Exodus is like the “Thriller” of Bible books. It is a parade of hit after hit after hit. Let’s say that the burning bush was “Billie Jean,” and the crossing of the red sea was “Beat It.”
Today? “Thriller.” Oh baby!
The 12 Commandments?
I am not quite sure how we arrived at there being 10 commandments. The text I use to study has no paragraph, chapter, or verse breaks – only sentences. I think that is how the original Hebrew text is written.
That being the case, I counted 11 times where God said, “you shall not” and one time where there was a clear affirmative command (honoring your parents).
Here is the list of the commandments:
- You shall have no other gods before me
- You shall not make for yourself an idol
- You shall not bow down to them or worship them
- You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God
- You shall not do any work (on the seventh day)
- Honor your father and mother
- You shall not murder
- You shall not commit adultery
- You shall not steal
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife
Twelve. Now, some of them are definitely connected to others, but there are definitely 12. Yeah, I’m pretty sure your brain just exploded.
Don’t Trust Movies!
A popular image of the “Ten Commandments” is Moses up on the mountain as God chisels them out of rock with lightning or something awesome like that.
In Exodus 20, that is NOT how it happens.
All the people are gathered together and God begins to speak out of the cloud. They all hear it. Everyone receives this message. And there are no tablets.
That is important.
These commands were meant to be given to the entire Israelite community. No one has secret information or a one-up on anyone else. Not even Moses. This is for everyone. No one can make an excuse that they didn’t hear.
God totally empowers his people. All of them. At the same time. Maybe this is what a kingdom of priests looks like.
But . . .
Almost immediately they choose out of it.
When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’
God has drawn near to his people. They choose to back away.
That didn’t take long.
Granted, he is appearing in a dark and scary thundercloud with trumpets and loud noises and all – but he’s not trying to hurt them. Moses even tells them to not be afraid but it doesn’t work.
They treat God like he was some nice guy taking them out on a date and then suddenly turned into a werewolf-cat thing and then danced with a bunch of zombies.