Deuteronomy 5:6 – “I Am the LORD Your God”


Deuteronomy 5:6


The introduction to the Ten Commandments for Catholics, Lutherans, and other Protestant listings (but the first word for Judaism) deals with God’s gracious establishment of the relationship with Israel.


For the vital importance of this first word of the Decalogue, see the general introduction to the Decalogue, above. Here, the various functions of this verse within the Decalogue, a longstanding matter of debate, will be discussed:

  • Introduction to the Decalogue. Those who favor this approach often point to texts like Genesis 15:7 where an oracle of God is introduced in similar terminology (see also Leviticus 18:1-2; or, as a conclusion, Numbers 15:41). This approach suggests that God’s authority lies behind the oracle.
  • Part of the first commandment. Those who favor this approach often point to similar texts where God identifies the divine self before forbidding the worship of other gods (Judges 6:8-10; Psalm 81:8-10). This approach suggests that this verse provides a warrant or motive for adherence to the first commandment, and possibly the rest.
  • The first commandment itself. Only Judaism has seen verse 6 as the first commandment, and some recent Jewish interpreters have tended to reject this approach. Their reasons are: (1) you cannot command “belief,” and (2) there are no imperatives (command forms) in verse 6, thereby eliminating verse 6 as a commandment by definition.
  • Most interpreters agree that a combination of the first two approaches is preferable. As we saw in the general discussion of the Decalogue above, however, there are, technically speaking, no imperatives in the Decalogue as a whole, so that it may be best to see them as statements about our relationship with God rather than as commands.