The Commandments

The First Ten

There are more than Ten.

Some of these other commandments are admirable, some are obvious, but a few are either impracticable or even downright wicked.

The "Ten Commandments" mostly say "thou shalt not.."
Note that the declarative mood of a verb in the future tense and second person is "will" or "wilt" ; "Shall" and "shalt" are the imperative mood in all but the first person. That's what makes "Thou shalt…" (or "you shall…") a commandment.

The usual Ten

occur in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, but it is only in Deuteronomy that the ten are said to have been engraved upon stone. The wording for the Ten in the two Books differs slightly.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
The preamble to this first commandment says that it comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…
(a fairly unsavory trio, by the way. Abraham acquired his wife's 'maidservant' as a concubine, whom he later dumped, together with his first son.
Jacob had two wives and two 'maidservant' concubines. Jacob at least had the decency to promote them to wifehood.
…and from Him who brought the hearers out of bondage in Egypt.
The God of Moses, Abraham's God, did very little for those Americans whose ancestors were in bondage. Some of the commandments after the first ten even provide the conditions under which you may keep people in bondage. Why should any citizen of the USA imagine that the first commandment applies to us?

The second commandment is very wise, if you broaden its meaning to:
"You must not imagine that you can know ME completely enough to create an image of me."
This, of course, would also apply to the written image, and to the idea that the writings of the Ancient Hebrew scribes, or anybody else, could be the final word on the nature and preferences of the Creator.

Keeping the Sabbath Six days shalt thou labour is a manifestly good idea. The idea behind it is that you should take a break from working, and (perhaps) think about what actually matters. We have expanded it to two days, and should probably make it at least three.
Honour thy father and thy mother is actually a primitive form of Social Security.
Thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not steal are obvious.
Thou shalt not commit adultery is good advice, but the penalty of death by stoning is unreasonably harsh.
Lying (bearing false witness), and failing to keep a solemn promise
taking (God's) name in vain are clearly wicked, and in modern society may be among the most wicked of all acts done in high places.
Thou shalt not covet is also good advice, but is so unenforceable that I have found no trace of a prescribed penalty for it.

Exodus has about forty more commandments, in chapters 21..23.
Deuteronomy has a host of additional commandments, which God apparently had Moses commit to memory, as would be entirely reasonable. Many of the additional commandments in Deuteronomy are dietary restrictions that most Christians ignore.

Now why should any person with a Bible and a brain imagine that only the first ten commandments are important?

Eleventh Commandment

There is at least an eleventh Commandment in Exodus chapter 20. I think that even the most orthodox of Jews ignore it completely. It forbids the building of stone altars. I do not count verse 23, which appears to be a repetition of the second commandment.

With that, chapters 21, 22, and 23 continue and, assuming that anything with "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not", or the second person plural equivalent, is a commandment, they add about another 30 commandments.

On Slavery

The first two commandments in Exodus 21 deal with the buying and selling of Hebrews by Hebrews. This amounts to the countenancing of slavery, and does not include any restrictions upon how non-Hebrew slaves shall be treated. However, at verse 20, a master shall be "punished" if he actually kills his "servant". Somewhat later, at 21:26, a master is required to free any slave man or woman whom he smites with such violence as to strike out an eye or a tooth. Apparently, whipping a slave short of death is OK.

The notorious "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" is also here. It is obsolete, but not entirely absurd; . it contains a grain of perfectly good logic.


there are commandments in Exodus 21-23 that are worthy to be observed by the American faithful, and seem not to be.

The owner of an ox, or the digger of a pit, shall be held responsible for damage and loss caused thereby to other people. So shall the starter of a fire that breaks out, regardless of whether it was intentional arson. This is fairly consistent with the US laws about environmental damage by factories, etc.

But consider these:

22:21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. ( This is repeated)
Should we apply this prohibition to our treatment of "illegal" immigrants?

Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. (the penalty is death!)

Exodus 22:25, which seems to be the 29th commandment, forbids "usury". There are practices of the banking community that would certainly arouse the old God's wrath.

Exodus 23:2 this one is my favorite
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil. So the Lord God forbade lynching, and possibly also the use of certain software because "everybody uses it"

Exodus 23:8 And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. Tell that to the Congress.

Exodus 23:9 Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

All in all, there are commandments beyond the first ten that are well worth observing, and less impossible to enforce than the commandments against adultery and covetousness.

A Wicked Commandment

One of the additional commandments in Deuteronomy is about
"the Hittite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite,
and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite,
seven nations greater and mightier than you;
when Yahweh your God shall deliver them up before you, and you shall strike them; then you shall utterly destroy them: you shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them;"

It is in fact an edict of religious intolerance, a commandment to commit genocide, which is radically contrary to the Constitution of the modern USA, and to the laws of the international community at the Hague.

Can we blame the neighbors of the modern state of Israel for their dislike and fear of a nation that has not yet officially renounced such writings?
Even the Vatican has renounced its verdict on Galileo!


Most of us when we are not beguiled by TV sensationalisms do not believe that witches exist, in the sense of persons who can enlist the aid of and give worship to the Evil One.

But if such persons did exist, and engaged in such activities, the commandment would make sense, as would the burning of heretics if the beliefs of the Inquisition were valid.
On the other hand, a pact with the Devil would be pretty useless if it didn't include Satan's providing immunity against human-imposed death.

On a lesser scale, there are people who claim to have 'spiritual' powers that violate the known laws of Nature, and who make no attempt to incorporate what they do into that body of knowledge. King Saul of Israel consulted one such. Such persons should be viewed with the utmost suspicion, as being either fraudulent or deluded or both. They especially ought not to be consulted by officials of any government within the United States of America. Nor by their wives.

Some of these charlatans operate under a cloak of 'ancient wisdom', like astrology and most 'alternative medicine'. But I also include Christian 'miracle-workers'.

Prayer and Miracles

Jesus of Nazareth instructed his disciples to pray in secret, and not to pray for earthly things, on the grounds that their Father in heaven already knows what they need.
It follows that all official prayer is both wrong and absurd, to the extent that it either asks for benefits not given to other people, as in "God Bless America" or for any other thing that bestows more of God's attention and favor upon us than upon our neighbors. If God is as logical as Jesus and some few of his followers realized, or if there is no God that listens to such stuff, then the prayers are foolishness, empty air, of as little value as most political pandering, and as likely as not, as Jesus also told his followers, they are the mark of a person that's up to no good.

Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional