When the Ten Commandments were given to Israel at Mount Sinai, they weren’t written with Roman numerals or from left to right. They were written with Hebrew letters, right to left, and called the Ten Words. A wonderful teaching tool for learning the Ten Commandments is to use the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the letters have a picture that actually reveals the meaning of each commandment. The Ten Commandments are listed using the Hebrew letter picture along with new testament Scriptures proving that all of the Ten Commandments were reiterated by Yeshua and the apostles in the new testament.
Love God – The First and Greatest Commandment
א Alef – An Ox
The first commandment is represented by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, alef. The letter picture for alef is an Ox. The Ox is symbolic of ‘strength, leader, or what comes first.’ We are to have no other gods except first and foremost, yod-hey-vav-hey who delivers us from the bondage of slavery into freedom, from sin and death into fullness of life. It is only Adonai who is able to destroy every power or ‘other gods’ as He did in Egypt.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3).
“Yeshua answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the LORD your God and serve him only‘” (Luke 4:8).
ב Bet – A House
The second commandment is represented by the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, bet. The letter picture for bet is a Tent or House. This letter symbolizes ‘a household or family’ and is the preposition in. In Middle Eastern culture, idols were called ‘household gods.’ Rachel was guilty of sitting on an idol when Laban came to Jacob looking for his household gods (Genesis 31:19).
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
ג Gimel – A Camel
The third commandment is represented by the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet, gimel. The letter picture for gimel is a Camel, and is also the Hebrew word for ‘camel.’ The symbolic meaning is to ‘lift up or pride.’ We are not to use the name of Adonai pridefully. We are not to lift up His Name up in any profane way. When we live lawlessly, contrary to His commands, and call ourselves His followers, saved by Yeshua, then we misuse His Name and profane it among the world in which we live. This would be considered ‘taking His Name in vain.’
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7).
“As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the nations because of you’” (Romans 2:24).
ד Dalet – A Door
The fourth commandment is represented by the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, dalet. The letter picture for dalet is a Door and is also the Hebrew word for ‘door.’ The symbolic meaning is ‘a pathway or a place to enter.’ Yeshua stands at the dalet and knocks. Anyone who opens the dalet to him will enjoy the feast fellowship with him (Revelation 3:20). The fourth commandment is the Sabbath and the dalet we enter so we can have a more intimate fellowship with the Father through Yeshua.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it ‘set apart’. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:8).
“Then Yeshua said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5).
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work (of creation), just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9,10).
The first three commandments explain how to love God; the next six explain how to love our neighbor. The Sabbath is the dalet or pathway that moves us from loving God to loving our neighbor.
Love your Neighbor – The Second Greatest Commandment
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
ה Hey – A Window
The fifth commandment is represented by the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, hey. The letter picture for hey is a Window and symbolizes ‘to behold, observe or reveal,’ and is the modifier the like in HaShem (The Name). On the cross, Yeshua looks at John and says, “John, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son” (John 19:26).
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 2:10).
Yeshua, on the cross, looks at John and tells him, “John, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son” (John 19:26).
ו Vav – A Nail
The sixth commandment is represented by the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, vav. The letter picture for vav is a Nail or Peg. It is symbolic of ‘securing and binding,’ and is the conjunction and as in chesed v’ahava meaning ‘mercy and love.’ Yeshua was bound and nailed to the cross and killed.
“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
“Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with is brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).
ז Zayin – A Sword
The seventh commandment is represented by the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, zayin. The letter picture for zayin is a Weapon like an axe. It is symbolic of ‘cutting, separating, and dividing.’ Adultery is like an axe that separates and divides a married couple.
“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).
“Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (cut apart)” (Mark 10:9).
The eighth commandment is represented by the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, chet. The letter picture for chet is a Fence. The symbolic meaning of chet is to ‘surround in order to protect that which is within its boundaries.’ A fence surrounds personal property from those who would steal. In Hebrew thought, the Torah is considered a ‘fence’ that surrounds and protects those who stay within its boundaries.
“You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).
“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
ט Tet – A Snake
The ninth commandment is represented by the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, tet. The letter picture for tet is a Snake. It symbolizes ‘twisting.’ It was the serpent who twisted the truth and lied to Eve in the Garden of Eden. False testimony or lying is ‘twisting’ the truth.
“You shall not bear false witness (lie) against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
י Yod – A Closed Hand
The tenth commandment is represented by the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, yod. The letter picture for yod is a Closed Hand. This symbolizes ‘a finished work or completed deed.’ When a person covets, their hand is not closed and content, but open and desiring more –– more of what their neighbor has.
“You shall not covet your neighbors house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:17).
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrew 13:5).
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