Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Pentateuch. This word in Greek means “second law". Deuteronomy contains 34 chapters and is mainly a collection of Moses’ sermons to the Israelites before they crossed river Jordan. In this paper, we shall critically analyze the passage of Deuteronomy 5: 1:21. This passage is commonly recognized as the Ten Commandments that God gave to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai through Moses. This is the second time that the Ten Commandments are being mentioned in the bible after being mentioned in the book of exodus 201-17. The main reason behind this was just to remind the Israelites of what God had commanded them before. There is however much to the passage than just meets the eye. The passage is set at a critical period where God had been so patient with the children of Israel. He was held between realizing his wrath on then and forgiving them. After the miracles, that God shown towards the Israelites, they had taken Him for granted and not according him the respect and worship that was due to Him. God was however compelled to keep the promise He had given to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Just to keep the Israelites under check and to warn them of their sinful nature, God provided them with the Ten Commandments.
- I am the Lord you God: reminds the Israelites who God is to them (Deut. 5:6)
- You shall have no other gods: emphasizes on the fact that he is the only one to be worshiped (Deut. 5:8)
- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord: the Israelites should not get so familiar with God (Deut. 5:11)
- Observe the Sabbath: the Israelites should set aside a day just to reflect on God (Deut. 5:12)
- Honor your father and mother: obedience to those older to them (Deut. 5:16)
- You shall not murder: respecting and valuing the lives of others (Deut. 5:17)
- You shall not commit adultery: emphasizes on sanctity in marriage (Deut. 5:18)
- You shall not steal: respect each other’s property (Deut. 5:19)
- You shall not give false testimony: to be truthful and loyal to each other (Deut. 5:20)
- You shall not covet: emphasizes on contentment (Deut. 5:21)
This was not the first time that the Israelites were receiving guidelines from God which were to carry them through. In the book of Leviticus, God stressed on various do’s and don’ts for the Israelites which were also attached to his blessings. The commands in the book of Leviticus were given before the Ten Commandments. These were considered lengthy yet they also emphasized on the importance of honoring God and maintaining worthy relations with the people around. The Ten Commandments are hence just a summary of all the requirements that God wanted from the children of Israel. However, with each passing generation, the Israelites seemed to forget the laws and therefore had to be reminded frequently. God had to destroy some earlier generations of the Israelites because of their unrepentant sinful nature. This therefore made it hard for them to transfer the commandments to their younger generations. It pleased God to keep on reminding the Israelites that He required maximum obedience to the commandments. At the time when God was giving the Ten Commandments, he had just vindicated the Israelites who had not bowed down to the idol. He had to emphasize on the aspect of relationships and reminding them that He is the one who delivered them from slavery.
God has always described himself as a jealousy God that is revealed in the opening remarks of the chapter five where He insists that ‘he is God their God’. The Israelites had envied other nations for what they termed as having other gods that fought their battles. They hence wished to have a god they could see, feel, and most probably adorn with physical gifts. Through the Ten Commandments, God requires total obedience and submission to his kingship; they are to do this by honoring His name and not just using it in vain. This follows the fact that God had been so close to the Israelites, showing them great miracles and meeting them at their point of need. It was therefore easy for them to take Him for granted and just take him as any other normal person. It was also for this reason that committing sin had become normal to them, as they knew God would forgive them.
The Ten Commandments impact on Christianity in different ways, Christians need to be reminded of the commandments which will enable them maintain good relationships. Christianity is all about maintaining good relationships and imparting the same to others. Frequently reading the Ten Commandments, which are referred as the constitution of a believer, is also important to keep one on the right track. By reading through the commandments, Christian faithful are reminded of the kind of lifestyle they are to live. They also get various encouragements through testimonies as delivered by other Christians who have carefully observed the commandments. This was the same scenario in Deuteronomy where Moses acted as the pastor of the time to deliver God’s message as well as reminding them of the commandments. Due to the pressure of evil all around us, Christians take delight in reminding themselves of the Ten Commandments just to help them through the walk of faith.
In summary, Deuteronomy 5:1-21 stipulates the basic rules that need to be observed by each Christian. The most fundamental rule is to obey and respect God keeping in mind that He is the controller of the universe. The power of life and death and life is in His hands and is hence not to be taken for granted. The second and most vital is how Christians relate to those around them. Loving and respecting them is what will determine their level of maturity. This will also ensure their fellowship is not hindered and that they impart even on those that are ignorant about the love of God. By observing such commands, Christians will not easily fall into temptations and sin.
Craigie, Peter C. The Book of Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976, 146-165.
Hall, Gary H. Deuteronomy. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press, 2000.
Mayes, A.D.H. Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 160-173.
Miller, Patrick D. Deuteronomy. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990, 65-97.