Ten Commandments

biblical principles relating to ethics and worship
For the film, see The Ten Commandments (1956 film).

The Ten Commandments (עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת, Aseret ha'Dibrot), also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity. The commandments include instructions to worship only God, to honour one's parents, and to keep the sabbath day holy, as well as prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, theft, dishonesty, and coveting. Different religious groups follow different traditions for interpreting and numbering them.

"I יהוה am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods besides Me." (Exodus 20:2–3)
"You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:13)

Quotes

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"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not covet', and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8–10)
 
"We wrote for [Moses] on the Tablets ˹the fundamentals˺ of everything; commandments and explanations of all things." (Quran 7:145)
 
"Thou shalt not get found out" is not one of God's commandments, and no man can be saved by trying to keep it. ~ Leonard Bacon
 
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break! ~ Kurt Vonnegut
  • وَكَتَبْنَا لَهُۥ فِى ٱلْأَلْوَاحِ مِن كُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ مَّوْعِظَةًۭ وَتَفْصِيلًۭا لِّكُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ فَخُذْهَا بِقُوَّةٍۢ وَأْمُرْ قَوْمَكَ يَأْخُذُوا۟ بِأَحْسَنِهَا
  1. Thou shalt not kill any living creature.
  2. Thou shalt not steal.
  3. Thou shalt not break thy vow of chastity.
  4. Thou shalt not lie.
  5. Thou shalt not betray the secrets of others.
  6. Thou shalt not wish for the death of thy enemies.
  7. Thou shalt not desire the wealth of others.
  8. Thou shalt not pronounce injurious and foul words.
  9. Thou shalt not indulge in luxury (sleep on soft beds or be lazy).
  10. Thou shalt not accept gold or silver.
  • H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vo. II, Chapter III, (1877)
  • "Good master, what shall I do that I may have eternal life?" asks a man of Jesus. "Keep the commandments." "Which?" "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,"(Matthew xix. 16-18) is the answer. "What shall I do to obtain possession of Bhodi? (knowledge of eternal truth)" asks a disciple of his Buddhist master. "What way is there to become an Upasaka?" "Keep the commandments." "What are they?" "Thou shalt abstain all thy life from murder, theft, adultery, and lying," answers the master. ("Pittakatayan," book iii., Pali Version) Identical injunctions are they not? Divine injunctions, the living up to which would purify and exalt humanity... In seeking a model for his system of ethics why should Jesus have gone to the foot of the Himalayas rather than to the foot of Sinai, but that the doctrines of Manu and Gautarna harmonized exactly with his own philosophy, while those of Jehovah were to him abhorrent and terrifying? The Hindus taught to return good for evil, but the Jehovistic command was: "An eye for an eye" and "a tooth for a tooth."
    • H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol. II, Chapter III, (1877)
  • Thou shalt have one God only; who
    Would be at the expense of two?
    No graven images may be,
    except the currency:
    not at all; for for thy curse
    Thine enemy is none the worse:
    church on Sunday to attend
    serve to keep the world thy friend:
    thy parents; that is, all
    whom advancement may befall:
    Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive
    Officiously to keep alive:
    Do not adultery commit;
    Advantage rarely comes of it:
    Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
    When it's so lucrative to cheat:
    Bear not false witness: let the lie
    Have time on its own wings to fly:
    Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
    Approves all forms of competition.

    The sum of all is, thou shalt love,
    If any body, God above:
    At any rate shall never labour
    More than thyself to love thy neighbour.
    • Arthur Hugh Clough, "The Latest Decalogue", in A. L. P. Norrington, ed., The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough (1968), p. 60–61
  • DECALOGUE, n. A series of commandments, ten in number -- just enough to permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to embarrass the choice. Following is the revised edition of the Decalogue, calculated for this meridian.

    Thou shalt no God but me adore:
    'Twere too expensive to have more.

    Take not God's name in vain; select
    A time when it will have effect.

    Work not on Sabbath days at all,
    But go to see the teams play ball.

    Honor thy parents. That creates
    For life insurance lower rates.

    Kill not, abet not those who kill;
    Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.

    Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless
    Thine own thy neighbor doth caress

    Bear not false witness -- that is low --
    But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."

    Covet thou naught what thou hast not
    By hook or crook, or somehow, got.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911)
  • "Thou shalt not get found out" is not one of God's commandments, and no man can be saved by trying to keep it.
    • Leonard Bacon, reported in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 511
  • For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
    "Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
 
"Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself." (George Carlin: Complaints and Grievances)
  • Here's my problem with the Ten Commandments: why are there ten? … Why not nine, or eleven? I'll tell you why: because ten sounds official. Ten sounds important! Ten is the basis for the decimal system, it's a decade, it's a psychologically satisfying number: the top ten, the ten most wanted, the ten best dressed. So having ten commandments was really a marketing decision. … I give you my revised list of the Two Commandments: "Thou shalt always be honest and faithful to the provider of thy nookie", and "thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless of course they pray to a different invisible man than the one you pray to". Two is all you need. Moses could have carried them down the hill in his pocket, and I wouldn't mind those folks in Alabama posting them on the courthouse wall, as long as they provided one additional commandment: "Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself."
  • Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites, find their way to Egypt and become too numerous for the Pharaoh’s liking, so he enslaves them and orders that all the boys be killed at birth. Moses escapes the mass infanticide and grows up to challenge the Pharaoh to let his people go. God, who is omnipotent, could have softened Pharaoh’s heart, but he hardens it instead, which gives him a reason to afflict every Egyptian with painful boils and other miseries before killing every one of their firstborn sons. (The word Passover alludes to the executioner angel’s passing over the households with Israelite firstborns.) God follows this massacre with another one when he drowns the Egyptian army as they pursue the Israelites across the Red Sea. The Israelites assemble at Mount Sinai and hear the Ten Commandments, the great moral code that outlaws engraved images and the coveting of livestock but gives a pass to slavery, rape, torture, mutilation, and genocide of neighboring tribes. The Israelites become impatient while waiting for Moses to return with an expanded set of laws, which will prescribe the death penalty for blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, talking back to parents, and working on the Sabbath. To pass the time, they worship a statue of a calf, for which the punishment turns out to be, you guessed it, death. Following orders from God, Moses and his brother Aaron kill three thousand of their companions.
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