The Sinai

Reread the 10 Commandments in Context


The Ten Commandments need to be understood within the context they were originally given to be able to appreciate their meaning and transformational relevance for every society. 

For the sake of brevity, I have summarised them below contrasting the context of slavery in Egypt and the paradigm for a just and free society that God was revealing to his people from Mount Sinai. [1]

1The children of Abraham had lived under a tyrannical Pharaoh who claimed to be god and did not know YAHWEH, the LORD [1] God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.I am the LORD who brought you out of Egypt.Have no other gods before my face.The children of Abraham were to trust and follow the LORD, the one who fulfilled his promise to save them from slavery and lead them into freedom.  They were to fear no longer or follow any other gods, powers, or authorities.  
2Egypt was full of lifeless gods and graven images that did not save people or help them to live creative responsible lives but kept them in passive subservience to Pharaoh’s oppressive system of exploitation.Do not make graven images.The children of Abraham were to be a responsible free people by trusting and following the one faithful, just, true and ethically moral LORD instead of following manmade unjust, arbitrary gods, laws and superstitions. 
3Pharaoh and his priests had used the name of their gods to build an unjust hierarchical system of power, wealth and reputation, to manipulate and exploit people and the natural environment.  Do not misuse my Name. Israel was to reverence the LORD as just and true and forbidden to use His name for malevolent, unjust, selfish, manipulative, or frivolous purposes. 
4Egypt demanded unrelenting labour from the children of Abraham to further its wealth and power. Do no work on the Sabbath. The LORD commands rest for all one day in seven, specifically for servants, maidservants, and animals. 
5Egypt demanded allegiance to Pharaoh, the state, and the taskmasters who used whips to enforce obedience. Honour your father and your mother.The LORD commanded just free societies to be structured around family households where people’s parents were to be honoured before the state and  its rulers. 
6Egypt murdered at will, even throwing the Israelite male children into the Nile.Do not murder The LORD commanded such unlawful killing to stop.
7Egypt exploited the Israelites economically, stealing their time, their bodies, their labour, and the benefits of their labour.Do not stealThe LORD commanded all such stealing to stop and for families to be apportioned their own plot of land from which they could produce wealth and be protected from greed and exploitation of the rich and powerful. 
8In Egypt, masters could take a slave girl at will, violating her, her relationship with her husband, and her wider family. Do not commit adulteryThe LORD commanded such exploitation of women to stop enabling them to build stable, faithful, loving, secure Covenant relationships. 
9In Egypt, people were victims of massive social injustice where the rich and powerful were a law unto themselves, falsely accusing the weak and vulnerable for personal gain. Do not accuse falsely The LORD commanded that all people, no matter their station in life, be protected from false accusation, particularly in the law courts.
10Egypt and Pharaoh had an insatiable desire for more riches, power, buildings and so on at the expense of slave labour.  Do not covet The LORD commanded that the wicked desire to possess the bodies and property of others should stop. 

Question for Thought:

List your top ten rules for life.

Which are self-centred and which are focused on building and protecting just and compassionate communities where relationships between humans and the environment can creativity flourish?  

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