Deuteronomy 5-26: The Second Address (Part 1)

Moses' second address covers the 10 commandments, idolatry, the promised land, and more. The Shema is also introduced.


The 2nd address of Moses is the longest of the 4 addresses; it contains a reiteration of the 10 Commandments. Though no location is specified, it begins with Moses calling the Israelites together, which is what separates this address from the previous one. There is no indication for how much time occurred between the two addresses. The opening for this address is a reminder that the Israelites had a personal connection and conversation with God.[1] Deuteronomy 5:4 says they spoke to God "face to face;" since we know that no one has seen God's face, we also know that the term face to face means in person or rather, in God's presence. The Israelites heard the Words God spoke from God Himself, and were given witness to His presence as the pillar of cloud or fire, as opposed to us who merely receive His written Word. Moses was beginning his speech with a reminder of how privileged they were as God's chosen people.

Due to the number of chapters this address covers, the post would be very lengthy if I tried to cram it all in to one. Instead I am going to break it into 3 parts. The first (this one) covers Deuteronomy 5-12. Part 2 will cover Deuteronomy 13-20, and part 3 will cover Deuteronomy 21-26.

The Ten Commanments

Deuteronomy 5 is a rehash of the 10 commandments given near the beginning of the exodus in Exodus 20. I covered each commandment in their own individual post; you can access them through the main-menu above. Most of the commands are word for word here, however for a few, additional details are provided. Exodus relates the Sabbath to creation, while Deuteronomy stresses the importance of allowing servants to honor the Sabbath. Essentially, Exodus tells us when the Sabbath was created while Deuteronomy tells us why we need one. God's additional information is meant to remind the Israelite that they should not recreate what they experienced in Egypt to other people.
CommanmentDeuteronomy 5Exodus 20Leviticus 19
Thou shalt have none other gods before meDeuteronomy 5:7Exodus 20:3
8Thou 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: 9Thou 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,Deuteronomy 5:8-9Exodus 20:4-5Leviticus 19:4
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 5:11Exodus 20:7Leviticus 19:12
Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded theeDeuteronomy 5:12-15Exodus 20:8-11Leviticus 19:30
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 5:16Exodus 20:12Leviticus 19:3
Thou shalt not kill.Deuteronomy 5:17Exodus 20:13
Neither shalt thou commit adultery.Deuteronomy 5:18Exodus 20:14
Neither shalt thou steal.Deuteronomy 5:19Exodus 20:15Leviticus 19:11
Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.Deuteronomy 5:20Exodus 20:16Leviticus 19:11
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 5:21Exodus 20:17


Keep the Commandments

Moses tells the Israelites that they are to love God with all their heart, soul, and might. If they did, the commandments would be in their heart. This is reiterated by Jesus in Mark 12:28-30. Jesus also tells us that if we love Him, will keep His commandments. This principle and the Hebrew phrase in Deuteronomy that reflects it is called the Shema.

The Shema

In Jewish Culture, the Shema is known to be the heart of the covenant. It was passed down to their children just as God commanded. God says it will be a sign upon the hand and frontlets between the eyes—this is repeated in Deuteronomy 11:18.
6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.Deuteronomy 6:6-8 KJV
To say that it will be a sign on the hand is to say that it will manifest in the actions of the people who bear it. People who love God, keep God's commands, and thus their actions match His expectations. For this to work properly, the person's mind has to be in the proper place. Frontlets between the eyes refers to the forehead, or the person's mind. A person who loves God will think of God first and ensure that their mind stays on Godly topics. (It's hard to follow God's commands if all your thoughts are contrary to His Will). This parallels the marks mentioned in Revelation for the end times (one mark of God and one mark of the beast). When I get to the portions of the Bible that deal with prophecy, I'll touch on this in more depth, but it is quite clear that these marks are symbolic of loyalty, which manifests in the law you follow. Those keeping the law of God are expressing loyalty to God and those following the law of a false gods (or mankind) are expressing loyalty to the beast. To ward against falling into the trap of following other laws or neglecting God's law, the Israelites were instructed to keep the law all around them. Everyone who entered their home was to follow the law as well.

Serve the Lord

The Israelites are told not to waver in their loyalty when they reach the promised land. God will not share His people with false gods or idols; they are warned that the Lord is a jealous God. When they take over Canaan, they are instructed to remember that God delivered them to a city that was already built. The land was already planted and ready for harvest, buildings had already been erected, and wells had already been dug. After a (very) long journey, they were arriving to a move-in-ready kingdom. All they had to do was drive out the Canaanites, which God would help them with, and all traces of paganism.

God's Glory

When the Israelites heard God speak from the fire upon the mountain they feared they would die because no one had ever spoken to God in that manner and lived. This proves that they knew of God beforehand, likely from stories passed down from their forefathers. This knowledge had enough power that the Israelites fear for their lives when they hear God, so they send Moses to speak with God and promise to obey any command God gives. God is not content with the verbal affirmation, however. It's easy for us to say we will follow Him, but it's much more difficult to carry out the promise. People often make rash promises in the heat of the moment, but God wanted Israel's full commitment to come from the heart and be everlasting. As an incentive, He also promises that those who keep His commandments prolong their days in the land.


Photocredit: rosen
The Israelites were to make sure their children knew of God's great delivery of the Israelites in Egypt and remind them that the commandments were for their own good, to keep them alive. While Gentiles weren't enslaved in Egypt, and thus couldn't be freed from bondage in Egypt, God still freed us from a our bondage to sin in a similar fashion. This is why as Christians, we are to remember God saving us through Jesus, who served as the Passover Lamb, the way the Israelites remembered the Passover as the time God delivered them from Egypt. These two victories join us in seeing God's absolute authority.

Destroying the Canaanites

7 nations resided in the land of Canaan prior to the Israelite's conquest: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, and Jebusites. All 7 nations are described as greater and mightier than Israel. God commands Israel to destroy those nations when God delivers them into the hands of the Israelites. The Israelites were forbidden from cutting deals or making covenants with these nations, because as God has warned them, the pagan nations would lead them down the path of idolatry (like at Baalpeor). Perhaps in the memory of Baalpeor, they are also warned not to take wives or husbands from these nations. God is exceedingly concerned about the idolatry and sin these nations will bring upon the Israelites, because we see in Deuteronomy 21:11 that God is allowing men to take captives as wives. The finality of God's judgement that these nations be completely destroyed says that there was no hope for the these people.

This command has nothing to do with race as some people try to make it. It's not even about nationality so much as it is about belief. These nations were pagan and did not respect God the same way the Israelites did. Not only were these nations full of idolaters, but they were known to lure the Israelites into their pagan ways. This made them dangerous to the spiritual well being of Israel. The same is true today; in every mixed-religion couple I've seen, either one person is converted or neither person is very involved in their religion. Either way, the odds would have been stacked against them to chose God, so He leveled the playing field.

God Chose Israel

God chose the Israelites to be special, but not because of their size. Their population growth was a result of God choosing them. They were reminded that God brought them out of Egypt and to keep God's favor, they were to follow God's commandments. This is Israel's part of the covenant. Interestingly, whereas Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, God says He will repay those that hate the Israelites. I think this is why we don't need to say anything or respond to those who are against us (as Jesus advises); God handles it for us. With this favor, God blesses Israel and all that they touch: land, crops, cattle, etc. God says no person or livestock will be barren while they follow His commands. God also promises to destroy the nations that rise up against Israel. When they doubt their strength they are to remember God and all that He accomplished in Egypt. Once again, God condemns all idol worship by commanding Israel to destroy all idols and followers of the idols as they take the land. However, God warns them to overtake their enemy little by little. This strategy ensured that the Israelites did not over extend themselves. Also, this enabled the land to be kept up in the other parts of the land while Israel made their way from border to border, settling as they went.

Remember God's Care

Many times, the Israelites are told to keep God's commandments because He brought them out of Egypt. Similarly, as Christians, we are to follow due to our love and acceptance of Jesus (who brought us out of sin and death). In chapter 8, Moses tells the Israelites to remember how God cared for them in the wilderness. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated their time in the wilderness, but I think God wanted them to carry it in their heart as a reminder of both His power and love. When times are hard, we often forget all the wonderful things God has done—this is possibly the major problem for non-believers who can't see God's glory. Here, God was telling them to take time to remember.

After the Israelites refused to enter Canaan, God cursed them to wander in the desert for 40 years—1 year for each day the spies explored the promised land. In Deuteronomy 8:2, God explains that this was to humble the Israelites, to prove Himself to them and to see what was in their hearts. God already knows our hearts, though; He knows us before we are born,[4] so why does God say He did this to know something? From the foreshadowing of Jesus at the fall of man in Genesis, the Feasts prophesying His arrival,[2][3] and the probable cross imagery in their camp while in the wilderness, it is obvious that God already knows the answer is that the Israelites would not be able to keep the commandments. If it were possible to keep the law on our own, there would be no need for Jesus' sacrifice. I don't think God meant to see for Himself if they would keep the laws. More so, I think He meant to show the Israelites that they were capable of being His chosen people.

The Israelites were survivors of slavery, which means their self esteem was probably low. Like African-Americans today, they may have been taught that they were inferior and subjected to systematic practices designed to make them feel worthless. God wanted to show them that they were in fact His people, and that while He was there, nothing could harm them. That would take time. In the same breath, He had to humble them into trusting God first. After 400 years of bondage, it isn't odd that they would fear engaging in war and doubt their ability to succeed. God took that 40 years to both lift them up, as well as, humble them into obedience.

God provides them with protection and food, which would have been a major feat for a human leader such as Moses. Feed that many people and keeping them safe was child's play for God, though. This was His proof to them that He is the Ruler above all.
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.Deuteronomy 8:3
Deuteronomy 8:5 reminds us that just like a man chastises his son out of love, God chastises His children. He does not want us to go off in to darkness and wrong doing, and unlike our earthly parents, God actually knows what the outcome of our actions will be. After we have committed to following God, we should expect that when we disobey His commands, we will be punished.

A Good Land

The promised land, also known as the land of milk and honey, is repeatedly said to be a good land. God says it has fountains, brooks, wheat, barley, figs, pomegranates, and olive oil. Basically the land of Canaan is an oasis in the desert. Even today, we can see why one would prefer that land to the surrounding land—its location on the Mediterranean has made it vital for a thriving nation.

God says the stones are iron and out of the hills they can dig brass. I have a feeling these represent power and strength, since both iron and brass are used for weapons and fortresses. A site on Biblical meanings suggests that each metal mentioned has a symbolic meaning; they define brass to mean natural good and iron to mean natural truth.[5] Metals appear in Daniel 2, concerning end time prophecy, but there iron and brass are not said to be symbolic of such things nor do the meanings fit the prophecy Daniel gives. While multiple meanings can be attributed to a symbol, I don't think that is the case here. Just as Daniel proclaims the metals to represent the strength of specific kingdoms, they probably represent the strength of Israel when discussed here.

Do Not Forget the Lord

To forget God is not indicative of forgetting that He exists, but neglecting Him and His commandments. God doesn't want the Israelites to drift in their own direction and forsake His commands. Christians do this today when we neglect to spend time in God's Word. The Israelites were to remember that it was not of their own power that led them to success or wealth, but the power of God. In Deuteronomy 8:19-20, the Israelites are warned once again about idolatry.

Possessing the Land

It would be impossible for the Israelites to overtake the nations of Canaan on their own. Despite their numbers, which we can't be sure would have even given them an advantage since we don't know the population size of the other nations, the Israelites had been slaves for generations. They were not trained to fight or to act as an army the way these nations would have been. It was unlikely they had any knowledge of battle plans, strategy, or fighting. Thus, God reminds everyone that it is Him who will gain their victories. He promises to bring down the Anakims—described as giants. God also reminds the Israelites that they are a stiff-necked people," and He isn't destroying these nations because of Israel's righteousness. He destroyed those nations because those He judged those nations to be wicked. Israel inherited the land solely because of God's promise to Abraham, who gained favor through his strong faith.


The Israelites rebelled against God a few times during their 40 year journey. Moses reminds them of the golden calf, as well as a few other incidents.

While Moses was receiving the law they had just promised to keep, the Israelites fell to idol worship of the golden calf. We were given an account of these events in Exodus 32. God was furious, but Moses convinced Him to spare the Israelites. When Moses descends the mountain and sees the behavior for himself, he too becomes enraged and breaks the stone tablets. After handling the situation, Moses returns to the mountain where he receives the second set of tablets.

Interestingly, while many assert the law was first given at Sinai, the Israelites rebelled against the law while Moses was receiving the law. This means that when Moses went to receive the law, they already had some knowledge of the law.

The Journey Continues

In chapter 10, Moses discusses the journey of the Israelites. The timeline is difficult to pinpoint as we read these verses because of all the topics Moses discusses. He mentions moving locations, along with Aaron's death, the Levite's lack of inheritance, and his 40 days on the mountain to receive the second set of tablets. It's not likely that Moses is giving us a chronological order of events. Many conclude that he is making a spiritual connection between the loss of the first tablets, the first priest, and the firstborn's inheritance—essentially he is simply talking about loss.[6] As I read Bible scholars' critique on why Moses brings up Aaron's death and the Levites, it occurred to me that by following God and taking on the burden of the tabernacle, the Levites lost their Earthly inheritance. Jesus confirms that when we follow Him, we will lose our Earthly wealth to gain Heaven.
24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?Matthew 16:24-26 KJV

Gains & Losses

While the Levites are adequately provided for, they don't actually receive any land or inheritance. They are exalted as the firstborn of Israel, considered holy, and responsible enough to have charge over the tabernacle, yet they have no claim to the Earthly city of Israel. Interestingly, in the New Testament, Jesus tell us not to worry about life on Earth. As I mentioned above, the Levites gained a relationship with God, which is better than any Earthly possession we could buy or inherit.


Moses lays out the requirements God stipulated of Israel: fear the Lord, walk in His ways, love the Lord with all of our heart and soul, and keep the commandments. Notice, this is repeated to us in the New Testament. Moses further explains that the only way for them to discontinue being a "stiff-necked" people is to circumcise their heart. Circumcision of the flesh was symbolic of God's covenant with Abraham, but circumcision of the heart is needed to obey God. This is also discussed in Romans 2:25-29 and Colossians 2:8-15.

Moses reminds the Israelites that God doesn't show partiality; they were not to mistreat strangers, widows, or orphans. Moses also confirms fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham to make his seed as the stars.

God's Miracles

The Israelites who were in Egypt when God delivered them had the privilege of witnessing God's display of power firsthand. Their children, who would be the ones to actually inherit the promised land, would only know about God's glory by their parents' stories. One would one think the generation that saw His glory would have been overcome with faith and love. Yet, it seems all they did was complain. This is an insight to our life today. For one, it is a reminder that even when God is working miracles in our lives, we may refuse to see Him and lose the blessing He has waiting for us. It also tells me how easy it is to twist and distort God's show of power into every day redundancy.

Moses reminds the people of what happened with Abiram, Dathan, and Korah; what they did is something very common today. It impossible to say how they truly felt, but these men wanted power more than they wanted to listen to God. God had made clear indications that He was choosing Moses as leader and Aaron as priest. Perhaps because life wasn't a cake walk, the rebelling men misinterpreted God's actions, or perhaps, they just wanted power. Either way, their actions are still being duplicated by churches today. Churches split over leadership and argue over who should be in charge. We should be learning from the Israelites, and by now, we should know to ask God when we have doubts. We come many, many, generations after God displayed His glory, but that doesn't mean we have to be weaker than the generations that witnessed it first hand. In fact we should be stronger, because we have their example to guide us.

The Land of Milk and Honey

For the "umpteenth" time, God says the Israelites must keep the commandments to inherit the land; clearly, God places importance on keeping His law. He promises that keeping the commandments yields strength and longevity. This is what will enable them to inherit and keep the land of Canaan in all of its abundance.

Unlike the desert climate of Egypt, which required back breaking labor and the flooding of the Nile for success, the promised land would be watched over by God constantly, and He would provide them with rain. If the Israelites strayed from God's commandments or worshipped other gods, they would kindle God's anger and lose the richness of the land. Similarly, when we don't follow God today, we make it harder for ourselves just as the Israelites made it more difficult for themselves.

Loving God

Deuteronomy 11:18 is the second time we are told about a mark; this is the mark of God that will be counterfeited by Satan in the end.
Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.Deuteronomy 11:18 KJV
See "The Shema" above for more detail on the meaning of this verse.

The laws were to be passed down to their children and written on their door posts. As long as they obeyed this, they would posses the land. The duality of their choice was symbolized by the twin peaks of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Mount Ebal was cursed and Mount Gerizim bore the blessing. This was the same location in which Jacob built a well and would later be the site of a Samaritan temple.[7]

Destroying Idol Temples

God forbade the Israelites from leaving any signs of idol worship. I find this interesting because while God tells the Israelites to "utterly destroy" these shrines, people today are quick to incorporate things originally not meant to worship God in worship. From songs written for secular purposes being rewritten (e.g. "Love" by Musiq Soulchild vs. "the gospel version") to actual traditions (e.g. Christmas trees). It seems that God was not for including such things in worshipping Him.

More on Worship

God is very explicit concerning how and where the Israelites are to worship Him. Moses reiterates these commandments in Deuteronomy 12.


God would choose a specific place for sacrifices to be carried out and bear His name; with our current knowledge, we know this location to be the temple mount in Jerusalem. Everything as to go to God through this site (or at the temple). God says they can continue to worship as they have been in the wilderness until they have fully inherited the promised land. He also warns that they are not to worship at every place they see, there is to be only one place which God's name would be written, and that place was the only place permissible for sacrifices. This prohibition reinforced the fact that Israel was a single entity.[7]

Unlike before, the Israelites would be able to kill and eat within their cities without the requirement of talking the sacrifice to God first. Now that they were spread out and blessed in abundance, they could reap these blessings. The Israelites are warned again not to consume blood (they are warned about this at least 3 times during just this address!).

Deuteronomy 12:15 gave me pause on first read, but after re-reading and a little investigating, I realized I was just reading it wrong.[8] God is telling the people that everyone can eat inside their city's gate despite their status of clean or unclean (on my first read I thought it was saying they could eat unclean meat, but that is not what this verse is saying). It may take a closer look at the sentence structure to catch this if you read the verse too quickly (as I did). It is important to take our time when reading the Word to avoid these problems.

Eating in the Gates

God refines the idea of eating flesh within the gates without taking the flesh to Him first. In Deuteronomy 12:20-32, this ability is quantified by distance; those who were too far away from the holy site to make the trip could eat within their own gates. Abstinence from blood is commanded once again, and they are instructed to pour the blood upon the ground like water. Note that all holy offerings were still required to be carried out before God.

Holy Food

Tithes, firstlings, vows, etc. were never to be eaten within the gates of a city. These holy offerings were to be brought before God, no matter the distance the Israelites had to travel. Everyone in the house, including servants and Levites, was to partake in the feast after such offerings.

It is interesting that God mentions the Levites within the gates along with family and servants. Did each family or clan have a Levite living with them? Or is this in reference to the Levites who happened to be in the area when a sacrifice was made? God's commands make it clear that the other tribes were not to forsake or forget about the Levites.

The Other Nations

Once again, the Israelites are reminded not to follow the nations that in habit the land; they were to be destroyed as the Israelites took the land. God calls it an abomination to go after these false gods. They were to follow God's commands exactly as written; nothing was to be added or taken away from the law.


[1] "Deuteronomy 5:4 Commentary". Bible Hub. 2016
[2] Numbers 29
[3] Leviticus 23
[4] Jeremiah 1:5
[5] Swendenbord, E. "Iron, Brass, Metals". Bible Meanings. 1972
[6] "Deuteronomy 10:6 Commentaries". Bible Hub. 2016
[7] Holman Bible Publisher. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 322-323. 2014
[8] "Deuteronomy 12:15". Bible Study Tools. 2014

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