A more realistic take on the 10 commandments
Note: Whenever I quote the bible I’m quoting the New International Version.
1. “You shall have no other Gods before me.” If a modern day Christian child were to ask their parents the question, “Why did God say you shall have no other God before me if He’s the only god?” A modern day Christian parent might reply that it’s a figure of speech.
No, it’s not, and two sentences later the author of Exodus makes that clear. Here’s Yahweh’s reasoning for why he only wants you to worship him: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Why should you only worship Yahweh? Because he’s jealous of the other gods. Not because he’s the only god.
More importantly, if you don’t worship him he’ll torment you and all your descendants. Don’t overlook the significance of the Jewish tribal leaders who wrote the Ten Commandments threatening their tax-payers’ family. In near prehistoric times (and especially for nomads) family life was all you had. Your family was absolutely everything. To threaten an ancient Jew’s family was a billion times harsher of a threat than to threaten a modern American’s family. Think about how serious that is. That’s how seriously the Jewish religious leaders wanted control.
2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” This is pretty ingenious. First, it directly ends the problem the Jewish religious leaders had been having of people worshiping any shiny statue that impressed them. Secondly, if you don’t have a shiny statue to worship then how are you going to commune with god? Through the religious leaders of course.
3. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Let’s simplify things, every time you see the word LORD, replace it with GOVERNMENT, because LORD is GOVERNMENT in the time and place were talking about. So this commandment is really saying, “You will not question the government or you will be punished.”
4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” The military has an ingenious way of indoctrinating its members. When soldiers walk outside they have to put their hat on. When they walk inside they have to take their hat off. The reasoning for that rule isn’t to keep the sun out of soldiers’ eyes or to keep them from looking tacky inside. This rule exists because it prevents soldiers from forgetting that they belong to the military, and it forces them to police each other. The Sabbath works the same way. It’s a weekly reminder never to forget that your theocracy rules your life. Other than that, it serves absolutely no productive purpose.
5. “Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This commandment is written in Exodus 20:12. Exodus 21:17 says, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.”
Deuteronomy 21:18–21 says, “If a man has a stubborn a rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of the city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.”
This commandment establishes the elder’s power over the young. It also justifies and indoctrinates the cultural values the Jews were already practicing.
6. “You shall not murder.” This is the first commandment that lays down a functional civil law, and what civil law is more important than not killing each other? It’s a great law. I’m not questioning that. But if a bunch of government officials were going to sit down and make rules for the governing of society this would be the first law every time. In fact, other governments around the world came to the same conclusion without Yahweh’s divine inspiration. It’s certain this law existed in Jewish culture before the Ten Commandments.
7. “You shall not commit adultery.” Here’s another commandment that betrays the illusion of divine inspiration by pandering to Jewish culture. Marriage is a human invention, and different cultures around the world developed different marriage customs according to the environmental needs of the people.
In the nomadic Jewish version of marriage a man bought his wife and kept her for life. This worked well in a nomadic society…especially for the men who ruled the nomadic society. A nomadic family is like a mountain climbing team. You have to work together to survive, and there’s not much room for variety or instability. In places where survival was easy, like in Hawaii, family hierarchy wasn’t so important. People slept around, and kids lived with whoever they wanted. In places where there weren’t enough of one of the sexes polygamy became a necessity.
None of the Hawaiian Gods ever said, “Though shalt not commit adultery.” Because Hawaiians didn’t buy and sell wives, and their survival wasn’t dependent on a strong nuclear family.
8. “You shall not steal.” This is another rule that makes good civic sense. Nothing profound here, and it was almost certainly around long before the Ten Commandments were written. Why else would the Hebrew language have the word “steal?” Or do you believe that word wasn’t invented until Yahweh revealed to the Jewish leaders that stealing was wrong?
9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” This implies that you shouldn’t lie, but it doesn’t say, “You shall not give false testimony to your neighbor.” It expressly says, “…against your neighbor.” It’s saying you will not lie about your neighbor.
In modern, Western society if someone gossiped about you it would piss you off, and in a worst case scenario you’d get in a fight, but in ancient times your reputation was your life. In Rome people would carry around stone busts of their honorable ancestors to show how good their name was. Everyone’s heard of the Japanese killing themselves to preserve their family’s honor. It was just as important to the Jews -so important that they made a law against falsely shaming others. This law reveals yet again that the Ten Commandments are culturally (as opposed to divinely) inspired. It also reveals how badly modern, Western suburbanites misinterpret the Bible and project their own cultural values into it.
10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This has to be the most fucked up commandment of them all. First of all, your wife is a piece of property that’s less valuable than a house but more valuable than a common slave or a donkey. That’s how important women were in ancient Jewish society: Yahweh, the creator of the universe considers women pieces of property slightly more important than a donkey.
But that’s beside the real point of the commandment. Why was this commandment necessary? Commandment #8 already said not to steal. So if you’re not going to steal then what’s wrong with just wanting stuff? Because people who don’t want a better life are easiest to control.
The creator of the universe didn’t write the Ten Commandments, and whoever did was an ingenious, manipulative, power hungry, (male) ass hole.
Originally published at thewisesloth.com on October 29, 2009.