The Ten Commandments Before Sinai?
"On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because The Lord [see Rock Of Ages] descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. And The Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and The Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up." (Exodus 19:16-20 RSV)
The formal receiving of The Ten Commandments is one of the most well-known events of Bible History. But did The Ten Commandments originate at Mount Sinai? No, they did not. All were recognized long before.
The First Commandment
"I am The Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:2-3 RSV)
- Adam And Eve were commanded by God to obey Him. He made plain to them right in the Garden of Eden that He was their God, their Creator. But they chose to believe and obey Satan. And Satan is yet "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). For their violation of The First Commandment, among other things, they were cast out.
- Long before Sinai, violating the First Commandment was sin:
"Your fathers lived of old beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods." (Joshua 24:2 RSV)
The Second Commandment
"You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I The Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Exodus 20:4-6 RSV)
- Long before Sinai, God told Jacob to get rid of the idols (see Images and Idols), so Jacob collected them and buried them under a tree:
"God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; and make there an altar to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau." So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments; then let us arise and go up to Bethel, that I may make there an altar to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone." So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem." (Genesis 35:2-4 RSV)
The Third Commandment
"You shall not take the name of The Lord your God in vain; for The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain." (Exodus 20:7 RSV)
- Long before Sinai, profaning The Name of God was sin:
"and so profane the name of your God ... for all of these abominations the men of the land did, who were before you, so that the land became defiled." (Leviticus 18:21,27 RSV)
The Fourth Commandment
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to The Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days The Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore The Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." (Exodus 20:8-11 RSV) (see Remember The Sabbath Day and Sun Worship)
- The Sabbath originated at The Seven Days Of Creation, long before Sinai:
"And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation." (Genesis 2:2-3 RSV)
- Before the formal giving of The Ten Commandments, the people were commanded to observe the Sabbath by not gathering Manna:
"Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none." (Exodus 16:26 RSV)
The Fifth Commandment
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which The Lord your God gives you." (Exodus 20:12 RSV)
- Long before Sinai, Noah's son sinned by dishonoring his parent:
"When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, "Cursed be Canaan." (Genesis 9:24-25 RSV)
The Sixth Commandment
"You shall not kill." (Exodus 20:13 RSV)
- The first murder of course occurred all the way back in the Garden of Eden:
"And The Lord said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand." (Genesis 4:10-11 RSV) (see Cain and Abel)
The Seventh Commandment
"You shall not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14 RSV)
- Long before Sinai, Joseph (see Coat Of Many Colors) refused to sin by committing adultery with Potiphar's wife:
"But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Lo, having me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand; he is not greater in this house than I am; nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:8-9 RSV)
The Eighth Commandment
"You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15 RSV)
- The first recorded theft, and the penalty for that sin, occurred right in the Garden of Eden:
"Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Genesis 3:11 RSV)
The Ninth Commandment
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16 RSV)
- The ultimate liar, Satan, was also right in the Garden of Eden:
"And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die." (Genesis 3:2-4 RSV)
- "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 RSV) (see That Old Serpent and Did God Create The Devil? and Sweet Nuthins')
The Tenth Commandment
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's." (Exodus 20:17 RSV)
- Coveting was a sin that began very early, right in the Garden of Eden:
"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit." (Genesis 3:6 RSV)
Fact Finder: Did God's Ten Commandments ever stop being in force?
See The Ten Commandments Now?
This Week's Bible Quiz
1. What was the name of the man to whom Jesus Christ was speaking when He said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life"?
2. Was Jesus Christ a Jew?
3. On what sea did Jesus Christ walk on the water?
4. Did Jesus Christ ever teach at the Synagogue when He lived in Capernaum?
5. Did Jesus Christ have actual brothers?
6. What town was Lazarus from? (see also Lazarus, Come Out!)
7. What were the names of Lazarus' two sisters?
8. What was the name of the man who lost an ear to Peter's sword when Jesus was being arrested?
9. What was the name of the Roman governor who ordered Jesus Christ crucified even though he knew that Jesus was completely innocent?
10. Who owned the tomb in which Jesus Christ was buried?
For the answers to this July 25 2000 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page