The English title of the fifth book of Scripture, Deuteronomy, a compound of Greek words meaning “second law” or better yet “second Torah” perceptively picks up how Moses is intentionally presenting this material as given a second time. Here we will focus simply on chapters 5 and 7 to illustrate the point, but this is what the book invites us to do with the whole.
Take, for example, the Fourth and Fifth Commandments. When you put the text of the Fourth and Fifth Commandments from Exodus 20 alongside the text of the same commandments in Deuteronomy 5 one of the additional phrases sticks out because it is added to both commandments in Deuteronomy: “as YHWH your God commanded you” (5:12, 15). This phrase consciously highlights that this is a second telling of these stipulations. The natural question to ask is, “When did He command this of us?” And the answer is obviously when the Ten Commandments were given before.
The second version of the Fourth Commandment, as given in this second version of Torah called Deuteronomy, is consciously presented again from the first word to the last word. In Exodus 20 the commandment opens, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (20:8). In Deuteronomy the commandment opens, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as YHWH your God commanded you” (5:12). We have already noted the additional phrase, but even that first word highlights that this is a second telling. Remember is a worship gathering word, it suggests that the people would have gathered to “memorialize” the Sabbath day with a service. Observe, as Deuteronomy puts it, even more strongly conveys this idea but it also presupposes that this is already being done and stresses the need to continue doing it. It is stronger than the word remember because it suggests that the Sabbath day is to be treated like observing the festivals to YHWH (cf. Lev 23-25). The second version of the Fourth Commandment concludes with the additional phrase, “Therefore YHWH your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (5:15). This is similar to the phrase we noted earlier and also highlights a conscious retelling of the commandment.
Normally the second version is more expansive than the original. Hence it is no surprise that within the text of the Fourth Commandment there is some other expansions. For example, the Exodus version lists these persons and animals as resting from work: you, your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your livestock, or the sojourner within your gates (20:10). In the Deuteronomy version we find much the same list except instead of only saying “your livestock” it specifically mentions the ox and donkey [see the list in the Tenth Commandment] and then says or “any livestock” and the Deuteronomy version adds the following text after saying “or the sojourner who is within your gates”: “that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you” (5:14). This stress on the servants also highlights the changing rationale from the first to the second version for keeping Sabbath. In Exodus 20:11 the pattern of creation — God created in six days and rested on the seventh day and blessed it and made it holy — is the reason for Israel keeping Sabbath. However, in Deuteronomy the reason instead is this: “You shall remember [here is that word from the opening of the Exodus version] that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and YHWH your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…” (5:15). The point of historical recapitulation in Exodus was the creation, but the point of historical recapitulation in Deuteronomy was the new creation of Israel saved from Egypt. This is a conscious retelling of the commandment. Moses assumes that you knew the reason given in Exodus when he speaks here in Deuteronomy. This is a second telling, a theological reflection, on the meaning of that original reason for keeping Sabbath.
The tenth commandment is the other one with some notable differences. The Exodus version uses the same verb twice, but in Deuteronomy there are two verbs used that mean covet/desire. The lists are very similar, Deuteronomy adds “his field” to the list, but perhaps most importantly Deuteronomy changes the order of Exodus neighbor’s house and neighbor’s wife to neighbor’s wife and neighbor’s house. In other words, Deuteronomy promotes the wife to the top of the list from her second place in Deuteronomy. This reflects a concern for women that is found throughout the second version of Torah. It also argues against splitting the tenth commandment into two separate commandments (as some theological traditions do today anyway and as Sailhamer argues though he never overcomes this problem). Sailhamer does make the interesting observation that Exodus could be misunderstood as meaning that the neighbor’s wife was a piece of property and that by reversing the order Deuteronomy clarifies this ambiguity. Though the wife should not be understood in a property way (as Deuteronomy helpfully proves), Exodus is saying that the neighbor’s house includes his wife and possessions. The Ten Commandments are in order of importance from greatest to least, Deuteronomy makes it clear then that coveting the neighbor’s wife is worse than coveting the neighbor’s possessions whereas Exodus was simply lumping everything in the category of neighbor’s house (thus not to be understood as the physical house but the same way as Joshua uses it, “As for me and my house…”). Deuteronomy’s explanation and interpretation then clarifies what would have been ambiguous if we only had the Exodus version available to us.
The differences with the other commandments are not as great, but include such things as Deuteronomy joining the sixth through tenth using conjunctions and the Fifth Commandment in Deuteronomy adding the phrase “that it may go well with you,” which is so important to the argument of the book. Neverthless, these changes all support understanding this as a second telling of the Ten Words. The text invites us to compare and contrast the way they are told in Deuteronomy to Exodus and not to simply harmonize them but to see that this second interpretation of Torah will have some differences in emphasis at the very least. The other effect of telling this a second time is that the history of Deuteronomy 1-3 has made clear that the generation that was there is now dead. However, with the second telling all of Israel throughout her generations stands at Horeb to be confronted by the demands of the Ten Words.
Deuteronomy 7 also provides us with lots of good examples for what we are arguing here. It repeats many of the arguments of Exodus 23:20-33 and 34:11-16. The former Exodus passage is before the Golden Calf incident and the latter Exodus passage is after it.
All three passages contain lists of the nations living in the Promised Land. Exodus 23:23 — Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, Jebusites (=6), a few verses later gives a shorter list of Hivites, Canaanites, Hittites (=3) (23:28). Exodus 34:11 — Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites (=6). And Deuteronomy 7:1 — Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites (=7). The lists in Exodus appear to be consciously not seven (or even four) in number lest that be confused as a number of blessing. But Deuteronomy goes out of its way to list seven and make a big deal about it: “seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves.” The point being that their blessings will be completely taken away. The order of the lists has much in common for the three passages. The Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites always come in that order and those last two nations are the last two in all three lists. The group called “Canaanites” moves around the most in the list. This must be a collective term for groups not mentioned by the other names because Genesis 10 tells us that all of these groups are Canaanites. Deuteronomy promotes the Hittites to the top of the list and includes the same six as the Exodus passages but adds the Girgashites from Gen 10 to make seven. The order appears to generally reflect the importance of these different groups in the land of Canaan.
Secondly, all three passages prohibit making a covenant with the people of the land. Exo 23:32: “You shall make no covenant with them and their gods.” Exo 34:12: “Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go.” And Deut 7:2, “You shall make no covenant with them.”
Thirdly, they all prohibit serving other gods. “You shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them” (Exo 23:24), “you shall worship no other god, for YHWH whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exo 34:14), and many similar lines in Deuteronomy including “neither shall you serve their gods” (7:16).
Fourthly, they all command tearing down idols. Exo 23:24 — “break their pillars in pieces,” Exo 34:13 — “You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim” and Deut 7:5 — “You shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.” This one is interesting because Deuteronomy describes breaking the pillars in pieces like the first Exodus passage more than the second but adds a fourth thing to the three in the second Exodus passage: “burn their carved images with fire” (a command that is repeated later in the chapter as well).
Fifthly, all three passages warn about a “snare” — “if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (23:33), “make a covenant…lest it become a snare in your midst” (34:12), and “neither shall you serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you” (Deut 7:16).
The second Exodus passage has another similarity with Deuteronomy 7. Both speak to the issue of intermarriage with Canaanites. Exodus says, “and you take their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods, and make your sons whore after their gods” (34:18) whereas Deuteronomy says, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods” (7:3-4). Deuteronomy makes all the points that Exodus did except that it added “giving your daughters to their sons” again reflecting the greater importance of women in this second interpretation of the Torah.
There are a number of other similarities between the first Exodus passage and Deuteronomy 7. For example, “I will take sickness away from among you” (23:25) and “YHWH will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will He inflict on you” (Deut 7:15). Also, “None shall miscarry or be barren in your land” (23:26) and “He will also bless the fruit of your womb…there shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock” (7:14). “And I will send hornets before you” (23:28) and “YHWH your God will send hornets among them, until all those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed” (7:20). “I blot them out” (23:23) is put more poetically “you shall make their name perish from under heaven” (7:24). “I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land (23:29-30) and “YHWH your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you” (7:22).
The main evolution of thought seems to be that the Exodus passage stresses driving the nations out of the Promised Land into exile (23:26, 23:31, 34:11, except 23:23) whereas the Deuteronomy passage stresses devoting these nations to complete destruction (7:2, 7:16, etc.). Also, the Deuteronomy passage adds a piece about the election of Israel from among the nations in this discussion. This is a theme that will be developed even more in subsequent chapters of Deuteronomy but still it is included here when it was not a part of the similar passages in Exodus.
We have seen that when Exodus lists three things, Deuteronomy lists them and then adds a fourth. We have seen that Deuteronomy offers an interpretation of Torah that elevates women. We have seen that there are even some things that seem at least partially contradictory on the surface but if we harmonized the Exodus and Deuteronomy passages we would miss what each is saying. But clearly the text of Deuteronomy sees itself as representing or retelling the words of Torah. Clearly the text is inviting us to lay Exodus and Deuteronomy side by side and observe the similarities and differences in presentation and perspective. And surely the more attention you pay to these things the more you will grasp what Deuteronomy intends to do with this second telling of Torah.