10 Commandments Series – 1: “I am the LORD your God”

In the typical Christian tradition, the first ‘commandment’ is, “you shall have no other God’s before me.”  However, that is the wrong place to start.  The first statement that starts off the “10 Statements” is,

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

The list must start with an explanation of who is giving the list.  Otherwise, there is no foundation for authority.  It could be anyone giving a list of rules if there is no authorship attributed to the list.  Perhaps this is a good part of the reason why the ‘battle’ for displaying the “10 Commandments” was so easily lost here in the USA.  Also, perhaps leaving out the authorship also points to an endemic problem in Christianity where the word of God receives less and less attention.

But the list does start with claiming who the author is.  He starts by naming Himself.  In most English translations, one wouldn’t even notice this as the word “LORD” is used in place of his name (this is true in both Christian and some popular Jewish translations).  But that is not His name.  That is a deliberate obfuscation of His name.  His name is clearly spelled out in the original Hebrew and is the four Hebrew letters, “yud hey vav hey”.  (See this post about His name).

In this beginning statement, we see both His name, and what He has done.  Both are important and foundational to our faith in Him and our obedience to Him.  Knowing His name is great, but what dos that mean to us?  Thus He clarifies even more and says that He is the author of salvation.  Author of salvation?  What?

God states that He brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  Most think only that this is talking of what He did for the Israelites.  But it is so much more.  Elsewhere in scripture God tells the Israelites to think of these words as if they were the ones personally brought out.  That injunction stands for us today.

Think of it this way: ‘house of slavery’ as in slavery to sin;  ‘land of Egypt’ as in the world’s ways.  In other words, God is the one that brings us into His kingdom, freeing us from the slavery to sin and freeing us from the bondage to the ways of the world. 

If this foundation is not present, the foundation of who God is – YHVH – and what He did for us – freed us from bondage to the ways of this world, and from slavery to sin.  We are now free to serve Him!  Without knowing this, Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice would not have the meaning it has.  Without the foundation of who God is and what He has done, the 10 statements become the 10 commandments, and they become just part of the “dead” law God gave, instead of being the living, active words they are.

  • Yosef

10 Commandments Series – Intro

This is the first entry in a series looking at the 10 “commandments”.  I’ll go through all the “commandments” and discuss their meaning and their application to us today, and look at their context in the Bible.  I’ll try to keep each posting short, so there may be more then one posting for each “commandment.”

The 10 “commandments” are perhaps the greatest things ever written.  They are the only words directly written by God Himself, and that in stone.  This alone makes them special and unique and worth looking closely at.

The phrase “the 10 commandments” does not actually appear anywhere in the Tanakh (“Old” Testament).

Rather, they are called the 10 statements.  The Hebrew word used for “statements” means words or things.  (The fact that in Hebrew, the word for “words” and “things” is the same word is a hint at how the Hebrews looked at life – but that isn’t for now).

The 10 statements appear in two places in the Bible.  In Exodus 20:1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  Both lists are nearly the same, but the differences that do exist are quite interesting to look at.  For example, in the Exodus version, we are told to “remember” and in Deuteronomy we are told to “observe” the Sabbath.  The two different words imply different action and give rise to some fun understandings and traditions.  (More when we get to that commandment.)

Interestingly, Christianity lists as the first commandment something different then Judaism.  I’ll go with Judaism’s numbering as it frames all 10.

The first statement starts with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Without this statement being first, there is no foundation for the following statements (commandments).  Leaving this statement out allows the idea that that there are no absolutes, as, without a foundation, things can change.  One must start with God stating who He is and what He has done, otherwise its just a list of rules that anyone can (and has) change.

In the next posting, we’ll start looking at the text closer and see what gems we can get out of it.  And we’ll start with “I am the LORD.”

I’ll close with this question for each of you reading this.  Do you have the 10 statements (commandments) posted somewhere in your house or memorized?  If not, I’d encourage you to do so.  Remember, these are the only words God ever wrote, and He wrote them in stone, implying permanence.

  • Shalom from Yosef

P.S.: I know that many people believe that the 10 commandments, or some subset thereof, have been ‘fulfilled’ and no longer need to be followed (the Sabbath command is typical of those called ‘fulfilled’).  If anyone wants to discuss that, leave a comment and I’ll start a new blog thread.