Ten Commandments, The
Ten Commandments, the the common designation of the Decalogue, or that portion of the law of Moses which contains the moral law. See LAW OF MOSES.
I. Title. — The popular name in this, as in so many instances, is not that of Scripture. There we have the "ten words" (עֲשֶׂרֶת הִדּבָרַים, asereth haddebarim, the decade of the words; Sept. τὰ δέκα ῥήματα; Vulg. verba decean), not the ten commandments (Ex 34:28; De 4:13; De 10:4, Hebrews). The difference is not altogether an unmeaning one. The word of God, the "word of the Lord," tie constantly recurring term for the fullest revelation, was higher than any phrase expressing merely a command, and carried with it more the idea of a self- fulfilling power. If, on the one side, there was the special contrast to which our Lord refers between the commandments of God and the traditions of men (Mt 15:3), the arrogance of the rabbins showed itself, on the other, in placing the words of the scribes on the same level as the words of God. SEE SCRIBE. Nowhere in the later books of the Old Test. is any direct reference made to their number. The treatise of Philo, however, περὶ τῶν δέκα λογίων, shows that it had fixed itself on the Jewish mind, and, later still, it gave occasion to the formation of a new word (the "Decalogue," ἡ δεκάλογος, first in Clem. Al., Paed. 3, 12), which has perpetuated itself in modern languages. Other names are even more significant. These, and these alone, are "the words of the covenant," the unchanging ground of the 'union between Jehovah and his people, all else' being as a superstructure, accessory and subordinate (Ex 34:28). They are also the tables of testimony, sometimes simply "The testimony," the witness to men of the divine will, righteous itself, demanding righteousness, in man- (Ex 25:16; Ex 31:18, etc.). It is by virtue of their presence in it that the ark becomes, in its turn, the ark of the covenant (Nu 10:33, etc.), that the sacred tent became the tabernacle of witness, of testimony (Ex 38:21, etc.). SEE TABERNACLE. They remain there, throughout the glory of the kingdom, the primeval relics of a hoar antiquity (1Ki 8:9), their material, the writing on them, the sharp incisive character of the laws themselves, presenting a striking contrast to the more expanded teaching of a later time. Not less did the commandments themselves speak of the earlier age when not the silver and the gold, but the ox and the ass, were the great representatives of wealth (comp. 1Sa 12:3).
Ewald is disposed to think that even in the form in which we have the commandments there are some additions made at a later period, and that the second and the fourth commandment were originally as briefly imperative as the sixth or seventh (Gesch. Isr. 2, 206). The, difference between the reason given in Ex 20:11 for the fourth commandment and that stated to have been given in De 5:15 makes, perhaps, such a conjecture possible. Scholia, which modern annotators put into the margin, are, in the existing state of the Old Test., incorporated into the text. Obviously both forms could not have appeared written on the two tables of stone, yet De 5:15,22 not only states a different reason, but affirms that "all these words" were thus written. Keil (Comment. on Exod, 20) seems on this point disposed to agree with Ewald.
⇒Bible concordance for TEN COMMANDMENTS.
II. Double Record. — The Decalogue is found in two passages, first in Ex 20:2-17, again in De 5:33 and there are certain differences between the two forms, which have been taken advantage of by rationalistic interpreters, sometimes for the purpose of disparaging the historical correctness of either form, and sometimes as a conclusive argument against the doctrine of inspiration. The differences are of three kinds:
(1.) Simply verbal, consisting in the insertion or omission of the Hebrew letter וַ, which signifies and; in Exodus it is only omitted once where it is found in Deuteronomy, namely, between graven image and any likeness, in the second commandment; but in Deuteronomy it occurs altogether six times where it is wanting in Exodus; and of these four are at the commencement of the last four commandments, which are severally introduced with an and, joining them to what precedes.
⇒See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
(2.) Differences in form, where still the sense remains essentially the same: under the fourth commandment, it is in Exodus "nor thy cattle," while in Deuteronomy it is "nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle" a mere amplification of the former by one or two leading particulars; and in the tenth commandment, as given in Exodus, "thy neighbor's house" comes first, while in Deuteronomy it is "thy neighbor's wife;" and here also after "thy neighbor's house," is added "his field" another slight amplification.
(3.) Differences in respect to matter these are altogether four. The fourth commandment is introduced in Exodus with remember, in Deuteronomy with kelp; the reason also assigned for its observance in Exodus is derived from God's original act and procedure at creation, while in Deuteronomy this is omitted, and the deliverance of Israel from the land of Egypt is put in its stead; in Deuteronomy the fifth commandment runs, "Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God commanded thee," the latter words having no place in Exodus; and in the tenth commandment, instead of "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife," it stands in Deuteronomy "Thou shalt not desire thy neighbor's wife" differing only, however, in this, that the one (covet) fixes attention more upon the improper desire to possess, and the other upon the improper desire itself.
It is obvious that these differences leave the main body or substance of the Decalogue, as a revelation of' law, entirely untouched; not one of them affects the import and bearing of a single precept; nor, if viewed in their historical relation, can they be regarded as involving in any doubt or uncertainty the verbal accuracy of the form presented in Exodus We have no reason to doubt that the words there recorded are precisely those which were uttered from Sinai, and written upon the tables of stone.' In Deuteronomy Moses gives a revised account of the transactions, using throughout certain freedoms, as speaking in a hortative manner, and from a more: distant point of view; and, while he repeats the commandments as those which the Lord had spoken from the midst of the fire and written on tables of stone (De 5:22), he yet shows in his very mode of doing it that he did not aim at an exact reproduction of the past, but wished to preserve to some extent the form of a free rehearsal. This especially appears in the addition to the fifth commandment, "as the Lord thy, God commanded thee," which distinctly pointed back to a prior original, and even recognized that as the permanently existing form. The introducing also of so many of the later commands with the copulative and tends to the same result; as it is precisely what would be natural in a rehearsal, though not in the original announcements, and came from combining with the legislative something of the narrative style. Such being plainly the character of this later edition, its other and: more noticeable deviations the occasional amplifications admitted to it, the substitution of desire for covet, with respect to a neighbor's wife, in the tenth command; and of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, for the divine order of procedure at the creation, in the fourth must be regarded as slightly varied and explanatory statements, which it was perfectly competent for the authorized mediator of the covenant to introduce, and which, in nature and design, do not materially differ from the alterations sometimes made by inspired writers of the New Test. on the passages they quote from the Old (see Fairbairn, Hermen. Manual, p. 354 sq.). They are not without use in an exegetical respect; and in the present case have also a distinct historical value, from the important evidence they yield in favor of the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy; since it is inconceivable that any later author, fictitiously personating Moses, would have ventured on making such alterations on what had been so expressly ascribed by Moses to God himself, and which seemed to bear on it such peculiar marks of sacredness and inviolability (Havernick, Introduction to the Pentateuch, § 25).
III. Source. —The circumstances in which the ten great words were first given to the people surrounded them with an awe which attached to no other precept. In the midst of the cloud, and the darkness, and the flashing lightning, and the fiery smoke, and the thunder, like the voice of a trumpet, Moses was called to receive the law without which the people would cease to be a holy nation. Here, as elsewhere, Scripture unites two facts which men separate. God, and not man, was speaking to the Israelites in those terrors, and yet in the language of later inspired teachers, other instrumentality was not excluded. Buxtorf, it is true, asserts that Jewish interpreters, with hardly an exception, maintain that "Deus verba Decalogiper se immediate locutus est" (Diss. de Decal.). The language of Josephus, however (Ant. 15:5, 3), not less than that of the New Test., shows that at one time the traditions of the Jewish schools pointed to the opposite conclusion. The law was "ordained by angels" (Ga 3:9) "spoken by angels" (Heb 2:2), received as the ordinance of angels (Ac 7:53). 'The agency of those whom the thoughts of the Psalmist connected with the winds and the flaming fire (Ps 104:4; Heb 1:7) was present also on Sinai. The part of Moses himself was, as the language of Paul (Ga 3:19) affirms, that of "a mediator." He stood "between" the people and the Lord "to show them the word of the Lord? (Deuteronomy 5), while they stood afar off to give form and distinctness to what would else have been terrible and overwhelming. — The voice of the Lord" which they heard in the thunderings and the sound of the trumpet, "full of majesty," "dividing the flames of fire" (Ps 29:3-9), was for him a divine word, the testimony of an eternal will, just as in the parallel instance of Joh 12:29, a like testimony led some to say "it thundered," while others received the witness. No other words were proclaimed in like manner. The people shrank even from this nearness to the awful presence, even from the very echoes of the divine voice. The record was as exceptional as the original revelation. Of no other words could it be said that they were written as these were written, engraved on the tables of stone, not as originating in man's contrivance or sagacity, but by the power of the Eternal Spirit, by the finger of God (Ex 31:18; Ex 32:16). SEE BATH-KOL.
IV. The number ten was, we can hardly doubt, itself significant to Moses and the Israelites. The received symbol, then and at all times, of completeness (Bahr, Symbolik, 1,175-183), it taught the people that the law, of Jehovah was perfect (Ps 19:7) , The fact that they were written, not on one, but on two tables, probably in two groups of five each (infra), taught men (though with some variations from the classification of later ethics) the great division of duties towards God and duties towards our neighbor, which we recognize as the groundwork of every true moral system. It taught them also, five being the symbol of imperfection (Bath, 1, 183-187), how incomplete each set of duties would be when divorced from its companion. The recurrence of these numbers in the Pentateuch is at once frequent and striking. Ewald (Gesch. Isr. 2, 212-217) has shown by a large induction how continually laws and precepts meet us in groups of five or ten. The numbers, it, will be remembered, meet us again as the basis of all the proportions of the tabernacle (q.v.) and temple. It would show an ignorance of all modes of Hebrew thought to exclude this symbolic aspect. We need not, however, shut out altogether that which some writers (e.g. Grotius, De Decal. p. 36) have substituted for it, the connection of the ten words with a decimal system of numeration through the ten fingers on which a man counts. Words which were to be the rule of life for the poor as well as the learned, the groundwork of education for all children, might well be connected with the simplest facts and processes in man's mental growth, and thus stamped more indelibly on the memory. Bahr, absorbed in symbolism, has nothing for this natural suggestion but two notes of admiration (!!). The analogy of ten great commandments in the moral law of Buddhism might have shown him how naturally men crave a number that thus helps them. A true system was as little likely to ignore the natural craving as a false. (see note in Ewald, Gesch. Isr. 2, 207). SEE TEN.
V. Tables. — In what way the Ten Commandments were to be divided has, however, been a matter of much controversy. At least four distinct arrangements present themselves.
1. In the received teaching of the Latin Church resting on that of Augustine (Qu. in Ex. 71; Ep. ad January c. 11; De Decal. etc.), the first table contained three commandments, the second the other seven. Partly on mystical grounds, because the tables thus symbolized the trinity of divine persons and the eternal Sabbath, partly as seeing in it a true ethical division, he adopted this classification. It involved, however, and in part proceeded from, an alteration in the received arrangement. What we know as the first and second were united; and consequently the Sabbath law appeared at the close of the first table as the third, not as the fourth, commandment. The completeness of the number was restored in the second table by making a separate (the ninth) command of the precept, "Thou shalt not covet; thy neighbor's wife," which with us forms part of the tenth; It is an almost fatal objection to this order that in the first table it confounds, where it ought to distinguish, the two sins of polytheism and idolatry; and that in the second it introduces ant arbitrary and meaningless distinction. The later theology of the Church of Rome apparently adopted it as seeming to prohibit image-worship only so far as it accompanied the acknowledgment of another God (Catech. Trident. 3, 2,20).
2. The familiar division-referring the first four to our duty towards God, and the six remaining to our duty towards man-is, on ethical grounds, simple and natural enough. If it is not altogether satisfying, it is because it fails to recognize the symmetry which gives to the number five so great a prominence; and perhaps, also, because it looks on the duty of the fifth commandment from the point of view of modern ethics rather than from that of the ancient Israelites and the first disciples of Christ (infra).
3. A modification of 1 has been adopted by later Jewish writers (Jonathan ben-Uzziel, Abed-Ezra, Moses ben Nachman, in Suicer, Thesaur. s.v. Δεκάλογος). Retaining the combination of the first and second commandments of the common order, they have made a new "word" of the opening declaration, "I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," and so have avoided the necessity of the subdivision of the tenth. The objection to this division is (1), that it rests on no adequate authority, and (2) that it turns into a single precept what is evidently given as the groundwork of the whole body of laws.
4. Rejecting these three, there remains that recognized by the older Jewish writers-Josephus (Ant. 3,. 6, 6) and Philo. (De Decal. 1), and supported ably and thoughtfully by Ewald (Gesch. Isr. 2, 208), which places, five commandments in each table, and thus preserves the pentad and decad grouping which pervades the whole code. A modern jurist would perhaps.
object that this places the fifth commandment in a wrong position; that a duty to parents is a duty towards our neighbor. From the Jewish point of view, it is believed, the place thus given to that commandment was essentially the right one. Instead of duties towards God, and duties towards our neighbors, we must think of the first table as containing all that belonged to the Εὐσέβεια of the Greeks, to the Pietas of the Romans- duties, i.e., with no corresponding rights; while the second deals with duties which involve rights, and come, therefore, under the head of Justitia. The duty of honoring, i.e. supporting, parents came under the former head. As soon as the son was capable of it, and the parents required it, it was an absolute, unconditional duty. His right to any maintenance from them had ceased. He owed them reverence as he owed it to his Father in heaven (Heb 12:9). He was to show piety (εὐσεβεῖν) to them (1Ti 5; 1Ti 4). What made the "Corban" casuistry of the Scribes so specially evil was that it was, in this way, a sin against the piety of the first table, not merely against the lower obligations of the second (Mr 7:11). It at least harmonizes with this division that the second, third, fourth, and fifth commandments all stand on the same footing as having special sanctions attaching to them, while the others that follow are left in their simplicity by themselves, as if the parity of rights were in itself a sufficient ground for obedience. A further confirmation of the truth of this division is found in Ro 13:9. Paul, summing up the duties "briefly comprehended" in the one great law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," enumerates the last five commandments, but makes no mention of the fifth.
VI. Addition. — To these Ten Commandments we find in the Samaritan Pentateuch an eleventh added:
"But when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land of Canaan, whither thou goest to possess it, thou shalt set thee up two great stones, and shalt plaster them with plaster, and shalt write upon these stones all the words of this law. Moreover, after thou shalt have passed over Jordan thou shalt set up those stones, which I command thee this day, on Mount Gerizim, and thou shalt build there an altar to the Lord thy God, an altar of stones; thou shalt not lift up any iron thereon. Of unhewn stones shalt thou build that altar to the Lord thy God, and thou shalt offer on it burnt-offerings to the Lord thy God, and thou shalt sacrifice peace- offerings, and shalt eat them there; and thou shalt rejoice, before the Lord thy God in that mountain beyond Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, the laud of the Canaanite that dwelleth in the plain country over against Gilgal, by the oak of Moreh, towards Sichem (Walton, Bibl. Polyglot.). In the absence of any direct evidence, we can only guess as to the history of this remarkable addition.
(1.) It will be seen that the whole passage is made up of two which are found in the Hebrew text of De 27:2-7; De 11:30, with the substitution, in the former, of Gerizim for Ebal.
(2.) In the absence of confirmation from any other version, Ebal must, so far as textual criticism is concerned, be looked upon as the true reading; Gerizim as a falsification, casual or deliberate, of the text.
(3.) Probably the choice of Gerizim as the site of the Samaritan temple was determined by the fact that it had been- the Mount of Blessings, Ebal that of Curses. Possibly, as Walton suggests (Proleg. c. 11), the difficulty of understanding how the latter should have been chosen instead of the former as a place for sacrifice and offering may have led them to look on the reading Ebal as erroneous. They were unwilling to expose themselves to the taunts of their Judean enemies by building a temple on the Hill of Curses. They would claim the inheritance of the blessings; they would set the authority of their text against that of the scribes of the Great Synagogue. One was as likely to be accepted as the other. The "Hebrew verity" was not then acknowledged as it has been since.
(4.) In other repetitions or transfers in the Samaritan Pentateuch we may perhaps admit the plea which Walton makes in its behalf (loc. cit.) that, in the first formation of the Pentateuch as a Codex, the transcribers had a large number of separate documents to copy, and that consequently much was left to the discretion of the individual scribe. Here, however, that excuse is hardly admissible. The interpolation has every mark of being a bold attempt to claim for the schismatic worship on Gerizim the solemn sanction of the voice on Sinai, to place it on the same footing as the ten great words of God. The guilt of the interpolation belonged, of course, only to the first contrivers of it. The later Samaritans might easily come to look on their text as the true one; on that of the Jews as corrupted by a fraudulent omission. It is to the credit of the Jewish scribes that they were not tempted to retaliate, and that their reverence for the sacred. records prevented them from suppressing the history which connected the rival sanctuary with the blessings of Gerizim. SEE SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH.
VII. Taryum. — The treatment of the Ten Commandments in the Targum of Jonathan ben-Uzziel is not without interest. There, as noticed above, the first and second commandments are united to make up the second, and the words "I am the Lord thy God," etc., are given as the first. More remarkable is the addition of a distinct reason for the last five commandments no less than for the first five. "Thou shalt commit no murder, for because of the sins of murderers the sword goeth forth upon the world." So, in like manner and with the same formula, "death goeth forth upon the world" as the punishment of adultery; famine as that of theft; drought as that of false witness; invasion, plunder, captivity, as those of covetousness (Walton, Bib. Polyglott.). SEE TARGUM.
VIII. Talmud. — The absence of any distinct reference to the ten commandments as such in the Pirke Aboth (=Maxims of the Fathers)'is both strange and significant. One chapter (ch. v) is expressly given to an enumeration of all the scriptural facts which may be grouped in decades the ten words of Creation, the ten generations from Adam to Noah and from Noah to Abraham, the ten trials of Abraham, the ten plagues of Egypt, and the like; but the ten divine words find no place in the list. With all their ostentation of profound reverence for the law, the teaching of the rabbins turned on other points than the great laws of duty. In this way, as in others, they made void the commandments of God that they might keep their own traditions. Comp. Stanley, Jewish Church, lect. 7 in illustration of many of the points here noticed. SEE TALMUD.
IX. Economical Importance. — The giving of the Ten Commandments marks an era in the history of God's dispensations. Of the whole law this was both the first portion to be communicated, and the basis of all that followed. Various things attested this superiority. It was spoken directly by the Lord himself not communicated, like other parts of the old economy, through the ministration of Moses and spoken amid the most impressive signs of his glorious presence and majesty. Not only were the Ten Commandments thus spoken by God, but the further mark of relative importance was put upon them of being written on tables of stone-written by the very finger of God. They were thus elevated to a place above all the statutes and ordinances that were made known through the mediator of the old covenant; and the place then given them they were also destined to hold in the future; for the rocky tablets on which they were engraved undoubtedly imaged an abiding validity and importance. It was an emblem of relative perpetuity. The very number of words, or utterances; in which they were comprised, ten, bespoke the same thing; for in the significancy that in ancient times was ascribed to certain numbers, ten was universally regarded as the symbol of completeness (Spencer, De Leg. Hebrews 1, 3; Bahr, Symbolik, 1, 175). SEE DECALOGUE.