculpture, but only painting and sculpting objects of worship. Of course Christian churches are full of idols -- images of Jesus, Mary and various saints --  and people even pray to them. Christians ignore this commandment.  The part about punishing descendants for the sins of their ancestors is usually omitted.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
"Servant" of course means "slave." For those who want to claim that the six days of creation is intended metaphorically nope, it's the literal truth.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.[c]
 As the footnote admits, the usual translation is "kill." Of course the Torah commands the Israelites to kill many times, in fact they are commanded to commit massacres and slaughter women, men and children.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
Of course they have just been commanded to steal from the Egyptians.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Wives are the possessions of men, in the same category as slaves and domestic animals.

18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid[d] and trembled and stood at a distance, 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” 21 Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

22 The Lord said to Moses: Thus you shall say to the Israelites: “You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it. 26 You shall not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.”
Here are two or three more commandments. Why does God like to have animals burned? That seems to be his biggest thrill. Apparently the idea of not going up steps is that the usual garment is a tunic and they don't wear underpants, so somebody could look up there and see your junk. That's a pretty silly way to end this.


  1. Exodus 20:3 Or besides
  2. Exodus 20:6 Or to thousands
  3. Exodus 20:13 Or kill
  4. Exodus 20:18 Sam Gk Syr Vg: MT they saw

1 comment:

Don Quixote said...

The plot thickens. This literature (the Pentateuch) has provided much material for all of the writers and artists (and Star Trek producers) and movie makers in the world. A best seller ... glad you are going through it with a fine-toothed comb, which most people do not (if they ever read it).