Were the Ten Commandments in Effect Before Mount Sinai?

By COGwriter

Some, in their effort to justify not observing the ten commandments, have argued that the ten commandments were not enjoined in the Bible prior to Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:2-17). This, however, is not biblically correct. As this article will show (through biblical quotes) all ten of the commandments are mentioned as being applicable in the Bible before they were codified on Mount Sinai. (Note the quotes from God in the Old Testament are in purple and the quotes from Jesus in the New Testament are in red.)

Before getting to the actual commandments, notice the following written by the late Herbert W. Armstrong:

The Very Basis of Life

There is a creation. Of necessity there has to be a Creator. And the Creator set in living motion invisible spiritual laws to cause human happiness, peace, and abundant well-being...

All the harm-all the suffering -all the evils that have beset this world for six thousand years are the result of violating God's law! Yet many have been erroneously taught that the Ten Commandments were merely a law devised by Moses, and given to the children of Israel -and them only-and that the Ten Commandments never existed until Moses. And, further , that they existed only until Christ.

The Paramount Question of Your Life

This is no mere, irrelevant theological or religious question. This is the very essence of your life-your home life, your social life, your business life. It even has an important connection with inheriting eternal life--or eternal death! It's true that you cannot earn eternal life by obeying the commandments. But it's just as true that you can earn-and get paid-eternal death for unrepented transgression. It's the very crux question behind world troubles today.

Strange as it may seem, the Ten Commandments have been in full force and effect since human life has existed on this earth! They constitute a spiritual law that is inexorable and eternal-a law that is love and the fulfilling of which is love - a law that was set in motion for our happiness to produce everything good which we have foolishly denied ourselves. These Ten Commandments are entirely different and separate from the ritualistic law of Moses, which was just a code of physical laws, not spiritual laws.

Proof That Commandments Were in Force at Beginning

The Ten Commandments were first made known to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Why? Because that is the very law that he broke in the "original" sin.

Everyone of the Ten Commandments was then in full force and effect. It was sin to transgress any one of them between the time of Adam and Moses. you can read this in your own Bible.

When did this thing that we call "sin" start anyway? Did it start with Moses? We read the answer in Romans 5 : 12 : "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." And in verse fourteen, "Death reigned from Adam to Moses."

"Sin is not imputed when there is no law," you read in the 13th verse. Yet sin was imputed, because death did reign from Adam to Moses. There must then have been a law from Adam's time.

What Is Sin?

Is there a Bible definition? Is there any place in the Bible where it says, "Sin is . .. " and then follows the def- inition?

The answer is in I John 3:4: "Sin is the transgression of the law."...

The Commandments Broken

Analyze exactly what happened. God is the One we obey. Do you realize that's one of the definitions of God? Whoever you obey is your god. Whatever you serve is your god. It might be your automobile. Maybe it's an idol. Whatever it is, that's your god.

Adam and Eve had another god in place of the true God-they obeyed Satan-they broke the first commandment. They dishonored their only parent. How? In Luke 3:38 Adam is called the "son of God," because God created him. Adam was the son of God by a direct creation. Adam was not God's son by begettal or birth.

Adam not only dishonored his only parent, but he also broke the tenth commandment. There was lust when the woman saw that it was good for food and desired to make one wise; vanity, egotism and pride entered into her heart. Lust is what usually causes a person to have an inordinate desire to have something that is not legal. Lust causes you to steal, and Adam and Eve broke the eighth commandment by stealing what was not theirs . .

Four of the Ten Commandments were broken in the original sin.

And in other ways every one of the Ten Commandments was actually broken in that very first sin.

How Did Cain Sin?

Consider their first son. Genesis 4, beginning verse 6: " And the Eternal said unto Cain [their elder ยท son], Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, "God said, "shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, SIN lieth at the door."

Notice what sin was in those days -in the days of Cain!

"Cain talked with Abel his brother : and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him."

And the Eternal said unto Cain, "Where is Abel thy brother?" And he replied, "I know not." He lied and broke another one of the commandments. That was sin, too.

He was a murderer. Sin did lie at the door. Cain broke the sixth and the ninth commandments . Everyone of these commandments was known from creation, because God had revealed them to Adam. He thus revealed them to mankind at that time. But humanity has rejected them. (Armstrong HW. Were the TEN COMMANDMENTS in Force Before Moses? Plain Truth, December 1979, pp. 22-23,24)

The law was in effect since no later than Adam. The reason that I say 'no later' is that Lucifer and his followers also would have known about it (perhaps details on that will be in another article).

Now notice details that also prove that each of the Ten Commandments was in effect prior to Moses receiving the tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai:

Commandment 1: "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur" (Gen 15:7); "I am Almighty God, walk before me and be blameless" (Gen 17:1); "I am the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex 3:6). "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves" (Gen 35:2). "and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD" (Ex 12:12). "Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them" (Ex 18:11). "This also would be an iniquity deserving of judgement, for I would have denied God who is above" (Job 31:28). "Then Job answered the LORD and said, 'I know that you can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you'" (Job 42:1-2).

Commandment 2: "'Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves'...So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears and Jacob hid them" (Gen 35:2,4). "And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire of Molech...for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled" (Lev 18:21,27). "If I have observed the sun when it shines, or the moon moving in its brightness, so that my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand; This also would be an iniquity deserving of judgement, For I would have denied God who is above" (Job 31:27-28) (note this is believed to be part of idol worship).

Commandment 3: "nor shall you profane the name of your God...for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled" (Lev 18:21,27). "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts" (Job 1:5). "Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9). Interestingly, those called of God are not to be cursed either, "And I will curse him who curses you" (Gen 12:3).

Commandment 4: "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen 2:2-3). "Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD...So the people rested on the seventh day" (Ex 16:23,30). "The Sabbath was made for man" (Mar 2:27).

Commandment 5: "Adam, the son of God" (Luk 3:38), "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat it of it": Cursed is the ground for your sake" (Gen 3:17). Notice that later a blessing of land is promised for those who obey this commandment (Ex 20:12; Deut 5:16).

Commandment 6: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning" (Joh 8:44) (since the devil was a murderer from the beginning it seems clear that murder was not allowed before Mount Sinai). "Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him...And He said, 'The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth" (Gen 4:8,10). "Then the king of Egypt spoke...'When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him'...But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them" (Ex 1:15-17). "The murderer rises with the light; He kills the poor and needy" (Job 24:14).

Commandment 7: "his master's wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, 'Lie with me.' But he refused...'How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?'" (Gen 39:7-9). "Moreover, you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife to defile yourself with her...for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled" (Lev 18:20,27).

"The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, saying, 'No one will see me'; and he disguises his face" (Job 24:15). Job, a married man, said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1).

Commandment 8: "So my righteousness will answer for me...everyone that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me" (Gen 30:33). "'With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren identify what I have of yours and take it with you.' For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them" (Gen 31:32). "How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord's house. With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die" (Gen 44:8-9). "He kills the poor and needy; And in the night he is like a thief" (Job 24:14).

Commandment 9: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it " (Joh 8:44). "Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die"...The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate'. So the LORD God said to the serpent: 'Because you have done this, You are cursed'"(Gen 3:4,13-14). "But you forgers of lies, You are all worthless physicians" (Job 13:4). "Now if it is not so, who will prove me a liar, And make my speech worth nothing?" (Job 24:25). "My lips will not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit" (Job 27:4). "Should I lie concerning my right?" (Job 34:6). "For truly my words are not false" (Job 36:4).

Commandment 10: "So when the woman saw...a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate" (Gen 3:6). "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5); because this law in effect God decided to destroy humankind with the flood (Gen 6:7). "The enemy has said, "My desire (AV "lust") shall be satisfied on them" (Ex 15:9). "Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Ex 18:21). "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1). "If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbors door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down over her. For that would be wickedness; yes it would be deserving of judgement" (Job 31:9-11)

Did Any Non-Israelites Keep the Sabbath and Other Commandments Prior to Mount Sinai?

Over time, the children of Israel forgot the Sabbath, so at Mount Sinai, God had to again show it to them:

13 "You came down also on Mount Sinai,
And spoke with them from heaven,
And gave them just ordinances and true laws,
Good statutes and commandments.
14 You made known to them Your holy Sabbath,
And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws,
By the hand of Moses Your servant. (Nehemiah 9:13-14)

The above demonstrates that the Sabbath already had existed.

One argument against the ten commandments in general, and the Sabbath in particular, is that none allegedly kept them prior to Mount Sinai. Of course, as shown above, this is simply not the case.

There are two additional items that may be of interest here.

First notice what God said to Abraham:

Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws (Genesis 26:5).

And there is no way that Abraham kept God's laws and commandments unless he knew what they were.

It has been reported that Ethiopia has more people who keep some version of the seventh-day Sabbath than any other country on earth. Notice how long they claim to have been observing it:

W. W. Oliphant, an African church leader in the early years of the twentieth century says that the "Sabbath in Ethiopia [has] been kept from the days of Nimrod, about 2140 B.C. (read Gen. 10:8, 10), that is 700 years before the birth of Moses. . . . Africans or Ethiopians had been Sabbath observers from the days of Nimrod" (Quoted in Bradford C.E. Sabbath Roots, The African Connection. L. Brown and Sons, Barre (VT), 1999, p. 26).

Hence, since the Ethiopians claim they were keeping the Sabbath in 2140 B.C., they obviously knew about it and probably the other commandments (more on Africa can be found in the article Africa: Its Biblical Past and Prophesied Future). Thus it appears that Africans were familiar with the idea of a seventh-day Sabbath prior to the giving of the ten commandments on Mount Sinai.

This makes total sense as God set-apart the Sabbath the day after creating humans.

Other Parts of the Bible Prior to Mount Sinai Also Teach the Importance of Keeping the Ten Commandments

Notice the following:

"How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?" (Ex 16:28).

There are other biblical examples, but the above scriptures prove the point. Isn't it interesting that God made sure that each of the ten commandments was shown to be important before Mount Sinai? Even the ancients knew,

"God is mighty...He also opens their ear to instruction, and commands that they turn from iniquity...But if they do not obey, they shall perish" (Job 36:5,10,11).

Notice what the Bible teaches:

"Sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4)

or as it says in the AV "trangression of the law".

Breaking the third and seventh commandments are specifically listed as sin prior to Mount Sinai.

How could there be sin if there was no law, since "sin is not imputed when there is no law?" (Rom 5:13). If the law was not in place, there would have been none who were "hating covetousness" (Ex 18:21).

Paul apparently agreed with these positions when he wrote,

"I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet'" (Rom 7:7).

For more information about Paul, please see the article titled, What Did Paul Teach About the Ten Commandments?.

Even Martin Luther admitted that the ten commandments were before Moses. Notice

For even if a Moses had never appeared and Abraham had never been born, the Ten Commandments would have had to rule in all men from the very beginning, as they indeed did and still do (Luther, M. Against the Sabbatarians:Letter to a Good Friend, Part II, 1538).

The fruits of this sin are afterwards the evil deeds which are forbidden in the Ten Commandments...we hold that the Law was given by God, first, to restrain sin by threats and the dread of punishment, and by the promise and offer of grace and benefit (Luther Martin. The Smallclad Papers. 1537. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau Published in: _Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church_. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), pp. 453-529).

Some have argued, that even if the ten commandments are mentioned throughout the Bible that since they are not listed in one place until Exodus 20, no one would have known what they were. This is particularly strange to argue since

1) All are mentioned at least twice before Exodus 20,
2) Abraham obeyed them and must have known what they were ("Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws", Gen 26:5)
3) Job seemed to know them since he mentions most of them (see above quotes and the more detailed article Job and the Ten Commandments),
4) God said, about peoples who existed prior to Mount Sinai and broke several of the commandments (and were not at Mount Sinai), "For the land is defiled , therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitant" (Lev 18:25), thus it is clear that God considered violating the commandments to be wrong prior to Mount Sinai and that God required that non-Israelites were to have kept them! Interestingly Noah knew what clean and unclean animals were, yet clean and unclean animals are not listed in the Bible as such until Leviticus 11; remember God told Noah "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female, two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female" (Gen 7:2).)

In conclusion, it is clear that all the ten commandments were shown to be in effect prior to Mount Sinai. It would appear to be dangerous to ignore this biblical truth, "For if we sin willfully after we have received knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Heb 10:26).

Those who continued with the Church that Jesus Christ founded, like those in the Continuing Church of God, still keep them.

P.S. Some have said the ten commandments were done away at the crucifixion. The article Were the Ten Commandments Nailed to the Cross? addresses scriptures on this important subject.

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