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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Exodus 20

 

 

Verses 1-21

SECOND SECTION

The Threefold Law of the Covenant for the Covenant People on the Basis of the Prophetic, Ethico-religious Divine Law of the Ten Commandments. Historical Prophecy

Exodus 20-31

a.—The ten words, or the ethical law; and the terrified people, or the rise of the need of sacrificial rites

Exodus 20:1-21

1, 2And God spake all these words, saying, I am Jehovah thy God, which [who] have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me [over against me].[FN1] 4Thou 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 Jehovah thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto [upon] 6the third and [and upon the] fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments 7 Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy 9 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of [a sabbath unto] Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy Song of Solomon, nor thy daughter, thy Prayer of Manasseh -servant, 11nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it 12 Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee 13 Thou shalt not kill 14 Thou shalt not commit adultery 15 Thou shalt not steal 16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor 17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his Prayer of Manasseh -servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s 18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed [reeled backward], and stood afar off 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die 20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not; for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces [upon you], that ye sin not 21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[The exact meaning of עַל־פָּנַי here and in Deuteronomy 5:7 is disputed. The rendering “before me” was doubtless meant by our Translators to convey the notion, “in my presence” = לְפָנַי. Perhaps the ordinary reader is apt to understand it to mean, “in preference to me.” Luther, Kalisch, Geddes, Keil, Knobel, Bunsen, and Riggs (Suggested Emendations), following the LXX. (πλὴν ἐμοῦ), translate, “besides me.” De Wette, Rosenmüller, Maurer, Philippson, Fürst, Arnheim, Bush, Murphy, Cook (in Speaker’s Commentary), and Lange, following the Vulgate (“coram me”), translate “before me,” i.e., in my presence. In order to a satisfactory settlement of the question, it is necessary to investigate the use of the phrase עַל־פְּנֵי in general. An examination of all the passages in which it occurs yields the following result: The phrase, followed by a Genitive or a Pronominal Suffix, occurs210 times. In125 of these cases, it has its literal sense of “upon the face (or surface) of;” as, e.g., 2 Samuel 17:19, “The woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth;” Genesis 50:1, “Joseph fell upon his father’s face;” or it is merely a longer form for the simpler עַל (upon); as, e.g., Job 5:10, “Who … sendeth waters upon the fields.” The remaining85 cases are divided as follows: (1) 28 times עַל־פְּנֵי is used in describing the relation of localities to each other. E.g., Judges 16:3, “Samson … carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.” Sometimes (and more properly) in such cases the phrase is rendered “over against” in the A. V. The other passages in which עַל־פְּגֵי is thus used are Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:9; Genesis 25:18; Genesis 49:30; Genesis 50:13; Numbers 21:11; Numbers 33:7; Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:1; Joshua 13:3; Joshua 13:25; Joshua 15:8; Joshua 17:7; Joshua 18:14; Joshua 18:16; Joshua 19:11; 1 Samuel 15:7; 1 Samuel 26:1; 1 Samuel 26:3; 2 Samuel 2:24; 1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 17:3; 1 Kings 17:15; 2 Kings 23:13; Ezekiel 48:15; Ezekiel 48:21; Zechariah 14:4. It is a mistake to suppose, as some do, that in these connections עַל־פְּנֵי means “to the east of,” according to the Hebrew mode of conceiving of the cardinal points. For in Joshua 18:14 we read of “the hill that lieth before (עַל־פְּנֵי) Beth-horon southward;” and in Joshua 15:8, of “the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward.” We are rather to suppose that the phrase indicates such a relation of two places as is expressed by “over against,” the physical conformation of the localities naturally suggesting such a description.—(2) We observe, next, that 13 times עַל־פְּנֵי is used of the position of things in relation to buildings. E.g., 1 Kings 6:3, “the porch before the temple.” In the same verse עַל־פְּנֵי occurs twice more in the same sense. The other passages are 1 Kings 7:6 (bis); Exodus 8:8; 2 Chronicles 3:4 (bis), 8, 17; Exodus 5:9; Ezekiel 40:15; Ezekiel 42:8. In these cases the meaning is obvious: “on the front of,” “confronting.”—(3) Six times עַל־פְּנֵי is used in the sense of “towards” or “down upon” after verbs of looking, or (once) of going. E.g., Genesis 18:16, “The men ……… looked toward (עַל־פְּנֵי, down upon) Sodom.” So Genesis 19:28 (bis), Numbers 21:20; Numbers 23:28; 2 Samuel 15:23. Here עַל־פְּנֵי may be regarded as a fuller form of עַל as sometimes used after verbs of motion.—(4) Five times it is used after verbs signifying “pass by,” and is rendered “before.” E. g, Exodus 33:19, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee.” So Exodus 34:6; Genesis 32:22 (21); 2 Samuel 15:18; Job 4:15. In these passages עַל־פְּנֵי differs from לִפְנֵי as used, e.g., in 2 Kings 4:31, “Gehazi passed on before them;” where לִפְנֵי indicates that Gehazi went on in advance of the others; whereas, e.g., in 2 Samuel 15:18, the meaning is that the king stopped, and the others went by him.—(5) In 12 passages מֵעַלִ־פְּנֵי is used after verbs meaning to “cast out,” and is usually rendered “from the presence (or sight) of.” They are 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Kings 13:23; 2 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 17:23; 2 Kings 24:3; 2 Kings 24:20; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Jeremiah 7:15; Jeremiah 15:1; Jeremiah 23:39; Jeremiah 32:31; Jeremiah 52:3. Possibly also Genesis 23:3, “Abraham stood up from before his dead,” i.e., went away from the presence of; but we may understand it more literally, viz., “stood up from upon the face of.” There is a manifest difference between מֵעַל־פְּנֵי and מִלִּפְנֵי. The former is used of a removal from a state of juxtaposition or opposition. The latter is used in the stricter sense of “from before.” E.g., in Deuteronomy 9:4, “For the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee (מִלְּפָנֶיךָ).” Here it is not meant that the relation between the Jews and the other nations was to be broken up, but rather that it was never to be formed; whereas, e.g., in Jeremiah 7:15, “I will cast you out of my sight,” the implication is that the people had been near Jehovah, but were now to be banished.—(6) Four times עַל־פְּנֵי is used with the meaning, “to the face of.” E.g., Isaiah 45:3, “A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face.” So Job 1:11 (parallel with Exodus 2:5, where אֶל־פְּנֵי is used); Exodus 6:28 (as correctly rendered); Exodus 21:31. Here the notion of hostility, often expressed by the simple עַל, is involved.—Similar to these are (7) the three passages, Ezekiel 32:10, Nahum 2:2 (1), and Psalm 21:13 (12), where עַל־פְּנֵי is used after verbs descriptive of hostile demonstrations, and means either, literally, “against the face of,” or “over against,” in defiance.—(8) In Exodus 20:20, where the A. V. renders, “that his fear may be before your faces,” the meaning clearly is the same as in such expressions as Exodus 15:16, where the simple עַל is used. So Deuteronomy 2:25.—(9) In one case, Psalm 18:43 (42), עַל־פְּנֵי is used of tho dust “before” the wind, just as לִפְנֵי is used in Job 21:18, “They are as stubble before the wind.”—(10) Tho passage, Job 16:14, “He breaketh me with breach upon (עַל־פְּנֵי) breach,” has no precise parallel. But here, too, it is most natural to understand עַל־פְּנֵי as a fuller, poetic form for עַל. Comp. Genesis 32:12 (11), “the mother with (עַל) the children;” Amos 3:15, “I will smite the winter-house with (עַל, i.e., together with, in addition to) the summer-house.”—(11) There are three passages (possibly four), in which עַל־פְּנֵי has a peculiar meaning, as denoting the relation of two persons to each other. Haran, we are told, Genesis 11:28, “died before (עַל־פְּנֵי) his father Terah.” This seems to mean, “died before his father did.” But though such a priority is implied, it is not directly expressed. לִפְנֵי is sometimes used to denote such priority in time, e.g., Genesis 30:30; Exodus 10:14; Joshua 10:14; but עַל־פְּנֵי is nowhere clearly used in this sense, so that it is more natural to understand it (as the commentators do) here to mean either “in the presence of,” or “during the life-time of.” The next passage, Numbers 3:4, illustrates the meaning: “Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of (עַל־פְּנֵי) Aaron their father.” It is hardly possible that pains would be taken to lay stress on the fact that Aaron saw them acting the part of priests, especially as the verb כִּהֵן hardly means anything more than “to be priest.” Not more admissible is the interpretation of Gesenius and others, who here translate עַל־פְּגֵי “under the supervision of.” There is not the faintest analogy for such a meaning of the phrase. At the same time, it is hardly supposable that it can be literally translated, “during the life-time of.” The notion of physical presence, or nearness, is so uniformly involved in עַל־פְּנֵי that we must, in strictness, here understand it to mean, “over against,” “in view of,” the point of the expression, however, not consisting in the circumstance that Aaron watched them in their ministrations, but that they performed them over against him, i.e., as coupled with him, together with him, (and so) during his life-time. Here belongs also probably Deuteronomy 21:16, “He may not make the son of the beloved first-born before (עַל־פְּנֵי) the son of the hated.” One might naturally understand “before” here to mean, “in preference to;” and this certainly would yield an appropriate sense—a sense certainly involved, yet probably not directly expressed. At least there is no clear analogy for such a meaning, unless we find it in the passages now under consideration, viz., Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7. The best commentators understand עַל־פְּנֵי in Deuteronomy 21:16, to mean “during the life-time of.” An analogous use of לִפְנֵי is found in Psalm 72:5, where it is said of the king, “They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure,” literally “before (לִפְנֵי) the sun and moon.” Similarly Exodus 20:17.—The other of the four passages above mentioned is Genesis 25:18. There we read: “He (i.e., Ishmael) died (literally, fell) in the presence of (עַל־פּנֵי) his brethren.” There is now, however, general unanimity in translating נָפָל here “settled” rather than “died,” so that the passage is to be reckoned in the following class, in which also the relation of persons to each other is expressed, but in a somewhat different sense.—(12) Knobel explains עַל־פְּנֵי in Genesis 25:18 as = “to the east of.” So Del, Lange, Keil, Maurer, De W, and others. But, as we have already seen, עַל־פְּנֵי does not have this meaning. This passage is to be explained by the parallel one, Genesis 16:12, where it is also said of Ishmael, “He shall dwell in the presence of (עַל־פְּנֵי) all his brethren.” Here the context Isaiah, “His hand will be against every Prayer of Manasseh, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell עַל־פְּנֵי all his brethren.” Keil and Lange are unable to satisfy themselves with the interpretation “east of” here; and it is clear that that would not be a statement at all in place here, even if עַל־פְּנֵי ordinarily had the meaning “east of.” Evidently the angel expresses the fact that the Ishmaelites were to dwell over against their brethren as an independent, defiant, nation. If Song of Solomon, then Exodus 25:18 is to be understood in the same way, as a statement of the fulfilment of the prophecy here made. In addition to these two passages there are three others in which the relation of persons to each other is expressed. They are Leviticus 10:3, Psalm 9:20 (19), and Jeremiah 6:7. In the first we read that Jehovah said, “Before (עַל־פְּנֵי) all the people I will be glorified;” this is preceded by the statement, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me.” The verse follows the account of the destruction of Nadah and Abihu. To render “in view of,” or “in the presence of,” would make good and appropriate sense; and certainly it is implied that by the summary punishment of the presumptuous priests Jehovah intended to glorify Himself in the sight of His people. Yet, while men are frequently represented as being or acting before (לִפְנֵי) Jehovah, it is extremely unusual to speak of Jehovah as being or doing anything before (in the sight of) men. And since, if that were here meant, לִפְנֵי would probably have been used, it is much better here to understand the meaning to be “over against,” implying separation and contrast. Likewise Psalm 9:20 (19): “Let the heathen be judged in thy sight (עַל־פָּנֶיךָ).” Certainly the meaning cannot simply be: Let the heathen be judged, while God looks on as a spectator. God is Himself the judge; and the heathen are to be judged over against Him; i.e., in such a way as to exhibit the contrast between them and Him. There remains only Jeremiah 6:7, “Before me (עָל־פָּנַי) continually is grief and wounds.” The context describes the prospective destruction of Jerusalem. Her wickedness is described in Exodus 20:7 : “As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness; violence and spoil is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds (sickness and blows).” Undoubtedly this implies that the manifestations of the wickedness of the people were in Jehovah’s sight; but here, too, there is implied the notion that these things are over against Him: on the one side, Jehovah in His holiness: on the other, Jerusalem in her wickedness. This conception is naturally suggested by the representation that Jehovah is about to make war upon her.

Having now given a complete exhibition of the use of עַל־פְּנֵי in all the other passages, we are prepared to consider what it means in the first commandment. Several things may be regarded as established: (i) עַל־פְּנֵי is far from being synonymous with לִפְנֵי. The latter is used hundreds of times in the simple sense of “before” in reference to persons; the former is used most frequently of places, and in all cases עַל has more or less of its ordinary meaning, “upon,” or “against” (over against), (ii) The phrase has nowhere unequivocally the meaning “besides.” The nearest approach to this is in Job 16:14, under (10), where עַל־פְּנֵי may be rendered “in addition to.” But this is not quite the same as “besides,” and the phrase has there evidently a poetic use. A solitary case like this, where too not persons, but things, are spoken of, is altogether insufficient to establish the hypothesis that עַל־פְּנֵי in the first commandment means “besides.” (iii) The most general notion conveyed by the phrase in question is that of one object confronting another. Leaving out of account, as of no special pertinency, those instances in which it verges upon the literal sense of “upon (or against) the face of,” and those in which the meaning of עַל predominates, (viz., classes (3), (6), (7), (8), (10), we find that all others are sufficiently explained by this generic notion of confronting. Thus, in all the cases where places are spoken of as עַל־פְּנֵי one another, class (1); where objects are described as in front of buildings, class (2); and where persons are spoken of as passing in front of others, class (4).— Song of Solomon, too, in the cases in which מֵעַל־פְּנֵי is used, class (5), in every instance it follows a verb which implies a previous state of hostility; men are to be removed from being over against Jehovah, from confronting Him with their offensive deeds.—So the instance in Psalm 18:43 (42), class (9); the dust before the wind is compared with God’s enemies destroyed by Him; the dust confronting the wind illustrates the powerlessness of men confronting an angry God.—So the examples under (12). The translation “over against” satisfies all of the cases. A relation of contrast and opposition is implied.—Likewise, also, the three passages under (11). The son of the beloved wife ( Deuteronomy 21:16) is not to bo invested with the rights of primogeniture over against the son of the hated one, i.e., in contrast with, distinction from, the other one, while yet by natural right the latter is entitled to the privilege. The phrase עַל־פְּנֵי may here, therefore, be understood to mean “in preference to,” or “in the life-time of,” but neither one nor the other literally and directly, yet both one and the other by implication. In Numbers 3:4 Aaron’s sons are represented as being priests over against their father, i.e., not succeeding him, but together with him, as two hills, instead of being distant from one another, are, as it were, companions, confronting each other. So in Genesis 11:28 Haran is said to have died over against his father. In his death he confronted his father, i.e., did not, as most naturally happens, die after him, when his father would have been taken away from being with him. By thus anticipating his father in his decease Hebrews, as it were, passed in front of him, confronted him, so that this case is quite analogous to those under class (4). In this case, therefore, as in some others, tho meaning of עַל־פְּנֵי closely borders upon that of לִפְנֵי, yet is not the same.

The application of this discussion to Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7 is obvious. Israel is to have no other gods “over against” Jehovah. The simple meaning “before,” i.e., in the presence of, would have little point and force, and besides would have been expressed by לְפָנַי. The meaning “besides” would have been expressed by זוּלָתִי,בִּלְעָדַי, or some other of the phrases having that meaning. The meaning “over against,” the usual meaning of the phrase, is perfectly appropriate here. All false gods are opposed to tho true God. The worship of them is incompatible with the worship of Jehovah. The command therefore Isaiah, “Thou shalt have no other gods to confront me,” to be set up as rival objects of service and adoration. All that is pertinent in the other two renderings is involved hero. Gods that are set up over against Jehovah may be said to be before Him, in His sight; that they are gods besides, in addition to, Him, is a matter of course: but, more than this, they are gods opposed to Him.—Tr.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Analysis.—The whole Mosaic legislation is typical and Messianic. Typical, as Isaiah, evident from the existence of Deuteronomy, inasmuch as this presents the first instance of an interpretation which gives to the law a more profound and spiritual meaning. Messianic, for the ten commandments contain a description of Christ’s active obedience, whilst the sacrificial rites contain the leading features of His passive obedience. Everywhere in the three books are shadowed forth the three offices of the Messiah. The first book comprises, together with the prophetico-ethical covenant law of the ten commandments, also the outlines of the ceremonial and social (civil) law, because those two subjects of legislation flow as consequences out of the ethical law. The priesthood (or the church) and the state depend, in their unity as well as in their diversity, on the ethico-religious legislation of the life of the God-man.

The first form of elemental ethico-religious, but therefore all-embracing legislation, comprises the law, the festivals, and the house, of the covenant (chaps20–31). It is different from the second form of the legislation (chaps32–34sqq) on account of the breaking of the covenant.

This first legislation, the law or book of the covenant in the narrower sense, is evidently the outline of the whole legislation. The presentation of the prophetico-ethical law is found in the ten commandments ( Exodus 20:1-17); the outline of the ceremonial law and the reasons for it follow on ( Exodus 20:18-26); in conclusion comes the third part, the outline of the social laws of the Israelites (21–23).

Three questions are here to be settled: (1) How are the several acts of legislation related to the history? (2) How are the several groups of laws related to each other? (3) How is there indicated in this relation a gradual development of legislation?

As to the ten commandments in particular, we are to consider: (1) the form of the promulgation; (2) the relation of the law in Exodus to the phase it presents in Deuteronomy; (3) the analysis of the ten commandments themselves.

That the laws are not artificially introduced into the history of Israel, as e.g. Bertheau assumes, is shown by their definite connection with the historical occasions of them. Thus, e.g., the law of the ten commandments is occasioned by the vow of covenant obedience made beforehand by the people. The ceremonial law as a law of atonement is occasioned by the fright and flight of the people at the thunders of Sinai ( Exodus 20:21). Thus the holy nation is established; and not till now is there occasion for the theocratico-social legislation, according to which every individual is to be recognised as a worthy member of this nation. The setting up of the golden calf furnished historical occasion for special precepts. The gradually progressive legislation recorded in the Book of Numbers most markedly illustrates the influence of historical events. We have before become acquainted with similar instances. This is true in a general way of the Passover and the unleavened bread. The commands concerning the sanctification of the firstborn and concerning the reckoning of time refer to the exodus from Egypt. The hallowing of the seventh day is connected with the gift of manna; the bitter water occasions the fundamental law of hygienics, Exodus 15. The attack of Amalek is the actual foundation of the ordinance concerning holy wars. So in earlier times the Noachian command ( Genesis 9) was a law which looked back to the godless violence of the perished generation; it connected the command to reverence God with the precept to hold human life sacred. So the fundamental command of the covenant with Abraham, the command of circumcision, as a symbol of generation consecrated with reference to regeneration, appears after the history of the expulsion of Ishmael, who was born according to the flesh (comp. Genesis 17 with Genesis 16). But that the book of Deuteronomy—according to the memorabilia on which it is founded—grew out of the danger that Israel might be led by the giving of the law to decline into observance of the mere letter, we have already elsewhere noticed. It may be remarked by the way that the Song of Moses and Moses’ Blessing at the close of Deuteronomy seem like the heart’s blood of the whole book, a song of cursing, and a song of blessing; in the Psalter and prophetic books scarcely anything similar can be found.

How are the individual groups of laws related to one another? That they essentially and unconditionally require one another, and that accordingly they could not have appeared separately, is not hard to show. The decalogue, taken by itself, would lead into scholastic casuistry; the system of sacrifice, taken by itself, into magic rites; the political marshalling of the host, into despotism or greed of conquest. Compare Schleiermacher’s argument in his “Dogmatik,” to show that the three offices of Christ require each other.

From what has been said it follows also that the development of the legislation was gradual. We may distinguish four stages in the Mosaic period: (1) The Passover as the foundation of the whole legislation, and the several special laws up to the arrival at Sinai (primogeniture, reckoning of time, sanitary regulation, Sabbath); (2) the covenant law, or book of the covenant, before the covenant was broken by the erecting of the golden calf; (3) the expansion and modification of the law, on account of the breach of the covenant, in the direction of the hierarchy, the ritual, and the beginning of the proclamation of grace in the name of Jehovah; (4) the deeper and more inward meaning given to the law in Deuteronomy, as an introduction to the age of the Psalm and Prophets.

The Form of the Promulgation of the Decalogue

We assume that this form is indicated in Exodus 19:19. The passage, Deuteronomy 5:4, “Jehovah talked with you face to face in the mount,” is defined by Exodus 20:5, “I stood between Jehovah and you at that time, to show you the word of Jehovah.” In spite of this declaration and the mysterious passages, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19, Hebrews 2:2, the notion has arisen, not only among the Jews, but also within the sphere of Christian scholastic theology, that God spoke audibly from Mt. Sinai to the whole people. Vid. Keil, II. p106 sqq. Buxt.: “Hebræorum interpretes ad unum pæne omnes: deum verba decalogi per se immediate locutum esse, dei nempe potentia, non autem angelorum opera ac ministerio voces in aëre formatas fuisse.” The interpolation of spirits of nature by von Hofmann (vid. Keil, p108) must be as far from the reality as from the literal meaning of the language. It must not be forgotten that Moses, at the head of his people in the breadless and waterless desert, moves, as it were, on the border region of this world. A sort of symbolical element is without doubt to be found even in the Rabbinical tradition, that God spoke from Sinai in a language which divided itself into all the languages of the seventy nations, and extended audibly over all the earth;—evidently a symbol of the fact that the language of the ten commandments gave expression to the language of the conscience of all mankind.

The Relation of the Law in Exodus to the Form of it in Deuteronomy

First of all is to be noticed that in the most literal part of the Holy Scriptures, where everything seems to depend on the most exact phraseology, viz., in the statement of the law, there is yet not a perfect agreement between the two statements; just as is the case in the N.T. with the Lord’s Prayer, and in church history with the ecumenical symbols, which, moreover, have failed to agree on a seven-fold division of it. Keil rightly makes the text in Exodus the original one; whilst Kurtz, in a manner hazardous for his standpoint, inverts the relation, making the form in Deuteronomy the original one. Both of them overlook the fact that according to the spirit of the letter the one edition is as original as the other. We have already ( Genesis, p92) attempted to explain the reason of the discrepancies which Keil in note1, II, p105, has cited. In the repetition of the Sabbath law the ethical and humane bearing of it is unmistakably made prominent ( Deuteronomy 5:15), as in relation to the tenth commandment the wife is put before the house. In the form of the command to honor father and mother, the blessing of prosperity is made more emphatic. The expressions עֵד שָׁוְא for תִּתְאַוֶּה,עֵד שֶׁקֶר for the repetition of תַּחְמֹד (in the second part of the tenth commandment) savor also of a spiritualizing tendency. By the copula ו, moreover, the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” and the following ones are, so to speak, united into one commandment.

Furthermore is to be noticed the difference between the first oral proclamation of the law through the mediation of Moses and the engraved inscription of it on two tablets. This begins after the solemn ratification of the covenant, Exodus 24:15, Exodus 31:18 Exodus 32:19, Exodus 34:1. Thus at this point also in the giving of the law the oral revelation precedes the written, although at the same point the revealed word and the written word blend intimately together, in order typically to exhibit the intimate relation between the two throughout the Holy Scriptures. A positive command of Holy Scripture has already been made, Exodus 17:14 : eternal war against Amalek, in a typical sense. The fact also is of permanent significance, that Aaron the priest was making the golden calf for the people at the same time that Moses on the mount was receiving the tables of the law. That the ten commandments were written on the two tables, that therefore the ethico-religious law of the covenant is divided into ten commandments, is affirmed in Exodus 34:28, and Deuteronomy 10:4. But on the question, how they are to be counted, and how divided between the two tables, opinions differ. Says Keil: “The words of the covenant, or the ten commandments, were written by God on two tables of stone ( Exodus 31:18), and, as being the sum and kernel of the law, are called as early as in Exodus 24:12 הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹהֹ [the law and the commandment]. But as to their number, and their twofold division, the Biblical text furnishes neither positive statements nor certain indications—a clear proof that these points are of less importance than dogmatic zeal has often attached to them. In the course of the centuries two leading views have been developed. Some divide the commandments into two divisions of five each, and assign to the first table the commandments respecting (1) other gods, (2) images, (3) the name of God, (4) the Sabbath, and (5) parents; to the second those concerning (1) murder, (2) adultery, (3) stealing, (4) false witness, and (5) covetousness. Others assign to the first table three commandments, and to the second, seven. They specify, as the first three, the commandments concerning (1) other gods, (2) the name of God, (3) the Sabbath; which three comprise the duties owed to God: and, as the seven of the second table, those concerning (1) parents, (2) murder, (3) adultery, (4) stealing, (5) false witness, (6) coveting one’s neighbor’s house, (7) coveting a neighbor’s wife, servants, cattle, and other possessions; as comprising the duties owed to one’s neighbor.—The first opinion, with the division into two tables of five commandments each, is found in Josephus (Ant. III, 5, 8) and Philo (Quis rer. divin. hær. § 35, De Decal. § 12 et al.). It is unanimously approved by the church fathers of the first four centuries, and has been retained by the Oriental and Reformed churches to this day. The later Jews also agree with this, so far as that they assume only one commandment respecting covetousness, but dissent from it in that they unite the prohibition of images with the prohibition of strange gods, but regard the introductory sentence, “I am Jehovah, thy God,” as the first commandment. This method of enumeration, of which the first traces are found in Julian, the Apostate, quoted by Cyril of Alexandria, adv. Julianum, Lib. V. init., and in a casual remark of Jerome on Hosea 10:10, is certainly of later origin, and perhaps propounded only from opposition to the Christians; but it still prevails among the modern Jews.

The second leading view was brought into favor by Augustine; and before him no one is known to have advocated it. In Quæst. 71 in Exod., Augustine expresses himself on the question how the ten commandments are to be divided: (“Utrum quatuor sint usque ad præceptum de Sabbatho, quæ ad ipsum Deum pertinent, sex autem reliqua quorum primum: Honor a patrem et matrem, quæ ad hominem pertinent: an potius illa tria sint et ista septem”) after a further presentation of the two views, as follows: “Mihi tamen videntur congruentius accipi illa tria et ista septem, quoniam Trinitatem videntur illa quæ ad Deum pertinent, insinuare diligentius intuentibus;” and he then aims to show, further, that by the prohibition of images the prohibition of other gods is only explained “perfectius,” while the prohibition of covetousness, although “concupiscentia uxoris alienæ et concupiscentia domus alienæ tantum in peccando differant,” is divided by the repetition of the “non concupisces” into two commandments. In this division Augustine, following the text of Deuteronomy, generally reckoned the command not to covet one’s neighbor’s wife as the ninth, though in individual passages, following the text of Exodus, he puts the one concerning the neighbor’s house first (vid. Geffken, Ueber die verschiedene Eintheilung des Dekalogs, Hamburg, 1838, p174). Through Augustine’s great influence this division of the commandments became the prevalent one in the Western church, and was also adopted by Luther and the Lutheran church, with the difference, however, that the Catholic and Lutheran churches, following Exodus, made the ninth commandment refer to the house, while only a few, with Augustine, gave the preference to the order as found in Deuteronomy 2

We have the more readily borrowed the language of a decided Lutheran on this question, inasmuch as Hebrews, in distinction from some others who seem to regard adherence to the mediæval division as essential to Lutheran orthodoxy, displays a commendable impartiality. The leading reasons for the ancient, theocratic division are the following: (1) The transposition of the first object of covetousness in Exodus and Deuteronomy, “thy neighbor’s house,” “thy neighbor’s wife.” The advocates of the ecclesiastical view would here rather assume a corruption of the text, even in the tables of the law, than see in this transposition a weaving of the two precepts into one commandment. (2) The difference, amply established by sacred history, as well as by the history of religion in general, between the worship of symbolic images, and the worship of mythological deities: in accordance with which distinction the two prohibitions are not to be blended into one commandment. (3) Of very special importance is the brief explanation of the law given by Paul in Romans 7:7 with the words, “Thou shalt not covet.” According to this explanation, the emphasis rests on the prohibition of covetousness, and the expansion “thy neighbor’s house,” etc., serves merely to exemplify it. But when the commandment is divided into two, the chief force of the prohibition rests on the several objects of desire, so that these two last commandments would lead one to make the law consist in the vague prohibition of external things, and need to be supplemented by a great “etc.;” whereas the emphasizing of covetousness as an important point leads one to refer the law to the inward life, and, so understood, looks back to the spiritual foundation of the whole law in the first commandment, whilst a kindred element of spirituality is found in the middle of the law, connected with the precept to honor father and mother.—As to the distribution of the law into two ideal tables, the division into two groups of five commandments each is favored especially by the fact that all the commandments of the second table from the sixth commandment on are connected by the conjunction ו [“and;” in the A. V. rendered, together with the negative, “neither”] in Deuteronomy ( Exodus 20:17, etc.). Moreover, in favor of the same division is the consideration that parents in the fifth commandment stand as representatives of the Deity and of the divine rule. As the first commandment expresses the law of true religion, and the second, the requirement to make one’s religious conceptions spiritual and to keep them pure; so the three following commandments evidently designate ramifications of religious conduct: the duty of maintaining the sanctity of religious knowledge and doctrine; of religious humanity (or of worship), and of the most original nursery of religion, the household, and of its most original form, piety. Nevertheless, when one would divide the ten commandments between the two actual tables of Moses, he fails to find distinct indications; hardly, however, can the assumption be established that only the precepts themselves stood on the tables, but not the reasons that are given for some of them.

As to the whole system of the Mosaic legislation, we are to consider the arrangement which Bertheau has made in his work “Die sieben Gruppen mosaischer Gesetze in den drei mittleren Büchern des Pentateuchs” (Göttingen, 1840). According to him, the number7, multiplied by10, taken seven times, lies at the foundation of the arrangement. We have already observed that we do not regard as well grounded the dissolution of the Mosaic code of laws from history as its basis. Moreover, a clear carrying out of the system would show that we could regard the origin of it only as instinctive, not as the conscious work of Rabbinic design. The ten commandments, Exodus 20:1-17, form the introduction of this arrangement. But the ritual law follows immediately, beginning with a group, not of ten, but of four laws, Exodus 20:28 sqq.

1. The Lawgiver. That Jehovah is the lawgiver does not exclude the mediation mentioned Galatians 3:19 and elsewhere. Comp. Comm. on Genesis 6:1-8. Quite as little, however, does this mediation obscure the name of the lawgiver, Jehovah. Keil (II. p114) inconclusively opposes the view of Knobel, who takes the first words, “I am Jehovah,” as a confession, or as the foundation of the whole theocratic law. Just because the words have this force, are they also the foundation of the obligation of the people to keep the theocratic commandments. For the lawgiver puts the people under the highest obligation by their recognising him as benefactor and liberator. An absolute despot as such is no lawgiver. Israel’s law is based on his typical liberation, and his obedience to the law on faith in that liberation. The law itself is the objective form in which for educational purposes the obligations are expressed, which are involved in its foundation.

2. The first Commandment. The absolute negation לֹא stands significantly at the beginning. So further on. Antithetic to it is the absolute אָנֹכִי [“I”] of Jehovah at the opening of His commandments.—יִהְיֶה אֱלֹהִים, the gods become, spring up gradually in the conceptions of the sinful people, hence אֲחֵרִים ּלְךָ in connection with אֱלֹהים is to be explained as = ἕτεροι (according to Galatians 1:6) with the LXX. and the Vulgate (alieni, foreign), not = alii, other. עַל־כָּנָי may mean before my face, over against my face, against my face, besides my face, beyond it. The central feature of the thought may be: beyond my personal, revealed form, and in opposition to it—recognizing, together with the error a remnant of religiosity in the worship of the gods.—The “coram me” of the Vulgate expresses one factor of the notion, as Luther’s “neben mir” [“by my side”] does another. [vid. under “Textual and Grammatical”].

3. The Prohibition of Image Worship, Exodus 20:4-6. Image, פֶּסֶל, from פָּסַל, to hew wood or stone. It therefore denotes primarily a plastic image. תְּמוּנָה does not signify an image made by Prayer of Manasseh, but only a form which appears to him, Numbers 12:8, Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 4:15 sqq, Job 4:16, Psalm 17:15. In Deuteronomy 5:8 (comp. Exodus 4:16) we find פֶּסֶל כָּל־תְּמוּנָה, “image of any form.” Accordingly וְכָל־תְּמוּנָה is here to be taken as explanatory of פֶּסֶל, and ו as explicative, “even any form” (Keil). “Image” is therefore used absolutely in the sense of religious representation of the Deity, and the various forms are conceived as the forms of the image. Comp. Deuteronomy 4:15, “for ye saw no manner of similitude [no form] on the day that Jehovah spake unto you in Horeb.” The medium of legislation therefore continued to be a miracle of hearing; it became a miracle of sight only in the accompanying phenomena given for the purpose of perpetually preventing every kind of image-worship.—In heaven. Keil says: “on the heaven,” explaining it as referring to the birds, and not the angels, at the most, according to Deuteronomy 4:19, as perhaps including the stars. The angels proper could not possibly have been meant as copies of Jehovah, since they themselves appear only in visions; and even if the constellations were specially meant, yet they too were for the most part pictorially represented [and in this sense only is the worship of them here prohibited]. The worship of stars as such is covered by the first commandment. Comp. Romans 1.—Under the earth. Beneath, under the level of the solid land, lower than it. Marine creatures are therefore meant. This commandment deals throughout only with religious conduct. The bowing down designates the act of adoration; the serving denotes the system of worship. Keil quotes from Calvin: “quod stulte quidam putarunt, hic damnari sculpturas et picturas quaslibet, refutatione non indiget.” Still it is clear from Romans 1that the gradual transition from the over-estimate of the symbolical image to the superstitious reverence for it is included.

According to Keil the threat and promise following the second commandment refer to the two first as being embraced in a higher unity. But this higher unity is resolvable in this way, that the sin against the second commandment is to be regarded as the source of the sin against the first. With image worship, or the deification of symbols, idolatry begins. Hence image worship is condemned as being the germ of the whole succeeding development of sin. That which in the classical writings of the Greeks and Romans is signified by ὕβρις, the fatal beginning of a connected series of crimes which come to a conclusion only in one or more tragic catastrophes, is signified in the theocratic sphere by עָוֹן, perversion, perverseness. The evil-doing of the fathers has a genealogical succession which cannot be broken till the third or fourth generations (grandchildren and great-grandchildren) are visited. This is shown also by the Greek tragedy, and the third and fourth generation is still to be traced in the five acts of the modern tragedy. Now the image-worshipper is worse than the idolater in that he makes this fatal beginning. But as the ὕβρις proceeds from an insolence towards the gods which may be called hatred, so also image-worship arises out of an insolent apostasy from the active control of the pure conception of God, from the control of the Spirit. In the Old Testament, it is the golden calves of Jeroboam at Dan and Beersheba which are followed by such catastrophes in Israel. It may also be asked: What has the mediæval image-worship cost certain European nations in particular? That the hereditary guilt thus contracted forms no absolute fatality, is shown by the addition, “of them that hate me.” This is a condition, or limitation, which is echoed in the ἐφ’ πάντες ἥμαρτον of Romans 5:12. But the condition cannot be made the foundation, as is done by Keil, who says that by the words לְשׂנְאַי and לְאֹהֲבַי [“of them that hate me” and “of them that love me”] the punishment and the grace are traced back to their ultimate ground. This would vitiate the force of what he afterwards says of the organic relations of humanity. The organic hereditary conditions of guilt, of which even the heathen know how to speak (vid. Keil, p117), are limited by morally guilty actions. Because reference is here made to organic consequences, the fathers themselves are not mentioned. Because the transmission of the curse is hindered by the counter influence of ethical forces and natures, checks grow up as early as between the third and fourth generations. The sovereignty of grace is concerned in this, as also in the opposite parallel, “unto the thousands,” i.e., unto a thousand generations. This wonderfully subtle and profound doctrine of original sin is not Augustinian, inasmuch as it assumes special cases of sin and individual and generic counteracting influences within the sphere of the general condition of sin. It Isaiah, however, still less Pelagian; yet, as compared with the notion of guilt embodied in the Greek tragedians, it is exceedingly mild. The hereditary descendants of such a guilty parentage fill up the measure of the guilt of their fathers, Matthew 23:32. In this passage also the notion of guilt, as distinguished from that of sin, is brought out. Guilt is the organic side of sin; sin is the ethical side of guilt. The whole judicial economy, moreover, is founded on the jealousy of God; i.e., as being the absolute personality, He insists that persons shall not dissolve the bond of personal communion with Him, that they shall not descend from the sphere of love into that of sensuous conceptions.

4. The third commandment. The sin against the first commandment banishes the name of Jehovah by means of idol names; the sin against the second obscures and disfigures it; the sin against this third one abuses it. Here then the name, the right apprehension, or at least knowledge and confession, of the name, are presupposed; but the correctness of the apprehension is hypocritically employed by the transgressor of this commandment in the interest of selfishness and vice. According to Keil נָשָׂא שֵׁם does not mean “to utter the name,” and שָׁוְא does not mean “lie.” But to lift up a name must surely mean to lift it up by uttering it, though doubtless in a solemn way; and though שָׁוְא signifies wasteness and emptiness, yet it is here to be understood of wasteness and emptiness in speech. The moral culmination of this sin is perjury, Leviticus 19:12 : hypocrisy in the application of sacred things to criminal uses, especially also sorcery in all forms.—Here the punitive retribution is put immediately upon the person who sins, as an unavoidable one which surely finds its object, and whose law rests on the nature of Jehovah Himself.

5. Exodus 20:9-11. Here is to be considered: (1) The significance of the law of the Sabbath; (2) the institution of the Sabbath; (3) the ordinance of the Sabbath; (4) the reason for the Sabbath. The idea of the Sabbath will never be rightly apprehended, unless it is seen to be a union of two laws. The first is the ethical law of humanity, which here predominates; the second is the strictly religious law, which is made prominent in Leviticus 23. The law of the Sabbath would not stand in the decalogue, if it did not have a moral principle to establish as much as the commandments not to kill, commit adultery, or steal. The physical nature shall not be worn out, dishonored, and slowly murdered by restless occupation. Hence the specification: “No kind of work or business;” and that, not only in reference to son and daughter, Prayer of Manasseh -servant and maid-servant, but also in reference to the beasts themselves and the stranger within the gates of Israel (i.e., in their cities and villages, not in the houses of the stranger), as the foreigner might imagine that he could publicly emancipate himself from this sacred humane ordinance. This point is brought out in Deuteronomy 5:14-15; Exodus 23:12. It is seen further on, in the sabbatical year and in the great year of jubilee, Reference is made to it in Deuteronomy 16:11.—That there existed already a tradition of the Sabbath rest, may be inferred from the tradition of the days of creation; so also circumcision as a custom prevailed before the institution of it as a sacrament. But that circumcision, as a patriarchal law, symbolically comprehending all the ten commandments, continued to outrank the Mosaic law of the Sabbath, which was not till now raised to the rank of one of the chief ethical commandments, is shown by the Jewish custom as indicated in Christ’s declaration, John 7:22-23.—The ordinance of the Sabbath first specifies the subjects of the command: “Those who are to rest are divided into two classes by the omission of the conjunction ו before עַבְדְּךָ” (Keil). Next, the degree of rest: “מְלָאכָה, business (comp. Genesis 2:2), in distinction from עֲבֹדָה, labor, means not so much the lighter work (Schultz) as rather, in general, the accomplishment of any task, whether hard or easy; עֲבֹדָה is the execution of a particular work, whether agricultural ( Psalm 104:23), or mechanical ( Exodus 39:32), or sacerdotal, including both the priestly service and the labor necessary for the performance of the ritual ( Exodus 12:25 sq, Numbers 4:47). On the Sabbath, as also on the day of atonement ( Leviticus 23:28; Leviticus 23:31) every employment was to cease; on the other feast-days, only laborious occupations, מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה ( Leviticus 23:7 sqq.), i.e., occupations which come under the head of toilsome labor, civil business, and the prosecution of one’s trade” (Keil).—The reason: “for in six days,” etc. “This implies that God blessed and hallowed the seventh day because He rested on it” (Keil). According to Schultz man should, in a degree, make the pulsations of the divine life his own. So much is certainly true, that the rhythmical antithesis between labor and rest in the divine creation should be not only the prototype, but also the rule for human activity. All the more, inasmuch as not only human nature, but nature in general, needs intervals of rest to keep it from being consumed with disquietude. Hence the commandment contains an ethical principle, a law designed to secure vigor of life, as the sixth commandment protects life itself, Exodus 23:12, Deuteronomy 5:14 sq. Furthermore is to be considered that the seventh day of God has a beginning, but no end; accordingly man’s day of rest should have its issue, not in time, but in eternity (vid. Hebrews 4:10, Revelation 14:13). Keil would here make a distinction between the labor of Paradise and labor after the fall; but the typical days of creation preceded the fall. The positive side of the day of rest, the solemn celebration, first appears in the form of the ritual law of the Sabbath. The ritual makes the day of rest a festival. And, inasmuch as the festival is the soul of the day of rest, a day in which man should rest, and keep holy day in God, as on that day God rests and keeps holy day in Prayer of Manasseh, it could also be transformed from the Jewish Sabbath into the Christian Sunday.

6. Exodus 20:12. The fifth commandment. This concludes the first table, and forms at the same time a transition to the second. “In the requisition of honor to parents it lays the foundation for the sanctification of all social life, in that it teaches us to recognise a divine authority in it” (Oehler, in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopädie, under “Dekalog”). In the parental house the distinction between the dynamical majority that is to train and govern, and the numerical majority which is to be subject to the other, becomes conspicuous: one pair of parents, and perhaps two, three, or four times as many children. Here the government of an absolute majority would be an absolute absurdity. On the fifth commandment vid. Keil, p122.

7. The sixth commandment. The protection of life in its existence. It is at the same time the basis of all the following commandments. Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Hence killing, when permitted or even commanded, is to be regarded as in principle a consequence of the duty of the preservation of life in the higher sense. So the seventh commandment serves to protect marriage as the source of life and the means of keeping it pure; the eighth commandment, to protect property and equity, as the condition of the dignity of life; the ninth commandment, to protect truth and the judiciary against falsehood and slander, as being the spiritual vitiation of life; the tenth commandment, to guard the issues of life from within outwards. The progress from violence to seduction, and thence on to fraud, prepares the way for the transition to the chief sin of the tongue and the chief sin of the thought, primarily as related to one’s neighbor. On this “mirum et aptum ordinem,” as Luther calls it, see Keil II, p123. Thus the circle is formed; the law returns to the beginning: only by the sanctification of the heart according to the tenth commandment can the worship of God according to the first commandment be secured.—Not kill. Every thing belonging here is taught in the catechism; vid. also Keil, p123 (comp. Genesis 9:6). In the exposition, suicide, the killing of beasts, etc., are to be considered. By the omission of the object the emphasis lying on the notion of killing is strengthened. In so far as the beast has no complete life, it cannot be killed in the same sense as a man can be. But every form of cruelty to beasts is an offence against the image of human life.

8. Not commit adultery. This commandment holds the same relation to the sixth as the second to the first. Idolatry proper corresponds with the murder of one’s neighbor, the latter being an offence against the divine in man. Image-worship, however, corresponds with adultery, as this too rests on a subtle deification of the image of man; it is spiritual idolatry, as image-worship is spiritual adultery, Leviticus 20:10. Here observe also the expansion of the thought in the catechism, according to which simple whoredom too in all its forms, as well as unchastity, is included.

9. Not steal.Vid. the expansion, Exodus 21:33; Exodus 22:13; Exodus 23:4-5, Deuteronomy 22:1-4. The correspondence between this commandment and the misuse of the name of God, which robs God of His honor, is also not to be overlooked. In the case of false oaths in business the two offences coalesce.

10. Bear false witness against thy neighbor. עֵד שֶׁקֶר, Deut. עֵד שָׁוְא, an intensification of the expression. “Not only every lying, but in general every untrue and unfounded, testimony is forbidden; also not only testimony before the Judges, but in general every untrue testimony” (Keil). Aside from the fact that the judicial oaths in court form a sort of religious ceremony, which reminds one of the law of the Sabbath, it is also the office of the Sabbath to suppress the false excitements of the week of labor, out of which sins of the tongue, especially also false testimony, proceed.

11. Thou shalt not covet. The emphasis lies on coveting, not on the several objects of coveting. This emphasis of the inward state is made secure by reckoning the commandment as one. “The repetition of לֹא תחֲמֹד [‘thou shalt not covet’] no more proves that the words form two distinct commandments than the substitution of תִּתְאַוּה [‘desire’] for תַּחֲמֹד [‘covet’] in Deuteronomy 5:18 (21)” (Keil). The repetition in Exodus gives prominence to the thought that the house, the sum total of domestic life, as a unit, is superior to the individual; in Deuteronomy, that the wife, ideally considered, is superior to the house ( Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 31:10). Vid. Keil’s note in reply to Kurtz, who regards the text in Exodus as corrupt.[FN3] The relation between the fifth and the tenth commandment is less marked, yet it may be said: a genuine pupil of a pious house will not covet his neighbor’s house. The house of God in the pious family keeps peace with the house of the neighbor. Every house is to the pious man a house consecrated by justice, like a house of God.

The Effect

Exodus 20:18-21; Deuteronomy 5:23-33. According to Keil, the frightful phenomena under which the Lord manifested His majesty made the designed impression on the people. It was indeed designed that the people should be penetrated with the fear of God, in order that they might not sin; but not that in their fear they should stand off and beg Moses as their mediator to talk with God. Hence it is said, “God is come to try you.” A trial is always a test, which, through the influence of false notions, may occasion a twofold view of it. That the Jews as sinners should be startled by the phenomena of the majesty of God, was the intent of this revelation; but that they should retire trembling and desire a mediator, was a misunderstanding occasioned by their carnal fear and spiritual sluggishness. Here, therefore, is the key to the understanding of the hierarchy. The lay feeling of the people desired a mediating priesthood, which the person of Moses first had to represent. For the priest is the man who can dare to approach God without being overwhelmed with the fear of death ( Jeremiah 30:21). The people now, although they have found out by experience that men can hear God speak without dying, yet yield to the fear that they will be destroyed by fire when in immediate intercourse with God ( Deuteronomy 5:24-25). And because this is now their attitude of soul, Jehovah complies with it ( Deuteronomy 5:28), just as He afterwards gave to the people a king. This origin of the Old Testament hierarchy explains why immediately afterwards mention is made of altars. In consequence of that arrangement, therefore, the people now stood henceforth afar off: Moses had for the present assumed the whole mediatorship.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - The exact meaning of עַל־פָּנַי here and in Deuteronomy 5:7 is disputed. The rendering “before me” was doubtless meant by our Translators to convey the notion, “in my presence” = לְפָנַי. Perhaps the ordinary reader is apt to understand it to mean, “in preference to me.” Luther, Kalisch, Geddes, Keil, Knobel, Bunsen, and Riggs (Suggested Emendations), following the LXX. (πλὴν ἐμοῦ), translate, “besides me.” De Wette, Rosenmüller, Maurer, Philippson, Fürst, Arnheim, Bush, Murphy, Cook (in Speaker’s Commentary), and Lange, following the Vulgate (“coram me”), translate “before me,” i.e., in my presence. In order to a satisfactory settlement of the question, it is necessary to investigate the use of the phrase עַל־פְּנֵי in general. An examination of all the passages in which it occurs yields the following result: The phrase, followed by a Genitive or a Pronominal Suffix, occurs210 times. In125 of these cases, it has its literal sense of “upon the face (or surface) of;” as, e.g., 2 Samuel 17:19, “The woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth;” Genesis 50:1, “Joseph fell upon his father’s face;” or it is merely a longer form for the simpler עַל (upon); as, e.g., Job 5:10, “Who … sendeth waters upon the fields.” The remaining85 cases are divided as follows: (1) 28 times עַל־פְּנֵי is used in describing the relation of localities to each other. E.g., Judges 16:3, “Samson … carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.” Sometimes (and more properly) in such cases the phrase is rendered “over against” in the A. V. The other passages in which עַל־פְּגֵי is thus used are Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:9; Genesis 25:18; Genesis 49:30; Genesis 50:13; Numbers 21:11; Numbers 33:7; Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:1; Joshua 13:3; Joshua 13:25; Joshua 15:8; Joshua 17:7; Joshua 18:14; Joshua 18:16; Joshua 19:11; 1 Samuel 15:7; 1 Samuel 26:1; 1 Samuel 26:3; 2 Samuel 2:24; 1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 17:3; 1 Kings 17:15; 2 Kings 23:13; Ezekiel 48:15; Ezekiel 48:21; Zechariah 14:4. It is a mistake to suppose, as some do, that in these connections עַל־פְּנֵי means “to the east of,” according to the Hebrew mode of conceiving of the cardinal points. For in Joshua 18:14 we read of “the hill that lieth before (עַל־פְּנֵי) Beth-horon southward;” and in Joshua 15:8, of “the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward.” We are rather to suppose that the phrase indicates such a relation of two places as is expressed by “over against,” the physical conformation of the localities naturally suggesting such a description.—(2) We observe, next, that 13 times עַל־פְּנֵי is used of the position of things in relation to buildings. E.g., 1 Kings 6:3, “the porch before the temple.” In the same verse עַל־פְּנֵי occurs twice more in the same sense. The other passages are 1 Kings 7:6 (bis); Exodus 8:8; 2 Chronicles 3:4 (bis), 8, 17; Exodus 5:9; Ezekiel 40:15; Ezekiel 42:8. In these cases the meaning is obvious: “on the front of,” “confronting.”—(3) Six times עַל־פְּנֵי is used in the sense of “towards” or “down upon” after verbs of looking, or (once) of going. E.g., Genesis 18:16, “The men ……… looked toward (עַל־פְּנֵי, down upon) Sodom.” So Genesis 19:28 (bis), Numbers 21:20; Numbers 23:28; 2 Samuel 15:23. Here עַל־פְּנֵי may be regarded as a fuller form of עַל as sometimes used after verbs of motion.—(4) Five times it is used after verbs signifying “pass by,” and is rendered “before.” E. g, Exodus 33:19, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee.” So Exodus 34:6; Genesis 32:22 (21); 2 Samuel 15:18; Job 4:15. In these passages עַל־פְּנֵי differs from לִפְנֵי as used, e.g., in 2 Kings 4:31, “Gehazi passed on before them;” where לִפְנֵי indicates that Gehazi went on in advance of the others; whereas, e.g., in 2 Samuel 15:18, the meaning is that the king stopped, and the others went by him.—(5) In 12 passages מֵעַלִ־פְּנֵי is used after verbs meaning to “cast out,” and is usually rendered “from the presence (or sight) of.” They are 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Kings 13:23; 2 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 17:23; 2 Kings 24:3; 2 Kings 24:20; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Jeremiah 7:15; Jeremiah 15:1; Jeremiah 23:39; Jeremiah 32:31; Jeremiah 52:3. Possibly also Genesis 23:3, “Abraham stood up from before his dead,” i.e., went away from the presence of; but we may understand it more literally, viz., “stood up from upon the face of.” There is a manifest difference between מֵעַל־פְּנֵי and מִלִּפְנֵי. The former is used of a removal from a state of juxtaposition or opposition. The latter is used in the stricter sense of “from before.” E.g., in Deuteronomy 9:4, “For the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee (מִלְּפָנֶיךָ).” Here it is not meant that the relation between the Jews and the other nations was to be broken up, but rather that it was never to be formed; whereas, e.g., in Jeremiah 7:15, “I will cast you out of my sight,” the implication is that the people had been near Jehovah, but were now to be banished.—(6) Four times עַל־פְּנֵי is used with the meaning, “to the face of.” E.g., Isaiah 45:3, “A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face.” So Job 1:11 (parallel with Exodus 2:5, where אֶל־פְּנֵי is used); Exodus 6:28 (as correctly rendered); Exodus 21:31. Here the notion of hostility, often expressed by the simple עַל, is involved.—Similar to these are (7) the three passages, Ezekiel 32:10, Nahum 2:2 (1), and Psalm 21:13 (12), where עַל־פְּנֵי is used after verbs descriptive of hostile demonstrations, and means either, literally, “against the face of,” or “over against,” in defiance.—(8) In Exodus 20:20, where the A. V. renders, “that his fear may be before your faces,” the meaning clearly is the same as in such expressions as Exodus 15:16, where the simple עַל is used. So Deuteronomy 2:25.—(9) In one case, Psalm 18:43 (42), עַל־פְּנֵי is used of tho dust “before” the wind, just as לִפְנֵי is used in Job 21:18, “They are as stubble before the wind.”—(10) Tho passage, Job 16:14, “He breaketh me with breach upon (עַל־פְּנֵי) breach,” has no precise parallel. But here, too, it is most natural to understand עַל־פְּנֵי as a fuller, poetic form for עַל. Comp. Genesis 32:12 (11), “the mother with (עַל) the children;” Amos 3:15, “I will smite the winter-house with (עַל, i.e., together with, in addition to) the summer-house.”—(11) There are three passages (possibly four), in which עַל־פְּנֵי has a peculiar meaning, as denoting the relation of two persons to each other. Haran, we are told, Genesis 11:28, “died before (עַל־פְּנֵי) his father Terah.” This seems to mean, “died before his father did.” But though such a priority is implied, it is not directly expressed. לִפְנֵי is sometimes used to denote such priority in time, e.g., Genesis 30:30; Exodus 10:14; Joshua 10:14; but עַל־פְּנֵי is nowhere clearly used in this sense, so that it is more natural to understand it (as the commentators do) here to mean either “in the presence of,” or “during the life-time of.” The next passage, Numbers 3:4, illustrates the meaning: “Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of (עַל־פְּנֵי) Aaron their father.” It is hardly possible that pains would be taken to lay stress on the fact that Aaron saw them acting the part of priests, especially as the verb כִּהֵן hardly means anything more than “to be priest.” Not more admissible is the interpretation of Gesenius and others, who here translate עַל־פְּגֵי “under the supervision of.” There is not the faintest analogy for such a meaning of the phrase. At the same time, it is hardly supposable that it can be literally translated, “during the life-time of.” The notion of physical presence, or nearness, is so uniformly involved in עַל־פְּנֵי that we must, in strictness, here understand it to mean, “over against,” “in view of,” the point of the expression, however, not consisting in the circumstance that Aaron watched them in their ministrations, but that they performed them over against him, i.e., as coupled with him, together with him, (and so) during his life-time. Here belongs also probably Deuteronomy 21:16, “He may not make the son of the beloved first-born before (עַל־פְּנֵי) the son of the hated.” One might naturally understand “before” here to mean, “in preference to;” and this certainly would yield an appropriate sense—a sense certainly involved, yet probably not directly expressed. At least there is no clear analogy for such a meaning, unless we find it in the passages now under consideration, viz., Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7. The best commentators understand עַל־פְּנֵי in Deuteronomy 21:16, to mean “during the life-time of.” An analogous use of לִפְנֵי is found in Psalm 72:5, where it is said of the king, “They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure,” literally “before (לִפְנֵי) the sun and moon.” Similarly Exodus 20:17.—The other of the four passages above mentioned is Genesis 25:18. There we read: “He (i.e., Ishmael) died (literally, fell) in the presence of (עַל־פּנֵי) his brethren.” There is now, however, general unanimity in translating נָפָל here “settled” rather than “died,” so that the passage is to be reckoned in the following class, in which also the relation of persons to each other is expressed, but in a somewhat different sense.—(12) Knobel explains עַל־פְּנֵי in Genesis 25:18 as = “to the east of.” So Del, Lange, Keil, Maurer, De W, and others. But, as we have already seen, עַל־פְּנֵי does not have this meaning. This passage is to be explained by the parallel one, Genesis 16:12, where it is also said of Ishmael, “He shall dwell in the presence of (עַל־פְּנֵי) all his brethren.” Here the context Isaiah, “His hand will be against every Prayer of Manasseh, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell עַל־פְּנֵי all his brethren.” Keil and Lange are unable to satisfy themselves with the interpretation “east of” here; and it is clear that that would not be a statement at all in place here, even if עַל־פְּנֵי ordinarily had the meaning “east of.” Evidently the angel expresses the fact that the Ishmaelites were to dwell over against their brethren as an independent, defiant, nation. If Song of Solomon, then Exodus 25:18 is to be understood in the same way, as a statement of the fulfilment of the prophecy here made. In addition to these two passages there are three others in which the relation of persons to each other is expressed. They are Leviticus 10:3, Psalm 9:20 (19), and Jeremiah 6:7. In the first we read that Jehovah said, “Before (עַל־פְּנֵי) all the people I will be glorified;” this is preceded by the statement, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me.” The verse follows the account of the destruction of Nadah and Abihu. To render “in view of,” or “in the presence of,” would make good and appropriate sense; and certainly it is implied that by the summary punishment of the presumptuous priests Jehovah intended to glorify Himself in the sight of His people. Yet, while men are frequently represented as being or acting before (לִפְנֵי) Jehovah, it is extremely unusual to speak of Jehovah as being or doing anything before (in the sight of) men. And since, if that were here meant, לִפְנֵי would probably have been used, it is much better here to understand the meaning to be “over against,” implying separation and contrast. Likewise Psalm 9:20 (19): “Let the heathen be judged in thy sight (עַל־פָּנֶיךָ).” Certainly the meaning cannot simply be: Let the heathen be judged, while God looks on as a spectator. God is Himself the judge; and the heathen are to be judged over against Him; i.e., in such a way as to exhibit the contrast between them and Him. There remains only Jeremiah 6:7, “Before me (עָל־פָּנַי) continually is grief and wounds.” The context describes the prospective destruction of Jerusalem. Her wickedness is described in Exodus 20:7 : “As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness; violence and spoil is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds (sickness and blows).” Undoubtedly this implies that the manifestations of the wickedness of the people were in Jehovah’s sight; but here, too, there is implied the notion that these things are over against Him: on the one side, Jehovah in His holiness: on the other, Jerusalem in her wickedness. This conception is naturally suggested by the representation that Jehovah is about to make war upon her.

Having now given a complete exhibition of the use of עַל־פְּנֵי in all the other passages, we are prepared to consider what it means in the first commandment. Several things may be regarded as established: (i) עַל־פְּנֵי is far from being synonymous with לִפְנֵי. The latter is used hundreds of times in the simple sense of “before” in reference to persons; the former is used most frequently of places, and in all cases עַל has more or less of its ordinary meaning, “upon,” or “against” (over against), (ii) The phrase has nowhere unequivocally the meaning “besides.” The nearest approach to this is in Job 16:14, under (10), where עַל־פְּנֵי may be rendered “in addition to.” But this is not quite the same as “besides,” and the phrase has there evidently a poetic use. A solitary case like this, where too not persons, but things, are spoken of, is altogether insufficient to establish the hypothesis that עַל־פְּנֵי in the first commandment means “besides.” (iii) The most general notion conveyed by the phrase in question is that of one object confronting another. Leaving out of account, as of no special pertinency, those instances in which it verges upon the literal sense of “upon (or against) the face of,” and those in which the meaning of עַל predominates, (viz., classes (3), (6), (7), (8), (10), we find that all others are sufficiently explained by this generic notion of confronting. Thus, in all the cases where places are spoken of as עַל־פְּנֵי one another, class (1); where objects are described as in front of buildings, class (2); and where persons are spoken of as passing in front of others, class (4).— Song of Solomon, too, in the cases in which מֵעַל־פְּנֵי is used, class (5), in every instance it follows a verb which implies a previous state of hostility; men are to be removed from being over against Jehovah, from confronting Him with their offensive deeds.—So the instance in Psalm 18:43 (42), class (9); the dust before the wind is compared with God’s enemies destroyed by Him; the dust confronting the wind illustrates the powerlessness of men confronting an angry God.—So the examples under (12). The translation “over against” satisfies all of the cases. A relation of contrast and opposition is implied.—Likewise, also, the three passages under (11). The son of the beloved wife ( Deuteronomy 21:16) is not to bo invested with the rights of primogeniture over against the son of the hated one, i.e., in contrast with, distinction from, the other one, while yet by natural right the latter is entitled to the privilege. The phrase עַל־פְּנֵי may here, therefore, be understood to mean “in preference to,” or “in the life-time of,” but neither one nor the other literally and directly, yet both one and the other by implication. In Numbers 3:4 Aaron’s sons are represented as being priests over against their father, i.e., not succeeding him, but together with him, as two hills, instead of being distant from one another, are, as it were, companions, confronting each other. So in Genesis 11:28 Haran is said to have died over against his father. In his death he confronted his father, i.e., did not, as most naturally happens, die after him, when his father would have been taken away from being with him. By thus anticipating his father in his decease Hebrews, as it were, passed in front of him, confronted him, so that this case is quite analogous to those under class (4). In this case, therefore, as in some others, tho meaning of עַל־פְּנֵי closely borders upon that of לִפְנֵי, yet is not the same.

The application of this discussion to Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7 is obvious. Israel is to have no other gods “over against” Jehovah. The simple meaning “before,” i.e., in the presence of, would have little point and force, and besides would have been expressed by לְפָנַי. The meaning “besides” would have been expressed by זוּלָתִי,בִּלְעָדַי, or some other of the phrases having that meaning. The meaning “over against,” the usual meaning of the phrase, is perfectly appropriate here. All false gods are opposed to tho true God. The worship of them is incompatible with the worship of Jehovah. The command therefore Isaiah, “Thou shalt have no other gods to confront me,” to be set up as rival objects of service and adoration. All that is pertinent in the other two renderings is involved hero. Gods that are set up over against Jehovah may be said to be before Him, in His sight; that they are gods besides, in addition to, Him, is a matter of course: but, more than this, they are gods opposed to Him.—Tr.].

FN#2 - In modern discussions of this subject, the Augustinian division is defended by Sonntag, in the Theol. Studien und Kritiken, 1836, p 61 sqq. and1837, p 243 sqq, and by Kurtz in his History of the Old Covenant, III, p 123 sqq, and in the Kirchl. Zeitschrift of Kliefoth and Meier, 1835, parts4–6. The Lutheran view, by C. W. Otto, Dekalog. Untersuchungen, Halle, 1857. The Reformed view, as the original one, and the one borne out by the text, by Züllig, in the Theol. Studien und Kritiken, 1837, p47 sqq.; J. Geffken, in the above-mentioned treatise, which fully treats the historical testimony; Berthean, Die 7 Gruppen mosaischer Gesetze, Göttingen, 1840, p10 sqq.; Oehler, in Herzog’s Realencyklopädie, Art. Dekalog; by anonymous writers in the Evang. Kirchenzeitung, 1857, No 62 sq, and in the Erlanger Zeitschrift für Protestantismus, Vol33, parts1,2; finally, by F. W. Schultz, in a full, thorough, and candid treatment, of the question in Rudelbach and Guericke’s Zeitschrift, 1858, part1, and in his Comm. on Deuteronomy 5:6 sqq.—E. in the Erlanger Zeitschrift, Vol36, part4, p298 sqq.; and Knobel on Exodus 20, enter the lists for the Rabbinical view. Finally, E. Meier, Die ursprüngliche Form des Dekalogs (Mannheim, 1836) launches out into arbitrary conjectures” (Keil). See more on Rabbini al and Catholic divisions in Keil II, p111, and Bertheau, p13. [Comp. also Stanley, Jewish Church, Lect. VII, and the Article Ten Commandments in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, and Decalogue in Kitto’s Cyclopedia.—Tr.]

FN#3 - The note is not given in the English edition. Kurtz argues that lusting after one’s neighbor’s wife, and coveting his possessions, are two quite distinct sins; hence he regards the use of two distinct verbs for the two sins in Deuteronomy as the most accurate form of the commandments, and therefore conjectures that through some copyist the text of Exodus has been changed. He confesses, however, that there is no external evidence of any weight in favor of the conjecture.—Tr.]


Verses 22-26

b.—The first compendious law of sacrifice

Exodus 20:22-26

22And Jehovah said unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven 23 Ye shall not make with 24 me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.[FN4] Ah 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 [thou 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.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[ Exodus 20:23. If we follow the Masoretic punctuation, the literal translation would be: “Ye shall not make with me; gods of silver and gods of gold ye shall not make unto you.” With this division of the verse, an object must be supplied in the first clause, e.g., “Ye shall not make anything,” i.e., any gods, “with me,” i.e., to be objects of worship together with me. In favor of this construction also is the consideration that in the rendering of the A. V. an unwarranted distinction seems to be made between “gods of silver” and “gods of gold.” On the other hand, however, the parallelism of the clauses favors the rendering of the A. V. The latter is adopted by LXX. (where, however, we find ὑμῖν instead of σὺν ἐμοί) and Vulg. (where אתּי is left entirely untranslated). But the majority of scholars prefer the other division.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

We have to do here with an altogether peculiar section, the germ of all Leviticus, or even of the whole ritual law. This is too little recognized when Keil gives as one division: chaps. Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 24:2, under the title, “Leading Features in the Covenant Constitution,” and then makes the subdivision: (1) The general form of Israel’s worship of God; (2) The laws of Israel. Knobel has observed the turning-point in one respect at all events: “The frightful phenomena amidst which Jehovah announces the fundamental law of the theocracy, fill the people with terror; hence another mode of revelation is employed for the further divine disclosures. They beg that Moses rather than God should speak with them, inasmuch as they are filled with mortal dread, and fear for their lives. In this way the author explains why Jehovah revealed the other laws to Moses, and through him brought them to the people, whereas He had addressed the ten commandments immediately to the people.” How little more was needed in order to discern the genesis of the hierarchical mediatorship.

Exodus 20:22-23. Have talked with you from heaven.—This is the basis for the negative part of the theocratic ritual, and at the same time the explanation of the worship of images and idols. This rests on the fancy that Jehovah cannot approach men from heaven, and that man cannot hear the word of Jehovah from heaven; that therefore images of gods and heavenly objects are necessary as media between the Deity and mankind. It is to be inferred from the foregoing that this prohibition does not exclude the mediatorship of Moses, still less the mediatorship of Christ in the New Covenant, for it is through this real mediation that heaven is to be brought to earth, and humanity united in the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, it is to be noticed that this prohibition is given here as a law respecting worship, whereas in the decalogue it has a fundamental ethical significance. Hence we read here: “Ye shall not make אִתִּי, with me,” by which is designated the adoration of images in religious services, as involving the germ of idolatry. It is here incidentally suggested that images are prohibited because Jehovah was veiled in a cloud, and, “as a heavenly being, can be pictured by no earthly material.” (Keil.)

Exodus 20:24. The positive law of worship. Regarding it as certain that there had been already a traditional service of God, connected with sacrificial rites, we cannot fail to discern here a design to counteract extravagances, and to present in the simplest possible form this ritual devoted to theocratic worship. It may be taken as significant for the service of the Church also, that this fundamental, simple regulation did not exclude further developments, or even modifications. Of course the modifications of this outward manifestation of piety must have an inward ground. How then did the altar of the tabernacle grow out of the low altar of earth or of unhewn stones? First, it is to be considered that the altar of the tabernacle was threefold: the altar of burnt-offering in the court ( Exodus 27:1); the altar of incense in the sanctuary ( Exodus 30:1); and the mercy-seat in the Holy of holies ( Exodus 26:34; Exodus 25:21). The altar of burnt-offering was of acacia wood, overlaid with copper, and three cubits high. The altar of incense, also of acacia wood, was overlaid with gold; finally, the mercy-seat was of pure gold. This gradation points back from the gold through the gilding and the copper to the starting-point, the altar of earth or of stone. This primitive form continued to be the normal type for the altars which, notwithstanding the fixed centre in the exclusive place of worship, were always prescribed for extraordinary places of revelation ( Deuteronomy 27:5; Joshua 8:30; Judges 6:26). Not only the right, but also the duty, of marking by altars real places of Revelation, was therefore reserved; the worship in high places easily followed as an abuse. Only in opposition to this abuse was the central sanctuary the exclusive place of worship; but it was to be expected that a permanent altar in the sanctuary could not continue to be so much like a natural growth, but had to be symbolically conformed to its surroundings in the sanctuary.

An altar of earth.—“The altar, as an elevation built of earth or unhewn stones, symbolizes the elevation of man to the God who is enthroned on high, in heaven” (Keil). Most especially it is a monument of the place where God is revealed; then a symbol of the response of a human soul yielding to the divine call, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 22:9; Genesis 28:18; Exodus 3:12, etc. Hence it is said: “In all places where I cause my name to be remembered.” “Generally,” says Knobel, “the passage is referred to the altar of the tabernacle, which subsequently was to stand now hers, now there. But this will not do. For (1) The author in no way points to this single, particular altar, but speaks quite generally of any sacrificial worship of Jehovah, and gives no occasion to bring in the tabernacle here contrary to the connection. (2) The altar of burnt-offering in the tabernacle was not made of earth, but consisted of boards overlaid with copper ( Exodus 27:1 sq). (3) Jehovah could not say that He would come to Israel at every place where the tabernacle stood, because He dwelt in the tabernacle, and in it went with Israel ( Exodus 13:21 sq, etc.).” But though the tabernacle denotes the legal and symbolical residence of Jehovah, yet that does not mean that Jehovah in a human way and perpetually dwells in the tabernacle. The tabernacle was only the place where He was generally to be found, more than elsewhere, and for the whole people; but Jehovah was not confined to the tabernacle. The designation of the altar of burnt-offering as one of copper shows that a rising scale was formed: from the earth to stone, and from stone to copper, and from this still higher to gold plate and to solid gold. So in the way of self-surrender, of offerings under the fire of God’s self- Revelation, out of the man of earth is formed the second Prayer of Manasseh, the child of golden light. On the original form of altars, earth enclosed with turf, vid. Knobel, p211. As simple as the original form of the altar are the original forms of offerings: burnt-offerings and thank-offerings. Both constitute the first ramification of the Passover, which in the Levitical ritual branches out still further.

Exodus 20:25. An altar of stone.—The aspiration of religious men after more imposing forms of worship is not prohibited by Jehovah, but it is restricted. The stone altar was to be no splendid structure. By any sharp iron (חֶרֶב, generally sword) the stone is desecrated—i.e., under these circumstances; for how can the worshipper, when receiving a new revelation from God, be thinking of decking the altar? “The precept occurs again in Deuteronomy 27:5 sq.; and altars of unhewn stone are mentioned in Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 18:32; 1 Maccabees 4:47. They were found also elsewhere, e.g., in Trebizond.” (Knobel.) The opinion that hewn stone was looked on as spurious can hardly be maintained, considering the recognition of culture and art in other relations. But vid. Knobel, p212.[FN5] Connected with the first restriction in regard to the splendor of the stone altar is the second: Neither … by steps.—The more steps, the more imposing the altar; therefore no steps! The reason is: “that thy nakedness be not uncovered before it.” Before it, as being the symbol of God’s presence. [But the Hebrew says: “on it.”—Tr.] As the sacrifice symbolically covers the sin of man before God, so the nakedness of the offerer should remain covered, as a reminder of his sinfulness before God and before His altar. The ethical side of the thought is this: that a knowledge of this exposure might disturb the reverence of the offerer. But inasmuch as the later altar of the ritual service in the tabernacle was three cubits high, and therefore probably needed steps ( Leviticus 9:22), the priests had to put on trowsers ( Exodus 28:42).

Footnotes:

FN#4 - Exodus 20:23. If we follow the Masoretic punctuation, the literal translation would be: “Ye shall not make with me; gods of silver and gods of gold ye shall not make unto you.” With this division of the verse, an object must be supplied in the first clause, e.g., “Ye shall not make anything,” i.e., any gods, “with me,” i.e., to be objects of worship together with me. In favor of this construction also is the consideration that in the rendering of the A. V. an unwarranted distinction seems to be made between “gods of silver” and “gods of gold.” On the other hand, however, the parallelism of the clauses favors the rendering of the A. V. The latter is adopted by LXX. (where, however, we find ὑμῖν instead of σὺν ἐμοί) and Vulg. (where אתּי is left entirely untranslated). But the majority of scholars prefer the other division.—Tr.]

FN#5 - “It would seem that the stone which was unhewn, therefore uninjured and unfashioned, found in the condition in which the Creator left it, was regarded as unadulterated and pure, and was therefore required to be used. Similar are the reasons for the commands not to offer castrated animals ( Leviticus 22:24), to receive into the congregation a mutilated man ( Deuteronomy 23:1), to propagate mongrel beasts and grain ( Leviticus 19:19), nor to put on the clothes of the opposite sex ( Deuteronomy 22:5).” Knobel, l.c.—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 20:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/exodus-20.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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