The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The First Commandment
... chapter continued from previous file ...
The Murder of the First-Born and the Feast of the Passover
Up to this time we have dealt rather facetiously with the performances of Moses and Aaron in carrying out the instructions of the Lord. In the verses to follow, they take on a more serious aspect.
I quote the Book of Exodus, Chapter 11, verses 1 to 10:
1. And the Lord said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether.
2. Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.
3. And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people.
4. And Moses said, Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:
5. And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.
7. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.
8. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger.
9. And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.
10. And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
When it comes to killing innocent children, I think it time our attitude change and that proper condemnation be expressed. Mind you, not only will the first-born of the house of Pharaoh, but even "the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill," be killed for no other reason than to demonstrate the power of the Lord, who keeps hardening Pharaoh's heart so he won't let the Children of Israel go.
Who can picture the barbarity and savagery of this act? But even the threat of the death of all the first-born through the machinations of the Bible God fails to soften the heart of Pharaoh. How else could it be? -- for again in verse 10, just quoted, we are reminded that "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land." Before his slaughter of the innocent beings, however, the Bible God shows the Children of Israel how to avoid the frightful curse he is about to visit upon the Egyptians.
I quote Chapter 12, verses 5 to 7:
5. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6. And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
It is by this blood sign that the Lord will keep from smiting any of the Children of Israel. Why this sign was necessary to mark the Children of Israel from the Egyptians is not stated; for in the previous plagues their God distinguished them without any sign. He exempted them himself from the plagues which he visited upon others. Their cattle were not afflicted with murrain; they did not suffer from the curse of darkness, nor from the plague of frogs, lice or flies.
There can be no question that the blood of the lamb was a sacrifice to the Lord to avoid his taking any of the Children of Israel, and that it was a substitute for a human sacrifice. This custom was prevalent among many primitive peoples. It was a sign to their god that blood had been "sacrificed" to him so as to avoid death from visiting their households. It is the basis of the most savage religions known to man, part of the ritual of abjectly superstitious peoples living in the darkest ignorance. It is the lowest rung on the ladder of human intelligence.
I now quote Chapter 12, verses 12 to 14:
12. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.
13. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
14. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations: ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
What an event to celebrate as the national holiday of a people: the murdering of the first-born of an entire country as an act of their God deliberately perpetrated to show his power! This brutal "God" tells them that it must be a feast forever, so that the memory of the anguish from the loss of the most precious thing in the world -- the first-born -- may never be forgotten! It is not easy to express in mere words the detestation such a God deserves.
I quote Chapter 12, verses 21 to 30:
21. Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
22. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
23. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
24. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
25. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
26. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
27. That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
28. And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
29. And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
30. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt: for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
It is difficult to comment on this deed. Just think of it -- "the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle." No wonder "there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead"! What a monstrous and revolting deed! No wonder Pharaoh surrendered.
To show his power to convince Pharaoh, why was it necessary for the Bible God to kill the first-born of the captives in the dungeon? Surely they had nothing to do with hardening Pharaoh's heart. Would not Pharaoh's child alone have been sufficient to satisfy this murderous God? If there were any justice, Pharaoh should have prevailed against this Bible Deity. Did not Pharaoh want to let the Children of Israel go, and did not the Lord continually harden the heart of Pharaoh against it? [**6]
I quote Chapter 12, verses 31 to 33:
31. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.
32. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
33. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
Small wonder the Egyptians "were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste." Who could stand against such a retaliation? I quote Chapter 12, verses 34 to 42:
34. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
37. And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
38. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
39. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victuals.
40. Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
41. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.
42. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.
It is highly important that we remember the events related in the verses quoted above. Here we are told that at least a million people -- judging from the six hundred thousand men alone, as mentioned in verse 37 -- were leaving a land that had been lived in for four hundred and thirty years! This exodus occurred after the land had been subjected to a series of devastating punishments the like of which cannot be found in human history outside of the Biblical narrative. But the exodus is not complete, all is not quite over.
For the conclusion of the story, I quote Chapter 12, verse 51:
51. And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.
This is why the First Commandment, the prologue of the Decalogue, reads:
Without this performance there would be no authority for the words that compose the remainder of the Commandments, and without this prologue there would be no God of Israel to issue edicts for his "Chosen People" to follow.
The Parting of the Red Sea and the Drowning of the Egyptians
Despite all this, after delivering all the Children of Israel from Egypt, the Bible God insists upon further hardening the heart of Pharaoh in order that he may pursue the Israelites and harass them in their worship of the Lord. To that end we must continue with the exploits of Moses, and the "wonders" he performs as biblically recorded. I quote the Book of Exodus, Chapter 14, verses 1 to 12:
1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2. Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
3. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
4. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so.
5. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
6. And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:
7. And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
8. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with a high hand.
10. And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.
11. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
12. Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Even the Israelites began to believe that the Lord had carried the hardening of Pharaoh's heart too far. For despite the fearful blights that he had visited upon the Egyptians in their behalf they began to doubt both the success and value of their deliverance, particularly as "the Egyptians marched against them" with every intention of inflicting total destruction upon them.
Is it any wonder then that in view of their impending disaster and annihilation, that they cried to Moses, "Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptian? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptian, than that we should die in the wilderness." However ...
It is easy to have an answer to the situation when you yourself are the creator of the plot. So Moses answers -- I quote Chapter 14, verses 13 to 16:
13. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
15. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
Moses continues to perform miracles by controlling the elements of the earth, the sea and the sky. His magical powers have not waned in the slightest. He lifts up his rod, stretches out his hand, and divides the waters of the sea, that "the Children of Israel shall go on the dry ground through the midst of the sea." Will that solve their problems and free them from the pursuing Egyptians? I quote Chapter 14, verses 17 to 23:
17. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
18. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
19. And the Angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
21. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
23. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Where the Lord put the water and how he brought it back is told in Chapter 14, verses 24 to 30:
24. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians.
25. And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
26. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
No one can deny the efficacy of the Bible God when he "took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily." Just imagine their consternation when suddenly they find that the wheels of their chariots have been miraculously removed, and their horses are struggling to pull the chariots on their axles! But the real miracle in this episode is that after the Children of Israel had safely crossed the sea because their God sent a strong east wind to divide the waters, he now causes Moses to "stretch forth his hand over the sea ... and the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them."
Now that Moses had killed all the first-born of the land of Egypt, and slaughtered all the army of Pharaoh, what is next in his portfolio of crime to awe the Children of Israel and continue to harden the heart of Pharaoh?
I quote Chapter 14, verse 31:
31. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.
There is a subtle plan behind all this. The Children of Israel were to be duly impressed with these performances, so they might "fear the Lord" and believe "his servant Moses." It was the object of Moses in this whole fanciful tale to inspire the Children of Israel with his powers of magic so as to enervate them through fear. But the continuation of this story leads us to the very base of Mount Sinai, where Moses is to culminate his performances with the message containing the Ten Commandments directly from the hand of God.
In his journeying from Egypt to the base of Mount Sinai, everything that the Israelites required was miraculously furnished by Moses. For instance, when they cried for bread, he furnished it in this manner -- Chapter 16, verse 4:
4. Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
And still the Children of Israel murmured against the Lord. There must be something peculiar about this story, for despite all these miraculous performances, they were still dissatisfied and wanted to return to the land of Pharaoh. But lo! I quote Chapter 16, verses 13 and 14:
13. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
Truly miraculous food! Manna from heaven! What a fitting climax to such an "extraordinary" story!
Now for the truth of the narrative and the events described in the Bible.
Were the Children of Israel Ever in Bondage in Egypt?
Despite the revulsion one experiences after reading the Biblical narrative of the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, there is one consolation: THE STORY IS NOT TRUE. THE EVENTS RELATED NEVER TOOK PLACE!
There were no miracles performed before Pharaoh; his heart was not hardened; there was no plague of frogs; no dust turned into lice; no river of blood; no grievous hail; no killing of the first-born; no drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, and no manna falling from heaven. The entire story is a monstrous fabrication imposed upon an ignorant and superstitious people, and deserves exposure and the severest condemnation.
How could such extraordinary events of such vital importance to the peoples of the earth, particularly to the Egyptians, have no corroborating evidence, while minor events of no particular significance or value have abundant documentation? Not a single item of historical value exists to prove the events related or that the Children of Israel were in Egypt, though they were supposed to have lived there over 400 years! Not a single authentic piece of evidence is in existence to substantiate any one of the events described in the narrative, or of the emancipation and deliverance of the Israelites. The whole narrative is a cruel hoax!
The entire story must be regarded as an imaginary tale without the slightest semblance of truth;
The best Biblical scholars and the most trustworthy historians maintain that not only were the Hebrews never enslaved in Egypt, but they never were in Egypt during the period implied in the narrative!
This is significantly substantiated by the fact, as previously stated, that according to the oldest Hebrew manuscript, the words "out of the house of bondage" do not appear in this Commandment. As additional evidence is the fact that in the Bibles of Hebrews living in Egypt today there is no mention that their home was a former land of enslavement. [*7]
I have unimpeachable authorities to testify to the truth of the above statements: Mr. Joseph B. Alexander, Secretary of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, authoritatively states that "there is no definite evidence outside of the Bible regarding the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt."
Mr. William C. Hayes, of the Department of Egyptian Art, New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, states that "so far as Egyptian records are concerned, there is no historical evidence to show that the Hebrews were ever in Egypt, in bondage or otherwise."
Dr. Philip Khuri Hitti, Professor of Semitic Literature, Princeton University, says: "Other than Biblical, there is no record of Jewish enslavement in Egypt."
Mr. John A. Wilson, Director of The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, states that not only did James Henry Breasted, the noted Egyptologist, during his forty years of research, fail to find any "specific evidence on the oppression of the Children of Israel in Egypt," but neither "has any other scholar found any clear evidence of that phase of history."
Dr. Sidney Smith, Curator of the British Museum and one of the world's greatest authorities on Egyptology, states: "I do not think there is any positive evidence that the tribes of the 'Children of Israel' were in Egypt prior to their invasion of Palestine, outside the Old Testament." [*8]
Abram Leon Sachar, formerly Associate in European History at the University of Illinois, was forced to admit in his book that there is "no conclusive proof" of the existence of Moses, and that "the most influential personality in Jewish history may be merely the product of Jewish imagination." He further states that "actual evidence for a Hebrew settlement in Egypt is ... of the scantiest and most doubtful kind." [*9]
Professor Salo W. Baron, in his book, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, not only admits that there is no authentic evidence to prove the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, but that if such an event did take place, it was such an insignificant matter that the Egyptians did not even take the trouble to record it. [*10]
Additionally significant as disproving the truth of this Biblical narrative is the fact that even the Feast of the Passover, including its ritual of eating unleavened bread and the slaughtering and sacrifice of the lamb, did not originate with the Hebrews as the result of this supposed event. They were customs that were practiced long before the supposed exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. It is commonly believed that eating unleavened bread is commemorated among the Hebrews because of the event related in Exodus, Chapter 12, verses 34 to 43, but this is without historical confirmation.
Among the Arabic Bedouins, a Semitic tribe, unleavened bread is eaten even to the present day at religious and even secular festivals, while slaughtering a lamb is an important ritual observance among the people of the Near East. The latter represents a symbolic sacrifice of the blood of a human being as an appeasement to the angry God, practised by the primitive, savage tribes who lived in fear and awe of the elements of nature. Both customs long antedated the time of the supposed events in the Biblical narrative. [*11]
If the Children of Israel were never in bondage in Egypt; if Moses never performed miracles before Pharaoh; if the Exodus to the Promised Land never took place, then the Feast of the Passover is a cruel memorial, imposing self-punishment upon a suffering people for an event that never happened and in memory of hardships never endured. The Children of Israel have enough to mourn over without adding fictitious events of suffering to their overloaded tragic memories.
The investigation and analysis of this Commandment leaves but one conclusion: IT IS NOTTRUE. The statement,
"I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,"
is false. This Commandment has absolutely no value in the field of ethics or morals. It deserves exposure as a despicable piece of deception.
Moses as God
Is it not obvious, in the fictional story just related, that the part played by the God of Israel was merely Moses masquerading as the priest-magician god?
In ancient times the magician was not only king, but God. The people looked to him to perform miracles. Through his magic powers he protected them from evil. All good was attributed to him. He brought rain in times of drought. He made crops grow. He led the army to victory. If the people were defeated or overcome by misfortune, if plagued by insects and disease, he berated them for their sins and chastised them for their disobedience. He ordered them to do penance and make sacrifices. He proclaimed days for fasting and prayer. When full recompense was made for the evil ways which provoked the anger and displeasure of their god, he would proclaim the happy event by the resumption of the natural order of things and the rekindling of the affection of God for his people.
Magic and religion are so closely related that it is sometimes difficult to separate one from the other. It is a definitely established fact that religion and its ceremonies evolved from magic, sorcery and incantation.
Not acquainted with the natural order of cause and effect of the universe, the primitive mind is stimulated to awe and adoration by that which it believes is unusual and unnatural. It thrives on miracles. Knowing the limitation of its own powers, it attributes that which it cannot understand to the supernatural abilities of the performer. "Not conceiving the existence of natural law," says Frazer, "primitive man cannot conceive a breach of it." A miracle to him is merely the demonstration of the supernatural ability of the performer.
In his studies of primitive societies, and particularly in the fields of magic and religion, Frazer says:
"The notion of a man-god, or of a human being endowed with divine or supernatural powers, belongs essentially to that earlier period of religious history in which gods and men are still viewed as beings of much the same order and before they are divided by the impassable gulf which, to later thought, opens out between them. Strange, therefore, as may seem to us the idea of a god incarnate in human form, it has nothing very startling for early man, who sees in a man-god or a god-man only a higher degree of the same supernatural powers which he arrogates in perfect good faith to himself. Nor does he draw any very sharp distinction between a god and a powerful sorcerer. His gods are often merely invisible magicians who behind the veil of nature work the same sort of charms and incantations which the human magician works in a visible and bodily form among his fellows. And as the gods are commonly believed to exhibit themselves in the likeness of men to their worshippers, it is easy for the magician, with his supposed miraculous powers, to acquire the reputation of being an incarnate deity. Thus beginning as little more than a simple conjurer, the medicine man or magician tends to blossom out into a full-bloom god and king in one." [*12]
Of the human deities of the ancient Egyptians, one such resided at the village of Anabis; burnt sacrifices were offered to him on the altars which he would eat just as if he were an ordinary mortal.
The chief of Urua, a large region to the west of Lake Tanganyika, boasts of his divine powers, pretends that he can abstain from food indefinitely, and that he eats, drinks and smokes only for the pleasure it affords him. There is a significant parallel here with Moses abstaining from food for forty days while he was on top of Mount Sinai getting the Ten Commandments amid thunderous manifestations.
In the Washington Islands lived a class of men who were deified in their lifetime. They were supposed to wield supernatural power over the elements; they could give harvests or smite the ground with barrenness. Human sacrifices were offered to them to avert their wrath.
The early Babylonian kings claimed to be gods in their lifetime. Temples were built in their honor and sacrifices made to them.
The Parthian monarchs of the Arsacid house styled themselves brothers of the sun and moon and were worshiped as deities. The kings of Egypt were deified in their lifetime.
Montezuma, the last king of the Mexicans, was worshiped by his people as a god. The Mexican kings at their accession took an oath that they would make the sun shine, the clouds give rain, the rivers flow, and the earth bring forth fruits. [*13]
In South America the magician or medicine man was generally the chieftain or ruler of the tribe. Throughout the Malay region the rajah or king is commonly regarded with superstitious veneration as the possessor of supernatural powers. He developed from the simple magician. Even today the Malays believe that their king can influence the growth of the crops and the bearing of the fruit trees. In Ussukuma, a great district on the southern bank of the Victoria Nyanza, the king is looked upon as the regulator of the weather and the possessor of sufficient power to control the locust pest. If he should fail, his existence would be at stake.
In many other parts of the world where the king, who is supposed to possess magical powers, fails to protect the crops from drought or other misfortunes, he is liable to suffer the wrath of the people because of the belief that he is losing his magical powers.
The Banjars of West Africa ascribe to their king the power to cause rain or fine weather. A Hindu sect which has many representatives in Bombay and Central India holds that its spiritual chiefs or maharajas, as they are called, are representatives, or even actual incarnations on earth, of the god Krishna. A sect in Orissa is said to have worshiped the late Queen Victoria of England as its chief divinity. And even today in India a person of unusual strength or clever magical powers is likely to be worshiped as a god. [*14]
The King of Siam was venerated equally with a divinity. His subjects were not permitted to look him in the face; they prostrated themselves before him when he passed, and appeared before him on their knees, their elbows resting on the ground.
The King of Iddah said to the English officers of the Niger Expedition: "God made me after his own image. I am all the same as God, and he appointed me a king."
Of the three chiefs among the Wambuhwe, a Bantu people of East Africa living in 1894, two were much dreaded as magicians, and the wealth of the cattle they possessed came to them almost wholly in the shape of presents bestowed for their services in the capacity of making rain.
Before the King of Benin was made subject to the English by conquest, he was the chief object of worship in his dominions. He was considered their god. The King of Loango is known by the word which means "god" in the language of his people. They rely upon him to bring rain, protect the crops, and ward off evil spirits.
In almost every country still ruled by a lineal descendant of ancient kings, the people attribute more than human powers to him. This is true of nearly all ancestors of the Aryan races from India to Ireland. They believe that their kings possess supernatural and magical powers. The dyaks of Sarawak believed that their English ruler, Rajah Brooke, was endowed with certain magical virtues which, if properly applied, would produce abundant crops. [*15]
In England, until quite recent times, many attributed magical powers to the king. He was believed to be able to heal scrofula, known as the "king's evil," by touch. It is said that Queen Elizabeth often exercised this miraculous gift of healing. In 1663, Charles I was said to have cured one hundred patients in one swoop. In the course of the reign of Charles II, it is said that he "touched" a hundred thousand and that on one occasion the number was so great that several were trampled to death in their eagerness to be touched. The decline of the custom began with William III, who contemptuously refused to lend himself to such a vile superstition. On the only occasion he is known to have touched a patient, he said, "God give you better health and more sense." [* 16]
In Catholic countries like Italy and in some parts of France, the peasants believe that the priest possesses a secret and irresistible power over the elements. They believe the winds, the rain, the storms and the hail are at his command and obey his will. They think he and he alone knows and has the right to utter secret words that can control the forces of nature. [*17] Even today we hear stories of how priests have stopped floods, quenched fire, warded off pestilences, and performed similar magical acts. [**18] And does not the Catholic devotee today firmly believe that the Pope possesses the mystic power to forgive sins, issue infallible edicts, and secure magical intercessional favors from God?
It is not difficult, then, to understand why the Bible story of the Exodus was believed to be true by the ignorant and superstitious people of Biblical times. But it is difficult to understand why otherwise intelligent people today cannot see the interchangeable character of Moses and the Hebrew Deity. Aside from the anthropological aspects of the primitive mind in relation to the priest-magician god, the unusual familiarity with which Moses and the Bible Deity interchanged, and the ease with which the thoughts of the one were conveyed to the other, admit of no other conclusion than that of the dual nature of the same character.
The Clergy and the First Commandment
Although I have already shown by a comparison of the Decalogue the conflict between the different religious systems which accept the Commandments as a revelation from God, I also wish to mention that there is a greater divergence of opinion concerning their meaning by the ministers of these various sects. Only the Hebrews -- and properly, because it applies to them only -- accept this First Commandment as it appears in the code. Most of the Protestant sects reject the first half completely, and start the Decalogue with the first line of the Second Commandment. The Catholics combine the first half of this Commandment and the first line of the Second and use it as the First Commandment. The refusal of both the Catholics and Protestants, however, to accept this commandment in its original form is a deliberate attempt to conceal its application to the Hebrews only, thereby pretending that the Decalogue is a divine revelation applicable to all people.
In the opening paragraph of his book, The First Commandment, William Jennings Bryan says:
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me," reads the first of the commandments brought down from Sinai. The fact that it stands first would indicate that it is the most important of the ten, and the same conclusion is reached if we compare it with the other nine."
Need any comment be made after quoting these words? They are in themselves sufficient to reveal either the deliberate evasion of the actual words of the First Commandment, or the ignorance of the writer. If "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" is the First Commandment, why do they continue to print Bibles with the words quoted at the beginning of this chapter?
Is this commandment the most important precept of the ten, even though it came first, in comparison with the other nine? It is pitiful to think that this was the extent of the knowledge of the Ten Commandments of the "Great Commoner," the man who three times aspired to the presidency of the United States of America!
Dean Farrar, noted English divine, changes this commandment to suit himself, and minces no words in emphatically insisting upon his interpretation. After giving this commandment as "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," he asks "Who were the gods after whom the backsliding Jews, again and again, went astray? Were they not devil-deities -- Ashtoreith the abomination of the Sidonians, and Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and Moloch the abomination of the children of Ammon? [*19]
One would think that the belief in the existence of these other gods would be sufficient to convince any intelligent person that the Hebrew God was one of the many tribal gods worshiped in that primitive and nomadic time; and he was not superior to the others by any standard by which we measure values.
Dean Farrar further states: "Men seem to think that these Ten Commandments are something Jewish; that God did not really mean them to be kept. Why, this First Commandment, "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other gods but me," is nothing less than the key to man's whole existence! It is the eternal basis of all worship and all morality. [*20]
What a ludicrous, contradictory, and puerile statement! In his first comment, Dean Farrar specifically mentions the existence of other gods, and explains that this commandment was a warning to the Hebrews not to abandon their God for the "devil-deities" of other tribes. In the next statement he states that this commandment is the basis of all worship and morality. Only a religiously trained individual could make such a contradictory statement without a blush of shame.
How can a person who deliberately mutilates texts he holds sacred, to suit his purpose, speak: about the moral attributes of devotion and loyalty?
The Rev. Frederick David Niedermeyer reveals much needed knowledge of the Decalogue and particularly of this commandment. He informs us that "The Ten Commandments are theocentric. As the heavenly bodies in our solar system are centered around the sun, so is the divine law centered in God, putting Him into the place of first consideration." [*21]
He continues with a more earthly interpretation, saying: "The Commandments were delivered orally in the hearing of the awe-struck Israelites, and later inscribed by the finger of God on two tables of stone. The size of those tables is not revealed, but they may well have been smaller than usually represented by artists." We are grateful for this information. Artists in the future should be more accurate in their description of the sacred tables of stone upon which God with his finger wrote the Ten Commandments. What about the set that God dictated to Moses? The Rev. Mr. Niedermeyer has the honesty, however, to say that, although "the Ten Commandments have a wide reputation," and "most people know something about them, far fewer really know the actual commandments." He gives as an illustration of the general ignorance of the commandments the reply of an adult who said one of the commandments was "You should not take your neighbour's cow." [*22]
He also states that "a commandment like the First might be given, indeed, by a small-minded, jealous potentate, who was hoping thereby to keep his political fences in repair and to safeguard his own authority. He might give such a law with an eye single to his own benefit, and it would seem only human to take such steps." [*23]
The Rev. J. C. Masse says, concerning this commandment: "Here is not a force setting in motion a train of sequence. Here is not original energy inherent in all matter. Here is not simply a great first cause of all substance. Here is the personal, holy God, eternal, immortal, all glorious. It is the incomparable, glorious Person who spake to Moses out of the bush."
The reverend gentleman has the integrity to include the words at the beginning of this chapter as they appear in the First Commandment, although he adds the first line of the Second Commandment. This is how he lists the First Commandment:
"I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
He continues in his analysis of this commandment: "As deep answers unto deep, so normal mankind must respond to God. Otherwise man has missed the very purpose of his being. The challenge of this first command, 'I am Jehovah thy God,' conveys all this to thoughtful, intelligent, moral mankind." [*24]
And as for the Deliverer, he makes this comment: "But He who is incomparably glorious in His person, and is to be worshiped for what He is, is none the less glorious in His works and is to be worshiped also for what he does. And so to the majesty of His name He adds a reminder of the compassion of His character, 'I am Jehovah thy God that brought thee out of the land of Egypt, that delivered thee from bondage.'" [*25]
The following gems of expression I take from the learned Reverend G. Campbell Morgan's book, The Ten Commandments: "The severity of the law of God is the necessary sequence of His infinite love. The fiery law is the most perfect expression of his love for the peoples. Let men then with reverent sincerity stand in the light of His law, that they may understand the perfection of His love."
He does, however, make one statement which is incontrovertible: "The ten words of Sinai were not ten separate commandments, having no reference to each other. They were the ten sides of the one law of God." [*26]
The Reverend John Alexander Hayes offers a rather new explanation of why there is a misconception of the commandments. He says that "the average person thinks of the size of the stone tablets, on which the commandments were inscribed, as being much larger than they really were." "Artists," he says, "have helped this mistaken conception by drawing them so." [*27] He believes that by this commandment "Atheism is forbidden." [*28]
What a convenient interpretation to stifle all opposition so as to prevent an exposé of this piece of religious dishonesty.
The theologians are wrong. "I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the house of bondage, out of the land of Egypt" are the words of the First Commandment. Any abbreviation or change is pure imposture on their part. It is a necessary introduction to the religion of the Israelites and a proper prologue to the Ten Commandments.
The e-text conversion and critical editing of this book is copyright ©1998 by Cliff Walker. The text is watermarked. If you intend to commercialize on this book in any way, please do your own e-text conversion work. This is a labor of love, honoring the role that the works of Joseph Lewis have played in my life and in the hope that the unique presentation of Joseph Lewis's works, available only on Positive Atheism, will bring the dignity to the Positive Atheism project that only this unique presentation of the writings of Joseph Lewis can bring. We hope that our readers, supporters, friends, and others can understand and appreciate the role that this -- privilege -- of being able to present the Joseph Lewis material brings to the people who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to make Positive Atheism's online presentation possible.