Exodus 20:3-11

Exodus 20:3-11
Narrative Lectionary


you shall haveA no other godsB before me.C

Notes on verse 3

A “have” = hayah. This is to be or become, to happen.
B “gods” = elohim. From eloah (God, a god); from el (God, a god). This is most commonly used as a name for God. Technically, it’s in the plural, i.e. gods. It can also mean great, mighty, judge, or ruler.
C “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 makeD for yourself an idol,E whether in the formF of anythingG that is in heavenH aboveI

Notes on verse 4a

D “make” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
E “idol” = pesel. From pasal (to hew, carve; used for wood or stone). This is an idol or image.
F “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.
G “anything” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
H “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.
I “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 earthJ beneathK or that is in the waterL underM the earth. You shall not bow downN to them or serveO them,

Notes on verses 4b-5a

J “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
K “beneath” = tachat. This is underneath, below, the bottom, instead of.
L “water” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
M “under” = tachat. Same as “beneath” in v4. See note K above.
N “bow down” = shachah. This is to bow down, make a humble entreaty, to do homage to royalty or to God.
O “serve” = abad. This is to work, serve, or compel. It can describe any kind of work or service (including religious devotion).  Also, till or cultivate. Used causatively, it can mean to enslave or keep in bondage.

for I the LordP your GodQ am a jealousR God,S punishingT childrenU

Notes on verse 5b

P “Lord” = YHVH. Related to “have” in v3. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (see note A above). 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.
Q “God” = Elohim. Same as “gods” in v3. See note B above.
R “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.
S “God” = El. Related to “gods” in v3. See note B above.
T “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.
U “children” = ben. From banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.

for the iniquityV of parentsW to the thirdX and the fourthY generation of those who rejectZ me 

Notes on verse 5c

V “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
W “parents” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
X “third” = shillesh. 5x in OT. From the same as shalosh (three, fork, triad). This is third or relating to the third. Here, it refers to a great-grandchild.
Y “fourth” = ribbea. 4x in OT. From the same as arba (four); from raba (to make square or be four-sided). This is fourth or related to the fourth. Here, it would be a great, great grandchild.
Z “reject” = sane. This is to hate, an enemy. It is a personal hatred and not an abstract one.

but showingAA steadfast loveBB to the thousandthCC generation of those who loveDD me and keepEE my commandments.FF

Notes on verse 6

AA “showing” = asah. Same as “make” in v4. See note D above.
BB “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.
CC “thousandth” = eleph. Perhaps from the same as eleph (herd, cattle); from alaph (to learn, speak, associate with). This is thousand.
DD “love” = aheb. This is to love, beloved, friend. It is to have affection for sexually or otherwise.
EE “keep” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
FF “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 makeGG wrongfulHH use of the nameII of the Lord your God,JJ for the Lord will not acquitKK anyone who misusesLL his name.

Notes on verse 7

GG “make” = nasa. This is 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.
HH “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.
II “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.
JJ “God” = Elohim. Same as “gods” in v3. See note B above.
KK “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.
LL “misuses” = nasashav. Nasa is the same as “make” in v7. See note GG above Shav is the same as “wrongful” in v7. See note HH above.

“RememberMM the SabbathNN dayOO and keep it holy.PP 

Notes on verse 8

MM “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
NN “sabbath” = shabbat. From shabath (to rest, stop, repose, cease working; by implication, to celebrate). This is sabbath, literally meaning rest or intermission.
OO “day” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
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.

SixQQ days you shall laborRR and doSS allTT your work.UU 

Notes on verse 9

QQ “six” = shesh. This is six. Figuratively, it can be a surplus since it is one more than the number of fingers on the hand.
RR “labor” = abad. Same as “serve” in v5. See note O above.
SS “do” = asah. Same as “make” in v4. See note D above.
TT “all” = kol. Same as “anything” in v4. See note G above.
UU “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.

10 But the seventhVV day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God;WW you shall not do anyXX work—you, your sonYY or your daughter,ZZ

Notes on verse 10a

VV “seventh” = shebii. From sheba (seven – the number of perfection/sacred fullness). This is seventh.
WW “God” = Elohim. Same as “gods” in v3. See note B above.
XX “any” = kol. Same as “anything” in v4. See note G above.
YY “son” = ben. Same as “children” in v5. See note U above.
ZZ “daughter” = bat. Related to “children” in v5. From ben (see note U above). This is daughter in a literal or figurative sense.

your maleAAA or female slave,BBB your livestock,CCC or the alien residentDDD in your towns.EEE 

Notes on verse 10b

AAA “male” = ebed. Related to “serve” in v5. From abad (see note O above). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant.
BBB “female slave” = amah. This is female servant or slave, handmaid.
CCC “livestock” = behemah. This is animal or cattle. It is often used of large quadrupeds.
DDD “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.
EEE “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,FFF and all that is in them, but restedGGG the seventh day; thereforeHHH the Lord blessedIII the Sabbath day and consecratedJJJ it.

Notes on verse 11

FFF “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.
GGG “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.”
HHH “therefore” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
III “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.
JJJ “consecrated” = qadash. Same as “keep…holy” in v8. See note PP above.

Image credit: “Sabbath Mosaic in the Jewish Quarter” by Yael Portugheis. Photo by zeevveez, 2013.

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