More Evidence that the
Ten Commandments Apply to All and Remain Unchanged
This study begins in the book of Exodus
at chapter 25.
The context is chapter 24 where God ratifies a covenant with Israel and Moses goes up the mountain to
receive instruction from God, including some written on tablets of stone (as
will be shown later this was the ten commandments).
The first text is Exodus 25:1-9 (with verse 9, cf. Exod 25:40; all texts are from the NKJV of the
1) And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
2) Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me
an offering. From everyone that gives it willingly with his heart you
shall take My offering.
3) And this [is] the offering which
you shall take from them: gold, and silver, and bronze;
4) blue and
purple and scarlet [yarn], fine linen [thread], and goats' [hair],
5) rams' skins
dyed red, badgers' skins, and acacia wood;
6) oil for the
light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense;
7) onyx stones,
and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.
8) And let them make Me
a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
9) According to all that I show you, [that is], the pattern of the tabernacle and the
pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make [it].
God's instructions to Moses concern the
building of an earthly tabernacle. Here Moses learns about gathering the
materials for it and the purpose for the sanctuary. He is
also told that it is to be based upon a revealed pattern. The Hebrew
word for "pattern" in this context suggests that
there is an original sanctuary to which this earthly sanctuary will correspond.
That there is an original sanctuary and that it is a heavenly one is suggested by related texts in the Old Testament and by
Ancient Near Eastern parallels to the Hebrew tabernacle. This
earthly/heavenly sanctuary correspondence finds confirmation in the next text,
Hebrews 8:1-7 (cf. -26, especially verse 24).
1) Now [this is] the main point of the things we are
saying: We have such an High Priest, who is seated at
the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
2) a Minister of
the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
3) For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore
[it is] necessary that this One also have
something to offer.
4) For if He were on earth, He would not
be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;
5) who serve the
copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when
he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See [that] you make all things according to the
pattern shown you on the mountain."
6) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also the Mediator
of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
7) For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, then
no place would have been sought for a second.
This text discusses Jesus as a high
priest within a heavenly sanctuary in contrast to the earthly tabernacle.
In so doing, the author of Hebrews interprets the text of Exodus 25:40 (related to 25:9) as saying that the earthly was based upon the heavenly. Now one can return to
chapter 25 of Exodus. Verses 20-16 describe the ark and verses 17-22 discuss the special cover to go upon
it. It is interesting to note that the first items shown to Moses appear
to be these. The text is as follows:
10) And they shall make an ark of acacia
wood; two and a half cubits [shall be] its length, and a cubit and a half its
width, and a cubit and a half its height.
11) And you shall overlay it with pure
gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make upon it a molding of
gold all around.
12) You shall cast four rings of gold for
it, and put [them] in its four corners; two rings [shall be] on the one side, and two rings on the
13) And you shall make poles [of] acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.
14) You shall put the poles into the rings
on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them.
15) The poles shall be in the rings of the
ark; they shall not be taken from it.
16) And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.
17) You shall make a mercy seat of pure
gold; two and a half cubits [shall be] its length and a cubit and a half its
18) And you shall make two cherubim of
gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two
ends of the mercy seat.
19) Make one cherub at one end, and the
other cherub at the other end; you shall make
the cherubim at the two ends of it [of one piece] with the mercy seat.
20) And the cherubims
shall stretch out [their] wings above, covering the mercy seat
with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim [shall be] toward the mercy seat.
21) You shall put the mercy seat on top of
the ark; and in the ark you shall put the Testimony
that I will give you.
22) And there I will meet with you, and I
will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim
which [are] on the ark of the Testimony, of all [things] which I will give you in commandment to
the children of Israel.
The next text is in the book of
Revelation. This book contains various elements of sanctuary
imagery. A portion of that imagery is placed in
the context of heaven. Some of the items that are shown in heaven
correspond to those items know to have existed in the earthly tabernacle.
As to whether what John saw in his vision of heaven are exactly how things
exist in the heavenly sanctuary is open to discussion. Since
some of the images are typical of the symbolism of the book (such as the lamb
that is slain that has seven horns and seven eyes), it may be that John sees
the heavenly realities in terms of the earthly copies.
Nevertheless, heavenly realities are in view to the reader of Revelation.
Given this and what has been mentioned above about the
earthly tabernacle and the ark, note Revelation 11:19.
19) Then the temple of Godwas opened in
heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises,
and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
Here John is drawn
to the heavenly original of the ark and cover of Exodus 25. Now note that Exodus 25 mentions in both verse 16 and 21 that Moses was to put the testimony
given by God into the ark such that it came to be called the ark of the
testimony (or covenant in some translations) or in other texts just the
testimony (e.g. Lev 16:13). What was the testimony?
For that, one must go to the last part of Exodus 31. The rest of Exodus 25 and the text after that up to Exodus 31:17 give the plans for the rest of the
tabernacle with a few directions related to its operation, set up, and
building. Interestingly enough this section ends with a reemphasis of the
Sabbath law and its designation as a "perpetual covenant".
After this, a connection is made between the testimony of 25:16, 21 and the two
tablets mentioned in Exodus 24:12. Look at Exodus 31:18.
18) When he had made an end of speaking
with him on Mount
Sinai, He gave
Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger
Moses had been on the mountain for forty
days and nights. While gone, the Israelites committed the sin of
idolatry. Moses, after pleading with God on the people's behalf, went
down to the camp with the two tablets of testimony in his hands. Exodus 32:15, 16 mentions this and emphasizes God's role
in the tablets' creation. Moses then smashed the tablets upon coming to
the camp (Exod 32:19). Later, after interceding with
God concerning His going with them to the promised land,
Moses is commanded concerning some new tablets, which will contain the things
written on the former. The text for this is Exodus 34:1-4.
1) And the LORD said to Moses, "Cut
two tablets of stone like the first [ones], and I will write on [these] tablets the words that were on the first
tablets which you broke.
2) "So be ready in the morning, and
come up in the morning to Mount
present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain.
3) "And no man shall come up with
you, and let no man be seen throughout all the
mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain."
4) So he cut two tablets of stone like the
first [ones]. Then Moses rose early in the
morning and went up Mount
Sinai, as the
LORD had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.
Again Moses is upon the mountain for forty
days and nights. This time he receives the promised vision of God's
glory, and the covenant is renewed. At the end of this time on the mount he goes back down with the two new tablets and his
face aglow. Note Exodus 34:28, 29 (the "he" in verse 28 in both phrases seems to be Moses, but
the Lord may be the assumed subject of the last phrase since 34:1 points out God as the writer).
28) So he was there with the LORD forty days
and forty nights; he neither ate bread, nor drank water. And
He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
29) Now it was so, when Moses came down
from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of th Testimony [were] in Moses' hand when he came down from
the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he
talked with Him.
This is the first text that calls what is written "the ten commandments" and directly
relates these words to the technical term for "covenant" (a different
Hebrew word from the word translated "testimony" in the KJV and NKJV
and translated as "covenant" in other versions). Now one may
ask what the "ten commandments" are. Apparently, they are not
the commands given in Exodus 34:10-26, since more than ten may
be discerned. The other alternative is a list of ten commandments pronounced by God from the mountain in
Exodus 20. Deuteronomy and 5:2-22 confirm that this is so. Next one
may note that the naming of these tablets as "the words of the
covenant" suggests the origin for the phrase "the ark of the
covenant" used in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and elsewhere in the Old
Testament. This information, along with the fact that the tablets being
called "testimony" led to the ark being called "the ark of
testimony" or just "testimony", suggests that these tablets are
the items that give significance to the ark. The tablets are seen again in Exodus 40:20 as "the testimony". With
the tabernacle having been constructed, Moses fulfills
the original command concerning the ark, mercy seat, and testimony given in
Exodus 25. The information examined above
with regard to the testimony is repeated within
Deuteronomy. The texts of ; 5:22; 9:9-11 speak to the giving of the first set of
tablets. The text of -17 speaks of Moses' coming down from the
mountain the first time and his breaking of the first set. The text of 10:1-5 relates the creation of the second set
of tablets and the placing of them in the ark. This last text portrays a
somewhat different sequence of events from Exodus. This may be accounted for by seeing Deuteronomy 10:1-5 as a telescoping of more than one
event. Nevertheless, Deuteronomy confirms that the testimony placed into
the ark was the ten commandments spoken forth to the people upon mount Sinai
and that they constituted the words of the covenant.
To draw together what
has been mentioned so far and then to build upon it, note the following: the
scriptures speak of an earthly sanctuary and a heavenly original; the ark of
the covenant is part of both the earthly and, in someway, the heavenly
tabernacle; the ten commandments were given to Moses by God on two tablets to
be placed within the earthly ark; Moses was instructed to do this within the
context of receiving information about how to build the earthly tabernacle;
and, the ark apparently derives its primary significance from the testimony
placed within it.
Given all of this information, one may infer that the ten commandments of the
earthly tabernacle had a heavenly original. Further support for this
comes from the texts of Revelation 11:19 and 15:5. Revelation was quoted earlier as showing the ark in
the heavenly temple. What is significant at this point is that it is called "the ark of His covenant". The
word "covenant" is the Greek word that corresponds to the Hebrew word
for "covenant" (as opposed to "testimony"). As was
seen earlier, this term appears to have been attached
to the term ark since the testimony within it was the words of the
covenant. As such, the phrase "the ark of His covenant"
suggests that the ark in heaven contains a corresponding ten
commandment testimony. The next text is Revelation 15:5.
5) After these
things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in
heaven was opened.
First, one may note that the construction
of the phrase "the temple of the tabernacle" might be a further
pointer to the earthly/heavenly correspondence. But
the main point for now is that the phrase "the tabernacle of the
testimony" is used. A phrase like this is used in the Old Testament
as a designation for the sanctuary in Exodus 38:21 and Numbers 1:50, 53; 9:15; 10:11; 17: 7, 8; 18:2 and 2 Chronicles 24:6. Such a phrase may have its origin
in the fact that the tabernacle housed the testimony in the ark. If this
is the case, then this phrase being used in conjunction with the temple in
heaven acts as a further evidence for a ten commandment
testimony existing in the heavenly ark.
The main point to this whole discussion
so far has been to show that the ten commandment law
as it exists on earth is a copy of a ten commandment law within heaven.
This leads in turn to several inferences. First, the earthly ten commandments given to the Jews were copied from an
original that existed prior to the Jews meeting with God on Sinai. This
in turn suggests that the heavenly ten commandments
are not strictly Jewish commandments, but have a validity beyond the Jewish
people. Second, given that John sees this heavenly ark with its
corresponding testimony in a post-resurrection context, the heavenly testimony
appears to be still present and in turn still valid in the post-resurrection
period. Such validity is also suggested by the
fact that the events seen by John correspond to future events from his own day.
The question to be
asked now is what does the still valid heavenly original say? Most
likely, Christians will not come to much dispute over the essential content of
nine out of the ten original commandments, but they will probably have some
controversy over the content of the fourth commandment. Surely, it must
have some correspondence to the one given on Mount Sinai. How deep though is the
correspondence? Does the original just say to hallow
one day in seven? Is the correspondence possibly so lacking that
it refers to hallowing all seven days? Scripture would seem to give us a
clue, however, as to the depth of the correspondence and the content of the
divine original to the fourth commandment. Note Genesis 2:1-3 (KJV):
(1) Thus the heavens and the earth were
finished, and all the host of them.
(2) And on the seventh day God ended his
work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
(3) And God blessed the seventh day, and
sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work
which God created and made.
Here before the entrance of sin into the
world and before the distinction between Jew and Gentile existed, God set apart
one particular day in seven. Also of interest is that this act is recalled in the announcement of the earthly fourth
commandment in Exodus 20.
These considerations lead to the
suggestion that all ten commandments have a validity
for all humanity from creation onward and any notion of a change of that
commandment is contrary to scripture. This conclusion also meshes with
the witness of the rest of the scriptures, which offers other evidences of
continuing and universal validity.
(c)2004 Ian R. Brown, this
document may be freely copied and distributed so long as the source is noted
with the copy: http://www.andrews.edu/~irbrown/TenCommandments.htm