What Are the Ten Commandments? - Definition & History

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  • 0:04 Ten Commandments Definition
  • 0:42 Ten Commandments History
  • 1:18 The Ten Commandments…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson defines and states the Ten Commandments and discusses their biblical history. A brief synopsis is given in this article, and a multiple-choice quiz can be taken upon completion.

Ten Commandments Definition

The Ten Commandments of Judaism and Christianity are known as the Decalogue. This is from the Greek words deka, which means ten, and logoi, which means words. From a religious perspective, the Ten Commandments are ten rules on how we should live and behave. In the Bible, the book of Exodus (chapter 20) gives an account of how God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses. The biblical book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 5:6-21) also lists the commandments that were given.

For the most part, these commandments mostly give instruction on what we should not do. One of the most familiar commandments is the first, which is not to worship any god except God, or Yahweh.

Ten Commandments History

The summation in Exodus 20 gives an account of how the commandments were inscribed in stone and given to Moses while he is at the top of Mount Sinai. When Moses descended from the height of the mountain, he smashed the first set of commandments. He did so because he was overwhelmed with anger when he saw the golden calf his people had created while he was at the top of the mountain convening with God. In his absence, they had lost their faith and erected a golden calf as an object of worship. This was an Egyptian practice and was not in line with the religion of the Jews. To replace the broken stone, Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai again and God gave Moses a second set of the commandments.

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