Exodus chapter 20

The Ten Commandments. Reverential respect for God. The Altar.





VERSE 1. God spoke all these words, saying,

God. In the Hebrew text, the word for “God” is followed by the two letters “Aleph Tav.”

Those are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Here they are not as a word, but rather a grammatical marker.


VERSE 2. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.


VERSE 3. “You shall have no other gods before me.


VERSE 4. “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

an idol. This is sometimes translated as “a graven image.”


VERSE 5. you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me,

a jealous God. The LORD God demands an exclusive relationship.


VERSE 6. and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.


VERSE 7. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who misuses his name.

You shall not misuse the name. This can also be translated as “You shall not take the name … in vain.”

This is often thought to mean that we may not use the name of the LORD God as a cuss-word.

However, it means we may not use God’s name for magical purposes.

In our day many Christians believe God wants them to be wealthy. They pray for miracles that will make themselves rich. We believe they are misusing the name of the LORD.


VERSE 8. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.


VERSE 9. You shall labor six days, and do all your work,


VERSE 10. but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates;


VERSE 11. for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.


VERSE 12. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.


VERSE 13. “You shall not murder.


VERSE 14. “You shall not commit adultery.


VERSE 15. “You shall not steal.


VERSE 16. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.


VERSE 17. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”




VERSE 18. All the people perceived the thunderings, the lightnings, the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled, and stayed at a distance.


VERSE 19. They said to Moses, “Speak with us yourself, and we will listen; but don’t let God speak with us, lest we die.”


VERSE 20. Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, and that his fear may be before you, that you won’t sin.”

God has come to test you. They are being challenged. The challenge is to overcome their terror. They need to transform it into reverential respect.

that his fear may be before you. Toward the LORD God, they are to have reverential respect, not terror.


VERSE 21. The people stayed at a distance, and Moses came near to the thick darkness where God was.

RSV translation. The people stood afar off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Book of Exodus and from the entire Bible.

the thick darkness where God was. Mystics often describe experiences of being close to God as “darkness.”

John of the Cross, for example, wrote a book entitled The Dark Night.




VERSE 22. The LORD said to Moses, “This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.


VERSE 23. You shall most certainly not make gods of silver or gods of gold for yourselves to be alongside me.


VERSE 24. You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you.


VERSE 25. If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it.


VERSE 26. You shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.’

that your nakedness may not be exposed. In the Garden of Eden, the first humans were always naked. There was no shame, and they were always in the presence of God.

But now human nakedness cannot be displayed near the altar. Perhaps this prohibition stems from the shame that many people feel about their bodies.


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.



Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.