What does the Ten Commandments have to do with the Law and the Two Greatest Commandments?

Through studying the ten commandments, it became obvious to me that these were never done away with. How could they be? How could we ever put another god on the face of YHVH and it be ok? How could we ever make idols and it be ok? How could we ever murder and it be ok? We could ask that of each and every commandment in the list of ten.

At this point in my study, I decided it was important to understand these ten commandments in relation to the whole law, and in relation to what Jesus said when he said:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: YHVH our God, YHVH is one. And you shall love YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.     Mark 12:28-34

Is Jesus saying that all you have to do is love YHVH and love your neighbor? That if you do that, you don’t worry about the ten commandments? Let’s answer these questions with a couple of more questions. How do you know how to love YHVH? How do you know how to love your neighbor? Paul answered these questions when he said:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.    Romans 13:8-10

So are the ten commandments still necessary? Absolutely! You see, Jesus did not say that loving YHVH and loving your neighbors are the only two laws. He said that these were the two most important laws, and the rest of the Law shows you how to keep them. 

And he said to him, “You shall love YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”     Matthew 22:37-40

Take a minute to look at the ten commandments.

  1. 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.
  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 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. 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.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

tencommandments12x12lightningWho are the first four commandments about? They are about YHVH and how to love Him. Without these, we would not understand how to fulfill the law to love YHVH your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Do we still need to observe them? Absolutely!

Who are the last six commandments about? They are about your neighbor and how to love him. Without these, we would not understand how to fulfill the law to love your neighbor as yourself. Do we still need to observe them? Absolutely!

When my children were younger (and I sometimes I still remind them today), before we would get out of the car to go into the store, I would tell them to make sure to be on their best behavior. While we were at home, I spent time teaching them rules – all the things that are right and wrong – things like no hitting, be respectful, no yelling indoors, no arguing, etc. So when I told them “to be on their best behavior”, did that mean that all the things that I taught them at home was done away with? That all they needed to do was be on their “best behavior”, and then they wouldn’t have to worry about the rest of the rules? Absolutely not. In fact, it takes the rest of the rules to show them how to be on their best behavior. That is exactly what Jesus meant when he gave the two greatest commandments.

How does this relate to the entire law? Remember, Jesus said that the entire Law and the Prophets depend on loving YHVH with all your heart, soul, and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Just as the first four commandments explain to us how to love YHVH, and the last six explain to us how to love our neighbor, the rest of the law explains to us how to keep the ten commandments. Let me explain.

Truly, so many of us are looking at things backwards. Many say that there are too many laws to follow in the Old Testament, and that they are too difficult to keep. Each individual law that we are given is just one law. Each law is very simple. The ten commandments are statements that wrap up each law into ten easy to state commandments. Even though there are only ten, each one of those commandments contains more than one law. When we decide to keep them, we have to put more thought into understanding and keeping them. Let’s look at a couple of the laws to better understand this.

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.     Exodus 22:1

This is an individual law. It is only one law. It is very simple to keep. Through this we know not to steal ox or sheep. We know not to kill or sell somebody else’s ox or sheep.

If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard.     Exodus 22:5

Here is another individual law. It is only one law. It is very simple to keep. Through this law we know not to let our animals loose to eat on another man’s field. We know that if that does happen, we are to repay with the best of our field.

Now let’s look at the eighth commandment.

“You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15

This commandment contains more than one law. By not taking somebody’s ox and sheep and selling or killing it and by not letting our cattle loose on somebody’s field to eat of it, we understand how to refrain from stealing. As we learned in the study of the eighth commandment, not stealing also contains laws pertaining to how we are to pay hired servants, fairness in selling and buying from others, caring for something that belongs to somebody else, and taking anything that belongs to somebody else. There is much more to this commandment than what I have listed.

Let’s look at another example.

You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of YHVH your God that you shall make. And you shall not set up a pillar, which YHVH your God hates.     Deuteronomy 16:21-22

This is an individual law. It is only one law. It is very simple to keep. Through this we know not to plant a tree as an Asherah (pagan god) beside YHVH’s altar.

“You are the sons of YHVH your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. For you are a people holy to YHVH your God, and YHVH has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.     Deuteronomy 14:1-2

Here is another individual law. It is only one law. It is very simple to keep. Through this law we know not to cut ourselves or make a baldness on our heads in honor of somebody who dies.

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead     Deuteronomy 18:10-11

This is one more individual law – actually it’s a list of individual laws. They are each very simple to keep. Through this list, we know not to offer our children as burnt offerings. We know that we may not practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, act as sorcerers or charmers or mediums or necromancers or talk to the dead.

Now let’s look at the first commandment.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”     Exodus 20:3

This is a commandment that includes more than one law. It contains each of the individual laws mentioned above it. By not planting an Asherah tree, we avoid having other gods before YHVH. By not cutting ourselves for the dead, we refrain from worshiping Him in the way other nations worship their pagan gods. (We learned this in studying the first commandment.) The same goes for the types of offerings we give and whether or not we practice divination, fortune telling, sorcery, etc. Just as in the example of not stealing, the first commandment includes far more laws than the laws I provided.

Do you see just how important each individual law is to being able to keep the ten commandments? Now look at what is contained in the two simple statements that Jesus said all the law and prophets hang on. The first four commandments and all the laws they contain hang on “Love YHVH your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” The last six commandments and all the laws they contain hang on “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you see how we cannot fully understand the ten commandments or even what Jesus commanded in the two most important commandments without the Law? We are responsible to fully understand, meditate on, and keep these commandments.

Just as the cluster of grapes hang on the two branches of the grapevine, all of the law and prophets hang from the two branches of Loving YHVH with all your heart, mind, and strength; and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Just as the cluster of grapes hang on the two branches of the grapevine, all of the law and prophets hang from the two branches of Loving YHVH with all your heart, mind, and strength; and loving your neighbor as yourself.

 

When Jesus came on the scene and said that all the law and the prophets were wrapped up in two commandments, he truly did not make it any easier. Loving YHVH with all our heart, soul, and strength; and loving your neighbor as yourself includes each law – all of the ten commandments AND more. These two “simple” commandments require fully understanding, meditating on, and keeping each of the laws and commandments, just as Jesus did. They require an obedience in spirit and truth. They require a maturity in love and obedience that comes from knowing the very aspect of the command, because it comes from a heart that puts itself aside for YHVH and others.

Not long ago, I read a facebook post from somebody that put a new type of accountability on my shoulders. As concerning a specific law that she used to claim was “done away with,” she said that YHVH said to her, “Now explain to Me why you don’t have to do this law anymore.” I encourage you to study these things out for yourself. Study the law – all of it. Study the ten commandments. Study what Jesus meant when he taught about the two greatest laws. Then explain to YHVH Himself if and why you believe that you do not have to follow any part of His laws or commandments.

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