translated from the original Hebrew by Nathaniel Segal
based on traditional Jewish teachings
G-d said to Moses, "Thus say to the Israelites: 'You yourselves saw how I spoke with you from on high. So do not make any gods like Me. Do not make gods of silver or gods of gold for yourselves'."
Copyright © 2014-15 Nathaniel Segal
do not count this verse as one of the "Ten Commandments."
See various enumerations of the "commandments" in a table that I have adapted from Wikipedia's article about the Ten Commandments.
† Generally, Christians begin counting the commandments from this verse, Exodus 20:3.
Some Christians, though, divide this group of
Hebrew verses —
Edicts II and IV are each read by Jews as one verse
although they are nevertheless both numbered by Jews as four
verses. From the original Hebrew text, these four verses
are unified by chanting a beginning tone, one middle,
The chapter and verse numbering for Hebrew Scriptures — the Jewish Bible, also called the Old Testament — were added to printed Hebrew Bibles to correspond to the Christian numbering. The idea was to facilitate discussion and debate with Christian clergy. When Christians cited a verse, a Jew could find the same verse in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The third commandment for Catholics and
Lutherans. They count the commandment "Do not abuse the
name of the
†† The fourth commandment for Catholics and Lutherans.
In the Hebrew Bible, Edicts VI, VII, VIII and IX
are all contained in one verse. This is verse 13 in the
Jewish numbering. Christians, though, give each of these
speeches a separate verse number — verses 13, 14, 15 and
For Christians, these are generally the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments.
§§ In the Hebrew Bible, Speech X is a single verse and numbered by Jews as verse 14. For Christians, this is verse 17.
Freely translated - I do not take liberty with my translations. "Freely translated" means not slavishly following some conventions.
We often find that translators choose a
suitable English word to represent a Hebrew word.
These translators then adjust these words according to
English word order and grammar. For example:
Since the Hebrew word d'varim
refers to speech, it is not confined to speaking only one
word. Here in Scripture, it is no stretch to accept
the Jewish Tradition that
Then consider how
The conjunction 'and' at the beginning of this verse is a third issue facing translators. This conjunction is a single Hebrew letter (vav) and is always attached to the next word. However, this same letter also helps the Hebrew language to conjugate the tense of a verb. In a case of conjugation also, it is always attached to the verb as its first letter.
this Hebrew letter vav is both a conjunction –
'and' – as well as part of a verb's conjugation at
the same time. A translator must decide. I've
decided that the letter vav that is attached to the first
word of verse 1 – a verb, in contrast to English word
order – is part of the construction of this verb in
the past tense,
Hebrew words for 'command' and 'commandment' appear numerous times in the Hebrew Bible – the Torah. The total count of commandments in the Torah is 613. Even within the above speeches we find more than ten commandments. For example, one commandment is to honor one's father, and another one is to honor one's mother. More examples follow.
|(1)||to say [again to others] - The last Hebrew word in this verse, leh MOHR, which means "to say," is otherwise unnecessary. The listeners' responsibility was to repeat what they heard to the next generation.|
|I.||(2)||“I am the
|I.||(2)||from being slaves - from being slaves to Pharaoh. Eventually, Egyptians themselves wanted the Israelites to leave for freedom, but only Pharaoh and his advisors refused.|
|I - X.||(2-14)||From here on, the text was
engraved into the Two Tablets of Stone that Moses received
|I - V.||(2-12)||The first five edicts were engraved as a column into one of the Two Tablets of Stone.|
|VI - X.||(13-14)||The second five edicts were engraved as a column into the second of the Two Tablets.|
|II.||(3)||“Do not have any other
|II.||(4)||“Do not make
|II.||(5)||“Do not bow down to them, and do not serve them” - Idol worship in any form is forbidden, even if the idol belongs to someone else and we didn't make it. Again we see several commandments in one speech.|
|III.||(7)||“Do not abuse the name of the L-rd” - by saying it or using it for no good reason.|
|IV.||(8)||the day of the Sabbath - There is one day every seven that is the Sabbath. We don't decide on our own or individually which day we will choose as the Sabbath. We all have the same day, the one that G-d designated at the beginning of Creation. Since then, we have been responsible for counting the days until the next Sabbath.|
|IV.||(8)||“Be remembering the
|IV.||(9)||“You will work for six
|IV.||(10)||Sabbath for the L-rd - We dedicate it as a Sabbath for the L-rd.|
|IV.||(10)||“. . . the seventh day is a
|IV.||(10)||“Do not do any
“Because the L-rd
Similarly, the labor that we refrain from is to make something that had not existed before the Sabbath began. Even if the effort is minimal and can hardly be called "labor," we are not supposed to do it.
|IV & I.||(2)||
the L-rd, your G-d, Who
took you out of the land of Egypt - The Sabbath is
for those who are part of the Covenant with the
Members of the Covenant are not
necessarily biological descendants of Jabob (who has the
second name Israel) and the Twelve Tribes, the
Israelites. Over the millenia, any number of people
who were not born Jewish took upon themselves to observe
the Covenant that
For this reason (among other reasons), we have been calling ourselves "Jews" rather than Israelites. We've been calling ourselves Jews at least since the time of the Biblical Book of Esther. You won't find the name Israelite at all in the Book of Esther, but you do find the name Jews.
|IV.||(11)||“He made it holy” - 'Holy'
comes from the idea of being uniquely set aside. The
seventh day of every week has been set aside by
|V.||(12)||“Honor your father and your mother” - Honor your father, and honor your mother. Again we see several commandments in one speech.|
|I - V.||(2-12)||These first five proclamations were engraved into the first of the Two Tablets of Stone - They were engraved in order, one above the next.|
|VI - X.||(13-14)||These second five proclamations were engraved into the second of the Two Tablets of Stone - They were also engraved in order, one above the next. The Two Tablets were fused together.|
|X.||(14)||“Do not covet the house of your fellow” - His or her real estate.|
|X.||(14)||“Do not covet the wife of your fellow” - Covetness is in the heart. The action of adultery is already prohibited by Speech VII.|
|X.||(14)||“or his male slave, or his
female slave, or his ox, or his donkey” - his or her property –
jealousy of the other persons economic status.
Each of these categories potentially produces wealth or are wealth itself. Understandably, idle real estate fails to provide income. Added value is produced by labor. The Torah here assumes that both the person and his or her fellow are equally able to work the land. But, masters only own the labor of their slaves. Otherwise, masters must feed and clothe their slaves and provide them with tools.
|X.||(14)||“or anything that belongs to your fellow” - Anything that demonstrates his or her economic or political status.|
|(15-20)||These verses - amplify what has come before.|
|All the people see the sounds - They were seeing what is ordinarily only heard.|
|“G-d has come to raise you up” - His intentions were for your benefit. “So you won't commit sin.” The Hebrew word here for sin means "to miss the point or to miss the mark."|
|“. . . since we might die” - This is the opposite of His intention.|
|‘You yourselves saw how I spoke with you from on high’ - Although you yourselves saw how I spoke with you invisibly, don't commemorate this event with any physical representations.|
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