Exodus 20

  1. The ten words (Ten Commandments) actually have some controversy/uncertainty surrounding them. For instance, to the Catholic, 20:1-6 equals one command, while to others verse 3 is one command and verse 4 is another command. To complicate this further, the Jews look at verse 1 as the first command, which is to have faith in God (even though there is no command to do something in the verse). For a good discussion on the matter see Roper, pages 319-321. I will consider the “ten words” in accordance with traditional, protestant alignment for there is more to be said for this than either of the other two views.
  2. Kaiser offers a brief outline of these commands (p. 479). Right Relations with God (20:2-7), Right Relations in the Worship of God (20:8-11), and Right Relations with Society (20:12-17).
    1. Right Relations with God (20:2-7). Since God brought them out from the land of Egypt, there will be NOTHING before Him, there be NO material image of Him, and His name will NOT be used in vain (20:2-7). Scholars identify the object of worship: God, nothing else; the mode of worship: fabricating God into a particular form (or mode); and the misuse of God’s name.
    2. Right Relation in the Worship of God (20:8-11). This fourth command goes back to creation. It was on the 7th day that the Lord rested from His work of creation. Since the Lord did this, now the Israelites are to do the same. In remembering the Sabbath (a Hebrew infinitive verb) one will always remember by observing a day of rest.
    3. Right Relations with Society (20:12-17). The final 6 commands in the Decalogue are in relation to parents (honoring), neighbor (murder), spouse (adultery), possessions (stealing), and one’s heart (lying and coveting).
  3. As the chapter closes the Lord tells Moses to be sure that nothing material be a representation of Him; in fact, the occasion of the Lord talking with Moses is to impress upon the Israelites that there is a form of true worship and there is not. That which is not in accordance with truth is not in accordance with His express will. Though much more is to be said (in the following chapters), let us note that there is no material representation of him (contrary to Catholic theology). With the Lord declaring these things, any altering of them is presumptuous and deadly! “When the command is stated, everything contrary is virtually forbidden” (Kaiser, p. 478)
  4. Application: These laws were given to a nation, a charter document to establish their moral code for all of society to commend. Though the law was holy, it would only be as good (or beneficial) as those who lived under it applied it. All of the laws are moral based, but they were all especially designed to serve the Israelites in a new land. What application can we make to them today? Just as with any of God’s laws in the Old Testament, we can, and are to live by the principles of righteousness.