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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Deuteronomy 5

 

 

Verses 1-33

A REVIEW OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

(vs.1-22)

At the beginning of the wilderness journey God had given Israel the ten commandments. Now at the end of the journey it was necessary that these same commandments should be strongly pressed upon them. They were now to enter the land, but were to have no smug thoughts of so having obtained what was promised them that they would be able to relax and ignore the laws of God.

Moses, now at the age of 120 years, had not declined in the energy of his speaking, but declared, "Hear, 0 Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them" (v.1).

He reminds Israel that God made a covenant with them in Horeb, not with their fathers, but with them (v.3). This was literally true of all those who were now over forty years of age, though those younger than this had not yet been born. Still, that law was applicable to all who were there alive now that Moses is speaking. Of course those who were living at the time would remember that God had spoken to them from the midst of a fire (v.14). How could they forget that awesome sight?

Moses stood between the Lord and Israel at that time (v.5). Thus he was the mediator, typical of Christ who is today the "one Mediator between God and men" (1 Timothy 2:5). For the presence of God was forbidding then, and would be just as forbidding now if we did not have this Mediator who is the only Way of approach to God.

The ten commandments are introduced by the initial declaration of the Lord, "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (v.16). This certainly should awaken Israel's utmost respect and attention.

The first commandment is absolutely basic, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (v.7). For immediately another god is introduced, whatever people say about it, it is not merely added as an object alongside of God, but it is always put before God. Some may claim it is only intended as a reminder of God, but this is Satan's deception, for such things will always give a wrong conception of God.

The second commandment is related to the first, forbidding the making of images of any created thing, whether in heaven or earth or in the waters (v.8). Bowing down to such things or worshiping them is an insult to God. Israel did this in the case of the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-8), but God is rightly jealous of His own glory, and if the fathers are guilty of such iniquity, God will visit the results of this upon the children to the third and fourth generation (v.9). It is always true that our children will suffer because of our disobedience to God. This does not affect the question of eternal salvation, for any one of the children may still call on the Lord and be saved, but their lives on earth will be affected by their parents' wrongdoing. If a man is a robber, his children will suffer on earth because of this, but they can still be saved eternally by receiving Christ as Savior.

The third commandment forbids taking God's name in vain (v.11). This may be done seriously or flippantly. One may seriously swear by God that he will do a certain thing, and then not do it. People are so irresponsible that such things become commonplace to the point of then using God's name flippantly, so that they don't care how offensively they talk. But God is not mocked: He will execute judgment on all who are ungodly, not only for their ungodly deeds, but for "all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Judges 1:15).

The fourth commandment occupies four verses (vs.12-16), insisting on Israel's observance of the Sabbath day. It was to be sanctified apart from all other days. Though they could labor for six days, labor was to cease of the seventh day, which of course is Saturday. This restriction extended to every family, children and servants, and included their animals. We must remember that the law was given to Israel, not to Gentiles, who are not to be judged in reference to Sabbath days (Colossians 2:16). Under grace no law demands the keeping of any special day, but those who have appreciated the grace of God are glad to give the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, a place of special importance, for it was on this day the Lord rose from the dead, the day he appeared in the midst of His gathered disciples (John 20:19, the day also "when the disciples were gathered together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). It has been a great mercy of God that He has led in allowing the western nations at least to set aside this day that He might be specially honored -- not as a law, but as a spiritual privilege.

These first four commandments we have considered emphasize the responsibility of Israel toward God. This lesson of putting God first must surely not be confined to Israel. Believers today should gladly delight in putting God first, since He has saved us through the sacrifice of His Son.

The last six commandments deal with Israel's responsibilities toward others. Thus the fifth commandment is "Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (v.16). Ephesians 6:1 refers to this as "the first commandment with promise." Israel soon sadly failed in this, as is exampled in Absalom, son of David, who rebelled against his father and sought to kill him (2 Samuel 17:1-4). His days were not long on the earth. It may be that a father is hard and cruel, but his children are still to honor him; a mother may be even irresponsible, but her children are to honor her that is, to show proper respect. Though this is not a legal commandment for believers today, yet Ephesians 6:1 shows it to be of moral importance still. Our motives are not to be those of submitting to legal demands, but of delighting to please God.

The sixth commandment, "You shall not murder," must be considered from the viewpoint God intends (v.17). Israel had already killed many enemies that God had told them to, and in the land of Canaan would be required to kill the inhabitants. God commanded this because the inhabitants were given up to idol worship. Similarly, when justice demands the death of a criminal, it is not murder for the authorities to put him to death. But no individual is at liberty to kill another as he sees fit. As we have seen before, Scripture makes a distinction between murder and manslaughter (ch.4:41-42).

"You shall not commit adultery" is the seventh commandment. Adultery is the corruption of the marriage bond, and the prohibition would certainly extend to every kind of such corruption whether persons are married or not. In the New Testament, though the words, "Ye shall not" are not used, yet the evil of fornication is no less warned against (Acts 15:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). Homosexuality is worse still -- a most flagrant corruption of the bond of marriage (Romans 1:26-27).

The eighth commandment, "You shall not steal" (v.19) is one that nearly all cultures acknowledge as right, though the law does not keep people from stealing. Again, the New Testament does not use the expression, You shall not steal," but goes even farther with an appeal to every Christian heart, "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need" (Ephesians 4:28). Thus, the Lord Jesus so changes hearts by new birth that people want to do positive good rather than to only refrain from doing bad.

The ninth commandment reads, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (v.20). To bear false witness is cruel and gross evil, but this commandment was coldly disregarded by too many Israelites. Jezebel deliberately bribed wicked men to falsely accuse Naboth to have him put to death (1 Kings 21:8-13). Even the chief priests of Israel sought false witnesses to testify against the Lord Jesus, the Son of God (Mark 14:55-59). How refreshing is the contrast in what people said of John the Baptist, "All things that John spoke about the Man (the Lord Jesus) were true (John 10:41). Thus, in the New Testament we are not told, "Thou shalt not," but rather, "Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor" (Ephesians 4:25).

The last commandment strikes, not at the things people do or say, but at the thoughts of their hearts, "You shall not covet." To covet is to crave something that another has. Though one may not steal from another, yet only the craving for his possessions is sin. Paul focuses on this one law in Romans 7:7, where he clearly shows that he would not have considered covetousness as sin unless the law had declared this. Who has not been guilty of such desires? Nor can we get rid of this covetous attitude unless the Lord Jesus works in our hearts by new birth, causing us to willingly judge our motives and seek to live by wholehearted faith. Then, instead of being envious of others, we shall know how to unselfishly "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). We shall be glad if others are blessed even if we are deprived, and this, not because the law commands not to covet, but because the grace of God is working in our hearts. It is the grace of God that teaches us "that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age" (Titus 2:11). The law told people to live in such a way, but it was unable to teach us, as grace does.

Moses tells Israel it was this law that God gave him in the mountain, attended by the cloud, fire, thick darkness and a loud voice, and that He (God Himself) wrote the laws on two tables of stone. this reminder should have deeply affected the people.

THE PEOPLE'S FEAR OF GOD

(vs.23-33)

Moses reminds Israel that when the people had seen the awesome manifestations of the forbidding majesty of God, the heads of their tribes unitedly approached Moses, acknowledging that God had spoken to them, but fearful that God's continued speaking to them would involve His anger in consuming them by fire (vs.23-25). For if God is to speak only in righteousness, how terrible must be the results! They were therefore too frightened to come anywhere near to where God was. So they asked Moses to go near and hear what God would say and afterward tell them (v.27). They did not want to be exposed to judgment, but they did not mind if Moses was exposed! However, in this Moses is a type of Christ, the Mediator.

The Lord responded to their plea by telling Moses they were right in what they said (v.28), that is, that only Moses could approach God at this crucial time. But He added a striking comment, "0 that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever" (v.29).

Thus, God desired, not only their outward obedience, but that they should have hearts delighting in obedience. However, this can only be true for Israel under the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Meanwhile, they were to return to their tents (v.30) with unchanged hearts, while Moses remained in the presence of God to hear the commandments, statutes and judgments to be taught to Israel. Thus Moses again urges upon the people to be careful to do as the Lord commanded, turning neither to one side or the other, either to excessive legality or to careless laxity (v.32). "You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you." No point of the law was to be disregarded, as is confirmed strikingly by James 2:10, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." Therefore, and attitude that defended any disobedience was treachery against God, and would certainly shorten Israel's days in their land (v.33).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 5:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/deuteronomy-5.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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