The Eleven Commandments

There are actually eleven statements in the Bible texts of the traditional Ten Commandments.

Roman Catholics combine the first two statements into one and the Protestants combine the last two in order to arrive at the number ten. How to number the Ten Commandments was a major issue during the Protestant Reformation.

There are three lists of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue (Greek for "Ten Words") in the Old Testament.

Two of the lists are very close in meaning and make up the traditional Ten Commandants, however the third list is quite different and consists mainly of religious/ritual laws.

Only the third list is actually called "The Ten Commandments" by the Old Testament itself.

The First Two Lists: (a. Ex 20:1-17, b.Deut 5:6-21):

1. "I, the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me."

2. "You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishments for their fathers wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation but bestowing mercy, down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments."

3. "You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. for the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain."

4.a. "Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien that lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy."

4.b. "Take care to keep holy the sabbath day as the Lord, your God, commanded you. Six days you may labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then, whether by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or ass or any of your beasts, or the alien who lives with you. Your male and female slave should rest as you do. For remember that you too were once slaves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day."

5. "Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you."

6. "You shall not kill."

7. "You shall not commit adultery."

8. "You shall not steal."

9. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

10.a. "You shall not covet your neighbors house."

10.b. "You shall not covet your neighbors wife."

11.a. "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him."

11.b. "You shall not desire your neighbor's house or field, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything that belongs to him."

The Third List:

There is another list of the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:11-26) which is quite different from the other two. According to the story line, after Moses smashed the first set of the Ten Commandments (over his anger at seeing the golden calf), God tells Moses, "Cut two stone tablets like the former, that I may write on them the commandments which were on the former tablets that you broke." God then gave Moses the following Ten Commandments:

1. "I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Take care, therefore, not to make a covenant with these inhabitants of the land that you are to enter; else they will become a snare among you. Tear down their altars; smash their sacred pillars, and cut down their sacred poles. You shall not worship any other god, for the Lord is 'the Jealous One'; a jealous God is he. Do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of that land; else, when they render their wanton worship to their gods and sacrifice to them, one of them may invite you and you may partake of his sacrifice. Neither shall you take their daughters as wives for your sons; otherwise, when their daughters render their wanton worship to their gods, they will make your sons do the same."

2. "You shall not make for yourselves molten gods"

3. "You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days at the prescribed time in the month of Abib you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you; for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt."

4. "To me belongs every first-born male that opens the womb among your livestock, whether in the herd or in the flock. The firstling of an ass you shall redeem with one of the flock; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. The first-born among your sons you shall redeem."

5. "No one shall appear before me empty handed."

6. "For six days you may work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; on that day you must rest even during the seasons of plowing and harvesting."

7. "You shall keep the feast of Weeks [Pentecost], with the first of the wheat harvest; likewise, the feast at the fruit harvest at the close of the year. Three times a year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the Lord God of Israel. Since I will drive out the nations before you to give you a large territory, there will be no one to covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord, your God."

8. "You shall not offer me the blood of sacrifice with leavened bread, nor shall the sacrifice of the Passover feast be kept overnight for the next day."

9. "The choicest first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord, your God."

10. "You shall not boil a kid [goat] in its mother's milk." [This refers to a specific Canaanite religious ritual.]

"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Write down these words, for in accordance with them I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.' So Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments."

Interestingly, this third list is the only one of the three which the Old Testament actually calls "the Ten Commandments".

Also, all of the third list is made up of religious laws and no social laws. The author/editor clearly feels that this list is related to the other two, since he describes it as being a restatement of the other list.

Commandment 7. in this list says we must "go up" three times a year. This is most likely a reference to "going up" to Jerusalem to the temple. Since Jerusalem was not captured until the time of David and the Temple not constructed until the time of Solomon, this precept can hardly date back to Moses' time.

Many scholars feel that the original list of commandments was made up entirely of short commandments like "You shall not kill", "You shall not commit adultery", "You shall not steal" and that they were padded out later to reflect a later bias against polytheism and the Canaanites (probably as part of Josiah's Reform). 

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