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Decalogue

Source:
A Dictionary of the Bible What is This? Contains accessibly written entries for topics covering the religious, historical, and social aspects of the Bible.

    Decalogue

    Greek word for the Ten Commandments (Exod. 34: 28). They are given in two forms (Exod. 20 and Deut. 5), being the earliest laws of the Hebrews and ascribed in the tradition to Moses, though in fact developed and refined over centuries. Moses was given them by God on two tablets (Exod. 31: 18), each tablet bearing all ten commandments, in accordance with the normal practice that there were two copies of every treaty. But Moses smashed them in anger when he saw that the people had given themselves to idolatry in his absence (Exod. 32: 19) and they had to be reinscribed (Exod. 34: 28) and placed in the Ark (I Kgs. 8: 9). These basic laws were supplemented with much detail over the years but the Decalogue remained a summary convenient for memorizing and public recitation and was fundamental to the integrity of the nation. The laws require the worship of Israel's God and no other; they demand respect for human life and human marriage and property; a weekly day of rest is prescribed; there is to be honesty in court.

    The Decalogue is divided in two ways: Exod. 20: 3 is the first commandment in many Christian reckonings, but in the Jewish tradition (followed by Roman Catholics) it is combined with the next—the prohibition of idols—and then the final commandment, against coveting, is split into two, to make ten in all.

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