Explain how the Decalogue informs the Christian about duties to God and neighbour.
The Decalogue, otherwise known as the Ten Commandments were a set of 10 rules given by Yahweh to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. To many, they contain the most fundamental principles of moral life. The commandments were given by God to guide the Israelites in everyday life, TD Alexander comments on this saying ‘it sets out how people must live in order to be a holy nation. It is interesting to note that they are apodictic in form, in which God gives order, but no punishments are listed. Many people believe this is due to the absolutist form of the commandments, in which they were never expected to be broken.
There are as noted ten commandments in all, four of which define duties towards God himself, five of which define duties towards other humans and the final commandment is based on the controlling of ones thoughts and desires. Throughout this essay I will describe each sector of the Decalogue as described above, and explain how this informs a Christian of their duties.
To begin with, we have those that inform duties to God, beginning with the first commandment ‘I am the Lord, you shall have no other God’s before me.’ In this commandment God draws attention to himself, the author of life. This commandment in particular lays the proper foundation for private and social life, and thus holds a preeminent place among the commandments. According to TD Alexander, this commandment stresses that ‘Sole allegiance to the Lord lies at the very heart of the covenant relationship.’ This commandment is simply to remind the Isrealites of their contract, and more importantly remind them of the importance of staying monotheistic . Following this, we have the second commandment, ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol.’ As mentioned briefly earlier, God demands the need for his people to be monotheistic, which is worshipping one God alone. It is this that Huesman comments ‘distinguishes Israel from her neighbours.’ We are told of the worshipping of the Golden Calf in Exodus, this is something God forbids, once again illustrating the sole allegiance to God. The third commandment is even further demanding, stating that ‘one shall not misuse the name of the Lord.’ Houston comments here saying ‘It is quite clear that the improper use of Yahweh is prohibited.’ God insists that his sacred name is treated with respect. The name is precious and carries miraculous powers as seen numerous times throughout the Bible. It informs Christians of their duty to respect God over everything else, avoiding both blasphemy and excessive use. Last but not least, we have the final commandment illustrating duties towards God. ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy.’ This commandment differs from the previous commandment, as it presents time for family and friends to rest, and workers time to regain their energy. Huesman believes this commandment has ‘a humanitarian motive.’ In contrast, Houston disagrees with this, he believes the ‘primary emphasis is on the character of the day.’ He believes the focus is solely on God and prayer, rather than family and rest.