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The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-18 and Deuteronomy 5:5-21)


a) The introductory words differ between the two sections.


c) This differs from the subsequent ones by its use of verbs. Most of the commands are expressed in the masculine singular form: "You (masc. sing.) will not ...". This one is expressed as an objective fact: "There must not be...".

d) The two versions differ only trivially.

e) The two versions differ only trivially.


g) The two versions differ only trivially.







n) The two versions differ only trivially.

o) The two versions differ only trivially.

p) rêa‘ - here and in the next verse - has a wide variety of possible meanings. It can indicate any level of relationship, from "fellow-citizen" to "companion" to "friend" to "intimate". It basically indicates a person with whom one has a reciprocal relationship at some level. The underlying verb is râ‘âh, meaning "associate with". So, "companion" has been chosen here as having a similarly non-explicit meaning.


Comments on the differences

There are differences of three main kinds here:
Trivial differences
These are changes that do not in any way affect the sense of the passage - for example, using the full or defective versions of vowels (ô or ôw for example), or the inclusion or exclusion of and to link two clauses. A more questionable difference is between Ex 20:6 (my commandments) and Dt 5:10 (his commandments). This is the single character change yodh to vav, and it is debatable whether this represents an original change in the text or an error in copying at some intermediate stage.
There are several places where the Deuteronomy version is longer than the Exodus version - always this way round rather than the other. The extra phrases are found as follows:
  • Dt 5:12 contains the extra phrase Yahweh your God has already commanded you concerning this.
  • Dt 5:14 contains the extra phrase your cattle or your donkeys.
  • Dt 5:14 contains the extra phrase so that your man-servant and your maid-servant may rest just like you.
  • Dt 5:16 contains the extra phrase Yahweh your God has already commanded you concerning this.
  • Dt 5:16 contains the extra phrase and all will be well for you.
  • Dt 5:21 contains the extra phrase field.
The fact that Deuteronomy is always the longer variation, together with the nature of the additions, suggests that this is the later version. It is easier to see why a shorter account would be amplified with additional explanations or requirements, than to see why an originally longer version would be shortened in this way.
Larger changes
There are a number of places where there are more significant variations between the two accounts, which to one extent or another alter the sense of the passage. They are:
  • Ex 20:8 has Remember (zâqar) as the key verb, where Dt 5:12 has Keep (shâmar). zâqar has the sense of imprinting or impressing on something, and is related to the word for male, while shâmar has to do with caring or stewarding. The verb remember is used later in the Deuteronomy account (5:15)
  • The basis for the sabbath regulation differs. Ex 20:11 indicates that the sabbath rest is in imitation of the example given by Yahweh at creation. Hence it implicitly has universal significance and only requires acknowledgement of a creator. Dt 5:15 presents it as an act of homage and recognition of the work of Yahweh in leading Israel out of Egypt. This makes it a specifically covenantal observance related to salvation history.
  • Ex 20:16 forbids supplying deceitful testimony: Dt 5:20 broadens this to worthless. As a more general regulation, it seems likely that Deuteronomy represents a development from the earlier, narrower stipulation.
  • There are several differences between Ex 20:17 and Dt 5:21, forming the last two regulations here. Exodus uses the same verb in both clauses, châmad. This verb indicates an emotional movement to desire or take pleasure in something. It is sometimes used in a positive sense but more commonly suggests an inappropriate or uncontrolled, selfish passion. Deuteronomy uses this verb for the first clause, but uses ’âvâh for the second clause. This verb can have a more calculating air to it - for example it can be used of measuring land - as well as the main idea of wanting a thing. Hence plot to acquire has been used.
  • The other key difference between Ex 20:17 and Dt 5:21 is the order of items mentioned. Exodus has house as the first, separate item, followed by wife, man-servant, maid-servant, cattle, donkeys, anything else. The logic of the division here is between dwelling-place on the one hand and occupants (human or animal) on the other. Deuteronomy has wife as the first item, followed by house, field, man-servant, maid-servant, cattle, donkeys, anything else. The division here is between partner/family on the one hand and possessions on the other, where servants and animals are grouped together with property. There does not seem to be any particular time implication here, but this could easily be seen as reflecting the differences between an unrooted culture and a more settled, landed one.