In light of these differences, it needs to be asked why God’s laws – which were inscribed in stone when originally given – could appear to be altered in any way. The different wordings themselves provide the best clue.
The Ten Commandments, given by God at Sinai, have played a vital role in both the Jewish and Christian faiths ever since. Indeed, given that they reflect God’s character and enshrine is perfect will for the ordering of the human race in its entirety, these ten ‘words’ have impacted the nations among which God’s people have lived and had an influence.
Considering their weight and profile, it is hardly surprising that these same laws have been the focus of much debate throughout their history – notably as to whom they apply and how they should be applied in different settings. These issues have been widely documented and discussed in many places; but there is one detail that is worth highlighting here because it is often overlooked. It is what might be described as the [apparent] ‘Sabbath discrepancy’.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Ex 20.8-11).
However, as Moses was preparing the Israelites for their entry into the Promised Land at the end of their journey, he reiterates the commandments, but with a significant alteration in the Fourth. In this instance it reads,
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 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 (Dt 5.12-15) – italics added.