Deuteronomy 4 and 5: Hearing and Doing

In Deuteronomy 5, we have Moses retelling about both the giving of the “10 Statements” (10 commandments) and the 10 Statements themselves.  About the only time one hears about the “10 Commandments” in our culture now is when some people get upset that a government institution is removing them from public view.   Are they even important any more?  Should we pay attention to them?  Here are a couple points to ponder.

The 10 Statements themselves are the only words written by Yehovah (the LORD) Himself!

That fact should make them very, very important in your thinking.

How the 10 were given is also significant.  God’s voice was heard by several million people.  Group psychology would dictate that out of such a large group, if the event didn’t actually happen, someone would have said so.  Yet nowhere in any historical accounts is this episode doubted.  This is a powerful testimony to the truth of the Bible!

The 10 can be summed up, but not replaced, by this statement from Yeshua (Jesus). The 10 build on this statement.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)

Further on in Deuteronomy 5 we see the Israelites responding with the comment, “we will hear it [God’s words] and do it.”  This is, unfortunately, a far cry from how Christianity looks at God’s word.  If this statement were to be uttered by many in the churches today, it would read like this:

We’ll hear it [God’s words], and if we understand it and agree with it, and we don’t consider it ‘law’, then we might do it if it fits into our “statement of belief.”

When did God ever say that we had to understand and agree with what He asks before we should obey it.  Every chance we have of doing something commanded in His word is a chance to worship and love Him!  Let’s start with obeying the 10 Statements.  Read them (found in two places, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5).  Think about them!  Discuss them with others (comment in the blog)!

When we hesitate to ‘do’ the Word of God, or talk with others about it, we are robbing ourselves of a chance to worship God and of a chance to grow in sanctification. 

Nowhere in scripture, be it the “old” or the “new testament”, does God ever get upset with someone who is following His word!  Nowhere!  We do, however, find Yeshua (Jesus) getting upset at those who were ‘adding’ to His word.  What do you think Yeshua (Jesus) would say to those subtracting from His word?  Here is what God says:

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV)

I think Yeshua (Jesus) would be just as confrontational with Christian leaders who subtract from God’s word just as he was confrontational with the Pharisees who were adding to God’s word!  Christianity as a whole takes away from God’s word!  Am I wrong?  Think “Old” Testament.  Even that name, “old”, implies it should be disregarded.

… Oh, and to those protesting the removal of the 10 Statements (commandments) from public view, I ask, are they posted in your church?  Your house? Anywhere you abide?  If the answer is ‘no’, then you have no business protesting or being surprised that the government is removing them from public spaces!

– Yosef

(Okay, this post is a bit confrontational.  It’s not meant to offend, but to challenge!  If you have a different opinion on the topic, please share it!  Or if you agree, let me know!)

7 thoughts on “Deuteronomy 4 and 5: Hearing and Doing

  1. Thanks for the reply.

    As for Christians and the law. I personally find it confusing at best that one would hold the Bible as the infallible word of God and then disregard any of it. So, I have no issues with your conclusions except that they are not contained within the passage have chosen.

    In regards to the adding of scripture. Specifically in Deuteronomy 4:2 “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” The addition and subtraction from God’s perfect law renders it un-doable. Which is precisely what happens when Yeshua was “clarifing the depths of God’s holiness “. For example I can “not commit adultry” every day 100%. Yet when intentions of the heart come in, I fail. I can “not commit murder” again 100% of the time, but add calling someone a fool. Well there again, impossible not to fail. And Yeshua makes void the law of restitution when he commanded that our tunics be given when our cloak is stolen.

    How then do we honestly look at the texts and reconcile them?

    Foremost I believe that the words of scripture are to be applied to our lives, no matter what other people who claim them are doing. Then I believe we ought to engage as we have done here honestly over Gods word that we may be strengthened and sharpened.

    Thanks again for the opportunity.

    Shalom brother.

    1. I’m with you: disregarding any of God’s word, or adding to it or subtracting from it, makes His word confusing and undoable. And yes, my last reply went outside of the passage chosen, but I did mention I was going outside of the Deuteronomy passage; or did you mean something else? But I don’t think Yeshua is adding to or subtracting from the Law. Let me explain.

      Yeshua’s words point out that the commands go deeper then people were thinking. The commands stand as they are, but the meaning goes deeper. Yeshua was basically pointing out that salvation was not through obeying the law (which the ‘law’ never actually claims anyway). He is the way of salvation. He is, however, emphasizing one of the purposes of the Law, which is to point out sin. In Luke 6:5-7 we see that Zacharias and Elizabeth walked blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. If they did so, it must be possible to do so, and even the law itself claims that it is possible in Deuteronomy 30:11-12. But even perfect keeping of the Law does not bring salvation, and Yeshua’s words starkly point out that if we think we are good in keeping the Law, we need to think deeper. We all have sinned.

      Another reason I don’t think Yeshua was changing the law is that apparently neither the people nor the leaders around him thought so. But this still leaves the question as to how to reconcile Yeshua’s words and the text of the law.

      As stated earlier, I think Yeshua’s words about adultery and murder are not changing the law at all. They are just clarifying the depth and meaning. And if I were to agree with your apparent conclusion that Yeshua’s words render the law undoable, I’m left in a conundrum. If He changed any part of it, wouldn’t that nullify all of the Tanakh, as within the Tanakh it is claimed that the ‘law of the LORD is perfect…’, and even Paul comments that the Law is good. But if he is making clear that we need to rightly judge ourselves when looking at the Law, and realize that He is the way of salvation, not the adherence to the Law, then I don’t see the conundrum.

      That still leaves His words about the law of restitution (and others) that are hard to understand in how they relate to the Law without changing the law. I can’t claim I understand that either, but there is one point that may have relevance. Yeshua is pointing out how the victim is to behave and think. He isn’t changing the responsibility of the criminal. We are to treat the thief with dignity and compassion and forgiveness. Remember also that the law of restitution makes a distinction between one who steals due to need, and one who is just stealing (though the law still applies to both). It is interesting to note that Yeshua’s words as to how we are to treat the thief are opposite as to how most people act today towards criminals. Love and compassion are meant to be shown to all.

      And that is perhaps the whole point of Yeshua’s words: love, compassion and forgiveness should be over all, as if we honestly look at ourselves, we will also find sin.

      Your question is very good and your understanding of what is written and how it applies to life is very thought provoking. Brilliant! The question is also fundamental as to how Christianity is to relate to the Law of God and should be discussed.

      Shalom – and I count it a privilege to call you my brother irregardless as to whether or not we agree with one another.
      – Yosef

      1. In reading my previous comments I found them a bit unclear and a bit scattered. So here I will try and be more precise and focused.

        while I may agree fully with your conclusions I find the interpretation of the text to be a stretch at best. To have open and honest conversation about scripture I believe we must allow, first and foremost, the scripture to be authority.

        Dt. 4&5 is a word given to Israel before they entered the land. This word was to be followed, according to the text, by Israel, when they dwellt in the land. How then does this text lead to condemnation of Christians?

        Adding and subtracting from the Word could be a very interesting discussion. God, in his word provides for us those charged with the task of interpretation (primarily Levites). This alone should lead one to think that the Word needs interpretation. When does that interpretation become adding and subtracting? In most circles the qualifying factor is liking the interpretation. If I don’t like your interpretations than you have added to the scripture. If I agree with your interpretation then you have not added, only given depth. How we handle the Word can lead to great growth and sharpening or on the other hand great self righteousness and the condemnation of others. Let us choose the former.


        1. Very good comments, and quite true. Regarding Dt. 4&5 being only for the Israelites in the land of Israel, that is a fundamental discussion, but I actually want to comment on the ‘interpretation’ issue. Hopefully we can get back to Dt. 4&5. I will say, however, that even in the discussion off the topic, Christians should not be condemned. Most aren’t even aware that such a question need be asked. And it really isn’t our place to condemn when someone believes differently, even when we think it is clear in scripture.

          You are so correct: an interpretation can be seen as either violating the ‘do not add to or subtract from’ commandment depending on the hearer’s point of view. This is where love would come in. That is one thing I like about most of Judaism: differing opinions are allowed (usually). Interpretations are almost always opinions. Those interpretations often lead to ‘rules’ being given or taken away. The problem is, when do we say that it has taken from the Word or added to the Word. I think Yeshua (Jesus) gives a perfect example.

          We are commanded to ‘honor’ our parents (there is a 10 Commandments series running on this site; not yet to ‘honor your parents’ though). From the story, it is clear that it was commonly held that ‘honor your parents’ includes helping them financially. Those Yeshua was talking with at the time, however, had added to the command a ‘loop hole’: if you ‘devoted’ whatever you had to God, you didn’t need to use it to help your parents (not to mention the fact that somehow, whatever was ‘devoted’ never actually left their possession).

          This is a fairly clear instance where their interpretation led to ‘taking away from the Word of God.’ So I would say that whenever an interpretation allows us to ignore a command of God, or adds to the commands, then it is ‘adding to or subtracting from His Word.’ I’d also say that this isn’t a good thing for a person to decide themselves. We are called individually to live according to His word as best as we can, learning as we go, but we aren’t called to force our ideas on others, or to condemn others because they have different ideas. Rarely is the issue so obviously black and white that you can stand on it as say, ‘you are absolutely wrong!’ One thing, though, that I know is that black and white is this: Yeshua came in the flesh, died, was buried, and was raised again three days later!

          I know that we all have strong feelings about some point of theology or other. I do to. But over the years I’ve learned that fellowship trumps theology, up until someone flat out denies Yeshua, our Messiah (Jesus, the Christ).

          So, amen to your last sentences: let the Word lead to great growth and sharpening of one another. If you see me condemning anyone, point it out! I often point out theological “oddities” in Christianity, and often will call it wrong, but I hope I do so without condemning anyone. Sometimes it happens, though.

          – Yosef

  2. You bring up two interesting points. The more confrontational being that of Christians and the law. First of, from this text especially I believe there’s goo argument that Christians are not bound by the law. This passage in Deuteronomy is written specifically to Israelites.

    Secondly Moses Is writing/speaking to a people instructions for living in the land. Since Christians do not claim to be either of these things, how then could you make the claim that they should be following Torah because of this passage?

    The other interesting point you make is that of adding or subtracting from God’s word. Funny it seems that adding Christians into the lump of Israelites in the land may be doing just that. But this poses a bigger problem when we look to Yeshua in Mathew 5. Good argument could be made that he does some interesting adding and subtracting from the word of God. Adding thought to adultery and subtracting justice and restitution from robbery.

    It seems to me we all pick and choose from Gods word. We all add and subtract. How we sanctify the sabbath for example.

    My point being that first and foremost who we say we are is of utmost importance. Next would be why we do what we do. The heart is desperately wicked and our sin is often looking to blame or point to something else to distract us from our own hypocrisy and disobedience.

    To keep this short ( too late), I hope this is taken in the spirit it is given and that this site is a safe place to respectfully hash out the things of scripture.


    1. Hi Bruce,
      Thank you for your excellent reply and you bring up very good points. I’ll give a short reply here, but the topic is of fundamental importance. (Perhaps this would be a good forum topic.) And yes, this site is meant for people to voice different opinions without fear of people getting upset, and I hope that all contributors realize this as you do. My reply is going to sidestep Deuteronomy 4 and 5 a bit and concentrate more on general principle.

      In the post I am centering on Christianity’s relation to the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) and many laws therein, but the comments actually apply to the apostolic scriptures (“New Testament”) as well. Many commands of the “New Testament” are treated in the same way. For example, in Acts 15, at the “Jerusalem Council”, a letter is written to all Gentile believers, and four things are laid down as fundamental “laws” for new Gentile believers. Three of those have to do with food (meat specifically): “avoid what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled,” Acts 15:29 (ESV). Yet every time I have brought up the topic of abstaining from blood the first response I get from Christians is that they are ‘no longer under the law.’ When I point out that this is a New Testament command, silence follows. Eventually all manner of theological gymnastics are used to show that that requirement is somehow no longer valid. I point this out simply to highlight that this issue is not restricted to God’s Law.

      That said, the question as to whether or not the Law is only for Israelites in the land of Israel is a very important question. I would offer this points:
      > there are some, but in my opinion very few, laws that are obviously only for those in Israel. These are, for the most part, those laws that require the temple to be standing, as all sacrifice laws do.
      > YHVH (the LORD) often adds a comment such as, ‘for all your generations in all your dwelling places’ to a law, which in a couple of the places is made clear to include while living outside the land of Israel. This is typically in regards to celebrating the feasts.
      > the 10 statements (10 commandments) were given specifically to a ‘mixed multitude’; not just to Israelites. Exodus 12:38
      > Yeshua (Jesus) was talking to Israelites, within Israel. The whole context of his life and teaching can be understood as ‘for Israelites’ only. Yet no one thinks this.
      > Throughout the “New Testament” there are references to “lawlessness”. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Hebrews 10:16-17 (ESV). This isn’t removing or changing God’s law, just moving it from written on paper to written on our hearts and minds.

      For these, and other reasons, I am of the opinion that God’s Law remains “in effect” for all believers everywhere.

      That said, there is some reality to consider, and the apostle Paul’s writings deal with this extensively. Paul deals with two important principles. First, you can’t expect a new believer to suddenly follow the entire law without thinking that doing so somehow assures salvation. The second principle is that learning to obey God is a process.

      I’ll close with this: yes, “we all pick and choose from God’s word,” as you say. Some things in God’s word obviously can not be followed anymore as there is no Temple. But I really question why people pick and choose. The main method I hear about is Christians claiming they accept the moral laws but not the civil laws. Who then defines which laws are moral? Not all are obvious.

      So, first and foremost, we are those redeemed by the blood of Yeshua, as written about in the book of Hebrews. And, as Paul states, we are ‘grafted’ into Israel. So, if Christians are grafted into Israel, and God never changes, I ask then how can it be said that God’s law does not apply? The only valid question left, in my opinion is, which of the laws are only for when in the land of Israel, such as the sacrificial laws that require the Temple.

      Oh, one last comment. I don’t think Yeshua was “adding” to God’s law when he makes those comments in Matthew 5 about even thinking about fornication is adultery. He was clarifying the depth of God’s purity. The Tanakh (“old testament”) does have hints about this, but deals mostly with actions, so it is easy to think that Yeshua (Jesus) was adding to the Law.

      Feel free to continue commenting here, or, if you would like, I can start a forum discussion on this topic.

      It would be neat to hear what others think of this also.

      – Yosef

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