Grace Theological Journal 8.2 (1987) 213-25.

[Copyright © 1987 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;

digitally prepared for use at Gordon and Grace Colleges and elsewhere]








            In contrast to the idea that the book of Deuteronomy is a

legalistic refinement of Mosaic regulations, the structure of Deuter-

onomy suggests that it is designed to elucidate the broader morality

behind each of Ten Commandments. The book, then, is an exposition

of the spirit of the Commandments. The sweeping implications of the

decalogue oblige the individual to a lifestyle of moral conduct that is

far broader than the “letter of the law" would suggest. Deuteronomy

revolves around four major issues (authority, dignity, commitment,

and rights and privileges), each of which is the focus of two or more

commandments. Under each of the four issues, one commandment

deals with conduct toward God and one or more with conduct

toward man. When this structure is studied, it becomes clear that

Moses grouped legal cases around common themes to bring a truer

understanding of God's concerns and requirements as they are re-

flected in each command of the decalogue. Thus, there is a moral

theme behind each command that creates timeless parameters for

ethical conduct.

                                                *    *    *




            ONE of the most frequently encountered questions among Chris-

tians of the last nineteen hundred years concerns the significance

and applicability of the OT law for the Church. Such questions have

not been limited to the laity, as theologians have grappled with the

hermeneutical issues involved with cross-testamental exegesis. Careful

responses need to be made to such questions in order to lay a

foundation for a correct understanding of "Church and Society."

Deuteronomy, as one of the major repositories of Israelite law,

has been subjected to much scrutiny in this regard. A breakthrough in

the understanding of the book came in 1979 when Kaufman pub-

lished his suggested correlation of the deuteronomic laws and the




decalogue.1 This was the first successful attempt at such a correlation

and has already gained recognition as a seminal work in the area of

Deuteronomy studies.2

Kaufman was of the opinion that the arrangement of the deuter-

onomic laws in accordance with the decalogue was merely a literary

device and that it did not necessarily betray the Israelite perception of

legal classification.3 An examination of the correlations of the various

sections of Deuteronomy with the decalogue suggests, however, that

the arrangement served more than a literary function. Rather, by his

choice and classification of the legal material, Moses exemplified the

"spirit" behind each of the ten basic laws, the decalogue. The impli-

cation of this hypothesis is that it is not left to Christ or even to

Jeremiah to recognize that the Ten Commandments are to be under-

stood as broader in scope than the "letter of the law." Rather, the

commandments serve as doors into the discussion of a transcendant

morality which they are fully understood to require. In other words,

the Ten Commandments, even as early as Moses, were understood to

oblige the individual to a lifestyle of moral conduct both with regard

to God and to man.

It is possible to identify in Deuteronomy four major issues which

the decalogue addresses and around which the laws seem to be

organized. They are:


MAIN ISSUES                       RE:GOD                                 RE:MAN

Authority                                Commandment 1                   Commandment 5

Dignity                                   Commandment 2                   Commandments 6; 7, 8

Commitment                          Commandment 3                   Commandment 9

Rights and Privileges            Commandment 4                   Commandment 10




Commandment 1 has as its focus the authority of God, while

Commandment 5 is concerned with human authority, mostly in its

relationship to divine authority. While Kaufman saw Commandments

1 and 2 combined in Deuteronomy 12, I believe Commandment 1 is


1 Stephen A. Kaufman, "The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law," Maarav 1/2

(1978-79) 105-58.

2 Note: for instance, its influence in such works as Victor Hamilton, Handbook On

the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), and Walter Kaiser, Toward Old Testa-

ment Ethics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983).

3Cf., e.g., Kaufman, "The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law," 125.


WALTON: DEUTERONOMY: AN EXPOSITION                        215


more closely aligned with Deuteronomy 6-11.4 These chapters convey

the idea that God should be our first priority and final authority, and

that we owe him preference and obedience.

There are two direct statements of God's authority in this sec-

tion. The first is in 6:4 where the well-known shema presents YHWH,

and YHWH alone, as God. The second direct statement is in 10:17

which speaks of YHWH as the God of Gods, the Lord of Lords, and

the great, mighty and awesome God. Besides these direct statements,

several explicit warnings against worshiping other gods not only

speak of the authority of YHWH, but seem to demonstrate that

Commandment 1 is under discussion (6:13-14; 7:3-5; 9:19-20; 10:20-

21; 11:16). Rather than discussing the implications of the First Com-

mandment in legislative terms, these chapters give examples of ways

that adherence to the First Commandment can be demonstrated.

Included here are the exhortations to love God (6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13,

22) and to obey his commandments (6:6, 17, 24-25; 7:11-12; 8:1, 6;

10:12-13; 11:1, 8, 13, 18, 22), along with warnings against testing the

Lord (6:16; 10:16). Finally, in Deuteronomy 6-11 Moses spends

much time reminding the reader of how God has proven or will prove

himself worthy of the respect and status that he demands. For exam-

ple, Moses states that Israel is chosen and loved (7:6-8; 10:14-15),

that Israel has been multiplied in keeping with the covenant promises

(10:22), and that Israel was delivered out of Egypt (6:21-23; 7:19;

8:2-5, 14-16; 11:2-7). Furthermore, God is able to bring prosperity

(6:10-12; 7:13-15; 8:7-13; 11:10-15) and drive out the enemy (6:19;

7:1-2, 16-18, 20-24; 9:1-6; 11:23-25) if the conditions of obedience

are met. While these chapters appear at first glance to be somewhat

rambling, it seems that the concept of God's authority and priority

serves as a common denominator and provides a key to understand-

ing the thoughts that are expressed.

In Commandment 5, human authority is the issue. The deuter-

onomic treatment of the commandment, however, does not focus on

how we are to respond to human authority as much as it addresses

how human authority is to conform to divine authority. It speaks of

the exercise of divine authority in the human realm. The main role of .

human authority that is emphasized is instruction.

In the commandment proper (Deut 5:16), parents are seen as the

basic link for the communication of instruction and for the repre-

sentation of divine authority. The honor given to parents is put in the


4 This was initially the suggestion of my colleague William Luck. For this and

numerous other insights gleaned from our hours of discussion and reflected throughout

this paper I am deeply indebted to him.



context of preservation of the covenant ("that you may live long in

the land"), and that preservation is accomplished in the instruction of

children by the parents. This commandment attempts to cover a weak

link: if parental instruction is not heeded, the covenant's benefits are

in jeopardy.

The deuteronomic treatment of Commandment 5 (Deut 16:18-

17:13) does not speak of the role of parents, but moves to a discus-

sion of other forms of human authority. It has the appearance of a

national application of the Fifth Commandment. Each section speaks

of the way in which the various authorities could place the covenant

benefits in jeopardy by identifying the weakest link--the ways in

which each office can fail in carrying out its responsibility before


The first group treated is the judges who are seen as responsible

for enforcing the covenant (17:2-7). Each time a sentence is passed

there is an opportunity for instruction. The weak link here would

occur if the judges were not preserving the integrity of the system. So

the text speaks of bribes that distort justice (16:19-20), verdicts that

are not enforced (17:10-12), and cases where instruction was not

heeded (17:10-12) or the lesson was not learned (17:13). These appear

to be the weak links in the authority/instruction chain that could put

the covenant's benefits in jeopardy.

The next office to be treated is that of the king (Deut 17:14-20).

The king is viewed as God's representative and is held responsible for

the people in the sense that he should set up a system that conforms

to the requirements of the covenant. He is thereby seen as the admin-

istrator of the covenant. The weak links occur when he becomes

preoccupied with the accoutrements of office (vv 16-17) or when he

fails to observe the law. Either of these situations can cause him

to fail in setting up an administration that supports the covenant.

Instruction here takes place through modeling. The king models

godliness to the people by governing in a way that conforms to the

requirements of the covenant.

The priests and Levites had the responsibility of serving, which

included teaching the people (17:10-12). Deut 18:1-8 speaks of the

support of the priests and Levites by the populace. The weak link

here is that if the priests were not supported they could not function

and the covenant would be in jeopardy.

The last group is the prophets (18:9-22). They had the respon-

sibility of passing on God's messages, and thus were involved in both

the authority of God and in instruction. The weakest links occur if

wrong authority is used (e.g., divination, vv 9-14), if the people fail to

heed the prophet's words (v 19), or if the prophet speaks his own

words rather than God's (v 20).


WALTON: DEUTERONOMY: AN EXPOSITION                        217


In dealing with these four groups, the biblical author moves

backwards through the line of authority which starts with God com-

municating his instructions to the people through the prophets. After

this, the priests have the responsibility of instructing the people

concerning the word of God, and then the kings have the responsi-

bility of setting up and maintaining a system based on the instructions

given by God. Finally, the judges have the responsibility of enforcing

the system that has been set up.

Deuteronomy may be seen to warn of areas where the covenant

could be jeopardized through a break in the chain of authority and

instruction. Human authorities need to be honored in that they serve

as an important link in communicating God's instructions to his

people. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of human author-

ities not to corrupt their offices by losing sight of their primary




Commandment 2 appears to be reflected in Deut 12:1-32. The

key verse is v 4: "You shall not treat the LORD your God that way."

This chapter addresses the fact that Israel was not to use the things or

places that were part of Canaanite worship. The Israelites were not to

worship YHWH in the same way that the Canaanites worshiped their

gods. This, of course, is directly related to the ban on the use of

images that is the Second Commandment. The treatment in Deuter-

onomy confirms that the ban on images specifically concerns images

of YHWH, and it further clarifies that the prohibition of images is

intended to be understood in the context of worship.

It is easy to understand the concern that God has for the Israelites

as they enter a land infested with Canaanites. Syncretism is the path

of least resistance. So rather than allowing the Canaanite sanctuaries

to be converted, only a central sanctuary is sanctioned. This would

serve to assure homogeneity of religious practice and set up a priestly

control of popular practice. Both of these factors would help guard

against syncretism. This is especially evident with regard to the ritual

elements where the closest monitoring was needed. Deut 12:30-31

again make this clear: "beware that you are not ensnared to follow

after them. . . and that you do not inquire after their gods saying,

'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?'

You shall not behave this way."

The main thrust of the deuteronomic treatment, then, concerns

how the ritual aspect of worship takes place. The Israelites are

instructed not to repeat pagan rituals (of which images are a large

part), and a central sanctuary is to be established to monitor the




ritual practice. The concern is that the ritual must reflect the true and

unique nature of YHWH rather than accommodating the pagan stan-

dards in the world around them. The dignity of YHWH is jeopardized

when he is treated as the pagans treat their deities. The point is that

ritual is performed for the recognizing of no one else but YHWH.

Thus, ritual should never accommodate the world's standards. Rather,

all ritual must reflect true worship on the part of the individual. True

worship cannot take place if ritual becomes an end in itself. True

worship must give God his proper place. It cannot be manipulative or

self-serving, for that robs God of the dignity that the worship is

intended to recognize.

Corresponding to Commandment 2 and its concern with the

preservation of the dignity of God are three commandments (6, 7 and

8) that are concerned with preserving the dignity of man. Com-

mandment 6 appears to be treated in Deut 19:1-21:23. This section,

for the most part, seeks to delineate what is really behind the prohibi-

tion against murder by discussing some of the instances in which life

is being taken, but where murder has not been committed. As a result

we find sections on the following:

1. Accidental homicide and the connected discussion of the function

                of the levitical cities (19:1-13);

2. The requirement of two witnesses in a capital case (since capital

     punishment involves the taking of a life and the witnesses are

     implicated in the taking of life; 19:15);

3. The treatment of malicious witnesses (19:16-20) who are put to

    death if the case is a capital case;

4. The lex talionis as a protection against a judicial taking of life

    where the crime would not call for that serious a punishment



Chap. 20 then proceeds to discuss the rules for warfare, another

situation in which life is being taken, but the commandment is not

being broken. In chap. 21, miscellaneous issues are treated such as

caring for bloodguilt when the murderer is unknown. This dem-

onstrates that the issue of murder must be dealt with not only on the

level of punishing the murderer, but also in terms of absolving blood-

guilt on the land (21:1-9). Also mentioned are the guidelines for

dealing with the rebellious child (21:18-21) and for the treatment of a

capital punishment victim (21:22-23). The prohibition of murder is

designed to protect the dignity of the individual from a minimalist

perspective. That is, everyone deserves the dignity of existence. Deu-

teronomy appears to be suggesting exceptions to that general rule. A

murderer has forfeited his right to that dignity, and war is another

matter altogether. In this section there are also portions that do not


WALTON: DEUTERONOMY: AN EXPOSITION                        219


fit this commandment easily, though they can be seen to impact the

dignity issue (19:14; 21:10-17). These will require more study.

Commandment 7, which would seem to connect with 22:1-23:14,

is one of the most difficult to fit together. Chap. 22:1-12 deals with a

number of diverse issues, some of which can be tied to dignity, some

of which seem more suitable to the issue of integrity, and some which

do not seem to fit well at all. This sort of development always causes

one to question his own system of organization. However, the appar-

ently smooth operation of the classification system throughout the

rest of the material leads to the hope that this is merely a case of the

elusive nature of these specific examples. Perhaps others will be able

to suggest suitable solutions.

Deut 22:12-30 treats the various types of adultery including

inferred adultery (13-21), simple adultery (22), rape (23-29), and

incest (30). These all threaten the dignity of the family. Chap. 23:1-14

speaks of the relationship of emasculated, illegitimate, and foreign

individuals to the assembly, as well as the matter of cleanness in the

camp. These both have to do with preserving the dignity of the camp.

Commandment 8, the prohibition against stealing, seems to be

treated in Deut 23:15-24:7 with regard to preserving the dignity of

individuals. By his treatment of the issue, the author attempts to deal

with the question of why stealing is wrong. By seeing dignity as the

basic element behind the prohibition, he is able to discuss other areas

that are impacted by the commandment. Deut 23:15-20 speaks of

stealing intangible things. The case of the foreign slave who has

escaped to the land is a situation where Israelites are prohibited from

stealing his freedom (a dignity issue). Deut 23:17-18, in singling out

daughters and sons, implies that these individuals are being forced

into prostitution, thus having their self-respect stolen. Deut 23:19-20

forbids the charging of interest within the institution of debt slavery in

that that is like stealing the interest from the debtor, as well as

robbing him of the ability to recover. Again, in the end, this robs him

of his self-respect.

Deut 23:21-23 speaks of stealing from God by not paying one's

vows. This seems unusual in the context of preserving human dignity,

and, as yet, the reason for its being here has not been identified.

Deut 23:24-25 attempts to draw the line concerning what is

stealing and what is not by giving a guideline for picking food on

someone else's property. It also serves to preserve the dignity of poor

travelers who gain their subsistence in this way.

Deut 24:1-4 covers the well-known case where a man is pro-

hibited from remarrying a woman whom he has divorced and who

has been married to someone else in the meantime. Here the legisla-

tion does not treat the issue of divorce but rather appears to be




concerned about preserving the woman's self-respect by forbidding

that she be treated as a piece of property. The indecency found in her

(v 1) cannot be adultery, for the text has affirmed in the previous

chapter that adultery is a capital crime. Rather, the indecency ought

to be considered a matter of technicality5 that the husband is using as

an excuse to discard the woman. This would again be an issue of

stealing her dignity from her.

Deut 24:5-6 speaks of stealing the things that are essential for

survival. Military conscription of a newly-married man is depriving

the new wife of her conjugal rights and of the privilege of bearing

children (for her new husband might be slain in battle). Likewise, the

theft of major food-producing implements is more than theft of

goods, it is the stealing of an individual's ability to provide for

himself and his family. Thus the issue of stealing is expanded far

beyond the confines of the simple notion of taking some object that

belongs to someone else. Most of this section deals with intangibles

and is concerned with the dignity, rights, and self-respect of others

which must not be violated. This is emphasized again in the last

prohibition of this section.

Deut 24:7 deals with kidnapping. It is interesting to note, how-

ever, that it treats only one specific kidnapping situation. That is, it

identifies kidnapping as a capital crime when it is either connected

with violence or with the sale of the kidnapped individual. Presum-

ably if neither of these related crimes occurred, kidnapping would not

be a capital crime. Kidnapping in general was prohibited by the

Eighth Commandment without further elaboration. But here the

legislation is protecting the dignity of the kidnapped individual even

further by placing a stricter punishment on anyone who would abuse

the victim.


5 The rbd tvrf referred to in Deut 24:1 could not be adultery, for 22:22 has just

condemned the adulterer to death. The term is used elsewhere only in Deut 23:14 where

it describes the situation in which excrement is not properly cared for. It is significant

also that the woman is not prevented from remarrying, and there is no prohibition

against the first husband remarrying the woman if another marriage has not inter-

vened. Likewise, the woman is not "defiled" if she marries anyone but the first

husband. The verbal stem used to reflect the defilement in v 4 is the unusual hothpa’al,

which appears to involve passive, causative, and reflexive or durative elements. For this

reason, I would interpret the defilement as something that would be brought upon her

by her first husband should he attempt to remarry her. This is treated under Com-

mandment 8 which suggests that Deut 24:1 is not dealing with a sexual sin per se, but

with a situation in which the woman has been robbed of her dignity. A possibility is

that the husband has used a menstrual dysfunction as a legal loophole and excuse to

divorce the woman. After this kind of humiliation, he is prevented from acting as if it

never happened and "graciously" taking her back again. The second marriage is

brought into the case as the indicator that the first husband totally repudiated the



WALTON: DEUTERONOMY: AN EXPOSITION                        221



Commandments 3 and 9 seem to deal with the issue of com-

mitment. These two commandments have often been identified to-

gether because of the similarity of their subject matter, and this

schema supports even further that connection.

Commandment 3 seems to be treated in Deut 13:1-14:21 and

addresses in various ways the problem of not taking God seriously

enough or not taking one's relationship, commitment, or obligations

to God seriously enough, which is part of the same problem.

Deut 13:1-5 concern the false prophet. The false prophet's activ-

ity is identified in v 3 as a test from God, "to find out if you love the

Lord your God with all your heart." If an individual is serious about

God, the described behavior will be offensive and intolerable. The end

of v 5 makes it clear that the concern is to "purge evil from among

you." Commandment 3 speaks of how God treats those who do not

take him seriously ("God will not hold him guiltless"). This chapter

follows up on that by suggesting that if one is not offended by those

who do not take God or their commitment to God seriously, then he

is guilty along with them. He should not hold them guiltless or he

becomes an accomplice. If he tolerates wicked behavior and fails to

purge it out, he is not taking God seriously. The enticement to

worship other gods is used here as an example--any wicked behavior

would qualify.

In vv 6-11, wickedness even in one's relatives or friends should

not be tolerated. It is suggested in vv 12-18 that even if a whole town

is involved, there should be no mercy. So whether the offender is a

highly respected religious authority, a good friend, or a large group of

people, wicked behavior cannot be tolerated.

Chap. 13 uses the hypothetical case of the most blatant and basic

offense--enticement to serve other gods. In that case, being serious

about a relationship with God requires immediate and total purging.

In contrast, chap. 4 uses a hypothetical case of something that is

tangential and subtle.

Chap. 14 is, of course, the section concerning the dietary laws.

Wenham, following the research of Douglas, an anthropologist, has

suggested that "holiness requires that individuals shall conform to the

class to which they belong.”6 The unclean animals are those that in

one way or another fail to conform to the expectations of the animal

group to which they belong. Concerning the restriction on the Isra-

elites to eat only clean animals, Wenham explains,


6 Gordon Wenham, "The Theology of Unclean Food," The Evangelical Quarterly

53 (1981) 11. My thanks to my colleague, Dennis Magary, for bringing this article to

my attention.




Their diet was limited to certain meats in imitation of their God who

had restricted his choice among the nations to Israel. It served, too, to

bring to mind Israel's responsibilities to be a holy nation. As they

distinguished between clean and unclean foods, they were reminded

that holiness was more than a matter of meat and drink but a way of

life characterized by purity and integrity.7


The connection here would be that while seriousness about God

requires severe action in blatant cases (chap 13), it requires a response

that is above reproach in the subtle cases ("gray areas"). In many

cases there would have been nothing innately wrong with eating the

listed animals, but the truly committed person would demonstrate his

commitment to God even in his diet. This is holiness through symbol

and analogy (not unlike baptism). In chap. 13 the preaching of an

individual was leading the people astray, and the person who was

preaching needed to be put to death if God was to be taken seriously.

In chap. 14 the practice of an individual is an indicator of that

individual's commitment to God and holiness in his life. This is an

important step for the person who is taking his relationship to God


Commandment 3 is paralleled by Commandment 9 which treats

three areas:

1. Taking your commitments to your fellow man seriously;

2. Assuming that he is going to take his commitment to you


3. Not making false accusations.


The common denominator between these areas and the decalogue's

injunction against bearing false witness is the matter of trust--trusting

one another to do what has been agreed upon. This is the important

issue in the case of false witness. It was frequently impossible to

determine by objective means whether an individual was telling the

truth in court cases. The entire justice system, and therefore the whole

fabric of society, was dependent on being able to trust the word of a

witness. For trust to exist in a society, individuals must have the

confidence that commitments are being taken seriously.

The section in Deuteronomy that deals with this commandment

is Deut 24:8-16, though others would extend the section as far as

Deut 25:4. The verses in question, 24:17-25:4 could fit with either

commandment and may serve as a transition section, but it seems to

fit better into the Commandment 10 discussion.

Deut 24:8-9 introduces the section by referring to the example of

Miriam. Here, a case of false accusation against Moses is adduced to


7 Ibid., 12.


WALTON: DEUTERONOMY: AN EXPOSITION                        223


remind the reader of the strict punishment that may accompany a

violation of this commandment.

Deut 24:10-13 deals with the handling of a situation where an

individual is the holder of his poor neighbor's pledge. The reader is

admonished not to act in such a way that he would betray a lack of

trust in his neighbor. He is not to think so poorly of his neighbor as

to protect himself against the neighbor's not fulfilling his pledge. This

is the same kind of statement that in Commandment 3 admonished

the reader not to imagine that God would not defend things that were

said in his name.

Deut 24:14-15 instructs the Israelites concerning pledges and

agreements. Everyone has the obligation to establish his own trust-

worthiness by carrying out the agreements he has made, and even

further, by being sensitive to the needs of those who are depending on

him to meet their needs.

Deut 24:16 prohibits punishing someone for a crime that he did

not commit. To punish an innocent person is like bearing false

witness against him.



Commandments 4 and 10 speak of rights and privileges. Com-

mandment 4 speaks of God's rights, and Commandment 10 addresses

the issue of human rights.

In the decalogue, the focus in Commandment 4 is on the Sab-

bath. God has a right to be honored through the dedication of a

special day to him in gratitude for his deliverance of Israel from

Egypt (Deuteronomy 5) and in remembrance of his creative work

(Exodus 20). Deuteronomy seems to pick up from that point by

discussing other things one might dedicate to God in gratitude or

commemoration to honor him. Deut 14:22-16: 17 suggests showing

gratitude to God as the source of one's goods (tying into Creation)

and as the source of one's freedom (tying into the Exodus) by dedi-

cating some of one's goods to him and by becoming a source of goods

and freedom to others in his name.

In this connection Deut 14:22-29 begins by discussing the tithe.

This is giving a portion of one's goods back to God in gratitude.

Every third year this tithe is to go to the support of the community.

Other elements of this section include the following:

1. During the seventh year no payment is to be expected toward

    long term debts of fellow Israelites (15:1-3). This is an act of

    compassion because observance of the fallow year would mean

    that there was no guaranteed income that year.

2. Willingly lending to the poor among Israel (15:4-11)




3. A six year limit to debt slavery of a fellow Hebrew is set


4. Firstling sacrifice (15:19-23)

5. Passover (16:1-8)

6. Feast of weeks and first fruits (16:9-12)

7. Feast of Booths (16:13-15)


All of these involve the setting apart of time or goods to give honor

to God in gratitude. This is the right of God and our privilege: he

demands of us goods and acts of compassion, just as he provides

goods and acts of compassion.

Commandment 10 in the decalogue admonishes against coveting.

Coveting something is desiring something that does not belong to

one. It oversteps the bounds of what one has a right to possess.

Deuteronomy appears to expand this thinking into the whole area of

violating the rights and privileges of others. The rights of others are

to be preserved just as the rights of God needed to be preserved in the

Fourth Commandment.

Deut 24:17 -18 speaks of the right to justice--the basic right of

all, even those who are most vulnerable. In connection to this, the

Israelites are reminded of the time when they lost all their rights (in

Egypt). The reminder occurs elsewhere in the Deuteronomic code

only in the parallel section elaborating Commandment 4 (5:15; 15:15;


Deut 24:19-22 deals with the right of the poor to the leftovers of

the harvest. Deut 25: 1-3 speaks of the right of the innocent that

punishment be made in full and the right of the guilty that a limit be

set for being beaten. Deut 25:4 speaks of the right of the ox. Deut

25:5-10 deals with the institution of levirate marriage-a protection

of the rights of the dead brother's family. Deut 25:11-12 addresses

the violation of the rights of the individual who is being attacked. His

right to bear children is being threatened without due process. Deut

25:13-16 speaks of the right to fair treatment in the marketplace.

Deut 25:17-19 uses the example of the Amalekites' taking unfair

advantage of the vulnerable ones in the wilderness.

Finally, 26:1-15 addresses the issue of first fruits as a way of

remembering the rights and privileges that the Israelites were enjoying

that their forefathers did not enjoy. There is also a stress on the third

year tithe, which should be considered a right of the poor.

The commandment itself, then, has focused on coveting as a

violation of the rights that others have to their own property. The

Deuteronomic treatment moves beyond this to the basic issues of

human rights, justice and fair treatment.


WALTON: DEUTERONOMY: AN EXPOSITION                        225




Based on this preliminary study, it is suggested that a working

hypothesis may be established that views the deuteronomic law (chaps.

6-26) as an expansion of the decalogue with the intent of addressing

the spirit of the law. That is, the decalogue has implications con-

cerning conduct that far transcend the limited number of issues that it

addresses directly. The author is accomplishing this task by choosing

exemplary cases that are intended to highlight the attitudes implied

by the initial commandment. In other words, the author is presenting

implications of the decalogue by developing a legislative portfolio for

each of the commands--all with the express purpose of moving

beyond legalism to a truer understanding of God's concerns and

requirements. This then is much the same as what Christ does in the

Sermon on the Mount. When the Lord extrapolates from the com-

mandment against murder to the idea that hateful anger falls into the

category of murder (Matt 5:21-22), he is continuing the deuterono-

mic treatment of the decalogue that has been suggested herein.

Morality is more than a list of rules. The spirit of those rules must be

discerned and heeded. Both Moses in Deuteronomy and Christ in the

Sermon on the Mount show that the prohibition against murder is a

prohibition against things murderous, whether attitudes or actions.

While much more work is needed, if this working hypothesis is

true, it implies that the Deuteronomic code is relevant to the church

because it elucidates not the letter but the spirit of the law. While the

law in some ways has passed away, the validity of the spirit behind

the law can never pass away, for it is a reflection of an absolute






This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Grace Theological Seminary

            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: