a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

The Ten Commandments


Then God spoke all these words:

2 I am the L ord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me.

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the L ord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the L ord your God, for the L ord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the L ord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the L ord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the L ord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the L ord 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 bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, 19and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” 21Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

The Law concerning the Altar

22 The L ord said to Moses: Thus you shall say to the Israelites: “You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. 23You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it. 26You shall not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.”

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. In this commandment God enjoins that He alone should be worshipped, and requires a worship free from all superstition. For although it seems to be a simple prohibition, yet must we deduce an affirmation from the negative, as will be more apparent from the following words. Therefore does He set Himself before them, in order that the Israelites may look to Him alone; and claims His own just right, in order that it may not be transferred elsewhere. All do not agree in the exposition of the words, for some construe the word פנים,278278     פנים, signifying properly the face or countenance, is sometimes used by metonymy for those passions which shew themselves in the countenance. — W. panim, “anger,” as if it were said, “Thou shalt not make to thyself other gods to provoke my anger;” and I admit that the Hebrew word is often used in this sense. The other interpretation, however, seems to me the more correct, “Make not to thyself gods before my face.” Yet still there remains a difference of opinion, for people are not agreed as to the particle על, gnel. Some explain it, “Make not to thyself gods above me, or whom thou mayest prefer to me;” and they quote the passage in Deuteronomy 21:15-17, wherein God forbids a man, if he have two wives, and children by both, to transfer the rights of primogeniture to the second before the face of the first-born. But though we admit that a comparison is there made between the elder and the younger, still it would be too frigid an interpretation here to say that God demands nothing more than that other gods should not obtain the higher place; whereas He neither suffers them to be likened to Him, nor even to be joined with Him as companions;279279     Addition in Fr., “encore qu’on les estime inferieurs;” even though they be counted his inferiors. for religion is defiled and corrupted as soon as God’s glory is diminished in the very least degree. And we know that when the Israelites worshipped their Baalim, they did not so substitute them in the place of God as to put Him altogether aside, and assign to them the supreme power; nevertheless, this was an intolerable profanation of God’s worship, and moreover an impious transgression of this precept, to choose for themselves patrons in whom some part of the Deity should be lodged; because if God have not alone the pre-eminence, His majesty is so far obscured. I consider,therefore, the genuine sense to be, that the Israelites should not make to themselves any gods, whom they might oppose to the true and only God. For in Hebrew the expression, before the face, generally means over against; therefore God would not have companions obtruded upon Him, and placed as it were in His sight. Meanwhile, it seems probable to me that He alludes to that manifestation of Himself which ought to have retained His people in sincere piety; for true and pure religion was so revealed in the Law, that God’s face in a manner shone forth therein. The case was different with the Gentiles, who, although they might rashly make to themselves false gods, still would not do so before the face of God, which was unknown to them. Let us then understand, after all, that those alone are accounted the legitimate worshippers of God who bid adieu to all figments, and cleave to Him alone. Nor can it be doubted that these words comprehend the inward worship of God, since this commandment differs from the next, whereby external idolatry will be seen to be condemned. It is sufficiently notorious, that men may make to themselves gods in other ways besides in statues, and pictures, and in visible forms. If any should adore the angels instead of God, or should foolishly imagine any other secret divinity, none will deny that he would offend against this Law. God, therefore, calls for the affections of the heart, that He alone may be spiritually worshipped; and the expression “before my face,” may be not inaptly referred to this; because, although their impiety, who secretly turn aside to false worship, and cherish their errors within their own bosoms, may be able to evade the eyes of men, yet their hypocrisy and treachery will not escape the notice of God. Hence, again, it follows, that the one God is not rightly worshipped, unless He be separated from all figments. Wherefore it is not enough to make use of His name, unless all corruptions opposed to His word be laid aside; and thence we arrive at the distinction between true religion and false superstitions; for since God has prescribed to us how He would be worshipped by us, whenever we turn away in the very smallest degree from this rule, we make to ourselves other gods, and degrade Him from His right place.


Deuteronomy 6:4, 13, 16

4. Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.

4. Audi, Israel, Jehova Deus noster Deus unus est.

13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him.

13. Jehovam Deum tuum timebis, et ipsum solum coles.

16. Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

16. Non tentabitis Jehovam Deum vestrum, sicut tentastis in Masa.

Deuteronomy 10:20

20. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave.

20. Jehovam Deum tuum timebis, eum coles, eique adhaerebis.

4. Hear, O Israel. When Moses proclaims that God is One, the statement is not confined to His sole essence, which is incomprehensible, but must be also understood of His power and glory, which had been manifested to the people; as though he had said, that they would be guilty of rebellion unless they abode in the One God, who had laid them under such obligations to Himself. Therefore he not only calls him Jehovah, but at the same time infers that He is the God of that people whom he addresses, “Thy God.” Thus all other deities are brought to nought, and the people are commanded to fly and detest whatever withdraws their minds from the pure knowledge of Him; for although His name may be left to Him, still He is stripped of His majesty, as soon as He is mixed up with a multitude of others. Thus He says by Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 20:39,) “Go ye, serve ye every one his idols;” in which words He not only repudiates all mixed worship, but testifies that He would rather be accounted nothing than not be worshipped undividedly. The orthodox Fathers aptly used this passage against the Arians;280280     Vide St. Ath. Or. 3, contra At. sec. 7, 8. Jones of Nayland’s “Cath. Doctrine of Trinity,” chap. 4:2, sums up the argument concisely and well. because, since Christ is everywhere called God, He is undoubtedly the same Jehovah who declares Himself to be the One God; and this is asserted with the same force respecting the Holy Spirit.

VIEWNAME is study