20:1 God spake all these words. Not only did God speak these words; He also later wrote them down Himself (the only part of the inspired Scriptures of which this was recorded–note Exodus 31:18; 34:28). Thus, if any part of the Bible should be taken literally, it should be these ten commandments, including God’s statement that He made all things in heaven and earth in six days, as a pattern for man’s six-day work week (Exodus 20:11). Note also that the commandments are grouped into two distinct categories. The first four commandments set forth the relationship of man to God (Exodus 20:3-11), the last six commandments deal with man to man (Exodus 20:6-17). Note also Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:36-40, and Paul’s in Romans 13:8-10.
20:4 make unto thee. This is not a prohibition against pictures or statuary, in general, but only against an attempt to replace worship of the Creator with worship of His creation or some created thing in the creation (note Romans 1:21-25). When people attempt to represent God by a graven image of some demonic spirit (or “god”) or by a pantheistic mental construct of the infinite, any such worship or representation (the key phrase is “unto thee”) is blasphemous and is forever prohibited by this key commandment. “We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29). It also renders the use of statues and paintings of Christ, as well as angels, in churches, schools, and homes as objects of “veneration” to be at least questionable.
20:4 any likeness. This commandment surely renders the common use of statues and paintings of angels, and even more so of the Lord Jesus, in churches, schools, and homes to be very questionable, if not clearly forbidden.
20:5 third and fourth generation. This apparently severe judgment on innocent children cannot contradict the teaching throughout Scripture (e.g., Ezekiel 18:19-20) that each person is individually responsible before God (e.g., Romans 14:12). Nevertheless, it is true that ungodly parents tend to produce ungodly children and grandchildren. In this way, God’s judgment is exercised upon the descendants “that hate me.”
20:7 his name in vain. It is significant that pagans never take the names of their “gods” in vain; this is a practice unique to apostate Christians or others whose culture has been nominally committed to belief in a personal transcendent Creator. Our Creator is to be believed, worshiped and obeyed, not trivialized or blasphemed.
20:8 Remember. The Hebrew word for “remember” actually is in the sense of “mark” or “set aside.” The Israelites didn’t need to be told to remember the sabbath, because they, like other nations had been keeping time in weeks ever since the first week (Genesis 2:1-3). Note the references to the sabbath in the giving of the manna, prior to the giving of the Law (Exodus 16:23-29).
20:10 the seventh day. It is important to note the principle of one rest day following six days of work. The Hebrew word for “sabbath” does not mean “Saturday” or “seventh day;” it means “rest” or “intermission.” The institution of the sabbath (one day of rest, worship and remembrance of the Creator) was “made for man,” not as an arbitrary legalistic ritual (Mark 2:27), whether remembered on the first or last or any other day of the locally observed week (even assuming the specific days could actually be traced back to the beginning, an assumption incapable of external proof). In fact, the Christian observance of the first day as the rest day seems most appropriate, signifying now a “marking” not only of God’s completed work of creation but also His completed work of redemption of the creation (note His victory cry on the cross–“it is finished!”) affirmed forever by His victory over sin and death on the first day of the Jewish week at the time.
20:11 in six days. This verse, written on stone by God’s own hand (Exodus 31:18) settles once and for all the question of the meaning of “day” in the creation chapter (Genesis 1). Man was to work six days and rest one day because God did; in fact, God took six days, instead of a single instant, to finish His work of creating and making all things to be a model for humanity (Genesis 2:1-3). God’s week was of precisely the same duration and pattern as man’s regular week. The Hebrew word for “days” (yamim), furthermore, is used over seven hundred times in the Old Testament, and cannot be shown ever to require any meaning except that of literal days, certainly never to anything comparable to geological ages. Still further, “all that in them is” was made in the six days; nothing had been made previously, as the gap theory of Genesis would require. There seems to be no legitimate exegesis of Genesis that can ever allow for the theoretical ages of evolutionary geology. Further, no such gap is necessary; all the data of rocks and fossils are much better explained in terms of the great Flood. It is also significant that other human measurements of time (day, month, year) are keyed to astronomical processes. The universal week, however, has no astronomical base whatever. We keep time in weeks simply because God does!
20:13 kill. The commandment not to kill obviously refers to murder, not to judicial execution. God Himself had ordained the principle of capital punishment for the murderer (Genesis 9:6; see also Romans 13:4), as well as for other crimes (e.g., Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 24:16).