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Article Info:
published: 10/8/13

The 10 Commandments



What are the 10 commandments?

The 10 Commandments are a set of civil and moral laws that YHWH, the God of the Israelites, gave people through Moses, as recorded in the book of Exodus. The commandments address several areas of life from worship to marriage to legal proceedings. It is commonly observed that the first four commandments emphasize people's relationship with God and that the last six commandments emphasize people's relationship with other people. Moses received the 10 commandments while on Mt. Sinai. They were originally recorded on stone tablets. This was after the Israelites were freed from captivity in Egypt. The commandments are understood to summarize the law in it's entirety. (Follow the links for full articles on each commandment.)

1. You shall have no other gods before me

Summary: "The 1st commandment prohibits the worship of any god other than Yahweh. " (ISBE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (KJV); “You shall have no other gods before me" (ESV); "You shall have no other gods before Me" (NASB); "You shall have no other gods before me" (NIV)

Relationship focus: People and God

Prohibition: Yes

2. You shall not make for yourself any graven images

Summary: "The 2nd commandment forbids the use of images in worship; even an image of Yahweh is not to be tolerated. Yahweh's mercy is greater than His wrath; while the iniquity of the fathers descends to the third and the fourth generation for those who hate Yahweh, His mercy overflows to thousands who love Him." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:4-6, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments" (KJV)

Relationship focus: People and God

Prohibition: Yes


3. You shall not misuse the name of God

Summary: "Yahweh's name is sacred, as standing for His person; therefore it must be employed in no vain or false way. The commandment, no doubt, includes more than false swearing. Cursing, blasphemy and every profane use of Yahweh's name are forbidden." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:7, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." (KJV); "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain." (ESV)

Relationship focus: People and God

Prohibition: Yes

4. You shall keep the Sabbath

Summary: "As the 1st commandment inculcates the unity of God and the 2nd His spirituality, so also the 3commandment guards His name against irreverent use and the 4th sets apart the seventh day as peculiarly His day, reserved for a Sabbath." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:8-11, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it" (KJV)

Relationship focus: People and God

Prohibition: No

5. You shall obey your parents

Summary: "The transition from duties to God to duties to men is made naturally in the 5th commandment, which inculcates reverence for parents, to whom their children should look up with gratitude, as all men should toward the Divine Father." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:12, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."(KJV); "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you." (ESV); "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you." (NASB); "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." (NIV)

Relationship focus: People and people

Prohibition: No

6. You shall not murder

Summary: "Human life is so precious and sacred that no man should dare to take it away by violence." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:13, "Thou shalt not kill." (KJV); "You shall not murder." (ESV); "You shall not murder." (NASB); "You shall not murder." (NIV)

Relationship focus: People and people

Prohibition: Yes

7. You shall not commit adultery

Summary: "The family life is safeguarded by the 7th commandment." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:14, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (KJV); "You shall not commit adultery." (ESV); "You shall not commit adultery." (NASB); "You shall not commit adultery." (NIV)

Relationship focus: People and people

Prohibition: Yes

8. You shall not steal

Summary: "The 8th commandment forbids theft in all its forms. It recognizes the right of personal ownership of property." (IBSE)

Scripture:Exodus 20:15, "Thou shalt not steal." (KJV); "You shall not steal." (ESV); "You shall not steal." (NASB); "You shall not steal." (NIV)

Relationship focus: People and people

Prohibition: Yes

9. You shall not commit false witness

Summary: "The 9th commandment safeguards honor and good name among men. Slander, defamation, false testimony in court and kindred sins are included." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:16, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."; "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (ESV); "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (NASB); "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." (NIV)

Relationship focus: People and people

Prohibition: Yes

10. You shall not covet

Summary: "The 10th commandment is the most searching of them all, for it forbids the inward longing, the covetous desire for what belongs to another. The presence of such a deeply spiritual command among the "ten words" shows that we have before us no mere code of laws defining crimes, but a body of ethical and spiritual precepts for the moral education of the people of Yahweh." (IBSE)

Scripture: Exodus 20:17, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." (KJV); “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (ESV)

Relationship focus: People and people

Prohibition: Yes

Jesus and the 10 Commandments

Jesus Christ, in the interview with the rich young ruler, gave a recapitulation of the commandments treating of duties to men (Mark 10:19 ; Matthew 19:18 f; Luke 18:20 ). He quotes the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th commandments. The minor variations in the reports in the three Synoptic Gospels remind the student of the similar variations in Ex 20 and Dt 5. Already in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had quoted the 6th and 7th commandments, and then had gone on to show that anger is incipient murder, and that lust is adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-32 ).

He takes the words of the Decalogue and extends them into the realm of thought and feeling. He may have had in mind the 3rd commandment in His sharp prohibition of the Jewish habit of swearing by various things (Matthew 5:33-37 ). As to the Sabbath, His teaching and example tended to lighten the onerous restrictions of the rabbis (Mark 2:23-28 ). Duty to parents He elevated above all supposed claims of vows and offerings (Matthew 15:4-6 ). In further extension of the 8th commandment, Jesus said, "Do not defraud" (Mark 10:19 ); and in treating of the ethics of speech, Jesus not only condemns false witness, but also includes railing, blasphemy, and even an idle word (Matthew 15:19 ; Matthew 12:31 , Matthew 12:36 f).

In His affirmation that God is spirit ( John 4:24 ), Jesus made the manufacture of images nothing but folly. All his ethical teaching might be said to be founded on the 10th commandment, which tracks sin to its lair in the mind and soul of man. Our Lord embraced the whole range of human obligation in two, or at most three, commands: (1) "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind"; (2) "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-40 ; compare Deuteronomy 6:5 ; Leviticus 19:18 ). With love such as is here described in the heart, man cannot trespass against God or his fellow-men.

At the close of His ministry, on the night of the betrayal, Jesus gave to His followers a third commandment, not different from the two on which the whole Law hangs, but an extension of the second great commandment upward into a higher realm of self-sacrifice (John 13:34 f; John 15:12 f, 17; compare Ephesians 5:2 ; Galatians 6:10 ; 1 John 3:14-18 ). "Thou shalt love" is the first word and the last in the teaching of our Lord.

His teaching is positive rather than negative, and so simple that a child can understand it. For the Christian, the Decalogue is no longer the highest summary of human duty. He must ever read it with sincere respect as one of the great monuments of the love of God in the moral and religious education of mankind; but it has given place to the higher teaching of the Son of God, all that was permanently valuable in the Ten Commandments having been taken up into the teaching of our Lord and His apostles.

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Source:

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).