Giraudon/Art Resource

Vibrant colors and broad brushstrokes convey an air of frenzied activity in “Dance of the Golden Calf,” by the twentieth-century German expressionist painter Emil Nolde (1867–1956). Author Freedman writes that the books of the Bible from Exodus through Kings each record, in order, a violation of the commandments given directly to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. Freedman counts only nine such commandments—not the customary ten—because he believes the last one, against coveting, is actually the motivation for the preceding four (which ban murder, adultery, theft and perjury). The worship of the Golden Calf, Freedman notes, is actually a double violation: it combines apostasy and the making of a graven image in a single act. Although Genesis does not figure in Freedman’s scheme, this double transgression in Exodus leaves seven more sins for the seven books that follow.