Deuteronomy 5

The Opening Exhortation

1Then Moses called all the people of Israel together and said to them:
Heb “and Moses called to all Israel and he said to them”; NAB, NASB, NIV “Moses summoned (convened NRSV) all Israel.”
“Listen, Israel, to the statutes and ordinances that I am about to deliver to you today; learn them and be careful to keep them!
2The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3He
Heb “the Lord.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.
did not make this covenant with our ancestors
Heb “fathers.”
but with us, we who are here today, all of us living now.
4The Lord spoke face to face with you at the mountain, from the middle of the fire. 5(I was standing between the Lord and you at that time to reveal to you the message
Or “word” (so KJV, NASB, NIV); NRSV “words.”
of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain.) He said:

The Ten Commandments

6 “I am the Lord your God, he who brought you from the land of Egypt, from the place of slavery. 7You must not have any other gods
Heb “there must not be for you other gods.” The expression “for you” indicates possession.
besides me.
Heb “upon my face,” or “before me” (עַל־פָּנָיַ, ’al-panaya). Some understand this in a locative sense: “in my sight.” The translation assumes that the phrase indicates exclusion. The idea is that of placing any other god before the Lord in the sense of taking his place. Contrary to the view of some, this does not leave the door open for a henotheistic system where the Lord is the primary god among others. In its literary context the statement must be taken in a monotheistic sense. See, e.g., 4:39; 6:13–15.
8You must not make for yourself an image
Heb “an image, any likeness.”
of anything in heaven above, on earth below, or in the waters beneath.
Heb “under the earth” (so ASV, NASB, NRSV); NCV “below the land.”
9You must not worship or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. I punish
In the Hebrew text the form is a participle, which is subordinated to what precedes. For the sake of English style, the translation divides this lengthy verse into two sentences.
the sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons for the sin of the fathers who reject
Heb “who hate” (so NAB, NIV, NLT). Just as “to love” (אָהַב, ’ahav) means in a covenant context “to choose, obey,” so “to hate” (שָׂנֵא, sane’) means “to reject, disobey” (cf. the note on the word “loved” in Deut 4:37; see also 5:10).
Heb “visiting the sin of fathers upon sons and upon a third (generation) and upon a fourth (generation) of those who hate me.” God sometimes punishes children for the sins of a father (cf. Num 16:27, 32; Josh 7:24–25; 2 Sam 21:1–9). On the principle of corporate solidarity and responsibility in OT thought see J. Kaminsky, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup). In the idiom of the text, the father is the first generation and the “sons” the second generation, making grandsons the third and great-grandsons the fourth. The reference to a third and fourth generation is a way of emphasizing that the sinner’s punishment would last throughout his lifetime. In this culture, where men married and fathered children at a relatively young age, it would not be unusual for one to see his great-grandsons. In an Aramaic tomb inscription from Nerab dating to the seventh century b.c., Agbar observes that he was surrounded by “children of the fourth generation” as he lay on his death bed (see ANET 661). The language of the text differs from Exod 34:7, the sons are the first generation, the grandsons (literally, “sons of the sons”) the second, great-grandsons the third, and great-great-grandsons the fourth. One could argue that formulation in Deut 5:9 (see also Exod 20:50) is elliptical/abbreviated or that it suffers from textual corruption (the repetition of the words “sons” would invite accidental omission).
10but I show covenant faithfulness
This theologically rich term (חֶסֶד, khesed) describes God’s loyalty to those who keep covenant with him. Sometimes it is used synonymously with בְּרִית (berit, “covenant”; Deut 7:9), and sometimes interchangeably with it (Deut 7:12). See H.-J. Zobel, TDOT 5:44–64.
to the thousands
By a slight emendation (לַאֲלּוּפִים [laallufim] for לַאֲלָפִים [laalafim]) “clans” could be read in place of the MT reading “thousands.” However, no ms or versional evidence exists to support this emendation.
Another option is to understand this as referring to “thousands (of generations) of those who love me” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). See Deut 7:9.
who choose
Heb “love.” See note on the word “reject” in v. 9.
me and keep my commandments.
11You must not make use of the name of the Lord your God for worthless purposes,
Heb “take up the name of the Lord your God to emptiness”; KJV “take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” The idea here is not cursing or profanity in the modern sense of these terms but rather the use of the divine Name for unholy, mundane purposes, that is, for meaningless (the Hebrew term is שָׁוְא) and empty ends. In ancient Israel this would include using the Lord’s name as a witness in vows one did not intend to keep.
for the Lord will not exonerate anyone who abuses his name that way.
Heb “who takes up his name to emptiness.”
12Be careful to observe
Heb “to make holy,” that is, to put to special use, in this case, to sacred purposes (cf. vv. 13–15).
the Sabbath day just as the Lord your God has commanded you.
13You are to work and do all your tasks in six days, 14but the seventh day is the Sabbath
There is some degree of paronomasia (wordplay) here: “the seventh (הַשְּׁבִיעִי, hashevii) day is the Sabbath (שַׁבָּת, shabbat).” Otherwise, the words have nothing in common, since “Sabbath” is derived from the verb שָׁבַת (shavat, “to cease”).
of the Lord your God. On that day you must not do any work, you, your son, your daughter, your male slave, your female slave, your ox, your donkey, any other animal, or the foreigner who lives with you,
Heb “in your gates”; NRSV, CEV “in your towns”; TEV “in your country.”
so that your male and female slaves, like yourself, may have rest.
15Recall that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there by strength and power.
Heb “by a strong hand and an outstretched arm,” the hand and arm symbolizing divine activity and strength. Cf. NLT “with amazing power and mighty deeds.”
That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to observe
Or “keep” (so KJV, NRSV).
the Sabbath day.
The imperative here means, literally, “regard as heavy” (כַּבֵּד, kabbed). The meaning is that great importance must be ascribed to parents by their children.
your father and your mother just as the Lord your God has commanded you to do, so that your days may be extended and that it may go well with you in the land that he
Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “He” in 5:3.
is about to give you.
17You must not murder.
Traditionally “kill” (so KJV, ASV, RSV, NAB). The verb here (רָצַח, ratsakh) is generic for homicide but in the OT both killing in war and capital punishment were permitted and even commanded (Deut 13:5, 9; 20:13, 16–17), so the technical meaning here is “murder.”
18You must not commit adultery. 19You must not steal. 20You must not offer false testimony against another.
Heb “your neighbor.” Clearly this is intended generically, however, and not to be limited only to those persons who live nearby (frequently the way “neighbor” is understood in contemporary contexts). So also in v. 20.
21You must not desire
The Hebrew verb used here (חָמַד, khamad) is different from the one translated “crave” (אָוַה, ’avah) in the next line. The former has sexual overtones (“lust” or the like; cf. Song of Sol 2:3) whereas the latter has more the idea of a desire or craving for material things.
another man’s
Heb “your neighbor’s.” See note on the term “fellow man” in v. 19.
wife, nor should you crave his
Heb “your neighbor’s.” The pronoun is used in the translation for stylistic reasons.
house, his field, his male and female servants, his ox, his donkey, or anything else he owns.”
Heb “or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The Narrative of the Sinai Revelation and Israel’s Response

22 The Lord said these things to your entire assembly at the mountain from the middle of the fire, the cloud, and the darkness with a loud voice, and that was all he said.
Heb “and he added no more” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NLT “This was all he said at that time.”
Then he inscribed the words
Heb “them”; the referent (the words spoken by the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
23Then, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness while the mountain was ablaze, all your tribal leaders and elders approached me. 24You said, “The Lord our God has shown us his great glory
Heb “his glory and his greatness.”
and we have heard him speak from the middle of the fire. It is now clear to us
Heb “this day we have seen.”
that God can speak to human beings and they can keep on living.
25But now, why should we die, because this intense fire will consume us! If we keep hearing the voice of the Lord our God we will die! 26Who is there from the entire human race
Heb “who is there of all flesh.”
who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the middle of the fire as we have, and has lived?
27You go near so that you can hear everything the Lord our God is saying and then you can tell us whatever he
Heb “the Lord our God.” See note on “He” in 5:3.
says to you; then we will pay attention and do it.”
28When the Lord heard you speaking to me, he
Heb “the Lord.” See note on “He” in 5:3.
said to me, “I have heard what these people have said to you – they have spoken well.
29If only it would really be their desire to fear me and obey
Heb “keep” (so KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV).
all my commandments in the future, so that it may go well with them and their descendants forever.
30Go and tell them, ‘Return to your tents!’ 31But as for you, remain here with me so I can declare to you all the commandments,
Heb “commandment.” The MT actually has the singular (הַמִּצְוָה, hammitsvah), suggesting perhaps that the following terms (חֻקִּים [khuqqim] and מִשְׁפָּטִים [mishpatim]) are in epexegetical apposition to “commandment.” That is, the phrase could be translated “the entire command, namely, the statutes and ordinances.” This would essentially make מִצְוָה (mitsvah) synonymous with תּוֹרָה (torah), the usual term for the whole collection of law.
statutes, and ordinances that you are to teach them, so that they can carry them out in the land I am about to give them.”
Heb “to possess it” (so KJV, ASV); NLT “as their inheritance.”
32Be careful, therefore, to do exactly what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn right or left! 33Walk just as he
Heb “the Lord your God.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.
has commanded you so that you may live, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long
Heb “may prolong your days”; NAB “may have long life”; TEV “will continue to live.”
in the land you are going to possess.

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