There are those who insist that the Ten Commandments should be a moral standard for the western world, if not for all the world. There are such things as moral standards, the most common of which might be the so-styled Golden Rule, expressed in virtually every religion on earth. But what kind of standard do these commandments set? I’d like to start by taking a hard look at Thou Shalt Not Kill.
The first question that comes to mind is whom? We shall not kill whom, exactly? The commandment is simple and without details. God decides something is up, and he sends Moses down the mountain to check things out, carrying the tablets with him. Moses finds his people worshiping a golden calf that his brother Aaron has made and throws down the tablets and breaks them.
And then Moses calls all to him that worship the Lord and tells them to strap on their swords and to go through the camp, gate to gate, and slaughter everybody. All told, about three thousand of Moses’ own people are killed. And this is only the beginning of murder for the sake of religious intolerance. The Israelites go on to various genocides and slaughters. Again, for whom is this protection against murder or killing designed? Israelites, gentiles, other tribes, all fall to the Israelite warriors, men, women, and children are all killed.
This certainly seems to be a case of a worthless commandment, or at the very least a commandment with a specific meaning that is lost to me.
And the punishment for breaking commandments was . . . death.
He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
Well, how about the very first commandment, the one about not taking the name of the Lord in vain? Isn’t putting “God” on money or in the pledge of allegiance or on license plate holders and so on taking a name in vain? What exactly does the use of the word ‘vain’ in this case really mean? Poor translation, maybe.
Oddly, there are a number of references in the KJV to commandments and laws before the ten commandments are given, as if they were already common knowledge. And God gives the commandments to Moses before actually producing the tablets.
Here’s another fun commandment:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
One has to wonder then why God commands Moses to create a Ark of the Covenant with cherubim with spread wings on it. Another worthless commandment – God is once again telling Moses to do something that he just told him not to do.
One has to wonder, if these were slaves, where did they get all the gold to make idols and ornaments for the Ark? And what does a god need with gold anyway?
The Moses story is very confusing – a tale as questionable as that of Joseph Smith – all looking as if this mythmaking were all about gaining power and fortune, except that it is unlikely that any part of the stories in Exodus and Deuteronomy have any basis in reality. References to a book of laws predating a written language are an anachronism, and the late date of their invention supposes that those doing the writing were actually ignorant of their own history.
It’s a convenient panacea to use the commandments as a political tool, or to claim that they should be a model for morals, when the selfsame people have no compunctions against our current conflicts. We can kill people in other lands with impunity and without fear of Divine retribution because the words obviously just don’t mean what they mean.
Here’s the gist of Deuteronomy: You must keep the commandments which I give thee, but you don’t keep the commandments that I give thee, so therefore your lives will be nothing but misery. The End.