THE OTHER TEN
surprising to me when everyone seems to miss the mark on a key biblical
passage. The Books of The Bible have been around in a form very close to what we have
now since the early 17th Century. Countless copies have been printed,
while people have dedicated lifetimes to studying them. Many folks consider
them actual transcriptions of God's messages to mankind. So how do we
make such obvious oversights and mistakes when it comes to using, or
miss-using, the text?
A Big "For
Instance" is the Ten Commandments. These laws are held so sacred
by much of society that copies are hung inside our courtrooms. Many
people quote them as the most important rules of God in the Old
Testament. And yet, if we read the book of Exodus as a narrative, it is
obvious that we are quoting the wrong set of commandments.
narrative: In Exodus,Chapter
19, the Israelites have come to the Sinai
Desert and are at
the foot of Mt.
prepare themselves, and Moses goes up the mountain with his brother Aaron for
a summit meeting with God, who has "descended to the top of Mt.
God speaks the Ten Commandments, and then He goes on to state a number of
other laws concerning a wide range of topics -- from slavery to social justice,
mandatory festivals to the execution of murderous farm animals. By
Chapter 24 Moses and Aaron and a group of elders have returned up the
mountain to receive tablets which contain ALL the laws (apparently not just
the first 10), and then they are given lengthy instructions on ark building,
tabernacle construction and sacrifice making, along with considerable rules
on proper religious attire. This takes us to Chapter 32, where Aaron is
pushed into creating a golden calf image (despite his personal visits with The
Almighty on the mountain). Moses, who
has been lingering on the mountain with God, is told that his people have been
worshiping a golden calf and are almost ready to "indulge in
revelry," but Moses argues with God not to punish the people for their
sins. Moses descends to the camp, and in a rather curious fit of anger,
considering the discussions he has just had with the deity, breaks the two tablets containing
all the laws written in the preceding 10 chapters. The Hebrews are sent
packing out of the Sinai and begin their takeover of the Promised Land, and
by Chapter 34, God again orders Moses to "chisel out two stone tablets
like the first ones." These are then called in verse 28 "the
But they are not quite
like the first set of 10 we read back in Chapter 20. Here they are,
beginning in Chapter 34:14:
(1)"Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous,
is a jealous God.
(2)"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. 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.
(3)"Do not make cast idols.
(4)"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
(5)"The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the
firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem
the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck.
Redeem all your firstborn sons.
(6) "No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
(7) "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest;
even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
(8) "Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits
of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the
year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the
Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel.
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.
(9) "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.
(10) "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."
This recitation of the newer, improved version of the Big
10 concludes (Ex. 27-28): "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.
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."
The obvious question here is why have we been skipping these
important commandments all these years? Are they too
Jewish for Christian consumption? Did people simply like the first set of rules better, since
they sounded more universal? Did we believe that the line about cooking
a young goat simply did not belong in a list of such important
commandments? Is this a case of "mass editorializing" on a
grand scale? There are obviously no easy answers.
And one can't help
noticing that the second set of commandments is not at all concerned with
killing, stealing, cheating or other things we humans do to each
other. This set of commandments is about how we are to behave toward
The Deity, a deity who sounds, perhaps because of the translation into
English, rather petty and testy. We may
obey such a ruler as this, but we would have trouble liking a deity who for some
unknown reason doesn't like yeast. Why did He make it in the first place?
For those of us who
love the Bible but don't worship the book as a sacred object, there is no real problem with the fact
that man has consistently overlooked the final version of the Ten
Commandments. This simply shows how man's attitude about the nature of
reality has changed and grown over the centuries -- as it will continue
to do. The Lord who was concerned about yeast and goats in Exodus
becomes a Lord who, by the Book of Micah, expects us only to "love
mercy, seek justice and walk humbly with our God," or who, by the Book
of Luke in the New Testament, wants us only to love God and love our neighbor
as ourselves. Yeast and goats are no longer an issue.
So perhaps our opinion of God is evolving right
along with the rest of our intellect, and God may or may not
change. After all, a deity should have the right to set the rules
any way He/She wishes. Our Bible appears to reveal a God who is,
shall we say, unfolding.
At my now mature point in life, I can handle that possibility.
Jesus taught that the only fixed points are Spirit and Love --
God is a spirit and He loves us. Doesn't sound like much written
this way, but it carried Jesus through His life, and I have faith that
it can do the same for all of us.