Matthew Henry's Commentary
he preface to the ten commandments. (1,2) The commandments of the first table. (3-11) Of the second table. (12-17) The fear
of the people. (18-21) Idolatry again forbidden. (22-26)
Verse 1,2: God
speaks many ways to the children of men; by conscience, by providences, by his voice, to all which we ought carefully to attend;
but he never spake at any time so as he spake the TEN COMMANDMENTS. This law God had given to man before; it was written in
his heart; but sin so defaced it, that it was necessary to revive the knowledge of it. The law is spiritual, and takes knowledge
of the secret thoughts, desires, and dispositions of the heart. Its grand demand is love, without which outward obedience
is mere hypocrisy. It requires perfect, unfailing, constant obedience; no law in the world admits disobedience to itself.
Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all, (Jam 2:10).
Whether in the heart or the conduct, in thought, word, or deed, to omit or to vary any thing, is sin, and the wages of sin
Verses 3-11: The first four of the ten commandments, commonly
called the FIRST table, tell our duty to God. It was fit that those should be put first, because man had a Maker to love,
before he had a neighbour to love. It cannot be expected that he should be true to his brother, who is false to his God. The
first commandment concerns the object of worship, JEHOVAH, and him only. The worship of creatures is here forbidden. Whatever
comes short of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship, breaks this commandment. Whatsoever ye do, do all the glory
of God. The second commandment refers to the worship we are to render to the Lord our God. It is forbidden to make any image
or picture of the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any creature, image, or picture. But the spiritual
import of this command extends much further. All kinds of superstition are here forbidden, and the using of mere human inventions
in the worship of God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship, that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness.
All false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, all profane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It matters
not whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-like things break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour,
or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. The form of the fourth commandment,
"Remember," shows that it was not now first given, but was known by the people before. One day in seven is to be
kept holy. Six days are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglect the service of God, and the care of our souls.
On those days we must do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbath day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity,
and piety; for the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, (Mr 2:27); but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence
in any form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling
visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this day holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, but
not a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. The
advantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it only to the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affords
for taking care of the soul, show the excellency of this commandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and in it.
The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited to the seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day.
Verses 12-17: The laws of the SECOND table, that is, the last six of the ten commandments,
state our duty to ourselves and to one another, and explain the great commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,
(Lu 10:27). Godliness and honesty must go together. The fifth commandment concerns the duties
we owe to our relations. Honour thy father and thy mother, includes esteem of them, shown in our conduct; obedience to their
lawful commands; come when they call you, go where they send you, do what they bid you, refrain from what they forbid you;
and this, as children, cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Also submission to their counsels and corrections. Endeavouring,
in every thing, to comfort parents, and to make their old age easy; maintaining them if they need support, which our Saviour
makes to be particularly intended in this commandment, (Mt 15:4-6). Careful observers have noted
a peculiar blessing in temporal things on obedient, and the reverse on disobedient children. The sixth commandment requires
that we regard the life and the safety of others as we do our own. Magistrates and their officers, and witnesses testifying
the truth, do not break this command. Self-defence is lawful; but much which is not deemed murder by the laws of man, is such
before God. Furious passions, stirred up by anger or by drunkenness, are no excuse: more guilty is murder in duels, which
is a horrible effect of a haughty, revengeful spirit. All fighting, whether for wages, for renown, or out of anger and malice,
breaks this command, and the bloodshed therein is murder. To tempt men to vice and crimes which shorten life, may be included.
Misconduct, such as may break the heart, or shorten the lives of parents, wives, or other relatives, is a breach of this command.
This command forbids all envy, malice, hatred, or anger, all provoking or insulting language. The destruction of our own lives
is here forbidden. This commandment requires a spirit of kindness, longsuffering, and forgiveness. The seventh commandment
concerns chastity. We should be as much afraid of that which defiles the body, as of that which destroys it. Whatever tends
to pollute the imagination, or to raise the passions, falls under this law, as impure pictures, books, conversation, or any
other like matters. The eighth commandment is the law of love as it respects the property of others. The portion of worldly
things allotted us, as far as it is obtained in an honest way, is the bread which God hath given us; for that we ought to
be thankful, to be contented with it, and, in the use of lawful means, to trust Providence for the future. Imposing upon the
ignorance, easiness, or necessity of others, and many other things, break God's law, though scarcely blamed in society. Plunderers
of kingdoms though above human justice, will be included in this sentence. Defrauding the public, contracting debts without
prospect of paying them, or evading payment of just debts, extravagance, all living upon charity when not needful, all squeezing
the poor in their wages; these, and such things, break this command; which requires industry, frugality, and content, and
to do to others, about worldly property, as we would they should do to us. The ninth commandment concerns our own and our
neighbour's good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing
to deceive our neighbour. Speaking unjustly against our neighbour, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against him,
or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and tale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, and in any
way endeavouring to raise our reputation upon the ruin of our neighbour's. How much this command is every day broken among
persons of all ranks! The tenth commandment strikes at the root; Thou shalt not covet. The others forbid all desire of doing
what will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all wrong desire of having what will gratify ourselves.
Verses 18-21: This law, which is so extensive that we cannot measure it, so spiritual that
we cannot evade it, and so reasonable that we cannot find fault with it, will be the rule of the future judgment of God, as
it is for the present conduct of man. If tried by this rule, we shall find our lives have been passed in transgressions. And
with this holy law and an awful judgment before us, who can despise the gospel of Christ? And the knowledge of the law shows
our need of repentance. In every believer's heart sin is dethroned and crucified, the law of God is written, and the image
of God renewed. The Holy Spirit enables him to hate sin and flee from it, to love and keep this law in sincerity and truth;
nor will he cease to repent.
Verses 22-26: Moses having entered into
the thick darkness, God there spake in his hearing all that follows from hence to the end of chap. 23, which is mostly an
exposition of the ten commandments. The laws in these verses relate to God's worship. The Israelites are assured of God's
gracious acceptance of their devotions. Under the gospel, men are encouraged to pray every where, and wherever God's people
meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them; there he will come unto them, and will bless them.
David Burnette's Life Application
Law and Sin
Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making
an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we Continue
in the book of Exodus with Chapter 20 and in today's text we see the giving the 10 commandments and man
has a written word of the law which defines sin. What catches my eye is how these 10 commandments to this day cause such
outrage. Those who refuse to acknowledge God will go to lengths to remove them from schools and government buildings. Why?
I believe it is because these 10 commandments expose their sin and their need for a savior. The lost think if they can
erase the law they can remove the conviction they feel when their sin is exposed. The law is still the law. We can
not keep the law because we are sinners. Being sinners we are in need of a savior, That savior is Jesus-Christ.
How about you? Have you been saved? Does the law show you - your need of a savior? If so repent, believe and receive
the Gospel to be saved.
God spake all these words, saying,
2I am the
LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that
is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God
am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that
6And shewing mercy unto thousands
of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy
10But the seventh day is the sabbath
of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant,
nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD
blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13Thou shalt not kill.
14Thou shalt not commit adultery.
shalt not steal.
16Thou shalt not bear false
witness against thy neighbour.
not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his
ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the
people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
20And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that
his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
22And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel,
Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.
24An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy
peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
25And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone,
thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
26Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not