I know that you love when I share thought provoking things. This is from an essay in a book of essays titled Arguably, written by the best argue-er I’ve heard/read, Christopher Hitchens.
The New Commandments –
“When you hear people demanding that the Ten Commandments be displayed in courtrooms and schoolrooms, always ask which set?”
The first set, in Exodus 20, were written in stone, but smashed as Moses came down the mountain, “the original, God-dictated panels of Holy Writ.” In Exodus 34 the second edition occurs “where new but completely different tablets are presented after some heavenly re-write session and are for the first time called the Ten Commandments.” Then in Deuteronomy 5 Moses “recites the original Sinai speech with a highly significant alteration (the Sabbath commandment’s justifications in each differ greatly). Plainly discontented with the effect of this, he musters the flock AGAIN twenty-two chapters further on, as the river Jordan is coming into view, and gives an additional set of orders — chiefly ten curses — which are also to be inscribed in stone. As with the gold plates on which Joseph Smith found the Book of Mormon in upstate New York, no trace of any of these original yet conflicting tablets survives.”
He isn’t arguing of the existence of the tablets, gold or stone. He is arguing that perhaps since the laws given forth from God, all to be “inscribed in stone”, are perhaps not “written in stone” as the saying goes, but are in fact alterable and open for adaptation (especially since there are three varying editions written about in the “unalterable” word of God). “This we are fully entitled to consider them as a work in progress.”
Here is the best point from his essay. (He goes through all of the commandments, but I will only discuss this one.) “Thou shalt not kill.” He points out that this “very celebrated commandment quite obviously cannot mean what it seems to mean in English translation. In the original Hebrew it comes across as something more equivalent to ‘thou shalt not murder.’ We can be fairly sure that the ‘original intent’ is not anyway pacifistic,…” (pacifistic-holding the belief that war and violence are unjustifiable.). “…because immediately after he breaks the tablets in a fit of rage, Moses summons his Levite faction and says (Exodus 32:27-28):
Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.”
Did you catch that?! 3000 men were slain! I know one argument in Christian doctrine is the law is there to show that mere men, mortal men, can not live up to it nor fulfill it and hence the “perfect man”, Jesus was needed to be slain because of our inherited wickedness., i.e. grace. Well, before you agree to much with that, look at the first part of Exodus 32:27 again. It says “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel”. That is a commandment from the supposed mouth of God himself, who had just previously written in stone with his own finger (so says the story) commanding them not to kill. Now finishing the verse/commandment “put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.”
God commanded and the people obeyed! Doesn’t sound like inherited wickedness and a need for grace. It sounds like there may be a problem with obeying whoever is giving the commandments whether that is the one receiving divine revelations or is it with the divine revelation giver? I am not really sure which, but a problem there is.
Carrying out the thought of Hitchens, “being that since the book of Exodus is littered with other fierce orders to slay people for numberless minor offenses (including violation of the Sabbath) and also includes the sinister, ominous verse ‘Thou shall not suffer [permit] a witch to live,’ which was taken as a divine instruction by Christians until relatively recently in human history. Some work is obviously needed here: What is first-degree murder or third-degree killing and what isn’t? Distinguishing killing from murder is not a job easily left to mortals: What are we to do if God himself can’t tell the difference?”
I have heard him speak before about people arguing how great the Ten Commandments are. The point he is making is: Are these really divine revelation? Did all the Jews wondering around in the desert have an epiphany when Moses shared the commandments? Had they all previously thought it was ok to kill, steal, dishonor their mother and father, until that moment the law was given from the mountain top and then realized the error of their ways?
(Seven commandments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead are the same as the LORD God of Israel’s. Maybe the God of the Egyptians collaborated with the LORD God of Israel on their law writing. If the LORD God of Israel is the only true God, maybe the God of the Egyptians is 7/10ths divine since their commandments are that much the same?)
Ok, I mainly wanted to share that. The rest of his essay is really good. If you are provoked there is more.
Basically he points out if “we think of the evils today and that are man-made and not inflicted by nature”, that there would really be something wrong with us if we did not feel strongly “about genocide, slavery, rape, child abuse, sexual repression, white-collar crime, the wanton destruction of the natural world… (Also, people who commit simultaneous suicide and murder while screaming ‘God is great’: is that taking the Lord’s name in vain or is it not?)”
When he wrote this essay, Christopher Hitchens new he was dying. He was sharing things he felt strongly about and speaks rather strong at the end saying, “Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, and think and act accordingly. Do not think you can escape judgement if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife… Denounce all jihad-ists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions. Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.” – (originally published in Vanity Fair, April 2010)
To reiterate – God gave Moses the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ and immediately after, according to the sacred scriptures, God commanded them to kill.