Foundational Framework Part 32 - The 10 Words Part 1


Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.

Between the death of the firstborn and the meeting with YHWH at Sanai, the Israelites were found complaining against YHWH on four separate occasions (Exod 14:11-12; 15:24; 16:2; 17:2). In each instance, we do not find any divine chastening meted out by YHWH. While He does express His exasperation with the unbelief of the people (Exod 16:28), in each instance careful instructions and provisions are given, tenderly caring for these recently-freed slaves. Having been under oppression for so long, a concept like trusting in a God who they did not have a tangible image of was an extreme contrast, to say the least. Where would their next meal come from? What would they drink? How would their clothes and sandals possibly hold up in the wilderness climate? Marching into their freedom was scary, but YHWH holds their hand, teaching them that He can be trusted. He is their Father; they are His Son (Exod 4:22).

Exodus 19:1-17. Three months had passed and the Israelites had come to the mountain where YHWH had initially called Moses (Exod 3:12). The salvation/deliverance of the people initiates their relationship with YHWH, bringing them to a place where they can live in a covenant relationship with Him. This calling was unlike any among the nations.

“Yahweh confirmed his work of redeeming his vassal people from the overlordship of Egypt by making them his own servants, ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exod 19:6). Their role thenceforth would be to mediate or intercede as priests between the holy God and the wayward nations of the world, with the end in view not only of declaring his salvation but also of providing the human channel in and through whom this salvation would be effected.”[1]

This covenant proposal is extended to the leadership of Israel who obviously confer with the people, reaching an affirmative agreement (19:4-8). What is important to note is that their agreement to the covenant is not based upon the terms of the covenant. That would not come until Exodus 20-23. The agreement of Israel in the covenant was based off of the salvation/deliverance of YHWH and the constant provision that He had for them while traveling to the Sinai/ Mount Horeb region.

Having agreed to enter into the terms of this contract, YHWH calls for the people to prepare themselves for His presence: YHWH will speak with the people personally (19:9). To prepare themselves, there is a call to “consecrate” themselves, wash their garments (19:10, 14), and to abstain from sexual relations (19:15). On the third day, YHWH would meet them!

While we are not told what the consecration of oneself consisted of, we do know that the ideas surrounding it are holiness and purity, especially in light of their appointment with YHWH (19:11). Washing one’s garments speaks to cleanliness, of which we can all easily understand, but consecration itself and abstaining from sex seems odd. The overall “calling out” of Israel to separate themselves from Egypt (which is a type of the world system) signifies their special relationship with YHWH. Now YHWH was preparing them for intimacy and fellowship with Him.

Dispensation of the Law. The Law was never a means of salvation, for to do so would be to make salvation by works and not as it always has been, and as YHWH had previously revealed it to be, by grace through faith (Gen 15:6). Instead, “Israel was to participate in God’s mission by calling the world’s attention to God’s goodness and righteousness through their obedience (Deut 4:1-8).”[2] YHWH is a missional God and His election of Israel is not any different, seeing that He has called them to a missional task. Ideally, Israel was to walk in fellowship/obedience to the Law, for in doing so, they would be a witness, modeling the intimacy that could be experienced with YHWH. This opportunity became severely compromised when Israel made a covenant with the people who

dwelled in Gibeon known as the Hivites when they had been commanded to “utterly destroy” everything (Josh 9:1-21; Deut 7:1-2).

The “Type” Involved with Israel and the Exodus. The historical events recorded in Exodus are a visual lesson that teaches on the Christian life. By applying the blood of the lamb, death passes over the Israelite (Exod 12:13). This signifies the moment in which a person hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7), and believes it, being rescued from death and transferred into eternal life (John 5:24). In this “newborn” period, there is a testing of boundaries, and a worldly tendency to complain and grumble regarding one’s basic needs (Exod 14:11-12; 15:24; 16:2; 17:2). As with any loving Father, the infant believer is provided and cared for by YHWH. When the instruction for righteous living comes, the opportunity for living the “abundant life” (John 10:10) begins. Israel’s reception of the Law would be a type of the Christian’s growth in discipleship, fostering a greater intimacy with the Lord our God. This comes about by keeping His commandments, which is no different for the Christian, except that the commandments that we are called to keep are not found in the Law of Moses, but in the Law of Christ, which is also known as the Law of Liberty (John 14:21; Jas 1:25; 2:12. This is also known as the “Law of our King” [literal translation of Jas 2:8]).

“The Church is not Israel, and Israel is not the Church. Israel is the chosen nation. It is a race of individuals in which God has founded and advanced His kingdom program throughout its history. The Church, on the other hand, is a Body of all those who are spiritually baptized into Christ.”[3] The Law of Moses was given to govern a nation so that it would be a megaphone of His goodness and salvation for the world (Deut 4:6-8). Being that the Law is the perfect standard of God and that it clearly displays His holiness and righteousness, it is perfect in identifying sin, serving as the grounds for such a condemnation (1 Tim 1:8-11).   

The matter must be settled in the Christian’s mind that they have been set free from the slavery of sin and have been graciously brought into a new life where opportunities for obedience greatly surpass anything that could have been previously conceived of apart from Christ (Rom 6:1-14).

Exodus 20:1-17. This passage is known as the Ten Commandments, but is more properly understood as the “Ten Words” or the “Decalogue.” The order of the Ten Words is theologically intentional.
v.2-6: YHWH alone is supreme and nothing else compares to Him. He alone is unique. It is only by affirming the truths of the first 2 commands that any of the other commands can even be approached.
v.7-11: YHWH is to be revered, with time being set aside for uninterrupted worship of Him.
v.12: The hierarchy of the family falls right after one’s understanding of YHWH. The family is what sets the tone for the culture. This is by God’s purposeful design, with respect being in order.
v.13-17: Interpersonal relationships. Being created in the image of God, each human being is significant and deserves to be treated with dignity.

God reveals Himself to the Israelites in a new way, using His voice. He begins by addressing them with His name: YHWH. This is an audible event in history of which every Israelite heard Him while standing at the foot of the mountain. This personal communication from YHWH to Israel was to serve as a benchmark event when the Creator of all things personally spoke His divine Law to his firstborn son. This is recounted later as a remembrance to the Israelites in Deut 4:10-14.

YHWH places the spotlight squarely on His liberating campaign against Egypt, identifying it properly as a “house of slaves” (v.1-2). The mention of His conquest against Egypt supplies the grounds for what is known as a “hesed relationship,” meaning that loyalty is expected from Israel due to the loyalty that was shown to them.

A pattern that is immediately noticeable is that commandments 1-4 are concerned with Israel’s relationship with YHWH, while commandments 5-10 deal with Israel’s relationships with one another.

The first commandment (v.3) deals with disarming the polytheistic mindset that had infected the Israelites from their stay in Egypt (Ezek 20:5-10). Being held captive for some time, and even though their residing in the land of Goshen did provide some sort of buffer to insulate them from total corruption, the devotion of Egypt to their idols had rubbed off on Israel (1 Cor 15:33). By ageing to be devoted to YHWH alone, Israel is immediately thrust into direct opposition to every surrounding nation and people, causing immediate tension.

The second commandment is closely related (v.4-6), calling for the people to abstain from making idols that resemble created things (See Rom 1:18-23). “Idols and images in all likelihood were merely representations of invisible beings whose reality could be fully appreciated only by their being seen.”[4] To make an idol was to subscribe to another god; a demon, who was in direct opposition to the moral and ethical foundation that YHWH was communicating. (For a Scriptural take on the futility of idols, see Isaiah 40:18; 41:7; 44:9-20).

YHWH calls Himself a “jealous God,” meaning that there is none greater than He and to worship lesser things, especially idols, is to settle for less than the best that is being offered to them. Some are troubled by v.5-6, assuming that the 3rd and 4th generations will be condemned for the sins of their ancestors, but this is not the meaning at all. The idea being conveyed is that those who worship idols and were not holding fast to YHWH’s Law are setting the future generations up for failure. Or, simply put, sin has consequences and repercussions that reach much farther than we ever thought imaginable, even to our children and our grandchildren. Righteousness preserves a people, but idolatry invites their destruction.

Also, the use of “hate” and “love” in v. 5-6 are strong words, but should be understood in conjunction with keeping the Law of YHWH. This idea is not foreign, seeing that Jesus states to believers, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me” (John 14:21a). In the Bible, obedience displays love.

The first two commandments are clear, citing idols and other gods as unacceptable, pagan contrivances of no worth, dispelling all objects of worship so that the people would focus only on the Word that YHWH was giving them.

The third commandment concerns YHWH’s name and its use in daily life. Many have assumed that this is simply avoiding the use of “God” as a four letter word, but this command entails much more than simple curses. Merrill notes that the literal rendering of this command is, “You shall not take up the name of the LORD for an unworthy purpose.”[5] This

would include “name-it-and-claim-it” beliefs, cursing, invoking His name for a promise that is not kept, flippant worship, or attributing anything to Him that is in deviation to His character. A heightened form of this is seen in the unforgivable sin committed by the Pharisees in Matt 12:22-29 by attributing the miracles of YHWH through Jesus Christ to the glory/credit of Satan (Beelzebul- v.24).

The fourth commandment concerns the Sabbath day (literally “a day of cessation”), a day set aside solely for the Lord. This command receives the greatest amount of elaboration by YHWH, yet it is the only command that is not repeated for the church in the New Testament (See Rom 14:5; Col 2:15-17). The command for this day is that it should be kept “holy,” meaning that it is to be set-apart, unique amongst the others, and with a special purpose in mind. One will immediately observe that the Sabbath rest echoes the rest that YHWH employed having finished with creation (Gen 2:2-3). This reasoning allows for Scripture to interpret itself, seeing that Exodus 20:11 is a general commentary on Genesis 1:1-2:3, and clearly shows that the “day-age” theory of creation is a worthless assumption. Otherwise, we would need to allegorize the text and state that “what God is really saying” is that we are to work 6,000 years and then rest for 1,000 years. By allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, this faulty theological idea is put to rest.

The fifth commandment speaks to the respect to be administered in the family. The family is one of the first divine institutions that YHWH initiated prior to the Fall of Man. The integral role that the family holds in society cannot be underestimated. It is the primary target of Satan throughout history and will continue to be so until his demise. This command alone holds drastic differences between today’s bouts of fatherlessness, unwed pregnancies, cohabitation, divorced couples, homosexuality, and government interference with family-based education, all of which are attempts to dismantle the family and corrupt the culture. In the case of Israel, honor was to be shown to the parents by the children, and what constituted “parents” is clearly in line with YHWH’s original design of one man and one woman (Gen 1:26-28). This command is unique in that a promise has been attached to it. Residing in the Land of Canaan, of which the people had been promised by YHWH, was contingent upon their respect for their parents. Only YHWH could allow for Israel to be removed from the land, thus He takes a personal

interest in this commandment, overseeing the consequences that result from its neglect among the people of Israel.

Commandments 6-10 deal with infringing on one’s person and their personal rights. Being created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-28), men and women have significance, hold value, and are meaningful in the eternal plans of God. Murder, being a cold-blooded killing of a person apart from war, revenge, or legal execution, disrespects the image of God. In Genesis 9:6 we read, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” This commandment would deal with the first action of shedding man’s blood.

Adultery tears apart the marriage relationship (Mark 10:9). By God’s design, a man and a woman become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), being the core of the family structure. Monogamous relationships were truly unusual in Moses’ time, and seems odd when one is familiar with the accounts of Jacob’s life, having two wives and two concubines. Nevertheless, the ideal pattern is one man and one woman, just as it was in the beginning. This commandment would serve as a harsh reminder to Israel when they would be called out by YHWH for their unfaithfulness to Him in bowing down to other gods (Num 25:1; Ezek 16:15; Hos 1:2; 3:1).

Stealing is a violation of one’s private property rights. Against Marxism and Communism, Israel’s Law protected private property and individual rights. Private ownership is a hallmark of a capitalistic society, something that the Bible promotes without shame.

Lying, while terribly commonplace, was considered vile enough to have a warning issued against it in God’s Law. This would be the idea of defaming one’s character or slandering one’s image, both being actions that are wholly apart from truth. Lying is falsehood.

Finally, the coveting of a neighbor’s possessions reveals a personal discontentment. In fact, commandments 7 through 9 could be summarized in this last command, with each action being a result of taking something that is not theirs, whether that be a mate, personal property, or one’s reputation. The possessions of another are not to be obsessed over. It is YHWH who is the Provider of Israel and He alone will give as He sees fit. To acquire anything apart from His provision or guidance is to live apart from Him.

Exodus 20:18-20: Israel’s Response to Audible Revelation. In v. 18-20 we have the response of Israel at the base of the mountain. YHWH has spoken, audibly, and the spectacle that surrounded His convocation caused them to back up and shake with fear. Their cries to Moses were for him to serve as the intermediary between the nation and YHWH, for they feared that if they ever heard YHWH’s voice again it would kill them. Bringing order to the situation, Moses tells them not to be afraid, but to note that YHWH is testing them and this event, coupled with His presence among them, was to bring them to reverence so that they would not sin.

God’s audible revelation of Himself was meant to leave a mark on Israel forever; one that caused them to think before every action and to consider Him before every decision. Stuart provides a perfect summary:

“It was an altogether good thing that the people were terrified of God—their reaction indicated that they would be afraid of offending him through sin, and thus their fear would function as a discipline to keep them from sin. This is, in fact, always the value of the much-encouraged fear of God in Scripture. Being afraid of the consequences of disobeying God is among the most helpful attitudes any believer can possibly have. Those who try to suggest that the various commands to fear God are merely encouragements to hold him in some sort of honor or awe completely miss the point that fear is a beneficial guiding mechanism for human behavior.”[6]


[1] Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), p. 98.

[2] Grant Hawley, Jeremy Edmondson, Let the Text Speak: An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics (Allen, TX: Bold Grace Ministries, 2018), p. 63.

[3] Hawley, Let the Text Speak, p.59.

[4] Merrill, Everlasting Dominion, p. 333.

[5] Ibid., p. 337.

[6] Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, Vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), p. 469.