The 10 Commandments
(Part 4)

Dateline: 10 April 2015

In the previous installment of this series I shared the mental picture and phrase I came up with to remember (and never forget) the 9th Commandment. I put my mental picture into a series of actual visual images because, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

When I came up with the word pictures for remembering all of God’s 10 Commandments, and used them to teach my children, I didn’t put much effort into the art. It really isn’t necessary to have good art to relay the image and, in fact, I don’t think it is necessary to have any art at all to utilize this idea. A simple discussion of the word picture, with a little imagination, is sufficient to secure the necessary image in one’s mind. Our brains are good at this sort of thing. 

That said, I will present the remaining nine Commandments to you with simple line drawings, or no drawings at all. It is up to you to take a few minutes to imagine and “lock” the images (along with their memory-prompting phrases) into your brain. Then, from time to time, mentally refresh the images until you can recall them quickly (without much effort).

I should mention that my absurd mental pictures and memory prompts are not the only images you can utilize to remember the 10 Commandments. You can certainly come up with your own.

The following pictures can be clicked to see enlarged views.

The 7th Commandment

The picture above is a tree with an unusual fruit. The fruits you see are all in the shape of a 7. So when you want to remember the 7th Commandment, your brain needs to bring to mind the odd seven-shaped fruits.

The fruits are actually cucumbers. The cucumbers on the tree always grow in the shape of a 7. And here’s the other odd thing about these cucumbers… they come right off the tree tasting like dill pickles.

If it helps, you can imagine the Vlasic stork picking the seven-shaped dill pickles off the tree, snapping them in two, and stuffing them into jars. Action always helps when remembering an absurd visual image.

You could even imagine the Vlasic stork throwing the seven-shaped dill pickles like a boomerang, and when they come back, he catches them on his long beak. That’s absurd for you. 

But the key word this image needs to bring to your mind is “A Dill Tree,” which sounds a lot like adultery. So it should prompt your brain to remember the 7th Commandment is: Thou shalt not commit adultery.

The 4th Commandment

To remember the 4th Commandment you want to think of an old cast iron claw-foot bathtub. But instead of having claw feet, the tub has four number 4’s for it’s feet. That’s kind of silly.

Please note that the bathtub above is sad. It is a “Sad Bath,” which sounds a lot like sabbath. And you will also notice the bath tub is full of holes. This image should be sufficient for you to remember the 4th Commandment: Remember the sabbath, to keep it holy.

The 8th Commandment

The picture above shows two eggs balanced on a spoon. The word “egg” sounds a lot like eight, and when you stack one egg on top of another (in a spoon) they look a lot like an eight. So this image should first come into your mind when you want to recall the 8th commandment. 

Now you need to use your imagination… imagine that a thief has gotten into your hen house and he has put two eggs onto a spoon, like the picture shows. You discover the thief in the act of stealing your eggs and frighten him off. He runs away, all the while holding the spoon and balancing the eggs. It’s impossible to balance two eggs and it’s doubly impossible to run with two eggs balanced on a spoon, so this is totally absurd, which is what you need. 

The image should prompt you to remember that the 8th Commandment is: Thou shalt not steal.

The 5th Commandment

Imagine that your father (or mother) wants to teach you the 5th Commandment, and to do so he makes a big number 5 out of foam or cardboard. The number is 2ft wide and 4ft high. Your father straps the 5 on his back like a backpack and wears it everywhere.

He has to duck to go through doorways because the five is riding high on his back. When he turns around in a store, the 5 smacks into merchandise and it crashes to the ground. When you and your father are in public, people point and stare. You are kind of embarrassed.

The big 5 is “on your father,” which sounds a lot like, “honor your father” That phrase, along with the visual image, should prompt you to remember the 5th Commandment is: Thou shalt honor your father and your mother.

By the way, this Commandment from Exodus 20 has a promise attached to it: Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which thy God giveth thee.  When I see someone who has lived a long life I think to myself that they must have honored their father and their mother in their younger years.

The 6th Commandment

When you want to remember the 6th Commandment, think about the X at the end of six. 

Then think about the cartoon man pictured above. See the X over his eye? Sad to say, that means the cartoon man is deceased. X’s over the eyes are universally understood in the cartoon world to mean the cartoon drawing has died.

How did the cartoon man die? I’m not sure, but I think a large cartoon rooster came up from behind and bopped him on top of the head with an oversized wooden mallet. That’ll do it.

So the X in six leads to the image of a dead cartoon man and that should be sufficient to prompt you to remember that the 6th Commandment is: Thou shalt not kill.

The 2nd Commandment

The 2nd Commandment should bring to mind two objects… a gray van with a large wooden match on the top, as illustrated above (that's an Ohio Blue Tip match). All the stick people on the ground below are looking at the gray van and match. They are raising their hands to worship the gray van and match.  Now for a little action…

Imagine a dark cloud comes over this scene and a bolt of lightning strikes the end of the match. It bursts into a ball of fire and ignites the gas tank in the gray van. The people who were worshiping the gray van and match are stunned, as their idol is destroyed Ha! Foolish people.

Gray van and match sounds a lot like graven image, which should prompt you to remember the 2nd Commandment is: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

The 3rd Commandment

The 10 Commandments are often pictured on two stone tablets with rounded tops. If you think about it, the shape of the top of the two tablets is like a 3 on it’s side. So there you go—that’s the first image you should get. 

Then you need to imagine that the two tablets are made into a weather vane on the top of your house (there’s an idea). Oh, and God’s name is on the weathervane too.

Now imagine that a bunch of militant secularists are upset with this outward expression of your religious belief. They put a ladder up against the roof of your house and they are intent on taking God’s name off the weather vane.

The secularists are steaming mad. Their faces are red and their teeth are clenched tight, and smoke is coming out their ears. But you and your friends are already on the roof. You put your hands up and shout, “No! you can’t take the name of the lord in the vane!”

It’s a dramatic scene and, of course, it should bring to mind the 3rd Commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

The 10th Commandment

Ten sounds a lot like, “hen.” Perfect. Think of a hen. You own this hen. It is not just any hen. It is a uniquely talented hen. The hen in your imagination must have a tool belt around it, and in the tool belt are a bunch of chisels. With a hammer in one wing, and a chisel in the other, this hen carves the word “it” on everything in sight. People come from miles around to see this amazing hen carve “it” over and over again. But you are sick of it. You yell at the hen, “Don’t carve it!”

This image, once secured in your brain, will bring to mind the 10th Commandment, which is: Thou shalt not covet, or “Don’t covet!”

The 1st Commandment

No picture. This one requires pure imagination on your part...

Imagine a hive of honeybees amidst a field of flowers. There are thousands and thousands of busy bees in the air and on the flowers. All the bees are doing what bees do... except one.

Out of all the thousands of bees there is one that has decided to be a bee farmer. This farmer bee is wearing a little straw hat and driving a little tractor.

So, out of all the bees, there is "one bee farming," which sounds a lot like the phrase "none before me," which should prompt you to remember that the 1st Commandment is: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

In Conclusion

There was a time when I considered hiring an artist and creating a book for children on the subject of learning the 10 Commandments using memorable silly images. But like a lot of ideas I get, this one will not happen. If someone else is inspired by this idea, then go right ahead and make the book. If done properly, it could prove to be a popular learning tool.

I can also see this concept translated into skits within a family or church group. It would be a lot of fun, and surely memorable.

Beyond that, it would provide an opportunity for more serious discussion. After all, the pictures and the technique is silly, but, as I explained in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, the 10 Commandments are something very serious.

View of the Supreme Court building in Washington. Moses, holding the 10 Commandments, is the central figure. Learn more at This Link.
 (click to see enlarged view)


Unknown said...

Absolutely outstanding!!! I have a mind that works like this (ever play Mad Gab?) After reading this post, I know them all and will likely not forget. Thanks!!!

Jon in Indiana (still enjoying frozen cider from last Fall...)

jewlz said...

I find your illustrations charming & more than adequate to the task of illustrating your book, fyi.

Anonymous said...

I have an old book that explains how to remember things like this with word pictures! This looks like fun. I have met a couple who remember everyones name upon hearing it once,,but my daughters name "Casey Jones" eludes them , I think it may interfere with their own system of word pictures that they use !!! Karen

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks. Mad Gab? I'll have to Google that. We have one single gallon of cider left in the freezer. I don't think it will last us to cider season.

Thanks. That is kind of you. I am most pleased with how the sad bath turned out.

Interesting. It is an old memory technique, I'm sure. If someone really wanted to develop the habit of remembering names, they would come up with a long list of pre-imagined images for many common names, and then associate the image with the person, or some outstanding feature of the person. It would require some effort but it would be a fun mental exercise.

Kyle Sonnier said...

Mr. Kimball,
I wanted to tell you thanks for sharing the 10 Commandments memory technique. We had a family devotion the other night and went through them all. It was really easy to remember them. You were right!

Then, in lieu of my normal Sunday School lesson for our Youth Sunday School Class, I used your technique and taught them all ten. The kids really enjoyed the silly stories and art. Once Sunday School was over, we went into Morning Worship and after church one of my students came up to me and remembered ALL ten of them. She was proud (and I was proud of her).

I really appreciate all you write. Although you may not know it, you are impacting many lives. The Deliberate Agrarian blog is a great ministry and I thank God for you.

Herrick Kimball said...


That's a wonderful story!

Makes my day. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Can you come up with pictures that illustrate what they mean? I can make my kids memorize 'em as jump rope rhymes. Doesn't do much good if they don't understand what it means to covet, or how you honor your father, or that there's more than not using any potty words to not taking Gods name in vain.

Herrick Kimball said...

I agree.
The fun of remembering the Commandments as word pictures can serve as an opportunity for you to teach your own children what they mean.

Anonymous said...

Shabbat Shalom!