First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17

The Ten Commandments

1 God spoke all these words, saying, 2 "I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

4 "You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, YHWH your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 "You shall not take the name of YHWH your God in vain, for YHWH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 You shall labor six days, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; 11 for in six days YHWH made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore YHWH blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which YHWH your God gives 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.

17 "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."

World English Bible

[1-2] The Commandments came from God with the reminder of his fidelity to the people. God is God because he takes the first step. The Hebrews were the first to believe in a God of history. God was not just the creator or preserver of nature; God was active in the lives of people. For the Hebrew, God was God because he first called, then people responded.

3] The commandments are in descending order of importance. The first commandment called for complete fidelity on the part of the believer. The believer can in no way attribute power or life and nature to anything else than the Hebrew God. God was to be first in the life of the believer.

[4] Our society has reduced this commandment to swearing and cursing. In our society, both are considered to be tactless, but not ultimately harmful. This was not the intention of the commandment. Ancient people believed that a name revealed the power and purpose of the person or thing named. This commandment was meant to avoid abusing the name of God for purposes of manipulating God through excessive prayers. God's name was to be used in a loving relationship with him, not in trying to use him.

Note the use of "Lord" in the passage. The Hebrews replaced the name of God (spelled YHWH) with Lord so they could keep the letter of the commandment. The Hebrews ultimately lost the name of God; we can only speculate its original meaning.

[8] "To keep holy God's day" means more than going to church. Holiness means to do what God does; on the seventh day God rested, and people should as well. Rest means recreation: doing those things that refresh the person for another week.

[12] The extended family was so important in the ancient world that fidelity to parents is more important than murder. In our society, family values have less weight.

The third and fourth commandments were the only positive ones of the ten. These two were meant to define a society as faithful to God and to family.

[13-15] These commandments affected our relationships with our neighbors. Taken in a positive manner, all could be reduced to one saying "Respect others."

[16-17] These commandments encouraged a single-hearted intent. Ethical conduct demanded an honest character.

Which commandment do I fail? Which, if put in the positive, would give me comfort?