Commandments, the Ten

Easton’s Bible Dictionary

Commandments, the Ten : (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 10:4, marg. "ten words") i.e., the Decalogue (which see), is a summary of the immutable moral law. These commandments were first given in their written form to the people of Israel when they were encamped at Sinai, about fifty days after they came out of Egypt (Exodus 19:10-25). They were written by the finger of God on two tables of stone. The first tables were broken by Moses when he brought them down from the mount (Exodus 32:19), being thrown by him on the ground. At the command of God he took up into the mount two other tables, and God wrote on them "the words that were on the first tables" (Exodus 34:1). These tables were afterwards placed in the ark of the covenant (Deuteronomy 10:5; 1 Kings 8:9). Their subsequent history is unknown. They are as a whole called "the covenant" (Deuteronomy 4:13), and "the tables of the covenant" (Deuteronomy 9:9,11; Hebrews 9:4), and "the testimony."

They are obviously "ten" in number, but their division is not fixed, hence different methods of numbering them have been adopted. The Jews make the "Preface" one of the commandments, and then combine the first and second. The Roman Catholics and Lutherans combine the first and second and divide the tenth into two. The Jews and Josephus divide them equally. The Lutherans and Roman Catholics refer three commandments to the first table and seven to the second. The Greek and Reformed Churches refer four to the first and six to the second table. The Samaritans add to the second that Gerizim is the mount of worship. (See LAW.)