King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Exodus 20

The preface to the ten commandments. (1,2) The commandments of the first table. (3-11) Of the second table. (12-17) The fear of the people. (18-21) Idolatry again forbidden. (22-26)

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The preface to the ten commandments

1 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

The commandments of the first table

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Of the second table

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD 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 neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

The fear of the people

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, 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, that ye sin not.And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

21 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

Idolatry again forbidden

22 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

23 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

24 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

25 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. The Lord now, by his angel, delivers in an intelligible manner the ten words, or commandments, which contain the sum of all the natural law, and may be reduced to two precepts of charity, Matt. xxii. 40. Mar. xii. 31. How these commandments are to be divided into ten, the ancients are not perfectly agreed. We follow the authority of S. Augustine, (9. 71,) Clement, (strom. 6,) and others, in referring three of the precepts to God, and seven to our neighbour. Protestants adopt the Jewish method, of making four commandments of the first table, and six of the second; as they divide our first into two, and unite the 9th and 10th; though it surely must appear rational to admit a distinct precept, for an internal as well as for an external object; and the desires of committing adultery or theft require a distinct prohibition no less than the external actions. Whereas the forbidding to have strange gods, or to worship images, or creatures of any description, is exactly of the same tendency. For no one can worship an idol, without admitting a strange god. The latter part, therefore, of the first commandment, or the second of Protestants, is only a farther explanation of what had gone before, as Moses himself clearly insinuates, v. 23. You shall not make gods of silver, &c.

Ver. 2. Thy God. By this endearing title, we are all required to consecrate our whole hearts and souls to our only Maker and Redeemer; and therefore we must love God sincerely, and comply with all his commandments. This preface to the Decalogue, enforces the acts of faith, hope, charity, religion, &c. H.

Ver. 3. Before me, or in my presence. I shall not be content to be adored with idols. C.

Ver. 4. A graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing, &c. All such images or likenesses, are forbidden by this commandment, as are made to be adored and served; according to that which immediately follows, thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them. That is, all such as are designed for idols or image gods, or are worshipped with divine honour. But otherwise images, pictures, or representations, even in the house of God, and in the very sanctuary, so far from being forbidden are expressly authorized by the word of God. See Exodus xxv. 15, &c. chap. xxxviii. 7. Num. xxi. 8. 9. 1 Chron. xxviii. 18. 19. 2 Chron. iii. 10. Ch. — Protestants insidiously translate “any graven image,” though pesel, eidolon, glupton, and sculptile, in the Heb. Gr. and Lat. denote a graven thing or idol. They will, however, hardly condemn his majesty for having his representation stamped upon the coin of the nation, nor so many of our wealthy noblemen, who adorn their rooms with the choicest efforts of painting and of sculpture. They know that the object of prohibition is the making and adoring of idols. But they probably wish to keep the ignorant under the stupid delusion of supposing, that Catholics are idolaters, because they have images, and that they themselves are not, though they have them likewise at home; and even in their churches admit the absurd figures of the lion and the unicorn, stretching their paws over the tables of the law, instead of the pious representations of Jesus expiring on the cross, &c. which were set up by their Catholic ancestors. Let them read, and adopt herein just weights and measures, proposed to them by Thorndike, one of their most discerning and moderate teachers. In the mean time, we will assure them, that we abhor all idols; both those made with hands, and those which are formed by the head of heretics, who set up their own fancies and delusions, to be adored instead of the true God. Our general councils of Nice and of Trent define what we ought to believe on this head; and the matter is so fully explained in our catechisms and books of instruction, as well as from our pulpits, that no person can well remain in ignorance. If we perform various actions of respect before pictures, which are also done in honour of God, can any man of sense infer, that we look upon both with equal respect? Do we not read of the people falling down to shew respect to the king, and supreme worship to God, by the same act of the body? H. — Altars and sacrifice we reserve solely for God, as S. Aug. (c. Faust. xx. 21) well observes. Other indifferent practices must be determined by the intention. — Latria, or supreme worship, can be given to none but the Deity. But we shew our respect and veneration for his servants in glory, by an inferior service called Dulia, giving honour to whom honour is due. How profane and impious must the words of the first reformers appear, who, after saying most falsely, that “papists make the Virgin Mary a god, (Luther. postil.) and worship images in heathenish manner,” (Melanct. Loc. com.) attribute various fictitious crimes to the blessed Virgin and other saints! Cent. Magd. Calvin, &c.) They knew that all the saints abhorred their impiety; and therefore, in revenge, they vilify the saints, and condemn all the doctors and fathers of the Church, since the death of the apostles, as guilty of superstition and idolatry. H. — “By this occasion, dead creatures, and bloodless half worm-eaten bones, began to be honoured, invocated, and worshipped with divine honour. All which the doctors of the Church not only winked at, but also set forward.” Cent. Magd. C. vi.) What is then become of the promises of God, to teach all the truth by the mouths of his pastors? Matt. xxviii, &c. Let others judge, whether we ought to pay greater deference to Saints Jerome, Aug. Greg. &c. or to Luther, Calvin, and the Centuriators of Magdeburg. But some will even admit that images were commanded by God. C. xxv. 18, &c. Hence they lay great stress upon the words to thyself; as if all images were forbidden that man should make, without the express sanction of God. So Parkhurst Lexic. But those who are conversant in Hebrew, know that these words have no such import; and if things were inseparable from idolatry, they could not be sanctioned by God. H. — No creature must be represented as a deity. But sovereign worship, both internal and external, must be given to the great Author of all good, while we abstain from every superstitious act, and from all dealings with the devil and false religions. C. — Protestants, therefore, who only forbid images, diminish God’s law. Were not the idols of Chanaan, Chamos, &c. which represented nothing in nature, also condemned?

Ver. 5. Adore. Protestants translate again, with the same view, as in the preceding verse, “thou shalt not bow down thyself to them,” in condemnation of Catholics, who kneel before the cross. But do not they kneel, when they receive their sacramental bread, or when they ask for their parents’ blessing? Did not S. John, and other saints, bow down out of respect to angels? And were these all idolaters! We are forbidden, therefore, to shew any respect to strange gods. But we must honour the true God in his saints, referring all the glory to him. H. — Hate me. Those who do not imitate their wicked ancestors, need not fear being involved in their punishment. M. S. Aug. q. 42. S. Greg. mor. 15. 22. S. Jer. in Ezec. xviii. — Sometimes, indeed, God takes away the lives of children and of subjects, to punish the sins of parents and of kings; but this may be no real detriment to the deceased. H. — Grotius thinks, that this menace is directed against idolaters. Others believe, it may be placed at the conclusion of each of the commandments. C.

Ver. 7. In vain. On trifling occasions, rashly, or falsely. “Those who swear often, diminish their credit among the wise.” Philo.

Ver. 8. Sabbath day, on which rest from servile work is prescribed, that we may worship God with greater fervour. Saturday was kept holy by the Jews, in honour of God’s resting. The apostles have authorized us to keep Sunday instead, to commemorate the mysteries of Christ’s resurrection, &c.

Ver. 9. Six, &c. This must be understood if no festival of obligation occurred. For many were in force in the old law; such as the Passover, Encenia, Purim, &c. as there are still in the Church. H.

Ver. 10. Stranger. Of some other nation. Good policy required that all should conform to this regulation, whatever their religion might be. Grotius. — Maimonides says, without any probablility, that “a Gentile observing the law, was guilty of death.” C.

Ver. 12. Honour. Love, respect, feed, if requisite; support the infirmities of parents. See Num. xxiv. 1. 1 Tim. v. 3. 17. They are ministers of God in the production of children; and those who offer an affront to his minister, irritate God. Philo. — Land of Chanaan. The promises are of a temporal nature; but they should bring to our reflection the eternal rewards which attend the virtuous. The duties of parents are not specified, as nature would shew their extent, and as the obligations of parents and children are reciprocal. C.

Ver. 13. Kill. These precepts are to be taken in their full extent, as prohibiting not only the ultimate act, but every thing which leads to it. Magistrates are authorized to inflict capital punishment. We are allowed also to defend ourselves against an unjust aggressor. But we must never intend to kill him. C. — The laws will not condemn us, perhaps, if we do; but God sees the heart, and judges. A night thief may be slain, because we know not how far our own lives may be endangered. C. xxii. 2. H.

Ver. 14. Adultery. This precept is placed before the former one, in the Sept. S. Mark x. 19, and S. Luke xviii. 20. Adultery was punished with death, Lev. xx. 10. All civilized nations have held it in abhorrence, as destructive of all peace. Job xxxi. 11. All other impure actions are forbidden, under different penalties.

Ver. 15. Steal; by which name fraud of every description is condemned. Some have erroneously restrained this prohibition to the stealing of men for slaves. C. xxi. 16. C.

Ver. 16. False. Calumniators were subjected to the law of retaliation, and were forced, by the Egyptians and others, to undergo the same punishment, which they would have inflicted upon others. This law is the guardian of good faith and honesty in all our dealings. It is explained more in detail. C. xxiii. 1. Lev. xix. 11.

Ver. 17. House. Sept. places wife first, as all do. Deut. v. 21. The express prohibition of lustful and unjust desires, might suffice to have obviated the mistake of Josephus, and of the Jews, in our Saviour’s time, who looked upon them as indifferent, provided they were not carried into effect. They render us guilty in the sight of God, (Matt. v. 28,) whenever we give consent to them, as even Ovid and the pagan philosophers acknowledged. Grotius. — At the conclusion of this 10th commandment, we find five verses in the Samaritan copy and version, as well as in the Arabic, and a sufficient vacant space is left in an ancient Syriac MS. translated from the Hebrew, which induce Kennicott (D. 2. p. 97,) to conclude that they are genuine; particularly as they explain what law was to be engraven on the two stones set up by Josue, which the Hebrew leaves ambiguous. They are as follows, repeated, for the most part, Deut. xxvii. 2. “And it shall come to pass, when the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land of the Chanaanites, whither thou goest to possess it, then thou shalt set thee up great stones; and thou shalt plaster them with plaster, and shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law. — And it shall come to pass, when ye are passed over the Jordan, ye shall put these stones, which I command you this day, upon Mount Gerizim. — And thou shalt build there an altar to the Lord thy God, an altar of stones; thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. — Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God, and shalt sacrifice peace-offerings; and thou shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God. — That mountain is on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Chanaanites, which dwell in the flat country over-against Gilgal, beside the plain of Moreh, near Sichem.” This particular designation of Gerizim, makes Calmet suspect, that it is an interpolation of the Samaritans. But Kennicott hesitates not to lay the blame of omission upon the Jews; as he endeavours to shew, that they have corrupted Deut. xxvii. 4, substituting Hebal, instead of Gerizim. “Certainly the Jews might omit, as easily as the Samaritans might insert.“ p. 100. H.

Ver. 18. Saw. The Hebrews often substitute one organ of sense for another. S. Aug. 9. 72. Jer. ii. 30. — The Samaritan reads, “the people heard the thunders, and the sound of the trumpet, and beheld the lightning.” Henceforward till C. xxiv. Moses and Aaron alone heard the voice of God; and the laws delivered. C. xxv. to xxxi. were revealed to Moses only.

Ver. 19. Die. The Sam. copy inserts here what we read, Deut. v. 24, 5, 6, 7.

Ver. 22. Seen: no visible form; (C.) but I have spoken from the top of Sinai. H.

Ver. 23. Make. Heb. adds, “with me.” v. 3. This people was prone to idolatry, and stood in need of having the first commandment often inculcated. M.

Ver. 24. Earth, which may be destroyed with ease, to prevent any profanation. — Place. Where the tabernacle shall be fixed, you shall offer sacrifice, and I will hear you. The ark was afterwards deposited in the temple, where alone the Jews were, consequently, allowed to sacrifice. H. — Samuel offered victims at Mespha and Ramatha, by the dispensation of God. 1 K. vii. 9. 17. M.

Ver. 25. Defiled; because done in opposition to God’s order, who required, on this occasion, the utmost simplicity, to prevent any undue veneration. Iron was not used about the tabernacle or temple, as brass was more common. Altars raised in haste, like that, Deut. xxvii. Jos. viii. 30, and that which was designed for the ratification of the covenant, (C. xxiv. 4,) were required to be of this construction, unpolished and simple, as was the altar erected, 1 Mac. iv. 47. But other altars were not built after this model. C.

Ver. 26. Steps. These were afterwards allowed in the temple. Ezec. xliii. 17. The Egyptians made use of their pyramids for altars; and some suppose, that the high places of Juda were of a similar nature, and exposed the priests, who wore long robes without breeches, to the danger of being seen. C. xxviii. 42. The steps allowed by God were therefore very low, and enclosed with boards, after the Greek fashion. Such were used by the priest and priestess of Jupiter. Serv. in ├ćneid iv. 646. Linen breeches, or girdles, were afterwards required. Lev. xxxix. 27. and Ex. xxviii. 42. C.