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Deuteronomy 10


The Second Pair of Tablets The Temptation to Self-Righteousness (9:1-10:11) Moses Receives the Commandments Again The Ark of the Covenant; the Choice of Levi
10:1-5 10:1-5 10:1-5 10:1-5
10:6-11 10:6-9 10:6-9 10:6-9
  10:10-11 10:10-11 10:10-11
The Essence of the Law What the Lord Requires (10:12-11:32) What God Demands Circumcision of the Heart
10:12-22 10:12-22 10:12-22 10:12-13

READING CYCLE THREE (see p. vii in introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3, p. viii). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



  1"At that time the Lord said to me, 'Cut out for yourself two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to Me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood for yourself. 2'And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered, and you shall put them in the ark.' 3So I made an ark of acacia wood and cut out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. 4And He wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me. 5Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the Lord commanded me."

10:1 "the mountain" This refers to Mt. Horeb/Mt. Sinai. See Special Topic at 1:2.

Moses is to prepare for his second encounter with YHWH:

1. "cut out for yourself two tablets of stone" - BDB 820, KB 949, Qal imperative, cf. Exod. 34:1,4

2. "come up to Me" - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative 

3. "make an ark" - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal perfect, cf. Exod. 25:10

The Hittite Treaties also required two copies of the agreements. One was given to the lesser king to read every year and the other placed in the temple of the greater king's god. See Introduction to the book, VII.

▣ "ark of wood for yourself" Exodus 37:1 says Bezalel made the Ark of the Covenant. Rashi says details of the ark were not even given until Moses came down the second time from Mt. Sinai. Therefore, Moses must have made a crude ark first and then later Bezalel made another more elaborate one (cf. Exod. 25:10-22). This first ark, made quickly by Moses, held only the Ten Commandments (cf. I Kgs. 8:9). The later one contained: the Ten Commandments, a sample of manna, and Aaron's rod that budded . For a good brief discussion see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 292-303.

10:2 "I will write" YHWH wrote the law, verse 4 and Exod. 34:1. However, Exod. 34:27 speaks of Moses writing. Possibly God wrote the Ten Commandments, but Moses wrote the descriptive and declarative material, which explained and applied it. It was not Moses' mentality nor his cultural influence, but God who originated the Law. God used cultural examples and forms that Moses would have been familiar with. In many ways the form of the Law is similar to Babylonian law, but the content is different.

▣ "in the ark" This depositing of special documents before the god is characteristic of the Near East. Compare Egyptian Book of the Dead (in a box under Thot's feet) and the Hittite Suzerain Treaties of the second millennium b.c. See Introduction to the book,VII.

10:3 "acacia wood" This was a hard, brownish-orange wood (BDB 1008) that grows in the desert. It was a common small desert tree (cf. Isa. 41:19). This wood is associated with all of the furniture of the tabernacle. It occurs only here outside the book of Exodus.

10:4 "the Ten Commandments" This is literally "the ten words" (BDB 796 construct BDB 182). These basic characteristic, foundational laws are very brief and stated in general principles. They mandate an intimate, exclusive relationship with YHWH (cf. v. 20), which is reflected in exclusive worship and obedience, which in turn mandates an appropriate commiserate relationship with other covenant members (and also non-members, cf. 10:17-19). Knowing YHWH impacts all of life and its priorities!

▣ "on the mountain from the midst of the fire" This refers to God's presence on Mt. Horeb/Sinai, recorded in Exod. 19:16-20. His presence is described as a "consuming fire on the mountain" (cf. Exod. 24:17). This phrase if used several times Deuteronomy (cf. 4:12,15,33,36; 5:4,24,26).

The fire (BDB 77) was a symbol of YHWH's glorious presence:

1. a torch in Gen. 15:17

2. the burning bush in Exod. 3:2

3. fire on Mt. Horeb, Exod. 19:18; Deut. 4:11,12,15,33,36

4. the Shekinah pillar of fire in Exod. 13:21,22; 14:24; Num. 9:15,16; 14:14; Ps. 78:14

5. coals of fire in Ezekiel's vision of YHWH's portable throne chariot in Ezek. 1:13; 10:2

The Ten Commandments are repeatedly said to have been spoken from the midst of the fire (cf. 4:12,15,33; 5:4,22,24,26; 9:10; 10:4). The commandments were personal, covenantal revelations from YHWH, not the mind of Moses.

(Now the sons of Israel set out from Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died and there he was buried and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his place. 7From there they set out to Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water. 8At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day. 9Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, just as the Lord your God spoke to him.)


10:6 "Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah" The first two words (BDB 91,122) translate literally, "the wells of the sons of Jaakan" (cf. Num. 33:31). Moserah means "chastisement" (BDB 64). Moserah (possibly a district), which may be synonymous with Mt. Hor (cf. Num. 20:22-29; 33:38), is the place where Aaron died. These both refer to geographical areas where the Israelites wandered.

▣ "Aaron died there" Numbers 20:27-28 says this happened at Mt. Hor. Aaron, like Moses, did not enter the Promised Land because of his disobedience (cf. Num. 20:8,12).

▣ "Eleazar" His name means "God has helped" (BDB 46). He was the third son of Aaron (cf. Exod. 6:23). The first two sons were killed because they took God's commands lightly (cf. Lev. 10:1-7; Num. 3:4). The rabbis say that because Lev. 10:9 restricts alcohol to priests while they are on duty that these, Nadab and Abihu, were drunk.

The High Priesthood was to pass on through Aaron's family (cf. Exod. 29:9; 40:15; Num. 3:5-10; 25:13).

10:7 "Gudgodah" The meaning of the name is uncertain (BDB 151). It is seemingly identified with Hor-haggidgad in Num. 32:32. They are both places where Israel camped in her journey from Mt. Horeb/Sinai to Kadesh-barnea. The JPSOA has "Gudgod."

▣ "Jotbathah" The word means "pleasantness" (BDB 406, probably because of the presence of water). It is also mentioned as a campsite in Num. 33:33-34. The JPSOA has "Jotbath."

10:8 "the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi" The verb "set apart" (BDB 95, KB 110, Hiphil perfect, cf. Num. 8:14; 16:9; I Chr. 23:13) means "to divide." Here the separation is for

 (1) special cultic service related to the tabernacle and later temple;

 (2) blessings of the people (cf. 10:8; Lev.9:22-23; Num. 6:22-27);

 (3) judging the people's disputes (cf. 21:5); and

 (4) judging between clean and unclean (cf. Lev. 10:10). This verb is parallel to "choose" (BDB 103, KB 119, cf. 18:5; 21:5).

Israel was to be separate from the other nations (cf. Lev. 20:24-26; I Kgs. 8:53; i.e., "a holy nation," cf. Exod. 19:6), so the tribe of Levi was to be separated from the other tribes as YHWH's special cultic servants. They were chosen because:

(1) Levi was from the tribe of Moses and Aaron;

(2) the Levites took the place of the "first born" for the Hebrews (cf. Exod.13; Num. 3:12; 8:14-19);or  (3) the Levites faithfully responded to Moses' call to punish Israel (cf. Exod. 32:25-29). In Gen. 29:34, Leah called her third son Levi because her husband did not love her, but the child's name meant, "Jacob was attached (or joined) to me" (BDB 532).

 As the priestly tribe, they will

(1) carry the ark of the covenant

(2) stand before the Lord to serve Him (i.e., all the duties at the tabernacle and later, the temple, in Jerusalem, cf 18:5; Num. 18:1-7

(3) bless in His name (e.g., Num. 6:24-27)

Later there will develop specific tasks given to some families of Levi to be priests and others will function as Levites. However, in Deuteronomy all Levites can act as priests (compare 31:9 and 25). See Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 358-371.

10:9 "Levi does not have a portion or inheritance" Though the tribe of Levi was not given any land, parts of forty-eight cities were given to them with their surrounding pasture land (cf. Num. 35:1-8; Josh. 21).

▣ "the Lord is his inheritance" This denoted their special place of service (cf. Num. 18:20; Deut. 10:9; 18:1,2; Josh. 13:33; Ezek. 44:28)! This wonderful promise to the tribe of Levi became a cry from the heart of every true believer (cf. Ps. 16:5; 73:23-28; 119:57; 142:5; Lam. 3:24).

"I, moreover, stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights like the first time, and the Lord listened to me that time also; the Lord was not willing to destroy you. 11Then the Lord said to me, 'Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.'"

10:10 "forty nights like the first time" See Exod. 34:28; Deut. 9:18.

▣ "the Lord was not willing to destroy you" This was Moses' intercessory ministry (cf. 9:25-29; Exod. 32:9-14).

10:11 YHWH commanded Israel to act on what He had already promised-the conquest of the Promised Land:

1. "arise" - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative singular, cf. 2:13,24, which are plural and refer to Israel. Here the singular refers to Moses.

2. "proceed" - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative singular, literally means "break camp and start the next stage of the journey" (cf. Exod. 17:1; 40:36,38;l Num. 10:2,12; 33:1,2). Moses was to lead the people onward.

3. "they may go in" - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperative plural, which may be functioning as a jussive

4. "and possess the land" - BDB 439, KB 441, Qal imperfect plural, which may be functioning as a jussive

Israel is called on to fulfill YHWH's oath to the Patriarchs (cf. 1:8; Josh. 21:43). God uses human instrumentality (e.g., Exod. 3:7-12)! It is His power and purpose, but His covenant people must act in faith and trust!

12"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the Lord's commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 14Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. 15Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more. 17For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. 18He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. 22Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven."

10:12-13 See Special Topic below.


10:13 "for your good" Obedience brings blessing; disobedience brings judgment (cf. chapters 27-29).

10:14 This verse implies monotheism. This refers to the atmosphere of this planet, the universe (starry canopy), and the throne of God (i.e., the three heavens).

10:15 Notice the parallel ways of describing YHWH's election of Israel as His special people (i.e., "even you above all peoples," cf. Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6; 14:2):

1. "set His affection" - BDB 365 I, KB 362, Qal perfect, cf. 7:7. In 4:37 the other word for love (BDB 12, KB 17) is used.

2. "He chose their descendants" - BDB 103, KB 119, Qal imperfect, cf. 4:37.


▣ "as it is this day" See note at 3:14.

10:16 Israel was to respond to YHWH's choice by:

1. "circumcise your heart" - BDB 557, KB 555, Qal perfect. This is a metaphor of openness to God (cf. Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 9:25-26). It is expressed in several ways:

a. circumcise your flesh - Gen. 17:14 (covenant sign)

b. circumcise your lips - idiom in Exod. 6:12,30

c. circumcise your ears - Jer. 6:10

d. refers to a true heart, not just body circumcision - 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 9:25-26; Ezek. 44:9; Rom. 2:28-29

2. "stiffen your neck no more" - BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperfect, cf. 9:6,7,13,24,27; 31:27. See note at 2:30.


10:17 Notice the accolades used to describe YHWH:

1. God of gods - BDB 43, cf. Ps. 136:2

2. Lord of lords - BDB 10, cf. Ps. 136:3

3. the great God - BDB 152, cf. 3:24; 5:24; 9:26; 11:2; 32:3; Neh. 1:5; 9:32

4. the mighty God - BDB 150, cf. Neh. 9:32; Ps. 24:8; Isa. 10:21

5. the awesome God - BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle, cf. 7:21; Neh. 1:5; 9:32


▣ "who does not show partiality" The Hebrew phrase means "who does not lift up faces" (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperfect plus BDB 815). This is used often of judges (cf. 1:17; 16:19; 24:17; Lev. 19:15). This implies that God is a God of fair judgment (cf. Deut. 10:17; II Chr. 19:7).

▣ "nor take a bribe" YHWH's character is described in human legal terms (cf. vv. 18-19). This is often associated with the above phrase.

10:18-19 Notice how the legal characteristics of God in v. 18 are put into practice:

1. "He executes (BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal participle) justice for":

a. the orphan

b. the widow (cf. 24:17; 26:12-13; 27:19; Ps. 68:4-5)

2. "shows His love (BDB 12, KB 17, Qal participle) for the alien by giving him" (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal infinitive construct):

a. food

b. clothing

The Israelites are to do these things for two reasons:

1. It reflects the character of their God (v. 17; Isa. 58:6-7,10).

2. They know how being treated unfairly feels (v. 19; 24:18,22; Exod. 22:21; 23:9).

Exodus 22:22-23 also mentions that God will hear the prayers of these socially powerless ones and act on their behalf (cf. Ps. 146:9; Mal. 3:5; as will the Messiah, cf. Isa. 11:4).

10:20 As the requirements of God were set out in vv. 12-13 by several infinitive constructs, here they are set our again in Qal imperfect verbs:

1. "fear the Lord" - BDB 431, KB 432, cf. 5:29; 6:13; 13:4

2. "serve Him" - BDB 712, KB 773, cf. 13:4

3. "cling to Him" - BDB 179, KB 209, cf. 11:22; 13:4

4. "swear by His name" - BDB 989, KB 1396, cf. 5:11; 6:13. See full note at 5:11.

All of these relate to proper motives and actions of worship.

10:21 "He is your praise" The language of Deuteronomy has much in common with Wisdom Literature. This phrase is seen in Ps. 109:1. There is no verb with this phrase or the next one. They are strong affirmations that YHWH's redemptive action during the exodus and wilderness wandering period are praiseworthy:

1. their praise (BDB 239)

2. their Elohim (BDB 43)


▣ "who has done these great and awesome things for you which you have seen" This refers to YHWH's actions and provisions during the exodus from Egypt, the wilderness wandering period (cf. 11:2), and that which will be repeated during the conquest!

10:22 "seventy persons in all" Seventy is a round number used of people. See Genesis 46:27; Exod. 1:5.

One text of Exod. 1:5, found at Qumran (i.e., Dead Sea Scrolls) has the number 75, which matches Acts 7:14-15. For a good brief discussion of the different numbers, see Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 521 or Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 378-379.

▣ "as the stars of heaven" This is a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. See full note at 1:10.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the purpose of God's law (OT sense)?

2. Does this chapter reflect monotheism? Where and how?

3. How does Deuteronomy express God's love for mankind?


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