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The Seven Commandments
Written July 4, 2024

 

Welcome back to IT'S IN THE BIBLE.  I'm Brother Billy.

On this edition of our program, we're honored to be speaking with Miriam, the sister of Moses!  And her husband Caleb is here too.  Welcome!

M:  Thank you, sir.  We understand that you're somehow communicating with us from 34 centuries in the future.

Quite a miracle, isn't it?  Currently you and the rest of the Israelites have left Egypt on your way to the Promised Land.  How is life in the desert?

C:  Not as uncomfortable as you might imagine.  In our case we have a pair of goats, and they provide us with meat and milk.

The meat comes from slaughtering the kids that they bear?

C:  Yes.  Goat meat tastes like lamb, provided the animal is butchered young, in its first 12 months or so.

I don't think I've ever had goat milk.  How does that taste?

M:  Well, it's rather tangy, because a goat will eat many bitter plants.  Personally, I like it.

C:  But I don't think the meat and the milk go well together.  Last night, Miriam, you made a stew by boiling the meat of a kid in goat milk and adding some vegetables.  I didn't care for it at all.

M:  I think, my dear Caleb, that you simply were offended at the thought of cooking a young animal in milk taken from its mother.

C:  The very idea is immoral, callous, insensitive.  It shouldn't be allowed, in my opinion.

In your opinion?  Are we allowed to decide for ourselves what is moral and what is immoral?  God should make those rules for us, and they should be displayed everywhere!  “It's so important that our children learn what God says is right and what he says is wrong.”  Louisiana State Representative Dodie Horton, 2024`

M:  Otherwise the children might think it's right to kill each other.  But I agree.  We need the Lord's Commandments.

C:  One reason is that no one has ever actually seen the Lord — Yahweh, the god of our people.  When we were in Egypt, the Egyptians had many gods and they were all around us in the form of statues that we could see and touch.

We call them idols.

C:  But we, the people of Israel, couldn't see our god.  And we weren't allowed to worship the Egyptian idols, or any others.  We had to take the word of our leader that Yahweh even existed.

M:  That leader was my brother Moses.  Once he claimed he heard Yahweh speaking to him out of a bush.  Exodus 3:4` 

C:  A lot of us believed that, but some doubted.  Exodus 4:1`  

M:  Then after we left Egypt to wander in the desert, Moses and my other brother Aaron claimed that any sunlit cloud above us was a sign that the Lord was watching over us.  Exodus 16:10` 

C:  Nevertheless, we were hungry.  We knew we were endangered.  “Why have you brought us out here to die in the desert?” we asked Moses.  “Weren't there any graves in Egypt?”  Exodus 14:11` 

M:  One day Moses declared that he was going to climb a mountain to get close to Yahweh and talk to him again.  We wanted to go with him.  At long last, we wanted to see our god for ourselves, but Moses wouldn't permit it. 

IT'S IN THE BIBLE.  Exodus 19:20-21

M:  He stayed on Mount Sinai a long time, nearly six weeks.  We didn't know what had become of him.  We began to doubt that there even was a god up there.  Or anywhere near us.  We felt even more lost and abandoned.  Exodus 32:1` 

C:  We had no Moses to lead us and apparently no god to save us.  And as you recall, Miriam, the women turned to your other brother Aaron for help.

M:  He saw we needed a god, so he improvised.  He asked for our earrings so he could melt them down and make an idol.  There was only enough gold to mold a calf or maybe two tiny calves, but Aaron proclaimed, “Israel, these are your gods that brought you up from Egypt.”  The people were reassured when they saw that the idols were now there to protect us.  They made offerings and ate and drank and danced.   Exodus 32:2-6`

C:  But just then, down from the mountain, here came Moses.  He was carrying two stone tablets engraved in God's handwriting.   Exodus 32:15-16`

When he discovered that we were engaged in idol-worship, he was very angry.  He threw down the tablets and shattered them.   Exodus 32:19` 

Then he ordained the tribe of Levi as avenging priests, ordering them to kill 3,000 of the faithless people.   Exodus 32:26-29`

M:  What a tragedy.  And those precious broken tablets — what a loss!  Supposedly they contained ten Commandments straight from the Lord.

C:  Ten?

M:  Yes.  Moses taught me how to count them off on my fingers.  The first two prohibited this sort of idol worship.

Can you remember the Commandments, Miriam?

M:  I think I can.  They began with demands that we should worship Yahweh exclusively.

1

I am Yahweh your god, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You must have no other gods besides me.   Exodus 20:2-3`

2

You must not make for yourself a likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship such a likeness, for I am The Jealous One, punishing the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations.   Exodus 20:4-5`

3

You must not misuse the sacred name of Yahweh your god.  In fact, don't use that name as all; call me Adonai (“the Lord”).   Exodus 20:7`

4

Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your god. On that day you must not work: not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your slave, nor your slave-girl, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor the stranger who is within your gates.  Exodus 20:8-10`Your slaves may rest as you do.   Deuteronomy 5:14`

Why mustn't people work on the seventh day?  Seven is a holy number, I suppose.

C:  I've heard two different explanations.  Some quote the old story that the Lord created the world in six days, then rested on the seventh.  Exodus 20:11`  Others say it's to remind us that until the Lord rescued us from Egypt, we had to toil like slaves every day.  Deuteronomy 5:15

So which of the Bible's reasons is correct?

C:  We'll never know.  But the Lord insists that we kill anyone caught working on the Sabbath.

Amen.  IT'S IN THE BIBLE.  Numbers 15:32-36`

M:  As I was saying, gentlemen, those were the first four Commandments.  Then the remainder had nothing to do with God or religion.  They're precepts that should apply to any civilized people.

5

Obey your parents.   Exodus 20:12``

6

Don't murder.   Exodus 20:13`

7

Don't commit adultery.   Exodus 20:14`

8

Don't steal.   Exodus 20:15`

9

Don't lie about your neighbor.   Exodus 20:16`

10

Don't desire to possess your neighbor's wife, or house, or field, or slave, or slave-girl, or ox, or donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.   Exodus 20:17`

C:  So the tenth Commandment tries to tell us how to think?  Why is it bad to want to have what our neighbor has?

Because such lustful thoughts might lead us into actually breaking the seventh or eighth Commandments that forbid adultery and theft.

M:  That makes sense.

C:  However, I'm concerned that those last six Commandments are only common-sense prohibitions.  They can be found in the teachings of any wise leader.  They can be found in the old Egyptian Laws of Ma'at, or the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, or the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu.

But this particular code has been given personally to us by our god, not invented by those foreign gods and philosophers.  IT'S IN THE BIBLE.

C:  I'm sure we could get an equally valid list by asking a group of children to come up with ten rules for behavior.

M:  No, I believe in the Lord's list, written on those stone tablets.  Unfortunately, Moses got mad and destroyed the tablets.

Couldn't we make replicas and put them up on our walls?  They'd be useful for teaching and indoctrinating children.  “Start a child on the right road, and even in old age he will not leave it.”  Proverbs 22:6`

C:  I wonder whether the little ones can understand all the Commandments.  Children don't know about sex.  Would they realize that “adultery” means having intercourse with someone who is not their spouse?

M:  You'd never be unfaithful to me, would you, Caleb?

C:  Of course not, my dear.

We could teach the children that “adultery” is doing unspecified “adult” things.  Such as what?  Well, they'll understand when they grow up.

M:  That's a good idea, Brother Billy.  And it's a good idea to make replicas of the Commandments and post them everywhere, lest our children and the rest of us forget to honor The Jealous One.

C:  Actually, Moses did make a replica of sorts.  As I have been told, the Lord said to him, “Cut for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I shall write on them the words which were on the first tablets which you broke.”   Exodus 34:1`

New tablets, with the same original words?

C:  Well, they weren't quite the same.  Not exactly.  The Levite priests insisted upon words giving them exclusive and unquestioned control over the people's worship.  Here they are.

 

1

Avoid miscegenation and destroy competing religions.  “Beware of making an alliance with the inhabitants of the land against which you are going.  Otherwise, any one of you may be invited to partake of their sacrifices and marry your sons to their daughters, and they may lead your sons astray.  You must demolish their altars.”   Exodus 34:12-13, 15-16`

2

Don't pray to any other god.  “You are not to bow in worship to any other god, for the Lord's name is The Jealous One, and a jealous God he is.”  Exodus 34:14`

3

Don't construct physical idols.  “Do not make yourselves gods of cast metal.”  Exodus 34 :17`

4

Give all your time on the seventh day to the Lord and his priests.  “For six days you may work, but on the seventh abstain from work.  Even at plowing time and harvest you must cease work.”   Exodus 34:21`

5

Don't forget the sacred holidays.  “You are to celebrate the pilgrim-feast of Unleavened Bread in the month of Abib.”   Exodus 34:18`“You are to observe the pilgrim-feast of Weeks, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the pilgrim-feast of In-Gathering at the turn of the year.  Those three times a year, all your males are to come into the presence of the Lord.”   Exodus 34:22-23`

6

Follow all the priestly rules for making sacrifices.  “Do not offer the blood of my sacrifice at the same time as anything leavened; nor is any portion of the victim of the pilgrim-feast of Passover to remain overnight till morning.”   Exodus 34:25`

7

Grant to the Lord and his priests the primary claim on everything.  “The first birth of every womb belongs to me.  No one is to come into my presence without an offering.”   Exodus 34:19-20`“You must bring the choicest first-fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your god.”  Exodus 34:26`

C:  Anyway, there they are, the Seven Commandments.

Seven is a holy number.

M:  But Moses taught me there were ten, not seven.  I could count ten Commandments on my ten fingers.

C:  Well, the scripture doesn't actually assign numbers.  I suppose we could split some of the Commandments in two.

How so?

Number 5 could be two separate commands, one to observe the Passover feast of Unleavened Bread and one to observe the three other festivals later in the year.  And Number 7 could be two separate commands, one for animals and one for fruits.  That would bring the total to nine Commandments.

M:  We need one more to make ten.

C:  How about “Do not boil a kid in its mother's milk?”  Exodus 34:26`

That's perfect! 

M:  Shut up, Caleb!

IT'S IN THE BIBLE.  "The Lord said to Moses, 'Write these words down, because the covenant I make with you and with Israel is on those terms.' The Lord wrote down the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments, on the tablets."   Exodus 34:27-28` 

C:  So which is the correct list:  the original one about not stealing, or the replacement one with the feasts and the milk?  We'll never know.

M:  Shut up, Caleb.

 

TBT

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