With only 2 lessons left before the 6th Sabbath of Shavuot, it’s hard to believe that I’m just getting around to the ‘Ten Commandments’ now. I supposed if Yah waited for months after Israel’s liberation from Egypt, then I shouldn’t have been hasty in discussing them either. I submit to you that the meanings and expectations of each command are straightforward and obvious. So rather than typical deep dive into the meaning of each command, lets step back and look at the whole set from a fresh angle.
First, let’s explore the number 10 itself. In the actual giving of the commands, in the narrative, Yah surprisingly doesn’t expressly enumerate the commands. They don’t become known as “The Ten Commandments” until AFTER Moses goes up the mountain a second time, AFTER Yah provides atonement for the ‘Golden Calf Incident’—14 chapters from now. When discussed in the book of Numbers, ironically, these commandments never have a number assigned to them, nor does that happen in Leviticus. However, in Deuteronomy they are finally referred to with the number “ten”, twice in fact.
That’s a total of three witnesses that there actually are 10, and that’s good enough for me.
Where it becomes complicated in the world of religion, is that Judaism, Catholicism, and all of the various other ‘isms’ insist on adding specific numbers to each individual command, and each tradition numbers them differently. The bizarre French-American idol known as the Statue of Liberty even numbers them with roman numerals–but I digress.
Here are some examples that show the biblical pattern of the meaning of ’10’.
In Genesis chapter 1, the expression “God said”, occurs 10 times. That seems to imply a foundation for literally everything else in Scripture.
Noah was the tenth generation from Adam and is the foundational figure of the new creation.
The ten-day period of time from Rosh Chodesh (Day 1 of Month 1) is a foundational period of time each year, culminating with choosing a lamb for the Pesach.
The ten-day period of beginning with Yom Teruah (Day 1 of Month 7) and culminating with Yom Kippur, similarly lays a foundation for Sukkot—the final Feast of joy each fall. This same span of time represents the 1000 Year Kingdom we are heading towards–the foundational visionary promise of all of Scripture.
The ten plagues that destroyed Egypt lay the foundation for the Ten Commandments themselves, as “You shall not have any other God’s before me” was precisely the point of these plagues. Each of the ten plagues destroyed the reputations of ten separate Egyptian ‘gods’, while establishing the foundation of YHWH’s name forever.
The ten toes of the image of Babylon (Daniel 2:41) align with the world’s system of false worship (and at some point in the near future will prove to be an especially poor foundation.)
The word “tithe” is simply the number ten in Hebrew, and provides a foundation for life for widows and orphans, and when we set apart that 10 percent first (gross, not net)—it also serves as a foundational principle of worship and generosity.
Messiah ascended on the 40th day of Shavuot, leaving a remainder of 10 days before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a day so foundational to Christianity that many misunderstand it as the birthday of the Church.
So, by orally delivering these first 10 words, the foundation has now been set for Israel to receive their first download of Torah, directly from Yah’s mouth.
But there’s this other thing–in neither the original Hebrew nor Greek are these first 10 principles ever actually called ‘Commandments’.
Like we discussed back on Day #34, a “Command”, a “Mitzvah” in Hebrew, would typically imply a “thou shall” or “shan’t” do “such and such’”. However, the words used to introduce these 10 foundational expectations are as follows:
“And God spoke all these WORDS, saying…”
Furthermore, the next words He spoke were these, “I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Those are certainly important words, but it’s not a “command” in a literal sense.
The Hebrew word for “word” is ‘Debar’, so the nerdily-correct phrase for the Ten Commandments should be ‘The Ten Words’. In Greek, they are correctly called “The Decalogue” (which means Ten Words).
Despite Charleston Heston’s portrayal, these words aren’t literally set in stone long until AFTER Shavuot. They actually make their brief first appearance to Israel just as Moses is smashing them to pieces on “The Day of Shouting”, as he discovers what they’ve been up to. I imagine Yah was carving these words into stone, with his own hand, as a gift for His Segulah, while we were literally in very the midst of adultery with The Golden Calf.
Like The Ten Words themselves, ‘Debar’ is a foundational word that the entire Word is based upon. (Tomorrow’s Day #42 study will focus entirely on the Hebrew word ‘Debar’—which is also the same word often translated as ‘promise’.)
Judaism assigns the number ONE to those first words: “I Am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, our of the house of slavery,”—as their faith tradition correctly remembers the original foundation of where Israel originally came from.
However, all of the Christian traditions leave those first words off of the tablets entirely, and shift the label of number ONE to the next ‘words’, “You shall not have any other God’s before me”. Ironically, by treating Yah’s actual first words as an optional pre-amble, Christians risk finding themselves in the same ironic position as the Pharisee’s and Sadducees, who said in John 8:33, “We are offspring of Abraham, and have never been enslaved to anyone!”. This shift conveniently begins the slippery slope of the false pretense that “The Church” is a “new and improved” replacement for Israel.
By skipping that first word altogether, and instead choosing to number “You shall not…” as number ONE, Christianity can now force the traditional expression “Ten Commandments” upon the text, since now we have a neat and tidy misdirection to a list of dos and don’ts. In my opinion, this theological slight-of-hand is just as misleading as skipping from Pesach directly to the 50th day of Shavuot, without first embracing the full Torah being taught on the Way to Shavuot. Yah’s Name has always been greater than any written list of expectations—even the valid and authorized commandments, statues, and judgments that are right around the corner for Israel are only tools He’s given us to govern ourselves.
Every law is consistent with His heart, but no list alone can accurately proclaim His Name to the world. Religions are so eager to create numbered lists that many Christian denominations have created their own “Law of Christ”, made up of only the “commandments” Messiah specifically spoke about in the four Gospels. As if “Do not think I came to destroy the Law…” (Matthew 5:17) wasn’t somehow all inclusive.
The Samaritan Pentateuch (the Greek version of the Torah which a sect called “the Samaritans” believe to be holy) even adds a Tenth command, “You shall set up these stones, which I command you today, on Mount Gerizim.” Before we are quick to entirely dismiss that entire faith and their version of the printed word, Steven, the first Christian martyr and Hebrew Hero in Acts Chapter 7, quotes extensively from the Samaritan Pentateuch in his final words to the Sanhedrin. We don’t know for sure his background, but if Luke recorded Steven’s words correctly, he wasn’t raised reading the classic Hebrew Torah scrolls. Even if his theology was off, I think Steven was certainly a good Samaritan.
Even Islam numbers the same Ten Words, but with commentary, such as this one regarding The Sabbath, “O you who believe, when the prayer is announced on Friday, then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.” (Surat al-Jumu’ah 62:9) When Christianity “adjusts” the Sabbath to serve their own desires and to separate from Moses, they share the same motive as Islam, who makes that exactly same “adjustment”. Lawlessness loves company.
None of this is surprising to Yah.
Immediately after the Ten Words are spoken, Yah launches into a series of actual commands, statues, and judgments, also all un-numbered. The very first fresh “command” we’ve already discussed in a prior day’s lesson, Exodus 20:25:
“If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.” This is a perfectly placed warning to avoid futile attempts to force Yah and His Ways into a shape and form we would prefer, instead of taking His Words as delivered.
The Hebrew word for “profane” is chalal (Strongs H2490). This word pops up every time mankind begins to ruin something through our own inventiveness. True to it’s own definition, the English translation of the word itself even hides the profanity actually going on. Chalal is often simply translated innocently as the phrase “…and men began”.
The first mention of chalal is hidden in Genesis 4:26, “At that time MEN BEGAN to call upon the Name of YHWH”. The correct translation should be, “At that time, mankind began to profane the Name of YHWH.”
It’s no wonder then, that man-made religions feel forced to wield their tools upon the Word of Yah, forcing it to fit what we wished it would say—creating profane and idolatrous religions and denominations in the process.
Here’s a link to details on the subject of the Samaritan Pentateuch, but you can fact check it with your own resources too. https://www.torahclass.com/bible-studies/new-testament-studies/1851-new-testament-acts/2039-acts-lesson-17-chapter-7