Exodus 20

The Ten Commandments

1 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance
19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Idols and Altars

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven:
23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
24 “ ‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.
25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.
26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’

Images for Exodus 20

Exodus 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

The preface to the ten commandments. (1,2) The commandments of the first table. (3-11) Of the second table. (12-17) The fear of the people. (18-21) Idolatry again forbidden. (22-26)

Verses 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.

Verses 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, Mr. 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.

Verses 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.

Verses 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.

Verses 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.

Cross References 48

  • 1. Deuteronomy 10:4
  • 2. Nehemiah 9:13; Psalms 119:9; Psalms 147:19; Malachi 4:4
  • 3. S Genesis 17:7; Exodus 16:12; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7; Isaiah 43:3; Ezekiel 20:19
  • 4. S Genesis 15:7
  • 5. S Exodus 6:6
  • 6. Exodus 13:3; Ezekiel 20:6
  • 7. ver 23; Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:14; Deuteronomy 13:10; 2 Kings 17:35; Psalms 44:20; Psalms 81:9; Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 7:6,9; Jeremiah 11:13; Jeremiah 19:4; Jeremiah 25:6; Jeremiah 35:15
  • 8. ver 5,23; Exodus 32:8; Exodus 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; Leviticus 26:1; Dt 4:15-19,23; Deuteronomy 27:15; 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Kings 14:9; 2 Kings 17:12; Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 44:9
  • 9. Exodus 23:13,24; Joshua 23:7; Judges 6:10; 2 Kings 17:35; Isa 44:15,17,19; Isaiah 46:6
  • 10. Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Joshua 24:19; Nahum 1:2
  • 11. S Genesis 9:25; S Leviticus 26:39
  • 12. Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Jeremiah 32:18
  • 13. Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 7:9; Jeremiah 32:18; Luke 1:50; Romans 11:28
  • 14. Leviticus 22:28">Ex Leviticus 22:28; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 19:12; Leviticus 22:2; Leviticus 24:11,16; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Job 2:5,9; Psalms 63:11; Isaiah 8:21; Ezekiel 20:39; Ezekiel 39:7; S Matthew 5:33
  • 15. S Exodus 16:23; Exodus 31:13-16; Exodus 35:3; Leviticus 19:3,30; Leviticus 26:2; Isaiah 56:2; Jeremiah 17:21-27; Ezekiel 22:8
  • 16. Exodus 23:12; Exodus 31:13-17; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 35:2-3; Leviticus 23:3; Luke 13:14
  • 17. S Genesis 2:3; Exodus 31:14; Leviticus 23:38; Numbers 28:9; Isaiah 56:2; Ezekiel 20:12,20
  • 18. Ge 1:3-2:1
  • 19. S Genesis 2:2
  • 20. Exodus 31:17; Hebrews 4:4
  • 21. S Genesis 31:35; S Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4*; Matthew 19:19*; Mark 7:10*; Mark 10:19*; Luke 18:20*; Ephesians 6:2
  • 22. Deuteronomy 6:2; Ephesians 6:3
  • 23. Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 25:15; Jeremiah 35:7
  • 24. S Genesis 4:23; Matthew 5:21*; Matthew 19:18*; Mark 10:19*; Luke 18:20*; Romans 13:9*; James 2:11*
  • 25. Leviticus 18:20; Leviticus 20:10; Nu 5:12,13,29; Proverbs 6:29,32; Matthew 5:27*; Matthew 19:18*; Mark 10:19*; Luke 18:20*; Romans 13:9*; James 2:11*
  • 26. Leviticus 19:11,13; Ezekiel 18:7; Matthew 19:18*; Mark 10:19*; Luke 18:20*; Romans 13:9*
  • 27. Leviticus 19:11; Jeremiah 9:3,5
  • 28. Exodus 23:1,7; Leviticus 19:18; Psalms 50:20; Psalms 101:5; Psalms 119:29; Matthew 19:18*; Mark 10:19; Luke 3:14*; Luke 18:20*
  • 29. Luke 12:15; Romans 7:7*; Romans 13:9*; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:5
  • 30. Exodus 19:16-19; Deuteronomy 4:36; Isaiah 58:1; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 33:3; Hebrews 12:18-19; Revelation 1:10
  • 31. S Exodus 19:18
  • 32. S Genesis 3:10; S Exodus 14:31; S Exodus 19:16
  • 33. Job 37:4,5; Job 40:9; Psalms 29:3-4
  • 34. Dt 5:5,23-27; Deuteronomy 18:16; Galatians 3:19
  • 35. S Genesis 15:1
  • 36. S Genesis 22:1
  • 37. Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:2,24; Deuteronomy 10:12; Psalms 111:10; Psalms 128:1; Proverbs 1:7; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Isaiah 8:13
  • 38. Job 1:8; Job 2:3; Job 28:28; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 14:16; Proverbs 16:6
  • 39. S Exodus 19:9; Deuteronomy 5:22; Psalms 18:9; Psalms 68:4; Psalms 97:2; Isaiah 19:1
  • 40. Deuteronomy 5:24,26; Nehemiah 9:13
  • 41. S ver 3
  • 42. Exodus 22:20; Exodus 32:4,8,31; Exodus 34:17; Deuteronomy 29:17-18; Nehemiah 9:18
  • 43. Exodus 27:1; Exodus 40:29; Numbers 16:38; Deuteronomy 27:5; Joshua 8:30; 2 Kings 16:14; 2 Chronicles 4:1; Ezra 3:2; Ezekiel 43:13
  • 44. S Genesis 8:20; S Exodus 18:12
  • 45. Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 16:6,11; Deuteronomy 26:2; 1 Kings 9:3; 2 Kings 21:4,7; 2 Chronicles 6:6; 2 Chronicles 12:13; Ezra 6:12
  • 46. S Genesis 12:2; Genesis 22:17
  • 47. Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 6:7; Deuteronomy 27:5-6
  • 48. Ezekiel 43:17

Footnotes 1

Chapter Summary


In this chapter we have an account of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; the preface to it, Ex 20:1,2, the ten commandments it consists of, Ex 20:8-17, the circumstances attending it, which caused the people to remove at some distance, Ex 20:18, when they desired of Moses, that he would speak to them and not God, who bid them not fear, since this was for the trial of them; but still they kept at a distance, while Moses drew nigh to God, Ex 20:19-21 who ordered him to caution the children of Israel against idolatry, and directed what sort of an altar he would have made whereon to offer their sacrifices, promising that where his name was recorded he would grant his presence and blessing, Ex 20:22-26.

Exodus 20 Commentaries

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