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In Exodus 20:1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 we read about the 10 Commandments. The major difference between both passages is in the following two excerpts

  • Exodus 20:8-11

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 For six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male slave or your female slave, or your cattle, or your resident who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; for that reason the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15

12 ‘Keep the Sabbath day to treat it as holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 For six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work that day, you or your son or your daughter, or your male slave or your female slave, or your ox, your donkey, or any of your cattle, or your resident who stays with you, so that your male slave and your female slave may rest as well as you. 15 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to celebrate the Sabbath day.

In particular, in Exodus the justification is related with how Lord made everything and in Deuteronomy how the israelites were slaves in Egypt.

What can we extract from that difference?

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Let us begin by saying that the institution of the Sabbath served two functions. It was a weekly reminder that:

  1. God is the creator or heaven and earth, Gen 2:1-3, Ex 20:11, 31:16, 17
  2. God is a saving God and rescues from sin and slavery, Ex 31:12-17, Deut 5:15, Eze 20:12:20.

The passage in Ex 31:12-17 emphasizes these two functions well:

12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Tell the Israelites, ‘Surely you must keep My Sabbaths, for this will be a sign between Me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 14 Keep the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Anyone who profanes it must surely be put to death. Whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from among his people. 15 For six days work may be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD. ...

16 The Israelites must keep the Sabbath, celebrating it as a permanent covenant for the generations to come. 17 It is a sign between Me and the Israelites forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”

Two Functions or One?

Actually, these two functions of the Sabbath can be seen as a single function because the creation story in Gen 1 is actually a model of salvation: The Lord takes a world that is formless, void and dark (Gen 1:2) and then after providing light, form and value He declares the creation "very Good" (V31). This is precisely what happens to every sinner.

The two forms of the Sabbath command in Ex 20 and Deut 5 record these two functions of the Sabbath memorial.

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  • «Actually, these two functions of the Sabbath can be seen as a single function because the creation story in Gen 1 is actually a model of salvation»... Love it! (+1) – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Mar 3 at 20:58
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I like @Dottard's point of the 2 functions as one function. Therefore, further explaining the difference seems negligible now. However, I want to add:

Two different time periods and audiences addressed.

In Exodus 20, the generation listening were slaves and did not, as slaves, have any concept of a day of rest. Indeed, Ellicott's Commentary states that this purpose (to remember) was distinct and might have brought to mind equivalency between "rest in creation" and "rest from work": "The thought of God's works in creation might well be associated in the mind of an Israelite with the thought of His "wondrous works" in Egypt, and the recollection of the blessed peace and rest in which creation resulted, with the memory of the glad time of repose and refreshment which supervened upon the weary task work of the Egyptian bondage."

They were being told what the purpose of the Sabbath was. They had a fully formed concept of what God can do with nations. Also, in front of them lay 40 years of not wrestling with nations, primarily, but instead wrestling with grumbling.

In Deuteronomy 5, these are now the children that did not experience slavery and instead are facing nations directly ahead within the promised land. Their concept of what a God can do with nations might be more unformed. Ahead was an entirely new challenge. After time in the wilderness, it might have brought great comfort to hear of God using his "mighty hand and an outstretched arm" as a statement of intentional divine purpose in their lives.

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    Many thanks for your comments - I think this is still a very good answer. – Dottard Mar 5 at 9:48

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