The Actual Ten Commandments

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pap45murf's picture
The Actual Ten Commandments

Again, I'm new here, so forgive me if I post anything that has been discussed ad nauseam. But it is my contention that the Ten Commandments as we know them are not actually the Ten Commandments. When God laid out what we consider to be the Ten Commandments to Moses, he was just talking. Moses wasn't etching anything down onto his iStone. Then when he descended the mountain, he threw the iTablets down in anger and broke them. It never mentions what was actually on those stones or that someone pieced them back together.

Exodus 34:1 says: "And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest."

“I am going to write the same thing on these tablets as I did the first ones. The official tablet commandments are as follows:”

And he goes on to describe a completely different list (Exodus 34:10-26 if you want to read them), omitting the part about not killing for more important commandments, like avoiding yeast, celebrating festivals, and this loosely worded commandment about sacrificing firstborns:

"The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock.

Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. No one is to appear before me empty-handed."

Don't get me started on whether or not the Bible endorses human sacrifices... but you would think if God meant livestock, he wouldn't stipulate "including...livestock" and "redeeming" sons in the same manner as donkeys.

Finally, notice that God never says the well-known commandments are actually meant to be commandments. Yet right before he gives us this other list, he says: 34:10 And he said, Behold, I make a covenant:

And when he's done he says:34:27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down all these instructions, for they represent the terms of the covenant I am making with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

I make a covenant. Here are the terms of the covenant. Yeast. Sacrifices. Festivals. These are the words of the covenant, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS!

And if you're wondering why God would get rid of the commandments about murder for commandments about yeast and sacrifices, if you've read the Old Testament, you know that murder is committed willy-nilly all the time, whereas improper sacrifice preparation often results in harsh punishment. This is very much in accordance with God's priorities.

I rest my case.

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Tin-Man's picture
Hey there, MC. Good to see

Hey there, MC. Good to see you back. Sounds like you've been doing some homework. Yeah, this has been discussed before, but it has been awhile. Just to give you a heads-up, though, you may have your work cut out for in trying to get any of the theists on here to see the points you made.... *chuckle*... However, should be interesting to see how it goes.

boomer47's picture
@Messiah Complex;

@Messiah Complex;

The commonly understood 10 commandments are correct as far as I'm aware.

HOWVER, The ten commandments make only a tiny proportion of Mosaic Law , laid out in the Torah. Jews are aware of this, christians tend not to be. (apart from some evangelicals who like to cherry pick Leviticus so they can reject homosexuality)

There are actually 613 commandments (mitzvah) .They are known collectively as 'the mitzvot".

The 613 mitzvot cover every aspect of Jewish life. The penalty for breaking many is death. eg For adultery, breaking the sabbath , or a
father may kill a recalcitrant child. As one might surmise, Judaism has moved on a bit, even the Hasidim. (extreme orthodox) Stoning has gone right out of fashion. Blood sacrifices are no longer made. I am unaware of YHWH ever demanding human sacrifice ( except one, with Abraham, which he rescinded at the last minute, the cruel cunt)


Below a list of the first 50 odd of the mitzvot. The link will show the full list. I thought using a Jewish source was appropriate:

Orthodox Jews do not speak nor write the name of God, because it is far too sacred .Hence G-d:


To know that G-d exists (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6) (CCA1). See What Do Jews Believe?.
Not to entertain the idea that there is any god but the Eternal (Ex. 20:3) (CCN8). See What Do Jews Believe?.
Not to blaspheme (Ex. 22:27; in Christian texts, Ex. 22:28), the penalty for which is death (Lev. 24:16) (negative).
To hallow G-d's name (Lev. 22:32) (CCA5). See The Name of G-d.
Not to profane G-d's name (Lev . 22:32) (CCN155). See The Name of G-d.
To know that G-d is One, a complete Unity (Deut. 6:4) (CCA2). See What Do Jews Believe?.
To love G-d (Deut. 6:5) (CCA3). See What Do Jews Believe?.
To fear Him reverently (Deut. 6:13; 10:20) (CCA4).
Not to put the word of G-d to the test (Deut. 6:16) (negative).
To imitate His good and upright ways (Deut. 28:9) (CCA6).


To honor the old and the wise (Lev. 19:32) (CCA17).
To learn Torah and to teach it (Deut. 6:7) (CCA14). See Torah.
To cleave to those who know Him (Deut. 10:20) (the Talmud states that cleaving to scholars is equivalent to cleaving to Him) (CCA16).
Not to add to the commandments of the Torah, whether in the Written Law or in its interpretation received by tradition (Deut. 13:1) (CCN159). See Torah.
Not to take away from the commandments of the Torah (Deut. 13:1) (CCN160). See Torah.
That every person shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself (Deut. 31:19) (CCA15). See Torah.

Signs and Symbols

To circumcise the male offspring (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3) (CCA47) See Brit Milah: Circumcision.
To put tzitzit on the corners of clothing (Num. 15:38) (CCA10). See Tzitzit and Tallit.
To bind tefillin on the head (Deut. 6:8) (CCA9). See Tefillin.
To bind tefillin on the arm (Deut. 6:8) (CCA8). See Tefillin.
To affix the mezuzah to the doorposts and gates of your house (Deut. 6:9) (CCA12). See Mezuzah.

Prayer and Blessings

To pray to G-d (Ex. 23:25; Deut. 6:13) (according to the Talmud, the word "serve" in these verses refers to prayer) (CCA7). See Prayers and Blessings; Jewish Liturgy.
To read the Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7) (CCA11). See Jewish Liturgy.
To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10) (CCA13). See Birkat Ha-Mazon: Grace After Meals
Not to lay down a stone for worship (Lev. 26:1) (CCN161).

Love and Brotherhood

To love all human beings who are of the covenant (Lev. 19:18) (CCA60). See Love and Brotherhood.
Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger (Lev. 19:16) (CCN82). See Love and Brotherhood.
Not to wrong any one in speech (Lev. 25:17) (CCN48). See Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
Not to carry tales (Lev. 19:16) (CCN77). See Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
Not to cherish hatred in one's heart (Lev. 19:17) (CCN78). See Love and Brotherhood.
Not to take revenge (Lev. 19:18) (CCN80).
Not to bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18) (CCN81).
Not to put any Jew to shame (Lev. 19:17) (CCN79).
Not to curse any other Israelite (Lev. 19:14) (by implication: if you may not curse those who cannot hear, you certainly may not curse those who can) (CCN45).
Not to give occasion to the simple-minded to stumble on the road (Lev. 19:14) (this includes doing anything that will cause another to sin) (CCN76).
To rebuke the sinner (Lev. 19:17) (CCA72).
To relieve a neighbor of his burden and help to unload his beast (Ex. 23:5) (CCA70). See Love and Brotherhood.
To assist in replacing the load upon a neighbor's beast (Deut. 22:4) (CCA71). See Love and Brotherhood.
Not to leave a beast, that has fallen down beneath its burden, unaided (Deut. 22:4) (CCN183). See Love and Brotherhood.

The Poor and Unfortunate

Not to afflict an orphan or a widow (Ex. 22:21) (CCN51).
Not to reap the entire field (Lev. 19:9; Lev. 23:22) (negative) (CCI6).
To leave the unreaped corner of the field or orchard for the poor (Lev. 19:9) (affirmative) (CCI1).
Not to gather gleanings (the ears that have fallen to the ground while reaping) (Lev. 19:9) (negative) (CCI7).
To leave the gleanings for the poor (Lev. 19:9) (affirmative) (CCI2).
Not to gather ol'loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard (Lev. 19:10) (negative) (CCI8).
To leave ol'loth (the imperfect clusters) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10; Deut. 24:21) (affirmative) (CCI3).
Not to gather the peret (grapes) that have fallen to the ground (Lev. 19:10) (negative) (CCI9).
To leave peret (the single grapes) of the vineyard for the poor (Lev. 19:10) (affirmative) (CCI4).
Not to return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19) This applies to all fruit trees (Deut. 24:20) (negative) (CC10).
To leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor (Deut. 24:19-20) (affirmative) (CCI5).
Not to refrain from maintaining a poor man and giving him what he needs
To give charity according to one's means (Deut. 15:11) (CCA38). See Tzedakah: Charity.


I came across this many the years ago, don't remember the source ; "The Jew is committed to endless acts of compassion" . Of course ,there IS a caveat; until Jesus allegedly told the parable of the good Samaritan, the law only applied to Jews. It was The Law above all else which ensured the survival of the Jews from the [alleged] exodus until the Holocaust.

Grinseed's picture
@ MC, no problem that this

@ MC, no problem that this has been discussed before. The Old Testament laws of the 10 and 20 commandments and the 613 mitzvots deserve occasional revision.
They are the part of Yeshua's original teaching, which most christians tend to ignore because they're inconvenient, except the bits where they can persecute 'others'. They are a part of the original teachings that Paul with his self declared authority overruled which made his brand of christianity so popular with non Jews.

@ Cranky, great post. It and the jewfaq goes into the Cranky file next to the Old Man file for future reference, ta.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
Yep has been discussed before

Yep has been discussed before but is very interesting. Every poster has a slightly different take on the subject, which is great as more and more of the inconsistencies of the modern christian faith are exposed to the layman.

Keep it up!

jonthecatholic's picture
I remember this being brought

I remember this being brought up before. The problem with this assertion is that it's redefining what "10 commandments" means.

The term ten commandments is a title give to a specific group of teachings found in a particular place in scripture. It's like "The Beatitudes" found in Matthew 5. The Ten Commandments refers to the set of laws mentioned in Exodus 20. It's an easier way to reference a specific portion of the text without the actual texts calling them the "ten commandments" or the "beatitudes". It's pretty much like how we say, "the golden rule" as opposed to saying the entire thing.

Grinseed's picture
The dispute over which ten

The dispute over which ten commandments are actually engraved on the "tables" comes about because the text is so poorly worded, probably because the text has been translated from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to Olde Englishe, all with individual and unique grammatical and contextual differences that have mangled the original context. The Bible simply isn't the greatest bit of literature ever written. Kurt Vonnegut was infinitely better even on his worst days.

From chapter 20, after delivering the first ten commandments we are all familiar with, God rabbits on and on, for twenty entire chapters, about everything he wants the children of Israel to do, including the interior decorating for his go anywhere Tabernacle.

As the OP has noted nothing is said about what is written on the first two tablets, although you have to wonder why Moses carries them all the way down the mountain and throws them at the misbehaving Israelites, if they were actually blank. He must have been really pissed.

Then in chapter 34 Yahweh reminds Moses to knock up another two tablets of stone. Then Yahweh goes off again with more of what his chosen children should do, how and why they should do it, before getting back on topic about the new tablets.

Have you ever had to listen to an executive making plans off the top of his head?
They seem to engage in a sort of stream of fluid thought thing that they consider creative, moving from one topic to another unrelated topic expecting someone will be writing all their grand genius visions down for the greater good of posterity...not unlike a god actually.

Anyway, in the reading of Exodus 34, yes, it could be read and understood that a whole new set of ten commandments have been suggested, although its hard to fix a number to them in chapter 34.

And the key is in 34:27-28, when Yahweh gets down to the business of committing the ten commandments to stone, and it takes Moses, the worst Iron age stenographer in history, forty days and nights without food or water to get the meagre ten commandments down on stone for the meanest boss in the universe, who then continues on for the next six chapters on his 'creative executive flow.".
And there is still no clear indication of what is actually written on the second set of tablets.

In any case, ten commandments, or ten thousand, two tablets or three, chapter 20 or 34, however many mitzvots you want, it makes not one bit of difference, Exodus and indeed the entire Pentateuch, the entire Bible for that matter, is just a grand and elaborate legend about a mythical, and enormously complex, I will give it that, complex god of the children of Israel and everything ever written on this broad subject over the last two thousand years amounts to little more than elaborate fan fiction.

edited because I'm no better a stenographer than Moses.

boomer47's picture
@ Grinseed

@ Grinseed

Yair, I was aware it's only an academic exercise,I think that's implicit in discussions between atheists.

The whole area of comparative religion and has always fascinated me. . That's why I took a double major in Social Anthropology at university.

The 'quaint custom' school of anthropology was made popular with the general public by James Frazer's "The Golden Bough" (first published in 1890) It is still read today, although not university as far as I know, except perhaps as a negative example. Same goes for Margaret Mead.

Modern Social Anthropology can be described in a sentence as " The study of meaning " . Beliefs are never simply dismissed because they might seem foolish or ignorant. The point is to discover what such beliefs mean to believers.

Hence when I examine such things it is for their own sake, not to justify my atheism.

We may need to agree to differ.

Grinseed's picture
@ Cranky

@ Cranky

I had actually written in reply to JOC as he, and Jo, I think, had made this point once before. Having considered his explanation, I really do think the Exodus 34 mention of the ten commandments can still be referring to those in Exodus 20.

But while agreeing with this I felt a need to emphasise my rejection of the Exodus story as history because other AR member might still earnestly question the meaning in chapter 34. I My enthusiasm can get verbose and strident.

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