Exodus 20:1-17 The ten commandments
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Number 1. No gods before Him. God must be first.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…”
Number 2. No idols. And I think with the explanation, it goes beyond that. It says likeness which I take to mean representation. I don’t think we should even have representations of God Himself. I don’t see a problem with pictures of Christ if they are to show a scene from scripture or the like, but reliefs or other facsimiles can too easily become objects of reverence or worship.
5 “…visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me”
This always sounded to me like God was punishing the descendants for the sins of the parents, but I don’t think that’s the idea. I believe God is saying He doesn’t forget. If someone sins against Him in this area of idol worship, He doesn’t pass it off or give up on the bloodline, but continues to watch if the idolatry is passed down. If so, He confronts each new generation which chooses to worship anyone or anything other than Him. Offers a chance for repentance and forgiveness, but will take action if sin is chosen.
7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…”
Number 3. He refers to His name, what we render as LORD, but I think it is wise to refrain from using any reference to God in a vain, disrespectful, or irreverent manner. I see no reason to do so unless the purpose is to show disrespect.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
Number 4. God rested on the seventh day. He told the Israelites to do the same. Which brings up a good point. Should everyone honor the seventh day? My Bible teacher studied the question. He thought the commandment was aimed directly at the Jews as part of their covenant with God. If you go back to Creation, you find the original idea of working six and resting one. After the resurrection, the followers of Christ began meeting on the first day of the week in commemoration. I think that idea fulfills the intent for everyone. For Jewish Christians, I think whether to observe the seventh day would be one of personal conviction. The old covenant is gone, but there may be value in observing it as part of the Jewish culture.
12 “Honor your father and your mother…”
Number 5. Respect and care. Some see the first four commandments as being toward God while the last six are toward man. I tend to see it split five and five. While the fifth is directed to human parents, it seems to me they are earthly representations of God. While they aren’t God and should never replace Him, they are in a similar place of authority for a time. They teach us to honor and revere God as we learn to honor and revere them. And it’s well known that the way a child views their parents has a direct relation to how they will view God, which is why parenting is so important. Anyway, I see the fifth commandment as completing the first set and transferring to the next, that which is above us to that which is on our level.
12 “…that your days may be long upon the land…”
The commandment with an attached promise or reward. Paul mentions it in Ephesians.
13 “You shall not murder.”
Number 6. It actually says murder rather than kill. Murder is killing, but all killing isn’t murder. Basic definition might be that murder is killing of an innocent or one who is innocent. Killing in war or to defend self or others is not considered murder. There is also accidental death which isn’t intended, although some actions could lead to unintended death. Man’s laws address that, but the best view there is to consider the intention of the heart.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.”
Number 7. The basic definition is sexual relations with someone outside the marriage covenant. However, the broader intent covers all relations. God set the marital relation as that between one woman and one man. After the fall, the time of that relation was limited to a lifetime or until one person died, although original limits may not have existed. That being the standard, any sexual relation outside of that is not acceptable. Therefore, the seventh commandment covers all forms of sexual immorality whether it be within marriage, outside of marriage, or outside the natural such as homosexuality or bestiality. This is why those who say Jesus didn’t address homosexuality directly are mistaken. Jesus quoted the standard. All else is not allowed.
15 “You shall not steal.”
Number 8. Don’t take what is not yours.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Number 9. Do not lie. Do not say what is not true against anyone. Seems like this one is stated in such a way as to bring in the direction. Against your neighbor. The intent is to lie to harm someone else. But I think the idea of not lying at all, regardless of the affected persons, is also here. Proverbs 6 lists the two ideas. Verse 17 says a lying tongue, which would be lying at all. Verse 19 says a false witness who speaks lies, which would be directed at another.
17 “You shall not covet…”
Number 10. The verse lists things not to covet, but it all amounts to do not desire that which belongs to another. Shows distrust in God to provide what you need. Also insults Him in saying He hasn’t given you or won’t give you what you need. Scripture also refers to it as idolatry, putting something before God. In this case, the self. I and my desires are more important than God.
20 “…God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin”
The sight of the mountain scared the people, which was the point. The people didn’t have a reverence toward God, and they needed it if they were ever going to be His people.
23 “You shall not make anything to be with Me…”
From the beginning, God was very intentional about there being nothing between people and Himself. The fact that He had to create the Holy of Holies was because of the necessity of separating His holiness from man’s sinfulness, not because He wanted to be separated from us. I think this is one reason He made the point of tearing the veil when Jesus died. He showed that the separation was over. Man could finally come directly to Him again. Personal, one to one communication with God was once again possible.
24-25 “An altar of earth you shall make for Me…if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone…”
God wanted things natural, from that which was created in nature. Amazes me whenever I run across another instance where He chooses to have things from His physical creation, even though it’s not completely perfect as it was. All things from this physical universe. Seems to me it hints at that which He had in mind in the beginning. The more I learn of our physical universe, the more I see that God had something in mind, and may still do so. So much out there and so many times He chooses to use His creation when He could do things differently.
26 “Nor shall you go up by steps…”
Had to look this one up to be sure. Going up steps in a flowing robe could allow exposure of the lower parts of the body. Eventually God will instruct them to provide leggings or britches for the priests to prevent any accidental exposure, but for now, He instructs them to not use steps. Therefore, they created ramps to get up to the altars they built instead of steps. Prevented hems of robes from having to get too far above the ground.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.