The Meaning of Exodus 20:5 Explained

Exodus 20:5

KJV: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to 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;

YLT: Thou dost not bow thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, Jehovah thy God, am a zealous God, charging iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third generation, and on the fourth, of those hating Me,

Darby: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, Jehovah thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and to the fourth generation of them that hate me,

ASV: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them, for I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me,

What does Exodus 20:5 Mean?

Context Summary

Exodus 20:1-17 - The "ten Words" Spoken At Sinai
The Law was given by the disposition of angels, through the medium of Moses. See John 1:17; Acts 7:53. It tells us, not what God is, for that is only shown in Jesus Christ, but what man should be. It combines in a concise form that moral code which is part of the nature of things, and is written on man's conscience. See Romans 2:5. Even the Fourth Commandment is deeply graven on our physical nature. These laws are mostly negative, but their positive side is stated in Matthew 5:1-48. For practical purposes this divine code consists of two divisions or tables; the first, of our duties toward God; the second, of those to man; but these are summed up in the one great law of love. See Mark 12:29-31; Romans 13:8-10 and Galatians 5:14. Our Lord Jesus stands surety for us at the bar of Sinai. By His righteousness imputed and imparted, by His obedience and death, by the gracious indwelling of His Spirit, He comes "not to destroy, but to fulfill." See Matthew 5:17; Romans 8:4. [source]

Chapter Summary: Exodus 20

1  The ten commandments are spoken by Jehovah
18  The people are afraid, but Moses comforts them
21  Idolatry is forbidden
23  Of what sort the altar should be

What do the individual words in Exodus 20:5 mean?

Not you shall bow down to them nor serve them for I Yahweh your God [am] a God jealous visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the sons to the third and fourth [generations] of those who hate Me
לֹֽא־ תִשְׁתַּחְוֶ֥֣ה‪‬ לָהֶ֖ם֮ וְלֹ֣א תָעָבְדֵ֑ם֒ כִּ֣י אָֽנֹכִ֞י יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ אֵ֣ל קַנָּ֔א פֹּ֠קֵד עֲוֺ֨ן אָבֹ֧ת עַל־ בָּנִ֛ים עַל־ שִׁלֵּשִׁ֥ים וְעַל־ רִבֵּעִ֖ים לְשֹׂנְאָֽ֑י

תִשְׁתַּחְוֶ֥֣ה‪‬  you  shall  bow  down 
Parse: Verb, Hitpael, Imperfect, second person masculine singular
Root: שָׁחָה  
Sense: to bow down.
לָהֶ֖ם֮  to  them 
Parse: Preposition, third person masculine plural
וְלֹ֣א  nor 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Adverb, Negative particle
Root: הֲלֹא 
Sense: not, no.
תָעָבְדֵ֑ם֒  serve  them 
Parse: Verb, Hofal, Imperfect, second person masculine singular, third person masculine plural
Root: עָבַד  
Sense: to work, serve.
יְהוָ֤ה  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙  your  God 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural construct, second person masculine singular
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
אֵ֣ל  [am]  a  God 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: אֵל 
Sense: god, god-like one, mighty one.
קַנָּ֔א  jealous 
Parse: Adjective, masculine singular
Root: קַנָּא  
Sense: jealous (only of God).
פֹּ֠קֵד  visiting 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Participle, masculine singular
Root: פָּקַד 
Sense: to attend to, muster, number, reckon, visit, punish, appoint, look after, care for.
עֲוֺ֨ן  the  iniquity 
Parse: Noun, common singular construct
Root: עָוֹן  
Sense: perversity, depravity, iniquity, guilt or punishment of iniquity.
אָבֹ֧ת  of  the  fathers 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: אָב  
Sense: father of an individual.
בָּנִ֛ים  the  sons 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: בֵּן 
Sense: son, grandson, child, member of a group.
שִׁלֵּשִׁ֥ים  the  third 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: שִׁלֵּשִׁים  
Sense: pertaining to the third, third (generation).
רִבֵּעִ֖ים  fourth  [generations] 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: רִבֵּעַ  
Sense: pertaining to the fourth.
לְשֹׂנְאָֽ֑י  of  those  who  hate  Me 
Parse: Preposition-l, Verb, Qal, Participle, masculine plural construct, first person common singular
Root: שָׂנֵא  
Sense: to hate, be hateful.