Though the idea of covenant (berit in Hebrew), to describe God’s relationship with His people, is found all through the Bible, this word appears so often in Deuteronomy that Deuteronomy has been called “The Book of the Covenant.”
Look at Deuteronomy 5:1-21. What is happening here that helps to show how central the idea of covenant (berit) is to the book of Deuteronomy?
Not long after the children of Israel were redeemed from Egypt, God established the covenant with them, at Sinai, just before they were supposed to enter the Promised Land. Then, after a 40-year detour, just before they are again to enter the Promised Land, which was a central part of the covenantal promise (see Genesis 12:7, Exodus 12:25), through the mouthpiece of Moses, the Lord again gives them the Ten Commandments, a way to re-emphasize just how important it was for them to renew their covenant obligations, as well.
Yes, the Lord was going to fulfill His covenantal promises to them. Now, though, they are obligated to uphold their end of the deal: “So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone” (Deuteronomy 4:13). He did it at Sinai, and now He was doing it again, in Moab, just before they were to take the land promised to them through the promise made to the fathers centuries earlier, a manifestation of the “everlasting covenant” that preceded even the existence of the world.
“Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 834.
Read Deuteronomy 5:3. How do we make sense of this verse?
What was Moses saying to them? Most likely Moses was emphasizing the fact that their fathers were now gone, and the wonderful covenantal promises made to the fathers were now being made to them. This could have been Moses’ way of letting them know that they should not mess up, as the previous generation had done. The promises (and obligations) are now theirs.