Deuteronomy 5 Covenant and Sabbath Questions

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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Deuteronomy 5:2-3 "The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day."

Does this covenant made with the children who inherited the promised land have a specific name? Is it an outworking of another, over-arching covenant?


Deuteronomy 5:12-15 "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day" (v.15)

WLC Q. 120. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it?
A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself, in these words, six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: from God’s challenging a special propriety in that day, the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: from the example of God, who in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: and from that blessing which God put upon that day, not only in sanctifying it to be a day for his service, but in ordaining it to be a means of blessing to us in our sanctifying it, wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath-day and hallowed it.

How should we compare Deuteronomy stating the Lord commanded Sabbath keeping due to redemption from Egypt, and the Confessional view of a creation ordinance? Does the Deuteronomy passage just represent Moses' view of Sabbath keeping? Thank you.


WRT Sabbath: It's not an either/or, but a both/and. After 400 years of sabbath-deprivations, they would get a reminder to "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Ex.20:11 gives the creational rationale for sabbathing.
Dt.5:15 gives the redemptional rationale for the same.

First-creation. New-creation. Unspoilt. Renewed.
We worship God as his image bearers, because that is the thing we were formed to do.
We worship God as his adopted sons, because that is the thing we were raised to do.

Moses' comment: saying this covenant is made with US and not with "our fathers," is an affirmation of solidarity with the previous generation. In other words, a renewal or confirmation of the covenant puts a second group of oath takers on the same footing as the first swearers.

Moses' words mean: this covenant is not just an exchange that was done 40yrs ago, with a different lot (our fathers), most of whom are dead now, many of whom rebelled. No, God made it US, with Israel, and we are Israel right now, alive this day.

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Although an emphasis on creation helps make the Reformed case that the Sabbath is an ongoing, moral command, this does not mean we should limit our understanding of rest (sabbath) to creation. In the Bible, rest is also very much connected to redemption/salvation. The fact that Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 give us two different reasons for the Sabbath ordinance helps us have a big view of rest—one that encompasses all of this. Rest is not just a principle that has existed from the beginning; it is also the world's destination, the telos of redemption. It was enjoyed by the generation of Israelites who were freed from Egypt, enjoyed still more by their children who found rest in the land, enjoyed still more by us who rest in the finished work of Christ, and it will be enjoyed still more in the New Creation (see Hebrews 4, for starters).

I realize this leaves us with the tricky question of whether or not the nature of Sabbath observance changes as we progress into these new eras. I suspect this is one reason the Reformed have tended to emphasize how the Sabbath is a creation ordinance (which it certainly is!). But we would surely lose some of the joy of the Sabbath if we forgot how it is also a redemption ordinance. God's rest is big and wonderful! I'm glad he has shown us more than one of its beautiful facets.
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