“And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” (Deuteronomy 5:1-3)
Forty years before, God had given the contract with Israel. Moses wanted and was inspired of God to review all the points of that Contract before he died so they would know what their obligations were. He stressed that the contract was not with their forefathers, but with them personally. The covenant with the Abraham was a completely different contract, guaranteeing that Abraham‘s descendants would inherit the land. The covenant with the people promised a good life free of disease and turmoil in that land if they fulfilled their part, in obeying the commandments.
In Galatians 3, Paul stresses this same point, insisting that salvation and righteousness is fulfillment of the contract with Abraham. The Law was a separate contract that does not apply to the Christian, although he makes a similar offer to us, that if we obey him he will reveal himself to us in a special way and keep us from sin. John 14:21 promises, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Galatians 5:16 promises, “…Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” It is a separate promise from the statements in John 3:16-18 or Romans 10:9-10.
“The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to show you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 5:4-6)
God had demonstrated his ability to keep his covenant and meet their needs. The people had recognized his power and feared to communicate directly, leaving that strictly to Moses. Based on his demonstration, God requested an exclusive contract with Israel.
“Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7)
The Hebrew word translated before literally means the face and is used to convey a much broader range of meaning than the English word ‘before’. One of those meanings is along with or beside. Not only were they to not place any other god as equal or better than God, they were not even to consider any other god. Exodus 23:13 commands “…make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” Any other God was to be excluded from consideration.
“Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” (Deuteronomy 5:8-10)
Out of respect for God, they were not to make any statues or pictures of anything, or to bow down to those of others, to avoid any semblance of worshipping another god. Worshipping other gods would incite God’s anger and result in judgment, while obedience would produce great benefit.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Deuteronomy 5:11)
Out of respect for God they were not to frivolously use his name. The Jews take this so seriously that many today will not even write the name completely out, often writing G*d instead. It was far more than simply not using his name as an expletive. Modern references to the old man upstairs are equally disrespectful toward God.
“Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
The Sabbath was to be set aside to the Lord. Out of respect to him it was not to be spent accomplishing human goals. They were no longer to be slaves to human life or to each other because God had delivered them from slavery. On that basis he demanded they keep the Sabbath.
“Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
God has placed the parents in a position of authority similar to his, and respect for him should result in respect for the parents. Such respect ensures a long prosperous life.
“Thou shalt not kill.” (Deuteronomy 5:17)
Murder is the ultimate insult toward God because man was made in the image of God according to Genesis 9:6. “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” It is why murder was to be punished by death.
“Neither shalt thou commit adultery.” (Deuteronomy 5:18)
God creates a special bond between Husband and wife when they come together sexually. Adultery breaks that bond God created implying it doesn’t matter. In Matthew 19:5-6 Jesus spoke, “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
“Neither shalt thou steal.” (Deuteronomy 5:19)
Theft demonstrates a lack of respect for God, implying he will not supply one’s needs.
“Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.” (Deuteronomy 5:20)
Because man was created in the image of God, like murder, lies and slander are in effect an attack on the righteousness of God. In fact, Proverbs 26:28states, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it;…” While I John 3:15 warns, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer…”
“Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.” (Deuteronomy 5:21)
Ephesians 5:5 equates covetousness with idolatry. “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
“These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.” (Deuteronomy 5:22)
These ten commandments were the basic principles of God’s law. In effect they were the Jewish Constitution or Declaration of Independence. While they definitely affect interpersonal relationships, each one is based on the attitude toward God.