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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 5

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-6

Introduction 5:1-6

The covenant to which Moses referred (Deuteronomy 5:2) is not the Abrahamic but the Mosaic Covenant. What follows is an upgrade of the Mosaic Covenant for the new generation about to enter the Promised Land. The "fathers" (Deuteronomy 5:3) were the previous generation. "Face to face" (Deuteronomy 5:4) is a figure of speech indicating direct communication, without a mediator. God uttered the Ten Commandments in the hearing of all the Israelites (Deuteronomy 5:22). This expression also reflects the personal relationship that existed between Yahweh and the Israelites. God made the covenant with His friends; it was not simply an impersonal revelation of laws. [Note: For an excursus on Moses the teacher, see Miller, pp. 70-71.]

The basis for the Lord’s Ten Commandments was that He is who He is and that He had provided redemption for His people (Deuteronomy 5:6; cf. Deuteronomy 13:4-5; Exodus 20:3; Leviticus 26:13; Numbers 15:41). God always gives first (grace) then asks for a response (obedience). [Note: See H. H. Rowley, "Moses and the Decalogue," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester 34:1 (September 1951):81-118, for arguments for the Mosaic origin of the Ten Commandments as opposed to a later origin.]

"Love and mercy are the dominant characteristics of the covenant relationship." [Note: Miller, p. 77.]

Verses 1-33


". . . Deuteronomy contains the most comprehensive body of laws in the Pentateuch. It is clearly intended to be consulted for guidance on many aspects of daily life, in sharp contrast with the laws of Leviticus, which are very restricted in scope and mainly concern the functions of the priesthood." [Note: R. Norman Whybray, Introduction to the Pentateuch, pp. 103-4.]

"Two of the major elements [in ancient Near Eastern covenant texts] . . . are lists of stipulations, the first of a general, principal nature and the second of a more specific and applicational kind. That is, the first spelled out in broad strokes the kinds of actions and reactions the Great King expected of his vassal, and the other offered examples of how these general expectations could and should be worked out in everyday life within the relationship.

"While a general correspondence exists between Deuteronomy and the secular treaty texts, especially in form, there are significant differences as well. Among these are the narrative sections and the extensive parenesis [exhortation], both of which are lacking in the extrabiblical models. It is important to note here, moreover, that Deuteronomy, in addition to being a covenant text, is also a law code, or, more precisely, contains a law code. The general stipulation section (Deuteronomy 5:1 to Deuteronomy 11:32) and the specific stipulation section (Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 26:15) function as such a law code and thus serve both in this capacity and in that of covenant stipulation. To put it more succinctly, the stipulations of the Deuteronomic covenant constitute the law code for the nation Israel that was about to enter the new conditions and expectations of life in the land of promise. This is why the following principles resemble both legal statutes and covenant stipulations at one and the same time." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, pp. 139-40. Cf. Kline, "Deuteronomy," p. 162.]

A. The essence of the law and its fulfillment chs. 5-11

"In seven chapters the nature of Yahweh’s demand is now set out in the form of great principles. The deliverance of past days is the ground on which Moses appeals to Israel to hear what Yahweh requires of them." [Note: Schultz, p. 112.]

1. Exposition of the Decalogue and its promulgation ch. 5

"The exposition of the law commences with a repetition of the ten words of the covenant, which were spoken to all Israel directly by the Lord Himself. . . . The great significance of the laws and rights about to be set before them, consisted in the fact that they contained the covenant of Jehovah with Israel." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 3:319.]

Verse 7

The first commandment 5:7

Because God had initiated love toward Israel by redeeming the nation (Deuteronomy 5:6), the people were to respond appropriately by loving Him in return. This is the essence of God’s grace. He initiates love, and the only reasonable response is to love Him for what He has done (cf. Romans 12:1-2). God does not just love us when we love Him. More fundamentally, He loves us first (cf. Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 John 4:19). In the game of love, God always makes the first move. [Note: G. S. Sloyen, Walking in the Truth, p. 49.]

This command was a call to respond to God’s love by remaining faithful to Him instead of turning from Him to love something else more than Him. Israel was to have no other gods before or beside Yahweh. The people were to worship Him exclusively. [Note: See Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 146.]

This commandment applies to all people, not just Israel. Yahweh is the only true God worthy of love and worship for who He is and what He has done. He has reached out lovingly to all humankind with the provision of salvation (cf. Acts 14:15; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19; 1 John 5:20-21). The writer’s view of the earth as having living beings above the earth, on the earth, and under the water of the earth is consistent with all ancient Near Eastern cosmology (cf. Genesis 1). [Note: Ibid., p. 147.]

Verses 8-10

The second commandment 5:8-10

This commandment is a prohibition against making images or likenesses of Yahweh. God forbade idolatry itself in the first commandment. This commandment was necessary for at least three reasons.

1. Any material representation of the Lord slanders Him. He is greater than anything humans can conceive in our minds let alone make with our hands.

2. By making and using images of Yahweh the worshipper would gain a sense of control over Him. God is the Creator, and we are His creatures. He is also sovereign over all. Rather than accepting his place as subject creature under the sovereign Creator, the person who makes an image of God puts himself in the position of creator. In effect he puts God in the place of a created thing. He usurps God’s sovereignty. Since God made man in His image it is inappropriate for us to try to make God in our image much less in the image of an animal.

3. It is easy for anyone to confuse an object that represents a deity with that deity. Instead of worshipping the god the object represents, people have always transferred their worship to the object. This is our natural tendency as material beings who give preference to what we can see over what we cannot see.

We can identify several benefits of observing this commandment.

1. Obedience tends to preserve the relationship between God and man as one that love characterizes (Deuteronomy 5:9). Images that represent God can divert love from God Himself to the image that represents Him.

2. God also intended this commandment to cast Israel constantly back on its knowledge of Himself. What God has revealed about Himself is much greater than anything that His people could represent in material form.

3. Obedience would also preserve Israel’s distinctiveness in the world. Israel alone in the ancient Near East did not make images of her God. [Note: Craigie, The Book . . ., p. 154.] If the Israelites made images of Yahweh, the other nations would have perceived Him as just another god.

4. God also intended to preserve love for Himself in the succeeding generations of His people (Deuteronomy 5:9-10). God is jealous when we commit to (i.e., love) something other than Himself. He disciplines people who do not love Him ("hate me", i.e., rebel against Him, Deuteronomy 5:9), but He blesses those who do. Apostasy has effects on succeeding generations. Rebellious, God-hating parents often produce several generations of descendants who also hate God (cf. Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:6-7). Children normally follow the example of their parents. God’s blessing exceeds his discipline a thousandfold.

Is this commandment one God wants us to live by even today? It deals with the problems we human beings have with understanding the nature of God and our proper relationship to Him. The nature of man and the nature of God have not changed. Consequently almost everyone acknowledges that this commandment is one that God intended to affect His people of all ages, not just those living in Israel in Old Testament times (cf. Acts 17:24-28). [Note: J. Daniel Hays gave some helpful guidelines for applying Old Testament laws today in "Applying the Old Testament Law Today," Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (January-March 2001):21-35.]

Verse 11

The third commandment 5:11

Whereas the second commandment deals with a potential visual temptation to depart from Yahweh, the third deals with a potential verbal temptation. Two of the Ten Commandments affect the use of the tongue and speech: the third (speech about God) and the ninth (speech about people).

God designed this commandment to encourage people to express their respect for Him with appropriate speech. It forbids abusing God’s name or reputation. The name represents the person (cf. Exodus 3:13-14). The positive form of this command is, "Hallowed be thy name" (Matthew 6:9). Misuse of God’s name expresses disrespect for Him.

"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. [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 149.]

There are several ways in which people can abuse God’s name. One is by swearing falsely (Leviticus 19:12). This involves lying but appealing to God’s name as support that one is telling the truth (i.e., perjury; cf. 2 Samuel 15:7-10). God allowed swearing in His name under Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 6:13; et al.), but Jesus Christ ended it (Matthew 5:33-37; cf. James 5:12). The principle in view is that all of our talk should be honest and not hypocritical. Our lives talk as well as our lips. Therefore in a wider sense this commandment should affect how God’s people behave as well as how they speak (cf. 1 Timothy 6:1).

The consequence of breaking this commandment was God’s punishment. In Israel the leaders of the nation carried this out by stoning the blasphemer. A blasphemer is one who practices profane or mocking speech, writing, or action concerning God or anything regarded as sacred. The blasphemer expresses contempt for God. In the church, the leaders do not have the responsibility of punishing. God Himself will do it.

The Jews took this command seriously. They did not even speak God’s name "Yahweh" to avoid abusing it. Instead they substituted the phrase "the Name" for "Yahweh" in conversation. They also spoke of "heaven," the place where God resides, rather than "God." This, by the way, explains why Matthew in writing his Gospel to Jews usually spoke of the "kingdom of heaven" whereas the other Gospel writers, who wrote primarily for Gentiles, normally used the term "kingdom of God." According to Jewish tradition when a Jewish scribe wrote the name of God he would first bathe, change his clothes, and use a new quill with which to continue writing.

We should take this command seriously too. In our day many people use God’s names (God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, etc.) lightly, largely because they do not respect Him. Our speech and our behavior should reflect the fact that we honor and respect God. How we speak and behave reflects on God’s reputation (name). Moreover respect for the person of God is something God’s people should advocate in their world (Matthew 6:9).

Verses 12-15

The fourth commandment 5:12-15

This is the most positively stated of the Ten Commandments. Only one other commandment appears in the affirmative, namely, the fifth. The fourth commandment is a charge to refresh oneself physically and spiritually. The Hebrew noun sabat, translated "Sabbath," is related to the verb translated "to cease" (cf. Genesis 2:1-3).

Before God gave the Mosaic Law He told the Israelites to refrain from gathering manna on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 16:22-30). Later God made abstinence from work on the Sabbath Day a law for the Israelites (Exodus 20:8-11). The reasons were to memorialize God’s creation of the universe (Exodus 20:11) and to memorialize His creation of the nation Israel (Deuteronomy 5:15).

"There are two versions of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, and both give different reasons for the observation of the sabbath. In Exodus 20:11, the Hebrews are enjoined to observe the sabbath on the basis of God’s creation of the world. But in the second version, Deuteronomy 5:15, the sabbath is to be observed in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. At first sight the two reasons given for the observation of the same commandment seem very different, but the new understanding of the Song of the Sea [Exodus 15:1-18], in its Canaanite/Ugaritic background [that I explained in my notes on Exodus], indicates just how close the two reasons are. The sabbath was to be observed, first in celebration of the creation of the world, and second in commemoration of God’s creation of Israel in the Exodus." [Note: Craigie, The Book . . ., pp. 89-90.]

"The principle 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-creation 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." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 152.]

God gave this commandment for the physical and spiritual welfare of His people (cf. Mark 2:23-28). The Pharisees later made Sabbath observance stricter than what God had intended (cf. e.g., Mark 2:18 to Mark 3:6).

God did not command Christians to observe the Sabbath (cf. Romans 10:4; Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 3:23-29; Galatians 4:10; Colossians 2:16-17). From the birth of the church on, Christians have observed the first day of the week, not the seventh, as a memorial of Jesus Christ’s resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). In Russian, the first day of the week is called "Resurrection Day." The reason for this Christian custom is that the Resurrection vindicated all Jesus claimed and did. It therefore memorialized God’s creation of the church. Even though God did not command it, resting and remembering God’s great acts have become customary among Christians down through the centuries. The Christian who works on Sunday is not disobeying God. The early Gentile Christians were mainly slaves who had to work on Sundays and met in the evening for worship. For them Sunday was not a day of rest but of work and worship.

To speak of Sunday as the "Christian Sabbath" as some do may be misleading. True, it is a day of rest for many Christians, but God has not commanded us to observe the Sabbath as He commanded Jews under the Mosaic Law. Seventh Day Adventists and other sabbatarian groups disagree. They believe that since this is part of the moral code of the Mosaic Law it remains in force for Christians. Some Christians appeal to Hebrews 4:9 for support that we should observe Sunday as the Sabbath. However the "rest" in view in that verse probably refers to our rest after we go to be with the Lord. Still other Christians argue for observance of the Sabbath because it was a creation institution that antedated the Mosaic Law. However, God did not command Sabbath observance until the Mosaic Law.

In short, most Christians observe Sunday as a special day devoted to spiritual rather than physical matters, and God’s interests rather than our selfish interests, because we choose to do so. We do not do so because God has commanded us to do so.

Nevertheless making Sunday special has two benefits at least. First, it contributes to public health. God made man in His image. God ceased His labor after working six days in creation. Man, likewise, constitutionally needs a refreshing change after six days of labor, including study. It is not healthy physically, psychologically, or socially to work seven days a week. Note that God made the Sabbath for "man," not just for Jews (Mark 2:27). Second, making Sunday special promotes civil liberty. It guards against the exploitation of workers. Sabbath observance was a symbol of freedom to the Israelites. Today ceasing from labor for one day enables people to rest and refresh themselves with friends and family, to enjoy a measure of freedom from "the daily grind." Failure to do so reduces life to the proverbial rat race in which people live as animals rather than as free human beings. People who have to work seven days a week fail to enjoy the rest God intended for them (cf. Matthew 11:28).

This is the only one of the Ten Commandments that Jesus Christ or the apostles did not restate as a Christian obligation in the New Testament. New Testament references to the repetition of nine of the Ten Commandments as binding on Christians appear in my notes on Exodus 20.

Verse 16

The fifth commandment 5:16

The first four commandments deal primarily with man’s relationship to God. The last six deal with man’s relationship to man (cf. Matthew 22:37-39).

The first part of this verse contains a precept. "Honor" means to respect, reverence, venerate, glorify, and give heed to (cf. Leviticus 19:3; John 19:26-27). All parents are worthy of honor in word and deed regardless of their personal characters because they are responsible for giving life to their children. As we should honor God for His creative activity (Deuteronomy 5:15; Exodus 20:11), so we should honor our parents for theirs. Parents are God’s instruments in giving us life.

"Essentially kabbed (the piel imperative of kabed) carries the nuance of weighing down with honor or respect. In the particular stem used here the idea is declaring to someone or effectively conveying to something the quality of honor. The command to honor therefore is a command to demonstrate in tangible, empirical ways the respect people must have for their parents." [Note: Ibid., p. 153.]

Obedience is one form of honor. God has commanded children to obey their parents as well as to honor them (Colossians 3:20; cf. Luke 2:51). This responsibility to obey lasts as long as they are children. When they cease to be children the responsibility to obey ends, but the duty to honor continues.

The second part of the verse contains a promise. God promised the Israelites long life in the Promised Land of Canaan (cf. Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:9-10). He has promised Christians long life on earth (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Verse 17

The sixth commandment 5:17

The meaning of the Hebrew word ratsah translated "kill" or "murder" (NASB, NIV) is "murder" or "slay." Of course, humans rather than animals are in view. Both forms of murder, premeditated and non-premeditated (i.e., second degree homicide, without pre-meditation, yet intentional killing, e.g., resulting from rage or using a weapon with an unfair advantage to kill someone that is unarmed), are in view. The Israelites distinguished and punished these two forms of murder differently, and manslayers were protected instead of punished, as we do in modern times. The exceptions in which God commanded the Israelites to take another human life are the execution of certain law-breakers and participation in holy war. He gave the command to execute murderers to Noah before the Mosaic era (Genesis 9:6). This law of capital punishment provided the foundation for civilized government. God incorporated it into the Mosaic Law. Even though God has terminated the Mosaic Law (2 Corinthians 3:7-11), the command to execute murderers continues since it was in force before the Mosaic Law. [Note: See Charles C. Ryrie, "The Doctrine of Capital Punishment," Bibliotheca Sacra 129:515 (July-September 1972):211-17, reprinted in his book, You Mean the Bible Teaches That . . ., pp. 23-32.]

There are several reasons for the sixth commandment (Genesis 9:6). The first is the nature of man. Not only did God create man essentially different from other forms of animal life (Genesis 2:7; cf. Matthew 19:4), but He also created humans in His own image (Genesis 1:26-28). Consequently when someone murders a person he or she obliterates a revelation of God. Second, murder usurps God’s authority. All life belongs to God, and He gives it to us on lease (cf. Ezekiel 18:4 a). To take a human life without divine authorization is to arrogate to oneself authority that belongs only to God. Third, the consequences of murder, unlike the consequences of some other sins (e.g., lying, stealing, coveting), are fatal and irreversible.

We must interpret Jesus’ words about hatred being as bad as murder in Matthew 5:21-22 (cf. 1 John 3:15 a) in their context. Jesus was stressing the fact that attitudes are as important as actions to God in the Sermon on the Mount. He was correcting false teaching by the Pharisees that external actions were more important than internal attitudes. He was not saying that the consequences of hatred and murder are the same. Obviously they are not.

The Apostle John’s teaching that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15 b) means that an abiding Christian will not commit murder (cf. 1 John 3:6 a, 1Jn_3:24 a). This should be clear from the way John uses the word "abide" in his epistles (cf. John 14-17). A Christian can commit murder (cf. 1 Peter 4:15), but if he does so he is not abiding in a close relationship with Christ when he does so.

In view of the sixth commandment we should not murder other people or ourselves (suicide). [Note: See J. P. Morgan, "The Morality of Suicide: Issues and Options," Bibliotheca Sacra 148:590 (April-June 1991):214-30.] We should also punish those who commit this crime as God has commanded (Genesis 9:6). Moses, David, and Paul were all murderers whom God specially pardoned (Exodus 3:10; 2 Samuel 12:13; 1 Timothy 1:13). Moreover we should realize the seriousness of hatred and deal with it in our own lives.

Verse 18

The seventh commandment 5:18

This commandment deals with adultery only. Whereas murder violates life itself, adultery violates the most important and sacred human relationship, marriage. [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 154.] God dealt with other forms of sexual sin elsewhere (cf. chs. 22-25). Adultery is the sexual union of a man and a woman when one or both of them is married to someone else. Adultery is an act, not a state, as is true of all the other prohibitions in the Ten Commandments (cf. Matthew 5:27-28).

Adultery is wrong because it disrupts the basic unit of society, namely, the husband-wife relationship. God established marriage long before He gave the Mosaic Covenant, and He intended it to be a permanent relationship (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3-8). A new relationship based on mutual commitment and a spiritual union comes into existence in marriage. Adultery violates that commitment and union and weakens the basis of the relationship. When adultery takes place the unfaithful partner temporarily abandons that commitment and future faithful commitment becomes uncertain. Thus the relationship is not what it was. Adultery erodes the foundation of marriage, which is faithfulness to a commitment (covenant) and a spiritual union before God. It does so by breaking that commitment and by establishing an intimate relationship, however temporary, with another partner (1 Corinthians 6:16). It also incurs God’s judgment. Under the Old Covenant the Israelites dealt with adulteresses more severely than adulterers. Under the New Covenant we should not execute adulteresses or adulterers. God has promised that He will deal with both (Hebrews 13:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Adultery does not terminate a marriage in God’s sight, much less does it terminate one’s salvation. However it might eventually result in the termination of a marriage through divorce and remarriage.

How should a Christian respond to a spouse who has committed adultery? He or she should forgive the unfaithful mate (John 8:1-11). How often should we do this? How often has God forgiven you for being unfaithful to Him (cf. Matthew 18:21-35)? Remember God’s instructions to Hosea concerning his unfaithful wife and how God used Hosea’s situation as an illustration of His own love for Israel (cf. Ezekiel 23:37; James 4:4; Deuteronomy 5:2). Does not forgiveness encourage infidelity? Perhaps, but godly love forgives. God allows us to abuse His mercy, but appreciation for His love and grace will result in our wanting to remain faithful to Him. We should deal with one another as God deals with us, namely, graciously (John 13:34). If a spouse continues to be unfaithful it may become wise or necessary to separate (action), but there must be continuing forgiveness (attitude).

How can we guard against committing adultery? First, Scripture stresses the importance of guarding our own hearts, the seat of our affections (Matthew 15:19; Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 7:25). Second, we should realize that God has a claim on our bodies as well as our souls (1 Corinthians 6:13-20). Third, we should cultivate our relationship with our spouses (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). The husband-wife relationship is more fundamental than the parent child relationship. Husbands need to take the initiative in cultivating this relationship (Ephesians 5:25-31). [Note: See Gregory L. Jantz, Too Close to the Flame.]

Verse 19

The eighth commandment 5:19

Stealing means taking something that belongs to another person from him or her against that person’s will. Theft violates property as adultery violates marriage and the family.

Frequently what one steals is some material possession such as a vehicle, household goods, or cash. Pilfering is stealing small amounts of something. Swindling involves deceiving someone by leading him to believe that his money is going one place while really all or part of it is going somewhere else. Usually it is going into the pocket of the swindler. A person can be guilty of theft by falsifying accounts (e.g., paper theft as on one’s income tax forms; cf. Amos 8:4-6; Romans 13:7). He can do so by misusing personal discount privileges or stealing from an employer by not working all the hours his employer has contracted for. He may also do so by not paying debts (e.g., alimony, child support, bankruptcy) and by not returning items that he has borrowed. A person can also steal the spouse of another, as King David did.

Stealing can involve robbing a person of his personal freedom by kidnapping, taking hostages, hijacking an airliner, or enslaving someone in debt (cf. Genesis 37:22-28). We can rob a person of his reputation by withholding or distorting the truth and thereby steal his promotion or job (cf. the third commandment). We can steal other people’s legitimate personal rights such as their joy, time, or even their life. It is possible to steal from God what we owe Him (e.g., money, praise, ourselves).

The Israelite was to return what he had stolen if possible, to make restitution, and to add 20 percent of the value as a penalty for his theft (Leviticus 5:16; Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7; cf. Luke 19:8). God has not commanded Christians to pay the 20 percent penalty, but we should at least make restitution as well as confessing this sin to God (John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:28; 1 John 1:9).

Verse 20

The ninth commandment 5:20

God worded this commandment differently from what we might expect. He might have said, "Thou shalt not lie." The wording indicates the emphasis, which was specifically bearing false witness, namely, character assassination, another form of killing and stealing. The word "witness" (Heb. ed) refers to testimony given in legal cases. "Neighbor" (Heb. rea’) focuses on a fellow member of the covenant community but is broad enough to include all other human beings (cf. Exodus 11:2; Leviticus 19:18; Leviticus 19:34). Integrity, honesty, and faithfulness in speech are in view, especially situations in which testimony determines a person’s fate. The more general prohibition against lying appears elsewhere (Leviticus 19:11-12). The ninth commandment deals with our speech, as does the third (cf. James 3).

This command covers all kinds of slander (cf. Psalms 101:5). Perjury in court is in view primarily. Nevertheless whenever we distort the truth when we speak we have the potential of ruining a life (cf. the fates of Naboth and Jesus Christ). Satan is the source and father of lies (John 8:44; cf. Acts 5:3). The Fall resulted from a lie (Genesis 3:4). God hates lying (Proverbs 6:16-19) and is the infallible lie detector. Flattery can be a form of lying. A question can slander (Job 1:8-9) as can silence if by keeping silent we give tacit approval to a lie. However we do not always need to tell all we know. Withholding information does not always constitute lying. Lying, and bearing false witness in particular, should never characterize the Christian (Colossians 3:9-17).

Verse 21

The tenth commandment 5:21

Coveting means inordinately desiring to possess what belongs to another person. Another definition is that it is wanting more and more of something one already has enough of. This commandment deals with motivation rather than deed, with attitude rather than action. It gets at the spirit that often leads to the sins forbidden in commandments six through nine. The attitude coveting reveals is selfishness, self-centeredness. One writer entitled a chapter in which he expounded this commandment, "The Selfish Life Denounced." [Note: Lehman Strauss, The Eleven Commandments, p. 149.]

The seriousness of this sin is obvious from the fact that God forbade it many times in Scripture (e.g., Psalms 10:3; Proverbs 28:16; Mark 7:21-23; Luke 12:15; Romans 1:28-29; Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). Coveting is attractive because we may practice it without ever experiencing public exposure. Notwithstanding, God knows our hearts (Acts 1:24). The attitude itself is sinful (cf. Matthew 5:21-48), and it often leads to overt sin (e.g., Eve, Lot, Achan, David, Ahab, Judas Iscariot, Ananias and Sapphira). Coveting is the root attitude from which every sin in word and deed against a neighbor grows.

We cannot escape this sin completely. It is one of the most virile spiritual viruses that attacks us, and it flourishes in our cultural environment. Nevertheless, like bacteria, we can keep it under control with God’s help. A prescription for the control of covetousness might include four ingredients. First, as with all other temptations, we must recognize our need for God’s help (grace) in combating it (John 15:5) and ask for that help (James 4:2; Psalms 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7). Second, we need to "learn" to be content in our present condition (Philippians 4:6; Philippians 4:11; Philippians 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:6; cf. Deuteronomy 5:21). Third, we need to evaluate why we want what we want. Desiring something we do not have is not necessarily wrong in itself (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:31). The reason we want it may make it right or wrong. Do we want it to exalt self or to serve God, our family, friends, or the needy better (cf. Mark 10:45)? Fourth, we need to make sure we are valuing spiritual things higher than material things (Colossians 3:2). [Note: See also Daniel I. Block, "’You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Wife’: A Study in Deuteronomic Domestic Ideology," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53:3 (September 2010):449-74.]

Verses 22-33

Concluding narrative 5:22-33

This pericope is another brief historical résumé. God said that the Israelites had "done well" (Deuteronomy 5:28) in committing themselves to obey the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:27). The people’s response to the revelation of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:24-27) indicates great respect for God’s holiness. God revealed to Moses that unfortunately the heart of the people would not retain this attitude (Deuteronomy 5:29). These words of God (Deuteronomy 5:29) reflect God’s great love for Israel and His desire that His people experience His blessing.

"The best interests of his people are deep in the heart of God. This view of divine compassion shows how the Lord’s love focuses on what is best for his people. Here is no vindictive god in contrast to a loving NT Lord. No, this glimpse into the heart of God is in harmony with the most compassionate depiction of Christ in the NT." [Note: Kalland, pp. 61-62.]

God revealed the rest of the covenant only to Moses, not to all the Israelites (Deuteronomy 5:31), but Moses later reported this revelation to the people.

This chapter teaches us that the proper response to God’s Word is reverence for Him and obedience because God is who He is and because He desires our welfare.

"The Decalogue is at the heart of the message of Deuteronomy. It is the divinely given foundation of the covenant relationship, the standard set by the suzerain God as a basis for the continuing relationship with his vassal people." [Note: Craigie, The Book . . ., p. 149.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/deuteronomy-5.html. 2012.
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