RSB Study NotesExodus 20:5-6
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my [HASHTAG]#commandments[/HASHTAG].
jealous. When used of God, this word describes His passion for His holy name, a zeal that demands the exclusive devotion of His people. It is employed when that claim is threatened by other deities (Deut. 6:15; Josh. 24:19).
third and the fourth generation. The longest span of generations represented in a given household at any one time. The severity of God’s judgment on subsequent generations warns those who love their children’s children of the terrible consequences of their sin.
showing steadfast love. God’s covenant mercy, or steadfast love (Hebrew hesed) is His devotion to His people
John Gill's [HASHTAG]#Exposition[/HASHTAG]
Thou shall not bow down thyself to them
Perform any worship to them, show any reverence of them by any gesture of the body; one being mentioned, bowing the body, and put for all others, as prostration of it to the earth, bending the knee, kissing the hand, lifting up of hands or eyes to them, or by any outward action expressing a religious esteem of them, as if there was divinity in them:
nor serve them;
in a religious manner, internally or externally, by offering sacrifice and burning incense to them; by praying to, or praising of them; by expressing love to them, faith and trust in them, hope and expectation of good things from them, and the like. The reason of this second command, relating to the making and worshipping of images, next follows:
for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God;
jealous of his own honour and glory, and will not give it to another; even to graven images, nor suffer it to be given to them without resenting it; and jealousy is fierce and cruel, and breaks forth into great wrath, and issues in dreadful scenes oftentimes among men; as a man that has reason to be jealous of his wife, and especially if he takes her and the adulterer in the fact, it often costs them both their lives, being so enraged at such an insult upon him, and such a violation of the marriage bed; and thus the great Jehovah, the God of Israel, their head and husband, is represented, in order to deter from idolatry, or spiritual adultery, than which nothing could be more provoking to him:
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children;
meaning chiefly, if not solely, the iniquity of idolatry; which being such an insult on his honour, "crimen laesae majestatis", is treated by him as high treason is among men; not only he punishes the authors and perpetrators of it in their own persons, which is meant by "visiting", but upon their children also, which are parts of themselves; and whatsoever is inflicted on them is the same as on themselves, and is an addition to, and a sensible aggravation of their punishment; and especially these are visited in such a manner, when they tread in their father's steps, and fill up the measure of their iniquity. So the Targum of Jonathan,
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;``visiting the iniquity of ungodly fathers on rebellious children:''
as all idolaters must be thought to do, whatsoever love and affection they may pretend to God, by [HASHTAG]#worshipping[/HASHTAG] idols before him, besides him, along with him, or him in them: "the third and fourth generation" are mentioned, because sometimes parents lived to see these, and so with their eyes beheld the punishment inflicted upon their posterity for their sins, which must be distressing to them; or, however, these being but small removes from them, might impress their minds and affect them, to think what their sins would bring upon their descendants, who would quickly come after them, and share in the sad effects of their iniquities, and so be a means to deter them from them.
And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me
And show their love by worshipping God, and him only, by serving him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, by a cheerful obedience to all his commands, by all religious exercises, both internal and external, as follows:
and keep my commandments;
not only this, but all others; for keeping these from right principles, and with right views, is an instance and evidence of love to God, see ( John 14:15 John 14:21 John 14:23 ) and to such persons he shows mercy and kindness, performs acts of grace, and bestows on them blessings of goodness; and indeed it is owing to his own grace, mercy, and kindness to them, that they do love him, and from a principle of love observe his precepts; and this is shown to thousands, to multitudes, who are blessed with such grace as to love the Lord, and keep his commandments: though rather this is to be understood of a thousand generations, and not persons, and should have been supplied, as in the preceding verse, "unto a thousand generations", God being more abundant in showing mercy, and exercising grace and goodness, than he is rigorous in inflicting punishment.