My post last night was rambling as heck. Tonight’s will hopefully be better, since I am not at all sleepy what with the Benadryl having knocked me out all afternoon. Something in the choir loft really got to me, I think.
Deuteronomy here repeats the Ten Commandments, which we last saw back in Exodus 20. So let’s note some differences.
First, here the mountain is Mt. Horeb, not Mt. Sinai. Those two are generally treated as different names for the same place, but that’s something scholars disagree on. Significantly, Mt. Horeb in Exodus is where Moses spoke with the burning bush, with Mt. Sinai seeming to be a different place. Here, the law is revealed at Mt. Horeb, the same place Moses first met with God. Mt. Horeb is mentioned a few times later on in the Bible as the place where the law was given. And so most scholars think there were two traditions, one that placed the law at Mt. Sinai and the other at Mt. Horeb. Not that it really matters, since no one knows where either place actually is.
The first few commandments are pretty much word-for-word identical. The first major difference comes in the reason given for the Sabbath. In Exodus, it’s tied to the creation account. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Here in Deuteronomy it’s tied to their slavery in Egypt, that being allowed to rest and having their own slaves rest as well is a way to remember how awful it was being a slave in Egypt where your masters didn’t give you one day off a week. For all that a lot of Christians place a great deal of attention on the creation account, it’s a lot less important in the Bible than the promise of Abraham and the Egypt narratives.
Things continue along mostly the same for a while until it gets to the coveting portions. I think I mentioned back when I wrote on Exodus that the things you’re not supposed to covet are grouped differently here. In Exodus, it’s the house, then wife, slaves, and livestock in a second cluster. In Deuteronomy, It’s the wife, then the house, field, slaves, and livestock separately. Thus Exodus makes a distinction between non-living possessions verses living possessions (your wife being a possession), while Deuteronomy treats the wife as separate from possessions, while equating slaves with houses and fields. Which of these is better I’ll let you decide, since they’re both flawed.
Then there follows the people’s decision to let Moses be their mediator, which is somewhat similar to the version in Exodus. Deuteronomy gives much more dialogue to everyone, as the various speakers deliver little nuggets of theology, as well as a big contradiction. “Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live…Who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the fire, as we have, and remained alive?” (v 24, 26). Well, you obviously. All the Israelites. God deemed all of you worthy to listen to him without dying. In Exodus it’s clearly established that seeing God’s face is what kills you, or standing in his presence without being properly purified (which they were in Exodus; it’s not mentioned here).
But God, while not correcting their understanding, is pleased that they’re in such awe of him (the NCT specifically uses the term “awe,” while the NRSV uses “fear;” the Hebrew is closer to the former). “If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever!” (v 29). Again, this is addressed to the current generation as much as to the past, to the current readers in Exile as to the tribes gathered at the Jordan. The chapter even explicitly says “Not with our ancestors did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.” (v 3) The NOAB’s notes explain that “The aim is too overcome the limits of historical time and place through participation in the covenant.” Even though these events happened ages ago, they are still relevant in the present time. Every generation should feel that God is making the covenant with them.
That idea is, I feel, incredibly neat. Again, see my envy in previous posts.
The Japanese: inamu “to refuse, to defy” (v 9), midari ni “without good reason,” tonaeru “to recite, to say (esp. charms and prayers)” (v 11), douyou “similar, alike” (v 14), uyamau “to respect, to honor, to venerate” (v 16), gishou suru “to perjure” (v 20).