Deuteronomy 5
Pulpit Commentary
And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.
Verse 1. - And Moses called all Israel [called to all Israel], and said. "The calling refers not to the publicity of the address, but to the clear voice which, breaking forth from the inmost heart of Moses, aimed at penetrating, as far as possible, to all (Genesis 49:1; John 7:37)" (Schroeder). (Cf. also Proverbs 8:4.)
The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.
Verses 2, 3. - Not with our fathers, the patriarchs (cf. Deuteronomy 4:37.) The covenant to which Moses refers is not that made with Abraham, but that made at Sinai, with Israel as a people; and though the individuals who were then present had all perished with the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the nation survived, and as it was with the nation as an organic whole that the covenant had been made. it might be with propriety said that it was made with those whom Moses addressed at this time, inasmuch as they constituted the nation.
The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.
The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire,
Verses 4, 5. - The Lord talked with you face to face. God spoke to them immediately, in their presence and to their face, from the mount, as one person might to another. There is a slight difference in form between the phrase here and that in Exodus 33:11 and Deuteronomy 34:10, where it is used in reference to Moses, but it is so slight (בְּפָּנִים instead of אֶל־פָּנִים) that no difference of meaning can be elicited. God spake directly to the people, as he did to Moses, only Moses was admitted to closer communion with him than the people were. This difference is sufficiently indicated in ver. 5, where the mediatory function of Moses, in the promulgation of the Law and the making of the covenant, is described as necessitated by the fear of the people, and their not going up into the mount (cf. Exodus 19:19, etc.). This is referred to more fully afterwards (ver. 23, etc.). I stood between the Lord and you; i.e. acted as mediator; LXX., εἱστήκειν ἀνὰ μέσον (cf. Galatians 3:19).
(I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying,
I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Verse 6. - I am Jehovah thy God. "The Law, the establishing rule for men, can proceed only from him who alone and over all stands fast; i.e. from God, specially as Jehovah. The eternal, unchangeable One, since he demands the obedience of faith (is not merely the moral imperative), must not only reveal himself, but in revealing himself must claim Israel as loyal and faithful; thy God" (Schroeder).
Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
Verses 7-21. - Repetition of the Ten Commandments. On these, as the basis of the covenant, the whole legislation rests, and therefore a rehearsal of them is a fitting introduction to a repetition and enforcement of the laws of the theocracy. Some differences appear between the statement of the "ten words," as given here and as given in Exodus 20. It is chiefly in the fourth commandment that these are to be found. It begins here with "remember" for "keep;" reference is made to the command of God as sanctioning the Sabbath (ver. 12), which is omitted in Exodus; a fuller description of the animals to be exempted from work on that day is given (ver. 14); the words, "that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou" are added (ver. 14); and in place of a reference to the resting of God after the Creation as the ground of the Sabbath institute, as in Exodus, there is here a reference to the deliverance of the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt as a reason why the Lord commanded them to keep the Sabbath day (ver. 15). In the fifth commandment there are two additions here-the one of the words," as Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee," and the other of the words, "that it may go well with thee" (ver. 16). In the tenth commandment, the first two clauses are transposed, "desire" appears in place of "covet" in relation to "wife," and "field" is added to the specification of objects (ver. 21). These differences are of little moment. The only one demanding notice is that in the fourth commandment, where different reasons are assigned for the ordinance of the Sabbath. The two reasons assigned, however, are perfectly compatible; the one is fundamental and universally applicable, the other is subsidiary and special in its application; the one is a reason why the Sabbath was originally instituted and is for all men, the other is a reason why it was specially and formally instituted in Israel and was especially memorable to that people. In a popular address to them it seems fitting that the latter rather than the former should be the one adduced. As a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt, the Sabbath was all important to them, for by it they were constantly reminded that "they were thereby freed from the dominion of the world to be a peculiar possession of Jehovah, and so amid the toil and trouble of the world had part in the holy rest of their God" (Baumgarten). It was also fitting in a recapitulatory address that special emphasis should be laid on the fact that what the Law enunciated was what "the Lord had commanded." The addition of "field" in the tenth commandment is probably due to the fact that now, the occupation and division of the land having begun, the people were about to have, what they had not before - each his own property in land. In the tenth commandment, also, there is a difference in the two accounts worthy of notice. In Deuteronomy, "field" is added to the enumeration of objects not to be coveted, and the "wife" is put first and apart, while in Exodus the "house" precedes the "wife" and the latter ranks with the rest. In Deuteronomy also this separation of the wife is emphasized by a change of the verb: "Neither shalt thou desire (תַּחְמֹד) thy neighbor's wife, neither shalt thou covet (תִּתְאַוָּה) thy neighbor's house," etc. Verses 7-16. - FIRST TABLE OF THE LAW praecepta pietatis. Verse 7. - In this, the first commandment, the great principle and basis of all true religion is asserted - monotheism, as opposed to polytheism or pantheism There is but one God, and that God is Jehovah, the self-existent and eternal, who yet has personal relations with men.
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
Verses 8-10. - Here the spirituality of God is asserted, and, in the prohibition of the use of images in the worship of the Deity, all idolatry is denounced, and all deification of the powers of nature in any sense is prohibited. By the Jews, this commandment was not always regarded, for they were not infrequently seduced into following the idolatrous usages of the nations around them. It does not appear, however, that, though they set up images of the idol-gods whom they were thus led to worship, they ever attempted to represent by image or picture the great God whom their fathers worshipped - Jehovah - by whom this command was given; and at a later period, when they had long renounced all idolatry, they became noted as the one nation that adored the Deity as a spirit, without any sensible representation of him: "Judaei mente sola unumque Numen intelligunt... igitur nulla simulacra urbibus suis, nedum temples sinunt" (Tacit., 'Hist.,' 5:5). It appears that, by many of them at least, the commandment was regarded as prohibiting absolutely the graphic and plastic arts (Philo, 'Quis Rer. Div. Haer. sit.,' p. 496, edit. Mangey; ' De Ebriet.,' p. 374; ' De Gigant.,' p. 270). This may account for the low state of these arts among the Jews, and for the fact that they alone of the civilized nations of antiquity have left no monuments of art for the instruction or admiration of posterity. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; LXX., προσκυνήσιες αὐτοῖς οὐδὲ μή λατρεύσης αὐτοῖς. Every kind of worship of images is forbidden, alike that of proskunesis and that of latria. And showing mercy unto thousands; i.e. to the thousandth generation (cf. Deuteronomy 7:9)
Thou shalt not bow down thyself 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,
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
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.
Verse 11. - Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; literally, Thou shalt not take [or lift] up the Name of Jehovah thy God to vanity. This commandment forbids not only all false swearing by the Name of God, but all profanation of that Name by an irreverent or light use of it (Leviticus 19:12).
Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
Verses 12-14. - Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. This phraseology implies that the Sabbath institute was already well known to the people of Israel; so that this commandment was intended, not to enact a new observance, but to enforce the continuance of an observance which had come down to them from earlier times. The Sabbath was to be kept by being sanctified. This means that it was to be consecrated to God to be used as he had appointed. The sanctification of any object "always goes back to an act of the Divine will, to Divine election and institution. In other words, it is always a state in which the creature [or institute] is bound to God by the appointment of God himself, which is expressed by קֹדֶשׁ הִקְדִישׁ קִדֵּשׁ קָדושׁ, XXX" (Oehler, 'Theology of the Old Testament,' vol. 1. p. 155). The sanctification of the Sabbath, accordingly, was the consecration of that day to the Lord, to be observed as he had enjoined, that is, as a day of rest from all servile work and ordinary occupations. Among the Jews, those who were careful to keep this law "rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). Not, however, in mere indolence and idle vacancy, unworthy of a man. Not thus could the day be sanctified to the Lord. Man had to "release his soul and body from all their burdens, with all the professions and pursuits of ordinary life, only in order to gather himself together again in God with greater purity and fewer disturbing elements, and renew in him the might of his own better powers" (Ewald, 'Antiquities of Israel,' p. 102). In the Sabbath institute, therefore, lies the basis of spiritual worship and pious service in Israel.
Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Verse 16. - The germ of society is the family, and the family is sustained only as the authority and rule of the heads of the house are upheld and respected. The command, then, to honor parents may be justly regarded as asserting the foundation of all social ordinances and arrangements. Where parents are not honored, a flaw lies at the basis, and the stability of the entire social fabric is endangered.
Thou shalt not kill.
Verses 17-21. - SECOND TABLE OF THE LAW: praecepta probitatis. In the enactments of the second table there is a progression from the outward to the inward. First, sins of deed are prohibited, such as murder, adultery, and theft; then sins of word, such as injury of a neighbor's good name by false testimony; and finally, sins of the heart, which do not come into open manifestation, such as covetousness and evil desire. The "commandment" is thus seen to be" exceeding broad" (Psalm 119:96). So that only the man "who hath clean hands and a pure heart, and who hath not lifted up his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully," shall "ascend into the hill of the Lord, or stand in his holy place" (Psalm 24:8, 4).
Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
Neither shalt thou steal.
Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.
These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.
Verses 22-27. - Here is an expanded citation of Exodus 20:15-18, addressed by Moses to prepare the way for the solemn admonition to observe and do all that the Lord had commanded them, with which he passes on to the enunciation of the various statutes and ordinances he had been enjoined by God to lay upon them. Verse 22. - And he added no more. "Only these ten words did God speak immediately to you; all the rest he spoke afterwards by me" (Herxheimer); cf. Numbers 11:25, where the same formula occurs, "and they added not," i.e. they prophesied only when the Spirit of God came on them, but this was not continuous. And he wrote them in two tables of stone. This anticipates what is recorded in its proper historical connection in Deuteronomy 9:10, 11.
And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders;
Verses 23-27. - In a purely historical narrative such as that in Exodus, a condensed statement of what took place on this occasion was sufficient; but in an address to the people, it was fitting that Hoses should give it in fuller detail, especially in view of what follows.
And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth.
Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die.
For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?
Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.
And the LORD heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the LORD said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.
Verses 28, 29. - The words of God in reply to those of the people are not given in Exodus; here they are fittingly inserted God approved of their words because they expressed a proper reverence and m due sense on their part of the unworthiness of sinful men to come into the presence of the great and holy God; but knowing their fickleness, and proneness to forget and depart from him, he added, Oh that there were such an heart in them that they would fear me and keep all my commandments always! God looks upon the heart, and will accept no service or worship that is not rendered from the heart. Only they who do his will from the heart (Ephesians 6:6) really fear and keep his commandments. The tongue may sometimes promise what the heart does not guarantee; and so when the occasion that provoked the utterance has passed, the whole may be forgotten, and the promise never be fulfilled.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
Go say to them, Get you into your tents again.
Verses 30, 31. - The people were commanded to return to their tents, and Moses was appointed to act as mediator between God and them, receiving from him his commandments and communicating them to the people.
But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.
Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
Verses 32, 33. - Moses winds up this part of his discourse by exhorting them to observe and do all God's commandments, not in any way departing from that course of action to which he had called them, that they might live, and it should be well with them in the land they were about to possess. Verse 32. - To the right hand or to the left. "This signifieth an exact care to walk in God's Law, as in the highway, from which men may not turn aside, as in Deuteronomy 2:27" (Ainsworth); cf. Deuteronomy 17:11, 20; Deuteronomy 28:14; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 4:27; Isaiah 30:21. "To receive what God enjoins is only half obedience; it belongs thereto also that nothing be required beyond this. We must not desire to be more righteous than as we are taught by the Law" (Calvin).

Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

Bible Hub
Deuteronomy 4
Top of Page
Top of Page