'And God speaketh all these words, saying,
Exodus 20:1 Additional TranslationsKeil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
And God spake all these words, saying, The promulgation of the ten words of God, containing the fundamental law of the covenant, took place before Moses ascended the mountain again with Aaron (Exodus 19:24). "All these words" are the words of God contained in vv. 2-17, which are repeated again in Deuteronomy 5:6-18, with slight variations that do not materially affect the sense,
(Note: The discrepancies in the two texts are the following: - In Deuteronomy 5:8 the cop. ו ("or," Eng. Ver.), which stands before תּמוּנה כּל (any likeness), is omitted, to give greater clearness to the meaning; and on the other hand it is added before שׁלּשׁים על in Deuteronomy 5:9 for rhetorical reasons. In the fourth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:12) שׁמור is chosen instead of זכור in Exodus 20:8, and זכר is reserved fore the hortatory clause appended in Deuteronomy 5:15 : "and remember that thou wast a servant," etc.; and with this is connected the still further fact, that instead of the fourth commandment being enforced on the ground of the creation of the world in six days and the resting of God on the seventh day, their deliverance from Egypt is adduced as the subjective reason for their observance of the command. In Deuteronomy 5:14, too, the clause "nor thy cattle" (Exodus 20:10) is amplified rhetorically, and particularized in the words "thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle." So again, in Deuteronomy 5:16, the promise appended to the fifth commandment, "that thy days may be long in the land," etc., is amplified by the interpolation of the clause "and that it may go well with thee," and strengthened by the words "as Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee." In Deuteronomy 5:17, instead of שׁקר עד (Exodus 20:16), the more comprehensive expression שׁוא עד is chosen. Again, in the tenth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:18), the "neighbour's wife" is placed first, and then, after the "house," the field is added before the "man-servant and maid-servant," whereas in Exodus the "neighbour's house" is mentioned first, and then the "wife" along with the "man-servant and maid-servant;" and instead of the repetition of תּחמד, the synonym תּתאוּה is employed. Lastly, in Deuteronomy all the commandments from תּרצח לא onwards are connected together by the repetition of the cop. ו before every one, whereas in Exodus it is not introduced at all. - Now if, after what has been said, the rhetorical and hortatory intention is patent in all the variations of the text of Deuteronomy, even down to the transposition of wife and house in the last commandment, this transposition must also be attributed to the freedom with which the decalogue was reproduced, and the text of Exodus be accepted as the original, which is not to be altered in the interests of any arbitrary exposition of the commandments.)
and are called the "words of the covenant, the ten words," in Exodus 34:28, and Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 10:4. God spake these words directly to the people, and not "through the medium of His finite spirits," as v. Hoffmann, Kurtz, and others suppose. There is not a word in the Old Testament about any such mediation. Not only was it Elohim, according to the chapter before us, who spake these words to the people, and called Himself Jehovah, who had brought Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 20:2), but according to Deuteronomy 5:4, Jehovah spake these words to Israel "face to face, in the mount, out of the midst of the fire."
Hence, according to Buxtorf (Dissert. de Decalogo in genere, 1642), the Jewish commentators almost unanimously affirm that God Himself spake the words of the decalogue, and that words were formed in the air by the power of God, and not by the intervention and ministry of angels.
(Note: This also applies to the Targums. Onkelos and Jonathan have יי וּמלל in Exodus 20:1, and the Jerusalem Targum דיי מימרא מליל. But in the popular Jewish Midrash, the statement in Deuteronomy 33:2 (cf. Psalm 68:17), that Jehovah came down upon Sinai "out of myriads of His holiness," i.e., attended by myriads of holy angels, seems to have given rise to the notion that God spake through angels. Thus Josephus represents King Herod as saying to the people, "For ourselves, we have learned from God the most excellent of our doctrines, and the most holy part of our law through angels" (Ant. 15, 5, 3, Whiston's translation).)
And even from the New Testament this cannot be proved to be a doctrine of the Scriptures. For when Stephen says to the Jews, in Acts 7:53, "Ye have received the law" εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων (Eng. Ver. "by the disposition of angels"), and Paul speaks of the law in Galatians 3:19 as διαταγεὶς δι ̓ἀγγελων ("ordained by angels"), these expressions leave it quite uncertain in what the διατάσσειν of the angels consisted, or what part they took in connection with the giving of the law.
(Note: That Stephen cannot have meant to say that God spoke through a number of finite angels, is evident from the fact, that in Acts 7:38 he had spoken just before of the Angel (in the singular) who spoke to Moses upon Mount Sinai, and had described him in Acts 7:35 and Acts 7:30 as the Angel who appeared to Moses in the bush, i.e., as no other than the Angel of Jehovah who was identical with Jehovah. "The Angel of the Lord occupies the same place in Acts 7:38 as Jehovah in Exodus 19. The angels in Acts 7:53 and Galatians 3:19 are taken from Deuteronomy 33. And there the angels do not come in the place of the Lord, but the Lord comes attended by them" (Hengstenberg).)
So again, in Hebrews 2:2, where the law, "the word spoken by angels" (δι ̓ἀγγελων), is placed in contrast with the "salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord" (διὰ τοῦ Κυρίου), the antithesis is of so indefinite a nature that it is impossible to draw the conclusion with any certainty, that the writer of this epistle supposed the speaking of God at the promulgation of the decalogue to have been effected through the medium of a number of finite spirits, especially when we consider that in the Epistle to the Hebrews speaking is the term applied to the divine revelation generally (see Exodus 1:1). As his object was not to describe with precision the manner in which God spake to the Israelites from Sinai, but only to show the superiority of the Gospel, as the revelation of salvation, to the revelation of the law; he was at liberty to select the indefinite expression δι ̓ἀγγελων, and leaven it to the readers of his epistle to interpret it more fully for themselves from the Old Testament. According to the Old Testament, however, the law was given through the medium of angels, only so far as God appeared to Moses, as He had done to the patriarchs, in the form of the "Angel of the Lord," and Jehovah came down upon Sinai, according to Deuteronomy 33:2, surrounded by myriads of holy angels as His escort.
(Note: Lud. de Dieu, in his commentary on Acts 7:53, after citing the parallel passages Galatians 3:19 and Hebrews 2:2, correctly observes, that "horum dictorum haec videtur esse ratio et veritas. S. Stephanus supra 5:39 dixit, Angelum locutum esse cum Mose in monte Sina, eundem nempe qui in rubo ipsa apparuerat, v. 35 qui quamvis in se Deus hic tamen κατ ̓οἰκονομίαν tanquam Angelus Deit caeterorumque angelorum praefectus consideratus e medio angelorum, qui eum undique stipabant, legem i monte Mosi dedit.... Atque inde colligi potest causa, cur apostolus Hebrews 2:2-3, Legi Evnagelium tantopere anteferat. Etsi enim utriusque auctor et promulgator fuerit idem Dei filius, quia tamen legem tulit in forma angeli e senatu angelico et velatus gloria angelorum, tandem vero caro factus et in carne manifestatus, gloriam prae se ferens non angelorum sed unigeniti filii Dei, evangelium ipsemet, humana voce, habitans inter homines praedicavit, merito lex angelorum sermo, evangelium autem solius filii Dei dicitur.")
The notion that God spake through the medium of "His finite spirits" can only be sustained in one of two ways: either by reducing the angels to personifications of natural phenomena, such as thunder, lightning, and the sound of a trumpet, a process against which the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews enters his protest in Exodus 12:19, where he expressly distinguishes the "voice of words" from these phenomena of nature; or else by affirming, with v. Hoffmann, that God, the supernatural, cannot be conceived of without a plurality of spirits collected under Him, or apart from His active operation in the world of bodies, in distinction from which these spirits are comprehended with Him and under Him, so that even the ordinary and regular phenomena of nature would have to be regarded as the workings of angels; in which case the existence of angels as created spirits would be called in question, and they would be reduced to mere personifications of divine powers.
The words of the covenant, or ten words, were written by God upon two tables of stone (Exodus 31:18), and are called the law and the commandment (והמּצוה התּורה) in Exodus 24:12, as being the kernel and essence of the law. But the Bible contains neither distinct statements, nor definite hints, with reference to the numbering and division of the commandments upon the two tables, - a clear proof that these points do not possess the importance which has frequently been attributed to them. The different views have arisen in the course of time. Some divide the ten commandments into two pentads, one upon each table. Upon the first they place the commandments concerning (1) other gods, (2) images, (3) the name of God, (4) the Sabbath, and (5) parents; on the second, those concerning (1) murder, (2) adultery, (3) stealing, (4) false witness, and (5) coveting. Others, again, reckon only three to the first table, and seven to the second. In the first they include the commandments respecting (1) other gods, (2) the name of God, (3) the Sabbath, or those which concern the duties towards God; and in the second, those respecting (1) parents, (2) murder, (3) adultery, (4) stealing, (5) false witness, (6) coveting a neighbour's house, (7) coveting a neighbour's wife, servants, cattle, and other possession, or those which concern the duties towards one's neighbour. The first view, with the division into two fives, we find in Josephus (Ant. iii. 5, 5) and Philo (quis rer. divin. haer. 35, de Decal. 12, etc.); it is unanimously supported by the fathers of the first four centuries,
(Note: They either speak of two tables with five commandments upon each (Iren. adv. haer. ii. 42), or mention only one commandment against coveting (Constit. apost. i. 1, vii. 3; Theoph. ad Autol. ii. 50; Tertull, adv. Marc. ii. 17; Ephr. Syr. ad Exodus 20; Epiphan. haer. ii. 2, etc.), or else they expressly distinguish the commandment against images from that against other gods (Origen, homil. 8 in Ex.; Hieron. ad Ephes. vi. 2; Greg. Naz. carm. i. 1; Sulpicius Sev. hist. sacr. i. 17, etc.).)
and has been retained to the present day by the Eastern and Reformed Churches. The later Jews agree so far with this view, that they only adopt one commandment against coveting; but they differ from it in combining the commandment against images with that against false gods, and taking the introductory words "I am the Lord thy God" to be the first commandment. This mode of numbering, of which we find the first traces in Julian Apostata (in Cyrilli Alex. c. Julian l. V. init.), and in an allusion made by Jerome (on Hosea 10:10), is at any rate of more recent origin, and probably arose simply from opposition to the Christians. It still prevails, however, among the modern Jews.
(Note: It is adopted by Gemar. Macc. f. 24 a; Targ. Jon. on Ex. and Deut.; Mechilta on Exodus 20:15; Pesikta on Deuteronomy 5:6; and the rabbinical commentators of the middle ages.)
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