Why are there two different versions of the Shabbat commandment in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5? In Exodus 20 the Shabbat recalls the cosmogony in six days, but in Deuteronomy 5 the Shabbat memorializes the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

י כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת-יָמִים עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֶת-הַיָּם וְאֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-בָּם, וַיָּנַח, בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי; עַל-כֵּן, בֵּרַךְ יְהוָה אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת--וַיְקַדְּשֵׁהוּ. {ס (Exodus 20:10)

וְזָכַרְתָּ, כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, וַיֹּצִאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִשָּׁם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה; עַל-כֵּן, צִוְּךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת. (Deuteronomy 5:14)

More comprensively, [1]'The introductory statements for each of the versions of this commandment use unique language to describe the active commemoration of Shabbat - "to remember", on the one hand, and "to guard", on the other. [2] In both versions, the main body of the commandment consists of a similar list of laws, albeit more fully developed by presumably explanatory material in Devarim. [3] The conclusions drawn by each of the two versions seem to offer mutually exclusive philosophical underpinnings for the Shabbat.' (An article at Aish.com)

What were the original words spoken by God on Mount Sinai?


2 Answers 2


You can read in detail about the issue in this great article. To keep it short, Shevuot 20b mentions that the two versions were said in a single utterance, which is beyond human comprehension:

כדתניא זכור ושמור בדיבור אחד נאמרו, מה שאין יכול הפה לדבר, ומה שאין האוזן יכול לשמוע.‏

As it has been taught: Remember and keep were pronounced in a single utterance — an utterance which the mouth cannot utter, nor the ear hear.

Soncino translation

Traditional commentaries learn from these two versions the positive and the negative commandments of the Shabbat. Another implication that can be learnt from the same page in the Talmud, is that women are obligated to fulfil these positive time-bound commandments related to the Shabbat (kiddush, havdalah).

  • Does זכור and שמור in a single utterance mean that the entirety of the verses were paralleled in a single utterance?
    – Alex
    May 12, 2019 at 19:02
  • 1
    @Kazi bacsi The Shevuot 20b explanation that an understanding of the difference is beyond understanding is like the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which is said to be beyond human comprehension. I do not find these responses satisfactory. May 12, 2019 at 19:08
  • @Alex As I understand from the Talmud and Rashi, yes May 12, 2019 at 19:08
  • @CliffordDurousseau Hashem can select certain people to percieve and comprehend his ways. Moses was talking with Hashem as we humans do, prophets had the merit of visions. Why do you think then that Hashem is limited by human abilities? May 12, 2019 at 19:11
  • 1
    @Clifford sefaria.org/Psalms.62.12
    – Double AA
    May 13, 2019 at 0:02

Here's an explanation you might find satisfactory:

  1. The first difference between the 2 versions is who said it - the first was said by G-d and the second by Moses and as indirect prophecy (it wasn't preceded by "וידבר הק אל משה לאמר" - he described the Decalogue in his own words.

  2. The second is to whom they were said: the first was said to the Generation of the wilderness (דור המדבר), and the second to the Generation of the Land (דור הארץ).

Because the source and the audiences were different, the message targeted [slightly] different aspects of the Mitzvos, according to their abilities and predispositions.

The idea of the differences between the generations is explained in many sources but it is a subject on its own.

  • Al BerkoI gave you an upvote for your well written answer. --- But I still do not see how Moses (Moshe) felt it was okay to CHANGE the reason for the Fourth Commandment which was engraven in stone by the finger of God and carried around in the ark of the covenant of the LORD and not indicate that he was not giving a verbatim quote! May 12, 2019 at 23:58
  • Al Berko And especially in the mitzvah of Shabbat!!! May 13, 2019 at 0:25
  • While this is true in general about Mishneh Torah, we have a counter-evidence in the particular case of the Shabbat. Do you have any sources which say that Moses changed the words here for whatever reason? May 13, 2019 at 5:53
  • @Kazibácsi I'm not saying "Moses failed" or "Moses betrayed G-d's word". Chumash Dvorim is not "less sacred" than the first 4. Moses said his prophecy just as the rest of the Torah, but they were different as they targeted a different audience.
    – Al Berko
    May 13, 2019 at 11:21
  • I understand your confusion, but we have no clear evidence of what was written on those tablets. Was it a simple text? Could it be read differently (a hologram probably)? Could it have changed as Moses said it differently? Also remember that only Moses had access to those Luchos. :)
    – Al Berko
    May 13, 2019 at 11:23

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