Bible Commentary: Exodus 20

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Exodus 20

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The Giving of the Law

Though they were already known before this, here is the first written record we have of all of God’s Ten Commandments together — commandments that are founded on His most basic law of love (Mark 12:29-31 Mark 12:29-31 [29] And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: [30] And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. [31] And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
American King James Version×
). The first four show us how to have a loving relationship with God. The last six reveal how we can share a loving, respectful relationship with our fellow man. Though knowledge of God’s laws was clearly available earlier (Genesis 26:5 Genesis 26:5Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
American King James Version×
), it appears likely that most of the Israelites had forgotten His requirements during their generations of Egyptian bondage and had to have those laws revealed to them once again.

Many today believe that it was Moses who gave the Ten Commandments to ancient Israel. But the Bible clearly reveals otherwise. God Himself spoke them with His own voice from the thundercloud above Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1 Exodus 20:1And God spoke all these words, saying,
American King James Version×
). And later, God also wrote them Himself—with His own finger—on two “tablets of stone” (Exodus 31:18 Exodus 31:18And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 24:12 Exodus 24:12And the LORD said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give you tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that you may teach them.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 5:22 Deuteronomy 5:22These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly in the mount out of the middle of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them to me.
American King James Version×
). Later still, He even rewrote them (Exodus 34:1 Exodus 34:1And the LORD said to Moses, Hew you two tables of stone like to the first: and I will write on these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you brake.
American King James Version×
). To further define who gave these commandments, we must realize that by Christ’s day, centuries later, no one had ever heard God the Father’s voice (John 5:37 John 5:37And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
American King James Version×
). The “Lord,” who spoke the commandments, is referred to in the Old Testament as the “Rock” (Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
American King James Version×
, 15, 31; Psalms 18:2 Psalms 18:2The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
American King James Version×
, 31, 46). And according to the New Testament, “that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×
). Those who think that Jesus did away with His Father’s commandments are sorely mistaken. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), He “filled” the commandments by explaining their spiritual intent, in essence making them even more applicable to us (Matthew 5:17-20 Matthew 5:17-20 [17] Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. [18] For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. [19] Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I say to you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
). Indeed, Christ is the One who gave the commandments on the Father’s behalf in the first place-both to Israel and the New Testament Church!

The giving of the law was such a tremendous event that the Israelites feared for their lives. They could not only hear but also feel the ground shaking due to the thunder and the sound of trumpets. There were brilliant flashes of lightning and the mountain smoked. God was exhibiting a fraction of His greatness and glory before His chosen people. This awesome display was not intended to terrorize the people, because God was not there to harm them. God’s purpose was to teach them awe and respect for Him, so that they would not sin (verse 20). It should have been a very humbling experience for the Israelites. But as God said: “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 Deuteronomy 5:29O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
American King James Version×
). As we will read, the respect and obedience did not last long.


Supplementary Reading:  The Ten Commandments; Who Was Jesus?Who Is God?, pp. 24-36.

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