10 Commandments, 2 Tablets

Originally published on BibleJournal.net on March 9th, 2016

Today’s reading: Exodus 20; Luke 23; Job 38; 2 Corinthians 8

The following are my notes from a study on the 10 commandments by Daniel Lapin.  I’ve added some scripture over the years as examples from the Bible connecting the first and second tablets.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. -Psalm 119:33-35

When God gave Moses the ten commandments on Mount Sinai why did He give them by way of two tablets instead of one, or three?  Moses was not exactly a spring chicken at the time.  I could see him thinking, “God, how about we reduce the font size and put this on one piece of rock?  It will be a little easier on my back as I hike down this mountain.”

Mount Sinai, 10 Commandments
Mount Sinai

These 10 commandments were designed to guide God’s people on how they relate to others.  God created us for community.  Communities that live by these principles are wonderful places. Communities that do not live by these principles are not.  Rather, those that do not are quite the opposite of a wonderful place. 

The ten commandments were given on two tablets instead of one because the two tablets relate to one another.  The ten commandments are actually five principles, each principle with two applications.  The first tablet applies to how we relate to our creator, which includes our parents.  The second tablet applies to how we relate to our peers.

Summary of the 5 principles:

  1. Others have a right to exist.
  2. Certain relationships are sacred.
  3. Others, not you, have a right to their property.
  4. Reputation is an important form of their property.
  5. Our rights are limited.

The first principle: Others have the right to exist.

first tablet: second tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe. There are others who exist. Their right to exist is as real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from.  The source of the power of the second tablet’s strength is drawn from the awesome truth of the of the first tablet. (Leviticus 24:21-22)  

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

first tablet:  second tablet: 
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the Bible, when God’s people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution.  God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships as sacred and special.  (Hosea 4:12-14)

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their property.

first tablet: second tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing.  People own things that are theirs and you can not take them.  God’s name is His, just as your neighbor’s newspaper is theirs.  Here we see the link between the two: “…or lest I be poor, and steal, And take the name of my God in vain.” – Proverbs 30:9b  Another example, “I am the Lord: that is my name: And my glory will I not give to another, Neither my praise to graven images.” – Isaiah 42:8.  Note the contrast of ‘give’ and ‘take’. God is not going to give his name away.  The only way something else ends up with God’s name is if it’s stolen or taken.  Sidenote: stealing from God doesn’t end well.

The fourth principle: Reputation is a form of property.

first tablet: second tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Reputation made the top 5 list for how to get on with others.  Not only that but it could have been ‘covered’ in the third principle.  Instead, it is given its own — it must be important.  Just as we are called to uphold our peers’ reputation by not lying about them, God calls His people to uphold His reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day.  It does not say “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”  It says “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”  The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation as the Creator.  We are called to be different to give a testimony.  Read Exodus 31, specifically verse 13 in which God gives the purpose for the Sabbath as a sign between of His sanctifying relationship with His people.  Read James 4:11 for another example connecting the two tablets; when we speak evil of one another we put ourselves in God’s place as the judge.  This is not upholding God’s reputation as the lawgiver and the judge. 

The fifth principle: Our rights are limited

first tablet: second tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Coveting is all about not wanting someone to be “better” or have more than we do. It about not wanting anyone above us.  Coveting is stepping out of our place, it flies in the face of things like contentment and trust in God.  Not honoring our parents is stepping out of the divine order with respect to those placed above us by God.

In closing here is some more scripture that points to the dual nature of the law pertaining to one’s relationship with those above us and their fellows.  As you search the Scripture, the truth of the dual nature of God’s law will ring out.  The power comes from the truth of the first tablet.  Everything comes from the first principle on the first tablet, I am the LORD thy God.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36–40