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The Ten Commitments Behind the Ten Commandments

Considering they’re among the many most influential phrases ever written, there are a variety of curious issues concerning the Ten Commandments. To start out, there are two variations, with subtly completely different wording (Ex. 20:1–17; Deut. 5:6–21). Nobody is aware of how they had been divided into two tablets. The primary assertion (“I’m the Lord your God …”) isn’t actually a command.

Most awkwardly, there look like greater than ten. The phrase “you shall” seems 12 instances, and that doesn’t embody instructions to “bear in mind the Sabbath” or “honor your father and mom.” The Orthodox Church and most Protestants clear up this downside by combining all of the instructions on coveting into one. Roman Catholics deal with it by grouping the prohibitions on idolatry: Augustine argued that the primary commandment (no different gods) consists of what many would contemplate the second (no graven pictures).

Many would concede that the exact commandment depend doesn’t actually matter, as long as we obey all of them. I agree. However one other curious characteristic of the Ten Commandments that does matter, and which incessantly goes unnoticed, is the truth that there are ten theological affirmations—ten attributes of God, for those who like—woven via them. If the textual content tells us who we must be, it additionally tells us who God is. Revelation sits alongside regulation.

We’ve got already famous the affirmation. God’s phrases to Israel start not with a commandment, however with the identify of God: “I’m the Lord your God …” (Ex. 20:2, ESV all through). In different phrases, I’m Yahweh, the God who made a covenant with Abraham. You understand my identify as a result of I revealed it to you. This relationship doesn’t start along with your dedication to me (as necessary as that’s), however with mine to you.

The identical sentence factors to God’s acts of redemption: “… who introduced you out of the land of Egypt, out of the home of slavery.” The precise commandments nonetheless haven’t began but. Earlier than giving any directions, God needs Israel to know past a doubt that he’s a redeeming, rescuing, liberating God. Solely then does he start clarifying how obedience and gratitude must be expressed. Grace comes first, after which instruction. Rescue precedes guidelines.

The primary two commandments (at the least within the Protestant tally) relate to worship. They clearly, if implicitly, spotlight two extra divine attributes: God’s oneness (“You shall don’t have any different gods earlier than me,” v. 3), and his invisibility (“You shall not make for yourselves a carved picture, or any likeness of something,” v. 4). There is just one God to worship—and since he can’t be seen, it’s blasphemous to make a visible illustration of him, as Israel will uncover to its disgrace in Exodus 32.

This command is adopted, and certainly defined, by one other two divine attributes, specifically God’s jealousy and his steadfast love. His jealousy means he’ll choose iniquities for 3 or 4 generations. (It is very important distinguish between envy, the sinful need for what belongs to another person, and divine jealousy, God’s holy need to maintain what belongs to him from anybody else.) His steadfast love, alternatively, lasts for hundreds of generations (Deut. 7:9), outstripping his punishments by a number of orders of magnitude. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

That doesn’t imply the responsible go unpunished. He stays a God of justice, because the third commandment affirms: “The Lord is not going to maintain him guiltless who takes his identify in useless” (Ex. 20:7). However regardless of the thunder and lightning, subsequent commandments stress different attributes. He’s additionally the God of creation, who made the heavens and the earth and the whole lot in them, filling the cosmos with abundance, life, and surprise (v. 11). He’s the God of relaxation, who not solely sits again and enjoys what he has made however blesses the Sabbath day and makes it holy in order that his individuals can relaxation as effectively (vv. 8–10). And he’s the God of promise, who pledges good issues (on this case, the land) as an inheritance to those that honor their dad and mom (v. 12).

The Ten Commandments are central to Christian ethics, utilized by Jesus and Paul as a framework for educating on the obedience of religion. However they’re shot via with God’s disclosure of who he’s and what he provides. Maybe we should always name them the Ten Commitments.

Andrew Wilson is educating pastor at King’s Church London and the writer of God of All Issues. Comply with him on Twitter @AJWTheology.

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