Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, April 17th, 2024
the Third Week after Easter
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 5

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 5:0


The Ten Commandments ReviewedGiving of the Law at SinaiThe Ten CommandmentsThe Ten Commandments
Deuteronomy 5:1-5Deuteronomy 5:1-5Deuteronomy 5:1-5Deuteronomy 5:1
Deuteronomy 5:2-5
Deuteronomy 5:6-7Deuteronomy 5:6-7Deuteronomy 5:6Deuteronomy 5:6
Deuteronomy 5:7Deuteronomy 5:7
Deuteronomy 5:8-10Deuteronomy 5:8-10Deuteronomy 5:8-10Deuteronomy 5:8-10
Deuteronomy 5:11Deuteronomy 5:11Deuteronomy 5:11Deuteronomy 5:11
Deuteronomy 5:12Deuteronomy 5:12Deuteronomy 5:12Deuteronomy 5:12
Deuteronomy 5:13Deuteronomy 5:13Deuteronomy 5:13Deuteronomy 5:13
Deuteronomy 5:14Deuteronomy 5:14Deuteronomy 5:14Deuteronomy 5:14
Deuteronomy 5:15Deuteronomy 5:15Deuteronomy 5:15Deuteronomy 5:15
Deuteronomy 5:16Deuteronomy 5:16Deuteronomy 5:16Deuteronomy 5:16
Deuteronomy 5:17Deuteronomy 5:17Deuteronomy 5:17Deuteronomy 5:17
Deuteronomy 5:18-21Deuteronomy 5:18-21aDeuteronomy 5:18-21Deuteronomy 5:18-21
Deuteronomy 5:21b
Deuteronomy 5:22Deuteronomy 5:22-27Deuteronomy 5:22Deuteronomy 5:22
The People Afraid of God's Presence The People's FearMoses the Mediator
Deuteronomy 5:23-33 Deuteronomy 5:23-27Deuteronomy 5:23-27
Deuteronomy 5:28-33Deuteronomy 5:28-31Deuteronomy 5:28-31
Deuteronomy 5:32-33To Love Yahweh is the Essence of the Law (Deuteronomy 5:32-13) Deuteronomy 5:32-3

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


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.


A. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 143-144, lists the OT law codes:

1. the Decalogue - Exodus 20:2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21

2. the Code of the Covenant - Exodus 20:22-33

3. Deuteronomy - Deut. 12-26

4. the Law of Holiness - Leviticus 17-26

5. the Priestly code - Leviticus 1-7, Leviticus 1:11-16

All of these are considered Torah. They are specific divine prescriptions on actions and attitudes.

B. Types of Israeli laws

1. Casuistic - laws characterized by the “if. . .then” format. There are consequences to actions. These are usually guidelines for societies.

2. Apodictic - laws stated as general prohibitions (usually SECOND PERSON PLURAL statements - “you shall not. . .”). These are usually guidelines for the spiritual life.

C. Cultural influences

1. in content - earlier law codes

a. Lipit-Ishtar

b. Code of Hammurabi

2. in form - Hittite treaties (Suzerain), which occur in several set patterns, but Deuteronomy and Joshua 24:0 follow the pattern of the 2000 B.C.. period, which shows its historicity (cf. John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context, pp. 95-107; K.A. Kitchen, The Bible in Its World, pp. 80-95; see introduction to the book, VII.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:1-5 1Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. 2The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. 4The LORD spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, 5while I was standing between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said,”

Deuteronomy 5:1 “all Israel” The Law was for everyone (not an elite group), but Moses probably spoke to the elders who then told his words to all the people (i.e., tribes, clans). For “Israel”, see Special Topic: Israel (the name).

“Hear” See note at Deuteronomy 4:1.

“the statutes and the ordinances” See note at Deuteronomy 4:1.

“learn them and observe them carefully” This phrase has three VERBALS:

1. “learn them” (BDB 540, KB 531, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 18:9; Deuteronomy 31:12, Deuteronomy 31:13

2. “observe them” (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 4:6, Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:10, Deuteronomy 5:12, Deuteronomy 5:29, Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 6:2, Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 6:17[twice], Deuteronomy 5:25; Deuteronomy 7:8, Deuteronomy 7:9[twice],11,12[twice], etc.

3. “carefully” - literally “do” (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)

These three VERBALS summarize the meaning of shema (BDB 1033, KB 1570, e.g., Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 5:23, Deuteronomy 5:24, Deuteronomy 5:25, Deuteronomy 5:26, Deuteronomy 5:27[twice], 28[twice]; Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 9:1; Deuteronomy 20:3; Deuteronomy 27:9), which means “hear so as to do”!

Deuteronomy 5:2 “The LORD our God” See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

“made” This is literally “cut” (BDB 503, KB 500, Qal PERFECT [twice]). This was a method of OT covenant ratification (i.e., “to cut a covenant,” cf. Genesis 15:18; Genesis 21:27, Genesis 21:32; Genesis 31:44; Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 5:3; Deuteronomy 29:12; Deuteronomy 31:16). Abraham took a goat, a bull, and other animals, cut them in half, laid the halves on each side, and walked through the middle of those halves as a sign of covenant. It possibly implies a curse on those who break the covenant (cf. Genesis 15:9-18; Jeremiah 34:18) or even a meal to seal the covenant.

“covenant with us” See note at Deuteronomy 4:13.

“at Horeb” Horeb is the Hebrew word for Mt. Sinai. See Special Topic: Location of Mt Sinai.

Deuteronomy 5:3 “our fathers” Some scholars see this phrase referring to the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but others see it referring to the parents, the evil generation who died in the wilderness (cf. Numbers 26:63-65). The next phrase seems to confirm the second option.

with all those of us alive here today” This refers to the children (i.e., under twenty years) of the evil generation. This clearly shows that the words of YHWH had relevance to this generation and every generation, including today.

Deuteronomy 5:4 “face to face” This refers to a personal encounter (not literally) at Mt. Horeb/Sinai in Exodus 19:0. It is a recurrent idiom (cf. Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 34:10; Judges 6:22; Ezekiel 20:35).

“from the midst of the fire” This is a repeated reference to Exodus 19:0 (cf. Deuteronomy 4:12, Deuteronomy 4:15, Deuteronomy 4:33, Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 5:4, Deuteronomy 5:22, Deuteronomy 5:24, Deuteronomy 5:26; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:4).

Deuteronomy 5:5while I was standing between the LORD and you. . .for you were afraid” The people were afraid of YHWH so Moses was a mediator between YHWH and the Israelites (cf. Exodus 19:16).

Verse 6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:6 6”I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Deuteronomy 5:6 “I am the LORD” This may be paraphrased: “I am the 'I Am.'“ I am the ever living, only living God. I am the ever existing One. YHWH is a form of the Hebrew VERB “to be” (cf. Exodus 3:14). See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

“who brought you out of the land of Egypt” Notice that YHWH's grace and elective choice came before the Law was given. God chose Israel, she did not choose him. This choice was made plain to Abraham in the unconditional promise/covenant of Genesis 15:12-21.

Verse 7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:7 7”You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Deuteronomy 5:7 “no other gods before Me” “Before” (BDB 818 #7) is literally “before My Face,” which is an idiom for “no other in My category” (cf. Exodus 20:3, Exodus 20:23). YHWH is alone, unique, ever-existing! This is an assertion of monotheism (cf. Exodus 8:10; Exodus 9:14; Deuteronomy 4:35, Deuteronomy 4:39; Deuteronomy 33:26; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 7:22; 2 Samuel 22:32; Isaiah 46:9). This first assertion and command is the uniqueness of Israel's faith in a polytheistic ancient Near East! See note at Deuteronomy 6:4.

Verses 8-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:8-10 8”You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 9You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Deuteronomy 5:8 “an idol” This is literally “graven image” (BDB 820). This can refer to (1) any physical representation of YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 4:12, Deuteronomy 4:15-19, Deuteronomy 4:23, Deuteronomy 4:25). The golden calf of Exodus 32:0 was a representation of YHWH; or (2) foreign idols (cf. Leviticus 19:4; Leviticus 26:1).

“earth” See Special Topic: LAND, COUNTRY, EARTH (ץרא) below.


Deuteronomy 5:9 “You shall not worship them or serve them” These are two negated VERB forms:

1. “worship” - BDB 1005, KB 295 Hishtaphel IMPERFECT or Hithpael IMPERFECT, which means “bow down,” “prostrate” (cf. Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 11:16; Exodus 20:5; Exodus 23:24)

2. “serve” - BDB 712, KB 773, Hophal IMPERFECT, which means “do” “serve as a slave,” or “perform acts of worship (cf. Deuteronomy 13:2; Exodus 20:5; Exodus 23:24

YHWH knew the “religious” and “superstitious” tendency of the fallen human heart and tried to protect the revelation of Himself and His purposes from the destructive influences of Near Eastern idolatry.

“jealous” See note at Deuteronomy 4:24.

The VERB “visiting” (BDB 823, KB 955, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) has several senses:

1. visit to bless - Genesis 21:1; Genesis 50:24, Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19; Ruth 1:6; Psalms 65:9; Psalms 106:4; Jeremiah 27:22; Jeremiah 29:10; Jeremiah 32:5

2. visit to punish - Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Jeremiah 11:22; Jeremiah 13:21; Jeremiah 21:14; 24:25; Amos 3:2, Amos 3:14; Hosea 1:4; Hosea 2:15; Hosea 4:14; Hosea 12:2

“the iniquity of the fathers” The term “iniquity” (BDB 730) may be related to the similar root, “to twist” (e.g., 2 Samuel 19:20; 2 Samuel 24:17; 1 Kings 8:47; Psalms 106:6). Israel is punished for her disobedience (e.g., Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Leviticus 18:25; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 19:15; Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 36:31; Amos 3:2).

“on the children, and on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” Notice the punishment is not arbitrary or indiscriminate, but directed toward those who “hate” YHWH (BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE). This implies that unbelief runs through families. The influence of the parents is crucial to the development of faith (see notes at Deuteronomy 4:10). In the ancient Near East several generations of families lived together. One generation's unbelief and/or disobedience affected the entire family. This is part of the Hebrew concept of corporality (i.e., one affects the whole-Adam, Achan, David, Jesus).

To this sense of corporality must be added the individual aspect of faith (cf. Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:0)!

Deuteronomy 5:10 “showing” This VERB (BDB 793, KB 889) is a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE, which matches the ongoing action of the VERB in Deuteronomy 5:9.

“lovingkindness” See Special Topic below.


“to thousands” These two verses help me see the nature of YHWH. His basic nature is longsuffering love, but He does punish those who wilfully reject Him (especially those who have some knowledge of His revelation, i.e., the covenant people). The numbers in these two verses make my point. See Special Topic: Thousand (eleph).

1. visiting iniquity to the third and fourth generations

2. showing covenant love to the thousandth generation (cf. Deuteronomy 7:9)

“those who love Me and keep My commandments” It is a characteristic of Deuteronomy to link obedience to YHWH's covenant to love for YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:1, Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 13:3; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 30:6, Deuteronomy 30:16, Deuteronomy 30:20).

YHWH's love is not capricious, but clearly defined. He shows no partiality. His initiating covenant love is maintained by covenant obedience.

“Keep” (BDB 1036, KB 1581) is the key concept in this chapter (cf. Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 5:10, Deuteronomy 5:12, Deuteronomy 5:29, Deuteronomy 5:32 and many more times in Deuteronomy). The OT was based on the grace of YHWH and human obedience/performance. YHWH wanted to show human inability to respond appropriately (cf. Galatians 3:0). The NT (cf. Jer:31: 31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-38) is based on God's gracious initiation and redemption in Christ. Believers are still destined to be righteous (cf. Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 2:10), but they have been accepted and forgiven by grace through faith (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9). Now they obey/perform out of a sense of gratitude and family love (i.e., “those who love Me”). The goal is the same, a righteous (Christlike) people, but the mechanism has changed from human performance to Christ's performance (cf. Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Verse 11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:11 11'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

Deuteronomy 5:11 “You shall not take” The VERB (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERFECT) means “to lift,” to carry,” or “to take.” It seems to imply an act of speech. The Israelites were called on to speak “the name” in worship (cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20), but not the name of other gods!

This emphasis begins in Genesis 4:25-26, where the line of Seth “began to call upon the name of the LORD”; Abraham did the same (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 21:33); Isaac did the same (Genesis 26:25). This same concept is put in an eschatological setting by Joel 2:28-32. This is continued by the Apostle Peter on Pentecost and asserted to be fulfilled (cf. Acts 2:14-21); the Apostle Paul uses the phrase to offer universal salvation in Romans 10:9-13.

The name represents the person and character of YHWH. The Israelites were to be a kingdom of priests to the world (cf. Exodus 19:5-6), but the tragedy is that their covenant disobedience, which caused YHWH to punish them (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29), meant that the message to the world was distorted by:

1. God's judgment of Israel instead of blessing

2. God's people turning to idolatry

3. God's people's developing arrogance, exclusiveness, and self-righteousness!

“in vain” This term (BDB 996) means “empty,” “non-existent,” “vain” (cf. Exodus 20:7; Psalms 139:20). This is the same word used in Deuteronomy 5:20 for a “false” witness. It is possible that this commandment does not refer to taking oaths in YHWH's name (cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20), but in using His name in false legal testimony. Israel became a “false” witness to the character and purposes of YHWH because of their recurrent disobedience, which resulted in YHWH's judgment (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

“for the LORD will not leave him unpunished” The VERB (BDB 667, KB 720, Piel IMPERFECT which means “acquit”) is a metaphor for something clean, thereby innocent or free from guilt (cf. Exodus 20:7; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28; Joel 3:21; Nahum 1:3). There are consequences to human sin. To misrepresent YHWH is a most serious sin, especially for those who know Him (cf. Luke 12:48; Hebrews 10:26-31)!

Verses 12-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:12-15 12Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.

Deuteronomy 5:12 “Observe” This VERB (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE) means “keep” and is used repeatedly in Deuteronomy.

“the sabbath” See Special Topic below.


This term (BDB 992) means “rest” or “cessation of activity.” The usage as a day of worship starts with Genesis 2:2-3, where YHWH uses His rest as a pattern for animals (cf. Exodus 23:12) and mankind (humans need a regular schedule of work, rest, and worship). The first specialized use of this day by Israel was in Exodus 16:25-26 in the gathering of manna. It then becomes part of “the Ten Words” (cf. Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). This is one example where the Ten Words in Exodus 20:0 are slightly different from the Ten Words in Deuteronomy 5:0. Deuteronomy is preparing Israel for the settled, agricultural life in Canaan.

“holy” See Special Topic below.


Deuteronomy 5:13 “work” Laws like Deuteronomy 5:13-14 caused the development of the Oral Traditions (cf. Matthew 5:21-48) to be written because a question like, “What is work?” became crucial. The rabbis devised a definition so that the faithful Jew would not break the Law. The ambiguity of the written Law caused the legalistic Oral Law to be developed.

Deuteronomy 5:14 “seventh day is a sabbath” The Sabbath was a day of rest (BDB 992). There are two origins given for the Sabbath: (1) Exodus 20:11 orients it to Genesis 1-2, while Deuteronomy orients it to the Egyptian bondage (cf. Deuteronomy 5:15). It became a covenant marker (like circumcision) of YHWH's people (cf. Exodus 31:13, Exodus 31:17; Ezekiel 20:12, Ezekiel 20:20). Obedience was mandated (cf. Isaiah 56:2; Isaiah 58:13; Jeremiah 17:21-22).

Like the sun and moon (cf. Genesis 1:14) the Sabbath provided a division of time for mankind's activities (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:0). The seven day week became a way to mark special days and years (cf. Exodus 23:0 and Leviticus 23:0). Specifically, the Sabbath begins on Friday evening and goes through Saturday evening, because Israelites marked the day in Genesis 1:0 categories (“evening and morning,” cf. Genesis 1:5, Genesis 1:8, Genesis 1:13, Genesis 1:19, Genesis 1:23, Genesis 1:31).

Deuteronomy 5:15 “You shall remember” See note at Deuteronomy 7:18.

“that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” Moses uses this experience of slavery to motivate the Israelites to compassionate action toward underprivileged people in their society:

1. to allow servants (and animals) a day of rest - Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Deuteronomy 16:12

2. to freely release and empower Hebrew slaves - Deuteronomy 15:12-15

3. to be fair and just with the underprivileged and disenfranchised - Deuteronomy 24:17-18

4. to leave the corners of the field and the second gathering of crops for the poor - Deuteronomy 24:19-22

This phrase is also used numerous times to warn Israel to act appropriately in light of YHWH's gracious gift of the land (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:10-15) and to obey the covenant (e.g., Deuteronomy 8:1-10) lest serious consequences come (e.g., Deuteronomy 8:11-20)

Verse 16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:16 16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor” This VERB (BDB 457, KB 455, Piel IMPERATIVE) originally meant “to be heavy” and developed a metaphorical meaning of “give due weight to” or “honor.” This honor is not based on agreement, but authority and respect. In a sense it models the relationship between God and mankind. A submissive attitude toward authority is crucial in religious life!

Jesus mentions these commandments several times as well as other portions of Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 5:1. Deuteronomy 5:16 - Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10

Deuteronomy 5:2. Deuteronomy 5:16-20 - Matthew 19:18-19a; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20

Deuteronomy 5:4. Deuteronomy 5:17 - Matthew 5:21

Deuteronomy 5:5. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 - Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27

6. Deuteronomy 6:13 - Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8

7. Deuteronomy 6:16 - Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12

8. Deuteronomy 19:15 - Matthew 18:16

9. Deuteronomy 19:15 - Matthew 5:38

Paul also quotes Deuteronomy often:

Deuteronomy 5:1. Deuteronomy 5:16 - Ephesians 6:2-3

Deuteronomy 5:2. Deuteronomy 5:21 - Romans 7:7

3. 2 Corinthians 13:1

Deuteronomy 5:4. Deuteronomy 21:23 - Galatians 3:13

5. 2 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18

6. Deuteronomy 27:26 - Galatians 3:10

7. Deuteronomy 30:12-14 - Romans 10:6-8

8. Deuteronomy 32:21 - Romans 11:8

9. Deuteronomy 32:35 - Romans 12:19-20

10. Deuteronomy 32:43 - Romans 15:10

(cf. Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, pp. 42-43, 92-95). Apparently the NT writers used the OT extensively, but not legalistically!

“and your mother” This shows high regard for motherhood even though in the Oriental society women were legally on the level of chattel or property. A Hebrew mother was honored in her own home. The authority of parents was strictly respected (cf. Exodus 21:17; Deuteronomy 27:16). Both were to be respected and obeyed (cf. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 19:26; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 23:22-25; Proverbs 30:11, Proverbs 30:17).

“your days may be prolonged” Verse Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 11:9 show that this was a promise to a society, not primarily to an individual. If a society is characterized by honor in the home and respect for family life, that society will be stable and last through time. See note at Deuteronomy 4:40.

Deuteronomy 5:17-21 These are laws that are common to all eastern societies. From archaeological discoveries we know of the Babylonian Law Codes of Lipit-Ishtar and Hammurabi which predate the Law of Moses by several hundred years. The Code of Hammurabi is similar to the Ten Commandments. This similarity shows (1) that there are some things that are innately wrong in every situation and society and (2) that Moses was a child of his own day and culture as well as a prophet of God.

Verse 17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:17 17 You shall not murder.

Deuteronomy 5:17 “murder” The Hebrew VERB “murder” (BDB 953, KB 1283, Qal IMPERFECT) originally meant “to violently crush.” Life belongs to God. This does not mean killing of any kind because Israel had both capital punishment (e.g., Numbers 35:30) and Holy War (e.g., Deuteronomy 20:13, Deuteronomy 20:16-17). The commandment is saying “Thou shalt not violently murder for selfish reasons or revenge” or “do not commit non-legal, premeditated murder.” In my opinion this passage cannot be used as a biblical admonition against military service or capital punishment.



Verse 18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:18 18 You shall not commit adultery.

Deuteronomy 5:18 “adultery” In the OT adultery (BDB 610, KB 658, Qal IMPERFECT) refers to only extra-marital sexual activities. This was a serious crime because of OT views of the afterlife. They believed that in some sense a person lived on through his seed. Also, the importance of tribes inheriting and passing on land allotted to them by YHWH made adultery a significant issue.

Notice, the first law is faithfulness to parents; the second law is faithfulness in not taking your brother's life; the third idea is faithfulness within the home. Even betrothed women were treated as married (cf. Deuteronomy 22:23ff. Mary was accused of unfaithfulness because she was betrothed to Joseph.

This idea of adultery is often used symbolically for idolatry. Ezekiel and Hosea analogously present God as a husband to Israel, therefore, when Israel went after other gods, it was called “going a whoring” and was considered spiritual adultery or faithlessness.

Verse 19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:19 19You shall not steal.

Deuteronomy 5:19 “steal” This is probably a reference to kidnaping and selling (BDB 170, KB 198, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 24:7; Exodus 21:16), because of the context of the surrounding laws. This expresses a faithfulness to one's covenant brother whose life belongs to God. All of the surrounding laws brought the death penalty. This seems harsh for petty theft.

Verse 20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:20 20You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Deuteronomy 5:20 “bear false witness” In ancient societies, when accused of something, it was the responsibility of the accused to prove the accuser wrong rather than our modern American judicial practice of assuming one innocent until proven guilty. If you proved your accuser wrong he had to take the penalty for the crime he accused you of (cf. Deuteronomy 19:16-21). Since disobedience to the Ten Words caused death, false witness was a serious crime! Bearing false witness reveals an unfaithfulness within the community of faith. Lies destroy the reputation and take an innocent life of a covenant brother or sister. God takes this lying seriously (cf. Job 17:5; Psalms 101:5; Proverbs 11:9; Jeremiah 9:8-9).

Verse 21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:21 21You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.'

Deuteronomy 5:21 “shall not covet. . .shall not desire” These two VERBS are synonymous:

1. “covet” - BDB 326, KB 325, Qal IMPERFECT, means “a strong desire” for material things, which can be positive or negative. In this context it is an uncontrollable, selfish desire for something which belongs to a covenant brother.

2. “desire” - BDB 16, KB 20, Hipthpael IMPERFECT, means “desire” (cf. Deuteronomy 14:26) or “lust” (often has a sexual context as in Deuteronomy 5:21) for more and more for me at any cost (e.g., Numbers 11:4; Psalms 106:14; Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 21:26; Proverbs 23:3, Proverbs 23:6; Proverbs 24:1).

This relates to one's inner attitudes and motives. It is capstone to all the other commandments. This is the only commandment that deals with why, not how. This one says not only “don't do” but “don't think this.” Jesus taught that we should not only not kill, we should not hate, or display an attitude that might result in murder. Jesus took this last commandment and raised the rest of the commandments to the level of inner motive and attitude as over against outer action (cf. Matthew 5:17-48). There is all the difference in the world in a man who does not steal because it is not pleasing to God and the man who does not steal because he is afraid of getting caught. One is acting on Christian principles and the other is acting on self-interest.

Verses 22-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:22-27 22”These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire,of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23And it came about, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24And you said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. 25Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we shall die. 26For who is there of all flesh, who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.'“

Deuteronomy 5:22 “He added no more” The Ten Words (Decalog) and their explanations are from YHWH, not Moses (compare Exodus 31:18 & 34:27-28). This is revelation (from God), not human discovery or rationalization. The phrase “and He added no more” is a literary way of asserting a complete revelation (cf. Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32).

Verses Deuteronomy 5:22-27 are referring to the experience of Israel at Mt. Horeb/Sinai and recorded in Exodus 19-20.

This revelation must be respected and untampered with (cf. Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Ecclesiastes 3:14).

Deuteronomy 5:23 “all the heads of your tribes and your elders” The elders came to Moses because they were frightened (cf. Deuteronomy 5:25-26; Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:18; Exodus 20:18-20) by the physical manifestations connected to YHWH's personal presence on Mt. Horeb/Sinai.

Deuteronomy 5:24 “His glory and His greatness” The Hebrew root “glory” (BDB 458) is the same root as “honor” (BDB 457) of Deuteronomy 5:16. Both are commercial terms meaning “heavy” or “weighty,” which came to denote honor. It is used often of God's name (e.g., Psalms 29:2; Psalms 66:2; Psalms 79:9; Psalms 96:8), person (e.g., Exodus 24:16-17; Exodus 33:18, Exodus 33:22; Exodus 40:34-35; Numbers 14:22), and actions (e.g., Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:12).

The second term “greatness” (BDB 152) is often used of God in Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 5:24; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2; Deuteronomy 32:3; Psalms 150:2). See notes at Deuteronomy 5:1 and 10:17.


“that God speaks with man” God does reveal Himself and humanity can understand and relate to Him! This is the basis of our understanding of God's revelation and God's covenant requirements.

Deuteronomy 5:27 “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says” This has two Qal IMPERATIVE VERBS:

1. “go near” - BDB 897, KB 1132, which means “come near” or “approach.” Approaching YHWH often had dangerous consequences (cf. Exodus 16:7; Leviticus 16:1; Numbers 16:16).

2. “hear” - BDB 1033, KB 1570, this is the often repeated VERB shema (i.e., “we will hear and do it”).

Verses 28-33

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:28-33 28”And the LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, 'I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. 29Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! 30Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.' 32So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.”

Deuteronomy 5:28-33 Notice that God says “that it may be well for you.” These commandments weren't given to burden the people. God gave them to give His people freedom. God gave His laws to give us a whole, healthy, and happy life.

Deuteronomy 5:29 “Oh that they had such a heart. . .and would keep all My commandments” This introductory exclamation (“Oh that they had,” BDB 566 plus BDB 678, KB 733, Qal IMPERFECT) is a common phrase in the OT used twenty-five times, mostly in Job (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 209). Here it expresses a wish (cf. 2 Samuel 18:33; Psalms 55:6).

God longs for mankind's happiness and peace, but this involves responsibilities. If they would obey, it would be good for them, for their children, for their children's children and on and on (cf. Deut. 27-29).

Deuteronomy 5:30, Deuteronomy 5:31 These two verses have a series of commands:

1. “go” - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE, Deuteronomy 5:30

2. “say” - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE, Deuteronomy 5:30

3. “return” - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE, Deuteronomy 5:30

4. “stand” - BDB 763, KB 840, Qal IMPERATIVE, Deuteronomy 5:31

5. “speak” - BDB 180, KB 210, Qal IMPERATIVE, Deuteronomy 5:31

6. “teach” - BDB 540, KB 531, Piel IMPERFECT (possibly in this context COHORTATIVE in meaning), Deuteronomy 5:31

Deuteronomy 5:31 “all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments” See Special Topic at Deuteronomy 4:1.

“which I give them to possess” There are two VERBALS in this phrase:

1. “give” - BDB, 678, KB 733, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE

2. “to possess” - BDB, 429, KB 441, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

This statement is based on:

1. God's promise to Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:18-21

2. God's promise to Isaac, Genesis 26:3-5

3. God's promise to Jacob, Genesis 28:13-15; Genesis 35:9-12

4. God's promise to Israel, Genesis 15:16; Exodus 6:4, Exodus 6:8; Deuteronomy 4:38, Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 19:10; Deuteronomy 20:16; Deuteronomy 21:23; Joshua 1:2, Joshua 1:3, Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:11, Joshua 1:13, Joshua 1:15; Joshua 2:9, Joshua 2:24; Joshua 18:3; Joshua 21:43; Joshua 24:13

God gave/promised a special land to Israel, but Israel had to (1) take it, (2) settle it, and (3) maintain covenant faithfulness in it (cf. Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 7:12-13; Deuteronomy 8:1-20).

Deuteronomy 5:32 “you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left” This is an idiom related to God's word as a clearly defined path or road (cf. Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 6:23). To deviate from God's clear path/road was sin (cf. Deuteronomy 9:12, Deuteronomy 9:16; Deuteronomy 17:11, Deuteronomy 17:20; Deuteronomy 28:14; Joshua 1:7; Joshua 23:6; 31:29; 2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 34:2; Proverbs 4:27). See note at Deuteronomy 2:27.

Deuteronomy 5:33 “You shall walk” In this context “walk” means “lifestyle” (BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERFECT). Biblical faith is not only laws to be kept, it is a daily lifestyle: 24 hours a day, 7 days-a-week relationship to God by faith. This faith must issues in a godly life.

“that it may be well with” The VERB (BDB 373, KB 370, Qal PERFECT) is literally “pleasing” or “good.” The ADJECTIVE is often used to describe the Promised Land (cf. Deuteronomy 1:25, Deuteronomy 1:25; Deuteronomy 3:25; Deuteronomy 4:21, Deuteronomy 4:22, etc.). The VERB describes the good life God promises for covenant obedience (cf. Deuteronomy 15:16; Deuteronomy 19:13).


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 relationship between law and grace? Should Christians keep the Ten Commandments?

2. What is the purpose of the Law?

3. Why are the Ten Commandments different when comparing Exodus 20:0 and Deuteronomy 5:0?

4. What is the purpose of the Sabbath? Why don't we worship on Saturday?

5. What unifying theme do we see in Deuteronomy 5:16-21?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 5". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-5.html. 2021.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile