In the January 15, 2011, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Billy Graham selectively uses the Bible to make a point. A reader asks why using ‘Jesus’ or ‘God’ in his speech is wrong. Billy quotes from the Ten Commandments but he chooses which Ten Commandments to use. Billy-Ten
Most people are familiar with the story of the Ten Commandments; what most people don’t know is that there are conflicting sets of commandments and there are far more than ten. Exodus 20:2-17 has God speaking the words that most people take as the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:7 prohibits misusing the name of the Lord. (Specifically, this would prohibit the use of ‘El’ or ‘Yahweh’, the two names used for God in the Hebrew Testament.)
However, we need to look at the whole story. First, God gives Moses many additional laws in Exodus 21–23. In Exodus 21, God says, “These are the laws you are to set before them:” followed by 51 laws that do not include the first set of ten. My favorites from this listing are “The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning,” and “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:18–19). Why God would be concerned about fat going rancid or the method of cooking goat is beyond me and apparently, to others, as I have not yet seen one of those courthouse monuments displaying either of these two commandments.
Exodus 21:7 sets up the rules for a man to sell his daughter into slavery. The New International version of the Bible favored by Billy uses the word servant and not slave at this point, but it also discusses setting a servant ‘free’ which is not a term used with hired workers, but with slaves.
Exodus 22:29 says, “You must give me the firstborn of your sons.” This might mean encourage them to become religious leaders, but God speaks at length about sacrificing to him, so this might well mean, “Do as I instructed Abraham about killing his son.”
Moses broke the first set of tablets and in Exodus 34, God instructs him to make a new set. God says He will write on these tablets the words that were on the first set, but what is listed in Exodus 34 is a different set of commandments. One would not think that God could be forgetful. Some of the text is the same as the added 51 laws from Exodus 21-23 including how to cook a goat.
In this set of rules, the Hebrews are told they must give the first born of every womb to God, but that they can redeem a firstborn donkey with a lamb. If a firstborn donkey is not redeemed, God says to break its neck. The Hebrews are told they should redeem all their firstborn sons, but they are not told what to redeem them with, or what to do if they cannot redeem a son.
Billy uses the commandments given to Moses as a basis for making a moral decision about what a person says. How much morality can we derive from a set of instructions that include, “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff… Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” Exodus 21:18-20
It is wrong to misuse the name of the Lord but it is okay to own slaves and beat them to the point where it takes them two days to recover? It is okay to sell your daughter into slavery? You can beat your neighbor with a stone and it is okay if they can get up and walk around using a crutch? This is not morality; this is the way Bronze Age barbarians lived.
We are no longer barbarians; we need not follow these rules any longer unless they make sense in our culture. No one follows the rules about how to cook a goat because it does not make sense in our culture. In the same way, we should refrain from misusing the name of the Lord only if it makes sense in our culture.
We should not murder, steal, or perjure because these acts are destructive to society. It makes no difference if they are in the Ten Commandments or in the 61 Commandments. These words from nomads living 3000 years ago should not be our basis for determining what is moral and what is not.
If you find my articles interesting and stimulating, and you enjoy reading them, you can subscribe by clicking on the [Subscribe] button at the top of this page. You will receive an email notification whenever I publish a new article. Thank you.
Read all my articles at my main Examiner site.
Please leave a comment by clicking on [COMMENT] below this article. You can suggest this article to a friend by clicking on the [+ SHARE] button below the article. If you like this article, please consider giving me a thumbs up. Thanks.