Natan’s Commentary Notes on the Ten Commandments

Exodus 20:2, I am YHVH your Elohim.In Jewish reckoning, the first “commandment” (better translated: “word”) is found in 20:2 with verses 3 through 6 forming the second word and verse 7 the third and so on. YHVH wrote the first five words on the right side of the two tablets of stone and the last five words on the left side. The Jewish sages teach that the first word (commandment) corresponds with the fifth, the second with the sixth and so on—the first set of words governing our relationship with YHVH and the second parallel set of words governing our civil relationships. The two are related and linked. One can’t be fulfilled without the other. (Discuss this.) Relate this to what the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:3–7,9–11; 4:7–11, 19–21; 5:1–3. Also look at Mark 12:30 and John 14:15 in this regard. Love for Elohim must always be our primary motivation for keeping his commandments! 

The Jews (as do I) view Exod 20:2 as the first command. Actually, the term “ten commandments” is a man-made term and misnomer. Look at it, and there are closer to 14 commandments if you look at all the imperative commands. Actually, Exod 20:1 calls these “the words” of Elohim. Hebrew for “words” is “devarim” meaning “words or statements.” This has led the Jews to refer to these as the ten statements, not the ten commandments. This is a more accurate way of describing them.

Exodus 20:3–4, No other gods…carved image. Cp. Deuteronomy 7:25 and 12:3 (also Ps 97:7; Isa 21:9; 42:17), Carved images of their gods. Carved imageis the Hebrew word pehsel in all the listed scriptures. The Deuteronomy verses shows the link between the two commands in Exod 20:3–4 relating to idolatry. The prohibition against the worshipping of false gods and making graven or carved images is actually one command with two parts. Men tend to worship idolize what they can see or make and if they can’t see it, they construct something that conceptualizes or represents their idol. Not every carved image is necessarily an idolatrous image, but it can become so.

Exodus 20:3, Before me.Lit. “before my presence” or “in my face.” When anything in our lives (a belief, a person, something we do, something we own) becomes more important to us than Elohim and his word, we are creating a false god, and are literally throwing that false god into the face of the Living Creator of the universe. Is YHVH Elohim a part of everything we do, say and think? Is the love of Elohim the chief aim of every aspect of our life? Or do we have some dark closet in our heart or mind from which we have excluded him? It is there that we need to begin our search for idols!

Those who love me. Read the last part of this verse, then compare it with what Yeshua said in John 14:15. In Yeshua’s statement, he is claiming to be the deity who gave the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Exodus 20: 7, In vain. The third commandment shows man what his demeanor should be toward the use of the Hebrew names of the biblical deity. We read,

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD [YHVH] thy God [Elohim] in vain [desolation, devastation, ruin, destruction, emptiness of speech, worthlessness, vanity, or falsehood]; for the LORD [YHVH] will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exod 20:7; see also Deut 5:11)

What is it to take YHVH’s name in vain? In vain is the Hebrew word shav (tuA=/UA)meaning “emptiness, vanity, falsehood, nothingness, emptiness of speech, lying.” The root of this word means “ravage, devastate, ruin, waste, desolate, destroy.”

Not only do we learn here that man should not profane YHVH’s name through improper use such as empty, lying and vain speech, but it should not be profaned by falsifying, devastating or ruining it through substituting it with false names or euphemisms. 

Additionally, the name of YHVH should not be forgotten. If it had been YHVH’s intention to have his name not used or forgotten, as Jewish tradition teaches, then why is the tetragrammaton (the four letter name of Elohim, which is YHVH, and is pronounced as Yehovah or Yehowah) found some 6800 times in the Tanakh? That the non-use of his name among his people was not his intention is clear in the Scriptures, which records that the name of YHVH was so prolific that it was even used as a common greeting by the ancient Israelites (Ruth 2:4; Ps 129:8; Jer 31:23).

Exodus 20:8, Remember the Sabbath. Interestingly, this is the only commandment YHVH specifically told the Israelites “to remember.” Why is this? What is the only one of the ten commandments that traditional Christians fail to keep? Did YHVH prophetically envision a day when his people would fail to remember the seventh day Sabbath? Why do people have such a hard time keeping the Sabbath? Why will some Christians extol unendingly the virtues of keeping the “Ten Commandments,” but when it comes to keeping the fourth one, they make every excuse possible to get out of it? What are the deeper spiritual implications of this? Why do so many redeemed Israelites who upon having been exposed to the truth of the Sabbath are still struggling with keeping the Sabbath kadosh (or set-apart) unto YHVH? 

In Exodus 20:8, the Hebrew word for remember is zakar, while in the parallel passage to this verse (Deut 5:12) it says to observe (Heb. shamar) or literally “keep,guard, or protect” the Sabbath. In comparing the slight word differences between these two Sabbath commandment passages, what is YHVH telling us our heart attitude should be toward the Sabbath?

The Sabbath. Interestingly, the Sabbath was the first biblical truth that the post-apostolic apostate-bound Christian church fathers abandoned in the second century. At the same time, the Sabbath is the first thing to which modern mainstream Christian who are rediscovering their Hebraic roots will return.

As such, these modern day spiritual truth-seekers and pilgrims are unwittingly retracing their steps back to the future and back to the point where their second century antecedents jumped off the spiritual bridge that links them to eternity and beyond.

Yeshua the Messiah is the Creator of and LORD of the Sabbath and, when on earth as a human, he never sinned by violating a single Bible commandment including the command to keep the Sabbath holy.

Moreover, the Sabbath was a sign that the Word of Elohim (who later revealed himself in flesh form as Yeshua the Messiah) audibly gave to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai as a sign linking them to himself in a deep, mystical spiritual way.

The Sabbath as a commandment and a sign linking Elohim to his people has never gone away. Yeshua is the same yesterday, today and forever and does not change.

Those who love Yeshua the Messiah will be imitating him (1 Cor 11:1) and showing him their love by keeping his commandments (John 14:15). The Sabbath will link them to him in a deeper spiritual and mystical way that only those who “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy” can fully understand.

Exodus 20:9, Six days you shall labor. 

Are You Really a Sabbath Keeper?

In your mind, what is a Sabbath-keeper? Most people would say that it is one who ceases from their work and rests on the seventh day (or Saturday) as YHVH in the Bible commands his servants to do, and as Yeshua and the apostles all did.

This answer is correct, but only half correct.

As you know, the first biblical example of Sabbath observance is in Genesis 2 when Elohim rested on the Sabbath or seventh day. The next reference is in the ten commandments in Exodus 20. But what else do these two scriptures have in common? In Genesis 2, Elohim rested after having worked for six days. In Exodus 20, the other half of the Sabbath command is to work for six days (Gen 20:6). A lot of people miss that command. Working for six days is just as much a command as resting on the seventh day!

For those of us living an affluent western lifestyle, many don’t have to work for six days. They may only have to work three or four days, if that. Some are retired. Some are living on government disabilities or on welfare and are hardly working, if at all. Some men have become “house husbands” as their wives slave away at jobs supporting them.

But in YHVH’s command to work for six days, he doesn’t list any exceptions (of course, this obviously wouldn’t include the very elderly and those who are severely physically crippled or handicapped or to young children). This being the case, why do I see so many men who are not working, who are sitting around loafing, playing games, goofing off and wasting their time? Many claim to be followers of Yeshua. Some even claim to be Sabbath keepers. Some even have their wives supporting them financially, while they loaf around. I see it all the time. When you talk to them, they’ll say, I’m retired (at age 55 or 64???), or I’m disabled (see the disabled tag hanging on my car mirror?). Some are legitimately “disabled” (whatever that’s suppose to mean). Others claim to be incapacitated from doing one type of task, but maybe they could rehabilitate and reeducate and learn to do another kind of work instead? There’s a novel idea.

What about those who use retirement as an excuse to be a lazy loafer? Where is retirement mentioned in the Bible? Did Moses retire? Joshua, David, the prophets and apostles? Or did they keep working until they died? They all died “with their boots on!”

When I say “work”, I’m not necessarily talking about an eight hour a day paying job. One can still be working in unconventional ways. This can involve volunteering, ministering, serving others in some way, or teaching others what you know of those six days. You may or may not get paid for it, but it’s still work if your actively attempting to leave the world a better place than you found it.

I would rather be one who burns out than one who rusts out.

Yeshua told us to occupy until he comes (Luke 19:13). The word occupy means “to be occupied in anything, or to carry on a business.” Too many people are occupying the coach. Sorry guys, but this doesn’t count!

Are you burying in the earth the talents and resources YHVH has given you, or are you using them to help advance his kingdom? Hopefully the latter.

Will you hear the words of your Creator on the day of judgment, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy YHVH.” Or will say to him, “Don’t you know Lord, I was disabled, retired or I had one those disabled thingies hanging on my car mirror, which exempted me from following your command to work six days. Sorry Lord.”


(For more articles that I have written on the seventh day Sabbath and YHVH’s annual sabbaths, go to https://www.hoshanarabbah.org/teaching.html#shabbat and https://www.hoshanarabbah.org/teaching.html#feast.)

Exodus 20:12, Honor your father. What does it mean to honor one’s father and mother? Honor is the Hebrew word kavod meaning “to be heavy, be weighty, be grievous, be hard, be rich, be honourable, be glorious, be burdensome, be honoured.” This basic definition, however, doesn’t give us much insight into what it means to honor one’s parents. According to The Theological Wordbook of the OT, the basic meaning of kavod is “to be weighty or heavy,” but in the Scriptures this word is rarely used in its literal sense, but figuratively (e.g. “to be heavy with sin”). “From this usage it is an easy step to the concept of a ‘weighty’ person in society, someone who is honorable, impressive, worthy or respect. This later usage is prevalent in more than half the occurrences” (ibid).

Exodus 20:12, Honor your father and mother. Most people subdivide the ten comments into two sections: The first four pertain to loving Elohim, while the last six show us how to love our fellow man. The fifth commandment to honor our parents is usually part of the last six. My view is that the fifth commandment (honor our parents) is a hinge commandment that belongs with the first four and the last five. Torah teaching starts in the home with the parents. If parents are honored, children will end up keeping the Torah. At the same time, if children honor their righteous parents, they will automatically transfer that love to Elohim as they grow up. So to honor your parents is to honor YHVH, and so that commandment belongs with the first four. But it also belongs with the last four, since it’s the gateway for children to learn how to love YHVH, and if we learn to love our parents, we will love our fellow man. That’s why I call it a hinge commandment.

Exodus 20:17–19, You shall not covet…said to Moses. YHVH was only able to proclaim the first ten of his commandments before the people requested that he not speak to them audibly any longer, but that he would, instead, convey his commands to them through Moses. 

Exodus 20:20, His fear…sin. The fear of YHVH helps to prevent man from sinning.

 

11 thoughts on “Natan’s Commentary Notes on the Ten Commandments

  1. According to Ezekiel 36:27, the indwelling Holy Spirit, sent by Yeshua from Heaven, causes a believer to follow all of God’s Law.

  2. So, here’s a question for you Natan, Since Gen 1:25 ends with Adam and Eve in the garden and it being the 6th day, and Gen 2:1 begins with the serpent tempting them, was this on the 7th day? And if so, were Adam And Eve actually breaking not only the commandment not to eat of the wrong tree but also breaking the Sabbath commandment?
    And since the 4th commandment points to Who the Creator is, did they already forget this when they listened to the serpent ,thereby breaking the 1st commandment? Now since shamar means to keep guard and protect, isn’t this what Adam was supposed to do in the garden, “keep’ it same as we are told to do in Jude 3 “earnestly “contend” , keep, guard, protect, adhere to, fight for, the faith once delivered? What do you think?

  3. Yes, the word ‘statements’ is much more fitting than ‘commandments’, since the ‘first one’ definitely is not a command.
    Sonja

  4. Natan, regarding the Word to “remember” the Sabbath in Exodus and “keep” it in Deuteronomy, might this reflect the Torah infancy of the people upon leaving Egypt, while addressing their maturity as they were about to enter the promised land? Perhaps we could encourage disciples new to Torah to remember the Sabbath as they begin building Torah into their lives, knowing that keeping it will come as they mature?

    And I love how you pointed out the need to work six days a week as we do here in Israel.
    I always remind my orthodox brothers here that they’re breaking the Sabbath instruction when they’re shopping on Fridays. But then I comfort them by telling them that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, and as they glance at me strangely, I wish them Shabbat Shalom!

    By the way, what happened to Exodus 20:13-16?

    • Dear Aryeh,
      Why do you think shopping on Friday breaks the Shabbat commandment? I thought Friday is the preparation day and therefore it is o.k. to shop until sunset. Please explain.
      Also, does everyone in Israel has to work 6 days per week and only has 1 day off? That seems very unusual in a Western country.
      What do you mean with your last question?
      Shalom, Sonja

  5. Sonja Shabbat shalom,
    I should have explained why “shopping” on Friday was a problem for my orthodox brothers. The members of Y’shivot [religious study centers] regard their Torah studies on a daily basis as “work”, so when they’re shopping on Fridays, they’re not working that 6th day. Normally, I wouldn’t make it an issue, but they like to ask others if they’re keeping the Shabbat, so I figure it’s only fair to make them aware of their hypocracy.

    Many people here in Israel work six days a week as it was one of the Zionist principles upon which the Jewish State was founded. Any movement towards a five day work week is geared towards making it possible to shop and do errands on the sixth day instead of doing them after work. And believe me, when you work six days a week, you don’t have to “make” Shabbat a special day, it truly becomes a great natural blessing. When I first made aliyah back in 1971, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take a six day work week, but I discovered something wonderful: Work became my life and I never fell into the trap of TGIF and the Monday morning blues, ever again. Torah truly is wisdom.

    I asked about Exodus 20:13-16 because in Natan’s article, these verses were skipped over.

    • Thanks Aryeh,
      I do understand now. Unfortunately, hypocrisy is not unusual among believers, be it Christians or Rabbinical Jews. As a matter of fact, we all have to be on the alert that we don’t become hypocrites.
      I also look forward to Shabbat now and really enjoy it while for a time it was rather difficult not to do worldly things on Shabbat.
      Blessings, Sonja

  6. Sonja – “not doing worldly things on Shabbat” – Yes, living outside Israel requires one to first remember the Shabbat before keeping it. Here it’s easy. Nothing is “open for business” on Shabbat. And just after sundown, it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop. And then you hear the faint singing of families as they welcome the Shabbat in their homes. And the atmosphere is so thick with holiness that one is deeply comforted by the knowledge that the Lord’s people “is” following His commandments. And yet this remains a secret among the nations who are made to see us as secular and besieged by enemies, even as The Lord remains With Us and For Us, as we thrive under the canopy of His Grace.
    Shabbat shalom,
    Aryeh

    • Yes, we know that the majority of people living in Israel are secular; I am surprised therefore, that all shops are closed on Shabbat, or is this only the case in Jerusalem? What about Tel Aviv? Someone told me its the gay capital of the world?
      Thank you for your information. I have never been in Israel but I am very interested in Israel; what happens there is so prophetic.
      Blessings, Sonja

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