Faux ST: Commentary on Deuteronomy 5:6-21 27,249

6"I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

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. Exod. 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 Gen. 15:12-21.

7"You shall have no other gods before Me."

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. Exod. 20:3,23). YHWH is alone, unique, ever-existing! This is an assertion of monotheism (cf. Exod. 8:10; 9:14; Deut. 4:35,39; 33:26; 1 Sam. 2:2; 2 Sam. 7:22; 22:32; Isa. 46:9). This first assertion and command is the uniqueness of Israel's faith in a polytheistic ancient Near East! See note at Deut. 6:4.

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."

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

▣ "earth" See Special Topic: LAND, COUNTRY, EARTH (ץרא) below.


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. Deut. 4:19; 8:19; 11:16; Exod. 20:5; 23:24)
  2. "serve" - BDB 712, KB 773, Hophal IMPERFECT, which means "do" "serve as a slave," or "perform acts of worship (cf. Deut. 13:2; Exod. 20:5; 23:24

▣ "jealous" See note at Deut. 4:24.

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

  1. visit to bless - Gen. 21:1; 50:24,25; Exod. 13:19; Ruth 1:6; Ps. 65:9; 106:4; Jer. 27:22; 29:10; 32:5
  2. visit to punish - Exod. 20:5; 34:7; Jer. 11:22; 13:21; 21:14; 24:25; Amos 3:2,14; Hosea 1:4; 2:15; 4:14; 12:2

▣ "the iniquity of the fathers" The term "iniquity" (BDB 730) may be related to the similar root, "to twist" (e.g., 2 Sam. 19:20; 24:17; 1 Kgs. 8:47; Ps. 106:6). Israel is punished for her disobedience (e.g., Exod. 20:5; 34:7; Lev. 18:25; Num. 14:18; Deut. 19:15; Jer. 25:12; 36:31; Amos 3:2).

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▣ "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 Deut. 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. Deut. 24:16; 2 Kgs. 14:6; Jer. 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18)!

5:10 "showing" This verb (BDB 793, KB 889) is a Qal active participle, which matches the ongoing action of the verb in Deut. 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. Deut. 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. Deut. 6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1,13,22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6,16,20).

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. Deut. 5:1,10,12,29,32 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). The NT (cf. Jer:31: 31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) is based on God's gracious initiation and redemption in Christ. Believers are still destined to be righteous (cf. Eph. 1:14; 2:10), but they have been accepted and forgiven by grace through faith (cf. Eph. 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 Cor. 5:21).

 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.

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. Deut. 6:13; 10:20), but not the name of other gods!

This emphasis begins in Gen. 4:25-26, where the line of Seth "began to call upon the name of the Lord"; Abraham did the same (Gen. 12:8; 21:33); Isaac did the same (Gen. 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 Rom. 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. Exod. 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. Exod. 20:7; Ps. 139:20). This is the same word used in Deut. 5:20 for a "false" witness. It is possible that this commandment does not refer to taking oaths in YHWH's name (cf. Deut. 6:13; 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. Exod. 20:7; 34:7; Num. 14:18; Jer. 30:11; 46:28; Joel 3:21; Nah. 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; Heb. 10:26-31)!

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.

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 Gen. 2:2-3, where YHWH uses His rest as a pattern for animals (cf. Exod. 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 Exod. 16:25-26 in the gathering of manna. It then becomes part of "the Ten Words" (cf. Exod. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15). This is one example where the Ten Words in Exodus 20 are slightly different from the Ten Words in Deuteronomy 5. Deuteronomy is preparing Israel for the settled, agricultural life in Canaan.

▣ "holy" See Special Topic below.


5:13 "work" Laws like Deut. 5:13-14 caused the development of the Oral Traditions (cf. Matt. 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.

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. Deut. 5:15). It became a covenant marker (like circumcision) of YHWH's people (cf. Exod. 31:13,17; Ezek. 20:12,20). Obedience was mandated (cf. Isa. 56:2; 58:13; Jer. 17:21-22).

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

5:15 "You shall remember" See note at Deut. 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 - Deut. 5:12-15; 16:12

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

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

4. to leave the corners of the field and the second gathering of crops for the poor - Deut. 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., Deut. 6:10-15) and to obey the covenant (e.g., Deut. 8:1-10) lest serious consequences come (e.g., Deut. 8:11-20)

 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.

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:

1. Deut. 5:16 -  Matt. 15:4; Mark 7:10

2. Deut. 5:16-20 -  Matt. 19:18-19a; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20

4. Deut. 5:17 -  Matt. 5:21

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

6. Deut. 6:13 -  Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8

7. Deut. 6:16 -  Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12

8. Deut. 19:15  -  Matt. 18:16

9. Deut. 19:15  -  Matt. 5:38

Paul also quotes Deuteronomy often:

1. Deut. 5:16 -  Eph. 6:2-3

2. Deut. 5:21 -  Rom. 7:7

3. Deut. 19:15  -  2 Cor. 13:1

4. Deut. 21:23  -  Gal. 3:13

5. Deut. 25:4 -  2 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18

6. Deut. 27:26  -  Gal. 3:10

7. Deut. 30:12-14 -  Rom. 10:6-8

8. Deut. 32:21  -  Rom. 11:8

9. Deut. 32:35  -  Rom. 12:19-20

10.  Deut. 32:43  -  Rom. 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. Exod. 21:17; Deut. 27:16). Both were to be respected and obeyed (cf. Pro. 1:8; 6:20; 15:20; 19:26; 20:20; 23:22-25; 30:11,17).

▣ "your days may be prolonged" Verse 33; 4:40; 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 Deut. 4:40.

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.

  17 You shall not murder.

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., Num. 35:30) and Holy War (e.g., 20:13,16-17). 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.



 18 You shall not commit adultery.

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. Deut. 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.

  19You shall not steal.

5:19 "steal" This is probably a reference to kidnaping and selling (BDB 170, KB 198, Qal imperfect, cf. Deut. 24:7; Exod. 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.

  20You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

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. Deut. 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; Ps. 101:5; Pro. 11:9; Jer. 9:8-9).

  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.'

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. Deut. 14:26) or "lust" (often has a sexual context as in Deut. 5:21) for more and more for me at any cost (e.g., Num. 11:4; Ps. 106:14; Pro. 13:4; 21:26; 23:3,6; 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. Matt. 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.

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