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The Ten Commandments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Modern Life Hardcover – September 7, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In the Supreme Court’s legalistic rulings on public display of the Ten Commandments, Hazony finds disturbing evidence that even when the Decalogue stirs up controversy, it does not receive serious scrutiny. Dispelling the common misconception that it is an irrelevant artifact of a theocratic age, Hazony shows that this set of biblical commandments fosters social health in ways that should matter even to the secularly minded. Even the first commandment—the warning against putting any god above the God of Abraham—yields a social imperative when Hazony draws from it a humane moral vision that will sustain redemptive action in an oppressive world. Similarly insightful readings open up the second commandment’s prohibition against graven images into an invitation into the richer life that awaits those who will smash the narcissistic idols of wealth and fashion; similarly, Hazony converts the fifth commandment’s injunction to honor our parents into a basis for intergenerational moral understanding. And in the final commandment’s admonition against covetousness, readers will discover a shelter against insecurity and a harbor of peace. Ultimately, Hazony finds in the Ten Commandments not a reason for discouragement because of our inevitable individual failings but, rather, a source for renewal of vibrant communities. A timely reappropriation of ancient moral wisdom. --Bryce Christensen


"Drawing on the Bible and classical rabbinical commentaries on the Bible, David Hazony adds his own insights to illuminate the central significance the Ten Commandments possess for modern life.  In this broad ranging work, Hazony addresses the most existentially pressing issues of human concern--community, integrity, relationships, values, repair of the world--and judiciously mines these central biblical directives for the guidance and inspiration they provide for human life both personal and communal.  This is a book of genuine wisdom."

-David Ellenson, President Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

“One of the greatest of Jewish literary arts is that of spinning brilliant and relevant disquisitions out of terse ancient texts, and David Hazony is a master at it. An exegesis of the Ten Commandments is precisely the book that needed to be written right now, and we are lucky that Hazony was around to write it.”  –Judith Shulevitz, author of The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time

“David Hazony accomplishes the seemingly impossible: He manages, after three thousand years of commentary, to extract new, even startling meaning, from the Ten Commandments. He has written a book of truth and beauty that avoids pieties and renders these half-remembered injunctions profoundly relevant to our lives today.”

–Yossi Klein Halevi, author of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; y First printing edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416562354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416562351
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,274,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
So what happened was this - I have a few "facebook Rabbis" as friends, so since facebook knows my "preferences" - I sometimes get Hebrew related advertisements. Hey, who couldn't use a discount on Matza?

Anyway, one day I get an advert in my upper right corner about this new book by David Hazony on the 10 Commandments. I think to myself, `I like books, I like books on the Old Testament, and this guy David Hazony sounds like a "dope authority" on the subject. So why not pick it up?

Hazony did his doctoral studies in Jewish Philosophy, he also translated Emuna Elon's novel "If You Awaken Love," which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in 2007.

From 2004-2007, Hazony served as editor-in-chief of Azure, the quarterly journal of Jewish public thought published by the Shalem Center; and his writings have appeared in The New Republic, the Forward, Commentary, Moment, The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Ideas Daily, The New York Sun, Policy Review, the Jerusalem Post, Azure, and others. He also blogs regularly at Contentions, the blog of Commentary Magazine.

To start, I loved this book - fell in love with it right away. Hazony's voice is easy to read and his chapters break down easily as he takes each "commandment" a chapter at a time. Not only does he give you a clear understanding of each commandment, but he takes it a few more steps - how the Hebrews would have understood them in history, how they often are observed today and what the "deeper" thought is behind each one.

"The 1o Commandments is neither an archaic remnant of a dead past nor an arbitrary set of laws handed down to a hundred generations of hungry supplicants and rebellious fools.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book offers a careful, close reading of the 10 Commandments, enlivened by the wisdom of a number of other Jewish texts that Hazony skillfully brings to bear. This was most lively, concrete, funny, and useful when Hazony brought in his own personal experiences — a summer job selling time-share condos, his time as a rabbinic student, his dealings with his own parents. The sections where Hazony is afield from both his own concrete experiences and Jewish texts (other than the Ten Commandments, which are constant) are the parts that I found the least useful. Overall, though, this is an accessible guide to the core of the Bible that will be particularly appreciated by Jewish readers. Well worth my time, I thought. I plan to keep it on my shelf to refer back to it as a pointer to other commentaries.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author did a wonderful job with this work and the reader isn't overwhelmed with lofty theological ideas or doctrines and one might think could happen. One can tell that the author is competent in both Jewish tradition and culture and yet he also is approachable to the Christian or even those who consider themselves religiously unaffliated. He does imply sharp contrasts in the differing dogmas of Judaism and Christianity, but not in any derogatory way. Each chapter is dedicated to a commandment which brings an ease to the reading that one can appericate, especially if one likes to read by chapters. Some portions of the book are profound and it pains the reader when he realizes the point or concept being presented is coming to an end. Conversely other parts of the work tend to go down some rabbit holes from time to time.

Overall the book was a pleasurable experince that exposes the reader to some intriguing rabbitic philosophy that some curious Chirstians might find appealing as well as very practical ideas regarding living and life. The author does a masterful job of blending the spiritual with the practical. Some of the more evangelical-minded might find the author's language wanting, but if a more broader audience was sought, this work has succeed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am not Jewish and certainly not a biblical scholar so I really wanted a discussion of how the 10 commandments fit into life today. Taken as written they seem pretty straightforward. However, after reading this book it seems they don't mean at all what they say. For example "thou shalt not kill" really means thou shalt not murer, shich is a relief because as the author discusses, that would require no effort toward self-defense if attacked, and the military would be doomed. Honoring one's mother and father is required because of what they teach us, not, apparently, because of how they treated us. That is somewhat troubling because I'm sure many parents who abuse their children, or teach them criminal ways do not deserve honoring. And coveting our neighbor's .... (insert whichever possession is appropriate), has more to do with a sense of community than it does jealousy.I think I'll have to put this book aside for a while and maybe read some others on this subject, then return and re-read this to see if I understand it better. Perhaps then I could revise my rating.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Recommended to me by a Rabbi friend, Hazony's book has added new dimensions of understanding to the ancient Decalogue. I've used in generously in a series of sermons about the Ten Commandments this summer. I think Hazony is on to something in his seeking a broader-than-usual angle on these commands. It did seem to me that he more or less missed the point on #10, though.
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