Ten Words (Commandments) and Ten Things God Said at Creation—Part One
This is the first part of a series studying the Ten Words [Aseret (ten) "ha-dibrot" (words)], as translated in Hebrew from Exodus chapter 20, otherwise more commonly known as the Ten Commandments. This is not meant to imply that these ten things God spoke are simply suggestions but should rather add to the concreteness of the understanding that what God speaks is of supreme significance and every created thing but man obeys His Word. When God speaks everything listens . . .
"He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast"
— Psalm 33:9
This study will also show the complementary and congruent themes of the ten "Words" in Exodus 20 with the ten "and God saids" recorded in the creation account of Genesis chapter one.
Before we begin let me explain that the numbering of the first three of the ten "Words" is a bit different in Hebrew form then what most are familiar with.
The Number Ten
God speaking, creating, and the idea of obedience is connected not only here but is also found in the flood narrative. God speaks ten times in Genesis chapters 6-9 in a sort of de-creation for the purpose of reconstruction in the account. Twice it is mentioned that Noah obeyed God's commands and twice it is mentioned that the animals obeyed God's commands.
Also in the book of Exodus, there are ten plagues as commanded by God marked by three "as the Lord commanded" statements in the context of His word being obeyed. This too has its connection with creation. Elements such as mankind, animals, creeping things, flying things, fish, water, and darkness all are included in the first chapter of Genesis.
Proverbs chapters 1-9 are noted to include ten speeches of a father to his son that concern obedience to God's ways. within the entire book of Proverbs, the command to obey and keep commands is noted ten times.
He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live
— Proverbs 4:4
First of the Ten Words
The first of the Ten Words begins with...
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage"
— Exodus 20:2
It is relevant and fitting for God, to begin with acknowledging who He is and who we are in relationship to Him "the LORD (covenant - loyal relationship name YHWH) being Your God" truly is the first order of business. Jesus said . . .
. . . No one comes to the Father except through Me
— John 14:6
It was the ultimate sacrifice of the father that brought us out of the house and the dominion of sin's bondage. A prerequisite of this relationship is to understand that...
" . . . He gave His only begotten Son..."
— John 3:16
. . . in order to establish that relationship.
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s
— I Corinthians 6:20
Through the covenant sacrificial death of Gods one and only Son, we have been brought and bought out of the land of Egypt (sin) out of the house of Bondage (iniquity).
It is difficult for us to understand and admit that we are ruled by anything other than ourselves. Even if this was true it still is outside the requirements of relationship with God. In John chapter eight Jesus is speaking with some Jews whom the text says believed in Him along with the religious folk who didn't and He states to those who believe...
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
— John 8:31-32
The reply of the unbelieving religious folk was . . .
“We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
— John 8:33
It is surprising to note that these very same people who were claiming freedom based upon being descendants of Abraham were a people who lived in bondage for about 400 years to the Egyptians as well as being subject to the Roman government of their time. This denial and forgetfulness are reminiscent of how we are many times forgetting the bondage we came from or simply not acknowledging we were ever in bondage to anything at all.
Jesus explains . . .
"whoever commits sin is a slave of sin"
— John 8:3
The very first order of business is to know God through His Son and understand what great salvation He has done for us
"how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation . . ."
— Hebrews 2:3
Submission to God is fundamental. Acknowledgment and obedience to this very first truth are essential to a relationship with God in being able to obey any of the other "Words" that follow.
"We can never rightly understand God's grace until we understand our plight as those who need His grace" ~ Jerry Bridges
"Christ is never fully valued until sin is clearly seen"
— J.C. Ryle
The First "And God Said"
The very first utterance of God in Genesis chapter one is interestingly congruent with the first "Word".
“Let there be light”
— Genesis 1:3
This confirms that the first order of business is the revelation (light) that we are without form and void without Him, as well as being subject and in bondage to chaos and deep darkness without His mighty deliverance wrought through the "Light of the world" (Jn 8:12) Jesus Christ our savior who makes order out of chaos.
The Second of the Ten Words
The second "Word" of God from Deuteronomy 20 is...
“You shall have no other gods before Me" This also includes the not making of any images to worship and it also expresses His jealousy that He be our one and only.
A note I would like to make on this Word is concerning the phrase "before me". The literal translation is "upon my face" or we might say in my face. Having other lovers is an "in His face" activity.
Also, the Hebrew word achar most commonly translated "other" in this verse can also be viewed from another aspect found in a related definition of this word and is defined as behind or in the background.
We many times think we are being sneaky when we run off to other lovers as if God doesn't see. We hide it behind our back or think it's all running in the background.
“Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land."
— Ezekiel 8:1
He rightly explains in this second Word that what we are hiding behind our backs is really in His face. What is running in the background is clearly seen by Him.
Another difficult thing for us to comprehend is what an idol is to us. Here in the western world it is very uncommon to actually build an inanimate object to worship but if we look carefully in our hearts we might be able to catch a glimpse of some carefully carved constructed structures we have built to suit our personal desires and the needs that can only be satisfied in and through a living relationship with the one and only living and eternal God.
The Second "And God Said"
Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament
— Genesis 1:6,7
The concept in this account is about separating and distinguishing between what is above and what is below. What is earthly and fleshly and what is heavenly and spiritual. This is interesting in that in the 2nd Word God talks about not making carved images to worship and uses these same concepts of what is above and below and how we are to distinguish Him above all that is above or beneath, physical or spiritual. Nothing compares to Him He is the true Holy one (set apart and distinguished from all else)...
You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth
— Exodus 20:4
God also distinguishes between two things in this portion of scripture, between those who hate Him and those who love Him...
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
— Exodus 20:5-6
We see the concept of waters separating and dividing throughout scripture. There was a flood that separated light and dark in humanity. The Sea being divided for Moses and the people once again a separating of the people from the Egyptians. We see it in Joshua where the waters are separated from their wilderness wandering to a promised land. Both Elijah and Elisha separated waters.
This concept of separating is consistent with the idea of holiness. Holiness is a word that expresses the idea of separating oneself unto the Lord.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord
— Joshua 24:15
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live
— Deuteronomy 30:19
Loyalty to God could some this one up. We begin by acknowledging who God is and His great salvation and secondly we separate ourselves apart distinguishing Him above all else in faithfulness to Him and worship Him alone.
The Third of the Ten Words
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain . . ."
— Exodus 20:7a
Much has been made, in Christianity, about the name of the Lord being used in vain. The focus is on the use of speech, as in using it to cuss, curse, or swear.
Although I think that this command includes this element of not using His name flippantly or disrespectfully, I feel we have neglected the weightier intent of the command which has more to do with how we live more-so than what we say.
The "Pirkei Avos", a Jewish commentary on Torah teachings interprets this command similarly.
"Desecration of the name involves the sort of conduct that makes onlookers think or say that people who claim to be observant Jews act in an unworthy manner. "
— Ben Zoma
The Hebrew translation of the word "take" in this verse uses the Hebrew word "naw-saw" which is defined: "to bear", "lift up", "carry", or "to wear".
We can see that bearing His name, and wearing His name means much more than simply the act of speech.
The book of Proverbs confirms this idea where the acts of lying and stealing are considered to take God's name in vain.
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God
— Proverbs 30:8-10
This shows us how living as if there is no God is taking His name in vain and distorting His image to those around us.
The Hebrew word translated "vain" is defined as worthless, false, and deceitful and can include the idea of ruining and destroying
A paraphrased version of this verse according to these definitions might read something like this.
"You shall not bear or wear the name of YHVH (the Lord who gave up Himself to covenant with you and give you life physically and spiritually) Your God, in an empty way that is false and that would deceive others about who He really is by the way you represent Him in speech and in action."
In Ezekiel chapter 43 God scolds His children, Israel, who had been taken captive to Babylon, for giving Him a bad name in the eyes of the world around them by combining their worship of Him with the worship of the other gods too. The Word clearly reads that they defiled His Holy name by the way that they lived.
“Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name, they nor their kings, by their harlotry or with the carcasses of their kings on their high places. When they set their threshold by My threshold, and their doorpost by My doorpost, with a wall between them and Me, they defiled My holy name by the abominations which they committed
— Ezekiel 43:6-8
Another example is given in Jeremiah chapter 34 when God commanded the children of Israel to release their fellow men and women from serving them as slaves. He appeals to them from the perspective of God Himself releasing them from bondage in Egypt and communicates His expectation that they uphold His reputation and name by behaving likewise. Initially, they obeyed but then changed their minds and took back their slaves and this is God's confrontation with them.
you turned around and profaned My name, and every one of you brought back his male and female slaves, whom you had set at liberty, at their pleasure, and brought them back into subjection, to be your male and female slaves
— Jeremiah 34:16
The profaning of God's name occurs when we act in ways that are inconsistent with God's character and wishes. Our actions are to reflect the God we serve.
"It is not that God arbitrarily commanded His people to have a care in the speaking of His name, as if He were jealous of its irreverent mention, but it is that He reminded them that the coming into the privileges of His name was the coming into the responsibilities of that name...so God said to His people: "Thou shalt not take" - shalt not assume, bear, carry - "the name of the Lord thy God in vain" - insincerely, vainly, "for the Lord will not" - cannot - "hold him guiltless that taketh" - claimeth the privileges of - "his name in vain" - vainly, insincerely... His name is on us, and His honor is in our keeping. Wherefore, "let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord" - claimeth it as his own name - "depart from unrighteousness;" and let him never feel that it is a light or a vain thing to bear that name before the world
— H. Clay Trumble "The Ten Commandments As A Covenant Of Love"
In other words, don't bear and wear God's name in a way that ruins or destroys His reputation in the eyes of a watching world.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven
— Matthew 5:16
Bearing His name is an ambassadorship. We represent the God we serve by the way we live. He is commanding us to not give Him a bad name in the eyes of others and as well as not represent Him falsely.
". . . we are ambassadors for Christ . . ."
— II Corinthians 5:20
The phrase in this command explains this a bit further and firms up the intent of meaning having more to do with lifestyle.
". . . for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes (bears) His name in vain"
— Exodus 20:7b
This exposes the lie we many times believe that we can live any old way we want and still bear His name without consequence.
"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?"
— I Corinthians 10:21-22
The Third "And God Said"
The third thing God said in the creation account in relation to this Word was...
“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”
— Genesis 1:9
We see a picture of the land being exalted Just like His name ought to be
since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made
— Romans 1:20
It is our responsibility to lift up His name and not tear it down.
. . . let us exalt (make high and present) His name together
— Psalm 34:3
"Let the waters be gathered" . . . waters in Scripture can sometimes be symbolic of masses of people or gathered people as we see imaged in Revelation chapter 7.
. . . a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
— Revelation 7:9-14
This next verse along with the previous communicates the idea of making His name great among and to all the gathered people of the earth.
Let them exalt (make high and present) Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders
— Psalm 107:32
A concluding observation, that the number "three" in the Bible is the number of the Spirit. H. Clay Trumble makes this note concerning the first three commandments connecting this theme
"The first three of the ten requirements of the loving covenant of God's people with their God are simply the requirements to worship God as the only God, to worship Him in unhindered spirituality, and to worship Him in all sincerity. These fundamental requirements seem to have been in the mind of our Lord Jesus when He said to the woman of Samaria at the well of Jacob: "God" - the One God - "is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth"
— H.Clay Trumble
This concludes Part One of this series. To be continued...
No Other Gods
© 2013 Tamarajo