Exodus 20:23 MEANING

Exodus 20:23
(23) Ye shall not make with me gods of silver.--The expression "make with me" is unusual, but does not seem to have any peculiar force. Gods of silver and gods of gold are specially forbidden, because it was to idolatry of this kind that the Israelites were specially inclined. The golden calf is no isolated phenomenon. Molten images of gods, generally of silver, sometimes of gold, were objects of worship to Israel throughout the ages which preceded the Captivity. Jeroboam set up molten images at Dan and Bethel (Kings 14:9; 2 Kings 17:16). Baal was worshipped under the semblance of a molten image (2 Chronicles 28:2) as were probably Ashtaroth, Chemosh, and Moloch. The animal worship of the Egyptians had no attractions for the Hebrews; they did not offer to images of stone or marble, like the Assyrians or the Greeks; much less was it their habit to "bow down to stocks," like so many of the heathen nations around them. The "molten image," generally completed by a certain amount of graving, was the form of idol which had most charms for them, and the more precious the material the more satisfied were they to worship it. (Comp. Isaiah 30:22; Isaiah 42:17; Jeremiah 10:14; Hosea 13:2, &c.). Occasionally indeed they overlaid wood or stone with plates of gold or silver, to produce an idol (Habakkuk 2:19); but such images were at once less common and held in less account.

Verse 23. - Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, etc. This is a repetition, in part, of the second commandment, and can only be accounted for by the prohibition being specially needed. The first idea of the Israelites, when they considered that Moses had deserted them, was to make a golden calf for a god.

20:22-26 Moses having entered into the thick darkness, God there spake in his hearing all that follows from hence to the end of chap. 23, which is mostly an exposition of the ten commandments. The laws in these verses relate to God's worship. The Israelites are assured of God's gracious acceptance of their devotions. Under the gospel, men are encouraged to pray every where, and wherever God's people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them; there he will come unto them, and will bless them.Ye shall not make with me,.... This is a proposition of itself, as appears by the accent Athnach placed at the end of it, which divides it from the following, and therefore "gods of silver" belong to the next clause or proposition; something seems to be wanting to complete the sense, which the Talmudists (s) and Jarchi after them supply thus,"ye shall not make with me as the likeness of my ministers which minister before me on high;''as the seraphim, ministering angels, &c. as the sun, moon, and stars; and so the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases the words,"ye shall not make, to worship, the likeness of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars, and of the planets, and of the angels that minister before me:''or rather, "ye shall not make any likeness with me", or any likeness of me; and so the words stand connected with the preceding verse, that since they only saw the cloud and fire, and perceived the voice of God from thence, but saw no likeness or similitude of him, therefore they were not to make any under a pretence of worshipping him with it, or in it, or by it; and so Ben Melech adds, by way of explanation, although your intention is to my service: "gods of silver and gods of gold ye shall not make unto you"; for so this clause is to be read: that is, images made of gold and silver, images of angels, or of the host of heaven, the sun, moon, and stars, or of great men on earth, as kings or heroes, or of any creature in heaven, earth, or sea; these they were not to make unto them, in order to serve and worship them, or to worship God in them, or by them, or with them: the first images for idolatrous worship were made of gold and silver, because, being rich and glittering, they more affected the minds of the people, as the golden calf a little after made, and perhaps the gods of Egypt were such, at least some of them; wherefore this law against idolatry is repeated, because the people of Israel were prone unto it, and many of them had been ensnared with it in Egypt, upon every occasion were ready to relapse into it: or images made of meaner materials, as brass, wood, and stone, though not mentioned, are equally forbidden; for if those of richer materials were not to be made and worshipped, much less those of baser ones.

(s) T. Bab. Roshhashanah, fol. 24. 1. 2. Avoda Zara, fol, 43. 1. 2.

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