Exodus Chapter 20


The preface to the ten commandments. (Verse 1,2.)

The commandments of the first table. (Verse 3-11.)

Of the second table. (Verse 12-17.)

The fear of the people. (Verse 18-21.)

Idolatry again forbidden. (Verse 22-26.)

This chapter provides us with God’s “ten commandments.”  It should be noted that Jesus Christ was the only person to ever obey all ten of these commandments every day of his life.  These commandments (called “the law” in the NT) were designed to be a “schoolmaster” to teach a man his faults and his need to be saved (Gal. 3:24); where a “student” fails to follow the schoolmaster to a saving knowledge of Christ, he goes back under the curse of the law (Gal. 5:4 & 3:13).    Theoretically, IF a person could keep the whole law, God would justify that man and he could go to heaven (ie. he would be saved because he would have no sin).  Practically however, all are sinners who violate these commandments almost daily.  Therefore, the practical effect of the law is to give us a knowledge of sin and show us that we are sinners.

1 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Ask yourself this question, was the body of Christ ever in bondage to Egypt? No! The 10 Commandments were given to the nation of Israel not the body of Christ. Please read on before you get mad.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

the first commandment -”Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – this command is violated by us all regularly whenever we fail to love the Lord our God with ALL our hearts, ALL our souls, and ALL our minds – whenever God does not have ALL of us, something else is coming between us and God and we are violating the command – this is admittedly sobering.

Notice God uses the word “gods” with a small g. He is the one and only God and all other gods are not really God’s at all but spirits masquerading as God.

   How foolish for a person to place a created being in front of the Creator God! God forbids such actions because worship alone belongs to the one who created the worshipper in the first place, not to some fallen angel that only seeks to take you away from your Creator who loves you and gave you life.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

the second commandment concerns graven images; the first commandment covers all forms of idolatry while this command covers a specific type of idolatry.  It is interesting to note that if there is any, one, modern “christian” religion that violates this commandment blatantly it is the Roman Catholic Church (just walk into any cathedral and look around); it is even more interesting to note that in Roman Catholic teaching on the ten commandments that they simply eliminate this commandment and split the ninth commandment to get a total of ten.  In the Roman Catholic “bible” a footnote appears that explains that it is okay to make graven images as long as they are not “adored” – “…images, pictures, or representations, even in the house of God [ie. a Catholic cathedral], and in the very sanctuary, so far from being forbidden, are expressly authorized by the word of God.”  The verses quoted are from the Roman Catholic apocrypha and thus another religion changes and perverts the Bible to prove their own doctrines and to cover up their own sins.

Study Question

What does God command the Jews to do concerning even the “pictures” possessed by the heathen according to  Num. 33:52?

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

This is the commandment that the Catholics leave out of their ten because the practice of idolatry (the worship of images) is practiced by all Catholics.

How do they justify deleting a commandment? They simply double up on the last commandment concerning coveting and make it two commandments instead of one.

So, coveting is twice as bad as having some other god before the one true God according to them and graven images, well, they make a lot of money off of them.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

[Num 30:2, Lev 19:12, Deut 23:21, Matt 5:33]

Is it okay for a Christian to use the Lord’s name in vain because the law was never given to the Gentiles? Of course not. We should reverence the one who died for us and not belittle his name.

Study Question

What happened to one who violated this command in Lev. 24:10-14.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

this fourth commandment has been commented upon extensively in Genesis 2 and in Exodus 12.  The other nine commandments are moral commands that any man’s conscience will convict him of because God has written his law upon men’s hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).  The command about the Sabbath however was something God had to reveal and instruct his people about; it has nothing to do with worship (read the verses) but primarily with rest and was a “sign” between himself and the Jewish people.  It is the ONLY one of the ten commandments NOT repeated in the New Testament.

The sabbath day was taught to the nation of Israel at mount Sinai as a part of the law and is a picture of Israel’s kingdom rest that happens after the time of Jacob’s trouble ends, it was never given to the church because we are under grace and heaven an heavenly destiny not an earthly one.

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

[Ex 21:17 Lev 20:9 Dt 5:16 27:16 Prov 30:17 Mt 15:4 Mt 19:18, Mark 7:10, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Eph 6:2,3]

the fifth commandment is the only one that carries a positive promise with it

13 Thou shalt not kill.

[Deut 5:17, Mt 5:21, Mt 19:18, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Rom 13:9, James 2:11]

the sixth commandment is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 19:18 as “Thou shalt do no murder” and thus the Holy Spirit explains for us what is meant by “kill.”  Pacifists and animal rights advocates have grossly misinterpreted this verse to prove their own causes.  God justifies killing animals to meet human needs (Deut. 12:15).  In the case of men, God not only allows, but commands murderers to be killed and thus capital punishment, though not practiced in our country, is a command of God (21:12); God also allows killing in times of war and calls such action “the blood of war” rather than killing (I Kings 2:5).  It must be remembered that this is an individual moral command and not a command to a government or nation.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

[Deut 5:18, Mt 5:27, Mt 19:18, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Rom 13:9, James 2:11]

the seventh commandment is self-explanatory and yet is an “accepted sin” with a significant percentage of our nation living in open immorality.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

[Deut 5:19 Mt 19:18 Mark 10:19 Luke 18:20 Rom 13:9]

the eighth commandment is further defined in Lev. 6:2-5 as finding and keeping things that do not belong to you, obtaining things by false oaths, by deceit, etc.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

[Deut 5:20 Mt 19:18 Mark 10:19 Luke 18:20 Rom 13:9]

the ninth commandment includes all forms of lying and deceit; white lies do not exist.  In Acts 5:1-10 a certain man and his wife told a “half-truth.”

Study Question

Who were they and what did they get for telling a little less than all of the truth?

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

[Mark 10:19 Rom 7:7, 13:9]

the tenth commandment concerning “coveting” is defined in Deut. 5:21 as “desiring” to have things; note that there are seven things listed that should not be coveted.

This is the commandment that is broken into two by the Catholics, so they can de-emphasize the worshipping of graven images.

Any image is an idol and they are never to be graven in the first place because they violate the very first and second commandments.

Study Question

What is coveting called in Col. 3:5?

18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

[Matt 27:54, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:47]

19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

the fear of the Lord” or references to “fearing God” are found often in the Bible, especially in Proverbs.  This is not a “godly reverence” or an “awe of God,” but rather, just as the term says, being afraid of God.  Every believer should be afraid of God in the sense that if we disobey God we should fear the punishment with which he will chastise us – read Heb. 12:5-11.  The fear of God (knowing that we will be punished if we sin) should be a great motivator to keep us from sinning as stated here!

21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

God warned Israel that he did not want to see their nakedness as they were going up to the altar to offer upon it.

He doesn’t want to see our nakedness either today and we have no business showing it to others because it is our nakedness. It belongs to us and our spouse alone if we are married.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 1,2 – God speaks many ways to the children of men; by conscience, by providences, by his voice, to all which we ought carefully to attend; but he never spake at any time so as he spake the TEN COMMANDMENTS. This law God had given to man before; it was written in his heart; but sin so defaced it, that it was necessary to revive the knowledge of it. The law is spiritual, and takes knowledge of the secret thoughts, desires, and dispositions of the heart. Its grand demand is love, without which outward obedience is mere hypocrisy. It requires perfect, unfailing, constant obedience; no law in the world admits disobedience to itself. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all, James 2:10. Whether in the heart or the conduct, in thought, word, or deed, to omit or to vary any thing, is sin, and the wages of sin is death.

Verse 3-11 – The first four of the ten commandments, commonly called the FIRST table, tell our duty to God. It was fit that those should be put first, because man had a Maker to love, before he had a neighbour to love. It cannot be expected that he should be true to his brother, who is false to his God. The first commandment concerns the object of worship, JEHOVAH, and him only. The worship of creatures is here forbidden. Whatever comes short of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship, breaks this commandment. Whatsoever ye do, do all the glory of God. The second commandment refers to the worship we are to render to the Lord our God. It is forbidden to make any image or picture of the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any creature, image, or picture. But the spiritual import of this command extends much further. All kinds of superstition are here forbidden, and the using of mere human inventions in the worship of God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship, that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness. All false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, all profane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It matters not whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-like things break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour, or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. The form of the fourth commandment, “Remember,” shows that it was not now first given, but was known by the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Six days are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglect the service of God, and the care of our souls. On those days we must do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbath day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; for the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, Mark 2:27. but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence in any form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this day holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, but not a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. The advantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it only to the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affords for taking care of the soul, show the excellency of this commandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and in it. The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited to the seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day.

Verse 12-17 – The laws of the SECOND table, that is, the last six of the ten commandments, state our duty to ourselves and to one another, and explain the great commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, Luke 10:27. Godliness and honesty must go together. The fifth commandment concerns the duties we owe to our relations. Honour thy father and thy mother, includes esteem of them, shown in our conduct; obedience to their lawful commands; come when they call you, go where they send you, do what they bid you, refrain from what they forbid you; and this, as children, cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Also submission to their counsels and corrections. Endeavouring, in every thing, to comfort parents, and to make their old age easy; maintaining them if they need support, which our Saviour makes to be particularly intended in this commandment, Matthew 15:4-6. Careful observers have noted a peculiar blessing in temporal things on obedient, and the reverse on disobedient children. The sixth commandment requires that we regard the life and the safety of others as we do our own. Magistrates and their officers, and witnesses testifying the truth, do not break this command. Self-defence is lawful; but much which is not deemed murder by the laws of man, is such before God. Furious passions, stirred up by anger or by drunkenness, are no excuse: more guilty is murder in duels, which is a horrible effect of a haughty, revengeful spirit. All fighting, whether for wages, for renown, or out of anger and malice, breaks this command, and the bloodshed therein is murder. To tempt men to vice and crimes which shorten life, may be included. Misconduct, such as may break the heart, or shorten the lives of parents, wives, or other relatives, is a breach of this command. This command forbids all envy, malice, hatred, or anger, all provoking or insulting language. The destruction of our own lives is here forbidden. This commandment requires a spirit of kindness, longsuffering, and forgiveness. The seventh commandment concerns chastity. We should be as much afraid of that which defiles the body, as of that which destroys it. Whatever tends to pollute the imagination, or to raise the passions, falls under this law, as impure pictures, books, conversation, or any other like matters. The eighth commandment is the law of love as it respects the property of others. The portion of worldly things allotted us, as far as it is obtained in an honest way, is the bread which God hath given us; for that we ought to be thankful, to be contented with it, and, in the use of lawful means, to trust Providence for the future. Imposing upon the ignorance, easiness, or necessity of others, and many other things, break God’s law, though scarcely blamed in society. Plunderers of kingdoms though above human justice, will be included in this sentence. Defrauding the public, contracting debts without prospect of paying them, or evading payment of just debts, extravagance, all living upon charity when not needful, all squeezing the poor in their wages; these, and such things, break this command; which requires industry, frugality, and content, and to do to others, about worldly property, as we would they should do to us. The ninth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour’s good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing to deceive our neighbour. Speaking unjustly against our neighbour, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against him, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and tale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, and in any way endeavouring to raise our reputation upon the ruin of our neighbour’s. How much this command is every day broken among persons of all ranks! The tenth commandment strikes at the root; Thou shalt not covet. The others forbid all desire of doing what will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all wrong desire of having what will gratify ourselves.

Verse 18-21 – This law, which is so extensive that we cannot measure it, so spiritual that we cannot evade it, and so reasonable that we cannot find fault with it, will be the rule of the future judgment of God, as it is for the present conduct of man. If tried by this rule, we shall find our lives have been passed in transgressions. And with this holy law and an awful judgment before us, who can despise the gospel of Christ? And the knowledge of the law shows our need of repentance. In every believer’s heart sin is dethroned and crucified, the law of God is written, and the image of God renewed. The Holy Spirit enables him to hate sin and flee from it, to love and keep this law in sincerity and truth; nor will he cease to repent.

Verse 22-26 – Moses having entered into the thick darkness, God there spake in his hearing all that follows from hence to the end of chap. 23, which is mostly an exposition of the ten commandments. The laws in these verses relate to God’s worship. The Israelites are assured of God’s gracious acceptance of their devotions. Under the gospel, men are encouraged to pray every where, and wherever God’s people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them; there he will come unto them, and will bless them.