The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Ten Commandments and Me

The Dead Sea Scrolls are on tour, currently at The Discovery Center here in NYC. I went to the exhibit on New Year’s Day this year with my wife and mother-in-law (who treated us to the tickets).

The exhibit was well done, and it illuminated a big picture of the world as it was when the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and then hidden away. The exhibit was popular, almost crowded, and the section with the longest line displayed a fragment containing the earliest existing written copy of the Ten Commandments.

When I was in a Lutheran-based parochial school, I was taught that the Ten Commandments could be divided into two parts: the commandments regarding our duty to God, and then the ones regarding our responsibility to our fellow man. God’s wishes were simple. Worship Him, obey Him, no other gods, etc. And our responsibility to our fellow man was also pretty obvious: no killing, no stealing, no lying, no cheating with your neighbor’s spouse, honor your parents.

I do not identify myself as a “christian,” but I like & respect a lot of Jesus’ teachings. When it comes to the Ten Commandments, Jesus gave us a new one in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” It was so important, he repeated it again in John 15:12 “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (King James Version) And you know, if you follow this new commandment, it basically takes care of all the “no stealing, no killing, no cheating” stuff.

But as I was looking at the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit, I realized you could divide the Ten Commandments into three sections, not two, as I had been taught. There is that commandment about “coveting,”  (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. Exodus 20:17, King James Version) and yes, at first glance it does seem to be about our neighbors, but really it is telling us how to be. This commandment is for our own mental, emotional & spiritual well-being. It is telling us to stay focused on our needs, our own desires and ourselves. How can you “follow your bliss” if you are keeping an eye on your neighbor’s achievements?

My wife’s grandmother often told her “The only reason you should ever look in another person’s bowl is to make sure they have enough to eat, too.”

So, not bad: Keep your eyes on your own prize, and only keep an eye on your neighbors to see if they need any help. Sounds like a good way to live…


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  2. Love it! Bravo! Makes perfect sense to me. Seems that anyone who knew ANYTHING about ANYTHING in life was always counseling us to focus on ourselves, mind our business, be respectful and kind to others and all will be well. Seems like we have a lot of horses be lead to water, but some will only drink right before they die of thirst! lol We’re all a work in progress; my hopes and dreams are that we, some day, become a great Masterpiece collectively.

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  4. Thank you for the post such a great reminder that the focus should be on what we are doing, what we are accomplishing and not looking over our shoulder at what someone is doing…..

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Ahh the wisdom of grandmothers. Maybe we should reinstate listening to our elders (& I don’t believe you’re an Elder just because you’ve accumulated a lot of years)

  7. Suzanne says:



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