Ten Commandments and case law

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Decalogue – Ten Commandments

The Old Testament places a special emphasis on the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). After the commandments were given in Deut 5:1-21, in verse 22 it says they were written on two stone tablets and no more were added.

[Deu 5:22 KJV] 22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.

The Decalogue was the only laws that was attributed to be written by the finger of God.

[Exo 31:18 KJV] 18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

[Deu 9:10-11 KJV] 10 And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them [was written] according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. 11 And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, [that] the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, [even] the tables of the covenant.

“Finger of God” (Hebrew: אצבע אלהים ’etsba‘ ’Ĕlōhîm) is a phrase used in the Torah, translated into the Christian Bible. In Exodus 8:16–20 it is used during the plagues of Egypt by Pharaoh’s magicians. In Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 9:10 it refers to the method by which the Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone that were brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses.


The tablets of the Ten Commandments were placed in the ark.

According to the Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, the Ark contained the Tablets of the Law, by which God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai. According to the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament, it also contained Aaron’s rod and a pot of manna.


[Exo 25:21 KJV] 21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.

[Deu 10:4-5 KJV] 4 And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me. 5 And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.

The Ten Commandments have held a prominent position in the American government.

In this case we are faced with a display of the Ten Commandments on government property outside the Texas State Capitol. Such acknowledgments of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our Nation’s heritage are common throughout America. We need only look within our own Courtroom. Since 1935, Moses has stood, holding two tablets that reveal portions of the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew, among other lawgivers in the south frieze. Representations of the Ten Commandments adorn the metal gates lining the north and south sides of the Courtroom as well as the doors leading into the Courtroom. Moses also sits on the exterior east facade of the building holding the Ten Commandments tablets.

Similar acknowledgments can be seen throughout a visitor’s tour of our Nation’s Capital. For example, a large statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments, alongside a statue of the Apostle Paul, has overlooked the rotunda of the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building since 1897. And the Jefferson Building’s Great Reading Room contains a sculpture of a woman beside the Ten Commandments with a quote above her from the Old Testament (Micah 6:8). A medallion with two tablets depicting the Ten Commandments decorates the floor of the National Archives. Inside the Department of Justice, a statue entitled “The Spirit of Law” has two tablets representing the Ten Commandments lying at its feet. In front of the Ronald Reagan Building is another sculpture that includes a depiction of the Ten Commandments. So too a 24-foot-tall sculpture, depicting, among other things, the Ten Commandments and a cross, stands outside the federal courthouse that houses both the Court of Appeals and the District Court for the District of Columbia. Moses is also prominently featured in the Chamber of the United States House of Representatives.

Our opinions, like our building, have recognized the role the Decalogue plays in America’s heritage. See, e.g., McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U. S., at 442; id., at 462 (separate opinion of Frankfurter, J.).[Footnote 10] The Executive and Legislative Branches have also acknowledged the historical role of the Ten Commandments. See, e.g., Public Papers of the Presidents, Harry S. Truman, 1950, p. 157 (1965); S. Con. Res. 13, 105th Cong., 1st Sess. (1997); H. Con. Res. 31, 105th Cong., 1st Sess. (1997). These displays and recognitions of the Ten Commandments bespeak the rich American tradition of religious acknowledgments.

Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious—they were so viewed at their inception and so remain. The monument, therefore, has religious significance. According to Judeo-Christian belief, the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai. But Moses was a lawgiver as well as a religious leader. And the Ten Commandments have an undeniable historical meaning, as the foregoing examples demonstrate. Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause. See Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U. S., at 680, 687; Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U. S., at 792; McGowan v. Maryland, supra, at 437–440; Walz v. Tax Comm’n of City of New York, 397 U. S. 664, 676–678 (1970).


Case laws

Case laws are applications of the principles of the Ten Commandments in specific situations. We see such case applications after the giving of the Decalogue (Exodus 20) in Exodus 21. Many of these start with “If thou” or “If his” or “If a man”. It is not necessarily they are “commanding” or even “sanctioning” these situations, but merely stating what should happen if these things do occur.

[Exo 21:2 KJV] 2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

[Exo 21:4 KJV] 4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

[Exo 21:20 KJV] 20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

[Exo 21:26 KJV] 26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.

A collection of case laws follows, flowing from the Ten Commandments. Instead of developing detailed principles, it gives examples of how to apply God’s law to the kinds of cases that commonly arose in the conduct of daily life. As cases, they are all embedded in the situations faced by the people of Israel.

https://www.theologyofwork.org/old-test … -211-2333/

Case laws are not generally universally applicable for all time and all cultures.

As you read the case laws, don’t get lost in their seemingly random nature, as though the case laws are time-bound, culture-bound, generational minutiae. Yes, they apply the principles of God’s moral will to certain people at a certain time in a certain cultural context. All the details will not be the same for all people everywhere.

Since the case laws are applications of universal principles, they are not themselves universal principles. This means they may have limited application in their canonized form.

https://www.knowableword.com/2017/06/23 … of-exodus/