De 5:1-29. A COMMEMORATION OF THE COVENANT IN HOREB.
1. Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments--Whether this rehearsal of the law was made in a solemn assembly, or as some think at a general meeting of the elders as representatives of the people, is of little moment; it was addressed either directly or indirectly to the Hebrew people as principles of their peculiar constitution as a nation; and hence, as has been well observed, "the Jewish law has no obligation upon Christians, unless so much of it as given or commanded by Jesus Christ; for whatever in this law is conformable to the laws of nature, obliges us, not as given by Moses, but by virtue of an antecedent law common to all rational beings" [BISHOP WILSON].
3. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us--The meaning is, "not with our fathers" only, "but with us" also, assuming it to be "a covenant" of grace. It may mean "not with our fathers" at all, if the reference is to the peculiar establishment of the covenant of Sinai; a law was not given to them as to us, nor was the covenant ratified in the same public manner and by the same solemn sanctions. Or, finally, the meaning may be "not with our fathers" who died in the wilderness, in consequence of their rebellion, and to whom God did not give the rewards promised only to the faithful; but "with us," who alone, strictly speaking, shall enjoy the benefits of this covenant by entering on the possession of the promised land. 4. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount--not in a visible and corporeal form, of which there was no trace (De 4:12,15), but freely, familiarly, and in such a manner that no doubt could be entertained of His presence. 5. I stood between the Lord and you at that time--as the messenger and interpreter of thy heavenly King, bringing near two objects formerly removed from each other at a vast distance, namely, God and the people (Ga 3:19). In this character Moses was a type of Christ, who is the only mediator between God and men (1Ti 2:5), the Mediator of a better covenant (Heb 8:6 9:15 12:24). to show you the word of the Lord--not the ten commandments--for they were proclaimed directly by the Divine Speaker Himself, but the statutes and judgments which are repeated in the subsequent portion of this book. 6-20. I am the Lord thy God--The word "Lord" is expressive of authority or dominion; and God, who by natural claim as well as by covenant relation was entitled to exercise supremacy over His people Israel, had a sovereign right to establish laws for their government. [See on Ex 20:2.] The commandments which follow are, with a few slight verbal alterations, the same as formerly recorded (Ex 20:1-17), and in some of them there is a distinct reference to that promulgation.
12. Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee--that is, keep it in mind as a sacred institution of former enactment and perpetual obligation. (See on Ex 20:8).
14. that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou--This is a different reason for the observance of the Sabbath from what is assigned in Ex 20:8-11, where that day is stated to be an appointed memorial of the creation. But the addition of another motive for the observance does not imply any necessary contrariety to the other; and it has been thought probable that, the commemorative design of the institution being well known, the other reason was specially mentioned on this repetition of the law, to secure the privilege of sabbatic rest to servants, of which, in some Hebrew families, they had been deprived. In this view, the allusion to the period of Egyptian bondage (De 5:15), when they themselves were not permitted to observe the Sabbath either as a day of rest or of public devotion, was peculiarly seasonable and significant, well fitted to come home to their business and bosoms. 16. that it may go well with thee--This clause is not in Exodus, but admitted into Eph 6:3. 21. Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, . . . house, his field--An alteration is here made in the words (see Ex 20:17), but it is so slight ("wife" being put in the first clause and "house" in the second) that it would not have been worth while noticing it, except that the interchange proves, contrary to the opinion of some eminent critics, that these two objects are included in one and the same commandment. 22. he added no more--(Ex 20:1). The pre-eminence of these ten commandments was shown in God's announcing them directly: other laws and institutions were communicated to the people through the instrumentality of Moses. 23-28. And . . . ye came near unto me--(See on Ex 20:19). 29. Oh, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me--God can bestow such a heart, and has promised to give it, wherever it is asked (Jer 32:40). But the wish which is here expressed on the part of God for the piety and steadfast obedience of the Israelites did not relate to them as individuals, so much as a nation, whose religious character and progress would have a mighty influence on the world at large.