Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. And God spake all these words--The Divine Being Himself was the
(De 5:12, 32, 33),
in tones so loud as to be heard--so distinct as to be intelligible by
the whole multitude standing in the valleys below, amid the most
appalling phenomena of agitated nature. Had He been simply addressing
rational and intelligent creatures, He would have spoken with the still
small voice of persuasion and love. But He was speaking to those who
were at the same time fallen and sinful creatures, and a corresponding
change was required in the manner of God's procedure, in order to give
a suitable impression of the character and sanctions of the law
revealed from heaven
2. I am the Lord thy God--This is a preface to the ten
commandments--the latter clause being specially applicable to the case
of the Israelites, while the former brings it home to all mankind;
showing that the reasonableness of the law is founded in their eternal
relation as creatures to their Creator, and their mutual relations to
3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me--in My presence,
beside, or except Me.
4, 5. Thou shalt not make . . . any graven image
. . . thou shalt not bow down thyself to them--that is,
"make in order to bow." Under the auspices of Moses himself, figures of
cherubim, brazen serpents, oxen, and many other things in the earth
beneath, were made and never condemned. The mere making was no sin--it
was the making with the intent to give idolatrous worship.
8. Remember the sabbath day--implying it was already known, and
recognized as a season of sacred rest. The first four commandments
comprise our duties to God--the other six
our duties to our fellow men; and as interpreted by Christ, they reach
to the government of the heart as well as the lip
"If a man do them he shall live in them"
But, ah! what an if for frail and fallen man. Whoever rests his
hope upon the law stands debtor to it all; and in this view every one
would be without hope were not "the LORD OUR
[Jer 23:6; 33:16]
18-21. all the people saw the thunderings and the
lightnings--They were eye and ear witnesses of the awful emblems of
the Deity's descent. But they perceived not the Deity Himself.
19. let not God speak with us, lest we die, &c.--The phenomena
of thunder and lightning had been one of the plagues so fatal to Egypt,
and as they heard God speaking to them now, they were apprehensive of
instant death also. Even Moses himself, the mediator of the old
covenant, did "exceedingly quake and fear"
But doubtless God spake what gave him relief--restored him to a
frame of mind fit for the ministrations committed to him; and hence
immediately after he was enabled to relieve and comfort them with the
relief and comfort which he himself had received from God
22, 23. the Lord said unto Moses--It appears from
that this injunction was a conclusion drawn from the scene on
Sinai--that as no similitude of God was displayed then, they should not
attempt to make any visible figure or form of Him.
24. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me--a regulation
applicable to special or temporary occasions.
25. thou shalt not build it of hewn stone, &c.--that is, carved
with figures and ornaments that might lead to superstition.
26. by steps--a precaution taken for the sake of decency, in
consequence of the loose, wide, flowing garments of the priests.