The Two Different Ten Commandments (Ex. 20)

A frequent theme to many posts on this site has been the combining of separate elements — and the ways in which the Pentateuch has involved two or more sources being combined into a single narrative. We have seen this in Genesis, with the creation of the world, and Noah’s flood. The Ten Commandments are no different.

In fact, as is somewhat well known, there are two different versions of the Ten Commandments in the Bible. The first, the best known, is in Exodus (Ex. 20:2-17), but a second — and different — version appears in Deuteronomy (Deut. 5:6-21). One key difference: the reasons for resting on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15). These two accounts, of course, must stem from different sources, or later additions or changes to an earlier source. Needless to say, it is quite odd that the Bible itself, if it is putatively a consistent work, would have two different versions. Compare the accounts for yourself.

This entry was posted in HB Short and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Two Different Ten Commandments (Ex. 20)

  1. Phillip Evans says:

    “One key difference: the reasons for resting on the Sabbath”

    Uh oh…pay attention time!

    Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. THEREFORE the LORD BLESSED the Sabbath day and made it holy.

    Here, we have the reason why the LORD “blessed” the Sabbath and made it holy.

    Deu 12:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. THEREFORE the LORD your God has COMMANDED you to observe the Sabbath day.

    Here, we have the reason why the Lord God “commanded” them to observe the sabbath.

    Exo 20:11 – because God rested on the seventh day, He blessed it.

    Deu 12:15 – because God brought them out of Egypt, He commanded them to observe the Sabbath.

    • Greg says:

      Thanks for the comment. It’s always nice to get some discussion going on these posts.

      It seems, perhaps, you’re being selective in your quoting, and missing the broader point that the post tried to make. There’s a distinct difference between Exod. 20:8-11 and Deut. 5:12-15, and it’s not the blessed/commanded one that you make. I think it’s pretty clear reading those two entire passages that blessed v. commanded is distinction without much of a difference (although I’m not looking at this only through translation, and not the oldest copies, so I may be missing something here with respect to this specific point — then again my (albeit limited) review of some scholarship on this point doesn’t agree with you). I think you’re seizing, in other words, on difference between the two that ultimately isn’t very important.

      Contrarily, the difference as to why the Sabbath should be honored is of more fundamental importance. And that’s where there is a rather jarring difference between the two. In Exodus, the broad scope of that passage is to “remember” the Sabbath because it was the day the Lord had rested. In Deuteronomy, God’s people are supposed to “observe” the Sabbath day because God’s people had been working so much as slaves in Egypt. In other words, in one version, God’s people are supposed to imitate God because he rested on the seventh day; in the other, it’s because the people themselves had been toiling as slaves. The noted Hebrew scholar James Kugel put it this way: “While these two versions have some formal features in common, they differ markedly as to why people should rest on the Sabbath: Exodus says our resting is in imitation of God’s rest after the creation of the world, while Deuteronomy says it comes in memory of the period of slavery in Egypt.” I think the issues you make of it are the “formal” features, not the important ones.

  2. Pingback: The Second Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-21) |

  3. Pingback: Top Posts of 2012 »

Comments are closed.