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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Deuteronomy Chapter 5


deu 5:0

A. The True Essence of the Law and Its Fulfilment

The exposition of the law commences with a repetition of the ten words of the covenant, which were spoken to all Israel directly by the Lord Himself.

Deuteronomy 5:1

deu 5:1

Deu 5:1-5 form the introduction, and point out the importance and great significance of the exposition which follows. Hence, instead of the simple sentence "And Moses said," we have the more formal statement "And Moses called all Israel, and said to them." The great significance of the laws and rights about to be set before them, consisted in the fact that they contained the covenant of Jehovah with Israel.

Deu 5:2-3

"Jehovah our God made a covenant with us in Horeb; not with our fathers, but with ourselves, who are all of us here alive this day." The "fathers" are neither those who died in the wilderness, as Augustine supposed, nor the forefathers in Egypt, as Calvin imagined; but the patriarchs, as in Deu 4:37. Moses refers to the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, which was essentially distinct from the covenant at Sinai, which was essentially distinct from the covenant made with Abraham (Gen 15:18), though the latter laid the foundation for the Sinaitic covenant. But Moses passed over this, as it was not his intention to trace the historical development of the covenant relation, but simply to impress upon the hearts of the existing generation the significance of its entrance into covenant with the Lord. The generation, it is true, with which God made the covenant at Horeb, had all died out by that time, with the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, and only lived in the children, who, though in part born in Egypt, were all under twenty years of age at the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, and therefore were not among the persons with whom the Lord concluded the covenant. But the covenant was made not with the particular individuals who were then alive, but rather with the nation as an organic whole. Hence Moses could with perfect justice identify those who constituted the nation at that time, with those who had entered into covenant with the Lord at Sinai. The separate pronoun (we) is added to the pronominal suffix for the sake of emphasis, just as in Gen 4:26, etc.; and אלּה again is so connected with אנחנוּ, as to include the relative in itself.

Deu 5:4-5

"Jehovah talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire," i.e., He came as near to you as one person to another. בּפנים פּנים is not perfectly synonymous with פּנים אל פּנים, which is used in Exo 33:11 with reference to God's speaking to Moses (cf. Deu 34:10, and Gen 32:31), and expresses the very confidential relation in which the Lord spoke to Moses as one friend to another; whereas the former simply denotes the directness with which Jehovah spoke to the people. - Before repeating the ten words which the Lord addressed directly to the people, Moses introduces the following remark in Deu 5:5 - "I stood between Jehovah and you at that time, to announce to you the word of Jehovah; because ye were afraid of the fire, and went not up into the mount" - for the purpose of showing the mediatorial position which he occupied between the Lord and the people, not so much at the proclamation of the ten words of the covenant, as in connection with the conclusion of the covenant generally, which alone in fact rendered the conclusion of the covenant possible at all, on account of the alarm of the people at the awful manifestation of the majesty of the Lord. The word of Jehovah, which Moses as mediator had to announce to the people, had reference not to the instructions which preceded the promulgation of the decalogue (Exo 19:11.), but, as is evident from Deu 5:22-31, primarily to the further communications which the Lord was about to address to the nation in connection with the conclusion of the covenant, besides the ten words (viz., Exo 20:18; 22:1-23:33), to which in fact the whole of the Sinaitic legislation really belongs, as being the further development of the covenant laws. The alarm of the people at the fire is more fully described in Deu 5:25. The word "saying" at the end of Deu 5:5 is dependent upon the word "talked" in Deu 5:4; Deu 5:5 simply containing a parenthetical remark.

Deuteronomy 5:6

deu 5:6

In vv. 6-21, the ten covenant words are repeated from Ex 20, with only a few variations, which have already been discussed in connection with the exposition of the decalogue at Exo 20:1-14. - In Deu 5:22-33, Moses expounds still further the short account in Exo 20:18-21, viz., that after the people had heard the ten covenant words, in their alarm at the awful phenomena in which the Lord revealed His glory, they entreated him to stand between as mediator, that God Himself might not speak to them any further, and that they might not die, and then promised that they would hearken to all that the Lord should speak to him (Exo 20:23 -31). His purpose in doing so was to link on the exhortation in vv. 32, 33, to keep all the commandments of the Lord and do them, which paves the way for passing to the exposition of the law which follows. "A great voice" (Exo 20:22) is an adverbial accusative, signifying "with a great voice" (cf. Ges. 118, 3). "And He added no more:" as in Num 11:25. God spoken the ten words directly to the people, and then no more; i.e., everything further He addressed to Moses alone, and through his mediation to the people. As mediator He gave him the two tables of stone, upon which He had written the decalogue (cf. Exo 31:18). This statement somewhat forestalls the historical course; and in Deu 9:10-11, it is repeated again in its proper historical connection.

Deuteronomy 5:24

deu 5:24

Deu 5:24-27 contain a rhetorical, and at the same time really a more exact, account of the events described in Exo 20:18-20 (15-17). ואתּ (Deu 5:24), a contraction of ואתּה, as in Num 11:15 (cf. Ewald, 184, a.). Jehovah's reply to the words of the people (Deu 5:28-31) is passed over in Ex 20. God approved of what the people said, because it sprang from a consciousness of the unworthiness of any sinner to come into the presence of the holy God; and He added, "Would that there were always this heart in them to fear Me," i.e., would that they were always of the same mind to fear Me and keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and their children for ever. He then directed the people to return to their tents, and appointed Moses as the mediator, to whom He would address all the law, that he might teach it to the people (cf. Deu 4:5). Having been thus entreated by the people to take the office of mediator, and appointed to that office by the Lord, Moses could very well bring his account of these events to a close (Deu 5:32, Deu 5:33), by exhorting them to observe carefully all the commandments of the Lord, and not to turn aside to the right hand or to the left, i.e., not to depart in any way from the mode of life pointed out in the commandments (cf. Deu 17:11, Deu 17:20; Deu 28:14; Jos 1:7, etc.), that it might be well with them, etc. (cf. Deu 4:40). וטוב, perfect with ו rel. instead of the imperfect.

Next: Deuteronomy Chapter 6