Bible Review 7:2, April 1991

What Makes the Ten Commandments Different?

By Moshe Weinfeld

We start with a problem. And some questions. With the exception of the tenth commandment, prohibiting coveting, all the commandments in the Decalogue, as the Ten Commandments are called, appear in similar form elsewhere in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). The prohibitions against idolatry and swearing falsely, the commandments to observe the Sabbath and to honor one’s parents, the prohibitions against murder, adultery, theft and bearing false witness—all these appear again and again in the various laws of the Pentateuch. Why then are these commandments gathered together for special treatment? Since they are otherwise imposed on the community of Israel, what function is served by grouping them?

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