Were the Ten Commandments in Effect Before Mount Sinai?

By COGwriter

In the Book of Genesis, Abraham declared:

25 ... Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)

If as the Apostle Paul wrote:

12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7:12)

Does that not suggest that God would have revealed His commandments to humans from the beginning?

Yet, 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.)

A sermon of related interest is titled Were the Ten Commandments in Place prior to Mt. Sinai?

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 definition?

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 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).

Consider also that we have ten fingers and God gave Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28). So perhaps that is not a coincidence?

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" (Genesis 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" (Exodus 3:6). "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves" (Genesis 35:2). "and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD" (Exodus 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" (Exodus 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" (Genesis 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" (Leviticus 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" (Leviticus 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" (Genesis 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" (Genesis 2:2-3). "Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD ... So the people rested on the seventh day" (Exodus 16:23,30). "The Sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27).

Commandment 5: "Adam, the son of God" (Luke 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" (Genesis 3:17). "Now therefore, my son, obey my voice" (Genesis 27:43). "Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother" (Genesis 28:7). Notice that later a blessing of land is promised for those who obey this commandment (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 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" (John 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" (Genesis 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" (Exodus 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?'" (Genesis 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" (Leviticus 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" (Genesis 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" (Genesis 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" (Genesis 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 " (John 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'"(Genesis 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" (Genesis 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" (Genesis 6:5); because this law in effect God decided to destroy humankind with the flood (Genesis 6:7). "The enemy has said, "My desire (KJV "lust") shall be satisfied on them" (Exodus 15:9). "Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Exodus 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?

Job was believed to have lived prior to Mt. Sinai, and the Book of Job teaches about the Ten Commandments. For details, check out Job and the Ten Commandments.

Although the Sabbath was mentioned in Genesis 2, 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).

Jesus wanted the commandments kept

"Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40); in other words the law of God is involved in showing love to God and your neighbor!

Perhaps that is why Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15) and "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him..." (John 14:21) and "He who does not love Me does not keep My words (John 14:24) as well as "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10).

Jesus gave His famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and expanded the meaning of various commandments, including those of murder (Matthew 5:21-22) and adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). He expanded their definitions so that people could be understand what the law of love really was about.

For further proof, Jesus said of the future, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). Breaking the law (lawlessness) is linked to lack of love. Jesus magnified the law by explaining its direct link to love (through obedience) or evil (through violation)! "He will exalt the law and make it honorable" (Is 42:21). Since Jesus was to "exalt the law and make it honorable," should His followers violate it?

"Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' So Jesus said to him...'You know the commandments'" (Mark 10:17,19) and then He listed half of the ten commandments (also in Luke 18:19-20). Jesus lived and promoted the ten commandments.

Keeping the Commandments is a Sign of Godliness, Breaking them is Evil

In His own words, Jesus taught that keeping the Ten Commandments was good and breaking them was evil. Notice something that the Apostle Paul was inspired to write:

3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:3-11)

Why is the "love of money" the root of all kinds of evil"? Because it is covetousness, something that the Ten Commandments teach against!

The Love of God

Who do all things work together for good for?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Many claim to love God, but what really is the love of God for Christians?

Notice what the Apostle John wrote:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

Now by this we know we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says 'I know Him', and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked...These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you (I John 2:3-6,26).

Notice that John is writing that the love of God is perfected in him who walk as Jesus walked. Jesus kept and taught the ten commandments. He absolutely did not teach that we can disobey them and teach others to disobey them. Recall that Jesus taught:

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).

An article of related interest may be What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments?.

The Psalms Teach that the Commandments Are Truth

The Bible makes it clear that the law of God and the commandments of God are truth and righteous, and are tied to salvation, but that the wicked are far from God's law. Notice a few verses from Psalm 119:

101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word.
126 It is time for You to act, O LORD, For they have regarded Your law as void. 127 Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold!
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.
144 The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding, and I shall live.
150 They draw near who follow after wickedness; They are far from Your law.
151 You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth.
152 Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, For they do not seek Your statutes.
160 The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.
163 I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law.
165 Great peace have those who love Your law
166 LORD, I hope for Your salvation, And I do Your commandments.
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.

While the basic Church of God view is that the commandments show love, the basic Protestant view (followers of William Tyndale not withstanding) seems to be that the law contained in the ten commandments is done away and that they (most Protestants) show love apart from the law. In the view of the Church of God, the cause of many of the problems people now experience is because they have rejected God's governance over their lives, including keeping His laws. The main Protestant view seems to be that most of the problems people have are because they live on the Earth, and that for some reason other than obeying God's commandments, paradise--which they define as being in heaven--will be better than Earth.

The Ten Commandments did exist prior to Mt. Sinai. Jesus, Himself, also kept them and expected His people to do so.

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

A sermon of related interest is titled Were the Ten Commandments in Place prior to Mt. Sinai?

P.S. Some have falsely claimed that 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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