The Top Ten Commandments

Moses Letterman

In addition to the better known list of commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai chronicled in the book of Exodus, a second list of commandments is presented in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy.  No, this is not a list of commandments eleven through twenty.  However, the two lists are not quite identical.

Both lists:

cover the LORD’s preeminence,

prohibit the use of idols,

forbid the misuse of the name of the LORD,

remind the people to observe the Sabbath,

command that honor be given to both father and mother,

outlaw murder, adultery, theft, and lying,

and tell the people not to get too attached to their neighbor’s stuff.

So what is the difference?

While both lists address the Sabbath, they base the command to observe the Sabbath on very different grounds.

Exodus 20:11 reflects back upon the LORD’s creation of… well… creation.  The people are reminded that the LORD took six days to create the earth, the sea, and everything else.  Following this, the LORD rested on the seventh day.  This is the reason given that the people of the covenant should also rest on the seventh day of the week.

Deuteronomy 5:15 also reflects back, but this time upon the exodus.  The people are commanded to keep the Sabbath day because the LORD stretched out his arm and with his mighty hand brought his people out of slavery in Egypt.

Though these are clearly very different motivators, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 are addressed to different audiences.  In Exodus,  the people of the covenant have a creation mythology that dictates their worldview making it the ideal motivator.  For the people in Deuteronomy, the exodus has in some ways supplanted the creation mythos with the exodus itself, after multiple generations, becoming mythologized.  This makes the exodus an ideal motivator for the people as they prepare to enter the land of promise.

For more on myths and the Ten Commandments, go here.

For an atheists view of the Ten Commandments, go here.

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