The Old Testament Lesson for the 3rd Sunday in Lent is written in the second book of the Torah, Exodus. The text is Exodus 20:1-17 and records for us the first giving of the Ten Words, which are usually referred to as the Ten Commandments, although the Hebrew does not call them this. While these are familiar words to us, frequently they are dealt with in ways that fail to take into account the context and the situation.

The Israelite people are encamped at Mount Sinai and Moses has gone up the mountain into the Glory Cloud to speak with the LORD God. The people are terrified by the smoke and the rumbling. A fence has even been placed around the mountain lest the people or any of the livestock should wander too close and die as a result. So, when Moses finally reappears, he has the tablets with the Ten Words from God which God spoke to him on the mountain (in our text for today).

It is important to remember these Words are given specifically to the people of Israel. In other words, they are given to the faith community, the believers, to the people of the Covenant. They are not given to the foreigners or to the pagan nations. While today we may argue they are good rules to live by for all people, this was not the original intention nor the original audience. The faith community received these Ten Words as a means by which to understand their relationship with the LORD. If they are to walk with God, and if He is to live in their midst, then these words define how this can be a reality. Using Lutheran language, these are the third use of the Law; sanctification, holy living. This is what those in the Covenant do. This is how they act.

+The faith community received these Ten Words as a means by which to understand their relationship with the LORD.

20:2 הוֹצֵאתִיךָ (ho-tze-Ti-cha) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) Hophal: “to cause to be brought out” Note the acting agent is God.

20:3 לֹא יִהְיֶה־לְךָ (lo yih-yeh le-Cha) “You shall not have to you.”

20:4 פֶסֶל (fe-sel) “image; idol”
*Some faith traditions number their Ten Words differently. Verse 3 is the First Commandment and verse 4 is the Second Commandment. The Lutheran tradition is to combine these two verses into the First Commandment.
תְּמוּנָה (te-mu-Nah) “form; appearance; shape; likeness”

20:5 תִשְׁתַּחְוֶה (tish-tach-Veh) root: שׁחה (shaw-khaw) Hishtaphel: “to bow down; to worship” This is the ONLY verb that occurs in the Hishtaphel form. Note how the jealousy of God indicates the Covenant is a marriage relationship. Worshipping other gods is cheating on the Bridegroom.
שִׁלֵּשִׁים (shil-le-Shim) “grandchildren,” “of the third generation”
רִבֵּעִים (rib-be-Im) “great-grandchildren,” “of the fourth generation”

20:7 לַשָּׁוְא (lash-Shav) root: שָׁוְא (shawv) “in vain; for vanity (as in disastrous results)”
יְנַקֶּה (ye-nak-Keh) root: נקה (naw-kaw) Piel: “to leave unpunished; go unpunished”

20:10 הַשְּׁבִיעִי (hash-she-vi-I) “seventh”
וַאֲמָתְךָ (va-a-ma-te-Cha) from: אָמָה (aw-maw) “slave; maidservant”
וְגֵרְךָ (ve-ge-re-Cha) from: גֵּר (gare) “stranger; sojourner; new-comer”

20:11 Note the Sabbath rest here is connected to creation and the seventh day when God rested from His creating work.

20:12 יַאֲרִכוּן (ya-a-ri-Chun) root: ארך (aw-rak) Hiphil: “to make long; cause to be long; continue long”

20:13 תִּרְצָח (tre-Tzach) root: רצח (raw-tsakh) Qal: “to murder; slay; strike down; kill (with premeditation)”

20:14 תִּנְאָף (tne-Af) root: נאף (naw-af) Qal: “to commit adultery”

20:15 תִּגְנֹב (tge-No) root: גנב (gaw-nab) Qal: “to steal”

20:16 עֵד (ed) “witness”

20:17 תַחְמֹד (tach-Mod) root: חמד (khaw-mad) Qal: “to desire; covet; desire and attempt to obtain”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Exodus 20:1-17.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Exodus 20:1-17

Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Jeffrey Pulse of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Exodus 20:1-17.