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The Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, are a list of religious and moral imperatives that, according to the Hebrew Bible, were spoken by God (referred to in several names) to the people of Israel from the mountain referred to as Mount Sinai or Horeb, and later authored by God and given to Moses in the form of two stone tablets. They are recognized as a moral foundation in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In Biblical Hebrew, the commandments are called (transliterated Aseret ha-Dvarîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew (transliterated Aseret ha-Dibrot), both translatable as "the ten words" or "the ten things." The English name "Decalogue" is derived from the Greek translation dekalogos "ten terms", found in the Septuagint at Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4.
The phrase "Ten Commandments" is generally used to refer to similar passages in Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21. Some scholars distinguish between this "Ethical Decalogue" and a different series of ten commandments in Exodus 34:11–27 that they call the "Ritual Decalogue". Although Exodus 34 contains ten imperative statements, the passages in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 contain fourteen or fifteen. However, the Bible assigns the count of ten to both lists. Various denominations divide these statements into ten in different ways, and may also translate the Commandments differently.
Exodux 20: 2-17
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
3 Do not have any other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The first Biblical text to refer to the commandments are found in Chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus, in which they are spoken by God to the Children of Israel. The biblical passages also refer to ten commandments being written by God on stone, in the form of two stone tablets known as the Tablets of Stone, also referred to as "Tablets of Testimony" or "Tablets of the Covenant", that God gave to Moses during 40 day-and-night stay on Mount Horeb. Moses then gave them to the people of Israel in the third month after their Exodus from Egypt. Israel's receipt of the commandments occurred on the third day of preparations at the foot of the mount.
The Biblical narrative continues that after receiving the commandments and returning from Mount Horeb, Moses saw that the Israelites had "defiled themselves", and that his brother, Aaron, had made a Golden Calf and an altar in front of it. Moses, in terrible anger, broke the tablets.
God later offered Moses to inscribe two other tablets, to replace the ones Moses smashed. Moses appears as the writer in Exodus, God himself in Deuteronomy. This second set, brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses, was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, hence designated as the "Ark of the Testimony."
The Bible also makes other references to the commandments. References to them and the consequences for not following them are found throughout the Book of Deuteronomy.
Typical Protestant view
For those Christians who believe that the Ten Commandments continue to be binding for Christians (see also Old Testament—Christian view of the Law), their negative and positive content can be summarized as follows.
Preface: vs 1–2
Implies the obligation to keep all of the commandments of God, in gratitude because of the abundance of his mercy.
Forbids ingratitude to God and denial that he is our God.
1. vs 3
Enjoins that God must be known and acknowledged to be the only true God, and our God; and, to worship him and to make him known as he has been made known to us.
Forbids not worshiping and glorifying the true God as God, and as our God; and forbids giving worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.
2. vs 4–6
Requires receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed; and zeal in resisting those who would corrupt worship; because of God's ownership of us, and interest in our salvation.
Prohibits the worshiping of God by images, or by confusion of any creature with God, or any other way not appointed in his Word. (According to the traditional presbyterian and reformed view, this commandment also prohibits any man-made inventions to worship, which formed a basis for their criticism of Roman Catholic liturgies.)
3. vs 7
Enjoins a holy and a reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
Forbids all abuse of anything by which God makes Himself known. Some Protestants, especially in the tradition of pacifism, read this Commandment as forbidding any and all oaths, including judicial oaths and oaths of allegiance to a government, noting that human weakness cannot foretell whether such oaths will in fact be vain.
4. vs 8–11
Requires setting apart to God such set times as are appointed in his Word. Many Protestants are increasingly concerned that the values of the marketplace do not dominate entirely, and deprive people of leisure and energy needed for worship, for the creation of civilized culture. The setting of time apart from and free from the demands of commerce is one of the foundations of a decent human society. See Sabbath.
Forbids the omission, or careless performance, of the religious duties, using the day for idleness, or for doing that which is in itself sinful; and prohibits requiring of others any such omission, or transgression, on the designated day.
5. vs 12
The only commandment with explicitly positive content, rather than a prohibition; it connects all of the temporal blessings of God, with reverence for and obedience to authority, and especially for father and mother.
Forbids doing anything against, or failing to give, the honor and duty which belongs to anyone, whether because they possess authority or because they are subject to authority.
6. vs 13
Requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.
Forbids taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly (Just taking of life includes self-defense, executions by the magistrate and times of war.); and, anything that tends toward depriving life. By extension it condemns even verbal abuse and anger, as exmplified by Christ's interpretation in the sermon on the mount.
7. vs 14
Enjoins protection of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.
Forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.
8. vs 15
Requires a defense of all lawful things that further the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
Prohibits whatever deprives our neighbor, or ourselves, of lawfully gained wealth or outward estate.
9. vs 16
Requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between people, and of our neighbor’s good name and our own, especially in witness-bearing.
Forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s, good name.
10. vs 17
Enjoins contentment with our own condition, and a charitable attitude toward our neighbor and all that is his, being thankful for his sake that he has whatever is beneficial to him, as we are for those things that benefit us.
Forbids discontent or envy, prohibits any grief over the betterment of our neighbor's estate, and all inordinate desires to obtain for ourselves, or scheming to wrest for our benefit, anything that is his.
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