Man as a theomorphic being has been endowed with intelligence and reason. Religion tells us what is right and what is wrong; what is good and what is evil, what is fair and what is foul, what is moral and what is immoral, what is to be done and what is to be shunned etc. Man is free to choose between the two; and therefore responsible for what he does. This is the philosophy behind the social order of religion.
God, from the very beginning, bestowed his blessings on mankind through His clear commandments about right and wrong. He gave His Commandments to Moses and Israelites thereby establishing foundational requirements essential for a sound creator-creature relationship. This research paper will present a commentary on these commandments while critically analyzing and exploring the true meanings of God’s covenant and how these commandments affect our present lives.
EXEGESIS OF DEUTERONOMY
Deuteronomy is actually the essence of Laws given by the God to Israelites. God’s desired that people obey Him and love Him so He gave them the laws, which ultimately gave man principles and values (Block, 2001). These Commandments were delivered in late January and Early February of the 1406 B.C (Aharoni, Yohanan, and Michael, 1977)  between the fortieth year on the first day of the eleventh month and thirty days before the seventh day of Nissan (March-April).
The place, where these Commandments were delivered, was the depression of Arabah, which stretched from Red Sea to the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee). Audience of these Commandments was the second generation of Israel, all of who were very young, specifically below twenty years at the time of Israel’s rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea.
The basic purpose of Deuteronomy was to give the laws and principles to the people to live in society and to identify their relationship with their creator. According to Merrill, “it is not an overstatement to propose that covenant is the theological center of Deuteronomy” he further said, “it is His purpose in the document to represent Himself in a particularized role—Sovereign, Redeemer, covenant-maker, and benefactor” (Merrill, 1991). God has given His Commandments through Moses and made Mosaic Convent with Moses and his nation of Israelites. Craigie had rightly pointed out that; “the prologue recalls not only the covenant's history, but also the ability of the Lord of the covenant to fulfill his promise. What God had done in the past, he could continue to do in the future. There is thus a presentation of a faithful God, whose demand was for a faithful people” (Craigie, 1976). God had promised the people of their Separate land and fulfilled His promise; but undoing of Israelites was the main hindrance in their possession of promised land. They wrongfully blamed God for their own wrongdoing and claimed that God did not love them. They were failed to obey God’s will and denied His goodness and greatness (Thompson, 1974)
Deuteronomy gave Israelites values and provided them abilities to judge between right and wrong. It had taught them that man being an intelligent and rational creature, is responsible for all his actions. If thoughts having soul values, actions are bound to be good, vice versa if thoughts are only limited to the material values the actions or deeds are most probably not very good and must be similar to the actions of other animals. This power of discriminating between good and evil, fair and foul, right or wrong, just or unjust, springs from moral sense, is due to the spiritual values. Man is a responsible being, and he is answerable for his deeds. Where there is no responsibility there is no room for the conscience, which is universally in man as an involuntary judge of right and wrong (Peter, 1979)
CRITIQUE ON DEUTERONOMY
As we have discussed earlier, God loves human beings and He wanted to be loved too (Barrett, 1985), so the first Commandment in Deuteronomy ordered people to love Him. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”(Deuteronomy, 1995). Actually it is God who loves people first and wanted to be loved in return. God is the king of the heavens and the earth. He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He pleases and God is forgiving and merciful. He is the creator of the Universe and all the things including Humans in the universe. He is the Supreme Being and does whatever He pleases. God is neither substance nor atom. His being is identical with existence. He is the creator of atoms (or substances) every instant, which by their nature, cannot endure and hence they are replaced by fresh ones. If God ceases to create, the world is destroyed immediately. Thus the essence of this commandment is to love God and to obey Him as He loves us human beings. Second commandment ordered that God only is the Supreme Being and all practices of making His image is prohibited because He is beyond human imagination. Third commandment is about the respect of God. Second Commandment had forbidden the use of a visual image of God and third had forbidden the use of His name and reputation for any type of disrespect.
Fourth Commandment clearly revealed that God is one and the only one to be obeyed (Henry). Every body has to obey some one, some authority or some laws. This is how the affairs of the daily life run. But the question arises- what should one obey, when should one obey and whom should one obey? Here begin the tussle between the spiritual values and the command from any source. If the command clashes with the duties to God, they should be defied and the conscience is our guide. God is the king of the heavens and the earth. He forgives whom He pleases and Chastises whom He pleases and God is forgiving and merciful. He is the creator of the Universe and all the things including Humans in the universe. He is the Supreme Being and does whatever He pleases. In fifth commandment God ordered Israelites to obey and honor their parents. Sixth commandment had prohibited murder of fellow human being. God is the most merciful; he created man in His own image and to murder a fellow human being is not only interference in God’s authority but also an obliteration of His image. In Seventh and eighth commandments God had forbidden such acts which, if not prohibited, made chaos in the society. These two acts are adultery and Stealing. God had forbidden both these acts in His Seventh and eighth Commandments. In ninth Commandment God had forbidden man to tell lies. Tenth Commandment is actually about the desire rather than the deed. It had forbidden the human beings to desire to possess anything, which belongs to someone else.
Thus the Ten Commandments gave the laws and principles of living in Society, and identified people’s relationship with their creator (Sitterly and Greenlee, 1988). As long as vices dominate our lives, there can be no peace, no happiness. Happiness is a condition of mind. Peace of mind and contentment are the secrets of happiness in life. No riches and wealth can purchase them. Religion helps us to be contented-to be happy in God’s will.
APPLICATION OF DEUTERONOMY
Religion invokes inquiry, makes man to reflect and think about the creation and probe into the secrets of universe. It awakens in man the faculty of reason, inculcates the spirit of inquisitiveness and exhorts him to use his intellect. Life is real, so religion enjoins on man to see things in the light of reality. Both the concrete and the abstract make up man’s life complete. Religion gives equal importance both to the objective and subjective realities. Laws govern the universe. There are physical laws expounded and established by science. Moral laws or codes draw their support and authority from the scriptures and beliefs systems. Social and economic laws cover and explain human behavior and govern social and economic institutions. Political laws or state laws are framed and enforce for running the government machinery and regulating the conduct of the citizens. Indeed all the affairs in human life are governed by certain rules and regulations that impose limits and disciplines on men living in civilized community. If there are no laws, rules and regulations, there shall be disorder, confusion and chaos in the society.
As it is said earlier in this report, the essence of Deuteronomy is laws given to the people by God, because He loves human beings and desires their welfare. Deuteronomy had prohibited adultery, as marriage is a sacred institution. Man has been enjoined to marry and multiply the family. Children are the blessings of God; and parents are responsible for their best upbringing. In return children were commanded to be good, kind and submissive to the parents. Deuteronomy also prohibited idolatry, murder and to swear a lie.
The question is, whether the laws of God presented in Deuteronomy are still applicable in our society or not? Commandments that were given by the God in Deuteronomy are based on the principle that God desires the welfare of human beings and as the character of God has not changed, how come the laws given by Him will be changed. Anything, which was wrong in the days of Deuteronomy, is still wrong and anything, which was right, then, is still right. For example stealing was wrong and prohibited in Commandments and it is still wrong and unlawful
In Deuteronomy, God gave a standard of human morality. He prohibited social evils like adultery, sexual levity, cheating, dishonest business practices, cheapness of human life etc. Deuteronomy was actually the message of hope, love and peace for men and society. It gave the message of tolerance brotherhood, mutual respect, love for humanity, social justice, equality etc. In today’s troubled, turbulent and torn world, only the universal teachings of God’s law can bring and usher in real era of peace, an utopia free from hatred, pride, fear, jealousy. It is law presented by God himself that gives guarantee of permanent peace and social justice. Laws presented in Deuteronomy gave the foundation of edifice of ministry and gave man the principles of living in Society. Thus the laws presented in Deuteronomy are most compatible with human nature, as the Creator Himself presented them, and most applicable for the present society.
God is most beneficent and Merciful towards human kind. He desires Human welfare and for that purpose. First he bestowed men with conscience. Conscience may be more or less enlightened and sensitive according to the amount of knowledge possessed by individuals and according to the moral culture it may have received. In some cases it may be rendered fastidious by over much care; or it may be blunted by want of attention. The conscience be good or bad, approving or reproving according to cases of ignorance, deficient information or prevention or of crime, it is still conscious- still the principle of originally good, but perverted to error and imperfect from the natural imperfections of the fallen man.
Essence of Deuteronomy is the commandments of God given for the betterment of mankind. We have discussed the commandments presented by God in Deuteronomy for the betterment of condition of human beings and because God loves humans and desires their welfare.
Many people argued that laws presented in Deuteronomy are not suitable for our present society but I do not believe it. God had created human beings, He knows are nature and desires, He is the Supreme Being who knows everything happened in the past and will happen in the future, then how is it possible that laws presented by Him is not suitable for present society.
In our present world we have suffered from international tensions, mutual hatred and distrust, regionalism, economic exploitation, dishonest earnings, poor respect for human rights, growing materialistic tendencies, moral bankruptcy and spiritual barrenness have killed human conscience. The only hope for humanity lies in the religion, in the revival of moral values and in the revival of spiritual values and spirituality. In other words, it can be said that Laws given in Deuteronomy is most applicable in our present society and it is rather the only hope to resolve the tensions and chaos in the society.