The Ten Commandments: A Defunct Ancient Israelite Code

To the Biblically illiterate, the so-called Ten Commandments appear to be the ideal theocratic bases for the rule of a religious society. Within the past year, debates raged about posting these ancient Jewish legal codes in court rooms, schools, capitals, and public squares. When the Supreme Court ruled against the public display on the bases of separation of religion and State, churches here in the South passed out weather resistant Ten Commandment posters on wire frames which could (and are) displayed in private yards throughout the upstate of South Carolina as well as decals of the Commandments which were stuck on many a conservative Christian’s vehicle’s rear window.

However, when taken in the context of ancient Israelite socity as record in the Hebrew Bible, of what real value are these ancient Israelite Codes many call the Decalog. Then too, it should be noted that in ancient Israelite society, the penalty for breaking any of the first nine codes was death!

(Since Exodus 20: 1 - 17 is repeated in Deut. 5 6 - 21 as part of the Deuteronomistic History (Deuteronomy - 2 Kings) I’ve used the popular section of the Sinai story in Exodus to adds some short comments on.
The first 40% are dealing strictly with Israelite religion and Israel’s contract with their God.)

1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 You shall have no other gods before Me.

(This establishes an exclusive contract / Covenant with Israel only based on God’s deliverance of Israel form Egypt. It does acknowledge other equally real Gods)

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

(This further defines the bounds of Yahweh’s contract with Israel and will be the bases for future the fall of Israel (722 BCE) and Judea (586 BCE).

7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

(An oath sworn to Yahweh must be carried out even if it meant the death of ones own daughter. See story of Jephthah and the sacrifice of his daughter. Judges 11)

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

(This establishes the a rest day drawn for the creation myth and the anthromorphic nature an ancient Near Eastern Semitic god called Yahweh. This is the main Commandment Jesus is often found breaking in the Gospels and the religious section of this Decalog was the reason the religious Jews felt Jesus must died.)

12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

(A son or daughter’s days were “prolonged” if one was not killed for a rebellious actions.)

The following are exclusive laws which apply only to Israelites who had the contract / Covenant with Yahweh. Israel’s neighbors were viewed as in violation to the first 4 religious codes and were thus free to be killed. raped, lied to, and plundered for sexual needs and human sacrifice.

13 You shall not murder.

(Exodus 20: 13) תִּֿרְצָח׃ לֹא רְצָח (qal: kill, murder, strike down. A very limited verb used to protect only righteous Israelites. Out of this violent Hebrew society which employed 10 different word of killing often with their gods approval, slaughter and murder; ratsach is used only six times mainly to protect only Israelites.)

(Numbers 31: 17) הֲרֹגוּ׃ זָכָר לְמִשְׁכַּב אִישׁ יֹדַעַת וְכָל־אִשָּׁה בַּטָּף כָל־זָכָר הִרְגוּ וְעַתָּה

הִרְג is a word meaning roughly the same thing as רְצָח, but is used with Yahweh’s approval in Holy War.

14 You shall not commit adultery.

(This Commandment is far from what adultery means today. In Israelite society a girl was property of her father until married and then property of her husband after marriage, adultery meant the use of another man’s sexual possession to pleasure and children.

Plus, the fact that prostitutes, polygamy, concubines were protected sexual rights for all men under Yahweh’s Commandments, males were always assured of sexual gratification and while women remain uneducated property.)

15 You shall not steal.

(Applies only to Israelite clan property be it women or animals. Since non-covenanted countries were not protected, the conquest of Canaan in Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua reveal how (even after these commandments were given) the children of Yahweh killed, raped, stole and plundered the land with God‘s orders and blessings.)

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

(“neighbor” רֵעֲ is only used for Israelites. The rise of King David revels how the most famous figure often abused his Hebrew neighbor.)

17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

(To ensure any legal violations were deterred, an Israelite was to protect his own life by not planning a violation which could mean his death.

Within this commandment, one can see how women were equated with slaves, donkeys and material goods of other male Israelite.)