What do you think? Did the Ten Commandments exist before Sinai? Over the years as a Jehovah’s Witness I asked this question many times. I asked not only publishers, both brothers and sisters, but also many “mature” brothers in the organization which included elders throughout our circuit and district, 5 circuit overseers and several substitute circuit overseers. The answer I always received was, “No.” Then they would usually go on to explain that the Ten Commandments did not exist until Moses brought them down from Mount Sinai.
Let’s take just a few moments to examine this subject while keeping in mind that there are many more points that can be made in this regard. Is it true that the Ten Commandments came about some 2500 years after Adam was created as the Watchtower teaches? To answer this question we must consider what the Apostle Paul states in Romans 4:15b,
“Where there is no law, neither is there any transgression.” (New World Translation, NWT)
Let me begin by using an illustration: Suppose you are driving on a highway where no state or federal speed limit exists. If you are traveling at a speed of 80mph, can you be given a ticket for speeding? What about 90mph? How about 100mph?… The answer is no! You cannot be given a ticket for speeding where there is no law stating a maximum speed or the speed limit. In other words, where there is no law, there is no transgression. A law has to exist in order to be transgressing or “breaking” the law.
When we read the Scriptures and go back in time to the days of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4, we need to ask ourselves, was it wrong for Cain to kill Abel? Was the act of killing considered a sin? Well, was it? Yes it was! Please read Genesis 4:10-12. Jehovah said to Cain in verse 10,
“Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10)
The word translated blood is literally “bloods” in the plural form. This means that Cain was held responsible not only for killing Abel, but for killing all of his potential progeny or offspring as well. Now the question that needs to be asked is, how could it be wrong for Cain to kill Abel if there was no Commandment stating, “You must not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NWT)
In other words, how could Jehovah hold Cain responsible for Abel’s death if this Commandment did not exist until Sinai? Keep in mind that we already established from Scripture that, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15) So it seems clear that there had to have been a law or Commandment for Cain to be held accountable for killing his brother.
What about Joseph? Would it have been wrong for Joseph to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife? (Genesis 39:7-9) Please notice what Joseph said in Genesis 39:9,
“how could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?”
Notice that Joseph called this act of adultery a sin. How could this be a sin if the seventh Commandment “You must not commit adultery” did not exist until Sinai? (Exodus 20:14)
Now let’s go back to the Garden of Eden to a time even before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. After dialoguing with Eve about the trees in the Garden, the serpent said to Eve regarding the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, “You positively will not die.” (Genesis 3:4) Today, we know that this was a lie. Let me ask you, was it a sin for Satan to lie? How could it be if there was no Commandment saying, “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16, NKJV)
If the 10 Commandments did not exist before Sinai, then none of the sins mentioned above were sins. Why? Because based on Holy Scripture, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” This means that even though the 10 Commandments were not yet in writing, they must have existed. If the Ten Commandments did not exist, then Jehovah could not and would not hold these people (including Satan) accountable for breaking them because they would not have been sinning.
The fact is, many of the Ten Commandments were broken in the Garden of Eden. Not only by eating the forbidden fruit, but also by what led up to the eating of it. Here are some examples:
1) We already established that the serpent lied when he told Eve she would not die. In doing so he broke the 9th Commandment. (Genesis 3:4, Exodus 20:16)
2) It’s clear that Eve coveted the fruit. (Genesis 3:6) In coveting she broke the 10th Commandment. (Exodus 20:17) It seems likely that she also coveted the possibility of being like God. When one covets, this also breaks the 2nd Commandment about idolatry (Exodus 20:4-6) because in Colossians 3:5 the Apostle Paul said that covetousness is idolatry. In turn, breaking these 2 Commandments also breaks the 1st Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) Isn’t it true that coveting and idolatry is putting other things or even people before Jehovah, making them as gods? This can be the case with money, possessions or anything we put before our God Jehovah. Adam evidently loved Eve more than he loved Jehovah because he chose to eat the fruit and die rather than to obey his God. I also believe that Satan had the same issue of coveting, prior to the fall of man. Please read Isaiah 14:12-14.
3) Satan convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. When she and Adam ate the fruit, Satan, Adam, and Eve in effect murdered mankind, including Jesus! (Genesis 3:15, John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3) This broke the 6th Commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) John 8:44 says of Satan, “That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (NWT Emphasis mine)
4) Adam and Eve also broke the 5th Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12 Emphasis added) Were they showing honor to their Heavenly Father Jehovah when they directly disobeyed Him? Notice how this Commandment reads. It says,
“Honor your father and your mother, in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.”
This Commandment is so true, because if Adam and eve had honored Jehovah by not eating the fruit, they would still be alive today!
5) Adam and Eve broke the 7th Commandment, “You must not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) When they followed Satan instead of Jehovah, was this not Spiritual adultery? (Please see Hosea 2:16, 19, 20, Hosea 3:1-5, James 4:4)
6) They also broke the 8th Commandment, “You must not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) When they took of the fruit which Jehovah told them not to Adam and Eve took or “stole” what did not belong to them. (Genesis 2:15-17)
7) Satan broke the 3rd Commandment, “You must not take up the name of Jehovah your God in a worthless way.” As the angels of heaven looked onto this earth, (1 Corinthians 4:9) Jehovah’s name was brought into question by Satan when he accused the supreme lawgiver Jehovah of holding back from Adam and Eve the ability of knowing good and bad and being like God. (Genesis 3:5) This also insinuates that Adam and Eve felt that they did not need their creator for eternal life. In essence Satan was saying to Eve, “you yourself can be God, you don‘t need Jehovah.” When you consider the gravity of the accusation and the action taken by Adam and Eve, Wouldn’t this be treating Jehovah’s name in a worthless way?
As to whether or not Adam and Eve directly broke the Sabbath which is the 4th Commandment, the Bible does not say. However, just as the marital arrangement is Holy, so too the Sabbath is Holy. One cannot deny that both marriage and the Sabbath were created prior to sin. (Genesis 2:2, & 2:24) This also proves that the Sabbath existed before there ever was a Jew. So it’s very clear in Scripture that the Sabbath existed before Sinai as well. (Exodus 16:22-30, Exodus 20:11)
Lastly, James said,
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10 NKJV)
So in the truest sense, all of God’s 10 Commandments not only existed from the beginning, but all were broken in the garden of Eden!
Hopefully this article has helped you, the reader, to understand why I believe the 10 Commandments existed before Sinai. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to post them. 🙂