Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook

Deuteronomy 5:22-27

January 23, 2021

     The main point of this pericope is that Moses recalled that God wrote down the Ten Commandments and how the people expressed a healthy fear of the Lord. Moses opens this section, saying, “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me” (Deut 5:22). This confirms the Ten Commandments were spoken directly by God, who then provided Moses two hard copies which were written on tablets of stone. The Ten Commandments, as given by God at Mount Sinai to Israel, should not be separated from the larger body of the Mosaic Law. It must be remembered, “These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai” (Lev 27:34). Moses is also clear the Lord did not provide anything more than the Ten Commandments. Earl Kalland writes;

  • "He 'added nothing more' (v.22) refers to these Ten Commandments that were spoken and then written by God on the two stone tablets. They constitute the basic behavioral code that was to determine not only their allegiance and life-style but also that of all succeeding generations as well. No other such short list of commands begins to compare with the effect that these have had in world history. In spite of being constantly broken, they stand as the moral code par excellence."[1]

     Moses records the response of the Israelites, saying, “And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders” (Deut 5:23). Every one of the Israelites at Mount Sinai heard the voice of God, audibly, which came from the direction of the mountain that was burning with fire. Apparently, the audio was quite loud and connected with pyrotechnic effects. After approaching Moses, the elders said, “Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives” (Deut 5:24). Here was a divine encounter with the God of the universe that was so powerful, they were surprised that they were still alive. Then, they spoke out of fear, saying, “Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” (Deut 5:25-26). Being close to God meant, to some degree, feeling uncomfortable in His presence, because as they came near to Him, they became painfully aware that He is holy and they were sinful. However, they felt their lives were in danger if they continued to experience God’s presence as He had revealed Himself at the mountain. Healthy fear was a common experience among those who personally encountered God (Isa 6:5; Luke 5:8; Rev 1:17); and others too felt their lives had been spared after encountering the Lord (Gen 32:30; Judg 6:22-23; 13:22-23). Though the Israelites recognized it was God who spoke with them, and that they’d heard His voice and saw His glory, yet they did not want the experience to continue. Instead, they asked Moses to serve as mediator between them and God, saying, “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it” (Deut 5:27).

     As Christians, the more we learn about God, the more we become aware of His holiness and our sinfulness. However, by faith, we also know He accepts us because of the work of Christ, and we can come humbly before His throne of grace, realizing there is no condemnation because we are in Christ.


[1] Earl S. Kalland, “Deuteronomy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 61.

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