When Man Was First Aware of God's Law
Many Christians assume that the Ten Commandments did not exist in the Old Testament before they were officially given in Exodus 20. But is this assumption Biblical? A close look at scripture reveals that breaking the Ten Commandments was sin well before the covenant at Mount Sinai. So we find the 10 Commandments were both spoken and written first by God Himself.
It was sometime around 1400 to 1500 B.C. when God spoke directly to the Israelites from Mount Sinai located in a desert region south and west of modern day Israel. Here God spoke the Ten Commandments from the mountain top directly to the people as they trembled below in fear. They were so frightened by the sound of His voice that they pleaded with Moses for God not to speak to them. When God spoke these Ten Commandments, did He reveal something entirely new to the Israelites and to the gentile nations of the world through them? Or did they already know the Ten Commandments even though God had not yet “codified” or officially written them down?
There was a law written by Moses (Mosaic Law) and this law (given to him by God) is never associated with the eternal moral code, the Ten Commandments, which has in fact operated from the very beginning of human history. Even though the Ten Commandments were not written down until Mount Sinai, they were understood and honored by the earliest patriarchs. Even Cain knew that it was a sin to kill because we find in Genesis 4:7 that God told him “sin lieth at the door” when he murdered his brother Abel.
It is not possible for sin to exist where there is no law. God's Word teaches “where no law is, there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15. And again we are told in 1 John 3:4, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” We see this principle further amplified by Paul in Romans 7:7 when he says, “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” These scriptures alone prove that no sin can be imputed where the Ten Commandment law is not in effect. This is absolute proof that the moral law was in effect at the very beginning of the Old Testament. And why wouldn't it be?
The statement by God to Cain about sin lying at the door is in reference to his plan to kill Abel which is a violation of one of the Commandments. The Ten Commandments though not yet codified had to exist from the very beginning of the Old Testament or Cain could not be guilty of the sin of murder and lying. (Genesis 4:8-9) This breaks the sixth and ninth Commandments. Joseph also revealed that he was aware of this same Ten Commandment law. In Genesis 39:9, he said to Potiphar's wife, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and SIN against God.” Joseph knew that adultery was a sin against God. This is breaking the seventh Commandment. And Genesis 13:13 says the “the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” Since sin violates God's Ten Commandment law, the sinful and wicked people of Sodom could not have been punished if there was no law that condemned them for what they were doing. Therefore, God must have had already made known what is sinful.
Below are a few examples of breaking the Ten Commandments found in the first Old Testament book of Genesis.
· Genesis 3:1-24 Adam and Eve
· Genesis 4:1-16 Cain
· Genesis 6:5-12 Noah
· Genesis 18:20-23 Sodom and Gomorrah
· Genesis 20:1-20 Abimelech and Abraham
· Genesis 26:5-10 Abimelech and Isaac
· Genesis 39:7-9 Joseph and Potiphar's wife
Is there any more solid evidence that these people actually knew God's Commandments and laws? We find that Abraham was applauded by God in Genesis 26:5 with these words: “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” What Commandments and laws if the Ten Commandments had not been given in the Old Testament before Exodus 20? It is obvious that the law which Abraham faithfully kept was not the Mosaic Law, because this law was not given until 430 years later. And we have already established that the Ten Commandments existed before Abraham by the condemning of Cain by God for the sin of murder.
There is no doubt that another law was added 430 years later, and that it was in addition to the one Abraham obeyed so diligently.
"This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise." Gal.3:17.(NLT)
See the 10 Commandments in the N.T.