Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 5, 2009

Deuteronomy 5:16–6:3

• The Ten Commandments (5–10) | Deuteronomy 5:16-21

5:16-21 | These verses contain a restatement of the last six commandments of the Decalogue (see also Exodus 20:1-17) and address man’s responsibility to man.

rembrandt-ten-wordsFifth, the people were to honor their parents (5:16). The first mention of relational responsibility was that of children to parents. Parents had a responsibility to model and teach God’s word to their children. Children have a responsibility to obey and “honor” their parents. The word “honor” means more than just “be nice to your folks.” The word translates a word which literally means “to be heavy or weighty.” The concept of honor probably emerged from the idea of a person having a weight of possessions or great wealth. People with a weight of possessions were thought to have been blessed by God, hence honored. Conversely, the Hebrew word “dishonor” means “to be light, swift, trifling” (see Deut. 27:16).

The Apostle Paul noted that this is the first commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:2) and listed two benefits of obeying and honoring parents (Ephesians 6:3). The first benefit relates to the quality of life: “that it may go well with you.” I can certainly testify to the fact that things at home went well for me when I obeyed my parents. But as a child I also learned that one minute of disobedience could get me hours of trouble. The second benefit relates to the quantity of life: “that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” This promise does not imply that those who have died young dishonored their parents. The general principle is that children who listen to their parents can avoid the sins and dangers that can easily shorten their lives.

Sixth, murder was prohibited (5:17). The word “murder” refers to taking an innocent life by criminal intent or through negligence (including premeditated murder, murder done in anger, murder done in revenge, and manslaughter through negligence). Life, including that of the unborn, must be respected and treated with reverence. God set specific guidelines regarding who, why, and how life was to be taken in certain instances (see Genesis 9:4-6; Deuteronomy 17:2-7 and 19:12; Romans 13:4).

Seventh, adultery was prohibited (5:18). Marriage was instituted by God. This commandment was designed to guard the sanctity of this human relationship. God expected His people to be faithful in every area of their lives. Read Jesus’ comments on this commandment in Matthew 5:27-28.

Eighth, stealing was prohibited (5:19). Scholars agree that this commandment originally applied to kidnapping of free persons, as in the case of Joseph. The commandment also applies to the protection of property and that which another earns, saves, and owns through honest labor. Read Amos 8:5 and Hosea 12:7 regarding merchants who stole from their customers by making the “bushel smaller” and weighing with “false balances.” We can steal either by taking from others or by withholding from others.

Ninth, bearing false witness against a neighbor was prohibited (5:20). This commandment protected the reputation and character of others. It concerned the giving of truthful testimony concerning another in a court of justice because such testimony had an impact on another’s future (see also Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things that God hates, three of which relate to the tongue: “a lying tongue … a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” Shakespeare in Othello said: “Who steals my purse steals trash;
but he who filches from me my good name, robs me of that which not enriches him, yet leaves me poor indeed!”

The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue is sharper. | When I was a kid I used to watch “Hee Haw,” a popular television show at the time. The show had a segment in which a group of women sang the following words while doing laundry together: “Now we’re not ones to go around spreading gossip, why we’re just really not the gossipy kind, no, you’ll never hear one of us repeating gossip, so you better be sure and listen close the first time.” Gossip is a national past-time. One gossip was heard commenting to another, “There’s something I must tell you before I find out it isn’t true!” The prohibition against bearing false witness against another is broken every time gossip is spread. Someone correctly noted that gossip is the lowest form of communication.

Tenth, covetousness was prohibited (5:21). This commandment forbids both the intention (inner motive) to take for oneself what belongs to another (and what we have no right to possess) and the deed itself. Outward sins and actions begin with inward thoughts and desires. Covetousness is the root of all sins against our neighbor. If we kept this last commandment, we would not break the first nine. This prohibition against covetousness includes another’s spouse, thus emphasizing the sacredness of the marriage relationship

• The People’s Response to the Covenant | Deuteronomy 5:22-23

5:22-33 | These verses contain a review of the circumstances surrounding the giving of the law at Horeb (5:22). The experience was so awesome that the people asked Moses to be their representative and report to them what God desired (5:23-26). The people pledged to obey God (5:27). God was pleased with the request of the people (5:28) and expressed His concern that they follow through on their commitment to obey Him (5:29). God instructed Moses to tell the people to return to their tents (5:30). Moses stayed to receive the “all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments” of God which he was to teach the people that they might prosper in the Promised Land (5:31-33).

• The Purpose of the Commandments | Deuteronomy 6:1-3

6:1-3 | Moses again reminded the people that the commandments of God were given that they might be obeyed (6:1). It is not enough to hear God’s word or to know God’s word, we must obey God’s word (see Luke 11:28 and James 1:22). Hearing God’s word should lead the hearer to “fear the Lord” (6:2). God’s word contains the record of God’s loving search for man. It helps us to understand the character, nature, and will of God and should lead us to reverence and love God. Psalm 119:38 states, “Establish Thy word to Thy servant, as that which produces reverence for Thee.” The fear of God should manifest itself in obedience. The relationship between obedience and blessing is a recurring theme in Deuteronomy (6:3). Our lives are a living commentary on Proverbs 13:13, “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” Moses defined the wonderful rewards of obedience to God’s word in Deuteronomy 6:3 (and also 5:16, 29; 6:18, 24).


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