The Legends of the Jews— Volume 3: From the Exodus to the Death of Moses

Author: Louis Ginzberg

The Other Commandments Revealed on Sinai

After Israel had accepted the first commandment with a "Yea," God said: "As you have now acknowledged Me as you sovereign, I can now give you commands: Thou shalt not acknowledge the gods of other nations as such, for they bring no advantage to those who adore them; this thou shalt not do while I exist. I have given you my Torah in order to lend sovereignty to you, hence you must not kindle My wrath by breaking My covenant through idolatry. You shall not worship dead idols, but Him who kills and restores to life, and in whose hand are all living things. Do not learn the works of other nations, for their works are vanity. I, the Eternal, you God, rule over zeal and am not ruled by it; I wait until the fourth generation to visit punishment. But those who love Me, or fear Me, will I reward even unto the thousandth generation."

When Moses heard these words, according to which God would visit upon the descendants the sins of their fathers only if the consecutive generations were one after another sinful, he cast himself upon the ground and thanked God for it; for he knew it never occurred among Israel that three consecutive generations were sinful. [217]

The third commandment read: "O My people of Israel, none among you shall call the name of the Lord in vain, for he who swears falsely by the name of the Lord shall not go unpunished on the great Judgement Day." [218] Swearing falsely has terrible consequences not only for the one who does it, but it endangers all the world. For when God created the world, He laid over the abyss a shard, on which is engraved the Ineffable Name, that the abyss may not burst forth and destroy the world. But as often as on swears falsely in God’s name, the letters of the Ineffable Name fly away, and as there is then nothing to restrain the abyss, the waters burst forth from it to destroy the world. This would surely come to pass, if God did not sent the angel Ya’asriel, who has charge of the seventy pencils, to engrave anew the Ineffable Name on the shard. [219]

God said then to Israel, "If you accept My Torah and observe My laws, I will give you for all eternity a thing most precious that I have in My possession." "And what," replied Israel, "is that precious thing which Thou wilt give us if we obey Thy Torah?" God: "The future world." Israel: "But even in this world should we have a foretaste of that other." God: "The Sabbath will give you this foretaste. [220] Be mindful of the Sabbath on the seventh day of the creation of the world." For when the world was created, the seventh day came before God, and said to Him: "All that Thou has created is in couples, why not I?" Whereupon God replied, "The community of Israel shall be thy spouse." Of this promise that God had made to the seventy day, He reminded the people on Mount Sinai, when he gave them the fourth commandment, to keep the Sabbath holy. [221]

When the nations of the earth heard the first commandment, they said: "There is no king that does not like to see himself acknowledged as sovereign, and just so does God desire His people to pledge unto Him their allegiance." At the second commandment they said: "No king suffers a king beside himself, nor does the God of Israel." At the third commandment they said: "Is there a king that would like to have people swear false oaths by his name?" At the fourth commandment they said: "No King dislikes to see his birthday celebrated." But when the people heard the fifth commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother," they said: "According to our laws, if a man enrolls himself as a servant of the king, he thereby disowns his parents. God, however, makes it a duty to honor father and mother; truly, for this is honor due to Him." [222]

It was with these words that the fifth commandment was emphasized: "Honor thy parents to whom thou owest existence, as thou honorest Me. Honor the body that bore thee, and the breasts that gave thee suck, maintain thy parents, for thy parents took part in thy creation." [223] For man owes his existence to God, to his father, and to his mother, in that he receives from each of his parents five of the parts of his body, and ten from God. The bones, the veins, the nails, the brain, and the white of the eye come from the father. The mother gives him skin, flesh, blood, hair, and the pupil of the eye. God gives him the following: breath, soul, light of countenance, sight, hearing, speech, touch, sense, insight, and understanding. [224] When a human being honors his parents, God says: "I consider it as if I had dwelled among men and they had honored Me," but if people do not honor their parents, God say: "It is good that I do not dwell among men, or they would have treated Me superciliously, too." [225]

God not only commanded to love and fear parents as Himself, but in some respects He places the honor due to parents even higher than that due Him. A man is only then obliged to support the poor or to perform certain religious ceremonies, if he has the wherewithal, but it is the duty of each one even to go begging at men’ doors, if he cannot otherwise maintain his parents. [226]

The sixth commandment said: "O My people Israel, be no slayers of men, do not associate with murderers, and shun their companionship, that your children may not learn the craft of murder." As a penalty for deeds of murder, God will send a devastating war over mankind. [227] There are two divisions in Sheol, an inner and an outer. In the latter are all those who were slain before their time. There they stay until the course of the time predestined them is run; and every time a murder has been committed, God says: "Who has slain this person and has forced Me to keep him in the outer Sheol, so that I must appear unmerciful to have removed him from earth before his time?" [228] On the Judgement Day the slain will appear before God, and will implore Him: "O Lord of the world! Thou hast formed me, Thou hast developed me, Thou hast been gracious unto me while I was in the womb, so that I left it unharmed. Thou in Thy great mercy hast provided for me. O Lord of all worlds! Grant me satisfaction from this villain that knew no pity for me." Then God’s wrath will be kindled against the murderer, into Gehenna will he throw him and damn him for all eternity, while the slain will see satisfaction given him, and be glad. [229]

The seventh commandment says: "O My people of Israel, be not adulterers, nor the accomplices or companions of adulterers, that your children after you may not be adulterers. Commit no unchaste deeds, with your hands, feet, eyes, or ears, for as a punishment therefore the plague will come over the world." [230]

This is the eighth commandment: "Be not thief, nor the accomplice or companion of thieves, that your children may not become thieves." As a penalty for robbery and theft famine will come upon the world. [231] God may forgive idolatry, but never theft, and He is always ready to listen to complaints against forgers and robbers. [232]

The ninth commandment reads: "O My people of Israel, bear not false witness against your companions, for in punishment for this the clouds will scatter, so that there may be no rain, and famine will ensue owing to drought." God is particularly severe with a false witness because falsehood is the one quality that God did not create, but is something that men themselves produces. [233]

The content of the tenth commandment is: "O My people Israel, covet not the possessions of your neighbors, for owing to this sin will the government take their possessions from the people, so that even the wealthiest will become poor and will have to go into exile." [234] The tenth commandment is directed against a sin that sometimes leads to a trespassing of all the Ten Commandments. If a man covets his neighbor’s wife and commits adultery, he neglects the first commandment: "I am the Eternal, thy God," for he commits his crime in the dark and thinks that none sees him, not even the Lord, whose eyes float over all the world, and see good as well as evil. He oversteps the second commandment: "Thou shalt not have strange gods besides Me..., I am a jealous God," who is wroth against faithlessness, whether toward Me, or toward men. He breaks the third commandment: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain," for he swears he has not committed adultery, but he did so. He is the cause of profanation of the Sabbath, the consecration of which God commands in the fourth commandment, because in his illegal relation he generates descendants who will perform priestly duties in the Temple on the Sabbath, which, being bastards, they have no right to do. The fifth commandment will be broken by the children of the adulterer, who will honor as a father a strange man, and will not even know their true father. He breaks the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt not kill," if he is surprised by the rightful husband, for every time a man goes to a strange woman, he does so with the consciousness that this may lead to his death or the death of his neighbor. The trespassing of the seventh commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery," is the direct outcome of a forbidden coveting. The eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal," is broken by the adulterer, for he steals another man’s fountain of happiness. The ninth commandment" "Thou shalt not bear false witness," is broken by the adulterous woman, who pretends that the fruit of her criminal relations is the child of her husband. In this way, the breaking of the tenth commandment has not only led to all the other sins, but has also the evil effect that the deceived husband leaves his whole property to one who is not his son, so that the adulterer robs him of his possessions as well as of his wife. [235]


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Chicago: Louis Ginzberg, "The Other Commandments Revealed on Sinai," The Legends of the Jews— Volume 3: From the Exodus to the Death of Moses, trans. Rodwell, J. M. in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 3: From the Exodus to the Death of Moses Original Sources, accessed July 5, 2022,

MLA: Ginzberg, Louis. "The Other Commandments Revealed on Sinai." The Legends of the Jews— Volume 3: From the Exodus to the Death of Moses, translted by Rodwell, J. M., in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 3: From the Exodus to the Death of Moses, Original Sources. 5 Jul. 2022.

Harvard: Ginzberg, L, 'The Other Commandments Revealed on Sinai' in The Legends of the Jews— Volume 3: From the Exodus to the Death of Moses, trans. . cited in , The Legends of the Jews—Volume 3: From the Exodus to the Death of Moses. Original Sources, retrieved 5 July 2022, from