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An Overview of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)


We know that “all Scripture is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). We should also know that some portions of Scripture are more crucial than others. Some texts of Scripture serve as a key to the understanding of other Scripture. For example, the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-25) is a significant clue to understanding the teaching of our Lord. It is a key to grasping the reason for His use of parables (Mark 4:13). It was also the key to understanding the differing responses of men to the message of our Lord.

The Decalogue210 (the Ten Commandments) is one of the keys to understanding the Old Testament. Cole writes: “… the ‘ten words’ are at once the beginning and the heart of the Mosaic revelation. Around the ‘ten words’ it is possible to group most of the provisions of the ‘book of the covenant’ in chapters 21-23, and around the book of the covenant in turn to group the rest of the Torah.”211

While all do not agree on this point, I believe that Cole is right in his conclusion that the Ten Commandments are an introductory summary of the Law,212 the central core of the more lengthy Law of Moses which will follow in the Pentateuch. The essence of the Law is outlined for us first, and then the more detailed documentation of the Law will follow.

I am opposed in principle to the “red letter” editions of the Bible because they imply that the words of Jesus are somehow more inspired than those of the apostles and prophets. Nevertheless, I will remind you that verse 1 of chapter 20 begins by informing us that these commandments were not indirectly given to the Israelites, but were spoken by God directly: “Then God spoke all these words, saying …” (Exodus 20:1). We thus have one of the few “red letter” statements of the Old Testament before us. Surely we must sense that something significant has been spoken, to which we should give heed.

In following lessons, we will look at each of the commandments in detail, but in this lesson we will attempt to gain an appreciation for the Ten Commandments as a whole. They are, after all, a unit, and must be understood individually in relationship to the whole. We will therefore seek to get an overall impression of the commandments as a whole in preparation for our more exacting study of the Law in its parts.

The Structure of the Decalogue

I suppose that most of us have a mental picture of the Ten Commandments, with five of them engraved into each of the two stone tablets. Actually, there is a great difference of opinion on this particular matter.213 Also, there are a number of differences over the numbering of the commandments.214 Our attention, however, will be directed toward the overall structure of the commandments.

It has been noted that there are really only three positive statements made in verses 2-17, while the remaining statements are negative—prohibitions. This has led some to view the commandments as having a three-fold division.215 Seen in this way, the commandments can be outlined in this way: Israel’s Worship (vss. 2-7); Israel’s Work (vss. 8-11); and Israel’s Walk (vss. 12-17). This is the general outline which will be assumed in our study of the commandments.

The Characteristics of the Commandments

As we consider the Ten Commandments as a whole, there are a number of characteristics which are noteworthy.

(1) The content of the commandments is not really new. Kaiser points out that while the commandments are formally given as God’s Law here, the Book of Genesis reveals the fact that these formalized laws were already followed, or assumed as a moral standard:

In spite of its marvelous succinctness, economy of words, and comprehensive vision, it must not be thought that the Decalogue was inaugurated and promulgated at Sinai for the first time. All Ten Commandments had been part of the Law of God previously written on hearts instead of stone, for all ten appear, in one way or another, in Genesis. They are:

    The first, Genesis 35:2: ‘Get rid of the foreign gods.’
    The second, Genesis 31:39: Laban to Jacob: ‘But why did you steal my gods?’
    The third, Genesis 24:3: ‘I want you to swear by the Lord.’
    The fourth, Genesis 2:3: ‘God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.’
    The fifth, Genesis 27:41: ‘The days of mourning my father are near.’
    The sixth, Genesis 4:9: ‘Where is your brother Abel?’
    The seventh, Genesis 39:9: ‘How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’
    The eighth, Genesis 44:4-7: ‘Why have you stolen my silver cup?’
    The ninth, Genesis 39:17: ‘[Joseph] came to me to make sport of me … but … he ran. …’
    The tenth, Genesis 12:18; 20:3: ‘You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.’

Of course, not every one of these illustrations are equally clear, for the text does not pause to moralize on the narratives, but each would appear to add to the orders of creation already given in the first chapters of Genesis.216

(2) The Decalogue is in the form of the suzerainty-vassal treaties of that day in the ancient Near East. Archeologists have discovered that there were certain literary forms by which treaties were made between the king and his subjects. Comparing the Decalogue with these Near Eastern treaties reveals that the same suzerainty-vassal treaty form was employed in the covenant which God gave Israel.

… God reveals Himself precisely in those moral commandments. To Israel, the ‘book of the covenant’ is a definition of the terms under which God, as a great monarch, accepts Israel as His subjects under a ‘suzerainty treaty’ … The ‘great king’ stated his identity, outlined what he had done for his prospective vassal, promised future protection and, on the grounds and basis of this, demanded exclusive loyalty and laid down certain obligations for his subjects. Often lists of curses and blessings are appended: these too are familiar from the Old Testament.217

(3) The Decalogue, while similar in form to other Near Eastern treaties, is strikingly different in its content. It has been observed that there are similarities between the Law of Moses and other Near Eastern treaties, such as the Code of Hammurabi. The two covenants are decidedly different in that the Mosaic covenant is based upon religious belief, while the Code of Hammurabi (and others) is not:

The main similarity lies in their form, e.g., in the use of the formula ‘if someone … then. …’ The discovery of the Code of Hammurabi has reinstated the previously mentioned ‘Book of the Covenant’ … and the Decalogue as being of Mosaic origin. … But the Code of Hammurabi stands on a lower level than the Decalogue, if only because the former does not forbid covetousness (cf. 20:17). H. T. Obbink says: The entire code of Hammurabi does not contain a single religious idea, not even in the laws concerning temple prostitutes and magic’ (Inleiding tot den Bijbel, p. 27). The purpose is not to inculcate godliness, but rather to regulate social relationships. And Israel’s laws are, according to Wildeboer, more imbued with a spirit of mercy. But we must not forget that Hammurabi’s code was intended to be a legal rather than a religious document.218

The Decalogue is religious in nature, beginning with stipulations related to Israel’s relationship to her God, the God who delivered her from her bondage in Egypt. Every stipulation from beginning to end, is based upon Israel’s relationship to her God. The codes of other Near Eastern covenants is thoroughly secular.

(4) The Decalogue is, in one sense, intensely personal.

It [the Law] was, first of all, intensely personal. God spoke from heaven so all the people could hear his voice (Deut. 4:32-34: ‘Has any other people heard the voice of god speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?’). The ultimate motivation for doing the Law was to be like the Lord—in holiness (Lev. 20:26) and action (Deut. 10:17-19; 14:1-2; 16:18-20). The covenant aims to establish a personal relationship, not a code of conduct in the abstract.219

Students of the Decalogue have observed that the “you” in the commandments is not plural, but singular. The mood, likewise, is that of exhortation. Each individual is therefore urged to enter into the joy of service (of being a holy priesthood) by adopting this covenant and by obeying the laws which are contained therein.

(5) The Decalogue is a not only a constitution, it is God’s standard for Israel’s culture. As I was studying the commandments, it suddenly occurred to me that God was prescribing, to a large degree, the culture of the nation Israel. We evaluate men by their character (or at least we should). But what is the measure of a nation? I submit to you that a people can, to a large degree, be judged by their culture. While some aspects of a culture are amoral, many are not. By giving Israel the Decalogue, God was prescribing the moral base for their culture.

Remember that Israel had just emerged from the Egyptian culture. As a persecuted minority, the Egyptian culture, to which the Israelites had been exposed for 400 years, was perhaps easier to shrug off when they left that land. On the other hand, the Canaanite culture was surely not one which was to be adopted by God’s people. Thus, God gave the Law to Israel to dictate not only individual conduct, but to establish a corporate code of behavior, a new culture, if you would.

The significance of this can hardly be overemphasized. When God saved Israel, He did so as a nation. The nation is composed of individuals, with its corporate witness equal to the sum total of the godliness of every Israelite. From New Testament times, God has saved individuals, but He has made them a part of a corporate body, His church. While there is much room for cultural differences in the church (cf. Acts 15), there are some dimensions of one’s culture which must be set aside because they are inconsistent with Christian morality. There is a sense in which the church corporately establishes its own culture. This may be one reason why John R. W. Stott entitled his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, Christian Counter-Culture.220

(6) The commandments are predominantly negative. It doesn’t take long for the reader to observe that there are more no’s and do not’s in the Decalogue than there are positive statements. While this cannot be denied, I would suggest that the overall tone of the text is positive, nevertheless. I come to this conclusion on the basis of several factors.

The main reason why we focus on the negatives here in the Decalogue is because we have a negative attitude toward the Law. Those of us who believe that we are “not under Law, but under grace” (Romans 6:15), need not seek to give the new covenant its proper place by trying to make the old covenant look bad. The biblical stance, as I have previously proposed, is that the old covenant was good, while the new covenant is better.

I am reminded of R. C. Sproul’s comments about the grace which is evident in the Old Testament Law:

We cannot deny that the New Testament seems to reduce the number of capital offenses. By comparison the Old Testament seems radically severe. What we fail to remember, however, is that the Old Testament list represents a massive reduction in capital crimes from the original list. The Old Testament code represents a bending over backwards of divine patience and forbearance. The Old Testament Law is one of astonishing grace.

Astonishing grace? I will say it again. The Old Testament list of capital crimes represents a massive reduction of the original list. It is an astonishing measure of grace. The Old Testament record is chiefly a record of the grace of God.221

As Sproul will go on to say, originally the standard was, “The soul that sins shall die.” Adam and Eve had the death penalty pronounced upon them because of their partaking of a forbidden fruit. That was not murder, rape, or kidnapping; it was disobedience to a simple command of God. In our society, it would hardly rate as a misdemeanor, let alone be considered a felony, worthy of the death sentence. The Law, then, greatly reduced the number of offenses which were punishable by death. Once again, we find that the Law had a very positive dimension.

Every prohibition (negatives) is the outworking of an initial positive statement (of which there are three). As we have seen above, the Decalogue can be viewed as having three positive statements, each of which is followed by corresponding prohibition. While we are inclined to focus on the fact that there are more negatives than positives, let us remember that the negatives are all the logical consequence of an initial positive statement.

The laws of physics tell us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The same is true in the moral and spiritual realm. For every positive there are corresponding negatives. If we are to shine as lights in this dark world we must avoid the evil deeds of darkness. If we are to be pure and holy, we must avoid that which is unclean. The emphasis should be on the positive, not on the negative. Negatives are only necessary in order to produce positive results.

One may wonder why it would not have been possible for God to have made more positive statements than negative ones. The answer is simple: when the number of positives greatly exceeds the number of negatives, it is simpler to name the negatives. As counted, there are something like nine negative commands, but this is a very few negatives when you think about it, especially when compared to the number of positive things which constitute obedience to the commandments.

Let me attempt to illustrate the positive dimension of negative commandments by drawing your attention to the vows a husband takes in the marriage ceremony. The husband to be will promise that he will “forsake all others” and take this one woman as his wife. The husband could say to himself, “I cannot live with Betty as my wife … I cannot live with Sarah as my wife … I cannot live with Paula as my wife …” On and on the husband could go. In this mode of thinking, the husband could think of millions of women with whom he could not live as husband and wife. But he does not think this way. Instead, the husband who has just taken his vow to forsake all others goes his way rejoicing in this one positive truth, which overrides all others: “I can take Betty Lou (or whatever his one wife’s name is) as my wife—Hallelujah!” It is not the number of no’s compared to the number of yes’s, but the value of the yes that matters most. In this light, the few negatives of the Ten Commandments are far outweighed by the positive blessing of having fellowship with God and taking part in being a priestly nation, which manifests God to men.

In order to keep the commandments to a concise summary statement, God found it easier to list the few prohibitions (negatives) than to attempt to enumerate every positive freedom under the Law. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He could have walked about the garden with them saying, “This, Adam and Eve,222 is a Jonathan apple tree. You may eat of its fruit.” “This is a MacIntosh apple tree, of which you can eat as well.” “And this is an Alberta peach tree. You may eat its peaches. …” This could have gone on for a long time. Finally, God could then have said, “Now as for this one tree, you cannot eat of its fruit, lest you die.” This method would have emphasized the freedom which they had in the garden, but it would have made the Book of Genesis a whole lot longer. And so, for the sake of brevity, God simply said, “You may freely eat of the fruit of every tree of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, lest you die” (my paraphrase of Genesis 2:16-17).

Satan attempted to take that one prohibition and to create in the minds of Adam and Eve the suspicion that God was really negative and restrictive, rather than generous and gracious. And so it can be with the Law as well. Satan would like nothing better than to underscore the negatives of the Law so that we would lose sight of the positive contribution of the Law. Thus, we find the teaching of negatives a part of the satanic strategy of deception, in the hope of getting men’s attention off of God’s grace (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-5).

The Decalogue is positive because our Lord said so. When asked to summarize the essence of the Law our Lord responded, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

In Exodus 20 God expressed the essence of the Old Testament Law in ten principle statements. Here, our Lord summarized the Law even more concisely, expressing its essence in two statements.

If we were asked to capture the essence of the Law in but one word, based upon the response of our Lord in Matthew chapter 22, what would that one word be? Without a doubt, that word would have to be love. The Law can be summarized in this simple way: Love (1) God; and (2) your neighbor.

Now, is love a positive or a negative concept? Primarily, it is a positive concept. Secondarily, it is a negative one. The reason is that love is exclusive, we love someone or something over something else. Thus, love is positive, but it has negative implications. This is precisely the way we should view the Law. It is essentially and fundamentally positive, although this positive dimension has negative implications.

Finally, the Decalogue is positive because God purposed that the demands of the Decalogue would be fulfilled by one Israelite—the Messiah—not the nation as a whole.

In Exodus chapter 19 we learned that the giving of the Law was directly related to Israel’s calling to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (v. 6). Israel was called of God for a specific purpose: to manifest God to the world by being a “kingdom of priests,” and a “light to the Gentiles” (cf. Isaiah 42:6; 60:1-3). In order to do this Israel must keep the Law of God, not in order to be saved, but in order to manifest the character of God. If Israel was to represent God they must be like God. The Law defined how God’s holiness would be manifested in the lives of men and women. When the Israelites failed to obey God’s Law they also failed to manifest their God to the nations.

This did not come as a surprise to God, however. God never had any delusions that Israel would ever live up to the standard set by the Law. After the Law was given (for the second time) in Deuteronomy, God said, “‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!’” (Deuteronomy 5:29).

Later on, when the people pledged to follow God and to obey His Law under the leadership of Joshua, Joshua responded,

“You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression of your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” And Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him” (Joshua 24:19-22).

The history of Israel is the account of how one generation after another failed to live up to her high calling and according to the standard of the Law. We learn from the New Testament that God knew Israel would fail and thus planned to fulfill His promise to Abraham another way. Thus, we read,

Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on Law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise (Galatians 3:15-18).

This is not the time for a full exposition of this text. Notice, however, how Paul stresses that the promise of God given in the Abrahamic covenant looks forward to its fulfillment by one person (seed, singular), rather than by a group (seeds, plural). Paul underscores that God never expected Israel to be a blessing to the Gentiles as a nation, by her fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant. Instead, God purposed to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant through one person, the seed, Israel’s Messiah. So it was that the promise to Abraham would be fulfilled. So, too, through Messiah, Israel’s high calling would be fulfilled.

We see this evidenced in the Old Testament Scriptures. There is a mysterious blending or converging (at least in Old Testament times) of Israel’s corporate identity and her identity with Messiah. Let me point out a couple of examples of how Israel’s corporate destiny was realized through the one seed, Messiah. Israel was to be “a light to the Gentiles,” and yet in those passages which speak of this function we gain the definite impression that somehow this function is the task of a single person. Note the blending of the individual and the collective in these passages:

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them (Isaiah 9:2; cf. Matt. 4:12-16).

“I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6; cf. Luke 2:32; cf. also Isaiah 51:4).

And if you give yourself to the hungry, And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday (Isaiah 58:10).

“Arise, shine; for you light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about, and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms. Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you” (Isaiah 60:1-5).

At one time, the “light to the Gentiles” is Israel itself, and yet the Messiah is the one who is seen as the “light to the Gentiles.” This is especially clear in the quotation of these texts from Isaiah in the gospels, referring to our Lord’s coming.

The same merging of Israel’s calling and destiny with that of her Messiah is seen in the references to “the servant” of the Lord in Isaiah:

“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendent of Abraham My friend” (Isaiah 41:8).

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed, Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His Law” (Isaiah 42:1-4).

Once one recognizes the interchange between the corporate (Israel) and the singular (Messiah) sense in which “servant” is used in servant portion of Isaiah, you can understand why it is difficult, at times, to discern which of the two senses is most prominent. For example, in my edition of the NASB, the text is rendered this way:

Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men (Isaiah 52:13-14).

The expression “My people,” is italicized in the text, indicating that it has been supplied by the translators to enhance the sense of the literal text. Later editions have deleted this expression. Some evangelical scholars were greatly distressed because the translators suggested that the plight of the nation Israel was the cause of many being astonished. They rightly insist that the entire portion of this passage (52:13—53:12) is referring to the suffering Servant, Israel’s Messiah, not the nation itself. But when you see how Israel (God’s servant) was inseparably identified with Messiah (God’s Servant), the reason for the difficulty is obvious, even if the translators were wrong in their rendering of the text.

In the Gospels we have various other clues to the way in which our Lord, the Messiah, retraced, as it were, the steps of the Israel, only in a way that perfectly fulfilled God’s precepts and purposes, thus achieving for Israel what she, as a nation, failed to accomplish. Israel spent forty years in the desert, but when there was no food or water, the people grumbled. Our Lord spent forty days in the wilderness, going without food and yet perfectly obeying God, in the midst of intense satanic temptation. And when our Lord responded to Satan’s temptations, He did so from the passage in Deuteronomy chapter 8, which spoke of God’s purposes in Israel’s testings. Thus we should not be surprised when we read in the gospel of Matthew: “And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘Out of Egypt did I call My Son’” (Matthew 2:14-15).

This is a citation from the prophecy of Hosea, which is a reference to the exodus of the nation Israel: “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1). The corporate calling of Israel out of Egypt is now seen as a prophecy or prototype of the calling of Messiah from Egypt. The New Testament writers therefore saw the merging of Israel’s corporate identity and her identity with the one “seed” of Abraham, Messiah.

The important thing to see is that Israel’s failure to keep the Law was dealt with by Messiah’s perfect obedience of the Law. The death penalty which the Law pronounced on Law-breakers was executed on Israel’s Messiah. The righteousness which the Law required was the righteousness of Messiah. The task of revealing God to men was fully carried out by Messiah.

This is why the Law is such good news. The higher the standard of the Law, the more impossible it was for Israelites to keep it. But, when they failed, the greater the accomplishment of Messiah, who did keep it, to the letter. The blessing which God promised to Israel and to the nations in the Abrahamic covenant was not the blessing which came from man’s Law-keeping, but the blessing which came from Messiah, the perfect Law-keeper and Law-fulfiller. The blessings which Israel seeks are those which can be experienced by being in Messiah, by faith. The blessings which the Gentiles are promised are those which are offered to those who, by faith, are “in Christ” (Messiah). The good news of the gospel is that the penalty which the Law prescribed has been carried out on Messiah, who died in the sinner’s place. The blessings which are promised to the righteous are also those which come to all who are “in Christ,” and who can therefore share in His righteousness.

The Law is a positive blessing, not because Israel was able to keep it, or that we can either, but that Christ has fulfilled it, and offers all who trust in Him the blessings He has won. My prayer is that you can rejoice in the demands of the Law, knowing that these have been met, and that you are “in Him” who met them.

210 “In 34:28 and Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4 it is called literally ‘the ten words’ (translated ‘Ten Commandments’), and hence the name ‘Decalogue’ (from the Greek deka = ‘ten’ and logos = ‘word’), which was apparently used first by Clemens of Alexandria, and is appropriate.” W. H. Gispen, Exodus, trans. by Ed van der Maas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 185.

211 R. Alan Cole, Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 149.

212 There are other such summaries, as Kaiser points out: “This penchant for reducing a maze of details into a limited set of principles is not limited to the two accounts of the Decalogue in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. There are at least seven other summaries to which the Jewish community have regularly pointed. These are: the eleven principles of Psalm 15 (cf. Ps. 24:3-6); the six commands of Isaiah 33:15; the three commands of Micah 6:8; the two commands of Isaiah 56:1; and the one command of Amos 5:4; Habakkuk 2:4; and Leviticus 19:2.” Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Toward Old Testament Ethics (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1983), p. 81.

213 “There is no agreement as to whether each of the two tablets contained five commandments (Philo, Josephus, Irenaeus, etc), or one four and the other six (Calvin), or one three and the other seven (Augustine). Today some are of the opinion that each of the two tablets contained all ten commandments …” Gispen, pp. 187-188.

214 “The laws are not numbered, however; therefore Roman Catholic and Lutheran communions make but one what Reformed and Greek Orthodox call the first two. In order to keep the number ten, the reformed and Greek Orthodox must divide the tenth commandment into two, making the first sentence of the tenth commandment number nine and the rest number ten.” Kaiser, p. 82. Cf. also, Cole, p. 152.

215 “There are only three positive statements in verses 2-17 of Exodus 20—all without a finite verb. … John J. Owens has suggested that these three clauses might serve as the basis for dividing up the Decalogue into three sections and govern the other seven commands. In fact, in Deuteronomy 5:6-21, the commands are connected (unlike Exodus 20:2-17) by the conjunction … (‘and’) that suggests that they are all governed by the fifth commandment. If adopted, the phrases might be rendered: (1) I being the Lord your God … [therefore observe commandments one to three]; (2) Remembering the Sabbath day … [therefore do vv. 9-11]; and (3) Honoring your father and mother … [therefore observe commandments six to ten]. It would seem appropriate, therefore, to use this outline for discussing the Decalogue: (1) Right Relations With God (vv. 2-7), (2) Right Relations With Work (vv. 8-11), and (3) Right Relations With Society (vv. 12-17).” Kaiser, p. 84.

216 Kaiser, pp. 81-82. Gispen seems to agree, when he writes, “… the archaeological discoveries support the thesis that the Ten Commandments are a restatement and clarification of the innate moral Law with which man was created (cf. Rom. 2:14-15).” Gispen, p. 186.

217 Cole, pp. 150, 153. Referring to Exodus 20:2, Cole writes, “Our new understanding of the process of covenant making in early Western Asia … has shown conclusively that such a self-proclamation is an integral part of any covenant making. Although Mendenhall’s evidence is largely from Hittite sources, no doubt the Hittites are simply reproducing what was the wider pattern throughout the whole area” (p. 153). Cole goes on to indicate that while the form is strikingly similar to the ancient Hittite suzerainty treaties, this does not mean that the content is diluted or diminished in any way, comparing the similarities in style to that of Paul’s letters with the contemporary Greek format of his day (p. 153).

218 Gispen, p. 186.

219 Kaiser, p. 77.

220 John R. W. Stott, Christian Counter-Culture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978).

221 R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1985), p. 148.

222 Just to keep the record straight, God seems to have given the command regarding the forbidden fruit only to Adam, since Eve had not yet been created. It would appear that it was Adam’s responsibility to communicate this command to her.