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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 5



Moses continues to relate how God gave them the law of the ten commandments from mount Sinai, and how the people entreated that they might no more hear the Lord speaking out of the midst of the fire.

Before Christ 1451.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers According to Houbigant, the word fathers here signifies, not their immediate predecessors, but their remote progenitors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were not the inheritors of the land of Canaan. Moses considers not the covenant itself, which God indeed made with the patriarchs, but the effect of that covenant; which effect pertained not to their fathers, but to them: as much as to say, he promised indeed to them the land of Canaan, as well as to us; but he gave them not such statutes and ordinances as he hath given to us this day. Others say, that the words may be interpreted, according to the Hebrew idiom, The Lord made this covenant, not with our fathers only, but with us; as Genesis 32:28. Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; i.e. not only Jacob, but Israel; or, Israel, preferably to Jacob.

Verse 4

Ver. 4. The Lord talked with you face to face See Exodus 33:11.

REFLECTIONS.—Moses summons the people, as many as could come within hearing, to attend the charge that he was farther to deliver; and needful it was, that they should thoroughly know what they were so solemnly bound to obey. He calls upon them to hear the statutes, moral, ceremonial, and judicial, which God delivered in Horeb, when he talked to them face to face with an astonishing familiarity; and where, they consenting to God's commands, a covenant was established between them, wherein God engaged to be their God to bless them, and they to be his servants to obey him, whilst Moses, as mediator, stood between them. Note; (1.) There can be no covenant between God and the soul, but through the one mediator Jesus Christ, whom Moses prefigured. (2.) The promises of the covenant engage our hearts to all holy obedience. (3.) There is not only a common obligation lying upon believers to be obedient, because it is their duty; but, as interested in the covenant, a peculiar one, because they profess it to be their choice.

Verses 14-15

Ver. 14, 15. That thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest, as well as thou Mercy towards men, as well as piety towards God, was, as we learn from this, one great reason for the institution of the sabbath. Here, Moses omits that reason for the institution which is mentioned Exodus 20:0.; namely, to be a memorial of the creation; and assigns another; namely, that servants and animals may enjoy rest, because this was also one principal design of the institution. For unless men had been obliged to the religious observance of a weekly rest, servants, and especially slaves, would have been in danger of being harassed to death by cruel and imperious masters. To move the Israelites' compassion towards servants, and to make them freely indulge them in a seventh day's rest, their own hard condition in Egypt is suggested to their remembrance. See Exodus 5:4; Exodus 22:21. The clause in the 15th verse, from, and remember to a stretched-out arm, is read by many in a parenthesis; and the therefore, in the next clause, connected with the concluding part of the 14th verse; for as it is not mentioned in the precept delivered by God himself, that the sabbath was instituted as a memorial of their redemption from Egyptian bondage, so it seems better to understand that clause as a motive only to mercy, and a strict observance of the sabbath instituted by God as a day of rest and religious worship. The reason here assigned, says Hallet, is not a reason of God's appointing the seventh day for a sabbath, but merely a reason of his appointing a day of rest. The reason is, because, while the Jews were in Egypt, in a state of slavery, their taskmasters confined them to hard labour from day to day, without any intermission: so that they could not observe the sabbath as they should. When God set them at liberty, and made them masters, he justly expected, that they should use their own liberty better, and deal more mercifully with their slaves and servants, than the Egyptians had dealt with them; and so he required them to permit their servants to rest one day in seven; that is, as often as they themselves did. This was one reason why God appointed a sabbath, or a day of rest from labour. But this reason did not determine, whether this rest should be observed every sixth, every seventh, every eighth day, or what other portion of time should be chosen for this purpose. But the reason why God appointed every seventh day, rather than every sixth, eighth, &c. and why he determined it should be the seventh, or the last of the seven, was, because he finished his works of creation in six days, and rested on the seventh.—If the redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage was a reasonable motive to incline them to mutual clemency and mercy; how much more strongly ought the consideration of our common redemption, through Jesus Christ, to incline us to every act and office of christian love? The learned reader will find a great variety of laws, very similar to those of the Decalogue, in Petit's Leg. Att. so often quoted; an epitome of which excellent work will be found in Parker's Third occasional Annotation on the place.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. That it may go well with thee in the land, &c.— The promise added to the fifth commandment, as cited by the apostle, is in these words, That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.—As to which, it must first be observed, that it ought to be rendered on the land, meaning the land of Judea. And in the next place, we are to take notice, that this promise, as cited by the apostle, is not expressed in the same words as it is in the Hebrew copy of the fifth commandment in Exodus, where that clause is not to be found, that it may be well with thee: but he makes the citation from Deuteronomy, where are to be found the very words which the apostle has cited; and our translators might have used the same words in both places, if they had pleased. Indeed, the order in which the two clauses here stand, is observed in the Hebrew, Samaritan, Syriac, Arabic, and Latin; but the LXX and St. Paul have put the clauses in another order; thus, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the land. The difference is no way material, and the quotation is exact enough: and, perhaps, this reading of the LXX and St. Paul is the true original reading of the place. From this it appears, that our translators should have used the word land, (not earth,) in rendering the apostle's words. The whole promise is, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The apostle, for brevity's sake, omitted the last clause; still leaving us to conclude, that he spake of no other land than what the commandment did, even the land of Canaan. See Hallett's Notes on Texts of Scripture, vol. 3:

REFLECTIONS.—We have here the ten commandments which God delivered on Horeb or Sinai, two summits of the same mountain. After the fourth commandment, the reason for observing a sacred rest, which, before was taken from the creation, is here urged from their deliverance out of Egypt. They had been servants themselves, and therefore knew how welcome a day's rest would be to their own servants. Their redemption also was typical of our own; and we, in memory of Christ resting from his glorious work on his resurrection-day, observe it as our day of sacred rest, to celebrate his triumphs over sin, death, and hell, and to prepare to triumph with him, when we shall finally rest from our labours in eternal bliss. Of itself, the law is a ministration of condemnation to fallen man, and could only serve to beget terror in the guilty conscience; But it was given to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.—To preserve these commands from being forgotten, they are written on durable tables, and laid up in the ark for a memorial to succeeding generations. Note; The writing of the Scriptures is what we can never enough be thankful for; thus we are not left to uncertain traditions, but may continually apply to the unadulterated fountain of truth.

Verse 29

Ver. 29. O that there were such an heart in them, &c.— God was pleased with the disposition of fear and reverence which they expressed towards his divine majesty; and, after the manner of men, delivers a most earnest wish, that the same good disposition might always continue, that they might be influenced thereby to a stedfast adherence to their duty, and so both they and their posterity might reap all the blessings promised to a rational and pious obedience. This expression denotes, that men's compliance with their duty, and the happiness which thence arises to them, are things highly pleasing to God, the most sincere lover of souls. From these and the like texts of Scripture, some are apt to reason with themselves, if God be so desirous of men's reformation, why does he not bring it about by his almighty power? Now, though God could easily overrule the liberty of men's will, and restrain them from doing any thing but what is good; yet it is not consonant to wisdom that his power should be exerted this way; because it would entirely destroy all the morality of men's actions, and take away the very nature of virtue and vice. Should God put forth an irresistible influence of his power upon free agents, in that case, however regular their operations might be, they could no more be denominated virtuous, than the movements of a clock or a watch; so far is it, therefore, from being unworthy of God to forbear exerting his irresistible power upon moral agents, that, on the contrary, it would be altogether unworthy of him to exercise that power, because it would be a subverting of his whole design, in creating rational and intelligent beings. Moral agents must be influenced by moral motives, by reason and argument, by persuasion and conviction, by hopes and fears.

Verse 32

Ver. 32. Ye shall not turn aside, &c.— A phrase signifying their strict observance of God's laws, and a steadfast persisting in the path of their duty. It is a metaphor taken from a traveller, who, being once set into the right way, ought not to deviate from it. See chap. Deu 4:2 Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 17:20. Joshua 1:7.

REFLECTIONS.—Overcome by the displays of the terrible Majesty that they beheld, and trembling at the voice of God, they cannot endure the method of immediate communion with him, lest they die. Note; (1.) Fallen man is naturally in terror at God's voice. But, (2.) In Christ Jesus we are not afraid to approach him, because we know it is the voice of love. They propose:

1. That God would speak to them, not immediately from himself, but through Moses their mediator. They had despised him before, but they value him now when he can stand their friend. Awakened consciences see with different eyes.
2. They promise to be obedient. Nothing more common than to make great promises in time of peril; which are usually as soon forgotten, as the sailor's prayers when the storm is over.
3. God condescends to approve their motion, and speaks his desire that there were such a heart in them as now appeared, humble, reverential, and dutiful. Moses is appointed as the mediator between them, and him they must hear. Note; (1.) God is well pleased with every gracious purpose that his spirit excites in the heart, and delights in the salvation of souls. (2.) It were well for us, that there were constantly such a sense of God, and the things of God, upon our minds, as we sometimes feel. (3.) The word God speaks by his prophets and apostles, is as sure as what he speaks by his own voice from heaven, and equally to be regarded; and if the Scriptures are neglected, all the appearances of Sinai, if repeated, would never have any effect upon us.

4. Moses infers from all this, their obligation to be obedient; and assures them that it is the only way to be happy. No true happiness, in time or in eternity, is to be enjoyed, but in the way of true holiness.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.