Exodus 20
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chapter Exodus 20:1-21The Decalogue. Introduction to the Book of the Covenant

The Decalogue is a concise but comprehensive summary of the fundamental duties of an Israelite towards God, and his neighbour. Jehovah is to be the only God recognized by Israel: He is to be worshipped under no material form; His name is to be reverenced; and the ‘sabbath’ is weekly to be kept holy in His honour. Respect is to be paid to parents; murder, adultery, theft, and false witness,—the commonest, perhaps, of the graver offences,—especially in a society in which the hand of the law is not strong,—are forbidden; the Israelite is not even to entertain the desire to possess anything of a neighbour’s. Within a brief compass, the Decalogue thus ‘lays down the fundamental articles of religion (sovereignty and spirituality of God), and asserts the claims of morality in the chief spheres of human relationship (home, calling, society).’ By a few salient and far-reaching precepts, pointedly expressed, and easily remembered, it covers the whole religious and moral life; and provides a summary of human duty, capable of ready expansion and adjustment even to the highest Christian standards, and unsurpassable as a practical rule of life. The Decalogue moreover brings morality into intimate connexion with religion; and in an age when popular religion was only too readily satisfied with a formal ceremonialism, it emphasized, not ritual, but spirituality, reverence, and respect for the rights of other men (cf. Romans 13:9), as what was pleasing in God’s sight, and demanded by Him (cf. the later teaching of the prophets, Amos 5:24, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, &c.). Cf. further DB. i. 582.

The Decalogue, though assigned to ‘E,’ was naturally derived by him from a pre-existing source, and incorporated by him in his narrative. At the time when E wrote, it was believed traditionally to have been inscribed by Jehovah on two tables of stone (Exodus 24:12, Exodus 31:18 b, Exodus 32:16), and (though this is first distinctly stated in Deuteronomy 10:5) to have been placed by Moses in the Ark. The Decalogue appears also in Deuteronomy 5:6-21, in what purports (vv. 5, 22) to be a verbal quotation; but there are several differences, especially in the 4th, 5th, and 10th Commandments. The most noticeable differences consist of additions, evidently the work of a Deuteronomic hand, and intended to emphasize thoughts or principles to which in Dt. importance is attached (as vv. 12, 16 the words ‘as Jehovah thy God commanded thee,’ cf. Deuteronomy 20:17; Deuteronomy 24:8; Deuteronomy 26:18; v. 14b ‘that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou,’ cf. for the philanthropic motive Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; v. 16b ‘that it may be well with thee,’ cf. Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 12:25; Deuteronomy 12:28; Deuteronomy 22:7): Exodus 20:11 (‘For in six days,’ &c.) is, however, not found in Dt., and the motive given for the observance is a different one (‘And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day’; cf. Deuteronomy 15:15; Deuteronomy 16:11-12; Deuteronomy 24:18; Deuteronomy 24:22). It may however be doubted whether even the text of Exodus exhibits the Decalogue in its primitive form. It is an old and probable conjecture (Ewald, Hist. ii. 159, Di. al.) that the Commandments were originally all expressed in the same terse and simple form in which the first, and the sixth to the ninth still appear, and that the explanatory comments appended in certain cases were only added subsequently. The prefatory sentence (v. 2), and most of the comments, shew strong literary affinities (see the notes) with J (vv. 5b, 6, cf. Exodus 34:7; Exodus 34:14), or the compiler of JE (v. 2, cf. Exodus 13:14 b), and (esp. in vv. 2, 4b, 5a, 10b, 12) with Dt.; hence it is probable that these parts are due, partly, like other parenetic passages of Ex. (cf. on Exodus 13:3-16, Exodus 15:26), to the compiler of JE, and partly to a writer influenced by Deuteronomy 5:11 stands upon a different footing from the other comments: it is in style unlike both JE and Dt., but it presupposes Genesis 1, and agrees largely in expression with Exodus 31:17 b, Genesis 2:3 a (both P). As it is scarcely likely that the author of Dt. would have omitted the verse, had it formed part of the Decalogue as he knew it, it is probable that it was introduced into the text of Ex. subsequently, on the basis of the passages of P just cited. If these suppositions are correct, the Decalogue will have reached its present form by a gradual growth, explanatory of parenetic comments, derived from, or based upon, J, the compiler of JE, Dt., and P, having been successively introduced into it with is didactic purpose. On the Nash papyrus of the Decalogue, see p. 417.

Comp. the eloquent homiletical expansion of the first two Commandments in Deuteronomy 4, 5-11.

The Decalogue is known in the OT. by the following designations:—

And God spake all these words, saying,
1. The Ten Words: Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 10:4; and probably (see the note Exodus 34:28.

The Greek equivalent, ‘Decalogue’ (ἡ δεκάλογος), is used first be Clem. Al. [Paedag. iii. 89 al.).

1. And God spake, &c.] the sequel in E to Exodus 19:19.

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
2. The Testimony (or attestation, averment, viz. of God’s will; see on Exodus 25:16): 36 times in P (cf. ibid.). Elsewhere in this sense only 2 Kings 11:12 (but doubtfully: see Skinner in the Century Bible, and Barnes in the Cambr. Bible), and 2 Chronicles 24:6 (as Numbers 17:7-8 al.).

2. Introduction. The commandments are introduced by the statement who it is that gives them: One, viz., who is Israel’s God and who has also been Israel’s benefactor; and who has thus both the right to impose them, and a claim upon Israel for obedience to them.

Jehovah thy God] so Exodus 20:5; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 20:10; Exodus 20:12; Exodus 15:26 (see note), Exodus 23:19 = Exodus 34:26, Exodus 34:24, and frequently (more than 200 times) in Dt. Not elsewhere in Ex.—Nu.

which brought thee out, &c.] and consequently has a claim upon thee for gratitude and obedience; cf. Exodus 13:3; Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:14; Exodus 13:16 : he same motive, also, Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 13:10; Amos 2:10; Hosea 13:4 (RVm.).

the house of bondage (lit. of slaves)] as Exodus 13:3 (see note), 14; and often in Dt. (cf. esp. Deuteronomy 6:12, Deuteronomy 8:14, Deuteronomy 13:10, just quoted).

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
3. The Covenant: esp., and probably first, in Dt. and Deuteronomic writers (cf. above, p. 175): Exodus 34:28 (?; see the note); Deuteronomy 4:13 ‘his covenant’ (cf. 23, Exodus 5:2-3); and in the expressions, ‘the tables of the covenant,’ Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 9:11; Deuteronomy 9:15, 1 Kings 8:9 LXX. (see Skinner); and ‘the ark of the covenant (of Jehovah),’ Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:25-26; Joshua 3:3; Joshua 3:6; Joshua 3:8; Joshua 3:11; Joshua 3:14; Joshua 3:17; Joshua 4:7; Joshua 4:9; Joshua 4:18; Joshua 6:6; Joshua 6:8; Joshua 8:33 (all JE or D2[173]); Numbers 10:33; Numbers 14:44 (both JE); Jdg 20:27; 1 Samuel 4:3-5, 2 Samuel 15:14; 1 Kings 3:15; 1 Kings 6:19; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 8:6; and several times in Chr. (In the occurrences in JE and other pre-Deuteronomic writers, ‘the covenant of’ is probably the addition of a redactor or scribe familiar with the Deut. expression1[174].)

[173] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

[174] This supposition is not arbitrary: because—at least as far as we know—until Dt. was written, the conditions for calling the ark the ‘ark of the Covenant’ did not exist: no covenant is concluded on the basis of the Decalogue in Ex.; this is first and to have been done in Dt. (cf. Chapman, Introd. to the Pent. p. 113 f.).

3. The first commandment, against polytheism. The fundamental principle of Israel’s faith, presupposed throughout the OT., but specially insisted on when there is any danger of other gods, esp. Canaanite gods, being preferred to Jehovah, or worshipped equally with Him.

other gods] so Exodus 23:13; cf. in the singular Exodus 34:14 (אל אתר). Very frequent in Dt. and Deuteronomic writers (compilers of Judges and Kings; and Jer.), as Deuteronomy 6:14; Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 8:19 al.; Jdg 2:12; Jdg 2:17; Jdg 2:19; 1 Kings 9:6; 1 Kings 9:9; 1 Kings 11:4; 1 Kings 11:10; Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 7:9; Jeremiah 7:18 al. Otherwise first in E (Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:16), 1 Samuel 26:19, 2 Kings 5:17, Hosea 3:1 (not in other prophets, except Jer., and never in P).

before me] or, more distinctly, in front of me,—obliging Me (un-willingly) to behold them, and also giving them a prominence above Me.

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:
4. a graven image] an image of carved wood (sometimes enclosed in a metal casing, Isaiah 30:22) or stone, such as were common in antiquity, and are so, of course, still among heathen nations. Cf. Deuteronomy 4:16 f.

the likeness of any form, &c.] By an inexactness of language, the Heb. identifies the ‘form’ made with the ‘form’ (in heaven, &c.) upon which it is modelled: RV. eases the sentence by inserting ‘the likeness of.’

in heaven above] as birds (Deuteronomy 4:17).

heaven above … the earth beneath] The same combination (with reference to Jehovah being God in both), Deuteronomy 4:39, Joshua 2:11, 1 Kings 8:23 (both Deuteronomic).

the water under the earth] cf. Deuteronomy 4:18. The waters meant are the huge abyss of subterranean waters, on which the Hebrews imagined the flat surface of the earth to rest (Genesis 49:25, Psalm 24:2; Psalm 136:6), and which they supposed to be the hidden source of seas and springs (see further the writer’s note on Genesis 1:9-10). Fish, at least in certain places, or of certain kinds, were regarded as sacred, and forbidden to be eaten, in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere; and Xen. (Anab. i. 4. 9) says that the fish in the Chalus, near Aleppo, were looked upon as gods. See Rel. Sem.2[175] pp. 174–6, 292 f.; EB. ii. 1530 f.

[175] W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.

4–6. The second commandment, against image-worship. The prohibition is general; and includes both images of Jehovah,—who, as a spiritual Being, cannot be represented by any material likeness (see the development of this thought in Deuteronomy 4:15-19),—and also those of other gods, or of deified creatures, or objects of nature. Images were widely used by worshippers of Jehovah till the times of the prophets: on the bearing of this upon the date of the Decalogue, see p. 415 f.

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;
5. The command of v. 4 developed and emphasized.

bow down … serve] The same combination, Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 29:26; Deuteronomy 30:17, Jdg 2:19 (D2[176]); and several times in Jer. [‘worship’ in these passages is in the Heb. bow down, as here].

[176] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

a jealous God] who will not tolerate that the reverence due to Him, should be given to another,—whether to another god (Exodus 34:14), or, as here, to an image worshipped, or, if an image of Himself, likely to be worshipped, as Divine,—and whose jealousy is described elsewhere burning like fire against those who thus dishonour Him. Occurring, as it does here, in a comment on the original command (see p. 192), the expression is derived probably from Exodus 34:14. It recurs Deuteronomy 4:24 (with ‘a devouring fire’), Exodus 6:15, Joshua 24:19 (E), each time in a similar connexion: cf. the verb in Deuteronomy 32:16; Deuteronomy 32:21 (the Song; hence Psalm 78:58). Jehovah’s honour is, however, intimately connected with that of His people: so his ‘jealousy’ may also be exerted, if circumstances permit it, on His people’s behalf, as Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 42:13; cf. Joel 2:18, Nahum 1:2, Zechariah 1:14, with the writer’s notes.

5. of them that hate me] The term is a strong one, and denotes those who persistently and defiantly oppose themselves to God.

5, 6. visiting …, and doing …] a further definition of Jehovah’s ethical character, as displayed in His attitude towards sin and goodness, respectively. The definition is based (Di.) upon Exodus 34:7 (cf. Numbers 14:18, Jeremiah 32:18), only with the two clauses transposed, so as to give the warning the first place, as the context here demands.

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
6. unto thousands, of them, &c.] i.e. not thousands consisting of them that love me, but (notice the comma added in RV.) thousands belonging to them that love me (Heb. le, just as in v. 5, properly ‘belonging to them that hate me’). The antithesis is between the narrow limits, the third or fourth generation of descendants, within which the sin is visited, and the thousands belonging to,—i.e. primarily, descended from, though possibly those ‘belonging to’ in a wider sense, as servants or other dependents, may be included,—such as love God, who, in virtue of this relation, and for the sake of those who thus love Him, experience His mercy. The intention of the passage is thus to teach that God’s mercy transcends in its operation His wrath: in His providence the beneficent consequences of a life of goodness extend indefinitely further than the retribution which is the penalty of persistence in sin. Naturally ‘thousands’ is not to be understood literally: it is simply intended to convey an impressive idea of the greatness of God’s mercy. It is not apparent how it can mean (RVm.) ‘a thousand generations’: Deuteronomy 7:9 is a rhetorical amplification, not an exact interpretation, of the present passage.

that love me] shew towards Him the pure and intense affection and devotion which we denote by the term ‘love.’ The thought is one strongly characteristic of Deuteronomy. ‘Love to God is in Dt. the essence of religion, and the primary motive for obedience to His commands. In no other stratum of the Hexateuch is this lofty conception of religion to be found’ (Bä.). See Deuteronomy 6:5 [Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27], Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22, Deuteronomy 13:3, Deuteronomy 19:9, Deuteronomy 30:6; Deuteronomy 30:16; Deuteronomy 30:20, Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:11 both Deuteronomic); and cf. the writer’s Deuteronomy, pp. xxi, xxviii, lxxviii, 91. Love to God is not mentioned elsewhere in the Hexateuch, except in the parallel, Deuteronomy 5:10 (cf. Exodus 7:19 : see, however, Jdg 5:30).

It is, of course, not through extraordinary or miraculous interferences that the sins of parents are visited upon their children, but through the natural providence of God, operating through the normal constitution of society, which in its turn takes its organization and form from the character of human nature, which is His appointment. History and experience alike teach how often, and under what varied conditions, it happens that the misdeeds of a parent result in bitter consequences for the children. The principle here asserted is not in conflict with Deuteronomy 24:6 (children not to be put to death for the fathers): the legislator is not there dealing with a principle involved in the constitution of society itself; he is laying down a rule for the administration of justice by the State. See, on the distinction between the two cases, Mozley’s Ruling Ideas in Early Ages, Lect. V.

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.
7. The third commandment. The name of God to be treated with reverence.

take … in vain] properly, take up (viz. upon the lips, as Exodus 23:1, Psalm 15:3; Psalm 16:4) … for unreality (Di. ‘zur Nichtigkeit’)—i.e. make use of it for any idle, frivolous, or insincere purpose. The root idea of shâw’, is what is groundless or unsubstantial: hence in a material sense it means unreal, vain (Psalm 60:11); and in a moral sense it denotes what is empty, frivolous, or insincere: cf. Exodus 23:1 ‘Thou shalt not take up a groundless report’; Psalm 24:4 ‘hath not lifted up his soul (i.e. directed his desires) unto unreality’ (i.e. to what is either frivolous or insincere): in the Psalms it is generally rendered vanity, but it often really means what we should call insincerity, as Psalm 12:3, Psalm 41:6 (see the Glossary in the writer’s Parallel Psalter, p. 464). God’s name is to be treated with reverence; it is not to be desecrated either by false swearing (Leviticus 19:12 (H), Jeremiah 5:2; Jeremiah 7:9, Zechariah 5:4, Malachi 3:5), or by being used disrespectfully for any other frivolous or idle purpose, as in cursing or reviling, or to support false pretensions of being able to use magic or divination, or to predict the future (Jeremiah 27:15).

hold … guiltless] i.e. leave unpunished, as 1 Kings 2:9 shews is implied and as the word is sometimes actually rendered, e.g. Proverbs 6:29 Jeremiah 25:29. Cf. Jeremiah 34:7, with the note.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
8. Remember] ‘Think of it always, so as never to forget it, as a day to be distinguished from ordinary days, and held sacred: remember, as Exodus 13:3’ (Di.). Deuteronomy 5:12 substitutes the more ordinary ‘Observe.’

sabbath] Heb. shabbâth. The derivation is uncertain. As a Hebrew, word, it would naturally be connected with shâbath, to desist, cease,—see Isaiah 14:4; Isaiah 24:8; with from, Genesis 2:2-3 : where the sabbath is thought of, either with ‘from work’ understood, or as a ‘denominative,’ to ‘keep sabbath,’ Exodus 16:30; Exodus 23:12 a, Exodus 31:17, Exodus 34:21, Leviticus 25:34-35—and suggest the idea of cessation from work. The verb shâbath denotes ‘rest,’ not in the positive sense of relaxation or refreshment (which is nûaḥ, see v. 11, Exodus 23:12 b), but in the negative sense of cessation from work or activity: but it is at least possible that the word ‘sabbath’ is of Babylonian origin (p. 198), though of uncertain etymology (see DB. iv. 319a; note also, on the etym., the reserve expressed by Zimmern, ZDMG. 1904, p. 202). Even, however, though this should be its origin, the word might well have been connected by the Hebrews with the Heb. shâbath, and regarded by them as suggesting the idea of cessation. See further, on the Bab. and Heb. ‘sabbath,’ KAT.3[177] 592–4.

[177] Die Keilinschriften und das A T., 1903, by H. Zimmern (pp. 345–653) and H. Winckler (pp. 1–342).

keep … holy] elsewhere rendered hallow, as v. 11 end, Genesis 2:3 a, Jeremiah 17:12 al. Comp. Isaiah 58:13 (‘my holy day’).

8–11. The fourth commandment. The observance of the Sabbath.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
9. work] more precisely, business,—the word regularly used of the ‘work’ or ‘business’ forbidden on the sabbath (Exodus 31:14-15, Jeremiah 17:22; Jeremiah 17:24 al.: cf. Genesis 2:2), or other sacred day (Exodus 12:16).

9, 10. Explanation how the sabbath is to be kept holy.

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:
10. The rest is to be a general one: no work is to be done either by the Israelite himself, or any member of his household (including his servants), or by his cattle, or by the ‘sojourner’ settled in his cities.

in it] LXX. Pesh. Vulg. express this; Sam. and the Nash papyrus read it.

manservant … maidservant] bondman … bondmaid: the meaning is (as always) male and female slaves. Cf. Exodus 21:2; Exodus 21:7.

stranger] sojourner, or foreigner settled in Israel (see on Exodus 12:48): he also is to enjoy rest from his toil on the sabbath. Cf. the injunction not to oppress him (Exodus 22:21, with the note). For the enumeration, cf. Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14.

thy gates] i.e. thy cities, a distinctively Deut. expression, occurring 26 times in Dt., and only 1 Kings 8:37 = 2 Chronicles 6:28 (Deut. compiler) besides; comp. esp. (with ‘within‘) Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:21; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 24:14; Deuteronomy 31:12. In Deuteronomy 5:14 a clause is added, emphasizing the humanitarian purpose of the observance; cf. Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 14:29.

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.
11. Why the sabbath is to be observed. The reason is based upon Genesis 2:3, cf. Exodus 31:17 b (both P). The motive may have operated with the writer of the comment; but it cannot state the real reason for the observance of the sabbath. ‘P’s story of the Creation, with the six days followed by the sacred seventh, is not the cause of the Sabbath, but the result of the fact that the week ending with the Sabbath was an existing institution. P adjusts the work of creation to it’ (McNeile). Cf. the present writer’s Genesis, p. 35. On the different motive assigned for the observance in Deuteronomy 5:15, see p. 192.

rested] This is the word nûaḥ, meaning relaxation, referred to on v. 8: cf. Exodus 23:12 b, Deuteronomy 5:14 b; and for the thought Exodus 31:17 b (‘desisted, and was refreshed’). (In Genesis 2:2-3 the word used is ‘desisted.’)

blessed … hallowed] i.e. made it a day which would bring a blessing on those who observed it, and made it sacred to Himself.

It is impossible to consider here with any fulness the history and significance of the sabbath; and for a more detailed discussion the writer must refer to his art. Sabbath in DB. iv. It is not impossible that ultimately the institution was of Babylonian origin: in Babylonian there occurs (though rarely) the word shabattum, meaning day for propitiating a deity’s anger1[178], and in Babylonia also, especially in the earlier periods of the history, every seventh day of the month was marked by abstention from secular business2[179]: but even if that was the case (for connecting links are still wanting), it is certain that when adopted by the Hebrews, a new character was impressed upon it by the higher and purer religion of Israel. In the earliest legislation of the Hebrews, the sabbath appears as a day of cessation from (in particular) field-work, designed with a humanitarian end (Exodus 23:12 E; Exodus 34:21 J), and, to judge from the context, possessing already a religious character: in the Decalogue, in what is probably (see above) the oldest part of the Commandment, it is to be kept ‘holy’ by the Israelite: in the early historical books, it is associated with the ‘new moon,’ in a manner which implies that both were occasions of intermission from labour and trade (Amos 8:5), and holidays (2 Kings 4:22-23); Hosea (Exodus 2:11), and Isaiah (Exodus 1:13), both allude to it as a day of religious observance. In later times, both the religious observances and also the abstention from labour were increasingly emphasized. In H and Ezek. (see on Ezekiel 31:13) the observance of the sabbath is repeatedly insisted on: cf. a little later Isaiah 56:2; Isaiah 56:4; Isaiah 56:6; Isaiah 58:13 f., and (in the ideal future) Isaiah 66:23. Ezekiel, also, in his ideal legislation for the future (chs. 40–48), gives directions,—based, presumably, upon already existing usage,—respecting the sacrifices to be offered every sabbath by the ‘prince’ on behalf o the nation in the restored temple (Ezekiel 45:17, Ezekiel 46:4 f.). In the legislation of P, the regulations respecting the sabbath become both more numerous and more strict: its institution is thrown back to the end of the week of Creation (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 31:17); it is to be observed (Leviticus 23:3) by a ‘holy convocation,’ or religious gathering; additional sacrifice (viz. double those offered on ordinary days) are prescribed for it (Numbers 28:8 f.); and death is the penalty imposed (Exodus 31:15), and exacted (Numbers 15:32-36), for its non-observance, Thus in the priestly law, the original character and objects of the sabbath have receded into the background, and it has become more distinctly a purely ceremonial observance: Christ, in opposition to later Rabbinical exaggerations and refinements, brought men back to the great truth that ‘the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath’; and, transformed into the Christian Sunday, it has become in Christian countries a wonderful means both of securing rest from bodily toil, and of maintaining the life of a pure and spiritual religion.

[178] See DB. iv. 319a, adding the instance, discussed by Zimmern, ZDMG. 1904, p. 199 ff., in which shabattum is applied to the 15th day of the month, i.e. (see p. 201) to the day of the full moon.

[179] See DB. ibid., or the writer’s Genesis, p. 34. and esp. Johns, Expos. Times, Sept. 1906, p. 567 (with detailed statistics); and comp. McNeile, p. 122 f.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
12. The fifth commandment. Honour to be paid to parents. Cf. in H Leviticus 19:3. The position accorded to parents is a high one: they are mentioned in the first table of the Decalogue, and duty towards them stands next to duties towards God (so in Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9 [H] the penalty for cursing them is the same, viz. death, as the penalty for blaspheming God, Leviticus 24:15 f. [H]). Cf. the development of the command in Sir 3:1-16; and the warnings addressed to those who disregard it, Proverbs 20:20; Pro Exo 30:17 (cf. 11). In the NT. see Matthew 15:4-6 (""Mark 7:10-13). As Kn. ap. Di. shews, the command is in the spirit of the best minds of antiquity: Plato, for instance (Legg. iv. 717 c–d), lays it down that after the gods and demi-gods parents ought to have the most honour, and that through his whole life every man should pay his parents the utmost deference and respect (cf. xi. 930 e–932 a); and Aristotle, Eth. Nic. ix. 2, 8, says that it is proper to pay them ‘honour such as is given to the gods’ (τιμὴν καθάπερ θεοῖς): other Greek writers also speak similarly. Cf. further on Exodus 21:15.

that thy days may be long &c.] The ‘first commandment with promise’ (Ephesians 6:2). A spirit of filial respect implies a well-ordered life in general; and so tends to secure prosperity both to the individual and to the nation (the commandments are addressed throughout not only to the individual as such, but also to the individual as representing the nation). The terms of the promise are strongly Deuteronomic: see Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 25:15, and (in the form ‘prolong days’) Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 4:40, Deuteronomy 5:33, Deuteronomy 11:9, Deuteronomy 17:20, Deuteronomy 22:7, Deuteronomy 30:18, Deuteronomy 32:47; and, for the following clause, upon the land, &c., Deuteronomy 3:20, Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 11:31, Deuteronomy 15:7, Deuteronomy 16:20, Deuteronomy 17:14, Deuteronomy 18:9, &c., and especially Deuteronomy 4:40, Deuteronomy 25:15.

giveth] is giving (i.e. is in the course of giving, is about to give); so in all the passages of Dt. just quoted (and in many similar ones in the same book besides). The standpoint of the Exodus is assumed. The land is not, as ‘giveth’ in itself might suggest, the possession of the individual Israelite, but Canaan.

Thou shalt not kill.
13. The sixth commandment. The sanctity of human life to be upheld (cf. Genesis 9:5-6 P). Here the duty is laid down simply as a Divine command: the human penalty for infringing it is prescribed elsewhere (see on Exodus 21:12).

shalt do no murder] AV. had shalt not kill: but the Heb. word implies violent, unauthorised killing. Cf. especially the list of crimes in Hosea 4:2 (where ‘killing’ has been kept), Jeremiah 7:9. The verb in the ptcp. occurs repeatedly in P’s law of homicide in Numbers 35 (RV. always here ‘manslayer’).

Comp. the spiritualization of this commandment by our Lord in Matthew 5:21-26.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.
14. The seventh commandment. The purity of the married state to be maintained (cf. Genesis 2:24 J). Cf. Leviticus 18:20 (H), Job 31:9-12, and Matthew 5:27-32. For the penalty for adultery, see Leviticus 20:10 (H), Deuteronomy 22:22. In LXX. (B, and several cursives,—both here and in Dt.), and the Nash papyrus, the seventh commandment comes before the sixth: the same order is found in Mark 10:19 (Text. Rec.), Luke 18:20, Romans 13:9, James 2:11, in Philo, and in many of the Fathers (Kn.).

Thou shalt not steal.
15. The eighth commandment. The rights of private property to be respected. Cf. in H Leviticus 19:11. For penalties for stealing, see Exodus 21:16, Exodus 22:1.

It is hardly necessary to quote from the prophets passages illustrative of these duties: but Hosea 4:2, Jeremiah 7:9 are particularly worth referring to.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
16. The ninth commandment. Against bearing false witness, primarily in a court of law,—a specially common crime in the East,—but also more generally by taking away the character of a neighbour by false imputations (cf. Exodus 23:1).

bear false witness] lit. answer (in a forensic sense, in a court of law, Deuteronomy 19:16; Deuteronomy 19:18, Numbers 35:30 [EVV. testify], but also more generally, 1 Samuel 12:3 [‘witness’], Deuteronomy 31:21 al. [‘testify’]) as a false witness: Deuteronomy 5:20 has ‘as an empty, insincere, witness’ (the word explained on v. 7). For the penalty for false witness, see Deuteronomy 19:16-21. Cf. Proverbs 14:5; Proverbs 19:5; Proverbs 25:18 (same Heb. as here).

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.
17. The tenth commandment. The most inward of all the commandments, forbidding not an external act, but a hidden mental state, a state, however, which is the spring and root of nearly every sin against a neighbour, the unlawful desire (ἐπιθυμία) for something which is another’s.

covet] lit. desire, which may be used of a perfectly lawful, and indeed laudable, affection (Psalm 19:10; Psalm 68:16): it acquires its bad sense solely from the context; comp. Joshua 7:21, and especially Micah 2:2.

house] i.e. (Kn. Di. Bä. al.) domestic establishment generally (Genesis 15:2, Job 8:15): examples follow of things belonging to it, and most likely to be coveted, wife, male and female slaves, &c. In Deuteronomy 5:21 the wife is given the first place, and the house and other belongings follow, shewing that ‘house’ is there used in the sense of ‘dwelling.’ In its original form, the command—no doubt—ended at ‘house’ (i.e. establishment), the examples following being a later expansion. ‘The command is aimed against that greedy desire for another’s goods, which so often issued in violent acts—the oppressions and cheating which were rife among the wealthier classes, and were denounced by the prophets’ (McNeile, p. lix): cf. Amos 3:10; Amos 5:11, Micah 2:2; Micah 2:9, Isaiah 3:14-15; Isaiah 5:8, &c.

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.
18. saw] Heb., more graphically, were seeing.

the thunderings (Heb. voices), &c.] see Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:19.

and when, &c.] Heb. and the people saw and trembled, where ‘saw,’ after clausea, is tautologous. Read probably, with merely a change of vowel-points, and the people were afraid, and trembled (so Sam. LXX. Vulg.; cf. v. 20).

trembled] swayed to and fro, shook, is the meaning of the Heb. נוע: cf. Isaiah 7:2 ‘and his heart shook … as the trees of a forest shake with the wind’; Nahum 3:12. On the marg. it is rendered, not very expressively, were moved, as in Isaiah 6:4 RV., Isaiah 7:2 EVV., Isaiah 19:1 EVV.

18–21. The people, alarmed by the terrible accompaniments of the theophany, express a desire that in future Moses may speak to them instead of God. Their wish is implicitly granted. Cf. Deuteronomy 5:22-31.

And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
19. Speak thou (emph.), … and we will hear] i.e. it is implied, listen and obey (see Deuteronomy 5:27 end).

lest we die] cf. Deuteronomy 5:25 f.

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.
20. to prove you] to put you to the proof (Exodus 16:4; cf. on Exodus 17:2), to the whether (Deuteronomy 8:2), as you have just said (v. 19), you will really obey Him, and in order to inspire you with the dread of offending Him.

and that his fear, &c.] That the fear which His presence creates may be ever before your eyes.

And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
21. thick darkness] ‘ǎrâphel, the word, mostly poetical (Psalm 18:9, 1 Kings 8:12), used in Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22 [Heb. 19].

With the preceding narrative, especially the parts that belong to E Exodus 9:16-19, Exodus 20:1-21), comp. the rhetorically amplified descriptions

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.
22. Thus thou shalt say] Cf. Exodus 19:3.

from heaven] As their position in the Heb. shews, these are the emphatic words in the sentence: their intention is to shew that the Israelites’ God is exalted far above the earth, and that consequently (v. 23) no material gods are to be venerated by them. Cf. Deuteronomy 4:36.

22–26. The collection opens with directions respecting the manner which God is to be worshipped (other directions about religious observances follow in Exodus 22:20; Exodus 22:29-31, Exodus 23:10-19).

Chapters Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33The Book of the Covenant

The ‘Book of the Covenant’ (see Exodus 24:7 in explanation of the name) is the oldest piece of Hebrew legislation that we possess. The laws contained in it are spoken of in Exodus 24:3 as consisting of two elements, the words (or commands) and the judgements: the judgements (see on Exodus 21:1) are the provisions relating to civil and criminal law, prescribing what is to be done when particular cases arise, and comprised in Exodus 21:2 to Exodus 22:17; the words are positive injunctions of moral, religious, and ceremonial law, introduced mostly by Thou shalt or shalt not, and comprised in Exodus 20:23-26, Exodus 22:18 to Exodus 23:19 : Exodus 23:20-33 is a hortatory epilogue, consisting chiefly of promises intended to suggest motives for the observance of the preceding laws. The laws themselves were doubtless taken by E from some already existing source: the ‘judgements’ in Exodus 21:2 to Exodus 22:17 seem to have undergone no alteration of form: but the ‘words’ which follow can hardly be in their original order; moral, religious, and ceremonial injunctions being intermingled sometimes singly, sometimes in groups (see the following summary), without any apparent system (notice also Exodus 23:4 f., evidently interrupting the connexion between vv. 1–3 and 6–8); and in parts (as Exodus 22:21-22; Exo 22:24, Exodus 23:9 b, Exodus 23:23-25 a, Exodus 23:31-33 : see the notes) slight parenetic additions have probably been made by the compiler of J E.

The laws themselves may be grouped as follows:

i. Enactments relating to civil and criminal law:

1. Rights of Hebrew slaves (male and female), Exodus 21:2-11.

2. Capital offences, viz. murder (in distinction from manslaughter), striking or cursing a parent, and man-stealing, Exodus 21:12-17.

3. Penalties for bodily injuries, caused (a) by human beings, Exodus 21:18-27, (b) by animals (a vicious ox, for instance), or neglect of reason able precautions (as leaving a pit open), Exodus 21:28-36.

4. Theft of ox or sheep, and burglary, Exodus 22:1-4.

5. Compensation for damage done by straying cattle [but see note], or fire spreading accidentally to another man’s field, Exodus 22:5-6.

6. Compensation for loss or injury in various cases of deposit or loan, Exodus 22:7-15.

7. Compensation for seduction, Exodus 22:16-17.

ii (a). Regulations relating to worship and religious observances:

1. Prohibition of images, and regulations for the construction of altars, Exodus 20:23-26.

2. Sacrifice to ‘other gods’ to be punished with the ‘ban,’ Exodus 22:20.

3. God not to be reviled, nor a ruler cursed, Exodus 22:28.

4. Firstfruits, and firstborn males (of men, oxen, and sheep), to be given to Jehovah, Exodus 22:29-30.

5. Flesh torn of beasts not to be eaten, Exodus 22:31.

6 & 7. The seventh year to be a fallow year, and the seventh day a day of rest (in each case, for a humanitarian motive), Exodus 23:10-12.

8. God’s commands to be honoured, and ‘other gods’ not to be invoked, Exodus 23:13.

9. The three annual Pilgrimages to be observed (all males to appear before Jehovah at each), Exo Exodus 23:14-17.

10. A festal sacrifice not to be offered with leavened bread, nor its fat to remain unburnt till the following morning, Exodus 23:18.

11. Firstfruits to be brought to the house of Jehovah, Exodus 23:19 a.

12. A kid not to be boiled in its mother’s milk, Exodus 23:19 b.

ii (b). Injunctions of a moral, and, especially, of a humanitarian character:

1. Sorcery and bestiality to be punished with death, Exodus 22:18-19.

2. The ‘sojourner,’ the widow, and the orphan, not to be oppressed, Exodus 22:21-24.

3. Interest not to be taken from the poor, Exodus 22:25.

4. A garment taken in pledge to be returned before sun-down, Exodus 22:26-27.

5. Veracity and impartiality, the duties of a witness, Exodus 23:1-3.

6. An enemy’s beast to be preserved from harm, Exodus 23:4-5.

7. Justice to be administered impartially, and no bribe to be taken, Exodus 23:6-9.

These three groups of laws may have been taken originally from distinct collections. The terse form in which many of the laws in ii (a) and ii (b) are cast resembles that which prevails in Leviticus 19 (H). The regulations respecting worship contained in Exodus 23:10-19, together with the allied ones embedded in Exodus 13:3-7; Exodus 13:11-13, are repeated in Exodus 34:18-26, in the section (Exodus 34:10-26) sometimes called the ‘Little Book of the Covenant,’ with slight verbal differences, and with the addition in Exodus 34:11-17 of more specific injunctions against idolatry (see the synoptic table, pp. 370–2).

The laws contained in the ‘Book of the Covenant’ are, as has been already said, no doubt older than the narrative (E) in which they are incorporated: they represent, to use Cornill’s expression, the ‘consuetudinary law of the early monarchy,’ and include (cf. the notes on tôrâh, p. 162, and mishpâṭ, Exodus 22:1) the formulated decisions which, after having been begun by Moses (Exodus 18:16; cf. p. 161), had gradually accumulated up to that age. The stage of society for which the Code was designed, and the characteristics of the Code itself, are well indicated by W. R. Smith (OTJC.2[180] p. 340 ff). ‘The society contemplated in it is of very simple structure. The basis of life is agricultural. Cattle and agricultural produce are the main elements wealth; and the laws of property deal almost exclusively with them (see Exodus 21:28 to Exodus 22:10). The principles of criminal and civil justice are those still current among the Arabs of the desert, viz. retaliation and pecuniary compensation. Murder is dealt with by the law of blood-revenge; but the innocent man-slayer may seek asylum at God’s altar (cf. 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:18; 1 Kings 2:29).’ Man-stealing, offences against parents, and witchcraft are also punishable by death. Personal injuries fall mostly, like murder, under the law of retaliation (Exo Exodus 21:24 f.). These are the only cases in which a punishment affecting the person is prescribed: in other cases the punishment takes as a rule the form of compensation. ‘Degrading punishments, as imprisonment or the bastinado, are unknown; and loss of liberty is inflicted only on a thief who cannot pay a fine (Exodus 22:3 b). The slave retains definite rights. He recovers his freedom after 7 years, unless he prefers to remain a bondman, and to seal his determination by a solemn symbolical act (Exodus 21:6).’ He cannot appeal to the lex talionis against his master: to beat one’s own slave to death is not a capital crime; but for minor injuries he can claim his liberty (Exodus 21:20 f., 26 f.). ‘Women do not enjoy full social equality with men. The daughter was her father’s property, who received a price for surrendering her to her husband (Exodus 21:7); and so a daughter’s dishonour is compensated by law as a pecuniary loss to her father (Exodus 22:16 f.).’ A woman slave was a slave for life, except when she had been bought to be her master’s concubine, and he withheld the recognized rights which she thus acquired (Exodus 21:11). Concubine-slaves had also other rights (Exodus 21:8-10). Various cases of injury to property are specified: the penalty is usually simple compensation, though naturally it is greater, if deliberate purpose (as in the case of theft, Exodus 22:1), or culpable negligence, can be proved. Cases of misappropriation of property are settled by a decision given at a sanctuary (Exodus 22:9).

[180] W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, ed. 2, 1892.

From the point of view of ethics and religion, the regard paid in the Code to the claims of humanity and justice is observable. An emphatic voice is raised against those crying vices of Oriental Government, the maladministration of justice, and the oppression of the poor. Even an enemy, in his need, is to receive consideration and help (Exodus 23:4-5). ‘The gêr, or foreigner living in Israel under the protection of a family or the community, though he has no legal status (cf. on Exodus 22:21), is not to be oppressed. The Sabbath is enforced as an ordinance of humanity; and to the same end the produce of every field or vineyard must be left to the poor one year in seven. The precepts of religious worship are simple. He who sacrifices to any god but Jehovah falls under the ‘ban’ (Exodus 22:20). The only ordinance of ceremonial sanctity is to abstain from the flesh of animals torn by wild beasts (Exodus 22:31). Altar are to be of the simplest possible construction. The sacred dues are the firstlings and firstfruits; and the former must be presented at a sanctuary on the eighth day. This regulation presupposes a plurality of sanctuaries, which also agrees with the terms of Exodus 20:24.’ The only sacrifices mentioned are burnt- and peace-offerings. The three pilgrimages, at which every male is to appear before Jehovah with a gift, celebrate three periods of the agricultural year, the beginning and close of harvest, and the end of the vintage. The only points of sacrificial ritual insisted on are the two rules that the blood of a festal sacrifice is not to be offered with leavened bread, and that the fat must be burnt before the next morning. The simplicity of the ceremonial regulations in this Code stands in striking contrast to the detailed and systematic development which they receive in the later legislation of P.

Some of the laws strike us as severe (Exodus 21:15-16; Exodus 21:21, Exodus 22:18; Exodus 22:20); but we must remember the stage of civilization for which they were designed: they were adapted, not for people in every stage of society, but for people living as the Israelites were circumstanced at the time when they were drawn up. They also, it is to be observed, are in many cases clearly intended to impose restrictions upon abuse of authority, or arbitrary violence. We may remember also that far severer punishments, such as mutilation and torture, were common not only in many other ancient nations, but even, till comparatively recent times, in Christian Europe; and in England, till 1835, death was the penalty for many trivial forms of theft. Of course some of the laws—notably the one about witches—have been terribly misapplied in times when the progressive character of revelation and the provisional character of Israel’s laws were not realized. But they were adapted on the whole to make Israel a just, humane, and God-fearing people, and to prepare the way, when the time was ripe, for something better.

The laws of J and E (except the section dealing with the compensations to be paid for various injuries, Exodus 21:18 to Exodus 22:15), expanded, and, in some cases, modified to suit the requirements of a later age, form a substantial element in the Deuteronomic legislation (Deuteronomy 5-28; see the synoptic table in LOT. p. 73 ff.): to some of the moral and religious injunctions there are also parallels (referred to in the notes) in the ‘Law of Holiness’ (Leviticus 17-26). The ceremonial laws appear in a partially developed form in Dt., and in a more fully developed form, with many minutely defined regulations, in the Priests’ Code (for an example in Exodus itself, contrast Exodus 23:15 with Exodus 12:14-20). A discussion of the differences between the laws of JE and the later codes belongs more to the commentaries on Lev., Numb., and Dt., than to one on Exodus; and they have been noticed here only in special cases. A detailed comparison of the different regulations will be found in McNeile, pp. xxxix–xlvi, li–lvi.

The promulgation of a new code of laws was often among ancient nations ascribed to the command of the national deity. Thus among he Cretans, Minos, the ‘companion of great Zeus’ (Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής, Od. 19:179), was said to have held converse with Zeus, and to have received his laws from him in a cave of the Dictaean mountain (cf. [Plato], Minos, 319 b—320 b); his laws and those of Lycurgus are called ‘the laws of Zeus’ and ‘Apollo’ respectively (Plato, Legg. i. 632 D); and Numa’s laws were ascribed to the goddess Egeria (Dion. Hal. ii. 60 f.). The closest parallel is however afforded, on Semitic ground, by Hạmmurabi, who expressly speaks of his code as consisting of ‘righteous laws’ delivered to him by Shamash, the sun-god (see below, p. 418 ff.).

Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.
23. Cf. Exodus 20:3-4 f.; and in the other codes Exodus 34:17 (J), Leviticus 19:4 (H), Deuteronomy 4:15-18; Deuteronomy 27:15.

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. altar] The word in Heb. (mizbçaḥ) means a ‘place of slaughter or sacrifice.’ Altars of earth were also common among the Romans (Tert. Apol. 25 attributes temeraria de caespite altaria to the earliest times; cf. the arae gramineae of Aen. xii. 118 f., and the ‘positusque carbo in Caespite vivo’ of Hor. Od. iii. 8. 3 f., &c.), and, according to Sil. Ital. iv. 703, the Carthaginians: for an example of a large natural stone, extemporized rapidly into an altar, see 1 Samuel 14:32-35. On the probable primitive idea of an altar among the Semites, as an artificial substitute for a natural object, especially a rock or boulder, supposed—like other striking natural objects, as a tree, stream, or spring (EB. iii. 2981 f.)—to be the abode of a deity or numen loci, see Rel. Sem.2 206 ff., or DB. s.v. Altar. Ancient rock-altars have been discovered recently in Palestine; see the writer’s Schweich Lectures on Modern Research as illustrating the Bible (1908), p. 66 f.; and cf. Jdg 6:20 f.

shalt sacrifice, &c.] ‘The words are addressed not to the priests, but to Israel at large, and imply that any Israelite may approach the altar, (W. R. Smith, OTJC.2[181] p. 358: so Di., pp. 385, 457, 460 [ed. 2, pp. 425, 500, 503]; Baudissin, DB. iv. 70a; cf. Kautzsch, DB. v. 648 f.). The right of sacrificing was not limited to the priestly class till long afterwards. For examples of laymen offering sacrifice, see 1 Samuel 6:14; 1 Samuel 13:9 f., 2 Samuel 6:13; 2 Samuel 6:17; 2 Samuel 24:25, 1 Kings 1:9; 1 Kings 3:4; in 2 Samuel 8:18 = 2 Samuel 20:26 David’s sons are priests (so Di.).

[181] W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, ed. 2, 1892.

sacrifice] lit. kill or slay. The verb (zâbaḥ) may be used of killing domestic animals for food without religious rites (see in the Heb. Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 12:21, 1 Samuel 28:24); but since in early times animals were seldom, if ever, killed without an accompanying sacrifice, it commonly denotes sacrificial slaying.

burnt offerings, and … peace offerings] The two commonest kinds of sacrifice, often mentioned together, especially in the earlier historical books, but also elsewhere: see e.g. Exodus 24:5, Exodus 32:6, Deuteronomy 27:7 (E), 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 13:9, 2 Samuel 6:17; 2 Samuel 24:25, and with ‘sacrifices’ for ‘peace-offerings,’ Exodus 10:25 (see note), Exodus 18:12, 1 Samuel 6:15; 1 Samuel 15:22, 2 Kings 5:17. In the burnt-offering (Heb. ‘ôlâh, that which goes up—most probably upon the altar, though according to others in κνίση or ‘sweet smoke’ [Exodus 29:13] to heaven), the whole animal was laid on the altar, and consumed there by fire (cf. LXX. ὁλοκαύτωμα ‘something wholly burnt,’ Vulg. holocaustum; hence some moderns render by holocaust); in the peace-offering, the fat and certain of the entrails having been consumed upon the altar, and certain parts of the flesh having been given (at least in later times) to the priest, the rest of the flesh was eaten by the worshipper and his friends at a sacred meal (cf. Exodus 18:12). The later ritual of these two species of sacrifice is given in Leviticus 1:3.

peace offerings] shelâmim: LXX. (in Sam. Kgs.) εἰρηνικά, i.e. sacrifices symbolizing mutual peace and amity between those who participated in the sacred meal (which was the distinctive feature in this sacrifice), both among themselves and also with God. This explanation seems the most probable; but others have been adopted. LXX. render mostly by θυσία σωτηρίου ‘safety- (or welfare-) sacrifice’: in this case, the ‘peace,’ or ‘welfare,’ implied would be that of the worshipper, for which, by his sacrifice, he either petitioned, or returned thanks (so Keil). Ges. Ew. Kn. render thank-offering (so Leviticus 3:1 RVm.; Josephus χαριστήρια), from the sense of the root in Piel, to make good or pay (Psalm 66:13, &c., Proverbs 7:14). See further on Leviticus 3. The word occurs in the Carthaginian inscription now at Marseilles (Auth. and Arch. p. 77 f.), as the name of a sacrifice; but it is not known of what nature the sacrifice was.

in every place where I cause my name to be remembered (marg.)] viz. by a theophany, a victory (Exodus 17:15), or other manifestation of My presence: those who offer sacrifice at places thus distinguished may expect Jehovah’s presence and blessing. A plurality of altars is thus sanctioned: but they must be erected not at places chosen arbitrarily, but at places which have been marked in some way by Jehovah’s favour and approval (cf. Rel. Sem.2[182] p. 115 f.). The reference cannot be to the altar of Burnt offering before the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:1-8, &c.): not only is a far simpler structure evidently in the writer’s mind, but the alternatives offered (earth, or unhewn stone, v. 25) shew that altars in general are referred to, and that the intention of the law is to authorize the erection of altars, built in the manner prescribed, in any part of the land. With the liberty of sacrifice thus permitted, as Di. points out (pp. 224, 384 f., ed. 2, pp. 247 f., 425), the practice in Israel for ‘a series of centuries after Moses’ conforms: in Jos.—1 K. sacrifices are frequently mentioned as offered in different parts of the land, without the smallest indication on the part of either the actor or the narrator that any law is being infringed. An altar, or sacrifice, is authorized by a theophany, or special command, Genesis 35:7, Joshua 8:30 f. (on mount Ebal; see Deuteronomy 27:5-7 a), Jdg 2:5; Jdg 6:24; Jdg 6:26 f., 1 Samuel 16:1-3, 2 Samuel 24:18; 2 Samuel 24:25, by a victory, Exodus 17:15, 1 Samuel 14:35 : in other cases the occasion is not stated, though the places mentioned are often ancient sanctuaries, consecrated by traditions of the patriarchs, Joshua 24:1; Joshua 24:26 (the ‘sanctuary’ at Shechem, cf. Genesis 33:20), 1 Samuel 7:9 f. (at Mizpah, v. 6; cf. Jdg 20:1unto Jehovah at Mizpah,’ 1 Samuel 10:17), 1 Samuel 7:17; 1Sa 9:12 f., 1 Samuel 10:3 (at Bethel, Genesis 28:11-22; Genesis 35:1), 1 Samuel 10:8 (at Gilgal—like Bethel, known independently to have been a sanctuary; so 1 Samuel 11:15), 1 Samuel 14:35 (the first of the altars built by Saul),1 Samuel 20:6, 2 Samuel 15:7 f., 2 Samuel 15:12 (at Hebron, Genesis 13:18), 2 Samuel 15:32 (‘where men used to worship God’), 1 Kings 3:4; 1 Kings 18:30; 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14. A tendency towards centralization, due to the natural preeminence of the sanctuary at which the Ark was stationed, and afterwards to the prestige of Solomon’s Temple, no doubt made itself felt before the principle of the single sanctuary was finally codified in Deuteronomy 12; but it cannot be doubted that for long after the time when Israel was first settled in Canaan, numerous local sanctuaries existed, and sacrifice at them was habitually offered—both the sanctuaries and the sacrifices being justified by the present law (see further Di. ll.cc.; DB. v. 661a; or the writer’s Comment. on Deut. pp. xliii f., 136–8; and cf. on Exodus 22:29).

[182] W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.

24, 25. Altars were to be of the simplest material, of earth, or, if of stone, of unhewn stone: they might be erected wherever Jehovah gave occasion for His name to be commemorated; and any Israelite might sacrifice upon them. The passage evidently reflects an early stage of Heb. usage: in later times much more elaborate altars were constructed (Exodus 27:1-8, 1 Kings 8:64, 2 Chronicles 4:1), and the right of sacrifice was ultimately restricted to the priests.

24–26. Altars, their construction, and the places at which they may be erected.

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. tool] The word (ḥéreb) commonly rendered ‘sword,’ occasionally used of other sharp instruments, Joshua 5:2-3 (‘knives’): in Deuteronomy 27:5 E (Joshua 8:31) the word is replaced by ‘iron.’ Cf. 1Ma 4:47. The prohibition may be a survival either from a time when instruments of iron were not in general use, or from the time when the altar was a natural rock or boulder (cf. on v. 24), supposed to be the abode of numen or deity, and it was imagined that to alter its shape would have the effect of driving the numen from it (Nowack, Arch. ii. 17; DB. i. 76a, EB. i. 124). But naturally this is not the belief which actuates the prohibition here. An altar of stones, seemingly unhewn, was built by Elijah (1 Kings 18:32).

it (twice)] The pron. (which is fem. in the Heb.) refers not to ‘altar but to ‘stone’: it is the stone which is profaned by being worked with a tool.

Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.
26. Steps are prohibited, because the command is addressed to the Israelite in general, who would sacrifice in his ordinary dress. In later times, when altars of larger size were constructed, a ledge (see on Exodus 27:5), or steps (Ezekiel 43:17), came into use: but sacrifice was then confined to the priests, and exposure of the person was guarded against in their case by linen drawers being specially prescribed for their use (Exodus 28:42). Cf. OTJC.2[183] p. 358.

[183] W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, ed. 2, 1892.

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