Ten Commandments

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Jul 4, 2005, 9:17:04 PM7/4/05
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What is the morality expressed in the Ten Commandments? Below are the
Ten Commandments, with comments added underneath each one. The
following versions have been used to quote from: the King James Version
(KJV), the New Living Translation (NLT), the American Standard Version
(ASV) or the Contemporary English Version (CEV). You can look up these
and further versions of text at:

I. (a) I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt.
(Exodus 20:2 NLT)

Comment: The above is an intro to justify the second part (b, below)
of the First Commandment, i.e. god's monopoly over what was good and
right. This constitutes a double-standard regarding slavery, since
slavery isn't condemned in principle. God is often referred to as the
LORD, which is synonymous with master or slave onwer. Some bible
versions use euphemisms, such as menservant or bondage, but this cannot
conceal that the Ten Commandments clearly condone slavery at several
places and the bible generally encourages slavery in many places, e.g.
in the following texts:

- Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man.
Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for
(Numbers 31:17-18 NLT)

- If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not
engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must
marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be
allowed to divorce her.
(Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT)

- However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the
foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of
such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your
land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your
children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like
this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated
this way.
(Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

- If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him
free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom.
If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward,
only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before
he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master
gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters,
then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and
children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly
declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather
not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God.
Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear
with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever.
(Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

- When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at
the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who
bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not
allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the
contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to
marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must
treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes
another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep
with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may
leave as a free woman without making any payment.
(Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

- Death is the punishment for beating to death any of your slaves.
However, if the slave lives a few days after the beating, you are not
to be punished. After all, you have already lost the services of that
slave who was your property.
(Exodus 21:20-21 CEV)

- Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve
them sincerely as you would serve Christ.
(Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

- Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so
that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your
master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You
should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by
your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to
obey them.
(1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

- And that servant, who knew his lord's will, and made not ready, nor
did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he
that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with
few stripes. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be
required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more.
(Luke 12:47-48 ASV)

Note that the New Testament expresses similar views about slavery as
the Old Testament - the above three quotes are from the New Testament.

By contrast, slavery was more definitely rejected in the Declaration of
Independence's first sentence: "We hold these Truths to be
self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

It took the Civil War to end slavery more decidedly, while it took even
longer for people's rights to be more fully recognized, e.g. in regard
to the rights of gays, women and children. Even today, bondage through
contract still occurs in many ways and places.

I. (b) Do not worship any other gods besides me.
(Exodus 20:3 NLT)

Comment: This is in conflict with the 1st Amendment to the Bill of
Rights, which says that people have the freedom to choose one's own
preferred religion. More generally, commanding people to believe in a
monopoly is wrong. A monopoly is despicable from all angles, morally,
ethically, economically, etc. Only dictatorial values would make
someone condone a monopoly, but logically it doesn't make sense even to
those who may believe to benefit from it in the short-term.
Politically, it's incorrect. Morally, it's wrong. Economically, it's
wasteful. Psychologically, it's detrimental to the mental development
of young and still impressionable people.

II. (a) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness
of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.
(Exodus 20:4 KJV)

Comment: Not make any fantasy paintings, sculptures or pictures?
That's also in conflict with the 1st Amendment to the Bill of Rights.

II. (b) You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD
your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any
other god! I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but
I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and
fourth generations. But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey
my commands, even for a thousand generations.
(Exodus 20:5-6 NLT)

Comment: This repeats the monopoly mentioned in the First Commandment,
making clear that it is a monopoly that seeks servants, rather than a
principle with followers. The idea that children should suffer unto the
fourth generation for their fathers' rejection of monopolies, shows the
vindictiveness - even towards the innocent - that is fundamental to any
monopoly. It only promises mercy to those who promise loyalty, and is
fundamentally hostile and destructive towards others. Just like women,
children are not allowed to make up their own mind. It all adds injury
to insult in regards to our rights.

III. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the
LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
(Exodus 20:7 KJV)

Comment: Another repetition of the threat towards those who reject
monopolies. It's clearly in conflict with freedom of speech, as
protected by the 1st Amendment to the Bill of Rights.

IV. (a) Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.(Exodus
20:8 NLT)

Comment: This Commandment prescribes an economic system that is in
conflict with the rights of people to do their shopping where and when
they want to, and with the right of shopowners to seek to have a viable

IV. (b) Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work. But the
seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do
any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy
maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.
(Exodus 20:9-11 KJV)

Comment: This Commandment further prescribes an economic system in
which it is common to keep servants. Terms like manservants are
euphemisms for the slavery that is rampant elsewhere in the bible.

IV. (c) For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea,
and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day. That is why
the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
(Exodus 20:11 NLT)

Comment: This Commandment demands people to believe in creationism,
rather than in an evolution theory that is more convincing
scientifically. Also, as an explanation as to why people should be
prohibited from working, it sounds rather lame.

V. Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the
land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee.
(Exodus 20:12 ASV)

Comment: This is in conflict with the rights of the individual,
specifically the rights of children in situations where their parents
hold archaic views. Without any mention of an age at which children can
be expected to make up their own mind, this commandment seems only
intended to further cement the general doctrine. It's losing relevance
as young people are asserting their rights at younger ages, e.g. by
choosing their preferred partners, name, clothes, education, religion
and profession, etc.

VI. Thou shalt not kill.
(Exodus 20:13 ASV)

Comment: Yes, still valid, but that's only one out of six until now.
Also, it's no absolute rule in our society, since killing is legal in
the case of the death penalty, in war and in cases of self-defense.
Abortion, suicide and (assisting with) euthanasia are in dispute, but
some forms are legal in
some countries. Furtermore, the Commandment raises the concscience
question whether one should use a gun to save the lives of victims of
terrorism, kidnappers, hostage-takers, rapists and serial killers.

VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
(Exodus 20:14 ASV)

Comment: In conflict with the rights of adults to choose their own
consentual sexual relationships.

VIII. Thou shalt not steal.
(Exodus 20:15 ASV)

Comment: Yes, still valid, but it raises the question whether property
is morally acceptable and even if it was, to what extent. Slavery is
clearly out of the question in our modern society. In dispute are
things like copying of MP3 files, etc. Who decides what was theft? Who
decides who owned what in the first place? Might is right? First come,
best dressed? Even if accepted as a rule, it screams out for more
fundamental principles.

IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
(Exodus 20:16 ASV)

Comment: Yes, still valid, but it's unclear what the neighbor has to
do with it. Again, who decides who was wrong? Also, it raises the
question what was worse, adultery, murder, theft, assault, fraud or
misrepresentation? Should there be penalties for any of these? Who
should punish who, for what and how? Eternal hell fire? Or, if a more
earthly remedy is sought, what principles should be used to determine
what was appropriate? Should force be used against someone who didn't
use force? Or, should it all be left up to the respective "master" to
decide what should happen with "his" women, children and slaves?

X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy
neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox,
nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
(Exodus 20:17 ASV)

Comment: There's another one where servants are mentioned. Why anyone
would be more interested in one's neighbor's ass than in his gold is
puzzling. If this Commandment tries to say that one shouldn't be
envious and desire what our neighbor has, then why? Why shouldn't we
listen to good musicians and desire to have their records? Should or
shouldn't kids learn from people who have information or talents they
don't yet have? Why shouldn't we look at competitors and try to emulate
their success, even surpass them in their achievements? Following this
command would result in the very paralysis of society that is so
typical for the Dark Ages, the times of the Inquisition, etc. It seems
another archaic idea that is out of step with modern times and out of
place in the modern world.

In conclusion, the Ten Commandments stand for an archaic law and order
society that is in many respects in conflict with or irrelevant to the
values of modern society. They do not represent today's culture and
should not be presented as if they were, because that would be "bearing
false witness" and thus would pervert one of the few ideas from these
commandments that still had some applicability today.

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