Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 5:3

Not with our fathers … but with us: for not with Good News Translation has “not only with,” and Contemporary English Version translates “that agreement wasn’t only for.” It is not clear who “our ancestors” (our fathers) are in this context. They could be the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see 1.8; 4.31), but it seems more probable that they are the fathers and mothers of these people, who had gathered at Mount Sinai, where the covenant was made (4.10-14), forty years earlier, and who had subsequently died (1.35; 2.14-16). So we may translate “parents” or “mothers and fathers” here. This view is even more likely in light of what follows: who are all of us here alive this day (see 4.4), which contrasts with those who had died since the revelation at Mount Sinai. Israel is regarded as a corporate unity at all times, regardless of the generations of which it is made up.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• Yahweh made this agreement [or, covenant] not only with our parents, but also with us who are here today.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

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