Could someone please explain Exodus 20:3-5 and how are they related?

1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of 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 unto 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 showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.

Edit 23-feb-2022: Update of the verses, and completing them accordingly; and summarizing the post.

Reference: The verses are from Tanakh (1917), JPS.

3 Answers 3


Those who love Yahveh are those who keep His commandments.1 Therefore, those who hate Yahveh do not keep His commandments. Instead of serving Yahveh, which entails obedience to His commandments,2 they serve other gods.

Loving Yahveh means devoting one’s self entirely to Him: worshipping Him, obeying Him, and loving Him with all one’s self.

Deu. 10:12:

12 And now, Israel, what doth Yahveh your god require of you but to fear Yahveh your god, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Yahveh your god with all your heart and with all your soul.

Since “one cannot serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other,”3 to serve another god besides Yahveh is by necessity to hate Yahveh—to be negligent in one’s duty to love Yahveh with all one’s self.

The latter part of Exo. 20:5 which mentions “hate” is connected to Exo. 20:3–5 because those who serve other gods hate Yahveh.


        1 Exo. 20:6
        2 Deu. 11:13, 13:4; Jos. 4:24; 1 Sam. 12:14; Job 36:11; Jer. 13:10; Dan. 7:27
        3 Matt. 6:24


I interpret love and hate covenantally. A person you love is a person with whom you have a covenant/treaty, and being faithful to that covenant is being loving. Excluding someone from covenant and/or not keeping the commitments of the covenant are hatred. God's commandments are the terms of his covenant.

God is a jealous deity and his covenant requires that his people make no deals with any other deity. If they bow down to idols, God will ensure consequences for the family for over 100 years.

In addition, those in covenant with the LORD must love their neighbor as they love themselves:

[Lev 19:18 NASB20] (18) 'You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

The question then became, does that mean that we are only required to covenantally embrace those who are also in covenant with the LORD? Or all other people as well? Who, exactly, is my "neighbor"? Jesus has an encounter with a rich young ruler designed to answer that question:

[Luk 10:25-37 NASB95] (25) And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (26) And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" (27) And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (28) And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." (29) But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (30) Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. (31) "And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) "Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (33) "But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, (34) and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on [them;] and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. (35) "On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (36) "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' [hands?]" (37) And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."

For an overview of the situation in the first century, please see my answer to a related question, here. However, because Judeans began to refer not only to the ethnic Samaritans but to all of the people of the northern regions of Israel as "Samaritans," I'm not sure we can conclude with certainty to which group the "Good Samaritan" belonged. The Samaritans proper were a community of people that were not ethnically Jews and had a very different flavor of Judaism, embracing only the scrolls of Moses. These were dismissed as non-Jews by the Judeans. The more casually used term "Samaritans" referred to all of the covenantally lost northern tribes.

So, the good Samaritan was either one of the ethnically non-Jewish but Torah observant community with whom the Judeans had no dealings, or, the ethnically Jewish but covenantally dead lost sheep of Israel, scattered as a "diaspora," also despised by the Judeans.

Either way we understand Jesus' use of that term, by acting covenantally Jesus says that they were covenantally loved and loving:

[Mat 12:46-50 NASB95] (46) While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. (47) Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." (48) But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" (49) And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! (50) "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

Those who, despite being a priest/Levite failed to show compassion to the hurting man, did not receive the identification as "neighbor" in the covenantal sense.

Related: https://www.quora.com/What-is-love-with-God/answer/Bill-Ross-22


The entire chapter is coherent, with each verse adding an appropriate consequence for a person who breaks any one of the Ten Commandments.

The dual themes of obedience/blessing and disobedience/curses are found throughout the Tanakh. To obey each of the Commandments is to be blessed by God. Conversely, to disobey each of the Commandments is to invoke God's curses. Blessing, curses, the choice is ours to make.

The First Commandment is first, because out of reverence for God as the One and Only God, a believer will be motivated to obey each subsequent Commandment. God brooks no competition. As other scriptures make clear, a believer's duty is to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves. The "vertical" and the "horizontal" relationships that believers have with God and neighbor are intertwined in Exodus 20.

A good interpreter will not stop at verse 5. As harsh as verse 5 may seem (and in context it is not really harsh, but realistic), the following verse, verse 6, contains a wonderful promise. Whereas breaking of God's commandments may have a lingering effect on several generations of people who, like previous generations, refuse to obey God's First Commandment, obedience to the First Commandment can potentially affect a thousand generations.

In conclusion, there is nothing deterministic or fatalistic about either disobedience or obedience. To be created in God's image means in part that God's image-bearers have within their beings the ability to choose to obey or disobey God. On the one hand, to obey God is to invoke God's blessing, and that connection or causality was God's purpose from the beginning (see Genesis 2:16-17).

Likewise, to disobey God is to invoke God's curses, and likewise, that connection or causality fulfills God's purposes from the beginning (compare Genesis 2:16-17 with 1 Peter 2:4-10, and especially verse 8b). For to believe in God's Stone, the Lord Jesus Christ, is to find him to be a precious cornerstone and worthy of praise. To choose not to believe is to reject God's Stone and to stumble and fall.

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