In Chapter 20 the children of Israel received the law and instructions on how to build an altar. The law revealed man's sin, the altar made atonement.

Exodus 20:1 "And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."

The law is God's idea of what man "ought" to be. God did not write the commandments on a whim. These 10 shalts and shalt nots are God's measuring stick for man and no man except Jesus Christ has ever measured up! Without the commandments, how would we know right from wrong? I heard someone say their conscience would tell them but how would your conscience know? If you had not been taught not to take something belonging to someone else, how would you know it was a sin? Or, if you had not been taught that Sunday was to be set aside as a day of rest and worship, how would you know it was any different than the other six days of the week? Why is it wrong to commit adultry? Because God said it is wrong! God made the law and we are not to question it but obey it! God started out by simply reminding the Israelites who He was. He was the God who brought them out of Egypt. This one fact alone was enough for them to know that when He said jump, they were to answer with, how high, Lord!

Let me correct a misconception here. I have heard the theory, "if there had never been any laws, there could be no sin, for there would be no wrong or right". The law did not make man a sinner, it only revealed man's sin to him. Without the law, man would not know he was a sinner, would never repent for his sin and would be doomed to die in his sinful condition.



Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

This commandment is addressing the belief in more than one God; it is not talking about atheism, which is the belief of no gods. There were not many atheists in Bible Times but the world abounds with them today and many of them are in our schools teaching our children! In that day it was popular to worship many gods and God was instructing the people that He was the only God and they were to worship only Him!

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

Exodus 20:4 "Thou 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: 5 Thou 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 hate me;"

Many believe that this commandment doesn't apply to us today but there are actually more things for us to worship and bow down to today than there was when this was written. This does not just apply to little fat idols or fly or frog gods, it also applies to anything you adore, are devoted to or serve in excess or more than God.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Exodus 20:7 "Thou 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."

Someone told me just the other day that they were standing in line at the pharmacy and heard one of the pharmacists spewing profanity to someone over the phone. I occassionally take children to that pharmacy and hearing that really upset me! We go to great measures here to keep the little ones from hearing things like that on TV but we often can't control what they hear while we are out of our homes with them. And that is so sad! There are so many fools in the world and so many of them live around me! For only a fool would take the name of the Lord in vain! I would be afraid He would strike me with lightening!!! Taking the Lord's name in vain doesn't just mean cursing or swearing, either. It means using God's name lightly, and not reverently!

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Exodus 20:8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 11 For 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."

One day out of every seven is to be set aside for rest and for worship. Does it make a difference which day you set aside? Probably not. I prefer Sunday because that is the day I attend church services with other believers but if you have a job at a hospital or can't set Sunday aside for worship for some other reason I don't think it will matter much to God, as long as you give Him the time he deserves!

5. Honour thy father and thy mother.

Exodus 20:12 "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."

This is the first commandment with promise. We are told that if we give honour to our parents we will live longer. I wondered about this verse as a child. What if your parents are not Christians, but you are? And what if your parents do not approve of you being a Christian? And then, suppose your parents are not good parents! Should you still honour them? Honour is a gesture of respect. We should always respect older people and people in authority if at all possible! But, if it is not at all possible, we can still at the least try not to show disrespect!

6. Thou shalt not kill.

Exodus 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill."

This commandments almost speaks for itself. Many people use this commandment as an excuse to get out of the armed service but I personally believe this commandment was given to the individual and does not include wars or punishment for crimes.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14 "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

This commandment also speaks for itself. When God first set up the institution of marriage, He meant for a man to have one wife and for a woman to have one husband. (As I've often said, one is all I can handle!!!) Sex outside of the marriage vows is a sin and don't let anyone tell you it doesn't matter because God said it does!

8. Thou shalt not steal.

Exodus 20:15 "Thou shalt not steal."

This commandment covers a multitude of sins! There are more ways to steal than just taking something material that belongs to someone else. You can steal time at work by using it for your own gain and getting paid for it. You can steal from the government by cheating on your taxes. You can even steal from God by withholding your tithes.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Exodus 20:16 "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

This commandment does not just cover lying but also idle gossip about your friends and neighbors. I hope you are not the type of person who repeats rumors without even knowing if they are true or not. For this is as much a sin as lying!

10. Thou shalt not covet.

Exodus 20:17 "Thou shalt 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."

God saved the best for last! This is a sin that every human is guilty of sometime in their life. Living in a world of materialism as we do, it is hard not to look at what others have and wish we had the same. God wants us to be content with what He has given us. That is not to say that we should not try to better ourselves but we need to be careful we are not spending our lives trying to keep up with the Jones! We can become so obsessed with having things that we miss out on living our lives!

Exodus 20:22 "And 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. 23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. 24 An 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. 25 And 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. 26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon."

God reminded the people that He was the only God; it was He who had talked to them from heaven, and that they were not to make any images of silver or gold. He then tells them to build an altar. The altar was not to be fancy, it was not to be made for looks for it was not to be made for man but for God! The priests wore garments with skirts and they were not to go up the steps to the altar. When we go into the presence of God we should do so with reverence. (I don't believe we should wear shorts to church, either!) Notice God gives them instructions on building an altar for offering peace offerings. God wants us to be at peace with Him. But we can only have peace with God if we keep His commandments!


I want to encourage you to memorize the 10 commandments. This is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible and worthy of memorization! If you have children still living at home, encourage them to memorize them with you! While we have atheists teaching our children at school, we do not have the ten commandments being taught so we must teach these values at home! I have listed them below to make it easier for you. Click here for a printable version.



1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultry.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
10. Thou shalt not covet.


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