Ten Commandments

What are the…
The Ten Commandments

See: Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 10:4, the decalogue


The Ten Commandments are a summary of the immutable moral law.

These commandments were first given in their written form to the people of Israel when they were encamped at Sinai, about 50 days after they came out of Egypt (Exodus 19:10-25).

They were written by the finger of God on two tablets (tables) of stone.

The first tablets were broken by Moses when he brought them down from the mount (Exodus 32:19), being thrown by him on the ground. At the command of God he took up into the mount two other tablets, and God wrote on them “the words that were on the first tables” (Exodus 34:1).

These tablets were afterwards placed in the ark of the covenant (Deuteronomy 10:5; 1 Kings 8:9).

Their subsequent history is unknown.

They are as a whole called “The Covenant” (Deuteronomy 4:13), “The Tables of the covenant” (Deu. 9:9; 9:11; Hebrews 9:4), “The Testimony” and The Decalogue.

The commandments

  1. Idolatry

    “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

  2. Idol worship

    “You shall not make yourself 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. You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your 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; and showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

    • About idols in the Bible
  3. Using God’s name in vain

    “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.”

  4. Sabbath

    Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall thou labor, and do all your work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

  5. Dishonoring parents

    “Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God gives you.”

  6. Murder

    “You shall not murder.”

  7. Adultery

    “You shall not commit adultery.”

  8. Stealing

    “You shall not steal.”

  9. Lying

    “You shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

  10. Covetousness

    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”

    • What is covetousness and what does the Bible say about it?

Different divisions of the commands between the 2 tablets

The commandments are obviously “10” in number, but their division is not fixed, hence different methods of numbering them have been adopted.

  1. The Jews make the “Preface” one of the commandments, and then combine the first and second.

  2. The Roman Catholics and Lutherans combine the first and second and divide the tenth into two. The Jews and Josephus divide them equally.

  3. The Lutherans and Roman Catholics refer three commandments to the first table and seven to the second.

  4. The Greek and Reformed Churches refer four to the first and six to the second table.

  5. The Samaritans add to the second that Gerizim is the mount of worship.

More information

Article Version: May 11, 2024