Devotional Commentary on Deuteronomy 5


When Moses speaks in Deuteronomy, he is removed nearly 36-38 years from the Sinai experience with the Lord and the direct reception of the Ten Commandments and other instructions. This was in 1448 BCE that he was at Sinai to have the direct communication with God as opposed to the writing here in Deuteronomy 5 when it was probably 1412-1411 BCE. Scholars like Michael Fishbane and James Barr tried to make a contrast between what Moses said in Exodus 34 and what he is saying here in Deuteronomy 5. Anyone who applauds James Barr, applauds in essence a Baal-prophet. If someone tells me he was actually agnostic, I would believe it. He hated Biblicism and hated biblical fundamentalism. He wrote his books and articles on Semantics to counter this phenomenon. His intention was to downplay the veracity of the Word of God and to create doubt in so-called errors, misperceptions and contradictions. This is typical of the Modernism trend since the 1960’s and R. Bultmann et al participated in it with shining colors. Birds of a feather flock together. And they did. Fishbane thanked Barr in his preface of his book. This is the spirit of the hermeneutics of suspicion which today are hiding under another cloak: the hermeneutics of difference. They are the same. When Fishbane started his schooling in 1973 in the hermeneutics of suspicion, I started with the help of the Lord with the hermeneutics of affirmation. That is what Adventism is all about. They protect the Word of God, not breaking it down. Thus, everything harmonize because what we have in the Word of God is not the total picture. It is selections from the total picture and the total picture is clearer by collecting all the bits and pieces. They do not contradict since they are supernaturally edited by the Holy Spirit Who does not speak with a forked tongue or many tongues.

By the time Moses want Israel to hear the statues and ordinances “which I speak” (Deuteronomy 5:1) does not mean he is going to create statues or ordinances. It means that he has it all in rolls and is going to unroll and read them to them. Selectively. Looking up and interpreting them. He is going to preach. They have to “learn them” and “observe them to do them”. Hear, memorize and do.

Edward Heppenstall in his book Our High Priest chapter 7 dealt with Judgment according to Works and in that chapter at paragraph 15, he explains that the whole man is involved in works. He pointed out that deed is better or worse than idea. Actual adultery injures lives more than lust (paragraph 16). Stealing is more disastrous than the effects of covetousness. Lustful thoughts may disturb for days but lustful deeds for years. Ellen White explained in Desire of Ages something that M. L. Andreasen pointed out in his campmeeting testimony in 1953 [see Youtube] of his 90 days stay with Ellen White, that she said that if you think of stealing you have already committed it as Jesus laid out the principle. Then he said that the alternative is also true, if you plan to work for Christ but could not have a change to do so, in heaven, that desire is recorded to your name as an accomplished act! Wonderful. Especially for those who had so many dreams but could not see them fulfilled in this life. They are considered fulfilled in heaven.

Moses reminded them that the Lord God made a covenant with Israel in Horeb.

He explained that the covenant was not made/cut with the forefathers but with them that are alive in 1410 BCE. (5:3).

The method of communication was face to face and the Lord spoke at the mountain and with fire (5:4).

Mediator between the Lord and Israel was Moses (5:5). He was to tell them the Word of the Lord since they were afraid of the fire and did not go up (5:6). From verse 6, Moses is going to cite the Lord verbatim. Fishbane and others believe that Moses did not write Deuteronomy and that it is a book written by a school of scribes or a scribe claiming the prerogatives of Moses, that it is a transformative traditio that is created here in Deuteronomy that contradicts the Older traditum in Exodus 34 (Fishbane 1985: 339, 343). There is more peace for one’s soul to scrap the theories of the Arabist Julius Wellhausen through Fishbane and rather believe it was written in 1410 BCE than post-539 BCE.



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In Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9 it reads the good thing the Lord did with them first to take them out of the land of Egypt Deuteronomy 5:6 and then that they should not have gods before Him as in Deuteronomy 5:7-8. The punish-aspect of God is spelled out in Deuteronomy 5:9. There is no difference between the punishment aspect of God in 1410 BCE and 1448 BCE earlier in Exodus 20. Both written by Moses. Both spoken by him. The only difference between the two verses is a extra waw “and upon the third” in Deuteronomy 5:9 later in 1410 BCE, which is not in the 1448 BCE account from which he is citing. The Holy Spirit Editor allowed it in that form because it does not break the sense of the passage when one has an and while the other does not have it. Fishbane wants to argue that Exodus 34:5-6 is a passage that stands on its own and that it contradicts the intensions of Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9 here.



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Copy is an excerpt from the Book by Bendavid on Doublets in the Bible.


Exodus 34:6-7 in the right corner top reads

And the Lord passed before him

and proclaimed: Lord, Lord,

benevolent God, Who is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger

and abundant in loving kindness and truth,

preserving loving kindness for thousands,

forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin;

yet He does not completely clear [of sin]

He visits the iniquity of the fathers

on the sons and upon the son's sons,

upon the third and upon the fourth generations.


Deuteronomy 5:9 reads:

You shall not prostrate yourself before them, nor worship them,

for I, the Lord your God, a zealous God

visiting the iniquity of the fathers

upon the sons,

upon the third and the fourth generations to those that hate Me.

What Moses did here in Deuteronomy in his hortotary repetition of main aspects of that great revelation, is not to change the revelation of God at Sinai, but to emphasize certain relevant aspects of it in 1411 BCE. His interpretation in Deuteronomy is an inspired authoritative commentary on the law. It will not be in conflict with it. It will seek to find the main points that should be elevated. If there are shortcuts, elisions, omissions in the exact wording from before, it is meant to be that way. He is painfully precise when he explained the visiting of iniquity upon the third and the fourth generations. Moses added in Deuteronomy 5:9 at the end “to those that hate Me” but this is not absent in intention of Exodus 34.

Polarization of Exodus 20 with the decalogue and Exodus 34 is not necessary as is advocated by Michael Fishbane 1985 in his book on Biblical Interpretation. E. Heppenstall analyzed in his lectures on the Law and Covenants the situation as follows in Exodus: God approached Israel in Exodus 19. Prior to the giving of the Law Israel said “All that the Lord say we will do”. That was before He spoke. God did miracles to redeem them. I. Up: Exodus 19:3; I Down: Exodus 19:7; II Up: Exodus 19:8; II Down: Exodus 19:14; III Up: Exodus 19:20; III Down: Exodus 19:25; IV Up: Exodus Exodus 24:9; IV Down: Exodus 32:14 with Tablets; V Up: Exodus 32:31; V Down: Exodus 33:4; VI Up: Exodus 34:6; VI Down: Exodus 34:29 with rewrittenTablets. First God saved them by miracles, then spoke to them and later spoke to them the ten commandments. Still later copied it on stone. Then forgave them their sin and reissued another set of Tablets to be written. This is the interplay between Exodus 20 and Exodus 34. There is no polarization but that of the attitude of mankind against their God.

Before a statue one is not to prostrate oneself even if the intention is not to worship it. Says Moses in 5:9 “you shall not prostrate yourself before them, nor worship them”.

Moses is now a geronti and his style will be to shorten or taking shortcuts. He is also more experienced and learned. So nothing is in conflict what God or himself said before. It may look rearranged but that is what it is. Selecting here and there and putting together with the same objectives in mind.

The lovingkindness of the Lord is important 5:10. If people love the Lord they should keep His commandments (5:10). The Lord’s name should not be counted vain (5:11). The Sabbath should be kept and by doing so they sanctify it. All the labor should be done for six days (5:13) but the Sabbath is the seventh day and no labor should be done by any subordinate (5:14) even stranger.

From slavery to freedom, therefore the Sabbath was to be kept as memory device (5:15).

Honor of the parents are important to the Lord (5:16). No murder, no adultery, no stealing and no false witnessing (5:17). One should not desire anything from one’s neighbor in order to take possession of it (5:18). That includes landgrab, a phenomenon so common in recent days.

The Lord called Moses in Exodus 19:3 to remember history. In verse 9 he promised to reveal Himself. In the third time that Moses ascended the mountain God wanted the people to prepare themselves so that He can make a revelation to them. In the fourth time Moses ascended in 19:20 God gave Moses the Law. That was in 1448 BCE, and in these verses Moses is reflecting on the same content as a geronti nearly 120 years old. He was 82 years old receiving the Ten Commandments and 120 years old reflecting on them. He spoke from a richer experience in Deuteronomy than in Exodus. He is more applicational and the thoughts are with a wide-angle lens.

It is in Exodus 19:16 that the Lord came down to the mountain and it was filled with clouds. Thunderbolts and fire was seen in the clouds and the mountain trembled. Moses blew a trumpet and God spoke the Ten Commandments. “The Lord spoke these words to your entire assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the opaque darkness, with a great voice, which did not cease. And He inscribed them on two stone tablets and gave them to me (Deuteronomy 5:19). There is no discrepancy in the detail at the age of 120 from that at the age of 82 in Exodus. The people were surprised that God can talk with man and that man can stay alive (5:20-21).

But they were afraid that the fire will consume them (5:22). They hoped to stop God talking for they said that they would die if He continues. It sounds very familiar when elders and deacons look at their watches while the pastor is still speaking.

They felt that mortal man is not fit to watch the Almighty and remain alive (5:23). What they do not know is that when God wants to speak to man, man will remain alive. They preferred Moses from going to speak to God as ambassador or representative of humanity and then to come and report (5:24). They wished to create a distance between them and God.

Even though they tried to speak behind God’s back, God said to Moses that He has heard what they said to distance Him from them, and the amazing thing is, He took their decision as good thinking (5:25).

Sinful man and mala fide individuals should stay at a distance from God anyway. That is the essence of God. God does not embrace evil. The wish of God is that their hearts would be right and that they would fear Him and keep His commandments all the days of their lives and things will go well with them and their children (5:26). So God send them back to their tents and comfort zones (5:27). He will do what they requested and asked Moses to stand with Him there and He would speak the commandments, statutes and ordinances for them to do (5:28). They should keep them perfectly not turning left or right (5:29).

They had to go in all the way that the Lord commanded them in order to live and be blessed and live long (5:30).


Dear God

We see Your character here to accommodate sinful man but sinful man missed Your deep love for them and we also can fall into the same trap from distancing ourselves from worship, consecration, sermons, footwashing, prayer, Bible reading as well as sermons. Bring us closer to You instead. In Jesus Name Amen.