Were the Ten Commandments Changed?
December 8, 2023, 11:44 AM

Question: Exodus 34:14-28 lists an entirely different version of the Ten Commandments. These were apparently written after the original commandments were smashed. But what do they mean, and does that mean the original Ten don't matter?

Answer: This is an interesting question. The short answer to it is “no.” I do not believe that what you see in Exodus 34:14-28 is a different Ten Commandments than we see recorded in Exodus 20:1-17. Now, let me show this to you from Scripture.

We’re all familiar with the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt as told in Exodus 12:33 and following. How they went from Egypt to the foot of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 13-19), and how they were brought into a covenant with the LORD (Exodus 20:1-24:8). God spoke in the hearing of the people the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1), but there was more to the covenant than just the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:22-23:33, the LORD gives to Moses further commandments that are to be spoken before all the people of Israel (Exodus 20:22). These laws (or commandments) are applications of the Ten Commandments as well as commands regarding Sabbath and festivals. It closes with promise from the LORD to give the Promised Land to Israel (Exodus 23:20-33). Then in Exodus 24:3-8, Moses does exactly what the LORD told him to do. He tells all the words the LORD gave him to say to the people. The people agree to do all that the LORD has commanded them to do, and the covenant is ratified in blood. All of this is recorded in something called “the Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:7).

It’s a debated point as to whether the “Book of the Covenant” contained only what we see in Exodus 20:22-23:33 or if it included the Ten Commandments as well. We do know that Moses “wrote down all the words of the LORD” (Exodus 24:4), but that he was also told to come up to the mountain to receive “the tables of stone, with the law and the commandments” from the LORD (Exodus 24:12). We also know that it is the “two tablets of the Testimony” that Moses broke in Exodus 32:15 and it was the “two tablets of the Testimony” that God has re-established with Moses in Exodus 34:29. In other words, the covenant that the LORD made with Israel was broken during the Golden Calf incident (Exodus 32) and re-established in Exodus 34. In fact, in Exodus 34:28 we read, “And [the LORD] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” There is no reason to believe that Exodus 34:14-28 lists a different Ten Commandments than what we see in Exodus 20:1-17. It would stand to reason that the tablets contained exactly what was on the original tablets (whether that’s only the Ten Commandments or the Ten Commandments as well as the Book of the Covenant). If you examine the contents of Exodus 34:14-28, you will see many of the same things you see in Exodus 20:1-23:33.

One final piece of biblical evidence. We know that the tablets contain the same Ten Commandments because of what we see in the Book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 5:6-21, we see a restatement of the Ten Commandments for the new generation who is about to enter the Promised Land (the older generation having died in the wilderness). These are the same Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 20:1-17. Furthermore, we’re told in Deuteronomy 5:22 that they were recorded on two tablets of stone. Then fast forward to Deuteronomy 9:9 where Moses says he went up on the mountain to “receive the tablets of stone.” These tablets of stone were then broken by Moses in Deuteronomy 9:17 because of the Golden Calf. Then in Deuteronomy 10, Moses recounts the re-establishing of the covenant in which he specifically says the LORD will write on two new tablets of stone “the words that were on the first tablets.” Deuteronomy 10:4 further establishes that what was written on the new tablets were “the Ten Commandments, which the LORD had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.”

So, while I can see the confusion caused by reading Exodus 34:14-28, when you compare it with other clearer passages in Scripture, you will see that the new tablets contain the same Ten Commandments that were written on the original two tablets of stone.

I hope this helps.

~ Pastor Carl