Creation and the Ten Commandments


Gary B. Swanson


Creation and the Ten Commandments

In an interesting and maybe unexpected observation, Joseph Ratzinger pointed out the correspondence between the words “God said” appearing 10 times in the Creation account with the Ten Commandments later in the Pentateuch. “In this way,” he writes, “the creation narrative anticipates the Ten Commandments. This makes us realize that these Ten Commandments are, as it were, an echo of the creation; for they are not arbitrary inventions for the purpose of erecting barriers to human freedom but signs pointing to the spirit, the language, and the meaning of creation; they are a translation of the language of the universe a translation of God’s logic, which constructed the universe.”1

These profound thoughts were authored by the man who later became Pope Benedict XVI (2005–2016). It is interesting to note his connection in thinking between Creation and the Ten Commandments. In doing so, he sets out to show a central truth—that the Ten Commandments are truly an expression of God’s underlying intention for life on this earth, in fact, a fulfillment of God’s character itself.

There is, of course, always some risk of stretching the significance of biblical numbers into unnatural and unintended doctrinal conclusion. Was there truly deliberate repetition of “God said” when He inspired Moses to write these first few words of the Old Testament?

But for any Christian reader, there is surely at least an acceptance that numerical coincidences may occur that carry—or at least support—truths elsewhere stated explicitly in Scripture. Can it be truly mere happenstance that there were 12 tribes of Israel and 12 disciples—and that there will be 12 gates into the New Jerusalem?

To return, then, to the possibility that the occurrence 10 times of “God said” in the very first chapter of the Book of Genesis, accounting for the creation of everything, resonates in a universal way with His Ten Commandments, which He wrote on the tablets with His finger, several ideas emerge. The next instance after the Creation in which “God said” something was after Adam and Eve had made the fatal and tragic mistake of eating of the fruit of the tree.

“In the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8, KJV), God came looking for the couple, who were now in hiding. Given the circumstances, can anyone truly say they would have done differently from that couple in Eden? But, as if God didn’t know exactly where they were, He calls out: “‘Where are you?’” (3:9, NKJV). It certainly cannot be overlooked that this is the very first question recorded in Scripture—that the first question uttered by God was a searching way of asking, “Where are you in your relationship to Me?”

Thereupon the finger-pointing began. Adam claimed his sole companion was responsible for the way things had become and even implied that God Himself should be accountable (vs. 12). Eve said she was seduced by the serpent (vs. 13).

In point of fact, God’s question, “‘Where are you?’” was intended to show that in the eating of the fruit, each of them had removed themselves from a relationship with Him as expressed in what He later would outline in those Ten Commandments. What “God said” in the Creation week He said again as He wrote out the more explicit description of His character and handed it to Moses on those two tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai.

Moses himself, in fact, underscored the integral connection between the Creation and the Ten Commandments in quoting God’s fourth of these commandments: “‘In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them’” (Ex. 20:11, NIV). Interestingly, when Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments in the later Book of Deuteronomy, the keeping of the Sabbath is to be a reminder of God’s redemption of His people from slavery. “‘Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day’” (5:15, NIV).

The apparent difference in these two iterations of the Fourth Commandment as they appear, respectively, in Exodus and Deuteronomy is explained in the Andrews Study Bible: “There is a close connection between the creation and redemption reasons for the Sabbath in Ex. 20 and Deut. 5; deliverance from Egypt, which God accomplished through His mighty creative power (Exodus 7–14), restored to His people the freedom that they should have been enjoying since creation.”2

For both reasons, then—if they are truly two different reasons—the importance of the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is clearly proclaimed. And this is a spiritual standard upheld by all of Scripture, not just in these first couple of references. Throughout the Holy Word, in both Old and New Testaments, the Sabbath is upheld in principle and in act.

So, it may come as something of a wonder to read of Cardinal Ratzinger’s observation that the Ten Commandments “are not arbitrary inventions,” but “a translation of the language of the universe.”3 How is it, then, that this future pope, and the vast majority of the other 2.3 billion Christians worldwide, rest for the Sabbath—if it can be said that they rest at all—on another day than the seventh day of the week?



1. Joseph Ratzinger, “In the Beginning . . .”: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 26; quoted in Stratford Caldecott, Beauty for Truth’s Sake (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2009), 15.

2. Andrews Study Bible (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 2010), 226, marginal note.

3. Ratzinger, “In the Beginning . . .”: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall.