The 10 commandments were a moral code given by God who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. These laws were inscribed by God on two stone tablets (Exodus 31:18) and given to Moses, who had to share them with Israel. The exact Biblical record can be found in the Old Testament books of Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
The Complete Ten Commandments List
- You shall have no other Gods before me
- You shall not make for yourself a carved image
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
- Honor your father and your mother
- 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
Meaning and Commentary
Below we’ll provide the meaning alongside brief commentary about each commandment.
1) You shall have no other Gods before me
The first commandment is all about God declaring to His people that He is their Lord, Creator and the only living God.
This means that the Israelites shall not bow to or worship strange gods (e.g. Egyptian deities) or men (e.g. the pharaoh). Or in other words, God’s chosen people were to forget and abandon any view of a deity from their period of slavery in the land of Egypt.
2) You shall not make for yourself a carved image
As a direct continuation of the first law, in the second of the ten commandments, the Lord reveals that He is a jealous God – a jealous God who wouldn’t tolerate idol worship.
Idolatry is an abomination to God who will even punish children to the third generation for the sins of their parents as evident in the Bible verses mentioned above.
Or in other words, God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children, and upon the children’s children etc.
But later on in Exodus 20:6, we see that God will show mercy to those who keep His commandments – “But showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments”.
Just think about all the idols that people have nowadays – from rock stars to athletes and TV hosts.
3) You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
The Lord your God says “keep my commandments” and don’t misuse the name of the Lord as the Creator will not hold him guiltless who does this. Any false oaths and swearing that includes God are forbidden.
Now think about how often we tend to use the Lord’s name in vain. In fact, we use many commonly used phrases and exclamations that misuse God’s name without even realizing it.
4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
In the fourth (out of the ten commandments), God reveals that the 7th day is a Sabbath: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God”. Remember – the Lord your God first blessed the Sabbath day in Genesis 2:3 after He made heaven and earth in six days.
So the Lord blessed the Sabbath as a day for rest. A day that we dedicate to our Creator and a day that reminds us of how He created everything. We live in such a fast-paced world and it might be challenging to dedicate the Sabbath to the Lord.
However, being busy is not an excuse for not keeping the Sabbath holy because “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.
Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” (Exodus 20:11).
5) Honor your father and your mother
Here God is commanding us to honor our earthly parents as the Lord promises the following thing in Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
Respecting your parents is common sense and apparently, God approves such behavior.
Although honoring your father and mother is something that we are taught at a young age, we still witness how children rebel against their parents. But children being disobedient to their parents in the last days is something that’s mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:2.
6) You shall not murder
The sixth commandment is the one among all ten commandments that states that we shall not murder each other. Our lives have value and we are made in the image of God and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
However, note that murder is the intentional act of taking someone’s life. There are certain differences between accidental death or death due to war and murder in Hebrew.
7) You shall not commit adultery
God wants us to be faithful to our spouses and to respect marriage as an example of devotion and faithfulness in connection to the Lord. We are to be obedient to our marriage vows and to keep our beds undefiled. We shall not commit adultery.
Even Apostle Paul quotes “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” in Romans 13:9.
8) You shall not steal
The last five out of ten commandments all start with “you shall not…” and here we are told: you shall not steal. God who brought His people from bondage desires for none of us to be a pickpocketer or a purse-snatcher.
Theft of different types of and levels has literally crippled our society in the 21st century. From cyber thieves to home burglars, today stealing is considered a “normal” part of life.
9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
The Lord your God forbids all forms of forgery and bribery, as evident in this commandment number nine out of a total of ten commandments.
God wants us to live in truth and avoid any form of backbiting or slander.
10) You shall not covet
Verse 17 in Exodus 20 states “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s”.
Thus, you shouldn’t covet your neighbor’s wife, nor anything he or she possesses. Instead, concentrate on the good things and blessings that God has provided in your life.
Are There 10 or 11 Commandments?
There are 10 commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai as recorded in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. However, note that certain denominations might count them differently (e.g. protestant and catholic churches)
Although other specific commandments in the Bible come from the New Testament (Matthew 22:36-40), where Jesus Christ explains what the greatest commandment in the law is.
And Jesus’ answer is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”.
Nonetheless, the term ’10 commandments’ always refers to the ten commandments from the Old Testament.
Why Were the 10 Commandments on 2 Tablets?
Probably because the ten commandments establish a covenant between Israel and God. This implies that there were most likely two copies of these laws, hence the 2 tablets.
Another possible reason comes from ancient Egyptian diplomatic treaties, which contained a copy of the original document for each party involved.