Moses convened all Israel, and said to them: Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently. 2The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire. 5(At that time I was standing between the Lord and you to declare to you the words of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said: 6I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 7you shall have no other gods before me. 8You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me,10but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 11You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 12Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. 16Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.17You shall not murder. 18Neither shall you commit adultery. 19Neither shall you steal. 20Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor. 21Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Deuteronomy 5:1-21, NRSV)
As we started our trek into the 10 Commandments the other night at confirmation at St. John’s we read this passage and the passage from Exodus 20 of the 10 Commandments. I had those present count as the reading was done how many commandments they thought they heard. No one said 10, I got 13, 14, 12, all sorts of numbers, but everyone had more than 10. So why are there 10 Commandments and which ones are they? Also, did you know there are at least 3 different ways to number the 10 Commandments? Take a look at this chart from SundaySoftware.com which does a nice job of illustrating the different approaches to numbering the 10 Commandments.
So how do we know what we are supposed to do actually?
Well, in my opinion, these commandments were given to help us live in relationships. They are to help our relationship with God (1-3 or 4) and our relationships with others (4-10 or 5-10).
They help us know how to interact with God and with others. So don’t worry about the numbers, just love God and love everyone else and live that mercy and grace God gave you into the world.