Several religious people might be stunned by the shocking news that the popularly known “Ten Commandments” which God gave to Moses in the 15th Century BC, were not after all 10 but 13..! This conclusion is based upon the recent discovery of the original stone tablets upon which the Commandments were written. A few years ago, the P&P newspaper quoting foreign news sources, reported that “the ancient stone tablets that God gave to Moses have been unearthed by some amazed archaeologists who discovered that there are really 13 commandments, not 10.
Those scientists and archaeologists were said to have excavated the stone tablets “in the Gebel Musa” mountain group of the southern Sinai Peninsula” where Moses met God. The discovered three commandments are:
11th Commandment: “Honour the earth, its plants, soil, water and air.”
12th Commandment: “thou shalt not be neglectful and lazy but keep thy mind and body healthy and disciplined”.
13th Commandment: “Thou shalt not enslave others, including thy enemies.”
These, according to reports, form the last component parts of the stone tablets which Moses angrily crashed to the ground and thus broke into pieces, owing to the idolatrous behavior of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 9 :17).
The discovery, as a matter of course, raises lots of controversial controversies. First, is the question: supposing the Commandments which God gave to Moses were thirteen, was it possible that on the presentation of the second tranche of the Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, God changed his mind and wrote only10 of them, leaving the rest as unnecessary riders? Furthermore, if the deletion of the last three commandments quoted above was urgent, what must have necessitated it?
In fact, a close examination of the recent discovery of the 11th , 12th, and 13th commandments reveals that all of them touched on matters which were extremely important to the livelihood and freedom of humankind in this world, – issues of environmental protection, self-discipline and individual liberty. And God, in his divine wisdom, wouldn’t, on second thought, have considered these points too inessential to be left out on the second set of tablets to Moses. The insistence here is that the commandments were 13 and not 10 as we see in the Bible today.
But on the opposite side of the argument is the consideration that the Hebrew literary genre in the Bible passage depicting how Moses received the second set of the Commandments pinpoints the fact that the commandments were 10 and not 13.
The relevant passage reads: “So…. I (Moses) chiselled out two stone tablets like the first ones, and went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hands. The Lord wrote on the tablets what he had written before, the Ten Commandments he had proclaimed to you on the mount, out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them up to me” (Deuteronomy 10:3a-4, NIV Bible).
It is argued that in this passage, there is a clear reference to the number of Commandments written on the broken prototype, which was 10, and which were exactly transcribed on the stereotype ( the new tablets) showing the self-same ten commandments.
The second point of the “ten-commandments” protagonists (believers) which is cited to reject the thirteen commandments theory is that the original Ark of the Covenant of Moses’ time which reportedly got lost after 955BC, has been rediscovered, and still contains the ten commandments –all quite intact. The question is: was there no literary mistake in transcribing the 13 as 10, as quoted above in Deut. 10:3-4?
The P&P’s report is quoted thus: “The legendary lost Ark of the Covenant, the golden chest that holds the original Ten Commandments, has been found in the heart of Africa” (P&P August 16-22, 1998). The Ark is said to be in the domed temple which “”sits beside St. Mary of Zion, an ancient Ethiopian orthodox Christian church.”
Truly, if the two sets of stone tablets –the recently excavated thirteen Commandments stone in Egypt, and the Ten Commandments pieces ensconced in the Ark, are laid side by side of each other, it would generate considerable brainstorming and further scientific research. But when will this be done?
Meanwhile I do agree to the thirteen commandments proposition. This is because, if one invoked the verification Principle in philosophical logic (dealing with accurate empirical method) to determine which is true –the ten or thirteen commandments tablets -, one certainly would be convinced of the latter, the thirteen commandments material.
And this is supported by Dr. Ethan Larousse who was among the archaeological team which dug up the fragmented thirteen commandments tablets. Dr. Ethan verifies: “following a detailed scientific analysis, we are confident these are the first tablets God gave to Moses –the one Moses later broke in anger at the Israelites –because we found them in pieces.” (The P&P edition). On the other hand, the Ten Commandments supposed to be hidden in the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia has not been subjected to the Verification principle; that is, it has not been put under any scientific investigation yet. The reason? The mystery surrounding the Ark that no one, except the high priest, can go to it, let alone open it, otherwise he will be struck dead by the Lord as of old, makes any such scientific investigations impossible. This being so, it is difficult to accept the thesis that the alleged ten commandments tablets lying in the Ark are the genuine ones.
If the Ten Commandments apologists still maintain their position that the thirteen commandments tablets are rather not genuine, one might be prompted to ask: how do the two materials which came from the same God (as commandments) become numerically different or irreconciliable?
We should not lose sight of the fact that modern-day archaeological findings consisting of ancient writing materials such as stones, chisels, clay, lead, papyrus, vellum, parchment etc. are known to give indisputable confirmation and accuracy to the scriptures.
For instance, the Moabite stone written in Hebrew and discovered by Klein, a German missionary in 1868, in the east of River Jordan has confirmed the accuracy of 2Kings Chapter 3 of the Bible. Also, a scriptural manuscript called Codex Sinaiticus, buried in an old monastery library on Mount Sinai (Egypt) and which, among other things, contains the “Epistle of Barnabas,” (regrettably not included in the Bible because it was too late) became “the basis of many revisions and corrections of earlier editions of the Bible.” As argued by theologian R. B. Tieme Jr. of the United States, the discovery “is still one of the finest and most accurate texts available to us today. It has been scientifically verified to be significantly true.
In the light of the fact that recent excavations and findings of ancient writings either confirm the accuracy of the Bible or fill up the inadequacies of the present day scriptures with ‘left-out’ materials used for revisions, I submit that the newly discovered stone tablets given to Moses which contain the thirteen commandments are true.
This implies that the Bible passages in Exodus: 20 and Deuteronomy 10, which proclaim the Ten Commandments, must be revised to incorporate all the thirteen commandments instead. The commandments, in my opinion, are thirteen but not ten. No two ways about it! What do you say?
By Apostle Kwamena Ahinful