the Forgotten Ten Commandments

It is one of the strangest inconsistencies of the human being that he will invent reasons and struggle to maintain conditions that are detrimental to his own welfare, aye, that even enslave him.
-Joseph Lewis

Despite priestly claims that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Scripture tells us that Moses only wrote laws, building plans and rituals, and by implication, nothing about himself. The two sets of Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, so fabulously hooted by Protestants and Catholics, were written by Moses and left to perish. He destroyed the one set of stone tablets written by Yahweh. Moses stored the word of Yahweh with another Ten Commandments in the Ark of the Covenant, but they were so primitive and barbaric that church authorities left them to be forgotten.

Most readers limit their interest in the Ten Commandments to Exodus 19-20, when Moses received the Ten Commandments from Yahweh on Mount Sinai. What follows undercuts the credibility of the events.

Moses wrote the prescribed Ten Commandments and the law contained in Exodus 20-23, in a Book of the Covenant and read them to the people, so they may hear and obey. Nothing is said about them thereafter.

Moses went up the mountain again to receive another set of commands, this time written by Yahweh. According to Exodus 25-32, they were specifications for a Tabernacle and an Ark. Moses destroyed this set. But somehow as if by magic, they found their way into the Bible.

Moses went to the mountain again to get a replacement set. This set, in Exodus 34-39, was stored in the Ark of the Covenant. They had another Ten Commandments, but only three of the original ten commands were familiar. They were the laws to worship no other God, obey the Sabbath and no graven images.

Leviticus and Numbers have more laws and story telling, but they too did not find their way into the Ark of the Covenant.

In Deuteronomy, the life of Moses took place 40 years after the Exodus when they are about to cross the Jordan and conquer Canaan. Moses gave three sermons in which he reviewed past events since Mount Sinai. In Deuteronomy 5, Moses repeated the Ten Commandments, similar to Exodus 20. More laws followed. At the end of Deuteronomy he wrote "the words of this law in a book" and put them by "the side of the ark of the covenant" (Deut. 31:24-26).

Presumably because Yahweh did not have a direct hand in these laws, they were put on the side of the Ark of the Covenant. There is no suggestion that they were carried with the Ark. And they were never mentioned again.

To sum up, the Ten Commandments and laws meant to be preserved in the Ark of the Covenant are specified in Ex. 34-39. They look nothing like the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. If it was based on truth, the history in the Pentateuch would have fallen into oblivion for lack of written records.

An apologist would have a ready answer for these anomalies. While he rages about gaps in Darwinian evolution, he satisfies himself with the possibility that Moses wrote the Pentateuch from the afterlife. Or he might argue that just because the Bible doesn't say that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, doesn't prove that he didn't write the Pentateuch.

Despite the many flaws there are in this archaic text, there is nothing that cannot be ignored or explained away by appeal to supernatural explanations and hypothetical possibilities.

Background

The story of Moses has mythological precedents.

Mount Sinai

The Sinai Peninsula in Egypt has as many as 20 mountain peaks which Moses allegedly climbed. Tradition holds that Jebel Musa (Mountain of Moses) is the Mount Sinai Moses climbed. It is located at the southern tip of the peninsula in Egypt. It is about 7,500 feet (2,284 meters) high from sea level. It takes about 3 hours to climb 5,000 feet from its base by 3,000 carved steps. The highest peak in Sinai is Jebel Katherina at 8,651 feet.

The word "Sinai" may be traced to the moon-god Sin of Sumerian mythology. Perhaps Sinai is interchangeably called "Horeb" to avoid the association. Sinai is used 13 times in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy. While Horeb is used three times in Exodus and nine times in Deuteronomy. There are two different writers.

In ancient mythology it was common to consider mountains sacred to divine beings. The best known example is Mount Olympus at 9,570 feet, the highest mountain peak in Greece. Most likely, the sacredness of mountains has to do with their closeness to the heavens.

As the Greeks had many gods on Mount Olympus, the Hebrew translation suggests Mount Sinai did too. The translation for "God" is elohim,meaning gods. Lord translates to Yahweh. Yahweh was perceived as the high god of the gods.

3And Moses went up to God [Elohim], and the LORD [Yahweh] called to him out of the mountain. (Ex. 19:3)

Priestly Myth

The priests of that day were strong believers in astrology. It would be fair to say that the Bible is a composite of events believed to take place in the heavens; so it was written in astronomical allegory. As the article on Moses' Sun Signs makes clear, the life of Moses took place in one solar year. The astronomical meaning of the events surrounding the Ten Commandments are explained when the sun is in Gemini.

Contrary to what this verse below suggests, there is no earthquake or volcanic activity in Sinai. It is priestly hyperbole intended to create an impressionable aura.

18And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. (Ex. 19:18)

Allegorically, Moses is on top of the mountain when the sun is at its highest over the horizon; that is when the sun is in Gemini. Words like smoke cloud and thick darkness describe the Milky Way. The Milky Way was believed to be the highway to heaven.

9And the LORD said to Moses. "Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud. (Ex. 19:9)

21. Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Ex. 20:21)

The first two trips

Moses first trip up and down the mountain was to consecrate the people. 

3And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain. (Ex. 19:3)

10And the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, (Ex. 19:10)

14So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. (Ex. 19:14)

Moses' second trip up and down the mountain was to consecrate the mountain.

20And the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. (Ex. 19:20)

23And Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for thou thyself didst charge us, saying, 'Set bounds about the mountain, and consecrate it.'" (Ex. 19:23)

25So Moses went down to the people and told them. (Ex. 19:25)

The first set - Exodus 20-23

Then God spoke the Ten Commandments. -This is the set, in Ex. 20:1-17, which is most familiar.

1And God spoke all these words, saying, (Ex. 20:1)

The noise and smoke scared the people. They wanted Moses to hear for them, lest they feared they might die if they heard. The people stood far away while Moses drew nearer to the dark thickness where God was.

18Now when all the people perceived the thunderings and the lightnings and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled; and they stood afar off,
19and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die."
20And Moses said to the people, "Do not fear; for God has come to prove you, and that the fear of him may be before your eyes, that you may not sin."
21
And the people stood afar off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
22And the LORD said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: 'You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. (20:18-22)

Exodus 20 through Deuteronomy contains 613 other laws, plus prophecies and ritual prescriptions. They will not be discussed here, but you can find the 613 laws enumerated in Wikipedia.

Moses wrote all the words God spoke to him and built an altar at the foot of the mountain.

4And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. (Ex. 24:4)

Then Moses read the "book of the covenant" to all the people so they may hear it and obey. - Because it is called a book, we can't assume it was written on stone tablets.

7Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." (Ex. 24:7)

Did Moses write the Ten Commandments in a book or did Yahweh write them on two tables of stone?

13And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. (Deut. 4:13)

Moses took ox blood and threw it on the people, telling them the "blood of the covenant" binds them to the words just spoken by God. -This was a tribal ritual that excluded anybody outside the tribe.

8And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." (Ex. 24:8)

The Bible doesn't tell us what happened to the Book of the Covenant, yet they appear in the Bible. Let's hold this thought for later.

The second set -Exodus 24-32

Moses made a third trip up the mountain to receive another set of directives, this time written on tables of stone by God.

12The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tables of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction."
13So Moses rose with his servant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.
14And he said to the elders, "Tarry here for us, until we come to you again; and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a cause, let him go to them."
15
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. (Ex. 24:12-15)

Chapters 25-31 prescribe ritual offerings, instructions for building an ark (box), details for building a tabernacle and furniture, and ends with an order to keep the Sabbath. They are nothing like the directives in Ex. 20-23.

The size of the Ark of the Covenant gives us an idea to the size of the stone tables. The ark is a box, 2-1/2 cubits in length, and its width and height are half its length. A cubit is about 18 inches; so its size in feet is almost 4 x 2 x 2.

10"They shall make an ark of acacia wood; two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.
11And you shall overlay it with pure gold, within and without shall you overlay it, and you shall make upon it a molding of gold round about.
16And you shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. (Ex. 25:10-11, 16)

When he was done speaking, Yahweh wrote his testimony on two tables of stone with his finger and gave them to Moses.

18And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Ex. 31:18)

Moses made his third trip down the mountain, with the two tables of the testimony written by God. -It would take superhuman strength to carry two tables of stone.

15And Moses turned, and went down from the mountain with the two tables of the testimony in his hands, tables that were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. (Ex. 32:15-16)

When he came down the mountain, he was so angry at the people for making the golden calf that he threw down the tables and broke them at the foot of the mountain.

19And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tables out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.
(Ex. 32:19)

Since Moses destroyed the tables written on by Yahweh, it is obvious that they didn't get stored in the ark. Yet they are written in the Bible.

The third set - Exodus 33-40

Moses made his fourth trip up the mountain to replace the broken set. Yahweh told him to cut two more tables to replace the two he broke. So Moses went up the mountain with two more tables of stone for Yahweh to write on.

1The LORD said to Moses, "Cut two tables of stone like the first; and I will write upon the tables the words that were on the first tables, which you broke.
2Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain.
4So Moses cut two tables of stone like the first; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tables of stone. (Ex. 34:1-2, 4)

And Yahweh descended in the cloud and stood with Moses at the top of Mount Sinai.

5And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. (Ex. 34:5)

The divinely written Ten Commandments -Exodus 34:12-26

The Ten Commandments below look nothing like the commandments in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. They don't actually have ten commands, but that is what they are called (Ex. 34:28, Deut. 4:13 and Deut. 10:4), so I'll stay with the label. For example, I counted 14 directives in the Exodus 20 Ten Commandments.

For the sake of comparison I parsed the set below into 13 directives. I found that only three overlap the directives in Exodus 20 and Deut. 5 - worship no other god, no graven images and obey the Sabbath. The rest repeat some of the directives found in Exodus 20:23-23.

There are three things to note about them. 1) They supersede anything written before. 2) They are strictly religious commandments. 3) They have nothing to do with moral behavior; i.e. do not kill, steal or lie.

Preface: Yahweh is merciful and gracious slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, and forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin. However he wouldn't clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of their fathers to the fourth generation. -The passage is self-contradictory.

6The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Ex. 34:6-7)

1. Take heed, lest you make covenants with other inhabitants; it will become a snare to you. -Similar to Ex. 23:32.

12Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither you go, lest it become a snare in the midst of you. (Ex. 34:12)

32You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods.
33They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you." (Ex. 23:32-33)

2. Tear down their altars, pillars and Asherim. -Similar to Ex. 23:24.

13You shall tear down their altars, and break their pillars, and cut down their Asherim (Ex. 34:13)

24you shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. (Ex. 23:24)

3. Do not worship any other god because the Lord is a jealous God. -Similar to the Ten in Gen. 20:5.

14(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), (Ex. 34:14)

5you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, (Ex. 20:5)

Otherwise you make a covenant with other inhabitants who play harlot after their gods and sacrifice to them. When they invite you, you eat their sacrifices, and their daughters will make your sons play harlot to their gods.

15lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they play the harlot after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and one invites you, you eat of his sacrifice,
16and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters play the harlot after their gods and make your sons play the harlot after their gods. (Ex. 34:14-16)

4. Make no cast idols. -Similar to the Ten in Gen. 20:4.

17"Your shall make for yourself no molten gods. (Ex. 34:17)

4"You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or 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; (Ex. 20:4)

7. Keep the feast of unleavened bread by eating unleavened bread for seven days at the time appointed in the month Abib. -Similar to Ex. 23:15.

18"The feast of unleavened bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib; for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. (Ex. 34:18)

15You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. (Ex. 23:15)

8. You shall sacrifice your firstborn male livestock, or if you do not sacrifice it you must break its neck. You shall sacrifice your first born sons. -Similar to Gen. 22:29-30. "Redeem" was a euphemism for sacrifice. First born livestock and children were sacrificed.

19All that opens the womb is mine, all your male cattle, the firstlings of cow and sheep.
20The firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the first-born of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. (Ex. 34:19-20)

29"You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. "The first-born of your sons you shall give to me.
30You shall do likewise with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its dam; on the eighth day you shall give it to me. (Ex. 22:29-30)

9. Work for six days and rest on the Sabbath. -Similar to the Ten in Ex. 20:8-10 and 31:14-16.

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

8"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9Six days you shall labor, and do all your work;
10but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates. (Ex. 20:8-10)

14You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.
16Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. (Ex. 31:14-16)

10. Observe the feast of weeks. -Similar to Ex. 23:16.

22And you shall observe the feast of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end. (Ex. 34:22)

16You shall keep the feast of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the feast of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. (23:16)

11. All males will appear before God three times a year. -Similar to Ex. 23:17.

23Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.
24For I will cast out nations before you, and enlarge your borders; neither shall any man desire your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

17Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD. (Ex. 23:17)

12. You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven. -Similar to Ex. 23:18.

25"You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left until the morning. (Ex. 34:25)

18"You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning. (Ex. 23:18)

13. You shall bring to the house of the Lord the first of your first fruits of your ground. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk. -Similar to Ex. 23:19.

26The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk." (Ex. 34:26)

19"The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk. (Ex. 23:19)

Moses wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant and the Ten Commandments as Yahweh had instructed him. -There is a contradiction with Exodus 34:1 when Yahweh said he would write on the tablets.

He remained for 40 days and 40 nights without food or water. On his fourth trip down the mountain, the skin of this face shone.  -It is impossible for anyone to go 40 days without water.

27And the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
28And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
29When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. (Ex. 34:27-29)

Chapters 35-39 contain instructions for building an ark, tabernacle, furniture and priest's clothes.

Chapter 35:2-3 outlaws fire on the Sabbath and makes work violation under penalty of death.

2Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death;
3you shall kindle no fire in all your habitations on the sabbath day." (Ex. 35:2-3)

Moses placed the testimony in the ark. -the testimony consists of Ex. 34-39. The fact that they were stored in the Ark gave them more weight than the others.

20And he took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above on the ark; (Ex. 40:20)

Leviticus and Numbers have more directives and story telling, but they too did not find their way into the Ark of the Covenant.

Deuteronomy

At the end of career, Moses gave three sermons in which he reviewed his past accomplishments and recited a litany of more laws.

In Deut. 5:6-21, Moses reiterated the Ten Commandments but with different wording than Exodus 20:2-17.

Moses started his second sermon with an introduction to the testimonies, statutes and ordnances

44This is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel;
45these are the testimonies, the statutes, and the ordinances, which Moses spoke to the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt, (Deut. 4:44)

Moses recalled the events in Exodus and gave some inflammatory rhetoric on how to meet the enemy, and gave warnings to obey the law. We will pass over them except to note Moses' recollection about the laws being stored in the ark.

5Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the LORD commanded me. (Deut. 10:5)

Deuteronomy is packed with more directives, but we will pass over them.

When Moses finished his third sermon, he was 120 years old and forbidden to cross the Jordon.

1So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel.
2And he said to them, "I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I am no longer able to go out and come in. The LORD has said to me, 'You shall not go over this Jordan.' (Deut 31:1-2)

Moses wrote them in a book and had them put by the side of the Ark of the Covenant.

24When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book, to the very end,
25Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD,
26"Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. (Deut. 31:24-26)

The implication is that only Yahweh's testimony was worthy of storing inside the Ark. Moses' resuscitation was of lower rank. We are not told what happened to Moses' writings when the Ark was carried about.

Conclusion

If religious authorities were so concerned about obeying the Ten Commandments with the highest divine authority, they would have parroted Exodus 34:12-26 because they were stored in the Ark of the Covenant. (Special mention goes to Ex. 22:29-30; 34:19-20 which call for child sacrifice.) That they were left to be forgotten shows they were more concerned about what could sell. Taken collectively, they prove that moral order does not come from a deity; it comes from human social instincts.