The Ten Commandments, 1-33

Deut 5:1 Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.

Deut 5:2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.

Deut 5:3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

Deut 5:4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.

Deut 5:5 (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

Deut 5:6 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Deut 5:7 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Deut 5:8 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

‘Although the Israelites repudiated actual physical images of Yahweh, they were not lacking in creativity when it came to rhetorical imagery for Yahweh, drawn vigorously from the created and human order. Israel’s language imagery for Yahweh made him very “visible” to the mental eye through a rich and often daring anthropomorphic and metaphorical style. The affirmation that Yahweh is personal seemed more urgent than fear about his invisible spirituality…Yahweh is the living God, and any carved statue is necessarily lifeless. Something that can do nothing is no image of the God who can do all things. The only legitimate image of God, therefore, is the image of God created in his own likeness – the living, thinking, working, speaking, breathing, relating human being (not even a human statue will do, but only the living person)…As the speaking God, Yahweh reveals, addresses, promises, challenges, confronts, demands. Any attempt to turn Yahweh into a voiceless statue effectively gags God. Idolatry therefore is fundamentally an escape from the living voice and commands of the living God’ (Wright)

Deut 5:9 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 fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

‘The jealousy of Yahweh is a function of his covenant commitment to his people. Having committed himself exclusively to them, he requires loyalty in return. In a context of committed love, the exclusion of rivals (i.e. jealousy) is a perfectly proper concern, as that celebration of human love declares:

Love is as strong as death its jealousy as unyielding as the grave. (Song 8:6)

The covenant relationship between God and God’s people really means something only if God is totally committed to it. A God who was not jealous for the reciprocal committment of God’s [people would be as contemptible as a husband who didn’t care whether or not his wife was faithful to him. Part of our problem with this profound covenantal reality is that we have come to regard religion, like everything else, as a matter of “consumer choice,” which we have virtually deified for its own sake. We resent monopolies. But the unique and incomparable, only living God makes necessarily exclusive claims and has the right to a monopoly on our love…Jealousy is God’s love protecting itself.’ (Wright)

Deut 5:10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Deut 5:11 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Deut 5:12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.

Deut 5:13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

Deut 5:14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.

Deut 5:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Deut 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Deut 5:17 “You shall not murder.

Deut 5:18 “You shall not commit adultery.

Deut 5:19 “You shall not steal.

Deut 5:20 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

‘Though the primary reference of the commandment is to false testimony in court, it also embodies a concern about truthfulness in the wider spheres of human relating. The OT, especially in the Psalms and Wisdom literature, has a passionate interest in truth, partly as a reflection of an essential characteristic of Yahweh himself, and partly out of an throroughly practical and consequential awareness of the cost to individuals and society as a whole when lying becomes endemic.’ (Wright)

‘The commandment is not simply about telling the truth in general, but about telling the truth in the place where it counts most, because that is where lying can cost most – the court of law.’ (Wright, on Deut 5:20)

The OT law recognised that temptations to give false witness may come from

  • fraud and greed, Lev 19:11-13
  • slander and hatred, Lev 19:16-18
  • crowd pressure and conspiracy, Ex 23:1f
  • misplaced favouritism, Ex 23:3; Lev 19:15
  • family loyalties, Deut 13:6-11

‘It therefore established a remarkable retributive law on perjury: anyone discovered to have given false testimony was to be punished with the same punishment that the victim of his accusation would have received if the verdict had gone against him, Deut 19:16-21. One wonders what a salutary effect such a law might have in the modern world, which is plagued with misscarriages of justice notoriously caused by false testimony and conspiracy.’

Along with idolatry and oppression, the perversion of justice was one of the main targets of the prophets. Indeed, the three form a trinity of evil, and are apparent together in the story of how the king and queen robbed Naboth of his vineyard, 1 King 21. Later, in the days of Amos, justice had become systematically corrupt, and truthful witnessed were hated and intimidated, Amos 5:7,10,12f,15; cf. Isa 5:20-23; 10:1f; Hos 4:1f; Jer 5:1f, 26-28; 7:9.

(See Wright)

Deut 5:21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

‘It is worth reflecting that these last five commandments, which occur so widely in ancient Near Eastern law codes, reflect certain fundamental requirements for all societies. We may believe that they owe their origin to the Creator of the universe. That they should form part of the decaloge is only an indication of their divine origin.’ (Thompson)

Deut 5:22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

Deut 5:23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men of your tribes and your elders came to me.

Deut 5:24 And you said, “The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him.

Deut 5:25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer.

Deut 5:26 For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived?

Deut 5:27 Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”

Deut 5:28 The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good.

Deut 5:29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

Deut 5:30 “Go, tell them to return to their tents.

Deut 5:31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.”

Deut 5:32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.

Deut 5:33 Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

“So that…” – Five times in this short passage (Deut 5:32-6:3) the rewards of heartfelt obedience are set out.