In addition to the HC outline below, here’s our ppt from a CT teaching on this passage: Exodus 20.1 – With Notes

Context – Israel just agreed to a Covenant with Yahweh

Ex 20:1 – Then God gave the people all these instructions:

Deut 5:22 – “These words Yahweh spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.”

Spoken “to all the assembly… with a great voice”

“two tablets” “and he added no more”

  • Completeness
  • See Jesus’s summary of the law (Matt 22:37)
    • Commandments 1-4 – Love God
    • Commandments 5-10 – Love One Another
  • It might be surprising that he starts with commands about how to relate to God. But that is where ethics must begin before they filter down into human relationships. Of course the horizontal component is important, and without it, John calls the vertical aspect into question (1 John 4:20)


2 “I am Yahweh your God,

There is a God. His name is Yahweh.

Why start here?

  • Because right and wrong are based on his character
    • You must be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy. (Lev 19:2)
    • You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. (Ps 119:68)
    • Spiritual growth = becoming more like God
  • Because ultimate right and wrong (“objective morality”) is impossible without God
    • The real question: Who gets to decide what is right and wrong?
    • What are some possible answers? (then ask people to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of each.
      • Individuals?
        • Everything becomes personal preference
          • g. cookies and cream ice cream vs. rocky road
          • Everything is preference
          • g. Nazi torture vs. people trying to free the prisoners
        • Societies?
          • g. Nazis; The Antebellum South
          • What basis for critiquing our culture or any reform? Was MLK Jr. a moral deviant who should be condemned?
        • No such thing as right/wrong?
          • Under naturalism, how do we even have free choice?
          • Why not kill all the “defective” people?
          • Is morality a biological adaptation? If so, how does this flow from evolution?
          • It’s impossible to live this out
          • Quotes
            • Dawkins: The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.[1]
            • Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre: It is very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good[2]
            • Michael Ruse: I appreciate that when somebody says “Love they neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves… Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction and has no being beyond or without this.[3]
          • God
            • S. Lewis: Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring. (Lewis, Christian Reflections, 1978 reprint, p. 73, quoted in Groothius, Christian Apologetics, p. 338)
            • S. Lewis: My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? —Lewis, Mere Christianity

Scripture also says God will punish and reward. In this life and especially the next.

  • Even there is such a thing as right/ wrong, who is going to enforce it?
  • See idea of enforcement (including both punishment and reward) in v. 5-7

2b who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

Before God gave his covenant:

  • They were already his people
  • In response to God’s rescue
  • Context = a loving relationship (GOSPEL – need to become one of his people)
  • Goal = freedom, not bondage

Q: What do you think the difference would be if the commandments came first and the relationship came later?


#1 – No Other God But Yahweh

3 You must not have any other god but me.

Mainly because there are no other gods but Him

Also because of how bad it will be if we put anything ahead of God

It’s been said that “You can’t break any of the rest without breaking this one”

Q: What is your reaction to that statement?


#2 – No Idols

4 You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.

Why no idols?

  • Graven image gave sense of control over the god. Like having a video camera the god was forced to look into.
  • Kept people focused on God’s word instead
  • John 4:23-24 God is Spirit. Worship him in spirit and in truth.

5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.

Need to explain “jealous God”

Let’s imagine my wife tells me she can’t make date night because she’s out with some French dude named “Jean Claude.” And that she won’t be around next week because “Jean Claude” is taking her to New Orleans.

Q: What do you think it says about me if I’m cool with that arrangement?


5b I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.

Sin affects the whole family, including the kids.

Q: What are some ways that a parent’s weaknesses might affect their kids and even grandkids?

  • How do you deal with anger?
  • How do you view members of the opposite sex?
  • There’s a good chance you resemble your parents, or are reacting to how they were
  • Also, if a family that fails to teach their kids about God (cf. Deut 6), their kids will learn a certain way of life that is wrong

6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.


But, relatively speaking, God’s grace lasts a lot longer. It’s about a thousand times better. Partly because we don’t deserve any of it, where we do deserve to reap consequences from our sins.


This reveals another big difference between Yahweh and idols. Yahweh is the God who actually does something.


#3 – Do Not Use The Lord’s Name in Vain

7 You must not misuse the name of Yahweh your God. Yahweh will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.


Not about swearing

Some observant Jews don’t even say Yahweh’s name. In later Judaism they would only pronounce it once per year on the day of atonement

What does this refer to?

  • Taking false oaths (Lev 19:12)
    • Not forbidding the taking of oaths (Jer 4:2; Deut 6:13)
  • Claiming to speak for Yahweh (Deut 18)
  • Possibly magic too

#4 – Sabbath

8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work,

10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to Yahweh your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.

11 For in six days Yahweh made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.


Q: Why do you think God gives this commandment?

This is the God who says “Thou shalt take a day off and have a good time.”


Q: What are some differences you see between rest and laziness?

Q: What are some practical ways to rest?


Good and evil are real

Yahweh is the basis for morality

Your biggest problem is that you are alienated from Him

Loving God is the key to learning to love others


[1] Dawkins, River out of Eden, 1995. p 133.

[2] Sartre, existentialism and Human Emotions (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957), p. 22 as quoted in Groothius, op cit., p. 349

[3] cited in Groothius, op. cit., p. 349