Read Exodus Chapter 20. After you have read the chapter, read the passages below to help you dive deeper into the Chapter. Conclude in Prayer.
An introduction to the Ten Commandments - " It was not possible for the people to receive the divine commandments, or to appreciate the Law, while still in the land of servitude. That is why God brought them out into the wilderness to give them the law, which He begins by saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. ” (Ex. 20: 2) Although this phrase came as an introduction to the commandments, and not in the form of a commandment, yet the Jews considered it as a part of the first commandment.” - Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
“Note that the Ten Commandments carried a negative aspect, except the two commandments of keeping the Sabbath and honoring the parents, and that the latter commandment is the only one with a promise. The Lord Christ has summarized all these commandments in one, which is to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22: 37; Romans 13: 9; Galatians 5: 14; James 2: 8).”- Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
THE TWO TABLETS OF THE LAW - "We should also know that the ten commandments of the law are also fulfilled by the two gospel precepts, love of God and love of neighbor. For the commandments which were written on the first tablet pertain to the love of God, while on the second tablet the commandments were inscribed, one of which is Honor your father and your mother. Doubtless all of the latter are recognized as pertaining to love of neighbor. The Lord said in the Gospel: On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. Likewise we read what the apostle James said: But whoever offends in one point has become guilty in all. What does it mean to offend in one point and lose all, except to have fallen from the precept of charity and so to have offended in all the other commands? According to the apostle, without charity nothing in our virtues can be shown to avail at all.” - CAESARIUS OF ARLES
LOVE OF GOD AND LOVE OF NEIGHBOR - "Let [my opponents] insist, if they like, in contradiction to their own assertion, that worship of the one true God and the prohibition against idolatry is not to be preached to the unbaptized but to the already baptized. Do not, however, let them any longer say to those who are going to receive baptism that they need be instructed only on belief in God and after the reception of the sacrament they will be taught the manner of living required by the second precept on the love of neighbor. For both are contained in the law which the people received after the Red Sea, that is, after baptism. The commandments were not so distributed that before crossing the Red Sea the Jews were warned against idolatry and not until after their escape taught to honor father and mother, not to commit adultery, not to kill, and the remaining prescriptions for a rational and godly way of living.” - AUGSTINE
By the Law, sin was exposed, but was not cured. The letter of the Law, that instructs us to refrain from committing sin, would kill, if it lacks the Spirit that gives it life. As it lets us know the sin, without knowing how to avoid it, causing it, as well to increase instead of decrease, and adding to the evil lust (forbidden by the Law) by breaking of the Law itself.”
“The Law proclaimed the need for a physician. “The Law entered, that the offense might abound” (Romans 5: 20). Through its existence, man appeared guilty and confused and in need, not for a physician, but for God Himself as his Helper, to guide his steps, to protect him from being controlled by sin. In order to be cured, man was committed to deliver himself to the mercy of God. So “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5: 20), not out of worthiness of the sinner, but through the intervention of God who helps him.
“The Law is good and the commandment is just. And we, as Christians, are committed to keep the Ten Commandments (taking into consideration to consider the Sabbath as a symbol of Sunday), the Scripture says that the Ten Commandments are beneficial to him who keeps them and no one can enjoy life, unless he keeps them.”
“St. Augustine believes that the Old Testament, was called ‘Old’, because sin that was in the old man, had been working in him, and the letter of the Law was unable to cure. The New Testament, on the other hand, was so called, on account of the Spirit of the living God (2 Corinthians 3: 3), who engraved the commandment, according to a new way, not on tablets of stone, but on ones of flesh. In the Old Testament, the commandment was warning from outside, while in the New Testament, we gained the grace of the life-giving Holy Spirit inside in the heart."
"The difference between the Old and the New Testaments, is that the first was written on tablets, in order to warn from outside, while the second acts within. By the first, man became a transgressor through the killing letter, while by the second, he became living through the life-giving Spirit." St. Augustine
““You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Ex 20:3-6)
“Saying “You shall no have other gods before Me”, does not imply the existence of other gods, but He is warning his people of falling into worshipping the gods of pagans beside worshipping Him. St. Athanasius, the apostolic, believes that God gave us this commandment, in order to divert man away from the wrong and unsound fantasies pertaining to idol worship. Not that there are other gods that He is warning us against their worshipping, but He commands that in order to protect us from straying from the True God, and from making gods out of nothing, as did the poets and writers.” - Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
THE NATURE OF THE FATHER AND THE SON - " Again, he who says you shall never worship a strange god‖ forbids us to worship another god, and the strange god is so called in contradistinction to our own God. Who then is our own God? Clearly, the true God. And who is the strange god? Surely, he who is alien from the nature of the true God. If therefore our own God is the true God, and if, as the heretics say, the only-begotten God is not of the nature of the true God, he is a strange God and not our God.” - GREGORY OF NYSSA
CHRISTIANS ABHOR IDOLATRY - "Christians and Jews are led to avoid temples and altars and images by the command You shall fear the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. … And not only do they avoid them, but when necessary they readily come to the point of death to avoid defiling their conception of the God of the universe by any act of this kind contrary to his law.” - ORIGEN
THE HOUSE OF GOD IS EACH OF US - "Now Christ is especially jealous for the house of God in each of us, not wishing it to be a house of merchandise or that the house of prayer become a den of thieves,since he is Son of a jealous God. This is the case if we understand such words from the Scriptures in a reasonable manner, which were spoken metaphorically from the human viewpoint to set forth the fact that God wishes nothing alien to his will to be mingled with the soul of any, but especially with the soul of those who wish to receive [the teachings of the] most divine faith.” - ORIGEN
““You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7
HOW WE COME TO UNDERSTAND GOD - "Although making a variety of suppositions about him, we all know something of God but do not all know what he is, for few indeed and fewer (if I may say so) than few are they who grasp his holiness in all things. Thus we are rightly taught to pray that our concept of God may be hallowed among us. Thus we shall see his holiness in creating, in providing, in judging, in choosing and abandoning, in accepting and rejecting, in rewarding and punishing each one according to his merits. In these activities and others like them is found, so I may say, the stamp of the personal character of God, that which in my opinion is called in Scripture the name of God. So in Exodus: You shall not take the name of your God in vain." - ORIGEN
THE NAME OF THE LORD IS TRUTH - "The second commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for whoever takes the name of the Lord his God in vain will not be purified. The name of the Lord our God Jesus Christ is Truth: he himself said, I am the truth. So truth purifies; futility defiles. And because whoever speaks the truth speaks from what is God‘s, for whoever speaks falsehood speaks from what is his own, to speak the truth is to speak reasonably, whereas to speak futility is to make a noise rather than to speak. Rightly, because the second commandment means love of the truth, the opposite of that is love of futility.” - AUGUSTINE
CHRIST IS NOT A CREATURE - "You are told Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; do not regard Christ as a creature because for your sake he put on the creature. And you, you despise him who is equal to the Father and one with the Father.” - AUGUSTINE
““Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Ex 20:8-11
“We said that it is an eternal commandment, that the Church is committed to keep, by entering into the true “Sabbath”, namely the “Rest” that became ours through the resurrection of the Lord Christ. As God had rested on the seventh day, after He finished creation, our rest came with the start of the new creation that became ours through our resurrection with the Lord Christ.” - Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
THE SABBATH MEANS A PEACEFUL MIND - "The commandment: Remember the sabbath day to sanctify it. This commandment imposes a regular periodical holiday, quietness of heart, tranquility of mind, the product of a good conscience. Here is sanctification, because here is the Spirit of God. Well, here is what a true holiday, that is to say, quietness and rest, means Upon whom, he says, shall my spirit rest? Upon one who is humble and quiet and trembles at my words. So unquiet people are those who recoil from the Holy Spirit, loving quarrels, spreading slanders, keener on argument than on truth, and so in their restlessness they do not allow the quietness of the spiritual sabbath to enter into themselves." - AUGUSTINE
PURE REST IS FOUND IN GOD ALONE - "We are not ordered to keep the sabbath day by a literal corporal abstinence from work, as the Jews observe it and, indeed, that observance of theirs, because it is so commanded, is considered ludicrous unless it signifies some other spiritual rest. From this we understand that all the truths which are expressed figuratively in the Scriptures are appropriately designed to arouse love. By love we attain to rest. The only commandment that is given figuratively is the one by which rest is enjoined. Rest is universally loved but found pure and entire in God alone. However, the Lord‘s day was not made known to Jews but to Christians by the resurrection of the Lord, and from that event it began to acquire its solemnity. Doubtless the souls of all the saints prior to the resurrection of the body enjoy repose, but they do not possess that activity which gives power to risen bodies.” - AUGUSTINE
THE COMMANDMENTS AND THE NATURAL LAW - "When he speaks to us of another commandment, not known to us by the dictate of conscience, he not only prohibits but also adds the reason. When, for instance, he gave the commandment respecting the sabbath, On “the seventh day you shall do no work, he subjoined also the reason for this cessation. What was this? Because on the seventh day God rested from all his works which he had begun to make." - CHRYSOSTOM
“"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” Ex 20:12
“God put honoring the father and mother, as the first of the commandments pertaining to our relationship with others, even before commanding us not to kill or to commit adultery, etc. It is the only commandment with a reward or a promise (Ephesians 6: 2).
“The concept of honoring the father and mother is wide. It includes obedience and submission, for which Isaac presented a living example, when he submitted to his father Abraham, as he intended to offer him a sacrifice to God, according to God’s command. It also includes love and respect, for which we see king Solomon as a role model, as when his mother came to him, “The king rose up to meet her, and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne, and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand” (1 Kings 2: 19). Success is a way of honoring the parents. The Book says, “A wise son makes a glad father; but a foolish son is the grief of his mother” Proverb 10: 1).
"Submitting is also a practical way of honoring parents; and as St. Jerome says: [Honoring parents are not to be interpreted in mere words; but children should submit to them by provision of their necessary needs for life]. God commanded us to support our needy parents, to pay back the good deeds they gave us during our childhood."
"Finally, if this commandment implied honoring fathers and mothers according to the flesh, it would be more appropriate to apply it to the spiritual fathers; God being our Father and the Church is our mother. St. Clement of Alexandria believes that parents here are God, being our Father and Lord, and the mother is the true knowledge, and the wisdom that begets the righteous.”
WHAT HONORING PARENTS MEANS - "And God said, Honor your father and your mother, teaching that the child should pay the honor which is due to his parents. Of this honor to parents one part was to share with them the necessaries of life, such as food and clothing, and if there was any other thing in which it was possible for them to show favor toward their own parents.” - ORIGEN
THE HONOR DUE TO PARENTS - "The formation of the children is then the prerogative of the parents. Therefore honor your father, that he may bless you. Let the godly man honor his father out of gratitude and the ingrate do so on account of fear. Even if the father is poor and does not have plenty of resources to leave to his sons, still he has the heritage of his final blessing with which he may bestow the wealth of sanctification on his descendants. And it is a far greater thing to be blessed than it is to be rich.” - AMBROSE
PARENTS ARE TO BE CHERISHED - "It‘s your parents you see when you first open your eyes, and it is their friendship that lays down the first strands of this life. If anyone fails to honor his parents, is there anyone he will spare?” - AUGUSTINE
““You shall not murder.” Ex 20:13
“God does not bear to see the shedding of innocent blood, as He told Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Gen 4: 11). He even does not stand the shedding of the evils’ blood, saying: “‘ Whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold’, and the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (Gen 4: 15). His hate for blood shedding is clear in His saying to His beloved prophet David, “You have shed much blood, and made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name” (1 Chr 22: 8). Yet God, who commanded not to murder, allowed it for the adulterer and the adulteress (Lev 20: 10 - 16), for the murderer (Ex. 21: 14), for the striker or curser of his father or mother (Ex. 21: 15, 17), for the breaker of the Sabbath (Ex. 31: 15), for the blasphemer against God’s name (Lev 24: 16), and He commanded it in some wars against the pagans. All that was fit for the Old Testament; when man could not discern between the sinner and the sin, and between the idol worshipper and idol worship. Thus by allowing killing, He intended to confirm His absolute rejection of sin and idol worship of the pagan nations. But in the New Testament, as believers reached spiritual maturation, killing the sinner, no longer, became the solution for the sinner, but the commitment to save him from the sin, the cause of his death.” - Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
THE NATURAL LAW PROHIBITS MURDER - "How was it then when he said, You shall not kill, that he did not add, because murder is a wicked thing? The reason was that conscience had already taught this beforehand. He speaks thus, as if to those who know and understand the point.” - CHRYSOSTOM
““You shall not commit adultery.” Ex 20:14
THE STANDARD OF MORALS - "Therefore whatsoever things God commands (and one of these is You shall not commit adultery) and whatsoever things are not positively ordered but are strongly advised as good spiritual counsel (and one of these is, It is a good thing for a man to not touch a woman) all of these imperatives are rightly obeyed only when they are measured by the standard of our love of God and our love of our neighbor in God.- AUGUSTINE
THE HIGHER SENSE OF THE COMMANDMENT - "It is written in the law, You shall not commit fornication. This is required in a beneficial way according to the simple sound of the letter by the person who is still entangled in the passions of fleshly impurity. It is necessarily observed in spiritual fashion, however, by one who has already left behind this filthy behavior and impure disposition, so that he also rejects not only all idolatrous ceremonies but also every superstition of the Gentiles and the observance of auguries and omens and of all signs and days and times. And he is certainly not engaged in the divination of particular words or names, which befouls the wholesomeness of our faith. - JOHN CASSIAN
ACTS AND THOUGHTS - "The law suppressed physical sins, but our Redeemer condemned even unlawful thoughts.And so if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe one who rises from the dead. When will those who neglect to fulfill the less important commandments of the law be strong enough to obey our Savior‘s more demanding precepts? This much is clear: anyone whose sayings they decline to fulfill, they have refused to believe.” - GREGORY THE GREAT
““You shall not steal.” Ex 20:15
“Stealing is not taking what belongs to others, but robbing it.”
“The abhorrence of this sin is more serious, if the robbed party is needy, like a widow, or if you lend money to the poor, and charge interest like a moneylender, or pawn his covering or garment (Exodus 22: 25 -- 27), or if the thing robbed is a sanctified item.”
“God considered refraining from giving tithes a kind of robbery. And St. Clement of Alexandria considered whoever refers anything to someone who is not its real owner, as though he is robbing; as for example the one who steals the thoughts of others and attributes them to himself."
““You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Ex 20:16
“To bear false witness means to lie; and as the devil is “a liar and a father of it” (Jn 8: 44), he who lies is doing the deeds of his father the devil.”
ALL LIES ARE FORBIDDEN -" In the Decalogue itself it is written, You shall not bear false witness, in which classification every lie is embraced, for whoever pronounces any statement gives testimony to his own mind. If anyone should argue that not every lie should be called false witness, what will he answer to this statement which is also in the sacred Scriptures: The mouth that belies, kills the soul. If anyone should think that this passage can be interpreted to except certain lies, he may read in another passage: You will destroy all that speak a lie. In this connection, our divine Lord said with his own lips, Let your speech beyes, yes and no no; and whatever is more comes from the evil one. Hence the apostle too, when he directs that the old man should be put off, under which term all sins are understood, goes on to explain his remark and specifically says, Therefore put away lying and speak the truth.- AUGUSTINE
““You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”” Ex 20:17
“This commandment revealed the depth of the Law, as it intended to kill sin from its root; yet the Jews did not understand. Some may ask: The Mosaic Law commanded, “You shall not covet”; and the New Testament gave the same commandment; so what is the difference? The Law commanded it, yet it did not give the remedy. It revealed man’s inability to keep the commandment, in order to seek the remedy. But the New Testament, on the other hand, gave us the possibilities of keeping the commandment, by the Holy Spirit working in us."
AN ANCIENT VICE - "Love of money then is an old, an ancient vice, which showed itself even at the declaration of the divine law; for a law was given to check it." - AMBROSE
COVETOUSNESS CONVICTS US OF SIN - "There you are then, the law tells you you shall not covet. You know the law which says, You shall not covet. Covetousness surges up in you, which you didn‘t know. It was there inside, you see, but it wasn‘t known. You started to make an effort to overcome what was inside, and what was hidden came to light. Proud fellow, through the law you have been made into a transgressor. Acknowledge grace, and become a singer of praise.” - AUGUSTINE
Ex 20: 18-26 - The Fear of God
SINAI AND PENTECOST - "But notice how it happened there and how it happened here. There, the people stood a long way off; there was an atmosphere of dread, not of love. I mean, they were so terrified that they said to Moses, Speak to us yourself, and do not let the Lord speak to us, lest we die. So God came down, as it is written, on Sinai in fire; but he was terrifying the people who stood a long way off, and writing with his finger on stone, not on the heart. Here, however, when the Holy Spirit came, the faithful were gathered together as one; and he didn‘t terrify them on a mountain but came in to them in a house. There came a sudden sound, indeed, from heaven, as of a fierce squall rushing upon them; it made a noise, but nobody panicked. You have heard the sound, now see the fire too, because each was there on the mountain also, both fire and sound; but there, there was smoke as well, here, though, the fire was clear. There appeared to them, Scripture says, you see, divided tongues, as of fire. Terrifying them from a long way off? Far from it. Because it settled upon each one of them, and they began to talk in languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Hear a person speaking a language, and understand the Spirit writing not on stone but on the heart.” - AUGUSTINE
THE LORD’S INCARNATION - "To make an altar of earth for the Lord is to place our hope in the incarnation of the Mediator. Our gift is accepted by God when, on this altar, our humility rests whatever it does upon faith in the Lord‘s incarnation. We place the gift we offer on an altar made of earth if we base all our actions on faith in the Lord‘s incarnation.
Heavenly Father, as we read of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, which is Your Word, Your Son, we cannot but help thank You for the reality of Your grace. Truly, we should be like the Israelites who feared to speak to you directly, but because of Your Incarnation, and You pouring out Your Holy Spirit on us, we have come to know you personally. Truly Lord, the Law which Moses received convicted the people of sin, but Your Word, Your Son today offers us Grace and forgiveness. We know Lord that the Israelites could not have received this law before their crossing the Red Sea, so we also God cannot enter into Your Grace without our passage through the waters of Baptism. It is only by Your Grace that we come out from these waters resurrected in Jesus Christ. Please O Lord, with Your finger, inscribe Your Word on the tablets of our hearts, so that we may praise you unceasingly. Amen.