Yesterday, a 6,000 pound monument to the Ten Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Arkansas state capital building. Then that very night, someone drove into the monument and destroyed it. The driver has been arrested and it is not clear what his motives were. Maybe he was trying to emulate Moses who also smashed up the tablets on which the commandments were written (Exodus 32:19). Not many people recall that bit of the story.
Supporters of putting up the monument made the usual fatuous claims as to why it is not purely a religious symbol, saying that it “honors the roll [sic] the Ten Commandments have played in the history of the nation’s law.”
When people say that, I am pretty sure that they have no idea what the commandments say. The first four have basically no real content or legal status and consist of demands to grovel to god. Of the remaining six only two (do not kill and do not steal) have any relationship to current laws. Of the rest, three (honor your parents, do not lie, do not commit adultery) do not carry any legal penalties for violating them.
Eddie Izzard gives up some background on Moses and the commandments and thinks that the last commandment about not coveting your neighbor’s ox, wife, etc. was clearly put in by Moses to see if anyone was still paying attention to his list. Moses likely knew that we stop reading the terms and conditions agreements after the first few sentences.
Also why would Moses put wives second on the list of things to not covet, after oxes? Wouldn’t disallowing wife coveting make the adultery prohibition redundant? And what about a woman coveting her neighbor’s husband?