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Here are the ten commandments in Exodus 20:2-17 (Wikisource):

  1. I am Yahweh your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the slave-house. You will have no other Gods in my presence.
  2. You will make for yourself no statue and no image of that in the skies above and that in the land below, and that in the water underneath the land. You will not bow to them, and you will not worship them, because I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous god, commanding blight, from fathers to sons to the third generation and the fourth generation, to my detesters. And I will have kindness on the thousands, to those that love me, and that keep my commandments.
  3. And you will not carry the name of Yahweh your God in vain, because Yahweh will not absolve he who carries his name in vain.
  4. Remember the shabbat(sabbath/rest) day, in its holiness. Six days you will work, and you will make all your craft. And the seventh day, rest for Yahweh your God. You will not do any craft, you and your sons and your daughters, and your slave, and your slave-woman, and your beasts, and the stranger who is within your gates. Because six days did Yahweh make the skies and the Earth, and the seas and all that is within them, and he rested on the seventh day. Because of this, Yahweh blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
  5. Respect your father and your mother, so that your days shall be long upon the earth, which Yahweh your God gives you.
  6. You will not murder.
  7. You will not commit adultery.
  8. You will not steal.
  9. You will not aggrieve your fellow man with false testimony.
  10. You will not covet your fellow man's household. You will not covet your fellow man's wife, or his slave-men, or his slave-women or his ox or his donkey, or all that is your fellow man's.

Later, we find another set of ten-ish commandments, in Exodus 34:11-26 (Wikisource):

  1. Keep you lest you will forge a pact with the settlers of the land which you are coming to, lest they will be a snare within you. Because you shalt smash their alters, and you shalt break their monuments, and you shalt uproot their cultic poles.Because you will not bow down to another god, because Yahweh is jealous of his name, he is a jealous god. Lest you forge a pact with the settlers of the land, and they whored after their gods, and they sacrificed to their gods, and he called to you, and you ate from his altar. And you took of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters will whore after their gods, and they made your sons whore after their gods.
  2. You will not make molded gods.
  3. The holiday of Matsot(unleaven bread/crackers) you will keep, seven days will you eat crackers, as I have commanded you, the event at the month of Aviv, because in the month of Aviv you came out of Egypt.
  4. All that breaks opens a womb, and all your livestock remember, first birth a bull and a sheep, and first birth of donkeys you will redeem with a sheep, and if you will not redeem it, break its neck.
  5. All your firstborn sons, redeem, and they will not see my face devoid of these.
  6. Six days will you work, and on the seventh day break. Of the plowing and the reaping you will break.
  7. And the holiday of weeks(Shevuoth) make for you, the first of the harvest of wheat, and the holiday of gathering the whole of the year's. 23 Three times a year, all your males will show themselves before the lord Yahweh, god of Israel. Because I will disenfrachise nations from before you, and I will expand your borders, and no man will covet your land, as you go up before Yahweh your lord, three times a year.
  8. You will not slaughter the blood of my altar on leavened bread, and it will not be kept for the morning, the sacrifice of the holiday of passover.
  9. The first prime yields of your land bring to the house of Yahweh your god.
  10. You will not cook a kid goat in its mother's milk.

Which is it? In case this does not strike one as a contradiction, there are two or three overlapping commandments—the commandment to avoid molded gods/idols, and the commandment to keep the sabbath holy. To this may be added the first commandment, which is strict monotheism and rejecting the local gods.

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Again, there is no contradiction in the documentary hypothesis. The two traditions emphasize different rituals. The earlier Jahwist narrative (I believe) owns the second set of commandments) while the later Elohist narrative owns the first, prettier, set. I am not 100% on this, because by this stage, Yahweh is used by both as God's identifier. –  Ron Maimon Apr 9 '12 at 2:02
I understand that when Yah stopped at "the" ten commandments it was at this point that the Children of Israel asked to stop because they were frighted by the sound of Yah. At this point is when Moshe interceded for them as they asked and ascended the Mount, then the first commandments were written on the tablets. These first commandments also would have been numerous as even one word in ancient Hebrew/Aramaic can be as much a sentence in foreign languages. –  user3540 Feb 18 '14 at 17:18

1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

None of these are called "the ten commandments" in the text, though Moshe, in Deut 4:13 and Deut 10:4, does refer to the "ten words" and probably means Exodus 20. (Words -- d'varim -- rather than commandments -- mitzvot.)

The text does not ever assert that there are only ten commandments that matter. There are many lists (of length greater than 10) of commandments, particularly in Exodus and Leviticus (throughout). Jewish tradition counts 613 commandments in the torah. Christianity must hold that there are more than ten because they call out the ten from Exodus but also "love your neighbor as yourself", which isn't on the "10" list (it's in Leviticus).

When Moshe refers to the "ten words" in Deuteronomy he doesn't use the word "commandment", and he certainly doesn't say that these are the only commandments. The first thing that happens when Moshe goes up on the mountain, per the text, is that God gives him even more commandments. So while God stopped at 10 when speaking to the people, the "the" in "the ten commandments" is too limiting.

(Aside: from the title I thought this question was going to be about the two different versions of the list, in Exodus and Deuteronomy.)

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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Yes, of course you are right, but the strange near-parallel of text contains three duplicated commandments, altogether making a roughly parallel construction twice. The question is which text is the law commandment Moses reveals. –  Ron Maimon Apr 10 '12 at 2:21
If you're going for parallel constructions, what about the list in Deuteronomy (which is obviously related to, but not identical to, the list in Exodus 20)? Some commandments are repeated several times. –  Gone Quiet Apr 10 '12 at 2:34
Callio: Good point. I didn't get to Deuteronomy (never read it, I'll read it when I translate it). –  Ron Maimon Apr 10 '12 at 7:59
Ok, you persuaded me, accept. But the documentary hypothesis evidence still holds. –  Ron Maimon Apr 11 '12 at 3:46

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