Lectionary Year B
March 23, 2003
Exodus 20: 1-17
Step IV: Cross-Section
A. Primitive Christianity
(JFC) The event of the escape from Egyptian Servitude remained a memorable event
through New Testament times. Especially, the Passover was still celebrated in those days by Jews and semi-converted believers in Jesus' Lordship. The 3 storied universe (verse 4's, "in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth") is still prevalent for some more 15 centuries, of course; see Revelation 5:3 and 10:6, for examples. They still wondered about whose sin caused diseases, etc., like in John 9:2. The 6 day work week was still in vogue, too, as Luke 13:14 indicates the leaders of the synagogues observed. Then, too, the 6 days it took God to fashion the created order was continued to be theorized, as well, as Acts 4:24, and that God uniquely did such total work to accomplish such results, Acts 14:15 and 17:24. Then in Mark 7, Jesus tries to address some of the Pharisees' misinterpretations of the Commandment, re: honoring parents, especially in verses 10f and Ephesians 6:1ff attempts to enlarge on that Commandment, too. Jesus' sermon on the ethical Commandments is recorded in Mark 10:19fff and parallels Matthew 5:21-48 and 19:16fff and Luke 18:18ff. Paul sums up those Commandments in Romans 13:9 into "Love your neighbor as yourself".
B. Old Testament and Judaism
(JFC) Deuteronomy 5 repeats these Commandments almost verbatim. Often, as
throughout the Old Testament, God speaks, "Frequently, but not until the later period, certain characteristics are attributed to the word of God. Dabhar (sing. or pl.) is tobh, 'good, full of promise, comforting' (Josh. 21:45; 23:14f; 1 K. 8:56; Is. 39:8; Jer. 29:10, 33:14; Zec. 1:13; cf. 2 S. 7:28; 1 K 12:7; 22:13; Prov. 12:25; Ps.45:2 . . . it is also ra', 'evil,' (Ex. 33:4), yashar, 'upright' (Ps. 33:4; cf. 19:9 ; Neh. 9:13), 'emeth, 'true' . . . and ne'emen, 'true, reliable' . . ." according to W. H. Schmidt in TDOT. Of course, that "loving kindness/steadfast love" with which the 6th verse of our pericope at hand begins (ds,x,), as significant as it is, occurs only 4 times in the entire Book of Exodus. It means the kindness with which God chooses to relate with human beings and therefore with which they are to relate with one another and all other humans. And, in response to God's love, we are to love (bh;a') and keep God's Commandments. In the Septuagint it usually is translated, avgapaw, God's kind of love, giving love, as in God's giving Jesus to die for ransoming human sinfulness. It is relational, like among family members, teachers and disciples (Proverbs 9:8), among servants and their masters (Exodus 21:5 and Deuteronomy 15:16) and an intimate relationship among a citizenry and their military leaders (I Samuel 18:16 and 22). Hosea's love for the harlot whom God called him to love and as his wife who went a-whoring after another man, seems to exemplify God's kind of love, unqualified and illogical as God's love for erring humans.
In the second and third century CE Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers, God is addressed a having led the slaves out of Egypt and "gave them a Law, ten oracles uttered by your voice, and engraved by your hand. You commanded (them) to keep the Sabbath, not giving an opportunity for laziness, but rather an opportunity for reverence (toward God) . . ." From the second century BCE, Jubilees forbids making "gods of molten or carved images for yourselves because it is vain and they have no spirit" and they are to "command the children of Israel, and let them guard this day (the Sabbath) so that they might sanctify it and not do any work therein, and not defile it because it is more holy than any day." Elsewhere in this document work is done on the Sabbath brings the penalty of death! They seem to resort to right serious consequences.
C. Hellenistic World
(JFC) These thinkers might appreciate debating the virtues of hearing directly from
God and the history of the Exodus centralized in this passage. The denying of graven images might cause them to discuss just what they value among material items in their possession. Remembering the Sabbath would certainly appeal to their interest in mental exercises as well as their respect for that day's specialty. The ethical commands would arrest their attention, too, at least as much as the relational ones would. Their having high opinions of neighbors (= all others) would be approved of in the final verse, too.
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