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After having spoken the commandments to the Israelites, God then asked Moses to have the Israelites make an alter for him so that they could sacrifice animals to him, and then Moses was instructed to come back to the mountain. On the mountain, as the story goes, God then gave Moses a set of laws, which have come to be known as Mosaic law. These laws cover many different issues.

Approximately 42 laws were listed in all, covering issuing ranging from sex to food handling to social justice. The punishment God proscribed for the violation of the majority of the laws was death.

Moses returned to the people and told them of the laws and the people agreed to obey the laws. God then instructed Moses to return to the mountain again, where he would write the laws in stone for him. Exodus 12 The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.

Moses then returned Mount Sinai and God gave him more instructions. After 40 days and 40 nights God completed the tablets and sent Moses back down to the Israelites. This is the account of the creation of the stone tablets, and as you can see, according to The Bible, the stone tablets contained not just the commandments, but all of the laws and all of his instructions. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.

Exodus 15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. Upon returning to his people, Moses found that they were worshiping a golden calf, like the Egyptians did, and that they were dancing and singing.

Moses then destroyed the stone tablets out of anger. Exodus 19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor. They have made themselves gods of gold. It is important to note that the sin the people are said to have committed was worshiping a golden idol, not killing their family members and friends. Indeed, the slaughter of their own family members and friends was seen as a form of redemption for their sins.

Interestingly, one of the commandments given by God was not to murder, yet within days of the giving of the commandments Moses ordered the people to commit murder in the name of God as a form of redemption. After redeeming the people before God, Moses was instructed by God to make two new stone tablets upon which he would re-write the commandments. This is evident in the following passages since the use of "the LORD" doesn't really make sense in context in some places.

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Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you.

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The Ten Commandments

Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt. Redeem all your firstborn sons. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. As to why these ten commandments are different than the first set of commandments, there is no explanation that complies with a literal interpretation of the texts.

To add to the confusion, the beginning of the passage states that God said he would write on the tablets and the end of the passage has God telling Moses to do the writing. The Bible then states that Moses placed these Ten Commandments in the Ark of the Covenant, so, if the Bible is to be taken as a literal truth, if the Ark of the Covenant were ever to be found these are the commandments that would be found in it - to the surprise of many a Christian one would assume.

To recap so far: The first account of the creation of the stone tablets by God states that the tablets contained the entire testimony of God, which included his Commandments, his laws, and his requests for the building of certain things such as lamps and arks, etc. These tablets were destroyed by Moses.

The second account of the stone tablets states that only the Ten Commandments are on the tablets, but the commandments listed are very different than the first set. There is yet one more account of the Ten Commandments however. There is a second telling of the story of the Ten Commandments in the Bible in Deuteronomy, where Moses recounts the original events. The commandments given in Deuteronomy are much closer to the first set of commandments, but still not exactly the same.

They are as follows:. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Also make a wooden chest. Then you are to put them in the chest. And the LORD gave them to me. For Christians, however, some or all depending on your interpretation of Mosaic law was overruled by Jesus. In the New Testament Jesus mentions commandments, but he never specifically mentions the Ten Commandments, and Jesus actually gives a different interpretation of the commandments.

Here is what is said about the commandments in the New Testament:. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. These statements certainly seem to trivialize the importance of the Ten Commandments. Jesus himself doesn't even elaborate on or state all of the commandments, indeed he doesn't even appear to know them all. He says that they aren't really that important anyway as long as you love God and your neighbor. The overall message makes sense.

Why worry about specific commandments regarding murder, adultery, theft, etc, when the main point of all of them is "do unto others as you would have others do unto you". If you go by that rule then all the other commandments fall into place. Of course these guidelines cannot be called laws, they are just principles to live by. That all makes sense, so why is it then that Christians are so obsessed with the Ten Commandments when Jesus claims in the New Testament that the commandments themselves aren't important?

The Ten Commandments are a part of the old covenant, so again, for Christians these commandments should be without importance. The significant thing about this speech from Jesus is that it involves a mix of statements from the Ten Commandments, as well as from Mosaic law, in addition to things that were just common sayings. It doesn't give any special importance to commandments from the Ten Commandments.

For Christians, however, why wouldn't these statements be more important than the Ten Commandments? As a side note, the statement from Jesus about oaths makes it clear that swearing on the Bible, or by God, is considered an act of evil, since he says that swearing by heaven, etc, or saying anything another than Yes or No, is evil.

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There is yet one more set of commandments in the New Testament, they come from Paul edited for length :. As you can see, there was very little importance placed on the Ten Commandments in the New Testament, and indeed Jesus and the apostles gave new rules of submission for Christians to live by. Of these three different versions there are also many different interpretations. None of the popular representations of the Ten Commandments reflect any translation of the religious texts.

The version of the Ten Commandments that is currently on display at the Texas capitol, which was ruled to be permissible by the Supreme Court to stay on public property, is pictured below:. Furthermore, the New Testament says that Jesus has replaced the Ten Commandments with new rules and has created a new covenant with the people, thus making the Ten Commandments obsolete for Christians. So this is the Biblical account of the Ten Commandments, but what about how the Ten Commandments relate to American history and American law? One of the many justifications made by those in favor of posting the Ten Commandments on public property is the claim that the Ten Commandments are historically significant to American law.

The Ten Commandments were actually not given much consideration outside of Jewish society until well after the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire, and even then much more emphasis was placed on New Testament texts than Old Testament ones by early Christians. By this time the basis of Western law had already been established by the Greeks and Romans.

Before the oldest laws were recorded there were proverbs. The earliest known written proverbs are those of the Sumerians, written in cuneiform, the earliest known written language. Sumerian Cuneiform. Among these proverbs are several statements similar to those found in the Ten Commandments, including statements such as:. You should not break into a house; you should not wish for the money chest;. You should not spit out lies; You should not boast; then your words will be trusted.

Laws, unlike proverbs or commandments, provide a standard for judgment as well as a defined punishment. The oldest known written laws were recorded by the Sumerians as well, around BCE.

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The Sumerians were later overtaken by the Babylonians and Assyrians, both of which derived their laws from Sumerian law. There is significant debate about this law because though it sounds "barbaric" today it may actually have been written with the intent of limiting punishment to a measure no greater than the original offense. In other words, the law prevented excessive punishment. The Code of Hammurabi was posted all over the cities so that everyone could see it and no exceptions were made to it, despite the fact that very few people could actually read.


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A significant aspect of the Code of Hammurabi is that it was a secular set of laws. Code of Hammurabi. Egyptian law is actually thought to have proceeded the existence of Sumerian law, but it appears that the Egyptian legal system didn't use written laws and was not as well defined as Babylonian and Sumerian law. Prior to the codification of Egyptian law, however, the Egyptians did use a system of legal precedent.

Each case that was judged was recorded along with its verdict. These precedents were referred back to in later cases, which resulted in a legal system heavily based on tradition, with relatively predictable outcomes for similar types of cases, but the laws weren't clearly defined for the public. The Egyptians are the first known people to have developed a strong doctrine of social equality and impartiality before the law. This is perhaps due to the great wealth of the region that afforded the kingdom the luxury of fairness. Though laws were seen as coming from the authority of the Pharaoh, the principle of Ma'at guided the law.

The instruction for lawmaking to the Egyptian viziers was, "the creator-god states that he has made all men equal in opportunity and that, if there be any violation of this equality, the fault is man's. Religious commandments, also guided by Ma'at, were written down in Egypt prior to the codification of civil law. Section from a Book of the Dead.