Deuteronomy 5-8: Commandments

Moses reminds the Israelites of the covenant at Horeb, containing the Ten Commandments.  Moses then imparts further instructions, which they must obey willingly and faithfully, that it may go well with them and that they may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey.  The instructions include:

The LORD is our God, the LORD alone; you shall not follow other gods.  Love the LORD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  Do not try the LORD as you did at Massah, but keep the commandments that he has enjoined upon you.  When you enter Canaan, you must kill all the inhabitants; you may not make agreements with them, give them quarter, or intermarry with them.  You must destroy their religious objects and not worship their gods.  When you have eaten your fill, built fine houses, and become wealthy, do not forget it was God who made you so.


  • 5:2-3 read “The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.  It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today.”  This is literally false–in the narrative of the Torah, every single person who left Egypt has now died.  This passage is possibly intended to suggest the Israelites’ closeness to God.
  • 5:4 and 5:5 contradict each other.  5:4 reads “Face to face the LORD spoke to you on the mountain out of the fire” while 5:5 “I stood between the LORD and you at that time to convey the LORD’s words to you, for you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.”  Did the Israelites speak to God face to face on the mountain, or did they remain below the mountain?  As is normal in Deuteronomy, the editor preserves two different and contradictory traditions right next to each other.
  • The Ten Commandments recited in Deut 5 are very similar to, but not identical to, the ones in Exodus.  For example, in Exodus 20:11, the Israelites must observe the Sabbath because the LORD rested on the seventh day.  In Deuteronomy 5:15, they must observe it because it allows their slaves to rest.
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