Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 4:44-5:33

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Deuteronomy 4:44-5:33

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The Decalogue Repeated 

Moses repeats the Ten Commandments to the younger generation. Comparing this chapter with Exodus 20, we see that God inspires Moses here to give an additional reason for keeping the Sabbath—“remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deutereonomy 5:15). So the Sabbath not only reminds us that God is our Creator, but it also points to Him as our Redeemer—the One who delivers us from spiritual Egypt, i.e., the dominion of Satan, society and our own sinful nature. The Sabbath day, then, signifies freedom and reminds us that we should share this freedom with everyone who is within our care and under our control (verse 14). Of course, heads of households must exercise great wisdom in this area when it comes to wives and houseguests who do not share the same beliefs.

The Fifth and Tenth Commandments also have wordings slightly different from those in Exodus 20. Notice the words “as the Lord your God has commanded you” in the Fourth and Fifth Commandments. These are not ten suggestions, and it’s interesting that God emphasized this concerning these two commandments when He inspired Moses to restate the Ten.

The fifth commandment is stated very positively, adding not only the same blessing for obedience promised in Exodus 20—“that your days may be long…in the land”—but also the words “that it may be well with you.” Obedience to this commandment is essential to maintain healthy families, which are one of the foundation of a stable society. The lack of proper esteem and respect for parents is one of the reasons that families in Western nations are in sad shape. World magazine recently reported, “A respected seminary professor [suggested] that the very concept of fatherhood may ‘now be passe’ for a high proportion of young people” (May 25, 2002).

In the Tenth Commandment, “wife” and “house” are in opposite order in the two versions, and Deuteronomy adds “his field.” The reason for that addition may be that no Israelite had a field of his own for 40 years after the Exodus, but now they were about to gain fields in the Promised Land. Realizing the Tenth Commandment prohibits coveting, it is interesting to consider Colossians 3:5 Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
American King James Version×
, which tells us that covetousness is idolatry. Thus, the Tenth Commandment links right back up with the First Commandment. In this way, the Ten Commandments make a complete circuit.

“Face to face” in verse 4 does not mean the Israelites actually saw the face of God (see Deuteronomy 5:5 Deuteronomy 5:5(I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to show you the word of the LORD: for you were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying,
American King James Version×
, Deuteronomy 5:22-23 Deuteronomy 5:22-23 [22] These 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. [23] And it came to pass, when you heard the voice out of the middle of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that you came near to me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders;
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; Deuteronomy 4:12 Deuteronomy 4:12And the LORD spoke to you out of the middle of the fire: you heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only you heard a voice.
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, Deuteronomy 4:15 Deuteronomy 4:15Take you therefore good heed to yourselves; for you saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spoke to you in Horeb out of the middle of the fire:
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). Even Moses did not see His glorious face. The expression implies close proximity—being confronted with God’s obvious presence—and God’s speaking to them on a level they could understand.

People accuse God of hiding from them, but in verses 23-27 we see man’s proclivity to hide—or at least keep his distance—from God. Of course, God mercifully understands (verse 28), and He expresses His longing for the time when they would have “a heart in them” to properly fear and obey Him (verse 29). A heart can be spiritually converted only when God gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5-10 Romans 8:5-10 [5] For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. [6] For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. [7] Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. [8] So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. [9] But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. [10] And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
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; Deuteronomy 29:4 Deuteronomy 29:4Yet the LORD has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, to this day.
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).


Supplementary Reading: First question and answer (regarding which commandment is which), “Questions & Answers,”The Good News, July-August 2002, p. 31.

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