Ten Commandments or Decalogue [Gr., = ten words], in the Bible, the summary of divine law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. They have a paramount place in the ethical system in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Listed in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, the commandments are divided into duties toward God, one's neighbors, and society. Their normative status is indicated by their prescriptive and unconditional language. They function as general stipulations decreed by God as part of God's covenant with the people of Israel. In both Exodus and Deuteronomy, the case law following the listing of the commandments is based on them and deduced from the principles contained in them. In Islamic tradition, Moses brings new revelation in the form of the commandments.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.