Exodus 20:1-17

Exodus 20:1-17
Lent B15


1 Then GodA spokeB all these words:C

Notes on verse 1

A “God” = Elohim.
B “spoke” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
C “words” = dabar. Related to “spoke” in v1. From dabar (see note B above). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.

I am the LordD your God, who brought you out of the landE of Egypt,F

Notes on verse 2a

D “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
E “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
F “Egypt” = Mitsrayim. Perhaps from matsor (besieged or fortified place, bulwark, entrenchment; something hemmed in; a siege or distress or fastness); from tsur (to confine, besiege, to cramp). This is Egypt.

out of the houseG of slavery;H you shall have no other godsI before me.J

Notes on verses 2b-3

G “house” = bayit. Probably from banah (to build, make, set up, obtain children; to build literally or figuratively). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.       
H “slavery” = ebed. From abad (to work, serve, compel; any kind of work; used causatively, can mean to enslave or keep in bondage). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant. Here, it is plural.
I “gods” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1.
J “me” = paneh. Literally “my face.” From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

You shall not makeK for yourself an idol,L whether in the formM of anything that is in heavenN above,O

Notes on verse 4a

K “make” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
L “idol” = pesel. From pasal (to hew, carve; used for wood or stone). This is an idol or image.
M “form” = temunah. 10x in OT. From the same as min (kind, sort, species). This is something that has been apportioned or fashioned. It can be an embodiment or shape. It can also figuratively be a favor that manifests.
N “heaven” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
O “above” = maal. From alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is the upper part, forward, high above, upwards, greater, heaven, or exceedingly.

or that is on the earthP beneath,Q or that is in the water underR the earth. 

Notes on verse 4b

P “earth” = erets. Same as “land” in v2. See note E above.
Q “beneath” = tachat. This is underneath, below, the bottom, instead of.
R “under” = tachat. Same as “beneath” in v4. See note Q above.

You shall not bow downS to them or worshipT them; for I the Lord your GodU am a jealousV God,W

Notes on verse 5a

S “bow down” = shachah. This is to bow down, make a humble entreaty, to do homage to royalty or to God.
T “worship” = abad. Related to “slavery” in v2. See note H above.
U “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” In v1. See note A above.
V “jealous” = qanna. 6x in OT – all in the Torah, all referring to God as a jealous God. From the same as qinah (zeal, jealousy, envy, anger, rivalry) OR from qana (to be jealous, zealous, envious). This is jealous.
W “God” = El. Related to “God” in v1. See note A above.

punishingX childrenY for the iniquityZ of parents,AA to the third and the fourth generation of those who rejectBB me, 

Notes on verse 5b

X “punishing” = paqad. This is to attend to or visit – can be used for a friendly or violent encounter. So, it can be to oversee, care for, avenge, or charge.
Y “children” = ben. Perhaps related to “house” in v2. Perhaps from banah (see note G above). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.
Z “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
AA “parents” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
BB “reject” = sane. This is an enemy or foe. It is one that is hated with a personal hatred.

6 but showingCC steadfast loveDD to the thousandth generation of those who loveEE me and keepFF my commandments.GG

Notes on verse 6

CC “showing” = asah. Same as “make” in v4. See note K above.
DD “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
EE “love” = aheb. This is to love, beloved, friend. It is to have affection for sexually or otherwise.
FF “keep” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
GG “commandments” = mitsvah. From tsavah (to charge, command, order, enjoin). This is a commandment, law, ordinance obligation, or tradition. It is something commanded whether by God or by a human authority. This term is sometimes used collectively to refer to the Law.

You shall not makeHH wrongfulII use of the nameJJ of the Lord your God,KK for the Lord will not acquitLL anyone who misusesMM his name.

Notes on verse 7

HH “make…use” = nasa. This to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
II “wrongful” = shav. Perhaps from the same as sho (ruin, desolation, storm; from a root that means rushing over – hence a storm and hence devastation). This is emptiness, false, worthless, deceit. It can also refer to evil, guile, idolatry, or something being in vain.
JJ “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
KK “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note A above.
LL “acquit” = naqah. This is to be empty, cleanse, acquit, blameless, immune, innocent. It is to be clean or to make clean in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be bare in a negative sense, destroyed.
MM “misuses” = nasa…shav. Same as “make…use” and “wrongful” in v7. See notes HH & II above.

RememberNN the sabbathOO day, and keep it holy.PP 

Notes on verse 8

NN “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
OO “sabbath” = shabbat. From shabath (to rest, stop, repose, cease working; by implication, to celebrate). This is sabbath, literally meaning rest or intermission.
PP “keep…holy” = qadash. From qodesh (set apart and so sacred; God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart; things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy). This is set apart, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified. This is something or someone that is set apart for a holy purpose or use – ceremonially or morally clean.

Six days you shall laborQQ and doRR all your work.SS 

Notes on verse 9

QQ “labor” = abad. Same as “worship” in v5. See note T above.
RR “do” = asah. Same as “make” in v4. See note K above.
SS “work” = melakah. From the same as malak (messenger, an angel, or a deputy; hsuman messengers literally or for prophets, priests, or teachers as messengers of God; also supernatural messengers i.e. angels). Properly, this is a deputyship or some kind of work. It can also be the product that comes from labor.

10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God;TT you shall not do any work—you, your sonUU or your daughter,VV

Notes on verse 10a

TT “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note A above.
UU “son” = ben. Same as “children” in v5. See note Y above.
VV “daughter” = bat. Perhaps related to “house” in v2 & “children” in v5. From ben (see note Y above). This is daughter in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean branch or company.

your maleWW or female slave,XX your livestock,YY or the alien residentZZ in your towns.AAA 

Notes on verse 10b

WW “male” = ebed. Same as “slavery” in v2. See note H above.
XX “female slave” = amah. This is female servant or slave, handmaid.
YY “livestock” = behemah. This is animal or cattle. It is often used of large quadrupeds.
ZZ “alien resident” = ger. From gur (to abide or sojourn; to leave the road to lodge or for any other reason). This is sojourner, guest, stranger, foreigner.
AAA “towns” = shaar. May be related to sha’ar (to calculate or reckon; may come from a root that means to open up or split). This is a gate, door, or other opening like a port.

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,BBB and all that is in them, but restedCCC the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessedDDD the sabbath day and consecratedEEE it.

Notes on verse 11

BBB “sea” = yam. Root may mean to roar. This is the sea, often referring to the Mediterranean. It comes from the root in the sense of the roar of crashing surf. This word is sometimes used for rivers or other sources of water. It can mean to the west or to the south.
CCC “rested” = nuach. This is to rest, calm, camp, free, place, remain, satisfy, settle, station, or wait. It is rest and so implies settling down in a literal or figurative sense. This is perhaps the root verb of the name “Noah.”
DDD “blessed” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
EEE “consecrated” = qadash. Same as “keep…holy” in v8. See note PP above.

12 HonorFFF your father and your mother, so that your days may be longGGG in the landHHH that the Lord your GodIII is giving you.

Notes on verse 12

FFF “honor” = kabad. To be heavy, weighty, or severe. It can also be positive abounding in, rich, or honorable. The Hebrew word for “glory,” kabod, is taken from this root.
GGG “be long” = arak. This is to continue, lengthen prolong, delay, or endure. It is being long or causing something to be long in a literal or figurative sense.
HHH “land” = adamah. From the same as adam (man, humankind); perhaps from ‘adom (to be red). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.
III “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note A above.

13 You shall not murder.JJJ

14 You shall not commit adultery.KKK

15 You shall not steal.LLL

Notes on verses 13-15

JJJ “murder” = ratsach. Properly, this is to dash something to pieces. It is to kill a person, but it is used particularly (though not exclusively) for murder.
KKK “commit adultery” = naaph. This is to commit adultery or, figuratively, to be an apostate.
LLL “steal” = ganab. This is to steal in a stealthy way rather than through violence. It can also mean to deceive. There is a Yiddish word ganef that derives from this root. It means thief or scoundrel.

16 You shall not bearMMM falseNNN witnessOOO against your neighbor.PPP

Notes on verse 16

MMM “bear” = anah. This is answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify. It means to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk. Used in a specific sense for singing, shouting, testifying, etc.
NNN “false” = sheqer. This is deception, lie, or disappointment. It can also be something that is vain or wrongfully.
OOO “witness” = ed. From ud (to admonish, repeat, duplicate, testify, restore, record, relieve). This is a witness, testimony, or one who records testimony. It can also refer to a prince.   
PPP “neighbor” = rea. From raah (to associate with). This is the same as neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is friend, companion, fellow, neighbor. It is someone with whom you associate, whether more or less close.

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

Notes on verse 17

QQQ “covet” = chamad. This is to desire or delight in someone or something. It can also mean something that is precious or coveted. So, it can also refer to lust.
RRR “wife” = ishshah. From ish (man); perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is woman, wife, or female.
SSS “ox” = shor. Perhaps from shur (to travel, turn, journey; travelling like a prostitute or a merchant). This is bull, ox, head of cattle, cow.
TTT “donkey” = chamor. From chamar (to be red, blush). This is a male donkey.

Image credit: “Ten Commandments Stained Glass” at Tri City Jewish Center Chapel in Rock Island, Illinois. Photo by Dustin Oliver.

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