ko-mand'-ment (mitswah; entole): The commandments are, first of all, prescriptions, or directions of God, concerning particular matters, which He wanted observed with reference to circumstances as they arose, in a period when He spake immediately and with greater frequency than afterward. They were numerous, minute, and regarded as coordinate and independent of each other. In the Ten Commandments, or, more properly, Ten Words, EVm (debharim), they are reduced to a few all-comprehensive precepts of permanent validity, upon which every duty required of man is based. Certain prescriptions of temporary force, as those of the ceremonial and forensic laws, are applications of these "Words" to transient circumstances, and, for the time for which they were enacted, demanded perfect and unconditional obedience. The Psalms, and especially Ps 119:1-176, show that even under the Old Testament, there was a deep spiritual appreciation of these commandments, and the extent to which obedience was deemed a privilege rather than a mere matter of constrained external compliance with duty. In the New Testament, Jesus shows in Mt 22:37,40; Mr 12:29,31; Lu 10:27 (compare Ro 13:8,10) their organic unity. The "Ten" are reduced to two, and these two to one principle, that of love. In love, obedience begins, and works from within outward. Under the New Testament the commandments are kept when they are written upon the heart (Heb 10:16). While in the Synoptics they are referred to in a more abstract and distant way, in both the Gospel and the Epistles of John their relation to Jesus is most prominent. They are "my commandments" (Joh 14:15,21; 15:10,12); "my Father's" (Joh 10:18; 15:10); or, many times throughout the epp., "his (i.e. Christ's) commandments." The new life in Christ enkindles love, and not only makes the commandments the rule of life, but the life itself the free expression of the commandments and of the nature of God, in which the commandments are grounded. Occasionally the word is used in the singular collectively (Ex 24:12; Ps 119:96; 1Co 14:37).
See TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE.
H. E. Jacobs