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Moses: Listen, Israel, as I proclaim these rules and decrees directly to you today! Learn them, and put them into practice. The Eternal our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Eternal didn’t make that covenant just with our parents; He also made it with all of us who are alive here today, because we were included in the covenant when He made it with them. The Eternal tried to talk to you directly at that mountain from inside the fire that rose up into the sky. But you were afraid of the fire and wouldn’t go up the mountain, so I stood between you and the Eternal and told you what He was saying.

Eternal One (speaking to the people of Israel through Moses): I am the Eternal. I am your True God. I led you out of Egypt where you were slaves.

You are to worship no other gods before me—My presence is enough.

You are not to make idols of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or down in the sea. You are not to bow down in worship of any images of other gods, for I am the Eternal your God. I am jealous for worship, bringing punishment on you and your children to come, even down to your great-grandchildren, to whoever hates Me. 10 Instead, those who obey My commands and truly love Me will receive My loyal love endlessly, even for a thousand generations.

11 You are to not use My name lightly or flippantly or as a curse. I will punish anyone who treats My name as anything less than sacred.

12 You and your family are to honor the Sabbath by setting it aside for the Lord your God. Make sure it remains holy, just as I commanded you. 13 You should do all of your work in six days, and 14 on the seventh—the Sabbath—do not do any work. This goes for you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and cattle, and foreign travelers staying at your house. My Sabbath rest is for all to enjoy. 15 Remember what it was like when you were a slave in Egypt. Then with overwhelming power I brought you out of there. That’s why I have commanded you to observe the Sabbath each week.

16 Honor your father and mother,[a] as I have commanded you. If you do, you will be blessed with long life and all will go well for you as you live on the ground I am giving you.[b]

17 You must never murder anyone.

18 You must never commit adultery.[c]

19 You must never steal.

20 You must never lie when you’re called to give testimony about another person.[d]

21 Never look at someone else’s wife and wish you could have her. Never look at anything that belongs to someone else and wish it was yours—his house, field, male or female slave, ox, donkey, or anything else he owns.

Moses (summarizing): 22 When all of you were gathered at the mountain, the Eternal told you these things in a loud voice, speaking from inside the fire while dark clouds and mist obscured your view, and He added nothing more. He engraved two copies of them on two stone tablets and gave them to me. 23 Then all of your tribal representatives and elders approached me because you were so afraid when you heard His voice coming from the darkness, as the mountain blazed with fire. 24 They told me what you were saying: “Today the Eternal our God has displayed His glory and power, and we’ve heard His voice from inside that fire. We see that God can speak to mortals, and they can survive! 25 But if we keep listening to the voice of the Eternal, our True God, that huge fire is going to burn us up, and we’ll die! Why should we let that happen? 26 Who on earth has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking from inside a flame, as we just did, and survived? 27 You, go up and listen to everything the Eternal our God is saying, and then come tell us everything He tells you. We’ll listen, and we’ll obey.”

28 The Eternal heard everything you said when you told me this. He responded to me, “I’ve heard what the people told you. They have a good idea! 29 I wish they would always think this way—that they would fear Me and keep all My commands. Then everything would go well for them and their children forever. 30 Tell them they can return to their tents, and I will speak solely through you. 31 But you are to stand here by Me; and I’ll tell you all the commands, rules, and judgments I want you to teach them to follow in the land I’m giving them to live in.”

Moses deals with God directly because the people are simply too terrified of the Lord! These well-known Ten Directives or Commandments teach broad principles for godly life and relationships by presenting specific rules meant to be applied more widely, through thoughtful reflection. There are ten because this is the “human” number in the Bible—people ordinarily have ten fingers and ten toes. But our moral reflection is not supposed to be limited only to the ten areas considered here. The same principles of right relationship illustrated in these areas can be carried into all other areas of human life. The genius of the instruction here is that it’s brief enough to be carved on a stone tablet a person can carry or to be remembered when looking at one’s fingers or toes, but it has implications that are limitless.

Moses: 32 So be very careful to do what the Eternal your God commanded you! Don’t turn to the right or to the left; 33 stay on the path the Eternal your God has marked out for you. That way you won’t die, everything will go well for you, and you’ll live a long time in the land that’s going to be your territory.

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