Exodus 19-20


The Israelites will spend nearly a year by Mount Sinai receiving God’s commands.  What a spectacular experience that must have been!  One would think that the Israelites would be forever convinced of the mightiness of God. 

The Ten Commandments were part of a covenant with God and his people.  So do the Commandments apply to others?  Yes, other than the Sabbath laws.  These are God’s moral laws that are written on our hearts.  They are the foundation of good societies: honoring parents (which leads to honoring authority in general), not lying in court, etc.

Note all the warnings from God about how to receive the laws and where not to stand.  He wanted to ensure that they were listening very carefully.

At Mount Sinai

19     In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.

9 The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.

10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.”

14 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. 15 Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.”

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, 19 and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

20 The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. 22 Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.”

23 Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’”

24 The Lord replied, “Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.”

25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.

The Ten Commandments

20     And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

The first commandment sound simple, but we constantly put other things before God.  It is hard to go 10 minutes without breaking this one. 

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

People often take the “punishing the children” and “showing love” verses too literally and infer that there are “generational curses” they need to break.  But they miss the point: If the curses were real, then God is the one who put them there.  And what makes these people thing they’ll undo what God has done?

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

How many times have we broken this one?! 

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Interestingly, studies have shown that it is better to work a given number of hours over 6 days rather than 7.  God knew what He was doing with this command.  We don’t have to follow it legalistically under the New Covenant, but it is to our benefit to have a day of rest.  If you haven’t tried carving out a day with no work, shopping, etc., give it a try!  If you don’t rest one day a week you end up going non-stop.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Jesus would later emphasize the spirit of these laws, in that to hate someone was akin to murder and to lust was to commit adultery in one’s heart. 

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” I recently did a post on covetingon my other blog.  It is easy to take the 10th Commandment (Thou shalt not covet) more lightly than others, because it not as highly ranked, right?  But coveting leads to all sorts of problems and is at the root of violating many of the other commandments.  Coveting is bad because when we covet we make ourselves miserable. 

But there is another more significant problem with it, which is what it says to God.  When I covet I am telling God that I think He has made mistakes and has not given me all he should have.  When I look at coveting that way it is very sobering, because that is obviously not the message I want to send to my Lord and Savior

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Idols and Altars

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it.’

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


11 Responses

  1. By what authority do you make the statement that the Sabbath Law does not apply? The Catholic church claims their authority in the matter. But the Truth is that Scripture maintains Yahweh’s authority in that Saturday Sabbath remains a commandment for all who would joing themselves to the Lord, be they Jew or Gentile. Read Isaiah 56. Peace.
    Banner Kidd

  2. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy – I think it is easy to dwell more on the “resting” than on the “keeping it holy”. Yes, God wants us to rest from our labors, but He also wants us to rest in Him, in His Word. We keep the Sabbath day holy by being in His Word, by not despising it, but holding it sacred and gladly hearing and learning it.

  3. Hi Banner Kidd and Rebecca,

    I am all for taking a day of rest. God wired us to need that and it is good on multiple levels. But the Commandment was for the Israelites. My understanding is that the Sabbath requirement was not placed on Gentiles and it is the only Commandment not reiterated in the New Testament.

    Thanks for the Isaiah 56 reference. I wasn’t familiar with that. But wouldn’t that just be for Gentiles who wanted to join the Israelite community?

    How do you interpret Colossians 2:16? (“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.”)

    Peace and Merry Christmas!

  4. Please read Isaiah 56 again. It does not say those who join themselves to Israel. It says those who join themselves to the Lord. Also Sabbath is in the NT in Hebrews 4. By the way, everything does not have to be reiterated in the NT to still be valid. And what do you do with Yeshua saying that HE did not come to destroy the Law. And what about Paul in Romans 8 saying that the flesh is hostile to Yahweh and that the fleshly mind cannot obey the Law of Yahweh, in saying that one has to be in the Spirit to please HIM. It is clear that by the Spirit we CAN obey the Law of Yahweh. The word is rendered “subject to” in the NKJV and it means to “subordinate” or to “obey.” Paul also said in Romans 7 that the Law was a delight and was good and holy and spiritual. It is not of the flesh. Sabbath speaks of the sovereignty of the Almighty and has to do with not speaking one’s own words, going one’s own way, or seeking one’s own pleasure (Isaiah 58). In short it is acknowledging that His way is the only viable way. He is the living Torah – the Living Word. The Word of God, spoken of by Paul and Messiah could only be what we call the OT. Paul said it would make you wise unto salvation and was good for reproof and correction and to make one complete for every good work (2 Timothy 3). It is grace – Gr word “charis” meaning the “divine influence on the heart with the reflection in the life (see Strong’s Lexicon) at work in us changing out hearts so that we can obey His commandments. Prior to that heart change we were in bondage to sin, not the Law. Sin, according to John in 1st John is lawlessness. Paul said we were set free from bondage to sin. Yeshua said Matthew that those who practice lawlessness should depart from HIM because He never knew them. There are numerous contextual references I could cite, but you should look them up for yourself. Blessings as you seek HIM apart from man’s commandments and doctrines.

  5. Thanks for the follow up, but I didn’t see anything about Colossians 2:16. That appears to be a clear rebuttal to your argument.

    Hebrews 4 is using Sabbath rest in a different context, because it notes that the Sabbath rest wasn’t realized in Joshua’s day.

    Isaiah 56 appears to be speaking of Gentiles who join the Israelite community before Jesus came.

    The early Christians met on Sunday, not Saturday.


  6. The context of Colossians 2 is the empty deciet and philosphies of men and the commandments and doctrines of men, not the repudiation of the Feasts of Yahweh. The pagan family members of the former pagans, now born again, were persecuting the new believers for observing Yahweh’s Holy Days. This portion of Scripture, like most of Paul’s letters, are misunderstood, taken completely out of context.

    Hebrews 4 clearly points to the Sabbath of Yahweh from the beginning and finishes up by establishing it all upon the Word from the beginning.

    Please read all again in context with Torah and you will, if you submit to the Spirit and not the flesh, see the Truth of Yahweh in the face of men’s best efforts that prove to be wanting.

  7. I’m in the middle of studying Colossians and cannot see the context you are referring to. These are all Jewish customs and the context appears to be Jewish Christians trying to force people to follow Jewish customs. Can you show me where you draw such an emphatic conclusion about it being pagans? Paul calls such things a “shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” It seems clear to me that people are being picked on for not following these things.

    Please leave off comments such as “if you submit to the spirit and not the flesh,” as if you are doing that and I am not. It isn’t very productive to imply that just because someone disagrees with you that they aren’t doing that already. Thanks.

  8. They were Colossians! They were pagan. Do a little historic research and you will find this out. Besides the Feasts, New Moon celebrations, and Sabbath are not Jewish customs. They are the Commandments, the Word of Yahweh. Very simply, the pagan friends and relatives were not happy with the new believers because they were rejecting the empty philosphies and commandments and doctrines of men in favor of the commandments of Yahweh. HIS Feast days, Sabbath, etc are a shadow of things to come. They haven’t all arrived yet. They are still valid. The body is Messiah. Let me ask you a question. Would Paul call what Yahweh has commanded a philosophy of men, or would he call it a commandment and doctrine (teaching) of men? Would he equate the commandments of Yahweh with worship of angels? He would not and we shouldn’t either.

    As for submitting to the Spirit versus walking in the flesh…. I didn’t come up with that, Paul did! Romans 8 is very clear. Read it for yourself. Don’t put Paul’s words in my mouth. I’m just reporting what he said. In the flesh you cannot obey the commandments of Yahweh. But in the Spirit we are free to do so and we are to be doing so because HE said do it, we say we love HIM and HE said “If you love ME keep MY commandments.” What do you do with that?

  9. Thanks for your insights. I have done research. The scholars I’ve read interpret it quite a bit differently than you.


  10. It’s always a choice between what men say and what Yahweh says. What I’ve given isn’t an interpretation but what the Scripture says in context. Your choice however. -Banner

  11. I’m not taking a position here, but I think Banner Kid asks a good question when he asks: “Would Paul call what Yahweh has commanded a philosophy of men, or would he call it a commandment and doctrine (teaching) of men? Would he equate the commandments of Yahweh with worship of angels?”

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