Troublesome Topic: The Ten Words Were the Summary of the Covenant

The summary of the covenant is recorded for us in Exodus chapter 20. The passage starts by saying, “Now Elohim spoke all these words.” By starting this way it was obvious what was coming after it for this served as an easily recognized opening statement to the introduction of a summary of a covenant. The term used here and translated “words” was often used for covenant related issues. That is why the Israelites called the Ten Commandments the “ten words,” and why we sometimes refer to it as the “decalogue,” from the Latin words “deca” = “ten,” and “logue” = “words.”

But these were not just ordinary words, these ten statements were the summary of the conditions of the covenant. The entire covenant of God with the Israelites was summed up in these ten statements, or ten words. These ten “statements” are not an independent set of commands, which stand on their own, having their own identity separate from the rest of the Law. This is the heart of the covenant document, the summary of what the relationship between God and His people would be like (that is, until He would establish something new).

The fact that the Israelites did not call these statements the “Ten Commandments” the way we do should show us something. Many Christians tend to think of the “Ten Commandments” as the part of the Law we need to follow, while most of the rest of it can be ignored. That shows we have missed the point. Like Adam Savage on the Mythbusters TV show, we have said, “I reject your reality and I substitute my own.” We need to set aside our current perspective on Exodus 20 and return to the ancient way of looking at it – that it was the summary of God’s covenant relationship with Israel.

The next lesson in the Full Series on Covenants is: The Tablets of Stone Demonstrated Closeness