Catechism Lesson #22 The Ten Commandments (Part 1)
What are they?
I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
God's 10 Commandments were in effect from the beginning of creation, including in the Garden of Eden.
Many people are aware that God gave the 10 Commandments to the nation of Israel from Mount Sinai, as recorded in Exodus 20:1-17. This event occurred about two months after Israel left Egypt.
These commandments were known prior to the time that God gave them to Israel on two stones. Look at Genesis 26:5: “Because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my precepts and commandments, and observed my ceremonies and laws.”
Since Abraham obeyed God’s voice and kept His commandments hundreds of years before Moses, then surely those commandments must have been known before Mount Sinai. The Bible tells us that sin is iniquity. That is, in the greek language lawlessness. So sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible refers to sin a number of times before the time of Moses (Genesis 4:7; 13:13; 18:20; 39:9; 42:22; 50:17; etc.), so God’s law must have been revealed, at least to some people. In fact, the Bible gives evidence that the 10 Commandments were known and were understood as being very important.
The 10 Commandments before Moses
The First Commandment states:
“Thou shalt not have strange gods in my sight” and it continues with... “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any things, that are in heaven above, or that are in the earth beneath, or that abide in the waters under the earth.Thou shalt not adore them, and thou shalt not serve them. ” (Deuteronomy 5:6-9 see also Exodus 20: 2-5 ).
Hundreds of years earlier God was working with the patriarch Jacob. After God spoke to Jacob, notice what he did with the idols that were among his household:
“In the meantime God said to Jacob: Arise, and go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar to God, who appeared to thee when thou didst flee from Esau thy brother. And Jacob having called together all his household, said: Cast away the strange gods that are among you, and be cleansed and change your garments. Arise, and let us go up to Bethel, that we may make there an altar to God: who heard me in the day of my affliction, and accompanied me in my journey. So they gave him all the strange gods they had, and the earrings which were in their ears: and he buried them under the turpentine tree, that is behind the city of Sichem.” (Genesis 35:1-4).
So we see Jacob understood the importance of getting rid of idols and only worshipping the true God.
The Second Commandment says,
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: ” (Exodus 20:7).
It seems the patriarch Job lived before Moses, possibly about the time of Isaac, according to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, quoting the historian Eusebius. Job was concerned that his children might have been taking God’s name in vain, and he knew that was wrong.
“And when the days of their feasting were gone about, Job sent to them, and sanctified them: and rising up early offered holocausts for every one of them. For he said: Lest perhaps my sons have sinned, and have cursed God in their hearts. So did Job all days.” (Job 1:5).
The Third Commandment tells us to...
“Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day.” (Exodus 20:8).
To remember the Sabbath is to recall something that was established earlier. Notice Genesis 2:3: “And he blessed the seventh (or day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested ( or sabbathed) from all his work which God created and made.”
The 10 Commandments were known before Moses, and they are still important laws for all peoples today. God gave His laws for our good. They are based on love and help us know how to show love to God and our fellow man.Interestingly, Israel was reminded to remember the Sabbath even before they came to Mount Sinai. This was when God gave them manna to eat.
And he said to them: "This is what the Lord hath spoken: 'Tomorrow is the rest of the sabbath sanctified to the Lord. '“ ...And Moses said: "Eat it to day, because it is the sabbath of the Lord: to day it shall not be found in the field. Gather it six days: but on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, therefore it shall not be found." And the seventh day came: and some of the people going forth to gather, found none. And the Lord said to Moses: "How long will you refuse to keep my commandments, and my law" (Exodus 16:23-28).
So even before they arrived at Mount Sinai, God expected the people to obey His commandments, including the Third Commandment.
The Fourth Commandment says to
“Honour thy father and thy mother,” (Exodus 20:12).
Jacob and Esau both had dishonored their parents, but Jacob finally did obey. “And Esau seeing that his father had blessed Jacob, and had sent him into Mesopotamia of Syria, to marry a wife thence; and that after the blessing he had charged him, saying: Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Chanaan: And that Jacob obeying his parents was gone into Syria:” (Genesis 28:6-7).
The Fifth Commandment is
“Thou shalt not kill. (murder) ” (Exodus 20:13). God told Cain he was to rule over and avoid sin, as anger was in Cain’s heart.
“And the Lord said to him: Why art thou angry? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou do well, shalt thou not receive? but if ill, shall not sin forthwith be present at the door? but the lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it. And Cain said to Abel his brother: Let us go forth abroad. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him.” (Genesis 4:6-8).
Cain’s anger led to the sin of murder.
After the Flood, people knew that God was against murder and demanded a penalty for it.
“For I will require the blood of your lives at the hand of every beast, and at the hand of man, at the hand of every man, and of his brother, will I require the life of man. Whosoever shall shed man's blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God.” (Genesis 9:5-6).
The Sixth and Ninth Commandment,
“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), "neither shalt thou desire his wife" (Exodus 20:17) was known and understood by Joseph.
And after many days his mistress cast her eyes on Joseph, and said: "Lie with me." But he, in no wise consenting to that wicked act, said to her: "Behold, my master hath delivered all things to me, and knoweth not what he hath in his own house: Neither is there any thing which is not in my power, or that he hath not delivered to me, but thee, who art his wife: how then can I do this wicked thing, and sin against my God?" (Genesis 39:7-9).
God also had warned Abimelech, king of Gerar, not to commit adultery with Sarah. And God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and he said to him: "Lo thou shalt die for the woman thou hast taken: for she hath a husband." (Genesis 20:3).
The Seventh Commandment
“You shall not steal,” (Exodus 20:15), was apparently on Jacob’s mind when he discussed his wages with Laban.
“And my justice shall answer for me to morrow before thee when the time of the bargain shall come: and all that is not of divers colours, and spotted, and brown, as well among the sheep as among the goats, shall accuse me of theft.” (Genesis 30:33).
The Eighth and Tenth Commandments,
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” and, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house:...nor his servant, nor his handmaid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his.” (Exodus 20:16-17), have been breached ever since Eve saw and desired (coveted) the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam ate of it as well (Genesis 3:6), and then both of them justified their actions (verses 10-13). The result of their disobedience to God was that they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
The 10 Commandments existed before Moses and are still important today.
In summary, the 10 Commandments were known before Moses, and they are still important laws for all peoples today. God gave His laws for our good. "And keep the commandments of the Lord, and his ceremonies, which I command thee this day, that it may be well with thee" (Deuteronomy 10:13).