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Discussion 5 to the 2nd Commandment
The 10 C were designated only for the nation of Israel

by: Mike Christensen

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As a Christian and a scholar, I have some insight into this commandment. First, the 10 C were designated only for the nation of Israel, as were the punishments. Jesus even went beyond these by centering on the motive behind actions and not the actions themselves (see Matthew 5-7). The punishments were not part of the New Covenant.

As far as punishing the children to the 3rd and 4th generations, there are several responses.

First, God does not define the type of punishment.

It is likely that the punishment was not direct, but indirect. There were natural consequences for worshipping the false gods of the Canaanites. They were nonexistent and could therefore do nothing for the Israelites. Worshipping them also withdrew God's blessing--they would not be able to defeat their enemies and occupy the land.

Their loyalty was now gone--how could God bless them? Moreover, they would not be the "light to the nations" they were originally meant to be when God made his covenant with Abram (Genesis 12 and 15). If God did directly punish them, it was to highlight the seriousness of their offense, get their attention, and hopefully get them to repent and return to him. Other negatives could be listed.

Second, the 2nd Commandment is not insinuating that God punishes innocent generations for the sins of their ancestors. It means God will punish succeeding generations for committing the same types of sins as their parents. "Third and fourth generations" is an idiomatic expression meaning "whatever number."

On the other hand, God shows his covenant loyalty by being willing to bless much more extravagantly (to a thousand generations) those who obey him. That is what is really on his heart. Further, the words "love" and "hate" are also idiomatic to loyalty or the lack thereof, and do not refer to emotional attitudes. (For documentation see Douglas K. Stewart, Exodus, New American Commentary, vol. 2 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006), 454.)

Your conclusion's validity therefore is small.

Christian groups that advocate putting the 10 Commandments in public places likely have altruistic motives, but the 10 C. were never meant for the general public per se. Certainly some of them would bring good results if anyone (or any society)followed them, even if their motives were not directed toward pleasing God--honoring parents, not murdering, not stealing, not coveting, not lying (bearing false witness), not committing adultery are all good behaviors.
Obeying the Sabbath rest is virtuous in God's eyes only for his followers, but the Sabbath was made for humanity, as Jesus said, so even if non-Christians honored it, it still has the minimal physical and mental benefits.


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