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I am the Lord thy God

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Subject: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, Thou shalt have no other gods before me, Ten Commandments, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, Thou shalt not covet
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I am the Lord thy God

"I am the thy God" (KJV, also "I am Yahweh your God" NJB, WEB) is the opening phrase of the Ten Commandments, which are widely understood as moral imperatives by ancient legal historians and Jewish and Christian biblical scholars.[1][2]

The text of the Ten Commandments according to the Book of Exodus begins:

The conventional "the LORD" in English translations renders יהוה in the Hebrew text (transliterated "YHWH"), the proper name of the God of Israel, reconstructed as Yahweh.[3] The translation "God" renders אֱלֹהִים (transliterated "Elohim"), the normal biblical Hebrew word for "god, deity".

The introduction to the Ten Commandments establishes the identity of God by both his personal name and his historical act of delivering Israel from Egypt. The language and pattern reflects that of ancient royal treaties in which a great king identified himself and his previous gracious acts toward a subject king or people.[4]

Establishing his identity through the use of the proper name, Yahweh, and his mighty acts in history distinguishes Yahweh from the gods of Egypt which were judged in the killing of Egypt's firstborn (Exodus 12) and from the gods of Canaan, the gods of the gentile nations, and the gods that are worshipped as idols, starry hosts, or things found in nature, and the gods known by other proper names.[5] So distinguished, Yahweh demands exclusive allegiance from the Israelites.[6] “I am the LORD your God” occurs a number of other times in the Bible also.

Hebrew Bible

By saying, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery", it introduces him by name to establish his authority behind the stipulations that follow. The implicit imperative is to believe that God exists and that his proper name is “Yahweh.” By invoking the exodus from Egypt, it also suggests the archetype of God as the redeemer and intervener in history. This verse also serves as the motive clause for the following imperatives.[7][8][9][10]

The text follows an ancient royal treaty pattern, where the speaking monarch begins by identifying himself by name and notable deeds. Yahweh thus establishes his position relative to the Israelites, who are expected to render complete submission, allegiance, and obedience to him.[4] The covenant logic establishes an exclusive relationship in which the subject population may have only one sovereign, as expressed explicitly in thou shalt have no other gods before me.[11]

New Testament

Jesus quotes Deuteronomy when tempted to worship Satan in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world.[12]

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'."
— Matthew 4:10 (NIV)

Jesus repeats the Shema as the most important commandment.

The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
— Mark 12:29-30 (NIV)

Those who eat food sacrificed to idols are rebuked.[13] Just as in the Hebrew Bible, where sacrificing to other gods is portrayed as sacrificing to demons,[14] idolatry is connected with the worship of demons in the New Testament, and God is described as jealous regarding idolatry.

…the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
— 1 Corinthians 10:18-22 (NIV)

The New Testament asserts that God brings consequences to those who worship other gods.[15] It suggests that during the Hebrew Bible age, God winked at the idolatry of nations other than Israel, but that in the New Testament age, God commands "all people everywhere to repent."[16][17][18] Idols are described as “worthless things” and people are exhorted to turn away from them to the living God.[19][20][21] The teaching of Moses and the experience of Israel when they departed from it are used to support the insistence that believers abstain from idolatry and sexual immorality.[22]

Interpretation in Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Catechism teaches that “The first commandment summons man to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him above all else.”[23] It cites the requirement of the Shema, that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength”[24] and Jesus answer when tempted by Satan.

In their explanation of the first commandment, the Roman Catholic Catechism quotes Justin Martyr’s dialogue to support their teaching that Christians and Jews have trusted the same God.

The Catholic Catechism describes the phrase “I am the LORD” at the beginning of the Ten Commendments as an expression of God’s existence and his authority.

It goes on to explain how the Christian virtue of faith is central to obedience to the first commandment.

The first commandment is also concerned with despair and presumption as sins against hope.

Love and charity are viewed as essential elements of obedience to the first commandment.

Prayer, sacrifice, promises, and vows are also seen as essential duties required by observance of the first commandment.[31] However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that individuals maintain a liberty of conscience under the first commandment, not that any kind of worship is morally acceptable, but that each person should follow his convictions with free will without the threat of force from an outside agent.

According to Catholic teaching, the first commandment condemns superstition, idolatry, divination, magic, irreligion, atheism and agnosticism.[33]

Catholic teaching also asserts that divination (seeking guidance regarding the future through horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, etc.) are prohibited by the first commandment, because these forbidden practices contradict the honor we owe to God. Likewise, magic and sorcery and similar sources of supernatural power over others are prohibited, even if for the sake of restoring health.

Catholic teaching also regards the first commandment as a prohibition of atheism and agnosticism.

Reformation and Post-Reformation Views

John Calvin viewed “I am the LORD thy God” as a preface to the Decalogue and “have no other gods” as the first commandment. However, he also allowed for viewing “I am the LORD thy God” as the first commandment, provided one also allows it to serve as a preface to the whole Decalogue.[37] In his commentary on the first commandment, Calvin describes superstition as akin to a wife committing adultery in front of her husband.

Martin Luther describes the first commandment as prohibiting both the literal honoring of other gods as well as trusting in idols of the heart: money, good works, superstition, etc.

Like Calvin, Matthew Henry considers “I am the LORD thy God” to be a preface. Henry explains the preface and the first commandment from a covenant viewpoint: God delivered Israel from Egypt, and they belong to him by mutual agreement, so they are bound to obey his covenant stipulations.

John Wesley makes the common observation that Israel is obligated to obey God’s commandments because he delivered them from Egypt, and he adds the observation that Christians are likewise obligated to serve Christ, having been rescued out of bondage to sin.

John Wesley uses the first commandment in Deuteronomy 5 as a motivation to pose a list of introspective questions.

In his exposition of Exodus 20 on the “Thru The Bible” radio program,[43] J. Vernon McGee, quotes Romans 1:21-25 and Colossians 3:5 to support his assertion that the idolatry forbidden by the first commandment includes not only the worship of idols and foreign gods, but also idols of the heart such as greed, alcohol, and sexual immorality.

Jewish interpretation

"I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me..." Maimonides interpreted this as a command requiring one to know there is a God. Ibn Ezra interpreted this as a command to believe that Yahweh alone is God.[7] This command prohibits belief in or worship of any additional deities:

"Do not make an image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..." This prohibits the construction or fashioning of "idols" in the likeness of created things (beasts, fish, birds, people) and worshipping them.

Other occurrences

The phrase "I am the LORD your God" אנכי יהוה אלהיך appears a number of times in the Hebrew Bible outside of the Decalogue.

Thus, Leviticus 18 gives a number of commands prohibiting sexual perversions and the sacrifice of children. It demands that God’s people behave differently from the nations around them, lest they be destroyed in the same manner.

In a similar manner, Leviticus 19 gives additional commands regarding separation from mediums and spiritists, the honoring of the aged, and kindness to foreigners.

The prophet Isaiah asserts that failure to obey the commandments is the reason for Israel’s captivity and had the nation obeyed the commandments, they would have had peace like a river.

The prophet Joel looks forward to future blessing through which God’s people will know that Yahweh is their God through his wondrous deeds on their behalf.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ How Judges Think, Richard A. Posner, Harvard University Press, 2008, p. 322; ‘’Ten Commandments,’’ New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale House, 1982 pp. 1174-1175; The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, 1988, p. 117; Renewal theology: systematic theology from a charismatic perspective, J. Rodman Williams, 1996 p.240; Making moral decisions: a Christian approach to personal and social ethics, Paul T. Jersild, 1991, p. 24
  2. ^ Exodus 20:1-21, Deuteronomy 5:1-23, ‘’Ten Commandments,’’ New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale House, 1982 pp. 1174-1175
  3. ^ The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 111-112
  4. ^ a b The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1995, p. 146
  5. ^ In Search of God: The Meaning and the Message of the Everlasting Names, TD Mettinger, Fortress Press, 2005, See also: Isaiah 42:8, Deuteronomy 12, Psalms 96:5
  6. ^ The Anchor Bible, Deuteronomy 1-11, Moshe Weinfeld, commentary on Ch. 5-6, pp. 236-356
  7. ^ a b The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 148
  8. ^ David Hazony, The Ten Commandments (Scribner, 2010), ch. 1.
  9. ^ The Anchor Bible, Deuteronomy 1-11, Moshe Weinfeld, Doubleday, 1991
  10. ^ The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1995, p. 323
  11. ^ The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 145
  12. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Ten Commandments, Article 1, The Ten Commandments http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c1a1.htm
  13. ^ Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:20
  14. ^ Deuteronomy 32:17, Psalm 106:37
  15. ^ Romans 1:18-32
  16. ^ Acts 17:29-30 NIV
  17. ^ Geneva Study Bible comments on Acts 17 http://www.biblestudytools.com/Commentaries/GenevaStudyBible/gen.cgi?book=ac&chapter=017
  18. ^ John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible comments on Acts 17 http://www.biblestudytools.com/Commentaries/GillsExpositionoftheBible/gil.cgi?book=ac&chapter=017&verse=30
  19. ^ Acts 14:15
  20. ^ Geneva Study Bible comments on Acts 14 http://www.biblestudytools.com/Commentaries/GenevaStudyBible/gen.cgi?book=ac&chapter=014
  21. ^ John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible http://www.biblestudytools.com/Commentaries/WesleysExplanatoryNotes/wes.cgi?book=ac&chapter=014
  22. ^ Acts 15:20-21, 1 Corinthians 10:1-10
  23. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2134
  24. ^ Deuteronomy 6:5, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2133
  25. ^ Matthew 4:10, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2135
  26. ^ St. Justin, Dial. cum Tryphone Judaeo 11, 1: PG 6, 497. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-dialoguetrypho.html
  27. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2086
  28. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2087-2088
  29. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2091-2092
  30. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2093-2094
  31. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2098-2103
  32. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2106
  33. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2110-2128
  34. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2110-2113
  35. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2115-2117
  36. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments 2140
  37. ^ Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book Second, Chapter 8, John Calvin, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.ix.html
  38. ^ Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book Second, Chapter 8, John Calvin, p. 329 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.ix.html
  39. ^ Large Catechism, The First Commandment, Martin Luther http://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/largecatechism.i_2.html
  40. ^ Commentary on the Whole Bible, comments on Exodus 20, Matthew Henry http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc1.Ex.xxi.html
  41. ^ Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, comments on Exodus 20, John Wesley http://www.biblestudytools.com/Commentaries/WesleysExplanatoryNotes/wes.cgi?book=ex&chapter=020
  42. ^ Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, comments on Deuteronomy 5, John Wesley http://www.biblestudytools.com/Commentaries/WesleysExplanatoryNotes/wes.cgi?book=de&chapter=005
  43. ^ http://www.thruthebible.org/c.irLMKXPGLsF/b.4104119/k.949F/Welcome_to_Thru_the_Bible_RadioThe_Bible_Study_Program_Taught_by_Dr_J_Vernon_McGee.htm
  44. ^ Exodus Volume II, J. Vernon McGee, p. 184
  45. ^ Mishneh Torah, Chapter 2, Halacha 6, translated by Eliyahu Touger http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/912360/jewish/Chapter-Two.htm
  46. ^ http://en.wikisource.org/articles/Mishnah/Seder_Nezikin/Tractate_Sanhedrin/Chapter_7/6
  47. ^ Mishneh Torah, Chapter 2, Halacha 1, translated by Eliyahu Touger http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/912360/jewish/Chapter-Two.htm
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