Deuteronomy: A Call to Covenant, Part 3

Continuing from part 2 in this series on Deuteronomy, we look at the central elements of the covenant that defines the nature of the relationship between the parties of the agreement, moving from how the people of God are to relate to God to how they are to relate to one another.

Scripture and Summary

Deuteronomy 5:16

The family is the foundation of a society and mother and father are its building blocks. Children are encouraged to have a strong reverence and respect for their parents, but this also obligates parents to their children to create and sustain a strong relationship that will increase and encourage the bonds of family. The relationship of the family is to mirror ones relationship to God, hence this verse bridges the gap and joins religion to society. This commandment comes with a promise of preservation in its observance.

Deuteronomy 5:17

This commandment’s breadth and depth exists in 6 characters in the original language is truly amazing. The fact that this commandment follows after the two key relations of society: the relationship with God and the relationship with family. “Do not kill” is left purposefully vague in its application within the covenant, but it has a definite application to both deliberate acts and sheer negligence.

Deuteronomy 5:18

The foundation of society is only as strong as the bond which joins its building blocks. Sexual integrity within the marriage relationship would reflect the relationship between a person and God.

Deuteronomy 5:19

The admonition against theft is ambiguous. “Steal what?” seems to be the obvious question that is posed by the phrasing of the commandment. “Anything,” is the obvious response. This feeds right into the next commandment.

Deuteronomy 5:20

While the command to not bear false witness is meant to focus on criminal events, it necessarily dovetails into the commandment against theft. In the ancient near east, a person’s reputation, their personal honor, held the highest estate in society. Therefore the stability of that society was contingent upon the preservation of a legal system based upon truth and integrity.

Deuteronomy 5:21

Rampant covetousness and the embrace of covetousness leads to the destruction of society. The Hebrew word reflects personal delight, which is, of itself, not a bad thing. A person should take delight in those things which belong to him by right, those things which he has gained by his legitimate labors, but when he turns his eye towards what belongs to his neighbor, those things which his neighbor has acquired by effort and honesty and begins to desire those things and begins to plot unjust means of gaining those things for himself then poses a threat to society.


Right relationships are necessary for the firm establishment of a society. The inherent rebelliousness of man seeks to corrupt the good system established by God from the beginning. The parallels between the creation of man and the establishment of that first earthly kingdom in the Garden of Eden. Beginning with God bringing the man into his home, giving him  the means to initiate a perpetual union in the giving of a wife, to establish a society, and what would eventually break that covenant is mirrored in the Decalogue.

Man does nothing to merit the relationship, rather God extends the offer graciously. God chooses to interact with man, but in order for man to have the choice to enter into this relationship it is incumbent on God to act first. In order to maintain this relationship man must live in light of it. There is simply no other way.

The call to covenant necessitates a response. God proved himself by promising to deliver Israel from its slavery and doing so.

So far as God was concerned, he would never break his word. His past faithfulness was the guarantee of his continued faithfulness. But Israel could (and, alas, did) repudiate her bond. The Ten Commandments were instruments whereby her steadfastness would be demonstrated or her infidelity exposed. (1)

The application of the gospel may seem to give the false impression that the law of God has somehow been superseded, but this is simply not true. Rather,

[…] we can never progress to a point at which the Ten Commandments cease to have application. Far from diminishing the authority of these laws of behavior our Lord Jesus Christ made them more penetrating and demanding. Like Moses, he restated the law, not, however, for those about to enter upon earthly possessions, but for citizens of an eternal kingdom. (2)



  1. Ackland, Donald F. Studies in Deuteronomy. Convention Press. Nashville, TN. 1964. p.51
  2. Ibid. p.52


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