Have you ever wondered why there are 10 Commandments? The number 7 is often the number of completion and perfection in the Bible, so why not stop there? Did God simply want a round number? Did 9 seem too lenient and 11 too demanding? Is there any significance at all?
Honestly, I’ve never really thought about the number of commands on those famous tablets Moses carried down the mountain in Exodus. But this is why reading theology is so rewarding. Good books will push you to ask questions you never thought to ask and show you biblical answers you never thought to look for.1
I’m currently working my way through Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum’s excellent book Kingdom Through Covenant. I discovered this book in a very helpful article by Thomas Schreiner which he wrote in response to the strange Andy Stanley comments last year. I’m still working my way through Gentry & Wellum’s book, but I found this paragraph compelling and worth sharing. It’s their comment on the 10 Commandments:
The biblical text refers to these requirements as the “Ten Words” (Ex. 34:28; Deut. 4:13; 10:4) and not as the “Ten Commandments,” as we now know them. There is, in fact, a particular reason for this and for why there are precisely ten instructions. A connection is being made between the covenant at Sinai and creation. In the creation narrative, God creates the universe by simply speaking, that is, by his word. In the Hebrew text, the verb… “and he (i.e., God) said,” occurs ten times. In a very real way, the entire creation depends or hangs on the word of God. Here the Book of the Covenant is what forges Israel into a nation. It is her national constitution, so to speak. And it is also the Ten Words that bring about the birth of the nation. Like the creation, Israel as a nation hangs for her very life on (the) ten words.2
That’s fascinating. And a sweet reminder. For our lives also hang on his very Word (Colossians 1:15-20).