What Is the Order of the Ten Commandments?

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Exodus 20:1-17 lists the Ten Commandments in the following order: worship only God, worship no idols and do not misuse God’s name. Keep the Sabbath holy and honor one’s parents. Do not murder, commit adultery or steal. Do not bear false witness or covet one’s neighbor’s possessions, servants or wife.

The Commandments are listed in descending order of importance. The first four mandate one’s obligations toward God. The fifth, honoring one’s parents, pertains to one’s family and heritage. The other five proscribe crimes against the community, in descending order of severity: murder, marital infidelity, theft, betrayal through lying and envy.

Although the Ten Commandments are considered important guiding moral principles in cultures with a strong Judeo-Christian tradition, very few people can actually identify all ten in order–even those who argue for displaying them more often in public. However, there are plenty of strategies for memorizing the Commandments that use grouping, word association, mnemonics and visualization. Even hand motions can be used as visual reminders to help children remember the Commandments’ order using all ten fingers. In fact, some religious scholars argue that the reason that there are exactly ten commandments is that ten is itself an easy number to remember.