Day 38 (Feb. 7): Ten Commandments and more, altar rules, treat slaves fairly, personal injury disputes, property laws

Ten Commandments. To confirm the words he had spoken to the people, God gave to Moses tablets of stone on which God Himself had written the ten commandments. credit: Moody Publishers /
Moody Publishers /

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Exodus 20-22:15
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. Here are the 10 Commandments.  We all view them as sinning against God when we break them.  But, are they still to be enforced?  Didn’t Jesus give us a new one that covers it all, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Do unto others as they you would have them do unto you.”

A. Love your neighbor as yourself covers the last six (i.e. if you love your neighbor, you won’t kill them).  Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment, replied, “love God with all your heart, mind, and soul” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Then He said, “all the law and the prophets hang on these two” (Matthew 22: 37-40).  Basically, if we keep these two things in mind and do them (which I freely admit is sometimes very difficult), we will have successfully kept all the Ten Commandments.

Q. (Exodus 20:5): When God says He is a jealous God, is that the same common meaning we know of jealousy now — that of envy?

A. I think God is using an emotion that we as humans understand, being jealous, in order to point out that we must be loyal ONLY to Him.  God is not petty, but the charge that we are worshipping other gods is certainly looked at harshly in the OT.

Q. (20:6): This means that those who follow God will be blessed for many generations, but those who deny God, struggle for generation after generation, right?  But, that is no longer in affect since the crucifixion?

A. Part of what we can learn from the Old Testament is that God takes a multigenerational view of His people (which can be hard for us to grasp in our individualistic society).  If we are truly keeping these commands (and the many to follow), it will be very natural for us to teach them to our children.  And in doing so, we pass the blessings of God on to the next generation, and we entrust them to do so for the next generation.  I think that this is at least partly what God is speaking about here.

Q. (20:7): How do you misuse God’s name?  I was always thought that you do not say things like “For the love of God (in a negative way),” “For God’s sake,” “For Jesus sake,” and especially, “Oh, my God!” or “Jesus!”  The latter two, I can see using them if you are crying out to them, personally, in praise or for help.  But, I hear people, even Christians saying, “Oh, my God!” all the time.  Can you give us the verdict on this?

A. The best way I ever heard this commandment phrased was, “Don’t take the name of God lightly.”  Treat the name of God with the reverence and respect it deserves.  If the names are used for the purpose of speaking to God — for whatever reason, including asking for help — we are on safe ground.  But when — and this is the crucial step — we are using the name of God absent-mindedly (i.e. we’re using the name but not thinking of God), or to use it as a way to curse others, then we are not treating the name of God with the proper respect it deserves.  Then we are taking the name of God in vain.

Q. (20:8-11): So God is saying that the Sabbath is there for us to get rest after 6 days of hard work.  And, we use it to remember that God created us and all the earth.  Most church services are still held on Sunday.  Some are not.  Some say that it doesn’t matter what day of the week you rest, as long as it’s the seventh day.  Some say that going to church isn’t really rest because of the hustling to make it there on time and then there are those who are working to provide the church service.  Is this law still supposed to be observed today?  Can you shed some light on this Commandment?

A. As we mentioned, observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday.  Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath.  So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story.  This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.  Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done.  Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays.  Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked.  As we discussed yesterday, there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.

Q. (20:12): As a grown child and now a parent, I totally respect my parents.  As a teenager, of course, there were times when I thought they knew nothing and didn’t understand me.  I am now thinking about how to instill love for me and my husband in our children.  Do you have any wise words or know of any books that can help parents prepare for phase of a child’s life?

A. While I’m sure there are particular psychological techniques that can work, I think you can already see the answer to your question: we teach respect to our children by BEING respectful to our parents.  Where it is possible — obviously, not everyone has parents to model this with — I think we should embrace the idea of multigenerational teaching for our children.  We should teach them about respect for their parents — and I think adults in general, especially the elderly — and talk about how when we do this, we honor God.

O. (20:20): I love this verse.  It is the perfect, short description of what to fear God means: “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

Q. (21:1): Is God telling all of these laws to Moses and then Moses has to retell them to the Israelites, or is God speaking directly to the people?

A. It appears He is speaking to Moses.

Q. (21:1-11): Is there anything to explain about God addressing the process of owning slaves?

A. Slaves were a part of life in this world, and the Bible addresses that reality.  We shall see over the course of the Biblical text the way that God moves along the idea of the dignity and equal worth of all human beings, especially through Christ, but the people in this era weren’t there yet.  God worked with the people where they were, and required them to treat slaves and others with respect.  There was a process for bring required to free slaves (the men, anyway), and providing some level of protection for them — like 21:20, you couldn’t kill your slaves).  This seems barbaric to us today, but was a great leap forward in the treatment of human beings in this era.

O. I’m really starting to get the message that everyone is important to God.  Every one has different positions in the world, which can cause confusion in self-esteem.  But, in God’s eyes, we all are equally important, if we follow Him.

Q. (21:21) Oops!  Just when I thought I was understanding God’s treatment of people, this verse pops up.  How is that fair treatment?  I just don’t understand!  From what I’ve read in the Bible, it sounds like God has chosen certain ones to be His people and others are just extras.

A. Looks like we look at 21:21 in different ways!  I see it as a way to protect slaves from being murdered.  It is certainly true that God does see everyone as having value, but that does not mean that WE do.  So basically, God provided this command because He does see value in slaves, rather than the culture in which the Israelites lived, which saw no value in them at all.  Only free men had value in the eyes of this culture.

Q. Rob, since you are a cultural history guru, when did stoning lose favor?

A. That is hard to say.  We don’t really have much in the way of evidence that the orders to stone were routinely enforced, even in this era (though we will see some particular examples of sinners who are stoned).  But the era of the New Testament, as I understand it, there was simply no stomach among the Jewish religious leaders for being responsible for the deaths of people.

Q. (21:32): There has to be some significance to the 30 pieces of silver, since in the New Testament, Judas accepts 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A. Thirty pieces of silver was the legal price of a slave in Biblical times.  The silver that Judas is offered by the religious leaders is an intentional choice designed to belittle Jesus: they are equating Jesus with a slave to be bought and sold.

Q. (22:8): Many of these verses say that the person must appear before God for judgment.  I thought God kept his distance from the people.  Isn’t Moses the liaison between God and the Israelites?

A. You’ve got it right.  Moses, as God’s representative, was the one whom people would come to for God’s judgment.

For further study: What did NYC Pastor Tim Keller and wife Kathy say about survey results that people don’t think some of the 10 Commandments are important:

Shop: Jesus simplifies all the laws into two.

Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 22:16-24:18

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