Patrons view the oldest parchment scroll of the Ten Commandments on exhibit in New York.
Patrons view the oldest parchment scroll of the Ten Commandments on exhibit in New York.

The Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, are an important part of the religious laws of both Jewish and Christian tradition. In the Book of Exodus, God presents Moses with the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai as a set of laws for the people of Israel in exile, which were later placed in the tabernacle known as the Ark of the Covenant and finally were placed in Solomon's temple in Jerusalem.

In the Torah and the Bible, the text of the Ten Commandments appears twice -- first in Exodus and then in Deuteronomy. The language used below is taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NSRV.)

I and II

I: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

The first four commandments concern man's relationship with God. The first commandment is a statement of monotheism: The faithful may not hold any gods more important than the singular God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

II: You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

The second commandment instructs the faithful not to engage in idolatry; in other words, to not worship the images of temporal objects in place of God. Together, the first two commandments instruct the faithful to worship only the singular monotheistic God, and to worship God without creating a false idol as a medium for worship.

III and IV

III: You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

The third commandment instructs the faithful to be respectful of God by not using God's name in a disrespectful manner, either offhandedly or to swear.

IV: Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.

The fourth commandment instructs the religious community to set aside one day of the week as a holy day during which work is not performed. This is often related to the seventh day of rest that God takes when creating the world in the Book of Genesis. In Judaism, the sabbath is traditionally observed on Saturday while in most Christian groups it is observed on Sunday.

V and VI

V: Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

The last six commandments concern relationships between the faithful. The fifth commandment is an instruction for children to respect and obey their parents.

VI: You shall not murder.

The sixth commandment concerns the respect for life, instructing the faithful not to kill others.

VII and VIII

VII: You shall not commit adultery.

The seventh commandment explicitly forbids marital infidelity and is sometimes interpreted as forbidding all lust and sexual activity outside of the sanctity of marriage.

VIII: You shall not steal.

The eighth commandment concerns respect for the property of others and forbids unlawfully taking the possessions of others. This commandment may also be interpreted as forbidding dishonesty, such as cheating at cards or swindling business partners.

IX and X

IX: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

To bear false witness is to dishonestly accuse, slander or misrepresent another. The ninth commandment thus forbids lying about others to negatively represent them.

X: You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The final commandment is an exhortation against envy. To covet is to desire something that belongs to another. The final commandment thus instructs the faithful not to desire things that do not belong to them.