On the Meaning of the Ten Matters of the Covenant Between God and Man
The Hierarchy of Commandments of the Torah
The Ten Matters – The Covenant of Yahuwah the Elohim of Yisrael
Are the Ten Matters Part of the New Covenant?
The Two Accounts of the Ten Matters – Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5
One – You Shall Have No Other Elohim
Two – You Shall Not Lift Up the Name Yahuwah Unto Emptiness
Three – Guard the Sabbath to Keep it Holy
Four – Honor Your Father and Your Mother
Five – You Shall Not Murder
Six – You Shall Not Commit Adultery
Seven – You Shall Not Steal
Eight – You Shall Not Bring Against Your Neighbor a False Witness
Nine – You Shall Not Desire Your Neighbor’s Wife
Ten – You Shall Not Desire Your Neighbor’s Things
The Gravity of the Covenant Commandments
The Ten Commandments are universally know and accepted as the single greatest summary of moral law ever penned. You don’t have to be Jewish or Christian to be familiar with the values expressed in the Ten Commandments. Many creeds, codes and constitutions are based on the wisdom contained on those two tablets of stone. The Ten Commandments have been recited and revered by many nations across many centuries of time and have provided sound guidance and instruction for many peoples.
Yet the Ten Commandments are a very specific Covenant made between God and man. Yahuwah, the Elohim (God) and Creator of heaven and earth has extended this Agreement to his people, the nation of Yisrael. An apt description of the relationship between the Almighty and mankind is encapsulated by this agreement between these two parties regarding their respective roles and responsibilities. The “Ten Commandments” summarizes the stipulations of their relationship. As such, it deserves a serious and thorough examination.
In the following post, we endeavor to explore the meaning and scope of this relationship between the Creator and man. And in doing so, we will take a deep look into each of the instructions of this Covenant to ascertain the exact intended meaning and fulfillment of these stipulations. If our very relationship with the Creator is subject to the legal requirements of this document which outlines that relationship, we ought to be quite anxious to know and understand the terms and expectations of the one to whom we will some day give an account.
The Hierarchy of Commandments of the Torah
When asked by the Pharisees what is the greatest of all the commandments, Messiah Yahushua (a.k.a. “Jesus”) responded,
‘Love Yahuwah your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The Pharisees recognized that Yahushua’s answer was accurate. The Rabbis have always asserted that to love Elohim is the greatest commandment. And to love your neighbor is next in importance to the greatest commandment.
However, what is equally insightful for us is Yahushua’s next statement: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” What this means is that all the other commandments of the Torah are elaborations and detailed explanation of the two commandments to love. You might think of the commandments to love Yahuwah and your neighbor as headings of a two column page. The rest of the commands could be listed under these two headings.
Along this same line of thinking, the Ten Commandments would fall under the same two headings. The first several of the Ten Commandments describe some aspect of what it means to love Yahuwah your Elohim. The remainder of the Ten Commandments details the primary areas of behavior which illustrate what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
In this way, the whole litany of commandments of the Torah can be summarized in the Ten Commandments and the Ten Commandments can be summarized by the Great Two. So then, we’re left with a hierarchical chart, as it were, of the Torah. The commands to love sit at the top. Next below those two are the Ten Commandments. And under each of those ten are situated all the other commands of the Torah.
The Ten Matters – The Covenant of Yahuwah the Elohim of Yisrael
The term “Ten Commandments” is actually a misnomer. The Bible nowhere calls these instructions the “Ten Commandments.” The Hebrew text actually calls them the Ten Matters.
Mosheh was there with Yahuwah forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant– the Ten Matters (Hebrew, ~yrI)b’D>h; trh; trh; trh; tr<f,Þ ) he had proclaimed to you on the mountain, out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. And Yahuwah gave them to me. (Devarim 10:4)
So I prefer not to call them the Ten Commandments, even though that is what they are commonly called, because that would be incorrect. Why is it incorrect to call them "the Ten Commandments"? Well, simply because there are not ten commandments written on the tablets of stone. There are 16 (sixteen) commandments in the Decalogue as recorded in Devarim 5! I list the sixteen commandments which comprise the Ten Matters in this chart.
The 16 Commands in Devarim 5:5-22
The 15 Commands in Shemot 20:1-18
7 You shall have no other elohim before me. 3 You shall have no other elohim before me
8 You shall not make for yourself an idol… 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol
9 You shall not bow down to them… 5 You shall not bow down to them
9 You shall not serve them… 5 You shall not serve them
11 You shall not lift up the name Yahuwah your Elohim unto emptiness. 7 You shall not lift up the name Yahuwah your Elohim unto emptiness.
12 Guard the Sabbath day to keep it holy… 8 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work
14 You shall not do any work (on the seventh) 10 On it (the 7th day) you shall not do any work
15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt
16 Honor your father and your mother 12 Honor your father and your mother
17 You shall not murder 13 You shall not murder
18 You shall not commit adultery 14 You shall not commit adultery
19 You shall not steal 15 You shall not steal
20 You shall not bring against your neighbor a false witness. 16 You shall not bring against your neighbor a false witness.
21 You shall not lust after your neighbor's wife 17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house
21 You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor 17 You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor
So you can see from the list of 16 (or 15 in Shemot 20) commandments why it is inaccurate to refer to them as the "Ten Commandments."
However, when you break down their content, there are, indeed, ten things that these sixteen commands address. The first matter, consisting of four commandments, deals with the matter of worshipping Yahuwah the only Elohim. Thus, we are commanded not to have any other elohim, not to make an idol, not to bow down to idols and not to worship other elohim. All of these have to do with the matter of worshipping Yahuwah only.
And concerning the Sabbath day, four commandments are given. We are to guard the seventh day, we are to work the other six days, we are to cease from work on the seventh day, and we are to remember the reason why we rest on the seventh day – that is, we remember that we were slaves in Egypt.
The rest of the matters use only one commandment each to express them. Thus, altogether, the ten matters take sixteen commandments to convey them.
More importantly than the number of commandments in the Ten Matters is the fact that these instructions constitute the Covenant between Elohim and his people.
And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant– the Ten Matters. (Shemot [Exodus] 34:28)
He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Matters. (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 4:13)
The word covenant comes from the Hebrew, tyrIB. (pronounced brēt). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes our word this way:
covenant (ASV and RSV); between nations: a treaty, alliance of friendship; between individuals: a pledge or agreement; with obligation between monarch and subjects: a constitution; between God and man: a covenant accompanied by signs, sacrifices, and a solemn oath that sealed the relationship with promises of blessing for keeping the covenant and curses for breaking it.
These Ten Matters are actually the agreement, covenant, oath or treaty made between Elohim and men. The words or stipulations of this statement are the terms of the relationship. They describe the obligations and expectations of each of the parties.
For Elohim's part, he obligates himself to be the following: He is to be our Elohim (Devarim 5:6), which is to say, he is to provide for and protect his people. He must show love to those who love him and obey him (Devarim 5:10). And he must give you long life and cause it to go well with you (Devarim 5:16) when you do these things.
The obligation of Elohim in this covenant relationship was described even before Yisrael agreed to the covenant:
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' (Shemot [Exodus] 19:5-6)
And later, Scripture details what Elohim must bring into this relationship:
If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then Yahuwah your Elohim will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land– your grain, new wine and oil– the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. Yahuwah will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Mitzrayim, but he will inflict them on all who hate you. (Devarim 7:12-15)
Elohim promises to love his people, to bless them, increase them, bless their children, bless their increase of crops and herds, and keep his people from all disease. This is actually only the short list of the benefits Elohim brings into the agreement. A more extensive list of benefits is given in Devarim 28:1-14.
But if you agree to the Covenant and then refuse to perform the commandments as given in this Covenant, Elohim promises to do the following: he will punish you and your children to the fourth generation (Devarim 5:9), and he will not hold guiltless those who abuse his name (Devarim 5:11). A very long list of curses is pronounced upon his people should they fall away and break Covenant with Yahuwah and go to serve other gods. This list can be found in Devarim 28:15-68.
For man's part, by agreeing to the Covenant, he is obligating himself to "have no other elohim," and he is to "not take the name of Yahuwah in vain," etc. Man is to faithfully perform the ten matters discussed in the Covenant to remain in this Alliance with Yahuwah. Should he transgress any of the stipulations, he has violated the contract and has forfeited his right to demand Elohim to keep his part of the Agreement. Thus, Elohim no longer is obligated to provide for and protect the violator of this Agreement.
David M Rogers