After sanctifying themselves in preparation to meet God, the people of Israel gather around the mountain to encounter the God who saved them from Egypt (Ex. 19:10, 11). God then speaks the Ten Commandments, which were an overview of the entire Law, audibly in a thunderous voice from the fire and smoke on Mount Sinai. God dictates a descending order of authority and honor.
- No other gods BEFORE Me
The people of Israel had spent 400 years with Egyptians who continually and collectively worshipped a pantheon of gods that represented various aspects of nature and Egyptian life. Because of this, Egyptian worship of any particular god was not dishonor to any other god as they were disconnected deities. Israel’s God however, was not made up by men or bound by nature but was the Creator and Sustainer of all things. This meant that no other true ‘gods’ existed and Israel’s worship would be appropriately monotheistic. God would not tolerate syncretism (attempted blending of opposing views about god/s) as He proved during the plagues in Egypt. God made it clear that He (Heb. YHWH, ‘I am that/who I am’, Ex. 3:14) was the only real God and that all the other gods of the nations were nothing but made-up myths unable to help or hurt anyone (Deut. 4:34, 35, 39; 32:39; Is. 44:6-8). In view of this, the primary focus for Israel was not to worship or honor, either physically or spiritually, any god before (Heb. al paw-neem ‘before my face’) or alongside YHWH.
- Make no carved IMAGES to worship
The Egyptians had depictions of gods on palace walls, pottery, tombs and made large statues or small images made from silver and gold. Because the Egyptians gave the Israelites many gifts as they left, undoubtedly Israel had many of these images with them (Ex. 12:35, 36). Because of their background, Israel was prone to polytheism. So, God purposely never revealed Himself in a tangible form but chose light, fire, smoke, and lightening so people wouldn’t make an image of Him and worship the ‘form’ rather than God. Because of His great love for his people, any worship of non-existent gods would arouse his jealousy and anger. The consequences of the sin of those who hated God would be generational until repentance happened. The true God deserves true worship from a true heart!