Beck: Our Laws Based on Ten Commandments

Beck: Our Laws Based on Ten Commandments January 10, 2014

I have always been baffled by the claim that our laws are based on the Ten Commandments. This is a claim that can only be made by someone who is either a liar or hasn’t bothered reading them. Glenn Beck is the latest to make this absolutely ridiculous claim.

How could our laws possibly be based on the Ten Commandments when 7.5 out of 10 of them would violate the Constitution if enforced? Only the laws against theft and murder can be implemented in this country (and the law against bearing false witness sometimes, as in perjury — thus 7.5) and those things are illegal in every country no matter what their religious history is.

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  • busterggi

    Beck is saying “based on” in the sense that Hollywood adaptions of books are “based on” them. The names of the main characters are usually the same (though not any secondary characters) and the plot and ending may be completely different.

  • Beck is right. Just the other day, I got a ticket for 3rd degree coveting of my neighbor’s ass.

  • Doug Little

    I like George Carlin’s take on the 10 commandments the best.

  • You can give it an even 7; the “false witness” thing means just what it sounds like, and is not a general prohibition on lying or gossip but a specific injunction against perjury/lying in court.

  • Alverant

    Also remember the first three commandments are often used to violate the other seven (especially those about not murdering, killing, or lying).

    Which commandment did we get the idea of “voting for your leaders” or “freedom of expression”, two key values in the USA, from?

  • Larry

    God damn it, I’m so going to jail!

  • jnorris

    Mr Beck is correct, he is using a copy of the Secret Constitution that only David Barton owns.

  • The commandments against coveting could be argued to be anti-American. They can also be argued to be against the Prosperity Gospel a lot of US preachers preach in one form or another.

  • John Pieret

    I think the “logic” goes like this:

    We are a nation of laws.

    Our nation was founded by “Christians,” though people like George Washington (vague Providentialist who went to church less than Obama and never took communion), John Adams (didn’t believe in the Trinity) and Thomas Jefferson (who thought Jesus was just a man) wouldn’t be considered “Christian” by the wingnut right, anymore than Beck is.

    The Christian “values” of the Founders somehow became out laws.

    Since “Christian values” are somehow tied to the 10 Commandments, ergo the 10 Commandments are somehow the basis of our laws.

    In short, it is tribalism based on nothing more than vague feelings of “we” being the source of all that’s “right” in the US (and ignoring all that is wrong about it) and, therefore, any symbol of “our” tribe is fundamental (pun intended) to America.

  • vmanis1

    He’s right, but only in a trivial sense. Obviously, educated lawmakers were/are familiar with the Ten Commandments, just as they would be with many other legal documents, from the Code of Hammurabi on. I have argued here that, shorn of religious language, the remaining Commandments offer good rules for living (even the Sabbath rule can be traced into modern employment standards laws on hours of work.). So it doesn’t surprise me that there would be some overlap. But to read anything more into that would be like seeing a link between the height of the Washington Monument (555 feet) and the long-distance Directory Assistance number (555-1212).

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    First commandment:

    Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

    First amendment:

    Congess shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    I’m convinced.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne


  • D. C. Sessions

    I think the “logic” goes like this:

    We are a nation of laws.

    * The Decalog is the original law code

    * Therefore, our country is based on the Decalog.

  • Our laws bear more resemblance to the code of Hammurrabi, which predates the bible quite handily. I guess this country’s legal system is Zoroastrian, dipshit?

  • Sastra

    I wouldn’t put it past Beck or other theocrats who insist that “we got our laws from the 10 Commandments” to believe that it wasn’t the specific details of the laws that mattered, it was that the very concept of “law” itself was introduced to the world when Moses brought down the 10 Commandments.

    Before that, there was no concept that any action or behavior should be prevented because it was wrong. Oh no. All countries, nations, and tribes before this moment were just stumbling around with the idea that whoever is powerful can make and enforce a rule for completely arbitrary reasons, and then it can be changed with a new leader. Might makes right.

    It wasn’t until this vague free-for-all of competing individual desires was replaced by the idea that the rules need to be made by an All-powerful, never-changing Ultimate Being — one who made everything and owns everything forever — that the real concept of “law” was formed. THAT’S what a law is. MIGHT makes right. There you go.

    The 10 Commandments could be taken from that bizarre list regarding the Feast of Unleavened Bread and ‘Thou Shalt Not’ boil a kid in its mother’s milk’ and Beck et al would still be insisting that the Constitution of the United States came right from it. Doesn’t matter what it says. The only thing they care about is Who is saying it — and associating that with the idea that THIS step is what makes something really right or really wrong and therefore a “law.”

    Divine Command Theory of Morality, where ethics are displaced by obedience. Yeah, that’s what grounds a Constitution based on equality, rights, and We the People. Morons.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    @Marcus Ranum:

    Is there a connection between Hammurabi and Zoroastrianism that I don’t know about?

  • Doug Little

    jnorris @7,

    Mr Beck is correct, he is using a copy of the Secret Constitution that only David Barton owns and has interpreted it incorrectly with the intent to deceive

    I added a little bit.

  • matty1

    Is there a connection between Hammurabi and Zoroastrianism that I don’t know about?

    Both will get you a high score in scrabble.

  • Is there a connection between Hammurabi and Zoroastrianism that I don’t know about?

    I got that wrong. My bad! I’ll get those facts a bit more sorted out next time. (and I misspelled H’s name, which probably would have gotten me in a lot of trouble back in the day…)

    It really chaps my ass when christians (or even members of sects of christians that were founded an eyeblink ago, like the mormons) claim that their god basically invented morality with the 10 commandments. Because there were lots and lots of commandments – including Hammurabi’s and some Chinese bodies of law – which actually attempted to establish a society rather than being a 10-point powerpoint of “I am the baddest!” from some psychotic yahweh-come-lately god. Hamurrabi did ground his laws in the divine right of kings, because that was how it was done in those days, but that hardly disqualifies him.

  • PS – Barack Obama is probably a self-hating Zoroastrian Marxist Muslim, come to think of it!

  • kevinalexander

    I think it really boils down to which ten commandments you’re talking about. Is it the Ten Commandments of the bible or the Ten Commandments of wherever planet Glenn Beck is from.

  • Sastra

    Hammurabi did not make laws — he only made hypotheses.

  • or the Ten Commandments of wherever planet Glenn Beck is from.

    Probably the Cecil B. DeMille version.

  • Let us assume, just for the moment, that Beck is right. The next question is, WHICH Ten Commandments. The only piece of the Hebrew Scriptures that is actually labeled “The Ten Commandments” is Exodus 34:12-27. Those commandments are:

    1. Worship only Yahweh and destroy the alters of other gods.

    2. Make no idols.

    3. Observe Passover.

    4. Observe the Sabbath.

    5. Observe Shavuot.

    6. All men must appear before the Temple of God three times each year.

    7. Offer no blood with any sacrifice containing leaven.

    8. The Passover sacrifice must be completely eaten by sunrise.

    9. The first fruits belong to Yahweh.

    10. You shall not seeth a kid in its mother’s milk.

    So… how is this the basis for US law?

  • vmanis1

    Gregory, those aren’t the ten commandments I learned :). The Wikipedia page on `The ten commandments’ has a pretty good synoptic table showing the two versions found in the Torah, Exodus 20: 1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21. Depending on how you count them (unaccountably, the Israelites didn’t have Powerpoint, and so didn’t bullet them clearly), you get the following: 1. No other gods before God. 2. No worshipping idols. 3. Don’t go claiming you speak in God’s name. 4. Keep the Sabbath. 5. Honor your parents. 6. No murdering. 7. No adultery. 8. No stealing. 9. No lying in court. 10. No coveting.

    So, on a scorecard: 1, 2, 3: religious only. 4: shows up, as I said earlier in employee hours of work legislation, but mostly personal conduct. 5, 7, 10: personal conduct. 6, 8, 9: legal. (Though, to be honest, if we implemented Commandment 3, it would put all televangelists out of business.)

    So, as I said, overlap, yes, but nothing more than that.

    By the way, I’m always puzzled by the right-wing enthusiasm for the last commandment. Surely, covetousness is the engine that drives the capitalist economy. If I don’t covet my neighbor’s iPad, then I’m not going to work long hours to earn the money to buy one. Surely, condemning covetousness is a form of communism, especially if Pres Obama did it.

    Trivia point: there are actually 11 commandments, as the first one by count is `I am the Lord your God’, which doesn’t really seem to be much of a commandment, more of a testimonial or a self-introduction.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Religions are specifically designed to work like that. The holy text is always vague and contradictory enough so that it can be interpreted in many different ways. An outsider won’t be fooled, but a believer can get his holy book to agree with every thought that passes through his mind.

  • Other than the number 10, which is the number of rights in the Bill of Rights, there is nothing in common.

    Commandment 1, for instance, is at complete odds with Amendment I. The former requires you to worship and acknowledge only Yahweh, whereas the latter simply breaks that by allowing one to worship anyone, or even not worship anyone.

  • joeschoeler

    vmanis1: Moses breaks the first set of commandment tablets and has to go back up the mountain to get a second set (Exodus 34). Apparently god has a bad memory because the replacement commandments are pretty different and not the ones you usually hear about.

  • @vmanis1 #25 – Ah, but the one and only time that the phrase “Ten Commandments” occurs in the whole of the Christian canon is Exodus 34:28, describing the verses immediately before. Nowhere does Scripture call the set in Exodus 20 “the Ten Commandments.”

    Which should illustrate quite clearly the idiocy of these “Biblical literalists” who cannot even be bothered to quote the section that the Bible itself calls the Ten Commandments.

  • dshetty

    I wonder what the obsession with the ten commandments is ? A good number of Christians simply believe that whatever Jesus taught overrides any ten commandment (irrespective of biblical verses for and against Jesus’ support for the commandments)

  • lpetrich

    I’ve compared Jesus Christ’s actions to various moral codes, including both sets of Biblical Ten Commandments. He violated some of them, though by no means all of them — he didn’t worship any pagan gods. Here’s what he did violate:

    * Don’t work on the Sabbath. He worked miraculous cures during Sabbath days and he claimed that it was OK to collect food for oneself on such days.

    * Honor your father and mother. He violated that one and he encouraged his followers to do so. He showed disrespect to his mother, he claimed that no man, not even your human father, is worthy of the title “father”, he said to someone who wanted to bury his dead father “Let the dead bury their dead”, and he stated that his fellow followers are one’s real family.

    * Don’t murder. At least if gratuitously killing some pigs and a fig tree would count.

    * Don’t steal. He told his followers to steal a colt and a donkey so he could ride them into Jerusalem.

    * Don’t commit adultery. He obstructed justice in an adultery case.

    Many of our laws have nothing to do with either set of 10C’s, or anything else in the Bible, for that matter. The Bible nowhere states that leaders are to be elected or that there are to be legislative councils. The Senate was not named after anything in the Bible. Where do these scriptural percussionists think that words like “democracy” and “republic” came from?

  • Funny thing is, non-jews are supposed to follow something called the Noachian Laws.

  • Marcus Ranum (#14) –

    Our laws bear more resemblance to the code of Hammurrabi, which predates the bible quite handily.

    It’s not just the ten condiments that are a poor third-hand rewrite and ripoff of the Code of Hammurabi, the story behind it is as well. Or am I just imagining that “Marduk burnt the code into stone with light” sounds like the fable of moses?

    Beck isn’t much for history lessons, he’s more interested in history lessens. He makes up things as he goes along or rewrites it and expects that no one will fact check him.

  • blf

    Other than the number 10, which is the number of rights in the Bill of Rights, there is nothing in common.

    When the Bill of Rights was originally passed by Congress, it contained twelve amendments. Only ten were ratified initially. One of the “missing” two was later ratified as the 27th Amendment, the other one has never been ratified.

  • :PS – Barack Obama is probably a self-hating Zoroastrian Marxist Muslim, come to think of it!/?

    Look without knowing whether he’s an Orthodox, Reform or New Thought self-hating Zoroastrian Marxist Muslim you STILL have no idea what he believes!

    Side note:

    When Moses moseyed down the mountain with 10Cv1.0 and lost his shit, breaking them and having to go back for 10Cv2.0 what did he say as he dashed them to the ground? It sure as shit wasn’t, “JESUS F. CHRIST!”.

  • dingojack

    Blf – I suppose I could look it up (I’m a lazy shit), but what was it, out of interest?


  • had3

    @ 35 Democommie: he said “Zipporah, bring me mead an clean this mess up.”

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ had3 & dingojack & democommie :

    Apparently according to this source :

    The first words he said – after smashing the tablets, seizing and burning the golden calf and grinding that into powder and forcing some of the Israelites to drink it was : ” ‘Whoever is for Yahweh, come to me!'” ( Exodus 32:25-26)

    *shrug* I don’t get it either.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Moses NEXT words to tehLevites who followed those words :

    ‘Buckle on your sword, each of you, and go up and down the camp from gate to gate, every man of you slaughtering brother, friend, and neighbor.’ (Exodus 32:27)

    Same source as linked above.

    Kind of out of character since Moses had just earlier prevented God from massacring everyone arguing God down from wiping out the Israelites in Exodus 32:12.

    Source :

    Plus reading the earlier chapter it seems Moses had to remind a forgetful God that he’d already told everyone to stay away from the mountain (Mt Sinai) on pain of being executed by arrow fire or stoning. (same link keep clicking back.)

    Sure is a lot in the words of the actual original Moses getting the commandmants story there that isn’t commonly recalled or considered!

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    The US constitution and laws are based on the Christian bible? Yea… no.

    The US constitution is the first modern western constitution which is expressly secular and says that religion shall form no part of government. It was expressly intended to be rooted in “natural law”, not “Christian’s law”. For the declaration of independence, which isn’t legally binding anyway, they talk about “nature’s law” and “nature’s god”, which is how they meant “creator”.

    Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion are all concepts not found in the Christian bible. The fundamental idea of this country is for people to rule over people by the people for the people’s benefit, and not for the Christian god nor any other personal god. Democracy and our constitution is an explicit rejection that the government should enforce any religious view.

    What remains of the good morals of the 10 commandments and the Christian bible – such as do not steal, do no murder, etc. -predate Christianity and also appear in basically all other cultures. Thus, to call those values “Christian” is dishonest. They’re human values, not Christian values.

  • blf

    dingo “lazy shit” jack@36, The “missing” amendment is known as the Congressional Apportionment Amendment and says:

    After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

    Interrestingly, according to Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge (above link), this amendment may have actually been “ratified”:

    It was widely believed that Connecticut never voted for any of the amendments including the Apportionment Amendment and ceremoniously ratified the Bill of Rights in 1939 along with Georgia and Massachusetts. However, voting recordings in the Connecticut Archives show that both the lower and upper houses of Connecticut clearly voted to ratify Article the First in 1789 and 1790 respectively over two different legislative sessions. Those votes would be the official state ratification for Connecticut. Since Connecticut did vote for the Congressional Apportionment Amendment, a suit was filed with the Supreme Court asking the court to decide a political issue and require the Archivist of the USA to accept as ratified the amendment. The Supreme Court denied without comment, the petition in 2013. …

    That bit of the story is new to me. Apparently, there has been some attempts to interpret the amendment as saying there a house member can represent at most 50,000 people, albeit it clearly does not say that. (This may have been what the denied petition to the Supreme Court was really about ?)

  • dingojack

    Stevo – thanks for the information that I never asked for (can’t speak for the others).

    Just out of interest I like using the site, it allows you use (and compare) different versions of the text.


  • peterh


    e-Sword is a free, downloadable program where various translations can be viewed singly or side-by-side. It also has numerous commentaries, and especially useful is an extensive list of early church father writings which can be shown to blow much modern Xianism out of the water.