Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Ordinary A45


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

Notes on verses 2-3

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.
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. Literally “house of slaves.” 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.
I “gods” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note A above.
J “me” = paneh. 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 make for yourself an idol,K whether in the formL of anything that is in heavenM above, or that is on the earthN beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 

Notes on verse 4

K “idol” = pesel. From pasal (to hew, carve; used for wood or stone). This is an idol or image.
L “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.
M “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.
N “earth” = erets. Same as “land” in v2. See note E above.

You shall not makeO wrongfulP use of the nameQ of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquitR anyone who misusesS his name.

Notes on verse 7

O “make” = 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.
P “wrongful” = shav. Perhaps form 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.
Q “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.
R “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.
S “misuses” = nasashav.  Same as “make” & “wrongful” in v7. See notes O & P above.

8 RememberT the sabbathU day, and keep it holy.V Six days you shall laborW and do all your work.X 

Notes on verses 8-9

T “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
U “sabbath” = shabbat. From shabath (to rest, stop, repose, cease working; by implication, to celebrate). This is sabbath, literally meaning rest or intermission.
V “keep it 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); related to qadash (set apart, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified; something or someone set apart for a holy purpose or use – ceremonially or morally clean). This is sacred or holy in a ritual or moral sense. As a noun, it refers to a holy one (like a saint or angel), a holy place (the sanctuary), or God (the Holy One).
W “labor” = abad. Related to “slavery” in v2. See note H above.
X “work” = melakah. From the same as malak (messenger, an angel, or a deputy; human 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.

12 HonorY your father and your mother, so that your days may be longZ in the landAA that the Lord your God is giving you.

Notes on verse 12

Y “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.
Z “may 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.
AA “land” = adamah. From the same as adam (man, humankind); perhaps from ‘adom (to be red). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.

13 You shall not murder.BB

14 You shall not commit adultery.CC

15 You shall not steal.DD

Notes on verses 13-15

BB “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.
CC “commit adultery” = naaph. This is to commit adultery or, figuratively, to be an apostate.
DD “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 bearEE falseFF witnessGG against your neighbor.HH

Notes on verse 16

EE “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.
FF “false” = sheqer. This is deception, lie, or disappointment. It can also be something that is vain or wrongfully.
GG “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.
HH “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 covetII your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,JJ or male or female slave,KK or ox,LL or donkey,MM or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Notes on verse 17

II “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.
JJ “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.
KK “female slave” = amah. This is female servant or slave, handmaid.
LL “ox” = shor. Perhaps from shur (to travel, turn, journey; travelling like a prostitute or a merchant). This is bull, ox, head of cattle, cow.
MM “donkey” = chamor. From chamar (to be red, blush). This is a male donkey.

18 When all the peopleNN witnessedOO the thunderPP and lightning,QQ

Notes on verse 18a

NN “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
OO “witnessed” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
PP “thunder” = qol. This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
QQ “lightning” = lappid. 14x in OT. Root may mean to shine. This is torch, lamp, or flash of lightning.

the soundRR of the trumpet,SS and the mountain smoking, they were afraidTT and trembledUU and stoodVV at a distance, 

Notes on verse 18b

RR “sound” = qol. Same as “thunder” in v18. See note PP above.
SS “trumpet” = shophar. From shaphar (being beautiful or lovely). This is a ram’s horn, trumpet, or cornet. A shofar is still blown at Jewish festivals such as Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year celebration).
TT “were afraid” = raah. Same as “witnessed” in v18. See note OO above.
UU “trembled” = nua. This is to waver in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be to tremble, quiver, totter. It could also refer to a fugitive.
VV “stood” = amad. This is to stand up in a literal or figurative sense. So it can be establish, continue, endure, take a stand, act, be a servant, stand still, remain, stand against an enemy.

19 and said to Moses,WW “You speak to us, and we will listen;XX but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid;YY

Notes on verses 19-20a

WW “Moses” = mosheh. From mashah (to pull out in a literal or figurative sense, to draw out) OR from Egyptian mes or mesu (child, son i.e. child of…). This is Moses – the one drawn out from the water, which is to say, rescued. If derived from the Egyptian, his name would share a root with Rameses and Thutmose.
XX “listen” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
YY “be afraid” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.

for God has come only toZZ testAAA you and to put the fearBBB of him upon youCCC so that you do not sin.”DDD

Notes on verse 20b

ZZ “to” = abur. From abar (to pass over, pass through, or pass by; cross over or to alienate; used for transitions). This is for, so that, on account of. Properly, it means crossed.
AAA “test” = nasah. This is to test, prove, try, tempt, or attempt.
BBB “fear” = yirah. Related to “be afraid” in v20. From yare (see note YY above). This is fear or reverence.
CCC “you” = paneh. Same as “me” in v3. See note J above.
DDD “sin” = chata. This is properly to miss, and so figuratively it is used for sinning, bearing the blame. It implies a forfeiture or loss of something.

Image credit: “Ten Commandments, Mural Detail” photo by cobalt123 in Antonito, Colorado, 2012.

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