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In Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 the commandments are listed in a more or less similar way.Was thinking whether there are listed this way so as to potray a cascading pattern from the greatest in the beginning to the least at the end

Christ even reiterates the point that there are commandments which are weightier than others

Matthew 5 : 19 KJV

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 23 : 23 KJV

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Could this be a correct analysis that the ten commandments cascades from the greatest to the least?

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  • Shouldn't we look for "the least" outside the 10, which must be the ten greatest by defi nition? Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 18:39

4 Answers 4

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The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall make no idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet.

The first 4 commandments pertain to how man relates to God: the last 6, how man relates to other men. Jesus affirmed these two categories in Mat 22:

36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

like
ὁμοία (homoia)
Adjective - Nominative Feminine Singular
Strong's 3664: Like, similar to, resembling, of equal rank. From the base of homou; similar.

Both categories are important and of similar rank, James 2:

10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

In practice, I don't think I would impose a total linear ordering on the 10 commands.

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Yes, the order of the Ten Commandments is significant. Jesus told us plainly that "the first" of the commandments, which in Greek has dual meaning--applicable both to sequence and to importance--was that connected with not having any other gods.

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (Mark 12:29, KJV)

Essentially, Jesus identifies the Hebrew "Shema" (starting in Deuteronomy 6:4) as referencing "the first commandment." If one accepts that there is only one God, then one cannot have "any other gods" before Him.

If one truly keeps the first commandment, the others will be easy to follow.

Consider the last six of the ten, in their order.

  • Honoring Father and Mother
  • Not committing murder
  • Not committing adultery
  • Not stealing
  • Not bearing false witness
  • Not coveting

Apart from the first of these, most would agree that they are in descending order of importance. I'd rather that someone stole from me than that he or she murdered me. Even adultery seems to be of lesser magnitude than murder. The fact that honoring one's parents is listed before any of these others should stimulate some thought. Apparently, God sees that commandment as being of great importance.

In terms of its length, the fourth commandment holds the greatest attention of any of the Ten. It is also the only one that starts with "remember." God, who sees the future from the beginning, knew that it would be among the first which people would want to forget. Today, most ignore it, or try to claim it was nailed to the cross and no longer applies--despite having been written in unchangeable stone by the finger of God Himself.

Still, what benefit would there be to keeping the Sabbath if one has other gods? The first commandment is of greater importance.

Conclusion

The question is thought-provoking, and worth considering. The answer appears to be a clear "yes." God presented the commandments in the order of their importance, from the greatest to the least. To break one of the lesser commandments one must break those which come before it--they are all connected like a perfect chain.

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  • "Apart from the first of these". I wouldn't make the exception for "Honoring Father and Mother". Many see it as obedience, but it is better as bringing honour. ¶ ⁠If one lives a good and successful life, it reflects well on one's parents. Compare the mother who says "My son, the doctor!" with one whose son is sitting in prison or living off welfare. Which one is truly honoring his parents? ¶ #1 says love God and the next three are ways of not doing so; #5 says love your parents and the next five are ways of not doing so. God and Parents love you, give them reason to respect you. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 15:05
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Jesus, in His teaching of Matt 5:19 is NOT discussing a ranking of laws any more than He is discussing a ranking of people in the Kingdom of God.

Rather, Jesus is trying to eliminate such fictitious rankings as was supposed by the teachers of the law. (Such rankings were an attempt to excuse some "minor sins" which broke the "least commandments".)

As James correctly points out, breaking any of the commandments makes one guilty of breaking all of them:

James 2:10 - For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

Thus, Jesus teaches that breaking even what was supposed to be minor commandments was as bad as breaking major commandments. That is, Jesus is saying we are much more guilty than we suppose as far as the law is concerned!! That is, we need the grace provided by Jesus much more than we could understand:

Rom 3:23, 24 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Note the comments of Ellicott in Matt 5:19 -

The “least commandments,” then, are those which seemed trivial, yet were really great—the control of thoughts, desires, words, as compared with the apparently greater commands that dealt with acts. The reference to “teaching” shows that our Lord was speaking to His disciples, as the future instructors of mankind, and the obvious import of His words is that they were to raise, not lower, the standard of righteousness which had been recognised previously.

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No.

The existence of different content and orderings of the commandments by different versions of the Old Testament precludes any notion of any prscribed ordering by rank. In particular, the Masoretic text and Septuagint disagree on the listing of the commandments.

There are at least eight different sets of content and ordering for the commandments as seen here: The Numbering And Listing Of The Commandments By Bible Version. Depending on the version, "Don't Kill" can be 5, 6 or 8. "Don't Bear False Witness" can be 8 or 9. Between the different versions are additions / splittings, deletions / mergings, and transpositions.

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