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The Ten Commandments known as "The Decalogue" sung with original music by Francisco Rivera

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The Ten Commandments sung with original music by Francisco Rivera
Exodus 20:3-8, 11-17 The Ten Commandments


DECALOGUE (dek'a-log, Gr. deka, ten and logos, word), the basic laws of the Hebrew state.
They were given by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20). The laws were inscribed on tablets of stone. Deut. 4:13) and
were afterwards carried in the ark of covenant (Deut 10:2). There is a slight difference between the record in Exodus
20:1-17 and that in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Catholics and Lutherans unite 1 and 2 and divide 10; Eastern (Greek) Catholics
and most Protestants accept the order given in the KJV. Jesus approved the law (Matt. 5:18; 22:40), fulfilled it
(Matt. 5:27-48; 23:23), and became the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe (Rom. 10:4; 8:1-4).

The Zonervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary


THE SCRIBES
Jo Bailey Wells

Ancient Israel did not live in a world dependent on oral tradition alone. Our inheritance of the Bible, and of the Old Testament in particular, owes its existence entirely to generations of Jewish scribes, who copied and recopied portions of scripture for more than 1,500 years.

The alphabet was already established in Canaan when Israel became a nation. This provided a simple means for recording accounts of divine revelations, oral traditions and historical events.
The oldest Hebrew texts which have been found date from the 9th century BC, though it is quite likely that previous generations of Israelite scribes were also writing with the alphabet.

The Written Word
While much was told by word of mouth and passed on that way from generation to generation (for example, Exodus 13:14-15), the existence of writing meant there was something to check against.
Consider, for example, the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. It is highly significant that the story says Moses was given the commandments, not just verbally, but also written down on tablets of stone. According to the accounts in Exodus and Deuteronomy, Moses carried these down the mountain and placed them in the Ark for safe-keeping (Deuteronomy 10:4-5).
Writing carries significant impact within a predominantly oral culture:
A) It lends authority Writing gives power to words in a way that every doorpost (Deuteronomy 6:9; 11:20). While the original
texts of the law were kept safely in the Ark (eventually, in the sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem), copies could be made that anyone with questions or doubts might consult.
B) It provides for accuracy The words of a prophet might be written the day they were spoken and kept for verification
(compare Deuteronomy 18:22). Records about kings, their policies and related events could be maintained and updated, and later used as sources by the biblical historians (fro example, 1 Kings 11:41; 2 Kings 23:28).

Scribes as writers
Understood literally, a scribe-in Hebrew, sopher-is any person who writes. Although anyone who was determined could learn to read and perhaps also write Hebrew without enormous effort, the term is normally used to describe a designated guild of people who fulfilled the special task of writing- and copying-Israel's sacred and historical accounts.
Before the exile, these people probably formed administrative centres in the royal court. Later on, around the 2nd century BC, 'the Scribes' became a distinct political party made up of a highly-educated class of people, affiliated with the Pharisees.

Ezra is depicted as the archetypal scribe (see also 'The Scribe'). That is to say, he was a member of a learned class of people who devoted himself to copying, guarding and interpreting the law. This work demanded care and training over several years (see Psalm 45:1; Ezra 7:6) and was taken very seriously (Jeremiah 8:8). It operated in close relation with the work of the priesthood. According to the tradition, Ezra performed several roles. These are probably idealized in the writing of Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus 38:24 - 39:11):
A) preacher: assembling the people every year in order to read out the law, explain it and urge people to keep it.
B) judge: listening to those with complaints and giving rulings on particular matters of Jewish law
C) teacher: running schools in writing and for the training of apprentice scribes
D) academic: studying the law, and producing writing and theory in response.

Copying The copyist's task was to reproduce the text as accurately as possible. So we cannot tell how many times a portion of the Old Testament has been copied, as long as it has been done well. We can only identify the occasions where mistakes were made, based on the variations between texts.

Differences between texts can be understood to stem from:
A) the omission or addition of a word
B) misspellings, which later result in misreadings
C) the inclusion within the main text of a interpretative note originally intended for the margin
D) damage to a scroll, leaving us to guess illegible or missing words
E) a scribal alteration, made to soften ideas perceived as offensive.

Though minor errors were committed by copyists which have passed into the printed text, the process of copying included careful checking and correction.
The close similarity between different copies of the text, transmitted through different channels, originating from different eras and even received in different languages, is remarkable.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 - manuscripts over 1,000 years older than anything previously known - has high-lighted the extraordinary accuracy of this process.

In days long before printing, Hebrew scribes made copies of the scriptures with a care and accuracy which seems extra-
ordinary to readers today, living in a world which generally cares less for truth. Jewish scribes still work with the same scrupulous attention to detail.

Ben Sira's portrait of the ideal scribe, from Ecclesiasticus 39
'He seeks out the wisdom of all the ancients, and is concerned with prophecies;
he preserves the sayings of the famous and penetrates the subtleties of parables;
he seeks out the hidden meanings of proverbs and is at home with the obscurities of parables.
He serves among the great and appears before rulers...
If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding...
The Lord will direct his counsel and knowledge...
He will show the wisdom of what he has learned, and will glory in the law of the Lord's covenant.'

A way of life: the Ten Commandments
Philip Jenson
After the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites arrived at Mt Sinai and made a covenant with God. There God gave the
Ten Commandments set out in Exodus 20: 1-17, to enable the people to keep their side of the agreement (Exodus 19:5).
The only other place they are found in full is Deuteronomy 5:6-21, where their completeness and finality is stressed (5:22).
There are minor variations between the Exodus and Deuteronomy versions, but this only reflects the flexible approach to law found in the Bible as a whole.
In the Old Testament the Ten Commandments are literally the 'ten words', the Decalogue (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4). their importance is indicated by the fact that only these 'words' are spoken directly by God. All other laws are mediated by Moses (Exodus 20:1, 19).

The law God gave his people was a way of life, not simply a set of rules. In the Psalmist's words it is a lamp to the feet and a light on the path for all who study to follow it.

What is 'Torah'?
This is often translated 'law', But law is often regarded as being impersonal and universal. Torah is more accurately 'instruction' or 'teaching.' It is God's personal word to his people about how they are to live. Later it was used as a title for the Pentateuch, since the stories as well as the laws there instructed the people about what God was like and how they were to like. "The Torah is truth, and the purpose of knowing it is to live by it."

God's gift to his people
'I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt' (Exodus 20:2) is the essential foundation for all that follows. First God graciously saves, then he summons the people to obey out of gratitude. Individual commandments are found in other ethical statements and law codes, but the Pentateuch sets them in a unique historical and theological context.
Because of what God has done for them, the people gladly commit themselves to the law. It was possible to exclude oneself
through disobedience (20:5), but this was not their primary purpose. Eight of the ten are negative ('you shall not', but these define the boundary within which the Israelites could live safely.
The New Testament demonstrates the same pattern; new life through Christ is freely available to all, but God's people are then required to live in a way which pleases him, 'If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love,' Jesus said to his disciples.

Different kinds of law
Some laws are more general and universal than others. Deuteronomy distinquishes 'the commandment' from 'the statutes and the ordinances' (6:1). The positive form of 'the commandment' is the Shema, 'Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, is one.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart...'(6:4-9). This is the positive form of the first of the Ten Commandments.
You shall have no other gods before me' (5:7).
Other laws are very specific; they can be found in Exodus 21 - 23 and Deuteronomy 12 - 26.
The Ten Commandments are in between in generality. They are written on stone to indicate their permanent validity in principle. There are also ten of them, the symbolic number of completeness. They were intended to be a comprehensive portrait of the obedient life. However, they also had to be selective since the portrait could only be sketched in outline.
They invited interpretation and application, and we can already see this happening in the longer commandments.
The reason for the sabbath commandment is traced back both to creation (Exodus 20:10) and to the exodus
(Deuteronomy 5:15).

Right priorities
The order of the commandments is very significant.
A) The first four deal with the decisive issue of Israel's attitude to God. These lead on to the laws that concern behavior in the community.
B) The sabbath commandment has already linked attitude to God and attitude to neighbor, since not even a slave was allowed to work on the day holy to God. Jesus reaffirmed this link in his double summary of the law (Matthew 22:36-40).
C) The sabbath commandments is followed by the only other positive one, the call to honour parents. This points to the central value in the working of the law, family stability and harmony. It is the only commandment accompanied by a promise (Ephesians 6:2).
D) The tenth concludes by going beyond outward action to inward motivation, an emphasis that Jesus extended to other commandments (Matthew 5:21-48).

Letter and spirit
The context, content and tone of the Ten Commandments reflect an awareness that the spirit as well as the letter of the law was crucial. the prophets fiercely criticized those who tried to subvert or side-step them (Amos 8:5).
Similarly, Jesus criticized his contemporaries for interpreting the commandments narrowly (Matthew 23:23).
In line with other biblical writings, biblical law in general and the Ten Commandments in particular seek to establish a just and peaceable kingdom founded on the love of God and neighbor.

"The Law is given after God has saved his people, not before...Israel did not try to keep the law in order to win salvation. Christians do not try to be good in order to get to heaven. God has already acted to bring salvation. The Red Sea has been crossed. Christ has died and risen. Obedience to god is the response to salvation, not a qualification for it"
Marcus Maxwell

Interpreting the commandments

What does 'do not murder' mean?
The meaning of a commandment is not always clear. The detailed laws explore difficult cases and set out different degrees of disobedience and punishment. For example, manslaughter differs from murder (see Exodus 21:12-14).
In Israel's context, the necessity for killing in war was so evident that it did not even need to be discussed! From time to time
different conclusions could be reached due to different circumstances, but everyone accepted the overarching authority of the commandments.

Ancient law-codes
There are various parallels between the individual commandments and laws found in law codes drawn up by Israel's neighbors. However, nowhere do we find such a concentrated summary. There are also often significant differences in detail. For example, the laws of the Babylonian king Hammurabi has the following:
"If a citizen has stolen an ox, or a sheep. or an ass, or a pig, or a boat, if it is the property of the temple or of the crown, he shall give thirty-fold, but, if it is the property of a vassal, he shall restore ten-fold, whereas if the thief has nothing to give, he shall die.
(Law 8)'
In Israel there was no distinctions between classes of people, and the death penalty was not enacted for theft
(Exodus 22:1).

There are different ways of numbering the ten. The reformed tradition (followed in this article) takes Exodus 20:2 as the prologue, the 'no graven images' as a separate commandment, and the double 'you shall not covet' as one commandment.
Some alternatives are:

Jewish Catholic/Lutheran Reformed
1. introduction 1. no other gods 1. no other gods
2. no other gods no graven image 2. no graven image
no graven image 2. Lord's name 3. Lord's name
3. Lord's name 3. sabbath 4. sabbath
4. sabbath 4. honour parents 5. honour parents
5. honour parents 5. not kill 6. not kill
6. not kill 6. no adultery 7. no adultery
7. no adultery 7. not steal 8. not steal
8. not steal 8. no false witness 9. no false witness
9. no false witness 9. not covet 10. not covet
10. not covet 10. not covet wife

Zondervan Handbook to the Bible


Exodus 20 . The Ten Commandments

Thou shalt have No Other Gods before Me.
Thou shalt not worship any Graven Image.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.
Honor thy Father and thy Mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit Adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear False Witness.
Thy shalt not Covet anything that is thy neighbor's.


These Commandments were afterward engraved on both sides of two tables of stone, "written with the finger of God."
"The tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God" (31:18; 32:15, 16). They were kept for centuries
in the Ark. It is thought that possibly they were destroyed in the Captivity. What if some day they should be found?
The Ten Commandments were the basis of Hebrew Law. Four of them have to do with our attitude toward God; six, with
our attitude toward our fellowman. Jesus condensed them into two: "Thou Shalt Love the Lord thy God with All thy Heart
and Soul and Strength and Mind; and thy Neighbor as Thyself."
Reverence for God is the basis of the Ten Commandments. Jesus indicated that he considered it the elemental quality
in man's approach to God, and made it the first petition in the Lord's Prayer. "Hallowed be Thy Name." It is suprising how
many people, in their ordinary conversation, continually Blaspheme the Name of God, and use it in such a light and trivial
way. Idolatry is Absolutely Forbidden.
HALLEY'S BIBLE HANDBOOK



LAW GIVEN AT SINAI (Exodus 19:1---24:18)

This section of Exodus which contains the familiar Ten Commandments. Chapter 19 begins the last half of the book which
we have called worship.
Worship is intimately related to law. For, to worship is to acknowledge a higher authority, and there is no authority where
there is no law. So after God delivered His people from bondage, He began to spell out in detail how they should worship
Him publicly, privately, and even in everyday living. These instructions were His laws. Their importance to Israel is seen by the space devoted to them in the Penetuech: about half of Exodus, most of Leviticus, the first part of Numbers, and much
of Deuteronomy. The importance of the Ten Commandments to the world is demonstrated by the fact that the legal codes
of every civilized nation are based upon them.

The Setting
Promise 19:1-6
Preparation 19:7-15
Phenomena 19:16-25
The Laws
Basic Laws 20:1-17
Laws in Detail 20:18---23:19
The Promises 23:20-33
The Response 24:1-18
The Ten Commandments of 20:1-17 are foundational and all-inclusive. Observe that the first four commandments tell man's
duty toward God, and the last six, his duty toward his fellowman.

Jensen's Survey of the Old Testament



EXODUS 19:1-15
Moses Receives Jehovah's Words in the Mount. The plain beneath Sinai, where Israel encamped, has been identified, and the reader should study the books of travelers which afford a mental conception of the scene. The brilliant colors, in which red sandstone predominates; the shattered, thunder-stricken peaks; the awful silence; the utter absence of vegetation; the level plain giving abundant opportunity for all to hear and see--all these deserve notice. The tenderness of the divine address is very touching. Nor are we excluded from these promises, if we are among Abraham's spiritual children.
See Rom. 4:16. If God could carry this multitude of people, he is sufficient for us and our burdens. We also may be his peculiar treasure and a kingdom of priests.
But Israel's solemn pledge was a profound mistake. Had they known themselves better, they would never have made it, and one design of the Decalogue was to show how absolutely impossible it is for any to be justified by the works of the Law.
Pentecost, which Whitsuntide commemorates, took place on the anniversary of this august scene.

EXODUS 19:16-25
The People Warned Not to Approach the Mount. The holiness of God was taught in object lessons. The people must wash
their garments, the mount must be fenced in, not a beast might graze upon the slopes, not a hand might touch the holy soil.
Moses must twice descend to warn the people, v. 14, 21, 25. Only he and Aaron might ascend. All was done to convince
the people of the vast distance that intervened between themselves and God. It was the awe engendered by such pro-visions, and which pervaded the ancient dispensation, that led Peter to cry, when the divine glory of Jesus smote upon him,
"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
Dare to believe that beneath every cloud of soul-anguish, bereavement, and trial you will find the burning love of God.
Clouds and darkness may be round about him, but faithfulness and truth, judgment and mercy are at the foundation of his
throne. Listen to the voice that bids you enter the pavilion, and remember Hebrews 12:18.

EXODUS 20-17
The "Ten Words" Spoken at Sinai. The Law was given by the disposition of angels,l through the medium of Moses.
See John 1:17; Acts 7:53. It tells us, not what God is, for that is only shown in Jesus Christ, but what man should be.
It combines in a concise form that moral code which is part of the nature of things and is written on man's conscience.
See Romans 2:15. Even the Fourth Commandment id deeply graven on our physical nature. These laws are mostly
negative, but their positive side is stated in Matt. 5. For practical purposes this divine code consists of two divisions or
tables; the first, of our duties toward God; The second, of those to man; but these are summed up in the one great law of
love. See Mark 12:29-31; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14. Our Lord Jesus stands surety for us at the bar in Sinai.
By his righteousness imputed and imparted, by his obedience and death, by the gracious indwelling of his Spirit, he comes
"not to destroy, but to fulfill." See Matt. 5:17; Rom. 8:4

EXODUS 20:18-26
The People Fear; Idols and Altars. When the Lord was on earth, he was so attractive and winsome that the publicans and
sinners drew near to hear him, penitents wept at his feet, children loved him. But even then there were some who desired
him to depart out of their coasts. so here, Moses drew near, the people stood afar off. Let us not be among those who avoid
the near presence of God, but of those who are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Let us exercise our right to draw near to the throne of grace and stand in the very presence of our Father-God, because we have a great High Priest who is passed through the heavens.
At the 22nd verse we begin the Book of the Covenant, which extends to 23:33, containing a series of wholesome laws.
The first enactment deals with the worship of the Most High. Note that in all places he will record his Name. Everywhere we
may worship him. The altar had to be of earth, teaching us the lessons of humility, simplicity, and self-abasement.
See Heb. 13:10. But always the adjustment with God precedes rightness toward man.

EXODUS 23:1-19
Laws of Conduct and Worship. We may apply these various precepts to our own hearts. Many of them breathe the very spirit of Christ. We must watch our speech, so that no man's character may suffer by our gossip or slander. We must dare to stand for the truth, though we stand absolutely alone. With all kindness and goodwill we must save our neighbor from damage, even though he has vented on us his spleen. It is never for us to take advantage of him; God will deal with him on our behalf,l and in his own time and way. Let us not fret ourselves to do evil. David's example in refusing to injure Saul when his bitter enemy was within his reach is an inspiring example for us to follow. We must hold an even balance for just and honorable dealing with all men, and cultivate the Sabbath-keeping of the heart. In every life, also, there should be personal memory of Calvary, the resurrection, and Pentecost--the three feasts of the soul!

EXODUS 23:20-33
Promise of Entrance into Canaan. This Angel must have been the Lord himself, for Stephen said expressly that the Angel was with Moses at the burning bush, where Jehovah revealed himself and the very ground was holy. Besides, we are told here that God's Name--i.e., his nature--was in him. The Son of God, therefore, must have been the leader of the pilgrim host, preceding the march and preparing for their needs.
Notice that God would also send the hornet before his people, v. 28. The Presence, which is an Angel for God's Children, becomes a hornet to the rebellious and ungodly. To one it is a savor of life, and to the other of death. The sun that bleaches linen white tans the hands that expose it; the cloud which is light to Israel is thick darkness to Egypt. Grieve not the
Holy One, who will overcome your enemies and satisfy your soul with goodness, if you will obey his voice.

EXODUS 24:1-11
Covenant Made and Sealed by Blood. Moses remained in communion with God while receiving the laws of the preceding chapters. When they were concluded, he descended to ratify with all solemnity the covenant between Jehovah and Israel.
If the altar represented God's side of the transaction, the twelve pillars stood for Israel. The young men filled the priestly office according to 13:2, until the Levites were appointed. It must have been a solemn spectacle as the sprinkled blood sealed the covenant. But let us turn from the first covenant, sealed with the blood of beasts, to the new covenant, by which all the Church of the redeemed are bound to God, and which was sealed by the shedding of the precious blood of Christ.
"This is my blood of the covenant," said Jesus, when handing round the wine. See He. 9:18-20 and 13:20
The Lord's Supper is a perpetual reminder of our obligations.

F.B. MEYER BIBLE COMMENTARY









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