FIRST PORTION OF THE COMMENTARY ON THE LAW
(1) These are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord . . . commanded . . . that ye might do them in the land.—After the Decalogue itself has been recapitulated, Moses proceeds to apply its principles to the conduct of Israel in the promised land. The first part of the application is more general, and concerns the relation of Israel to Jehovah, who has brought them from Egypt through the wilderness to the promised land. This portion concludes with Deuteronomy 11. The precepts that follow are particular, and concern the land of Israel viewed as the seat of (1) the worship and (2) the kingdom of Jehovah. But the whole discourse, from Deuteronomy 4:44 to the end of Deuteronomy 26 is presented to us as one unbroken whole. (See Introduction for a complete analysis.)
The commandments.—Literally, this is the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments. The “commandment” is the duty imposed on Israel by the covenant of the ten words—its application to their daily lives. This application includes (1) statutes, religious ordinances, or institutions; and (2) judgments, requirements, actual rules of behaviour. The two words “statutes” and “judgments,” in the original, may sometimes represent two aspects of the same thing. For example, the Passover is an ordinance, or “statute,” or, as we should say, an “institution.” The rules for its observance are “judgments,” or requirements. The thing itself is permanent; the rules for its observance may vary. It was originally eaten standing, and in haste. But after Israel was at rest, it was eaten by them reclining, and in an attitude of repose. Again, the moral law as a whole was eternal; but its application to the life of Israel was very different from its application to ourselves. The word here rendered “commandments” is now commonly employed by the Jews to signify any religious duty or good work.
And shalt swear by his name.—Comp. Exodus 23:13. “Make no mention of the name of other gods.” The principle was not unknown to the patriarchs. Laban appealed to the “God of Nahor,” but “Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53). (Comp. Jeremiah 5:7 : “Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by . . . no-gods.”)
As ye tempted him in Massah.—How did they tempt Him in Massah? By raising the unbelieving question, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7). Even by the side of Satan upon the giddy pinnacle of the Temple, our Saviour refused to doubt the care of Jehovah. He would not throw Himself from thence into the arms of the angels to escape Satan, but “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” To this standard of action Israel was called in face of the powers of evil. But it was not always realised.