Quite often these days, you hear Christians say things like “I believe we should keep the Ten Commandments, but the rest of the Torah is done away with”, or some such thing. Of course, most of them don’t even believe in ten, but rather nine, as they like to exclude the Fourth Commandment for some reason. But I digress. I would like to pose a question to those people right now. Which set of Ten Commandments do you believe in? Did you know there is only ONE place in all of Scripture that specifically defines a set of laws as “the Ten Commandments”? Do you know where that is? If you said Exodus chapter twenty……… BZZZT! You’re wrong! Surprised? I was too, when I first read it for myself. “But wait!” you say, “There is only one set of Ten Commandments!”. You would be correct, but probably not for the reasons you think.
Remember when Moses smashed the first set in anger at the whole golden calf incident, where the Israelites made up their own way to worship Yahweh and mixed paganism in with the Truth? After that, he went back up for a new set of tablets. Guess what? The commandments on the second set are almost completely different from what our myths say was on the first set! In all reality, Scripture never tells us exactly what was on the first set, but it goes into great detail to tell us what was on the second set. Read on.
From Exodus chapter 34:
“1 The LORD said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes,” he said, “then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”
10 Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. [a] 14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
17 “Do not make cast idols.
18 “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
22 “Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. [b] 23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.
25 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Feast remain until morning.
26 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”
So what does this mean, you ask? First of all, it means we need to freaking read our Bibles a bit more, and stop believing man’s tradition that Yahweh defined Exodus chapter twenty as “The Ten Commandments, and that’s all you need to worry about”. What we define as “the Ten Commandments” in modern Christianity is really only the very BEGINNING of the Law! Do you realize that the ENTIRE law was supposed to be given to all the people while they stood there and listened to Yahweh give it at the foot of Mt. Sinai? Did you know that it was the PEOPLE who stopped God after just ten laws were given? Yahweh never intended to stop at just ten, but the people yelled at Him to stop. So He gave the rest to Moses one on one. However, that was NEVER intended to limit followers of the One True God to merely ten laws.
Secondly, I would submit to you that the reason this second set of “Top Ten” is almost totally different from what we commonly define as “the Ten Commandments”, is because Yahweh knew that we would try to dissect His Law like that from the very beginning. By giving Moses a completely different set of “top ten” the second time around, He was letting us know that EVERY LAW is EQUALLY important to Him. The “Ten Commandments” are merely the bullet points for the rest of the Law.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with defining the Exodus 20 account as the “Ten Commandments”. After all, they are part of the law. However, defining them as such is a tradition of man, and when we isolate them as somehow different from the rest of the Law and decide to junk the rest, we are in effect spitting in God’s face and telling Him that we know better than He does. We are setting ourselves up as the final arbiters of what is holy and acceptable behavior in the eyes of the Almighty. And friends, that is a very, very dangerous place to be.