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Inspired by this discussion.

When did the Decalogue (עשרת הדברים) begin being called the Aseres Hadibros (no Biblical source for those words) as opposed to the Aseres Hadevarim (Shemos 34:28, Devarim 4:13 and 10:4), and why? Please provide sources as part of your answers if you can.

Funny how I have to use the Aseres Hadibros tag... :)

  • Probably Aramaic somehow – Double AA Mar 16 '18 at 4:15
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    @DoubleAA why would you say that? What would Aramaic have to do with it? I was thinking Mishnaic Hebrew. – רבות מחשבות Mar 16 '18 at 4:28
  • (Mishnaic Hebrew is often influenced from Aramaic) דיברא / dibra is how each is often referred to in Aramaic in Piyutim and such – Double AA Mar 16 '18 at 14:46
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    It's an okay question, but I believe it's just a difference between Biblical and Rabbinical Hebrew. – ezra Mar 16 '18 at 19:41
  • There are two changes here: 1. Ending masculine to feminine is probably a Mishnaic (mis?)-use 2. Single: Diber instead of Davar (still masculine, as we say "Hadiber Harishon"). No Mishnaic or Talmudic source had Nikkud, so it is interesting when it started to be pronounced so. – Al Berko Mar 18 '18 at 11:18
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Meir Gruber, in Beit Mikra 27:1 (pages 16-21) suggests that this change during Tannaic period in order to combat the growing Christian understanding (see Mark 10:19, which refers to them as the commandments) that only these special "ten commandments" were given to Moshe at Har Sinai. This is linked to the Yerushalmi in Berachos (1:5), which notes this belief, and gives it as the reason that the custom of reciting the Aseres Hadibros daily was stopped (as noted in TB Berachos 12a):

דרב מתנא ור' שמואל בר נחמן תרוויהון אמרי בדין היה שיהיו קורין עשרת הדברות בכל יום ומפני מה אין קורין אותן מפני טענות המינין שלא יהו אומרים אלו לבדן ניתנו לו למשה בסיני.

In his understanding, Dibros are different in that they refer to more of a 'prophetic experience', as opposed to Devarim which refer to 'commandments', and that the reason for such a change, and specifically at that time, was to combat this above belief.


If you can access and understand the article, it is well worth the read. He deals with all of the questions that I am expecting in the comments...

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I'm not sure what the earliest source might be, but it was already called Aseres Hadibros, in Berachot 5a:

וא"ר לוי בר חמא אמר ר' שמעון בן לקיש מאי דכתיב ואתנה לך את לוחות האבן והתורה והמצוה אשר כתבתי להורותם לוחות אלו עשרת הדברות

And in Shir Hashirim Raba (1:4:6), it "explains" that Aseres Hadvarim are the Aseres Hadibros:

אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֶתְכֶם לַעֲשׂוֹת עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים, אֵלּוּ עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת

I'm also not sure of the reason for this change.

  • I was aware that the Gemara calls it that. This doesn't answer the question... – רבות מחשבות Mar 16 '18 at 4:52
  • Avos Derabi Nasan (1:1) and Maseches Sofrim (21:6) also call it Aseres Hadibros. – רבות מחשבות Mar 16 '18 at 4:56
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    ok ok. You asked when did it start being called that. You also linked your question as inspired by a discussion how far back does the name 10 commandments, go back. That's why I assumed you wanted an early source for this one. Hence my answer. – aBochur Mar 16 '18 at 5:02
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    @רבות re "This doesn't answer the question": Well, it kinda does. You did ask when the name first appeared, and this answer puts an upper bound on that. – msh210 Mar 16 '18 at 5:04
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    I don't know if this is what the OP had in mind, but your answer raises the question that chazal clearly say the עשרת הדברים = עשרת הדברות, which I think suggests that there is a difference between the two terms. specifically in relation to what aspect the two different terms are referring to - meaning that דברות would refer to one aspect/concept/angle & דברים would refer to a different aspect/concept/angle. – Ibber Chochem Mar 16 '18 at 6:15
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It's not only a difference in masculine and feminine forms of the same word. In the bible the term used is דברים, from דבר (Davar), loosely translated as a "the items that were spoken about". In Chazal, the term used is plural of דיבר (Diber), used as a noun to mean specifically the word of God as transfered by a human prophet, as in Jeremiah 5,13:

וְהַנְּבִיאִים יִהְיוּ לְרוּחַ, וְהַדִּבֵּר אֵין בָּהֶם; כֹּה יֵעָשֶׂה, לָהֶם.

The exact reason Chazal switched the term is difficult to say, but suffice to note that their Hebrew was rather different. Already in the time of the Mishna, דבר came to it's more modern meaning, i.e. "a thing / item", without the context of being spoken, e.g.:

עשרה דברים נבראו בערב שבת בין השמשות

This may suggest that Chazal wanted to emphasize the divine origin, moving away from a term that at their time meant "The ten items", moving towards something closer to the original meaning of ten divine utterances.

  • Excellent. This is exactly Gruber's motivation for the above: "In his understanding, Dibros are different in that they refer to more of a 'prophetic experience', as opposed to Devarim which refer to 'commandments',". He quotes this Passuk on page 19 in his article. However, I won't upvote as this is too similar to my answer. – רבות מחשבות Mar 18 '18 at 14:38

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