Exodus 20 leads off with "And God spoke all these words." However, many of the words in Exodus 20 are clearly not "in the first person." For example, verse 8 is not "God's words" but [Moses's] editorialized explanation for it. Otherwise, God would be referring to Himself in the third person. Exodus 34:21, though, clearly is a "first person" commandment, God said, "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in plowing and harvesting seasons, you must rest." That passage, however, is in the midst of a number of other "laws" that seem to be extra-10-Commandments. Can someone please help me understand: God says "all" the laws in Exodus 34. Those would seem to be the "definitive" 10+ commandments. However, we use the text of Exodus 20 as "THE" 10 Commandments, even though portions of those text are clearly not recorded verbatim as God spoke them. How is Exodus 34 not "definitive"?

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    What evidence do you have that Exodus 20:8 is "editorialised" ? I see no sign of that in the text. God spoke more than once to Moses and the Torah contains several expansions of the law summarised in the ten commandments, all of those summaries and expansions being spoken by God himself. – Nigel J Aug 19 '19 at 8:01
  • 20:8 does not appear to be in the third person. Do you mean the entire command to observe the Sabbath? I think the "third person" you reference would be at 20:11, "...for in six days the LORD made..." – Revelation Lad Aug 19 '19 at 13:22
  • " For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." : here, God is not "speaking" because He would be referring to himself in the third person, "he rested", not, "I rested". This sounds much more like Moses explaining a commandment, not, Moses reciting a commandment given by God. – Jonathan Fernandez Aug 19 '19 at 16:21
  • (correct: verse 8ff, the entire commandment. Thus, verse 11 is where my question regards "editorializing". Thanks Revelation Lad!) – Jonathan Fernandez Aug 19 '19 at 16:34

The "Law" began by God peaking directly to everyone who was present at Mt Sinai:

1 And God spoke all these words, saying...18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[d] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20) [ESV]

d. Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Masoretic Text the people saw

At the request of the people, the "Law" from God was given by two methods:

  • The Ten Commandments spoken by God to everyone (and written by God)
  • All other laws spoken by God to Moses who wrote them down and told them to the people

The second method was not done "all at once" but over a period of time. At intervals we are told Moses told the people what God had said and that he wrote it down. For example:

Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. (Exodus 24:3-4)

In the giving of the Ten Commandments, there is one, the command to observe the Sabbath, in which a reason for the command is given:

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20)

Since it is God who is speaking, the question is why wasn't the explanation for the Sabbath given in the first person as was the first command:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. (20:2-3)

For in six days the LORD [I] made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD [I] blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Nature of God
The answer is found in the nature of God:

And God spoke all these words, saying...(20:1)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

"God" is the Hebrew אֱלהִים which linguistically is plural:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image... (Genesis 1:26)

First, if the Sabbath command had been given in the first person, one would expect it would be the first person plural, as in the making of man. However, that would seriously undermine the monotheistic message of a singular God:

For in six days we made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore we blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Second, while God is plural and the discussion to make man was given in the plural (let us make...), the actual work of creation was done through Jesus:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3)

Therefore, when "God" is speaking at Mt Sinai, the reason the explanation for the Sabbath is given as "the LORD" is to preserve the monotheistic nature of the triune God while stating the actual work was done by Jesus:

For in six days the LORD (Jesus) made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD (Jesus) blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

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  • Thank you so much for your time here. The God "plural" is especially helpful. I am aware of places where The Holy Spirit, and, implicitly, Jesus as Son, are written as acting/speaking in the Old Testament. I am not aware of anywhere else where God the Lord refers to Himself in a 3rd person, or, narrates His own actions. The "second ten commandments" are incorporate & augment the first set within a very short time. Why would the two sets differ in language if they were both alleged verbatim? The first set was broken, the second set is the set that would have been available for centuries. – Jonathan Fernandez Aug 19 '19 at 16:30
  • @JonathanFernandez The "first" command to observe the Sabbath is found in Exodus 16 in connection with the manna. That episode is to prove that the LORD bought the people out of Egypt. The Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy need to be understood in the terms of both Exodus 16 & 20. IOW they are being asked to "remember" the Sabbath which they actually began to observe before receiving the commandment from God and continued to observe because of both the Law and the manna (the Sabbath was a day of no manna regardless of what the people did or did not do). – Revelation Lad Aug 19 '19 at 17:24
  • ah, "remember the Sabbath", that's a great point regards "remembering". You're pure gold, thanks :) – Jonathan Fernandez Aug 19 '19 at 18:28

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