both exodus and deuteronomy contain versions of the ten commandments. there are differences between the two. one notable difference is in the sabbath commandment. the sabbath commandments offer different reasons for the sabbath. the one in exodus explains that shabbat is to commemorate the creation of the world and god’s resting on the seventh day. the deuteronomy chapter 5 version explains that the sabbath commemorates the freedom from slavery via the exodus.
is there a reason why there are two versions of the ten commandments? the toldot torah may offer a clue.
we start with the inquiries, prior to moses, were there any commandments, statutes or instruction provided by the master of the universe? if so, who received them?
in the toldot torah portion, the master of the universe’s encounter with isaac notes that that abraham kept god’s charge, commandments, statutes and instruction. genesis 25:6. the hebrew word for commandments used was “mitzvotay” and for instruction “torahtay.” with abraham, mitzvot- commandments- and torah- instruction, were present.
assuming that abraham received a version of the ten commandments, the sabbath commandment, which commemorated the exodus, would not have made sense. it marked an event long after his passing. thus, if abraham did receive the ten commandments, sabbath commandment would have made reference to god’s resting on the seventh day after creation as the basis.
the toldot passage, however, does not place abraham’s descendents and the future children of israel out of moral controversy. toldot holds nothing back with respect to irony. in toldot, it is isaac’s son jacob who arguably wins the triple crown in commandment breaking. in record time, with his meeting with isaac to get esau’s blessing, he lies, he dishonors his father, and he steals. this episode serves to morally awake the readers. it remains one of the torah’s most controversial stories.
in sum, some may question the ten commandments based upon the fact that there are two versions. the fact that there are two versions of the commandments, however, makes logical sense based upon the scripture.