What were the Ten Commandments on?

Ten Commandments

God gives the prophet Moses the Ten Commandments.

For Jews and Christians, the Ten Commandments are the basis of their faith. The first three commandments regulate the relationship between people and God. The seven remaining commandments regulate the relationships between people.

The Ten Commandments are in the Bible, in the Old Testament. They form the core of many laws that Jews should obey. The Bible tells that Moses received two stone tablets from God. God himself is said to have carved the Ten Commandments on it.

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Old Testament is written in Hebrew. So you have to translate everything first. The Ten Commandments are also not written down in a list, but in sentences that are strung together without numbers and form a kind of short story.

Many theologians have studied the subject and worked out the Ten Commandments. Here they are as they are written down by the Evangelical Church in Germany. In the Catholic Church they sound almost the same:

1. I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Do not abuse the name of the Lord your God.
3. You should keep the holiday holy.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shouldn't kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shouldn't steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet the house of your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, servant, maid, cattle, or anything that your neighbor has.

When did Moses receive the Ten Commandments?

The painter Lucas Cranach painted all ten commandments on a blackboard.

In the Old Testament, the Jews are considered to be God's favorite people. The Jews had to flee to Egypt and Moses led them away from there. This story is in the second book of the Bible called "Exodus". That means "move out".

On the way Moses went to Mount Sinai, which is still called that today. There God appeared to him in prayer and gave him two tablets made of stone tablets. The Ten Commandments were carved on it, as we know it today from tombstones.

Moses then brought the two tablets down to his people to read the commandments. In the meantime the people had made a calf out of gold and were dancing around it. The people shouted, "This is the God who brought us out of Egypt!" Then Moses became angry and smashed the two stone tablets of the law.

In prayer, Moses heard God's voice again, saying that he should bring two new stone tablets up to the mountain himself. God spoke the Ten Commandments to Moses again, and this time Moses himself chiseled them on the stone slabs. He brought these again to his people. The trace of these stone slabs is then lost, however.

Who Still Needs the Ten Commandments Today?

The number ten is probably related to the fact that it was easier to remember the commandments by counting them with your fingers. Here is in English on the left "Love of God" (Most High, idol, disrespectful, Sabbath, parents) and on the right "Love of neighbor" (murder, adultery, steal, lie, desire).

The Ten Commandments still apply to the Jews today. They are the core of many laws, because God was the only one who wrote them down himself. Most of the laws are rewritten in the fifth book of the Bible, including the Ten Commandments. There are small differences between the first and the second list. Because the Jews divided the Hebrew text into sentences differently than the Christians, they also numbered the Ten Commandments slightly differently.

The Ten Commandments still apply to Christians. Jesus never mentioned all of them in one go, but always mentioned some of them. Sometimes he even tightened it and said, for example, that not only should one not break a marriage, but one should not even think about it. Unlike in ancient Judaism, however, it is not the one who goes to heaven who keeps all the Ten Commandments, but the one who believes in God's forgiveness.

In the Anglican Church there is a ban on images: "You shouldn't make a picture". It's the second commandment there. But since the count is no longer correct, the ninth and tenth commandments are combined into one commandment.

In Islam there is no enumeration of the Ten Commandments. However, the Koran repeatedly mentions some of the Ten Commandments. They sound very similar to the Old Testament.

  • Moses comes from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.

  • Moses shows the Jews the Ten Commandments.

  • Moses receives the tablets of the law

  • Above: "You shouldn't steal!" Below: "You shouldn't kill!"