This chapter contains a recapitulation of the Decalogue itself and of the circumstances of its delivery. The repetition of the Ten Commandments is the true beginning of the Deuteronomy, as their first delivery is the beginning of the Law itself.
The statutes and judgments.—The religious ordinances and institutions, and the general requirements. The mention of these is prefixed to the Decalogue, of which they are only the application—to a special people under special circumstances. More precisely, the words apply rather to what follows the Decalogue than to the Ten Commandments themselves. (See Deuteronomy 6:1.)
(8,9) These two verses should be closely connected, according to the idiom of the original, “Thou shalt not make to thyself any of these things for the purpose of bowing down to them or worshipping them.”
It is worth while to observe that the Israelites had express authority given them to enforce the observance of the Sabbath upon Gentiles, when these could be regarded as “strangers within their gates.” The words Isaiah 56:6 seem to show that “strangers” who “took hold of the covenant” of Jehovah were expected to “keep His sabbath from polluting it.” For an example of its enforcement, see Nehemiah 13:16; Nehemiah 13:20-21.
If any difficulty is felt at the variation of the form of the commandment from that which we have in Exodus, it should be observed, first, that the command itself is not altered, as appears by Deuteronomy 5:13-14, compared with Exodus 20:9-10; and secondly, that in this exhortation Moses calls Israel to hear the statutes and judgments which he, as their mediator, commands them, and that he is free to enforce them by such reasons as may seem to him best.
(25) Why should we die?—The instinctive dread of death awakened by the Divine presence, and especially by the declaration of the Divine law, bears eloquent testimony to the truth that man was made to bear the Divine likeness, and to live a holy life.
(26) For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard.—A famous passage in the Talmud makes all nations hear the words of the Law, every people in its own language. The thought is remarkable as bringing out a further analogy between the revelation at Sinai and the revelation on the Day of Pentecost, when every man heard in his own language the wonderful works of God.
(29) O that there were such an heart in them.—Literally, Who will give that there shall be this heart in them, to fear me, and to keep all my commandments all the days? He who asked the question has also supplied the, answer: “I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.” Or, more exactly, in Hebrews 8:10, “Giving my laws into their understanding, I will also write them upon their hearts.” The need of a Mediator like themselves was well stated by the people; it was also met by Him who said, “They have well said all that they have spoken.”