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The Word of the Lord

7/2 – The Lord Spoke these Words (Deuteronomy 5:1-22)


Introduction — Here the writer of this book recounts the speech Moses gave the people of Israel. Poised to enter the land of promise, Moses summons Israel together. He urges them to listen to all that he is saying. Moses wants them to learn and obey the words of the Lord. Moses reminds the people of God’s covenant with them, how the Lord God spoke to them face to face, leaving them awestruck. The Lord God told them to put no other god’s before their faces. The Lord God told them not to make idols, not to worship idols. He told them not to take His name in vain, treating that name as useless. He told them to rest, remembering how He rescued them. He told them to honor their parents. He told them not to murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to lie, and not to covet. The Lord spoke those ten commands with a great voice. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave those to Moses. The Lord God expected the people to listen to those words. He expected them to obey those words. And when they first received the words of the Lord, they promised to obey the words of the Lord. How about us? Do we believe His word? Do we hear the word of the Lord? Do we live in awe of His word? Do we pledge to obey His word?


The LORD made a covenant with His people, Israel.  He spoke to them face to face. He reminded them who He is and what He did on their behalf. The LORD gave clear words for them to hear and to heed. He expected them to obey these words:


You shall have no other gods before Me (7). You shall not make for yourself an idol (8). You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain (11). Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy (12). Honor your father and your mother (16). You shall not murder (17). You shall not commit adultery (18). You shall not steal (19). You shall not bear false witness (20). You shall not covet. (21).


You shall have no other gods before Me (7).


Comment: In this first command, we see that the LORD God directed His people to give complete loyalty to Him. They must not put any gods before, literally in front of or before His face. God cannot be a favorite among several. As Raymond Brown notes, “It [this command] describes the effrontery of someone who can sin blatantly in the presence of the God who has clearly forbidden it. The Israelites are told that God can never be one, even a favourite [sic] one, among several deities. Such teaching ran counter to the popular religious ideas in their day, for other religions were not remotely exclusive in their demands. Syncretism was widely permissible.” (Raymond Brown, The Message of Deuteronomy, p. 83) Question: What gods do we put before the LORD God, the true God, the only God? Do we place our country before Him? Do we put our party before Him? Do we place Him alongside our horoscopes, our political-correctness, and our secret indulgences? Who or what gets our attention and our affection instead of God? Application: First, take an inventory this week of where you spend your time. Think about how much time you spend on yourself, watching television, for example. Next, ask God to help you see obvious areas He needs to change in your life. Ask Him to give you an undivided heart for Him. Finally, focus your attention to God through deliberate and delightful time with Him.


You shall not make for yourself an idol (8).


Comment: In this second command, we see that the LORD God directed His people to worship Him fully. They must neither shrink God down nor make God to their liking. They must not make any idol, bowing to the creation rather than the creator. Again, Raymond Brown is helpful here. “Ours is an idolatrous age, though modern idols are ideas rather than statues. The gods of the late twentieth century are surprisingly like those old Canaanite deities. Baal was the god of self, power, sex and things, and these four highly relevant contemporary idolatries are starkly exposed within the narrow compass of the Decalogue—egotism, despotism, sensualism and materialism.” (The Message of Deuteronomy, p. 83) Question: Do we shrink God down? Do we bow down to the idol of self? Do we make life about us? Application: Approach God with humility and awe.  Ask Him to reveal and root out an idol in your life. It may be one listed above, or it may be another less obvious one. 


You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain (11).


Comment: In this third command, we see that the LORD God directed His people to revere and honor His name. They were not to treat His name as worthless. They were not to take His name lightly. They were not to misuse His name in any way. As Eugene Merrill states, “The prohibition says, literally, ‘You shall not lift up the name of Yahweh your God without reason.’ The meaning clearly is that one must not view the name as a counterpart of Yahweh and then proceed to take it in hand (or in mouth) as a means of accomplishing some kind of ill-advised or unworthy objective. This was typical of ancient Near Eastern sorcery or incantation where the names of the gods were invoked as part of the act of conjuration or of prophylaxis. Whoever violates the sanctity of the name will not be left unpunished.” (Deuteronomy , Vol. 4, p. 149)

Question: Where do we lift up God’s name without reason? Where do we try to accomplish an unworthy objective but still seek God’s blessing?

How or when do we hollow God’s name instead of hallow His name? Application: Do you casually throw out OMG’s in your conversations? Do you “swear to God” when you’re trying to make your story more convincing? Do you invoke God’s name during sketchy behavior? Then stop.


Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy (12).


Comment: In this fourth command, we see that the LORD God directed His people to observe a day of rest by stopping their usual labors and by reflecting on God’s goodness and greatness. They were to carve out a day that looked distinctly different than all the other days. During that sabbath rest, they must remember that (1) they were once slaves in Egypt, and that (2) the LORD God brought them out of there by mighty hand and by an outstretched arm. They must honor the LORD who saved them. Question: Do we honor the Lord who saved us? Do we keep a day of rest? Do we stop our usual labors one day a week? When we stop working, do we recall God’s goodness and greatness? Do we reflect on the wondrous salvation we have through Jesus Christ? Do we look to Him? Do we stand in awe of His outstretched arms on the cross? Do we celebrate our freedom from sin and death? Application: Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy. Stop your usual work for one day. Trust the Lord to provide for you. Consider His lavish love for you in calling you to know Him and follow Him. Look to Christ. See Him as the true and perfect mediator that He is. Stand in awe of God. Listen to His words. Listen to these words. Hear these words. Obey these words.

Word Study for Deuteronomy 5:1-22

1 summoned (qara—call; shout; invoke; give a name to; proclaim; announce)

1 hear (sama—listen; understand things heard; heed; obey)

2 made (karat—cut; cut down; to fell; cut off; make a covenant)

3 covenant (berith—agreement; contract; an eating together; banquet; pledge; binding oath)

5 between (bayin—interval; space between; among; champion)

5 declare (nagad—to propose; announce; inform; to be in front; have reported to)

5 word (dabar—word; speech; discourse; promise; account; statement)

6 LORD (yhwh—I am; Yahweh; Jehovah; true God)

6 God (elohim—God; deity; mighty one; judge)

7 before (paneh—front; head; face; in front; turned towards)

10 lovingkindness (hesed—loyalty; faithfulness; goodness; loyal love; kindness)

11 vain (shav—worthless; futile; empty; inconsequential; false; nothing)

12 observe (samar—keep; watch over; guard; be careful about; preserve)

15 remember (zakar—recall; to recollect; bring to mind; mention; proclaim)

16 honor (kabed—to weigh heavily upon; distinguish; costly; glorify)

17 murder (rasah—murder; slay; dash in pieces; kill; strike down)

18 adultery (naaph—commit adultery; practice idolatry; apostatize; break wedlock)

19 steal (ganab—purloin; take away by theft, secretly; deceive; kidnap)

20 covet (chamad—desire; take pleasure in; be attracted to; treasure; crave)[1]


Application for Deuteronomy 5:1-22

Let’s realize the weight of our Lord’s words.

Let’s see that Jesus is our perfect mediator.

Let’s remember that the Lord our God brought us out of the slavery of sin.

Let’s put no other gods before God.

Let’s not make or worship any idols.

Let’s not take the name of the Lord our God lightly.

Let’s love God and love people.


Gospel Connections for Deuteronomy 5:1-22

Jesus is the perfect mediator. He kept the law perfectly. For example, He never set anyone before the Father. He always honored the Father. He gave glory to His Father. Jesus always loved people. He did not hold murderous hate in His heart. He showed gracious, kind mercy to people. He forgave people who wronged Him. He always spoke the truth. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the word made flesh. With a mighty hand and outstretched arms, Jesus died on the cross for all people. And He will bring all people who trust Him out of the slavery to sin and death. Jesus will write His law on their hearts. Jesus will empower them, by His Spirit, to love God and love people.


Thoughts and Quotes for Deuteronomy 5:1-22

One very difficult aspect of sin is that my sin never feels like sin to me. My sin feels like life to me, plain and simple. My heart is an idol factory, and my mind is an excuse-making factory. ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield


Be confidently assured that any ‘gods’ that we build will always have veracious appetites, and sooner or later they will gorge themselves on that which built them. ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough


It's always easier to avoid temptation than to resist it. ~ Randy Alcorn


It is what sin does to us all; no longer living for God, we live for ourselves. The myriad of dysfunctions of the human community can be traced to this one thing: awe. When we replace vertical awe of God with awe of self, bad things happen in the horizontal community. ~ Paul David Tripp, Awe


Commentary for Deuteronomy 5:1-22

In analyzing the Ten Commandments from a strictly form-critical point of view, it is necessary to recognize that at least two aspects must be considered—that of the form of the individual laws and that of the structure of the section as a whole. One of the most important and positive contributions made by form critics has been the distinction to be seen between apodictic law and casuistic law. The former, characteristic especially of the Decalogue both here and in Exod 20, consists of the statement of expectations or prohibitions without specifying any particular qualifications or prescribing any kind of sanction in the event of infraction. The regular pattern in the statement of expectation (“you shall”) is either the simple imperative followed by the demand (as in the fifth commandment, v. 16) or its equivalent, the infinitive absolute (as the fourth commandment, v. 12). The commandments that express prohibition do so with the negative particle lōʾ plus the imperfect of the verb.

The casuistic law, on the other hand, deals with specific cases or potential cases. There are scores of these throughout the Pentateuch, particularly in the Book of the Covenant (Exod 20:1–23:33) and in Deut 12:1–26:19, the so-called specific stipulations of the Deuteronomic covenant. They consist usually of two main sections, a protasis and an apodosis, the former raising the contingency (“if one does thus and so”) and the latter the expected result (“then here is what should happen”). More technically put, the form of such a law is a dependent clause introduced by a particle such as or ʾim (“if, when, given that,” etc.) followed by the main clause usually introduced by the particle waw (“then” or the like). These kinds will receive more detailed attention as they occur in subsequent discussion.

As for the relationship between the apodictic and casuistic law forms in the covenant texts, at the risk of oversimplification one might say that the apodictic serve as great, fundamental covenant principles whereas the casuistic are applications or even explications of these principles in the specific situations of everyday life. Thus the apodictic “ten words” here in the Deuteronomy Decalogue function as the essence of divine standards and expectations against which every conceivable human attitude and conduct is to be measured. They are, in fact, expressive of the very character of God himself and for that reason alone are timeless and universally applicable. They may be couched in the framework of a covenant between God and a particular people at a particular time, but they cannot be limited by those or any other circumstances.17 This is clear from the fact that Jesus and the New Testament nowhere rescind them and, in fact, always endorse and uphold them as relevant to the church and to all people.

To return to the matter of the structure of the Decalogue, research on the pattern of ancient Near Eastern treaty texts reveals that the body of stipulations almost invariably is preceded by a preamble and a historical prologue. We have noted already that this is the case with Deuteronomy as a whole, and now this possibility must be applied to the heart of this document, namely, the Decalogue and the following stipulation sections. When this is done, it is clear that there is at least a vestigial or greatly abbreviated preamble in v. 6 (“I am the Lord your God”) and an equally succinct historical prologue (“who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery”). The same is true of the Sinai rendition of the covenant text where the identical words are spoken in Exod 20:2.

There are several implications of this including the impossibility of considering v. 6 as the first and a separate commandment and vv. 7–10 as the second, a view held especially in the Jewish tradition. If (as seems certain in view of modern form-critical analysis) v. 6 is actually the preamble plus historical prologue, v. 7 is the first commandment and vv. 8–10 the second. Also the fact that the commandments as a collection are introduced by elements regularly connected with covenant texts places them squarely within a covenant context and precludes their being viewed simply as a block of legal material within an ordinary Mosaic address.[2]


Verses 1–5

Here, 1. Moses summons the assembly. He called all Israel; not only the elders, but, it is likely, as many of the people as could come within hearing, v. 1. The greatest of them were not above God’s command, nor the meanest of them below his cognizance; but they were all bound to do. 2. He demands attention: “Hear, O Israel; hear and heed, hear and remember, hear, that you may learn, and keep, and do; else your hearing is to no purpose.” When we hear the word of God we must set ourselves to learn it, that we may have it ready to us upon all occasions, and what we have learned we must put in practice, for that is the end of hearing and learning; not to fill our heads with notions, or our mouths with talk, but to rectify and direct our affections and conversations. 3. He refers them to the covenant made with them in Horeb, as that which they must govern themselves by. See the wonderful condescension of divine grace in turning the command into a covenant, that we might be the more strongly bound to obedience by our own consent and the more encouraged in it by the divine promise, both which are supposed in the covenant. The promises and threatenings annexed to some of the precepts, as to the second, third, and fifth, make them amount to a covenant. Observe, (1.) The parties to this covenant. God made it, not with our fathers, not with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to them God gave the covenant of circumcision (Acts 7:8), but not that of the ten commandments. The light of divine revelation shone gradually, and the children were made to know more of God’s mind than their fathers had done. “The covenant was made with us, or our immediate parents that represented us, before Mount Sinai, and transacted for us.” (2.) The publication of this covenant. God himself did, as it were, read the articles to them (v. 4): He talked with you face to face; word to word, so the Chaldee. Not in dark visions, as of old he spoke to the fathers (Job 4:12, 13), but openly and clearly, and so that all the thousands of Israel might hear and understand. He spoke to them, and then received the answer they returned to him: thus was it transacted face to face. (3.) The mediator of the covenant: Moses stood between God and them, at the foot of the mount (v. 5), and carried messages between them both for the settling of the preliminaries (Ex. 19) and for the changing of the ratifications, Ex. 24. Herein Moses was a type of Christ, who stands between God and man, to show us the word of the Lord, a blessed days-man, that has laid his hand upon us both, so that we may both hear from God and speak to him without trembling.


Verses 6–22

Here is the repetition of the ten commandments, in which observe, 1. Though they had been spoken before, and written, yet they are again rehearsed; for precept must be upon precept, and line upon line, and all little enough to keep the word of God in our minds and to preserve and renew the impressions of it. We have need to have the same things often inculcated upon us. See Phil. 3:1. 2. There is some variation here from that record (Ex. 20), as there is between the Lord’s prayer as it is in Mt. 6 and as it is Lu. 11. In both it is more necessary that we tie ourselves to the things than to the words unalterably. 3. The most considerable variation is in the fourth commandment. In Ex. 20 the reason annexed is taken from the creation of the world; here it is taken from their deliverance out of Egypt, because that was typical of our redemption by Jesus Christ, in remembrance of which the Christian sabbath was to be observed: Remember that thou wast a servant, and God brought thee out, v. 15. And Therefore, (1.) “It is fit that thy servants should be favoured by the sabbath-rest; for thou knowest the heart of a servant, and how welcome one day’s ease will be after six days’ labour.” (2.) “It is fit that thy God should be honoured by the sabbath-work, and the religious services of the day, in consideration of the great things he has done for thee.” In the resurrection of Christ we were brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore, by the gospel-edition of the law, we are directed to observe the first day of the week, in remembrance of that glorious work of power and grace. 4. It is added in the fifth commandment, That it may go well with thee, which addition the apostle quotes, and puts first (Eph. 6:3), that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long. If there be instances of some that have been very dutiful to their parents, and yet have not lived long upon earth, we may reconcile it to the promise by this explication of it, Whether they live long or no, it shall go well with them, either in this world or in a better. See Eccl. 8:12. 5. The last five commandments are connected or coupled together, which they are not in Exodus: Neither shalt thou commit adultery, neither shalt thou steal, etc., which intimate that God’s commands are all of a piece: the same authority that obliges us to one obliges us to another; and we must not be partial in the law, but have respect to all God’s commandments, for he that offends in one point is guilty of all, Jam. 2:10, 11. 6. That these commandments were given with a great deal of awful solemnity, v. 22. (1.) They were spoken with a great voice out of the fire, and thick darkness. That was a dispensation of terror, designed to make the gospel of grace the more welcome, and to be a specimen of the terrors of the judgment-day, Ps. 50:3, 4. (2.) He added no more. What other laws he gave them were sent by Moses, but no more were spoken in the same manner that the ten commandments were. He added no more, therefore we must not add: the law of the Lord is perfect. (3.) He wrote them in two tables of stone, that they might be preserved from corruption, and might be transmitted pure and entire to posterity, for whose use they were intended, as well as for the present generation. These being the heads of the covenant, the chest in which the written tables were deposited was called the ark of the covenant. See Rev. 11:19.[3]

5:12–15 The fourth commandment, that having to do with Sabbath observance, is one of two commandments expressed in the affirmative. It also varies most from the wording of the Sinai Decalogue and not merely stylistically. It is quite apparent that the events between the giving of the law at Horeb and its renewal here near Beth Peor call for a new understanding of the meaning of the Sabbath and its proper observance. These contrasts will be pointed out in the course of the exposition.

The commandment begins with an infinitival form of the verb šāmar that functions here as an imperative. With the following infinitive and preposition (lĕqaddĕšô), it forms a common hortatory expression, “Watch carefully to keep holy.” The parallel in Exod 20:8 also employs an infinitive absolute, but the verb is zākar, “remember,” rather than šāmar. The verbs as used here are essentially synonymous, but šāmar implies more of an active participation. There is more to Sabbath observance than mere recollection of the past or even determination to conform; there must be a studied effort to keep the day holy, an actual involvement in its requirements and prohibitions. The change in verb may well reflect a tendency on Israel’s part to have made the requirement of Sabbath keeping a matter of mere formality or even indifference (cf. Num 15:32–36). This new expression of the commandment would then address this issue more firmly. Support for this view lies in the clause “as the Lord your God has commanded you” (v. 12), a statement lacking in Exodus and one no doubt referring directly back to that first giving of the law.

The word “Sabbath” (Heb. šabbāt) derives from the verb šābat, “to stop, cease, rest.” The theological and, hence, legal implications go back to the first use of the verb in Gen 2:2–3, which states that God, having created all things in six days, “rested from all his work.” He then blessed the seventh day and “made it holy” (wayqaddēš), the same verb as occurs here. The reason it was made holy was that “on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

It is important to note that šābat means both “to cease” and “to rest,” for both meanings occur in the respective versions of the fourth commandment. In Exodus, as the motive clause makes clear, the seventh day must be set apart because God ceased his creative work on that day, and therefore human work also should cease (Exod 20:11). In Deuteronomy the motive clause bases Sabbath observance on the fact that the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt and therefore it was most appropriate to celebrate deliverance from that bondage by abstaining from labor for one day, that is, by resting (Deut 5:15).

In both cases the seventh day must be made “holy.” Fundamentally, the idea of the word group “holy” is that of separation, of being set aside for some particular use. That is, it has no inherent element of moral content or purity. As holiness becomes associated with God, however, as the absolutely transcendent and perfect one, his attributes of sinlessness and moral and ethical perfection come to stamp holiness itself with these characteristics. Therefore for a person to be holy as the Lord himself is holy (cf. Lev 19:2) is to suggest a way of thought and life that is above reproach.

Obviously, a day cannot be holy in the moral sense, so the meaning of keeping the seventh day holy is that of the normal meaning of the verb, to set it apart for a particular purpose. In this instance it is to withhold that day from profane use so that it may be used for other purposes such as reflection on the Lord and his works of creation and redemption. The form of the verb qdš (piel) when it is used in this sense of setting apart reflects a factitive nuance such as to “put the seventh day into a state of holiness.”

The setting apart of the seventh day having been established, the law goes on to speak of those who must observe it (v. 14). These include the head of the family, family members, slaves, animals, and foreigners. These last, who were not members of the covenant community and are therefore listed even after slaves and animals, were nonetheless responsible to live by the covenant requirements of the host people to whom they had attached themselves. They could include such elements as the “many other people” who accompanied Israel in the exodus (cf. Exod 12:38) or Midianites who joined them later (Num 10:29–33).

An interesting introduction to the so-called “motive-clause,” that is, the statement of rationale for the commandment, appears at the end of v. 14, “So that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.” This is lacking in the Exodus version (cf. Exod 20:9) for a perfectly understandable reason: the motive-clause in Exodus centers on the Sabbath as creation celebration (Exod 20:11) whereas that in Deuteronomy is concerned with the Sabbath as redemption celebration (5:15).

For many years Israel had languished in Egyptian sojourn and slavery and so knew full well the hapless plight of the slave. How appropriate then that Israel’s own slaves, whether indentured fellow Israelites or otherwise, should know something of release even if for only one day a week. In fact, Israel must remember (zākar this time, rather than šāmar, v. 12) their slave days and how the Lord graciously and powerfully delivered them out of slavery, for this was the underlying reason for Sabbath observance. This stands in contrast to the motive clause in Exodus: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exod 20:11).

The principal theological truth to be seen here is the changing theological emphases of the unchanging God. For a people freshly delivered from Egyptian overlordship by the mighty exodus miracle, God as Creator is a central truth. Therefore it is most appropriate that the Sabbath focus on him as Creator and the cessation of that creative work, the very point of the Exodus commandment. From the perspective of the Deuteronomy legislation, some forty years later, creation pales into insignificance in comparison to the act of redemption itself. With the benefit now of historical retrospection and with the anticipation of the crossing of another watery barrier—the Jordan—and the uncertainties of conquest, Israel was to recall its plight as slaves and its glorious release from that hopeless situation. Sabbath now speaks of redemption and not creation, of rest and not cessation.

All this gives theological justification for the observance by the Christian of Sunday rather than Saturday as the day set apart as holy. For the Christian the moment of greatest significance is no longer creation or the exodus—as important as these are in salvation history. Central to his faith and experience is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, a re-creating and redemptive event that eclipses all of God’s mighty acts of the past. Thus by example if not by explicit command Jesus and the apostles mandated the observance of the first day of the week as commemorative of his triumphant victory over death.[4]


[1] Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson

[2] Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, pp. 144–146). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 242–243). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[4] Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, pp. 149–152). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.