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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 10

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 10:0


The Second Pair of TabletsThe Temptation to Self-Righteousness (Deuteronomy 9:1-11)Moses Receives the Commandments AgainThe Ark of the Covenant; the Choice of Levi
Deuteronomy 10:1-5Deuteronomy 10:1-5Deuteronomy 10:1-5Deuteronomy 10:1-5
Deuteronomy 10:6-11Deuteronomy 10:6-9Deuteronomy 10:6-9Deuteronomy 10:6-9
Deuteronomy 10:10-11Deuteronomy 10:10-11Deuteronomy 10:10-11
The Essence of the LawWhat the Lord Requires (Deuteronomy 10:12-32)What God DemandsCircumcision of the Heart
Deuteronomy 10:12-22Deuteronomy 10:12-22Deuteronomy 10:12-22Deuteronomy 10:12-13
Deuteronomy 10:14-22

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 10:1-5 1”At that time the LORD said to me, 'Cut out for yourself two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to Me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood for yourself. 2'And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered, and you shall put them in the ark.' 3So I made an ark of acacia wood and cut out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. 4And He wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me. 5Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the LORD commanded me.”

Deuteronomy 10:1 “the mountain” This refers to Mt. Horeb/Mt. Sinai. See Special Topic: Location of Mt Sinai.

Moses is to prepare for his second encounter with YHWH:

1. “cut out for yourself two tablets of stone” - BDB 820, KB 949, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Exodus 34:1, Exodus 34:4

2. “come up to Me” - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. “make an ark” - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal PERFECT, cf. Exodus 25:10

The Hittite Treaties also required two copies of the agreements. One was given to the lesser king to read every year and the other placed in the temple of the greater king's god. See Introduction to the book, VII.

“ark of wood for yourself” Exodus 37:1 says Bezalel made the Ark of the Covenant. Rashi says details of the ark were not even given until Moses came down the second time from Mt. Sinai. Therefore, Moses must have made a crude ark first and then later Bezalel made another more elaborate one (cf. Exodus 25:10-22). This first ark, made quickly by Moses, held only the Ten Commandments (cf. 1 Kings 8:9). The later one contained: the Ten Commandments, a sample of manna, and Aaron's rod that budded . For a good brief discussion see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 292-303.

Deuteronomy 10:2 “I will write” YHWH wrote the law, verse Deuteronomy 10:4 and Exodus 34:1. However, Exodus 34:27 speaks of Moses writing. Possibly God wrote the Ten Commandments, but Moses wrote the descriptive and declarative material, which explained and applied it. It was not Moses' mentality nor his cultural influence, but God who originated the Law. God used cultural examples and forms that Moses would have been familiar with. In many ways the form of the Law is similar to Babylonian law, but the content is different.

“in the ark” This depositing of special documents before the god is characteristic of the Near East. Compare Egyptian Book of the Dead (in a box under Thot's feet) and the Hittite Suzerain Treaties of the second millennium B.C. See Introduction to the book,VII.

Deuteronomy 10:3 “acacia wood” This was a hard, brownish-orange wood (BDB 1008) that grows in the desert. It was a common small desert tree (cf. Isaiah 41:19). This wood is associated with all of the furniture of the tabernacle. It occurs only here outside the book of Exodus.

Deuteronomy 10:4 “the Ten Commandments” This is literally “the ten words” (BDB 796 CONSTRUCT BDB 182). These basic characteristic, foundational laws are very brief and stated in general principles. They mandate an intimate, exclusive relationship with YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 10:20), which is reflected in exclusive worship and obedience, which in turn mandates an appropriate commiserate relationship with other covenant members (and also non-members, cf. Deuteronomy 10:17-19). Knowing YHWH impacts all of life and its priorities!

“on the mountain from the midst of the fire” This refers to God's presence on Mt. Horeb/Sinai, recorded in Exodus 19:16-20. His presence is described as a “consuming fire on the mountain” (cf. Exodus 24:17). This phrase if used several times Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 4:12, Deuteronomy 4:15, Deuteronomy 4:33, Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 5:4, Deuteronomy 5:24, Deuteronomy 5:26).

The fire (BDB 77, see Special Topic: Fire) was a symbol of YHWH's glorious presence:

1. a torch in Genesis 15:17

2. the burning bush in Exodus 3:2

3. fire on Mt. Horeb, Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 4:11, Deuteronomy 4:12, Deuteronomy 4:15, Deuteronomy 4:33, Deuteronomy 4:36

4. the Shekinah pillar of fire in Exodus 13:21, Exodus 13:22; Exodus 14:24; Numbers 9:15, Numbers 9:16; Numbers 14:14; Psalms 78:14

5. coals of fire in Ezekiel's vision of YHWH's portable throne chariot in Ezekiel 1:13; Ezekiel 10:2

The Ten Commandments are repeatedly said to have been spoken from the midst of the fire (cf. Deuteronomy 4:12, Deuteronomy 4:15, Deuteronomy 4:33; Deuteronomy 5:4, Deuteronomy 5:22, Deuteronomy 5:24, Deuteronomy 5:26; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:4). The commandments were personal, covenantal revelations from YHWH, not the mind of Moses.

Verses 6-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 10:6-9 6(Now the sons of Israel set out from Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died and there he was buried and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his place. 7From there they set out to Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water. 8At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day. 9Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God spoke to him.)


Deuteronomy 10:6 “Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah” The first two words (BDB 91,122) translate literally, “the wells of the sons of Jaakan” (cf. Numbers 33:31). Moserah means “chastisement” (BDB 64). Moserah (possibly a district), which may be synonymous with Mt. Hor (cf. Numbers 20:22-29; Numbers 33:38), is the place where Aaron died. These both refer to geographical areas where the Israelites wandered.

“Aaron died there” Numbers 20:27-28 says this happened at Mt. Hor. Aaron, like Moses, did not enter the Promised Land because of his disobedience (cf. Numbers 20:8, Numbers 20:12).

“Eleazar” His name means “God has helped” (BDB 46). He was the third son of Aaron (cf. Exodus 6:23). The first two sons were killed because they took God's commands lightly (cf. Leviticus 10:1-7; Numbers 3:4). The rabbis say that because Leviticus 10:9 restricts alcohol to priests while they are on duty that these, Nadab and Abihu, were drunk.

The High Priesthood was to pass on through Aaron's family (cf. Exodus 29:9; Exodus 40:15; Numbers 3:5-10; Numbers 25:13).

Deuteronomy 10:7 “Gudgodah” The meaning of the name is uncertain (BDB 151). It is seemingly identified with Hor-haggidgad in Numbers 32:32. They are both places where Israel camped in her journey from Mt. Horeb/Sinai to Kadesh-barnea. The JPSOA has “Gudgod.”

“Jotbathah” The word means “pleasantness” (BDB 406, probably because of the presence of water). It is also mentioned as a campsite in Numbers 33:33-34. The JPSOA has “Jotbath.”

Deuteronomy 10:8 “the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi” The VERB “set apart” (BDB 95, KB 110, Hiphil PERFECT, cf. Numbers 8:14; Numbers 16:9; 1 Chronicles 23:13) means “to divide.” Here the separation is for

(1) special cultic service related to the tabernacle and later temple;

(2) blessings of the people (cf. Deuteronomy 10:8; Leviticus 9:22-23; Numbers 6:22-27);

(3) judging the people's disputes (cf. Deuteronomy 21:5); and

(4) judging between clean and unclean (cf. Leviticus 10:10). This VERB is parallel to “choose” (BDB 103, KB 119, cf. Deuteronomy 18:5; Deuteronomy 21:5).

Israel was to be separate from the other nations (cf. Leviticus 20:24-26; 1 Kings 8:53; i.e., “a holy nation,” cf. Exodus 19:6), so the tribe of Levi was to be separated from the other tribes as YHWH's special cultic servants. They were chosen because:

(1) Levi was from the tribe of Moses and Aaron;

(2) the Levites took the place of the “first born” for the Hebrews (cf. Exodus 13:0; Numbers 3:12; Numbers 8:14-19);or (3) the Levites faithfully responded to Moses' call to punish Israel (cf. Exodus 32:25-29). In Genesis 29:34, Leah called her third son Levi because her husband did not love her, but the child's name meant, “Jacob was attached (or joined) to me” (BDB 532).

As the priestly tribe, they will

(1) carry the ark of the covenant

(2) stand before the Lord to serve Him (i.e., all the duties at the tabernacle and later, the temple, in Jerusalem, cf Deuteronomy 18:5; Numbers 18:1-7

(3) bless in His name (e.g., Numbers 6:24-27)

Later there will develop specific tasks given to some families of Levi to be priests and others will function as Levites. However, in Deuteronomy all Levites can act as priests (compare Deuteronomy 31:9 and 25). See Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 358-371.

Deuteronomy 10:9 “Levi does not have a portion or inheritance” Though the tribe of Levi was not given any land, parts of forty-eight cities were given to them with their surrounding pasture land (cf. Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21:0).

“the LORD is his inheritance” This denoted their special place of service (cf. Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:1, Deuteronomy 18:2; Joshua 13:33; Ezekiel 44:28)! This wonderful promise to the tribe of Levi became a cry from the heart of every true believer (cf. Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:23-28; Psalms 119:57; Psalms 142:5; Lamentations 3:24).

Verses 10-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 10:10-11 10”I, moreover, stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights like the first time, and the LORD listened to me that time also; the LORD was not willing to destroy you. 11Then the LORD said to me, 'Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.'“

Deuteronomy 10:10 “forty nights like the first time” See Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:18.

“the LORD was not willing to destroy you” This was Moses' intercessory ministry (see Special Topic: Intercessory Prayer, cf. Deuteronomy 9:25-29; Exodus 32:9-14).

Deuteronomy 10:11 YHWH commanded Israel to act on what He had already promised-the conquest of the Promised Land:

1. “arise” - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE SINGULAR, cf. Deuteronomy 2:13, Deuteronomy 2:24, which are PLURAL and refer to Israel. Here the SINGULAR refers to Moses.

2. “proceed” - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE SINGULAR, literally means “break camp and start the next stage of the journey” (cf. Exodus 17:1; Exodus 40:36, Exodus 40:38;l Numbers 10:2, Numbers 10:12; Numbers 33:1, Numbers 33:2). Moses was to lead the people onward.

3. “they may go in” - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERATIVE PLURAL, which may be functioning as a JUSSIVE

4. “and possess the land” - BDB 439, KB 441, Qal IMPERFECT PLURAL, which may be functioning as a JUSSIVE

Israel is called on to fulfill YHWH's oath to the Patriarchs (cf. Deuteronomy 1:8; Joshua 21:43). God uses human instrumentality (e.g., Exodus 3:7-12)! It is His power and purpose, but His covenant people must act in faith and trust!

Verses 12-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 10:12-22 12”And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the LORD's commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 14Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. 15Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more. 17For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. 18He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. 22Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 See Special Topic below.


Deuteronomy 10:13 “for your good” Obedience brings blessing; disobedience brings judgment (cf. chapters 27-29).

Deuteronomy 10:14 This verse implies monotheism. This refers to the atmosphere of this planet, the universe (starry canopy), and the throne of God (i.e., the three heavens).

Deuteronomy 10:15 Notice the parallel ways of describing YHWH's election of Israel as His special people (i.e., “even you above all peoples,” cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2):

1. “set His affection” - BDB 365 I, KB 362, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 7:7. In Deuteronomy 4:37 the other word for love (BDB 12, KB 17) is used.

2. “He chose their descendants” - BDB 103, KB 119, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 4:37.

“as it is this day” See note at Deuteronomy 3:14.

Deuteronomy 10:16 Israel was to respond to YHWH's choice by:

1. “circumcise your heart” - BDB 557, KB 555, Qal PERFECT. This is a metaphor of openness to God (cf. Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:25-26). It is expressed in several ways:

a. circumcise your flesh - Genesis 17:14 (covenant sign)

b. circumcise your lips - idiom in Exodus 6:12, Exodus 6:30

c. circumcise your ears - Jeremiah 6:10

d. refers to a true heart, not just body circumcision - Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:25-26; Ezekiel 44:9; Romans 2:28-29

2. “stiffen your neck no more” - BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil IMPERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 9:24, Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 31:27. See note at Deuteronomy 2:30.

Deuteronomy 10:17 Notice the accolades used to describe YHWH:

1. God of gods - BDB 43, cf. Psalms 136:2

2. Lord of lords - BDB 10, cf. Psalms 136:3

3. the great God - BDB 152, cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 5:24; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2; Deuteronomy 32:3; Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 9:32

4. the mighty God - BDB 150, cf. Nehemiah 9:32; Psalms 24:8; Isaiah 10:21

5. the awesome God - BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal PARTICIPLE, cf. Deuteronomy 7:21; Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 9:32

“who does not show partiality” The Hebrew phrase means “who does not lift up faces” (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERFECT plus BDB 815). This is used often of judges (cf. Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 24:17; Leviticus 19:15). This implies that God is a God of fair judgment (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7).

“nor take a bribe” YHWH's character is described in human legal terms (cf. Deuteronomy 10:18-19). This is often associated with the above phrase.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 Notice how the legal characteristics of God in Deuteronomy 10:18 are put into practice:

1. “He executes (BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal PARTICIPLE) justice for”:

a. the orphan

b. the widow (cf. Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 26:12-13; Deuteronomy 27:19; Psalms 68:4-5)

2. “shows His love (BDB 12, KB 17, Qal PARTICIPLE) for the alien by giving him” (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT):

a. food

b. clothing

The Israelites are to do these things for two reasons:

1. It reflects the character of their God (Deuteronomy 10:17; Isaiah 58:6-7, Isaiah 58:10).

2. They know how being treated unfairly feels (Deuteronomy 10:19; Deuteronomy 24:18, Deuteronomy 24:22; Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9).

Exodus 22:22-23 also mentions that God will hear the prayers of these socially powerless ones and act on their behalf (cf. Psalms 146:9; Malachi 3:5; as will the Messiah, cf. Isaiah 11:4).

Deuteronomy 10:20 As the requirements of God were set out in Deuteronomy 10:12-13 by several INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS, here they are set our again in Qal IMPERFECT VERBS:

1. “fear the LORD” - BDB 431, KB 432, cf. Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 13:4

2. “serve Him” - BDB 712, KB 773, cf. Deuteronomy 13:4

3. “cling to Him” - BDB 179, KB 209, cf. Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 13:4

4. “swear by His name” - BDB 989, KB 1396, cf. Deuteronomy 5:11; Deuteronomy 6:13. See full note at Deuteronomy 5:11.

All of these relate to proper motives and actions of worship.

Deuteronomy 10:21 “He is your praise” The language of Deuteronomy has much in common with Wisdom Literature. This phrase is seen in Psalms 109:1. There is no VERB with this phrase or the next one. They are strong affirmations that YHWH's redemptive action during the exodus and wilderness wandering period are praiseworthy:

1. their praise (BDB 239)

2. their Elohim (BDB 43)

“who has done these great and awesome things for you which you have seen” This refers to YHWH's actions and provisions during the exodus from Egypt, the wilderness wandering period (cf. Deuteronomy 11:2), and that which will be repeated during the conquest!

Deuteronomy 10:22 “seventy persons in all Seventy is a round number used of people. See Genesis 46:27; Exodus 1:5.

One text of Exodus 1:5, found at Qumran (i.e., Dead Sea Scrolls) has the number 75, which matches Acts 7:14-15. For a good brief discussion of the different numbers, see Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 521 or Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 378-379.

“as the stars of heaven” This is a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. See full note at Deuteronomy 1:10.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the purpose of God's law (OT sense)?

2. Does this chapter reflect monotheism? Where and how?

3. How does Deuteronomy express God's love for mankind?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 10". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-10.html. 2021.
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