What Are The Ten Commandments?

The 10 rules to live by, and what they mean to Jews and Christians

According to the Bible, the Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue (Aseret Hadibrot in Hebrew), were given to the Israelites after they escaped Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and arrived at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-14). The words of the Ten Commandments are transmitted to the people through Moses and Aaron, and are later repeated in Deuteronomy (5:6-18).

Though the Torah contains many more commandments, the Ten Commandments are considered of utmost importance. Scholars have noted that the Ten Commandments legislate two different kinds of things. The first five seem to deal with matters between God and people. The second five are rules for person-to-person interactions.

Though most of the commandments given in the Torah are not considered valid by Christians, the Ten Commandments remain a central part of both Christian and Jewish theology.

The basic text of the Ten Commandments is as follows (JPS translation):

I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods besides Me.

You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of parents upon children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God: you shall not do any work–you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Honor your father and your mother than you may long endure on the land that the Lord your God is assigning to you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house: you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his ass or anything that is your neighbor’s.

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