Modernising the Ten Commandments for Our Times: A Blueprint for a Compassionate World

In an era where our global community faces unprecedented challenges and transformation, the age-old ethical and moral foundations guiding human conduct warrant a re-examination, writes DOUGLAS RASBASH

The fundamental principles that have historically provided a moral compass for humanity must evolve to resonate with the complexities and nuances of its modern existence. With a vision to usher society into a future shaped by understanding, empathy and sustainability, it is crucial to reinterpret and modernise the Ten Commandments. This is because it can be argued that early definitions of civilisation had their roots in the Ten Commandments. The approximate  timeline of 3270 years (from the traditional dating of the Exodus around 1300-1200 BCE to the present day) does indicate the enduring significance of the Ten Commandments as a framework for guiding ethical and moral behaviour in various societies.

Throughout history, the Ten Commandments have served as a foundational set of principles for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They have influenced moral teachings, legal systems, and societal norms in different cultures and civilisations. But while these compelling tenets have been widely respected and followed for millennia, the question of objective evaluation of just how civilisation measures up to its worthy aims is an interesting and complex one. As religious and moral guidelines, the Ten Commandments are deeply rooted in faith and spiritual belief, making their evaluation more subjective by nature.

Even so, your very own Botswana Gazette ought not to be deterred from the task and looking at the Ten Commandments in a more contemporary setting. And while the author cannot claim being inspired from 40 days of contemplation in the Kalahari Desert, a certain degree of inspiration and revelation was required.

Contemporising the Ten Commandments obviously is a subjective process, but it is also a compelling one. The tablet of stone on which Moses delivered the Ten to the Israelites is now recrafted for the readers’ edification on the digital tablet.



Contemporary Interpretation Suggested Indicator
1. You shall have no other gods before Me. Respect religious freedom and tolerance for diverse beliefs. Index of religious freedom and tolerance.
2. You shall not make idols or worship false gods. Promote environmental sustainability and cultural preservation. Carbon footprint and heritage protection index.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord. Promote respect for religious symbols and beliefs. Hate speech and blasphemy laws index.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Support work-life balance and mental health. Work-life balance index and mental health survey.
5. Honor your father and mother. Foster strong family relationships and support for the elderly. Intergenerational relationship index and elderly care access.
6. You shall not murder. Ensure public safety and access to healthcare. Homicide rates and public health index.
7. You shall not commit adultery. Promote healthy relationships and gender equality. Adultery rates and gender equality index.
8. You shall not steal. Address income inequality and corruption. Income inequality index and corruption perception index.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. Promote truth and trust in  communications and in society. Media trust index and misinformation impact assessment.
10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour. Encourage contentment and reduce materialism. Happiness index and consumerism scale.


Let us look into each of the New Ten in more detail and suggest ways of actually measuring how compliant to the ‘Modern Ten’ society has become.

Embracing Diversity and Respect for Beliefs

The contemporary reinterpretation of “You shall have no other gods before me” emphasises the importance of respecting diverse religious beliefs. Religious freedom and tolerance are fundamental human rights that should be upheld and celebrated in today’s pluralistic society. The Index of Religious Freedom and Tolerance serves as a key indicator, measuring the acceptance and respect for a multitude of religious and spiritual beliefs.

Stewardship of Our Planet and Heritage

The commandment “You shall not make idols or worship false gods” is reconceptualised to promote environmental sustainability and cultural preservation. Our reverence for nature and heritage defines our commitment to leave a thriving planet for future generations. By tracking the carbon footprint and heritage protection index, we can measure our progress in safeguarding both the environment and cultural legacies.

Balanced Living and Mental Well-Being

“Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy” transforms into a call for work-life balance and mental health support. In our bustling lives, striking a balance between work commitments and personal well-being is crucial. Metrics such as the Work-Life Balance Index and mental health surveys provide valuable insights into our progress towards nurturing a healthier, more balanced society.

Nurturing Strong Family Bonds

“Honour your father and mother” in its contemporary interpretation emphasises fostering strong family relationships and supporting the elderly. Our interconnectedness within families forms the bedrock of our society. Tracking the intergenerational relationship index and elderly care access helps ensure that we honour and support our family structures.

Justice, Safety and Healthcare Access

The commandment “You shall not murder” now stands as a beacon for ensuring public safety and access to healthcare for all. Upholding the value of human life extends beyond preventing harm; it encompasses guaranteeing access to essential healthcare. Homicide rates and a public health index shed light on our efforts to create a safer and healthier world.

Gender Equality and Healthy Relationships

“You shall not commit adultery” translates into a call for promoting healthy relationships and gender equality. A society rooted in respect, understanding, and gender parity is a society that thrives. By monitoring adultery rates and gender equality indices, we strive to foster relationships based on mutual respect and fairness.

Transparency, Integrity and Economic Fairness

Addressing income inequality and corruption is the contemporary essence of “You shall not steal.” Economic disparity and corruption undermine social fabric. Tracking the income inequality index and corruption perception index guides our pursuit of a fair and transparent society where all can prosper.

Truthful Communication and Information

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” is reimagined to promote truth and trust in society in general, communications and media. The power of truth is immeasurable, shaping our collective understanding. Indexes such as media trust and misinformation impact assessments empower us to cultivate a society where trust and truth prevail.

Contentment over Consumerism

“You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour” guides us towards contentment and reducing materialism. In a world inundated with desires, finding contentment in what we have is a virtue. The happiness index and consumerism scale gauge our progress in cultivating a society that values contentment over excess.

In modernizing the Ten Commandments, we have striven to have created a world where compassion, understanding and ethical conduct reign supreme. These reinterpretations act as a blueprint for a compassionate society that cherishes diversity, respects all life, and endeavours to leave a positive legacy for future generations. Your Gazette will leave the task of assessing the extent to which we comply with the New Ten Commandments using the indicators suggested in the digital tablet.

As we navigate the complexities of our time, let us embrace these revised commandments to collectively build a world that celebrates the intrinsic goodness within us all.