Why Two Stone Tablets?
depictions of the Ten Commandments show the commandments as written on two
Exodus 19-20 describes how the Ten Commandments were a
legal, binding contractual agreement ("covenant") between God and Israel. In
the same way that we make contracts today, the two stones are really two
identical copies of the covenantal contract between God and Israel.
This covenant is more than just a legal contract. In light
of Exodus 19, it is more like a marriage certificate. Every day before
Sinai, God was active in the lives of the Israelites. Read in this light,
the Ten Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea and other miracles of God can be
seen as God's way of "courting" or "wooing" His dearly loved people so that
they might love Him.
We keep valuable documents and contracts in safe places
such as lock-boxes, bank vaults, or fireproof safes. God and the Israelites
also wanted to keep their contract safe. They put the tables in the safest
place they could find: inside the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple area
known as the Holy of Holies.
We also believe that each stone tablet was written on both
sides. Why were they written on stone? Simply because paper hadn't been
invented yet. For more on the writing of the Ten Commandments see Exodus
How Many Commandments???
People commonly assume there are Ten Commandments. A
careful reading of Exodus 20:2-18 shows there are not ten but fourteen
commandments. The rest of Exodus--as well as Leviticus, Numbers and
Deuteronomy--also contain many more commandments for God's covenant people.
Research into the original Hebrew language used in the Ten
Commandments also shows there are no command words ("shall/shall not") in
the Ten Commandments. Instead, the original Hebrew form ("Hebrew imperfect")
is a word that indicates what one will very likely do in the future. It is
not, however a command ("imperative").
Since there are no commands in the Ten Commandments and more than ten
commandments, why do we
call them the Ten Commandments? Simply because it makes us easier to
Christians number the Ten Commandments in two ways. What
do you notice about the different enumerations? What things are identical?
1. Have No Other Gods
1. Have No Other Gods
2. No Graven Images of God
| 2. Don't Misuse
||3. Don't Misuse God's Name
| 3. Remember The
||4. Remember The Sabbath
| 4. Honor Parents
||5. Honor Parents
| 5. Don't Kill
||6. Don't Kill
| 6. Don't Commit
||7. Don't Commit Adultery
| 7. Don't Steal
||8. Don't Steal
| 8. Protect Other's
||9. Protect Other's Name
9. Don't Covet Possessions
10. Don't Covet
10. Don't Covet People
Notice that though the method of numbering the Ten
Commandments is different, the commandments are still the same. We just need
to remember when someone says "You broke the Fifth Commandment by disobeying
your parents!" they are referring to our Fourth Commandment.
God doesn't care how we number the Ten Commandments. His
only concern is that we demonstrate that we "fear and love God" by reading
them, learning them, and obeying them every moment of our lives.
The First Three Commandments
The first three Commandments deal with God,
God's Name, and God's Worship.
The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean?
"We should fear and love God above all things."
When God said, "You shall have no other gods
before Me," He is telling us that if He's not the most important Being in
our lives, we break this commandment. Depending on anything else--friends,
money, luck, one's own power, good luck charms, superstitions, false gods,
and non-Christian religions--is totally contrary to God's will for us.
When--and in what ways--do you trust in
others instead of God?
The Second Commandment
You shall not misuse God's Name.
What does this mean?
"We should fear and love God that we do not curse, swear,
use witchcraft or deceive by His name. Call upon
it in every trouble. Pray, praise and give thanks."
Should we use God's name when we're angry at
something? "God dxxn it!" some say. The Second Commandment prohibits such
What is "cursing"? Cursing is simply a prayer
that God would send something He has blessed us with...to hell. Is that
giving thanks to God? Certainly not!
In the Second Commandment, God also forbids making
oaths--except in church or in courts. It is a sin to say, "I swear by God"
or "By Jesus Christ I promise...." Jesus instructed us to simply say "yes"
or "no" (Matthew 5:37).
Next, this Commandment also forbids us to "use
witchcraft." Why would a Christian want to use the unholy, demonic tools of
Satan--Oiuja Boards, Tarot Cards, Astrologers, Palm Readers, Mediums, and
others? Won't these lead us away from God?
Indeed they do! That's why God commands us to stay away
from them. When we need help, "pray, praise and give thanks" to God. He will
be with you always!
The Third Commandment
Remember the Sabbath Day.
What does this mean?
"We should fear and love God that we do not
despise preaching and God's Word, but hold
it sacred and gladly hear and learn it."
The Third Commandment tells us how to worship
God. In what ways do we despise God's Word? We despise God's Word by not
reading it daily and by not obeying it. When our minds are wandering in
worship, we despise His Word. And, when we seek God in places outside the
Bible, we despise it in the most blasphemous manner.
When we love God and honor His name, we will
fear and love God so much that we will eagerly and passionately desire to
learn more about God.
Is Confirmation boring? Is it hard to keep
your interest? Could you be breaking this commandment by despising God by
not worshiping Him, being in Sunday School or Bible Class, and not reading
In each of Luther's explanations to the Ten
Commandments, he begins with the phrase, "We should fear and love
God..." What does this mean?
To "fear" God means several things. First, it
means to respect Him. He is the most powerful Being, the Lord of all things.
He deserves our respect.
Second, "fear" means just--to "be afraid."
Unrepentant sinners ought always to be afraid of God. Christians who are
just "playing church" are really just hypocrites. They, too, should be
afraid of God's wrath and punishment.
How about you? As a child of God, we "fear"
and respect God. Because He is our Father and we are His children, we need
not be afraid of God. Instead, because of Jesus, we can come near to
Him...without fear...and with great joy!