Worship The Lord Jesus

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The Ten Commandments? Or The Ten Words?

I was watching a Bible teaching video on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x90qou4FIjU&index=23&list=PL-ELxqmb8qfJmZfdYJfVLAIBjOnd-TehP if you are interested). This is a video provided on the “TorahClass) channel, an excellent channel that offers a great deal of depth in their studies.

One of the first things that caught my attention was the fact that in the original Hebrew, the first commandment (word) is not found in verse 3,

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” — Ex20:3

as we have been taught, but in verse 2,

“I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” — Ex 20:2

So, why did it change? Well, first of all, verse 2 is not a commandment by any stretch of the imagination, but still, verse 2 is the first, the first word. You can verify this for yourself if you look in any Jewish translation of the Old Testament (Tenakh) such as the Complete Jewish Bible. You will see that in the margin the commandments are numbered. Verse 2 with 1 (Aleph), verses 3-6 with 2 (Beth), verse 7 with 3 (Gimel), and from there the Hebrew scripture matches the English.

Notice when referring to the verses that start Exodus 20 I have sometime used the word commandment and others the word “word”. Iuse commandment because that is what most are used the hearing but I use “word” because that is what the Bible actually says. See Ex. 34:28, or Deu. 4:13, or Deu. 10:4. Exodus 34:28 says:

“And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”

In all three of the verses cited above the phrase “ten commandments” is translated from the Hebrew (transliterated) “ ‘eser dabar”. The word ‘eser is simply the number “ten” and dabar is “words”. The word “dabar” appears over 1400 times in the Tenakh, 807 times the KJV translates it as “words” and only 20 times as “commandments”.

So which is the more appropriate translation? Obviously the majority says that “words” is correct, but what if the majority is wrong? Perhaps we should look at the “Commandments themselves to see if there is any help there.

Lets use a simple example, “Thou shalt not kill”. This command is obviously an imperative, a direct command directed at another person, and always in the second person.

Now the Hebrew for this commandment is simply “ratsach”, and according to Strong’s it is not imperative, but imperfect, specifying an action that is to occur in the present or future. An imperfect verb translation might be, “Do not kill”.

I checked several of the major English Bible translations and the all translate the verse as an imperative, either. “Thou shalt not kill”, or, “You shall not kill”. It’s as if these all insist that these are commandments, contrary to the Bible. On the other hand, the CJB (Complete Jewish Bible) translates the verse as “Do not murder.”, much more in keeping with the imperfect verb.

So, the main question that needs answering is, why do so many Bible translations translate “The Ten Words” as “The Ten Commandments”? And what is the origin of this translation?

That will be the subject of my next post.


August 26, 2018 - Posted by | Hebrew Roots, The Ten Commandments | ,

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