Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 4:1-43

You are here

Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 4:1-43

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

Moses Exhorts Obedience 

Moses cautions Israel not to “add to” nor “take from” God’s commandments (verse 2), but, rather, to “carefully observe” them and to “act” in accordance with them (verses 2, 14, 5-6). To know God’s Word is not enough—indeed, it is quite useless unless one acts on it and does His will (see Matthew 5:19 Matthew 5:19Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 7:24-27 Matthew 7:24-27 [24] Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house on a rock: [25] And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on a rock. [26] And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house on the sand: [27] And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
American King James Version×
; James 1:22-25 James 1:22-25 [22] But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. [23] For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like to a man beholding his natural face in a glass: [24] For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. [25] But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
American King James Version×
). If Israel does this, then they will be recognized by others as a great, wise, understanding, righteous and God-fearing nation (verses 6-8). But since such recognition could be a source of pride, Moses warns them to not forget God and His wonders (verses 9-10). He reminds them that God was the originator of this wise law—that He appeared to them on the mountain to proclaim His Ten Commandments (verse 10).

At that time, the people did not see a “form” of God (verse 12). He points this out to dissuade the people from crafting any images of Him. However, as a consequence of this statement, some believe that God is formless and shapeless. Yet this is emphatically false, as the fact that God does have form is clearly stated in Numbers 12:6-8 Numbers 12:6-8 [6] And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream. [7] My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house. [8] With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
American King James Version×
. In fact, God created man in His image, in accordance with His likeness (Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
), as Adam’s son Seth was in the image and likeness of Adam (Genesis 5:3 Genesis 5:3And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:
American King James Version×
). Moreover, God revealed His glorified form to Moses (compare Exodus 33:18-23 Exodus 33:18-23 [18] And he said, I beseech you, show me your glory. [19] And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. [20] And he said, You can not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. [21] And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on a rock: [22] And it shall come to pass, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand while I pass by: [23] And I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
American King James Version×
). Both the Father’s and the Son’s glorified appearance are described in the Bible (compare Daniel 7:9 Daniel 7:9I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
American King James Version×
, Daniel 7:13 Daniel 7:13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
American King James Version×
; Ezekiel 1:26-28 Ezekiel 1:26-28 [26] And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and on the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above on it. [27] And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. [28] As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.
American King James Version×
; Revelation 1:12-16 Revelation 1:12-16 [12] And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; [13] And in the middle of the seven candlesticks one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. [14] His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; [15] And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. [16] And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.
American King James Version×
; Revelation 4:2-3 Revelation 4:2-3 [2] And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. [3] And he that sat was to look on like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like to an emerald.
American King James Version×
; Revelation 5:1 Revelation 5:1And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
American King James Version×
), clearly proving that God has form. Further, although the people as a whole did not see any form when God spoke to them from the mountain, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the 70 elders of Israel clearly did see a form shortly thereafter (Exodus 24:9-11 Exodus 24:9-11 [9] Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: [10] And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. [11] And on the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
American King James Version×
). Nevertheless, in no encounter did anyone see the full glorified appearance of the Almighty. And not only can no image truly capture God’s glory, but any image would limit Him in people’s minds.

In Deuteronomy 4:13 Deuteronomy 4:13And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them on two tables of stone.
American King James Version×
, we read that God “declared…His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.” Some have taken this passage to mean that the Old Covenant was the same as the Ten Commandments, and that when the Old Covenant was abolished, so were the Ten Commandments. This understanding, however, is not correct—since a covenant is a contract or an agreement, which is based on law but not identical to the law. For instance, we read in Exodus 24:8 Exodus 24:8And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you concerning all these words.
American King James Version×
that God made a covenant with Israel “according to all these words.” The Revised English Bible renders this, “on the terms of this book.” In Exodus 34:27 Exodus 34:27And the LORD said to Moses, Write you these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.
American King James Version×
, it is again explained that a covenant is made based on law, as we read, “Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made [or, better, I will make] a covenant with you and with Israel.” Again, the Revised English Bible states that “the covenant I make with you and with Israel is on those terms.” We have already seen that the Ten Commandments were in force long before Moses lived, so the Old Covenant did not bring them into existence—nor was it identical to them. What the Old Covenant did not bring into force could not be abolished when that covenant ended at the time of Christ’s death. The reason that the Ten Commandments are especially emphasized in Deuteronomy 4:13 Deuteronomy 4:13And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them on two tables of stone.
American King James Version×
is that they are the heart and core of the law on which the Old Covenant was based (compare Deuteronomy 5:22 Deuteronomy 5:22These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly in the mount out of the middle of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them to me.
American King James Version×
)—but they are not all the law on which the covenant was based (compare Deuteronomy 4:14 Deuteronomy 4:14And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might do them in the land where you go over to possess it.
American King James Version×
).

Moses begins to admonish the Israelites again not to make any carved images, in whatever form, to portray or picture God as an aid to worship (verses 15-18, 23-25). Further, he warns them not to worship anything else in place of the true God (verse 19). Earlier, in Exodus 32, God had condemned Israel for making a golden calf representing Him (Exodus 32:8 Exodus 32:8They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be your gods, O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
American King James Version×
). Rather than using physical pictures, portrayals or representations of God in our worship of Him, we are to worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
American King James Version×
)—not with idolatrous images and practices adopted from false religions. Moses warns the Israelites that if they would not obey God’s commandments, God would scatter them among the nations so that only few would survive (verses 26-27). The fulfillment of this prophecy lies ahead of us, as it was meant for the end time or the “latter days” (verse 30).

A hint of man’s amazing destiny is given in verse 19, where it says that “the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven” are for “all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.” Thus, though mankind was only given dominion over the earth in Genesis 2, we are to ultimately inherit the entire universe. This is the same incredible message conveyed in Romans 8:16-25 Romans 8:16-25 [16] The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: [17] And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. [18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. [19] For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. [20] For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, [21] Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. [23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [24] For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? [25] But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
American King James Version×
and Hebrews 2:5-11 Hebrews 2:5-11 [5] For to the angels has he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. [6] But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that you are mindful of him? or the son of man that you visit him? [7] You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of your hands: [8] You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. [9] But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. [10] For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. [11] For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
American King James Version×
.

Deuteronomy 4:29 Deuteronomy 4:29But if from there you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find him, if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
American King James Version×
is a wonderful comfort. It assures us that we will find God if we search for Him will all our heart and soul (compare Jeremiah 29:13 Jeremiah 29:13And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.
American King James Version×
). Indeed, God wants not just part of our affections but our entire being devoted to Him (compare Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 [1] I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 22:37 Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
American King James Version×
).

You might also be interested in...