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What Are the Ten Commandments of God?

The Bible’s answer

The Ten Commandments are laws that God gave to the ancient nation of Israel. These laws are also known as the Ten Words, which is a literal translation of the Hebrew expression ʽaseʹreth had·deva·rimʹ. This expression occurs three times in the Pentateuch (Torah), the first five books of the Bible. (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:​13; 10:4) The equivalent expression in Greek, deʹka (ten) loʹgous (words), gave rise to the term “Decalogue.”

God inscribed the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets and gave them to his prophet Moses on Mount Sinai. (Exodus 24:12-​18) The Ten Commandments are listed at Exodus 20:​1-​17 and Deuteronomy 5:​6-​21.

 List of the Ten Commandments

  1. Worship only Jehovah God.​—Exodus 20:3.

  2. Do not practice idolatry.​—Exodus 20:​4-6.

  3. Do not take up God’s name in a worthless way.​—Exodus 20:7.

  4. Keep the Sabbath.​—Exodus 20:​8-​11.

  5. Honor your parents.​—Exodus 20:12.

  6. Do not murder.​—Exodus 20:13.

  7. Do not commit adultery.​—Exodus 20:14.

  8. Do not steal.​—Exodus 20:15.

  9. Do not testify falsely.​—Exodus 20:16.

  10. Do not covet.​—Exodus 20:17.

 Why do lists of the Ten Commandments differ?

The Bible does not assign a number to each commandment. Consequently, opinions differ on how the commandments should be arranged. The list above is a common arrangement of these laws. However, some list the Ten Commandments differently. The differences in grouping involve the first, second, and last commandments. *

 What was the purpose of the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments were part of the Mosaic Law. That Law code included over 600 commandments and formed the terms of an agreement, or covenant, between God and the ancient nation of Israel. (Exodus 34:27) God promised the people of Israel that they would prosper if they obeyed the Mosaic Law. (Deuteronomy 28:​1-​14) However, the main purpose of the Law was to prepare the Israelites for the promised Messiah, or Christ.​—Galatians 3:​24.

 Must Christians keep the Ten Commandments?

No. God gave his Law, including the Ten Commandments, specifically to the ancient nation of Israel. (Deuteronomy 5:​2, 3; Psalm 147:19, 20) The Mosaic Law is not binding on Christians, and even Jewish Christians were “released from the Law.” (Romans 7:6) * The Mosaic Law was replaced by “the law of the Christ,” which includes all that Jesus instructed his followers to do.​—Galatians 6:2; Matthew 28:19, 20.

 Are the Ten Commandments relevant today?

Yes. Because the Ten Commandments reveal God’s thinking, we can benefit from studying them. (2 Timothy 3:​16, 17) The Ten Commandments are based on reliable principles that will never go out-of-date. (Psalm 111:​7, 8) In fact, many of these principles underlie the teachings of what is commonly called the New Testament.​—See “ Principles from the Ten Commandments reflected in the New Testament.”

Jesus taught that the entire Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, rested on two fundamental commandments. He said: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law hangs.” (Matthew 22:34-​40) So although Christians are not expected to observe the Mosaic Law, they are commanded to love God and their fellow humans.​—John 13:34; 1 John 4:​20, 21.

  Principles from the Ten Commandments reflected in the New Testament

Principle

New Testament Reference

Worship only Jehovah God

Revelation 22:​8, 9

Do not practice idolatry

1 Corinthians 10:14

Honor God’s name

Matthew 6:9

Worship God regularly

Hebrews 10:24, 25

Honor your parents

Ephesians 6:​1, 2

Do not murder

1 John 3:​15

Do not commit adultery

Hebrews 13:4

Do not steal

Ephesians 4:​28

Do not testify falsely

Ephesians 4:​25

Do not covet

Luke 12:15

^ par. 23 The traditional Jewish arrangement “makes Ex[odus] xx. 2 the first ‘word,’ and verses 3-6 are regarded as one; viz., the second.” (The Jewish Encyclopedia) On the other hand, Catholics consider Exodus chapter 20, verses 1-6, to be a single commandment. Thus, the decree against dishonoring God’s name becomes the second commandment. To retain the number of commandments, they divide the final decree against coveting a neighbor’s wife and possessions into two separate laws.

^ par. 27 Romans 7:7 uses the tenth commandment as an example of “the Law,” thus proving that the Mosaic Law included the Ten Commandments.