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). 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), 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). And later, God also wrote them Himself--with His own finger--on two "tablets of stone" (Exodus 31:18; Exodus 24:12; Deuteronomy 5:22). Later still, He even rewrote them (Exodus 34:1). 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). The "Lord," who spoke the commandments, is referred to in the Old Testament as the "Rock" (Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 31; Psalm 18:2, 31, 46). And according to the New Testament, "that Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). 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). 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). 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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