Why Are The Ten Commandments Numbered Differently?


The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21. In my research on catechisms, I was not a bit surprised that all of the catechisms I’ve reviewed  have sections on the Ten Commandments. I did get confused, however, when I found there are different ways to number the Ten Commandments. None of the commands given by God to the Israelites through Moses has been removed, but they are separated differently.

Counting the Ten Commandments

CommandmentsExodus
20:1-17
Deuteronomy
5:4-21
Jewish
Torah
Samaritan
Pentateuch
Greek
Septuagint
CatholicLutheranMost
Protestant
I am the LORD your God
2
6
1
1
You shall have no other gods before me.
3
7
2
1
1
1
1
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything
in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
4-6
8-10
2
2
You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God
7
11
3
2
3
2
2
3
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
8-11
12-15
4
3
4
3
3
4
Honor your father and your mother
12
16
5
4
5
4
4
5
You shall not murder.
13
17
6
5
6
5
5
6
You shall not commit adultery.
14
18
7
6
7
6
6
7
You shall not steal.
15
19
8
7
8
7
7
8
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
16
20
9
8
9
8
8
9
You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
17a
21b
10
9
10
10
9
10
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
17b
21a
9
10
You shall not covet your neighbor's...male or female servant,
his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
17c
21c
10
You shall raise these stones, which I command you today,
in mountain Grizim.
17e2
21b1
10

Traditional 10 Commandments

“I am the Lord your God” is the first commandment in the Jewish Torah and Catholic counting systems, but the Samaritan Pentateuch, Greek Septuagint, Lutheran and most Protestant systems don’t count that statement at all. “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything” are also part of the first commandment for Catholics.

Most counting systems don’t add or remove words, so nothing is being lost. Unlike what’s seen in movies, the tablets God gave to Moses likely didn’t have numbers beside the words.

You might have also noticed that the three sections on coveting are in a different order in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Exodus has them in the order of “house”, “wife” and “anything that belongs to your neighbor”. Deuteronomy uses “wife”, “house” and “anything that belongs to your neighbor”. This affects the order in the Catholic counting system., but not the meaning.

Samaritan Pentateuch 10 Commandments

The Samaritan Pentateuch (or Samaritan Torah) has a section, numbered 10, that none of the other systems use; it adds several sentences to Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21. In the comparison below, I’m using the King James Version and an English translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch, with the added section in italics; I’ve used bold to show the part that’s considered the 10th commandment.

Exodus 20:17

  • KJV – “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
  • Samaritan Pentateuch – “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, and not thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his field, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. And when it so happens that Lord God brings you to the land of Caanan, which you are coming to posses, you shall set-up there for you great stones and plaster them with plaster and you write on the stones all words of this law. And it becomes for you that across the Jordan you shall raise these stones, which I command you today, in mountain Grizim. And you build there the altar to the Lord God of you. Altar of stones. Not you shall wave on them iron. With whole stones you shall build the altar to Lord God of you. And you bring on it ascend offerings to Lord God of you, and you sacrifice peace offerings, and you eat there and you rejoice before the face of the Lord God of you. The mountain this is across the Jordan behind the way of the rising of the sun, in the land of Caanan who is dwelling in the desert before the Galgal, beside Alvin-Mara, before Sechem.

Deuteronomy 5:21

  • KJV – “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
  • Samaritan Pentateuch – “Thou shalt not desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s. And when it so happens that Lord God brings you to the land of Caanan, which you are coming to posses, you shall set-up there for you great stones and plaster them with plaster and you write on the stones all words of this law. And it becomes for you that across the Jordan you shall raise these stones, which I command you today, in mountain Grizim. And you build there the altar to the Lord God of you. Altar of stones. Not you shall wave on them iron. With whole stones you shall build the altar to Lord God of you. And you bring on it ascend offerings to Lord God of you, and you sacrifice peace offerings, and you eat there and you rejoice before the face of the Lord God of you. The mountain this is across the Jordan behind the way of the rising of the sun, in the land of Caanan who is dwelling in the desert before the Galgal, beside Alvin-Mara, before Sechem.

Why does the Samaritan Pentateuch have extra words?

About 740 B.C., Assyria conquered parts of the land occupied by the ten northern tribes of Israel; Assyria took the capital city of Samaria in 722 B.C. During the Assyrian captivity, many Israelites were relocated to other places in the Assyrian empire and non-Israelites were moved into Israel. The remaining Israelites intermixed with the non-Israelites, and became known as Samaritans.

The Samaritans tried to mix the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with the worship of other gods that the non-Israelites introduced to them. The Samaritans were disliked (even hated) by the remaining two tribes that had not be conquered by Assyria (which included the city of Jerusalem). Because the Samaritans could not worship in Jerusalem anymore, they worshiped their gods on mount Gerizim (or Grizim).

In the Samaritan Pentateuch, Mount Gerizim is the place designated for proper worship of Yahweh, not Jerusalem. In the book of Deuteronomy’s narrative, Jerusalem had not yet been conquered, and so in the Masoretic Text [Hebrew Bible] the sanctioned location for Yahweh’s future temple is not explicitly named. Rather, the text references “the place which Yahweh will choose” (Deut 12:5, 11, 14, 18, 26). Since Gerizim is featured prominently in the patriarchal narratives (Gen 12:6; 33:18–20), the Samaritans considered the designation already made, and consequently their text reads: “the site which Yahweh has chosen.” A lengthy addition is made to the Ten Commandments in Exod 20:14, which mentions Mount Gerizim as the location sanctioned by God for His altar. The addition comprises portions of Deut 11:29; 27:2–7; and 11:30. Deuteronomy 27:4–5, where Moses commands the Israelites to set up a memorial and an altar after crossing the Jordan, mentions Mount Gerizim in the Samaritan Pentateuch where the Masoretic Text designates Mount Ebal.3

Conclusion

I’m intending to use the typical Protestant numbers in this series on catechisms.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor

Resources

Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 21b occurs only in the Samaritan Pentateuch.
  2. Exodus 20:17d occurs only in the Samaritan Pentateuch.
  3. McClellan, Daniel O. “Pentateuch, Samaritan,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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