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The Ten Commandments

Why the Decalogue Matters
June 1, 2013 | Leon R. Kass
About the author: Leon R. Kass is currently Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. He is the Hertog Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. A physician, scientist, educator, and public intellectual, he served in 2001-2005 as chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics.
Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law Rembrandt van Rijn, 1659. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
The biblical book of Genesis presents the story of how God’s new way for humankind finds its first adherent in a single individual—Abraham, a man out of Mesopotamia—and how that way survives through three generations in the troubled households of Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, who is renamed Israel. By the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus, the children of Israel are settled in Egypt, a land of good and plenty, where they are soon teeming and prospering—only, a brief time thereafter, to find themselves subjugated and enslaved. How this multitude becomes transformed into a people, out of and against Egypt, is the subject of Exodus and the following books.

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