BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Ten Commandments’

Equally emphatic is the Seventh Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”The specific prohibition is obvious.Mr. Hazony goes on to make a much broader and more modern point, one that, he admits, we do not “usually associate with the Old Testament”: the importance of romantic love.

The Eighth Commandant prohibits theft. Mr. Hazony explains why what are commonly called “property rights” really are the rights of people to create and use property. Thus, the ban on theft is necessary to respect the humanity and dignity of others.

The Ninth Commandment bans bearing “false witness” against one’s neighbor. Mr. Hazony contends that the reference to neighbors emphasizes the impact of dishonesty on community. Making the Bible’s redemptive identities thrive, he adds, is “the key to ending most of the bloodshed and war in the world.” Unfortunately, this objective isn’t likely to be realized in this life.

The Tenth Commandment forbids covetousness.Envy always has been one of mankind’s most destructive emotions.Greed often is purely self-directed, while envy is destructive of community, since it can be satisfied only by tearing down others.

Mr. Hazony sees obedience with this commandment as the key to peace since it confronts “the sin of insecurity.” He acknowledges the unusual formulation, arguing that “to covet is to have lost our inner peace, our baseline satisfaction about who we are and what we have.” It’s another intriguing argument, worthy of reflection even if it moves beyond the obvious meaning of the text.

The Ten Commandments have an essential role in regulating the behavior of sinful human beings.But Mr. Hazony persuasively contends that the Ten Commandments represent much more.

On occasion his creativity outruns the most likely meaning of God’s instructions, but he persuasively argues that they embody “both the complexity and the possibilities of life.”Our lives would be so much richer … and we would be so much closer to God - if we better applied the deep human and spiritual principles embodied by the Ten Commandments.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is he author of “Beyond Good Intentions:A Biblical View of Politics” (Crossway).

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