Lent 3-Exodus 20:1-17

For the first part of next week, blogging will not happen. I get a chance to spoil my grandchildren, so I will devote full-time to that.

I am putting up my post about the Hebrew Scripture for Lent 3 early.

The reading is Exodus 20:1-17, the Ten Commandments.

I have three observations about this passage. First, although most Americans tell pollsters that the Ten Commandments are very important, the majority also can’t state the contents of more than 3 or 4 of them. So I am including this link. It is to a ten-finger exercise for remembering the commandments. I have used an adaptation of this with both kids and grown-ups. It is sort of silly, but it works.

A second observation is that we can’t know whether the Ten Commandments really go back to Moses or not. In Exodus (Deuteronomy 5 also has them) they introduce the Covenant Code (Exodus 20:24-23:9). The Covenant Code is very, very old, in my opinion, but it reflects agricultural life in Palestine. It does not reflect a refugee existence in the desert.

The Ten Commandments may pre-date the Covenant Code but, in their present form, they reflect settled life. For example, people seem to have servants and live in villages with gates (v. 10). One’s neighbor has a house that one shouldn’t covet (v. 17). But maybe all the commandments originally just had a couple of words, like “don’t steal”. In that form, they could have come from the desert.

A third observation is that, whatever the historical origin of the commandments, their setting at Sinai tells us that we should not interpret them as legalistic and burdensome. In the desert setting they are a charter for freedom. We contemplate a varied group of refugees who had been slaves. They didn’t know how to be free–as Exodus makes abundantly clear. God gives them a form for their relation to him and to one another. These commandments became the essence of the Torah, and the Jews usually understood Torah as a gracious gift and not a heavy load.

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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