We study the Torah according to the triennial cycle every Sabbath. (Why?)
We must understand the paragraph divisions in Torah, which are inspired by the Spirit and preserved by Moses and the Jewish scribes (but discarded by the English translators), are key to help us understand what God is trying to tell us. He wants to be understood, and has provided these helps to aid us! We must also understand how the Spirit teaches through Torah by common theme.
Deu 5:1-5 ends with a parsha stumah, a weak paragraph division;
Deu 5:6-10 the 1st commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:11 the 2nd commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:12-15 the 3rd commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:16 the 4th commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:17 the 5th commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:18 the 6th commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:19 the 7th commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:20 the 8th commandment ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:21a the 9th commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife;” ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:21b the 10th commandment, “… or anything that is your neighbor’s;” ends with a stumah;
Deu 5:22 – 6:3 ends with a parsha p’tuchah, a strong paragraph division. This means that Deu 5:1-6:3 is teaching a single overarching theme.
The words that keep coming up in these chapters to describe the instruction YHVH is giving His people in how to live, is law, commandment, statute, and judgment. There is no idle word in God’s Word! These different words mean something. The Hebrew of these words is insightful and surprising!
There is a chiastic structure in this parsha:
1A Deu 5:1 – hear, pay careful heed, learn, and observe statutes and judgments;
1B Deu 5:2-3 – YHVH’s covenant with Israel;
1C Deu 5:4-5 – YHVH’s voice from the midst of the fire; Moses between YHVH and Israel (stumah);
–> X Deu 5:6-21 – the Ten Comandments (stumah);
2C Deu 5:22-27 – YHVH’s voice from the midst of the fire; Moses between YHVH and Israel;
2B Deu 5:28-29 – Israel’s heart toward YHVH, to fear Him and keep His commandments;
2A Deu 5:30-6:3 – hear, pay careful heed, learn, and observe the commandment, statutes, and judgments (p’tuchah).
The Ten Commandments came into being, not by the agency of man, as other law codes from the ancient world. But they were voiced in an audible voice which thundered by YHVH, out of the midst of the fire. I couldn’t help but notice how many times the phrase “the midst of fire” appeared in this parashah. Over and over and over again. Repetition is a literary device the Spirit employs in Torah to make a point. The picture of fire immediately puts me in mind of the all- consuming baptizing of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus is to baptize the ekklesia (assembly of believers) with (Mat 3:11). So the truth this graphic picture of YHVH’s voice speaking His Word, which His commandments are, out of the midst of all- consuming fire leaves me with, is that His Commandments come forth out of the midst of His Spirit.
Keeping the Commandments is central to YHVH’s covenant with Israel. Moses out and out says this: “So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone;” (Deu 4:13). In the chaistic structure above, though, the Lord brings out something interesting about what it means to keep the covenant. YHVH’s covenant (1B) is paired with Israel’s heart toward YHVH (2B). The kind of covenant God made with Israel can only be kept when Israel has the right HEART toward YHVH, a heart of fear, reverence, and devotion toward Him.
In other words, the relationship YHVH has with Israel and Israel with YHVH, is not like the other nations with their gods! They perform a religious duty, but Israel’s relationship with YHVH must proceed out of the heart! The sign of the covenant, the circumcision of the flesh, is merely a picture of the circumcision (cutting away of the flesh) of the heart that is the true characteristic of the relationship between Israel and YHVH.
Torah never teaches rote outward obedience to rules, but a heart which is circumcised toward YHVH as the only possible way His covenant could be kept.
In the final layer that surrounds the central axis of this parashah, there are four verbs concerning the Commandments that keep coming up again and again, and we will continue to see them in next few sections of Deuteronomy also. They are:
1) Hear or listen;
2) Pay careful heed;
3) Learn or teach;
4) Observe or keep or do.
Keep your eyes open for these verbs coming up. The Spirit in Torah uses repetition and pattern to teach something important!