Monday, March 24, 2014

The Real Ten Commandments (Facts Instead of Traditions) – Part 5

Moses returned from his sixth trip up and down the mountain without new stone tablets to replace those he smashed at the base of the mountain. We learned in Part 4 that YAHWEH came down to the tent of Moses and spoke to him there. This is part of what He said to Moses:

And YAHWEH said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones. I will write on the tablets the words which were on the first tablets which you broke. Be prepared in the morning, and go up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself by Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall go up with you. And also let no man be seen on all the mountain; also let neither the flocks nor the herds feed before that mountain.” And he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. (Exodus 34:1-4a)

Trip #7

And Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as YAHWEH commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. And YAHWEH came down in the cloud. And he placed himself with him there, and called on the name of YAHWEH. And YAHWEH passed before his face and proclaimed:

“YAHWEH! YAHWEH, EL! Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and great in loyalty and faithfulness. Keeping loyalty for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and entirely not leaving unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on sons, and on sons of sons, to the third and to the fourth generation.”

And Moses hurried and bowed to the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in Your eyes, O Lord, let go, I pray, my Lord in our midst; for it is a stiff-necked people; and You forgive our iniquity and our sin, and take us as a possession.”

And He said: “Behold, I am cutting a covenant. Before all your people I will do wonderful things which have not been done in all the earth and among all nations. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of YAHWEH. For it is awesome, that which I am about to do with you. (Exodus 34:4b-10)

We have come to the moment we have been waiting for -- but to truly understand it we must jump ahead in the biblical account:

And YAHWEH said to Moses, “Write for yourself these words, because on the mouth of these words I will cut a covenant with you and with Israel.” And he was there with YAHWEH forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread and water he did not drink. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)

This is the first appearance of the term – “The Ten Commandments.” It is the name of the two tablets of stone. In the traditional institutional accounts of the “Ten Commandments” of Exodus 20, you saw with your own eyes that Moses wasn’t on top of the mountain with YAHWEH, no stone tablets were mentioned, and the term “The Ten Commandments” did not appear. Now, in Exodus 34, you have seen with your own eyes that Moses was on the mountain with YAHWEH, two tablets of stone were there, and the tablets were called “The Ten Commandments.”

The verses above also reveal some very interesting information about what took place during the forty days and nights Moses spent with YAHWEH on the mountain.

(1) Moses was told to “these words,” the words he received from YAHWEH during the forty days. “These words” were not written by Moses on the stone tablets. He wrote them on something else. A number of traditions indicate Moses wrote them on a scroll.

(2) The words Moses wrote on the scroll included much more than The Ten Commandments.

(3) “The Ten Commandments” are given in Exodus 34:11-26.

So, are you ready to read “THE REAL TEN COMMANDMENTS”? Well, here they are!

First Commandment

Observe what I am commanding you today! Behold, I am about to drive out from before you the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Guard for yourself, lest you cut a covenant with the people of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. But you shall cut down their altars, and break their images, and their shrines you shall cut off. For you shall not bow to another, for YAHWEH is Zealous, whose name is – He is EL the Zealous; lest you cut a covenant with the people of the land, and they play the whore after their gods, and they sacrifice to their gods, and one call to you, and you eat from his sacrifice, and you take from their daughters for your sons, and their daughters commit whoredom after their gods, and they lead your sons to whoredom after their gods. (Exodus 34:11-16)

Second Commandment

You shall not make casted gods for yourself. (Exodus 34:17)

Third Commandment

The Feast of Unleavened Bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the fixed time of the month of Aviv; for in the month of Aviv you went out from Egypt. (Exodus 34:18)

Fourth Commandment

All that open the womb are Mine, and every male firstborn among your livestock, whether the first ox or sheep. And the firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. And if you do not redeem it, you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem.  And none shall appear before Me empty. (Exodus 34:19-20)

Fifth Commandment

Six days you shall work, and on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing and in harvest you shall rest. (Exodus 34:21)

Sixth Commandment

And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first-fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. (Exodus 34:22)

Seventh Commandment

Three times in the year every male of yours shall appear before the Lord, YAHWEH the ELOHIYM of Israel. For I will cast out nations from before you and enlarge your territory and no man will covet your land as you go up to appear before YAHWEH your ELOHIYM three times in the year. (Exodus 34:23-24)

Eighth Commandment

You shall not slaughter on leavened bread the blood of My sacrifice, and the sacrifice shall not remain till the morning the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover. (Exodus 34:25)

Ninth Commandment

The first of the fruits of your ground you shall bring to the House of YAHWEH your ELOHIYM. (Exodus 34:26a)

Tenth Commandment

You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 34:26b)

And it was as Moses was going down from Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand, as he went down from the mountain, and Moses did not know that the skin of his face had become shiny by talking with Him. Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face had become shiny; they were afraid to approach him. And Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the chiefs of the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke with them. And afterwards all the sons of Israel came near. And he commanded them all which YAHWEH had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. And Moses finished speaking with them and put a veil on his face. (Exodus 34:29-33)

This brings us to the end of this Bible study of “The Real Ten Commandments.” The Biblical Heritage Center isn’t the first to discover this, but we may be the first to share our information with the public. Shouldn’t every religious institution tell their members when they discover that something they have been saying or teaching is wrong? Shouldn’t the lawyers that filed cases over the Ten Commandments -- all the way up to the Supreme Court – have read the words of the biblical account of Exodus and discovered if what they were going to court over was correct? Shouldn’t the judges that tried the cases discovered this? Think about how many religious groups have used issues related to the Ten Commandments to polarize and inflame people against each other.

Our goal is very simple – “let the words of our Bibles tell their own stories.”  When we read the institutional and traditional accounts of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 we compared what the biblical text stated to what those institutions said. As pointed out above, the things that grabbed our attention and raised the questions that spurred us to dig deeper were obvious. In Exodus 19-20:

(1) Moses wasn’t on top of the mountain when the “traditional Ten Commandments” were given.

(2) Moses was at the base of the mountain with the people.

(3) No stone tablets are mentioned in chapters 19 & 20.

(4) The name “Ten Commandments” does not appear in chapters 19 & 20.

Therefore, we kept reading and found all of the things that were missing in Exodus 34. The obvious problem this new information raises for those institutions is the words of the Real Ten Commandments are different from “their versions.” I seriously doubt that we will hear any “breaking news” announcements that religious institutions have discovered that what they have been teaching about the Ten Commandments was wrong -- and that they are replacing all of their Ten Commandment copies & memorials.

So, what do you value the most – the facts or institutional doctrines and traditions?

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Friday, March 21, 2014

The Real Ten Commandments (Facts Instead of Traditions) – Part 4

In Part I we followed Moses on his first three trips up and down the mountainand each time he returned without the stone tablets. In Part 2 we followed Moses on his fourth trip, on which he was given the Law of the Altar and the MISHPATIMbut no stone tablets. In Part 3, on his fifth trip, Moses received the two stone tablets, but smashed them against the foot of the mountain. So, we will follow Moses again and see what happens on his sixth trip. We will pick up the account immediately after Moses smashed the stone tablets.

Then he took the calf which they had made, and burned it with fire, and ground it until it was fine (powder); and he scattered it on the face of the water and made he caused the sons of Israel to drink.

And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you brought a great sin upon them?”

And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are in evil. And they said to me, ‘Make gods for us who may go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ And they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

And Moses saw that the people were unloosed, for Aaron had let them loose, for a derision among their enemies. And Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is for YAHWEH — (come) to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered to him. And he said to them, “Thus says YAHWEH, ELOHIYM of Israel: ‘Let each man put his sword on his thigh, pass over to and fro from gate to gate  in the camp, and let each one kill his brother, and each one his neighbor, and each one his relative.’”

And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. And Moses said, “Fill your hand today for YAHWEH, for each one against his son and against his brother – in order to give you a blessing this day.” And it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to YAHWEH. Perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” (Exodus 32:20-30)

Trip #6

And Moses returned to YAHWEH and said, “Oh, the people have sinned a great sin, and they have made for themselves ELOHIYM of gold! And now, if You will forgive their sin, and if not, blot me out, I pray, of Your scroll which You have written.”

And YAHWEH said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him from My scroll. And now, go, lead the people to what I have spoken to you. Behold, My messenger shall go before you. And in the day on My visiting, I will visit on them their sin.”  And YAHWEH plagued the people because of they made the calf which Aaron made.

And YAHWEH said to Moses, “Come and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your seed I will give it.’ And I will send my messenger before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites -- to a land flowing with milk and honey. For I will not go up among your, for you are a stiff-necked people, lest I consume you in the way.” (Exodus 32:31-35; 33:1-3)

And the people heard this evil word. And they mourned, and no one put any ornaments on himself. And YAHWEH said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. In one instant I will go up among you, and I will consume you. And now lay off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do to you.’” And the sons of Israel pulled off their ornaments, from Mount Horeb.

And Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and called it the tent of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who seeking YAHWEH went to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it was, as Moses went to the tent, all the people rose and stood, each one at the door of his tent, and looked after Moses until he had gone into the tent.

And it came to pass, as Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stand at the door of the tent. And He spoke with Moses. And all the people would see the pillar of cloud standing at the door of the tent; and all the people rose and bowed themselves, each man in the door of his tent. And YAHWEH would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, and his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the middle of the tent. (Exodus 33:4-11)

Moses returned from his sixth trip without the stone tablets. So, we will have to wait and see if there is a seventh trip in-store for Moses. Keep in mind that “seven” is a very important number in the Bible.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Real Ten Commandments (Facts Instead of Traditions) – Part 3

In Part I we followed Moses on his first three trips up and down the mountainand each time he returned without the stone tablets. In Part 2 we followed Moses on his fourth trip, on which he was given the Law of the Altar and the MISHPATIMbut no stone tablets. So, we will continue to follow Moses again and see what happens on his fifth trip. On the fourth trip, Moses was told:

“Come up to YAHWEH, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. And Moses alone shall approach YAHWEH, but they shall not approach; nor shall the people go up with him.” (Exodus 24:1-12)

Aaron is the older brother of Moses. Nadab and Abihu are Aaron’s eldest and second-eldest of the sons. Who were the seventy elders? The appearances of the word “elders” in the Bible were “the elders of Pharaoh’s house” and “the elders of the land of Egypt.” They accompanied Joseph when he went to bury Jacob (Genesis 50:7). The next appearance was the “elders of Israel,” who are first mentioned in Exodus 3:16. They are not named, but it appears that there were more than seventy. YAHWEH told Moses to bring “seventy of the elders of Israel.”

Trip #5

And Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. And they saw the ELOHIYM of Israel. And under His feet was a work of pavement of sapphire stone, and it was like the heavens for its clearness. And to the nobles of the sons of Israel He did not stretch out His hand. And they saw the ELOHIYM. And they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11)

This is a very interesting and revealing account that has caused some interesting theological problems for many. Let’s review what happened in the verses above:

(1) Everyone that went up the mountain with Moses saw the ELOHIYM.
(2) He stood on clear blue pavement.
(3) He did not stretch out His hand to the 70 elders.
(4) Implied is that He did stretch out His hand to Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu.
(5) ELOHIYM and all of those who went with Moses ate and drank together.

The major theological problem this creates is related to the doctrine that “the Bible is inerrant, infallible, with no errors or contradictions.” As we saw above, “everyone saw the ELOHIYM (God),” but two verses – John 1:18 & 1 John 4:12 – state, “No one has ever seen God at any time.”

This is one of those times our BHC Guideline may come in handy:

Our beliefs will be large enough to include all the facts;
open enough to be tested;
and, flexible enough to change when we become aware of errors or new facts.

Below are some facts that are directly related to this situation:

(1) Jacob saw ELOHIYM face-to-face (Genesis 32:20)
(2) Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel saw ELOHIYM (Exodus 24:10)
(3) YAHWEH said, “No man is able to see My face and live.” (Exodus 33:20)
(4) No one has ever seen God at any time. (John 1:18)
(5) No one has ever seen God at any time.  (1 John 4:12)

The facts are these:

(1) According to two verses in the Torah – Jacob, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel saw ELOHIYM.
(2) According to one verse in the Torah – no man is able to see YAHWEH’s face and live.
(3) According to two verses in the New Testament – no one has ever seen God.
(4) The New Testament is not part of the Jewish Bible.
(5) A doctrine created by some Christian religious institutions states “the Bible is inerrant, infallible, with no errors or contradictions.”

The facts are that the Christian Bible contains all of the above; therefore, they must be included in our belief systems. Now let’s get back to Moses and see what he does next.

And Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. And the glory of YAHWEH dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And He called to Moses on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud. And the glory of YAHWEH appeared like a burning fire on the top of the mountain before the sons Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18)

The Israelites standing at the base of Mount Sinai saw a burning fire on the top of the mountain. Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel had a much closer look at it. What do you think went through all of their minds as they witnessed this dramatic event – knowing who was up there? How could anyone on the mountain survive? Just imagine the discussions that must have taken place during those forty days and forty nights. Meanwhile, on top of the mountain, Moses was receiving more laws and instructions from YAHWEH:

  (1) Offerings for the Sanctuary (25:1-9)
  (2) The Ark of the Testimony (25:10-16)
  (3) The Mercy Seat (25:17-22)
  (4) The Table for the Showbread (25:23-30)
  (5) The Gold Lampstand (25:31-40)
  (6) The Tabernacle (26:1-36)
  (7) The Altar of Burnt Offering (27:1-8)
  (8) The Court of the Tabernacle (27:9-19)
  (9) The Care of the Lampstand (27:20-21)
(10) Garments for the Priesthood (28:1-4)
(11) The Ephod (28:5-14)
(12) The Breastplate (28:15-30)
(13) Other Priestly Garments (28:31-43)
(14) Instructions for the Consecration of Aaron and His Sons (29:1-37)
(15) The Daily Offerings (29:38-46)
(16) The Altar of Incense (30:1-10)
(17) The Ransom Money (30:11-16)
(18) The Bronze Laver (30:17-21)
(19) The Anointing Oil (30:22-33)
(20) The Incense (30:34-38)
(21) The Craftsmen for Building the Tabernacle (31:1-11)
(22) The Shabbat Law (31:12-17)

It doesn’t take forty-days to read the above chapters, so it is clear that Moses learned much more than the words recorded in the above chapters. It is reasonable to assume that Moses passed on much of what he learned to Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel.

And He gave to Moses, when He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of ELOHIYM. (Exodus 31:18)

Finally, we discover the time and place that Moses first received two stone tablets – eleven chapters after chapter 20 -- the traditional account said to be the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Let’s take another look at the above verse above, because it contains some very interesting and important terms:

(1) tablets of the testimony – an everlasting memorial testifying to the covenant that had been made between YAHWEH and Israel. (Cassuto, p. 405)*

(2) written by the finger of ELOHIYM – The text is worded with great care: Scripture does not state, “written by the hand of YAHWEH,” but “written by the finger of ELOHIYM,” in order to inform us specifically that the writing was of Divine character. The phrase “finger of ELOIYM” occurred earlier already (Exodus 8:15) as “a general allusion to the Divine power.”  (Cassuto, p. 405)*

And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, the two tablets of the testimony were in his hand, tablets were written on two sides; on this and on that, they were written. And the tablets were the work of ELOHIYM, and the writing was the writing of ELOHIYM, it was engraved on the tablets. (Exodus 32:15-16)

The above description helps us visualize the approximate size and weight of the tablets. They were neither large nor thick, but could be carried by Moses in his hands. They were not huge tablets like the stone monuments set up for all to see – for example, the stele of Mesha, king of Moab, which were slabs that no human being could carry in his hand. They were tablets like those on which were inscribed or engraved, in letters of moderate size, records and documents intended for preservation in archives or libraries. (Cassuto p. 418)*

And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, nor the noise of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing I hear.” And it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing.  And Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:17-19)

Moses brought the stone tablets down the mountain, but before he read them to the people he smashed them against the foot of the mountain.  So, this means at least one more trip up the mountain will be required.

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*A Commentary on the Book of Exodus by U. Cassuto © 1987 The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Real Ten Commandments (Facts Instead of Traditions) – Part 2

Let’s continue our search for the Real Ten Commandments. In Part 1 we discovered the following:

(1) When the “traditional” (institutional) versions of the Ten Commandments were given Moses was standing at the base of the mountain with the people – not on top of the mountain.

(2) There were no references to two stone tablets in Exodus chapters 19 or 20.

(3) The words “Ten Commandments” did not appear in Exodus chapters 19 or 20.

Don’t you find it amazing that even with the above facts, millions of Bible readers picture Moses standing on the top of Mt. Sinai holding two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments every time they hear or read Exodus chapters 19 & 20 – even though nothing supports that image in the biblical text?

However, in their defense, every religious institution projects that image through their commentaries, doctrines & teachings (that I know of). And, in addition, many publishers of English translations of the Bible insert chapter headings and pictures with that image in their publications. And, of course, for those of us who attended Sunday School as kids, we colored lots of pictures of Moses standing on that mountain.

In Part I we followed Moses on three trips up and down the mountainand he did not return with the stone tablets. So, now we will pick up the story immediately after Moses and the Israelites heard the words that are called the traditional Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, while they were standing together at the base of the mountain.

Now all the people saw the thunderings, the lightnings, the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking. And the people looked and they trembled and they stood at a distance. And they said to Moses, “You speak with us and we will hear; and do not let an ELOHIYM speak with us, lest we die.”

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, because in order to test you, the ELOHIYM has come so that His fear may be upon your faces, so that you may not sin.” 

Trip #4

And the people stood from a distance, and Moses approached the thick darkness where the ELOHIYM was. (Exodus 20:18-21)

(You may want to review my comments on the use of ELOHIYM and YAHWEH in Part 1 before you continue. An interesting side note to the above verses is the use of “theELOHIYM and “anELOHIYM. We will have to wait an address that subject later.)

Moses entered the smoke that covered the mountain to go up and speak with the ELOHIYM for the Israelites:

And YAHWEH said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel:

‘You have seen from the heavens I have spoken with you. You shall not make with Me ELOHIYM of silver and ELOHIYM of gold; you shall not make for yourselves. An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I bring to memory My name, I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; because when you use your tool on it, you profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not uncovered on it.’” (Exodus 20:22-26)

The first thing YAHWEH revealed above to Moses is called the “Law or of the Altar.” It is important to understand that the things that are often called “laws” in this context are also “instructions.” The next group of laws & instructions YAHWEH will reveal to Moses is called “The MISHPATIM” (The Judgments):

  (1) Laws Concerning Hebrew Slaves (21:2-11)

  (2) The Laws Related to Violence (21:12-27)

  (3) Laws Related to Damages Done by Animals (21:28-36)

  (4) Laws Related to Property (22:1-15)

  (5) Moral and Ceremonial Laws (22:16-31)

  (6) Laws for Justice (23:1-9)

  (7) The Law of Shabbats (23:10-13)

  (8) Laws of the Three Annual Feasts (23:14-19)

  (9) Instructions to Obey YAHWEH’s Messenger (23:20-33)

(10) Instructions to Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, & the seventy of the elders of Israel (24:1-2)

And Moses came and told the people all the words of YAHWEH and all of the MISHPATIM. (Exodus 24:3)

Moses has completed four trips up and down the mountain -- and we still haven’t seen or heard anything about two stone tablets or the Ten Commandments.  Maybe we will discover them on Moses’ Fifth Trip in the next blog.

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