The Meaning of Exodus 20:7 Explained

Exodus 20:7

KJV: Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

YLT: 'Thou dost not take up the name of Jehovah thy God for a vain thing, for Jehovah acquitteth not him who taketh up His name for a vain thing.

Darby: Thou shalt not idly utter the name of Jehovah thy God; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that idly uttereth his name.

ASV: Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

What does Exodus 20:7 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Taking God"s name in vain means using the name of God in a common way. The name of God represents the person of God. The Israelites were to show respect for the person of God by their use of His name. They were not to use it simply for emphasis or for any unworthy objective in their speech (cf. Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12).
"The third commandment is directed not toward Yahweh"s protection, but toward Israel"s. Yahweh"s name, specifically the tetragrammaton but in principle all Yahweh"s names and titles, must be honored, blessed, praised, celebrated, invoked, pronounced, and so shared. To treat Yahweh"s name with disrespect is to treat his gift lightly, to underestimate his power, to scorn his Presence, and to misrepresent to the family of humankind his very nature as "The One Who Always Is."" [1]
The "tetragrammaton" refers to the four-letter name YHWH.

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 20:7 mean?

Not You shall take - the name of Yahweh your God in vain for will hold [him] guiltless Yahweh - who takes His name in vain -
לֹ֥א תִשָּׂ֛א אֶת־ שֵֽׁם־ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ לַשָּׁ֑וְא כִּ֣י יְנַקֶּה֙ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־ יִשָּׂ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ לַשָּֽׁוְא פ

תִשָּׂ֛א  You  shall  take 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Imperfect, second person masculine singular
Root: נָשָׂא  
Sense: to lift, bear up, carry, take.
אֶת־  - 
Parse: Direct object marker
Root: אֹות 
Sense: sign of the definite direct object, not translated in English but generally preceding and indicating the accusative.
שֵֽׁם־  the  name 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular construct
Root: שֵׁם  
Sense: name.
יְהוָ֥ה  of  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ  your  God 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural construct, second person masculine singular
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
לַשָּׁ֑וְא  in  vain 
Parse: Preposition-l, Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: שָׁוְא  
Sense: emptiness, vanity, falsehood.
יְנַקֶּה֙  will  hold  [him]  guiltless 
Parse: Verb, Piel, Imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: נָקָה  
Sense: to be empty, be clear, be pure, be free, be innocent, be desolate, be cut off.
יְהוָ֔ה  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
אֵ֛ת    - 
Parse: Direct object marker
Root: אֹות 
Sense: sign of the definite direct object, not translated in English but generally preceding and indicating the accusative.
יִשָּׂ֥א  takes 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: נָשָׂא  
Sense: to lift, bear up, carry, take.
שְׁמ֖וֹ  His  name 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular construct, third person masculine singular
Root: שֵׁם  
Sense: name.
לַשָּֽׁוְא  in  vain 
Parse: Preposition-l, Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: שָׁוְא  
Sense: emptiness, vanity, falsehood.
פ  - 
Parse: Punctuation