International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
2. What Deuteronomy Is
4. Ruling Ideas
7. Deuteronomy Spoken Twice
8. Deuteronomy's Influence in Israel's History
9. The Critical Theory
In Hebrew 'elleh ha-debharim, "these are the words"; in Greek, Deuteronomion, "second law"; whence the Latin deuteronomii, and the English Deuteronomy. The Greek title is due to a mistranslation by the Septuagint of the clause in Deuteronomy 17:18 rendered, "and he shall write for himself this repetition of the law." The Hebrew really means "and he shall write out for himself a copy of this law." However, the error on which the English title rests is not serious, as Deuteronomy is in a very true sense a repetition of the law.
2. What Deuteronomy Is:
Deuteronomy is the last of the five books of the Pentateuch, or "five-fifths of the Law." It possesses an individuality and impressiveness of its own. In Exodus-Numbers Yahweh is represented as speaking unto Moses, whereas in Deuteronomy, Moses is represented as speaking at Yahweh's command to Israel (Deuteronomy 1:1-4; Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 29:1). It is a hortatory recapitulation of various addresses delivered at various times and places in the desert wanderings-a sort of homily on the constitution, the essence or gist of Moses' instructions to Israel during the forty years of their desert experience. It is "a Book of Reviews"; a translation of Israel's redemptive history into living principles; not so much a history as a commentary. There is much of retrospect in it, but its main outlook is forward. The rabbins speak of it as "the Book of Reproofs." It is the text of all prophecy; a manual of evangelical oratory; possessing "all the warmth of a Bernard, the flaming zeal of a Savonarola, and the tender, gracious sympathy of a Francis of Assisi." The author's interest is entirely moral. His one supreme purpose is to arouse Israel's loyalty to Yahweh and to His revealed law. Taken as a whole the book is an exposition of the great commandment, "Thou shalt love Yahweh thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." It was from Deuteronomy that Jesus summarized the whole of the Old Covenant in a single sentence (Matthew 22:37; compare Deuteronomy 6:5), and from it He drew His weapons with which to vanquish the tempter (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; compare Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 6:16, 13).
Deuteronomy is composed of three discourses, followed by three short appendices:
(1) Deuteronomy 1:1-4:43, historical; a review of God's dealings with Israel, specifying in great detail where and when delivered (Deuteronomy 1:1-5), recounting in broad oratorical outlines the chief events in the nation's experience from Horeb to Moab (Deuteronomy 1:6-3:29), on which the author bases an earnest appeal to the people to be faithful and obedient, and in particular to keep clear of all possible idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:1-40). Appended to this first discourse is a brief note (Deuteronomy 4:41-43) concerning Moses' appointment of three cities of refuge on the East side of the Jordan.
(2) Deuteronomy 4:44-26:19, hortatory and legal; introduced by a superscription (Deuteronomy 4:44-49), and consisting of a resume of Israel's moral and civil statutes, testimonies and judgments. Analyzed in greater detail, this second discourse is composed of two main sections:
(a) chapters 5-11, an extended exposition of the Ten Commandments on which theocracy was based;
(b) chapters 12-26, a code of special statutes concerning worship, purity, tithes, the three annual feasts, the administration of justice, kings, priests, prophets, war, and the private and social life of the people. The spirit of this discourse is most ethical and religious. The tone is that of a father no less than that of a legislator. A spirit of humanity pervades the entire discourse. Holiness is its ideal.
(3) Deuteronomy 27:1-31:30, predictive and minatory; the subject of this third discourse being "the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience." This section begins with directions to inscribe these laws on plastered stones to be set up on Mt. Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:1-10), to be ratified by an antiphonal ritual of blessings and cursings from the two adjacent mountains, Gerizim and Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:11-26). These are followed by solemn warnings against disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-29:1), and fresh exhortations to accept the terms of the new covenant made in Moab, and to choose between life and death (Deuteronomy 29:2-30:20). Moses' farewell charge to Israel and his formal commission of Joshua close the discourse (Deuteronomy 31). The section is filled with predictions, which were woefully verified in Israel's later history. The three appendices, spoken of above, close the book:
(a) Moses' So (Deuteronomy 32), which the great Lawgiver taught the people (the Law was given to the priests, Deuteronomy 31:24-27);
(b) Moses' Blessing (Deuteronomy 33), which forecast the future for the various tribes (Simeon only being omitted);
(c) a brief account of Moses' death and burial (Deuteronomy 34) with a noble panegyric on him as the greatest prophet Israel ever had. Thus closes this majestic and marvelously interesting and practical book. Its keyword is "possess"; its central thought is "Yahweh has chosen Israel, let Israel choose Yahweh."
4. Ruling Ideas:
The great central thought of Deuteronomy is the unique relation which Yahweh as a unique God sustains to Israel as a unique people. "Hear O Israel; Yahweh our God is one Yahweh." The monotheism of Deuteronomy is very explicit. Following from this, as a necessary corollary almost, is the other great teaching of the book, the unity of the sanctuary. The motto of the book might be said to be, "One God, one sanctuary."
(1) Yahweh, a Unique God.
Yahweh is the only God, "There is none else besides him" (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 32:39), "He is God of gods, and Lord of lords" (Deuteronomy 10:17), "the living God" (Deuteronomy 5:26), "the faithful God, who keepeth covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments" (7:9), who abominates graven images and every species of idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:25, 26; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 13:14; Deuteronomy 18:12; Deuteronomy 20:18; Deuteronomy 27:15), to whom belong the heavens and the earth (Deuteronomy 10:14), who rules over all the nations (Deuteronomy 7:19), whose relation to Israel is near and personal (Deuteronomy 28:58), even that of a Father (Deuteronomy 32:6), whose being is spiritual (Deuteronomy 4:12, 15), and whose name is "Rock" (Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31). Being such a God, He is jealous of all rivals (Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 29:24-26; 31:16, 17), and hence, all temptations to idolatry must be utterly removed from the land, the Canaanites must be completely exterminated and all their altars, pillars, Asherim and images destroyed (Deuteronomy 7:1-5, 16; Deuteronomy 20:16-18; 12:2, 3).
(2) Israel, a Unique People.
The old Israel had become unique through the covenant which Yahweh made with them at Horeb, creating out of them "a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). The new Israel who had been born in the desert were to inherit the blessings vouchsafed to their fathers, through the covenant just now being made in Moab (Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Deuteronomy 27:9; Deuteronomy 29:1; 5:2, 3). By means of it they became the heirs of all the promises given unto their fathers the patriarchs (Deuteronomy 4:31; Deuteronomy 7:12; Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 29:13); they too became holy and peculiar, and especially beloved of Yahweh (Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2, 21; 26:18, 19; 28:09:00; 4:37), disciplined, indeed, but for their own good (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3, 5, 16), to be established as a people, as Yahweh's peculiar lot and inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:6, 9; Deuteronomy 4:7).
(3) The Relation between Yahweh and Israel a Unique Relation.
Other nations feared their deities; Israel was expected not only to fear Yahweh but to love Him and cleave to Him (Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12, 20; 11:1, 13, 12; 13:3, 4; Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 30:6, 16, 20; 31:12, 13). The highest privileges are theirs because they are partakers of the covenant blessings; all others are strangers and foreigners, except they be admitted into Israel by special permission (Deuteronomy 23:1-8).
The essential unity of the great kernel of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 5-26) is recognized and freely allowed by nearly everyone (e.g. Kautzsch, Kuenen, Dillmann, Driver). Some would even defend the unity of the whole of Deuteronomy 1-26 (Knobel, Graf, Kosters, Colenso, Kleinert). No other book of the Old Testament, unless it be the prophecies of Ezekiel, bears such unmistakable signs of unity in aim, language and thought. "The literary style of Deuteronomy," says Driver, "is very marked and individual; in his command of a chaste, yet warm and persuasive eloquence, the author of Deuteronomy stands unique among the writers of the OT" (Deuteronomy, lxxvii, lxxxviii). Many striking expressions characterize the style of this wonderful book of oratory: e.g. "cause to inherit"; "Hear O Israel"; the oft-repeated root, meaning in the Qal verb-species "learn," and in the Piel verb-species "teach"; "be willing"; "so shalt thou exterminate the evil from thy midst"; "as at this day"; "that it may be well with thee"; "the land whither thou goest in to possess it"; "with all thy heart and with all thy soul"; and many others, all of which occur frequently in Deuteronomy and rarely elsewhere in the Old Testament, thus binding, so far as style can, the different sections of the book into one solid unit. Barring various titles and editorial additions (Deuteronomy 1:1-5; Deuteronomy 4:44-49; 29:01:00; 33:1, 7, 9, 22; 34:1) and a few archaeological notes such as Deuteronomy 2:10-12, 20-23; Deuteronomy 3:9, 11, 14; 10:6-9, and of course the last chapter, which gives an account of Moses' death, there is every reason necessary for supposing that the book is a unit. Few writings in the entire field of literature have so clear a unity of purpose or so uniform a style of address.
There is one passage bearing upon the authorship of Deuteronomy wherein it is stated most explicitly that Moses wrote "this law." It reads, "And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi.. And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished (i.e. to the end), that Moses commanded the Levites, that bare the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of Yahweh your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee" (Deuteronomy 31:9, 24-27). This passage is of more than traditional value, and should not be ignored as is so often done (e.g. by Ryle, article "Deuteronomy," HDB). It is not enough to say that Moses was the great fountain-head of Hebrew law, that he gave oral but not written statutes, or, that Moses was only the traditional source of these statutes. For it is distinctly and emphatically stated that "Moses wrote this law." And it is further declared (Deuteronomy 31:22) that "Moses wrote this song," contained in Deuteronomy 32. Now, these statements are either true, or they are false. There is no escape. The authorship of no other book in the Old Testament is so explicitly emphasized. The present writer believes that Moses actually wrote the great body of Deuteronomy, and for the following general reasons:
(1) Deuteronomy as a Whole Is Eminently Appropriate to What We Know of Moses' Times.
It closes most fittingly the formative period of Israel's history. The historical situation from first to last is that of Moses. The references to foreign neighbors-Egypt, Canaan, Amalek, Ammon, Moab, Edom-are in every case to those who flourished in Moses' own times. As a law book its teaching is based upon the Ten Commandments. If Moses gave the Ten Commandments, then surely he may have written the Book of Deuteronomy also. Besides, the Code of Hammurabi, which antedates Moses by at least 700 years, makes it possible certainly that Moses also left laws in codified or written form.
(2) Deuteronomy Is Represented as Emanating from Moses.
The language is language put into Moses' mouth. Nearly forty times his name occurs, and in the majority of instances as the authoritative author of the subject-matter. The first person is used predominatingly throughout: "I commanded Joshua at that time" (Deuteronomy 3:21); and "I charged your judges at that time" (1:16); "And I commanded you at that time" (Deuteronomy 1:18); "I have led you forty years in the wilderness" (Deuteronomy 29:5). "The language surely purports to come from Moses; and if it was not actually used by him, it is a most remarkable case of impersonation, if not of literary forgery, for the writer represents himself as reproducing, not what Moses might have said, but the exact words of Moses" (Zerbe, The Antiquity of Hebrew Writing and Lit., 1911, 261).
(3) Deuteronomy Is a Military Law Book, a Code of Conquest, a Book of Exhortation.
It was intended primarily neither for Israel in the desert nor for Israel settled in Canaan, but for Israel on the borderland, eager for conquest. It is expressly stated that Moses taught Israel these statutes and judgments in order that they should obey them in the land which they were about to enter (Deuteronomy 4:5, 14; Deuteronomy 5:31). They must expel the aborigines (Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 9:1-3; 20:17; 31:3), but in their warfare they must observe certain laws in keeping with theocracy (Deuteronomy 20:1-20; Deuteronomy 23:9-14; 21:10-14; 31:6, 7), and, when they have finally dispossessed their enemies, they must settle down to agricultural life and live no longer as nomads but as citizens of a civilized land (Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 22:8-10; 24:19-21). All these laws are regulations which should become binding in the future only (compare Kittel, History Of the Hebrews, I, 32). Coupled with them are prophetic exhortations which seem to be genuine, and to have had their birth in Moses' soul. Indeed the great outstanding feature of Deuteronomy is its parenetic or hortatory character. Its exhortations have not only a military ring as though written on the eve of battle, but again and again warn Israel against allowing themselves to be conquered in religion through the seductions of idolatry. The book in short is the message of one who is interested in Israel's political and religious future. There is a paternal vein running throughout it which marks it with a genuine Mosaic, not a merely fictitious or artificial, stamp. It is these general features, so characteristic of the entire book, which compel one to believe in its Mosaic authorship.
7. Deuteronomy Spoken Twice:
Certain literary features exist in Deuteronomy which lead the present writer to think that the bulk of the book was spoken twice; once, to the first generation between Horeb and Kadesh-barnea in the 2nd year of the Exodus wanderings, and a second time to the new generation, in the plains of Moab in the 40th year. Several considerations point in this direction:
(1) The Names of the Widely Separated Geographical Places Mentioned in the Title (Deuteronomy 1:1, 2).
"These are the words which Moses spake unto all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah over against Suph, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab"; to which is added, "It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea." If these statements have any relevancy whatever to the contents of the book which they introduce, they point to a wide area, from Horeb to Moab, as the historico-geographical background of the book. In other words, Deuteronomy, in part at least, seems to have been spoken first on the way between Horeb and Kadesh-barnea, and later again when Israel were encamped on the plains of Moab. And, indeed, what would be more natural than for Moses when marching northward from Horeb expecting to enter Canaan from the south, to exhort the Israel of that day in terms of Deuteronomy 5-26 ? Being baffled, however, by the adverse report of the spies and the faithlessness of the people, and being forced to wait and wander for 38 years, what would be more natural than for Moses in Moab, when about to resign his position as leader, to repeat the exhortations of Deuteronomy 5-26, adapting them to the needs of the new desert-trained generation and prefacing the whole by a historical introduction such as that found in Deuteronomy 1-4 ?
(2) The Double Allusion to the Cities of Refuge (Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Deuteronomy 19:1-13).
On the supposition that Deuteronomy 5-26 were spoken first between Horeb and Kadesh-barnea, in the 2nd year of the Exodus, it could not be expected that in this section the names of the three cities chosen East of the Jordan should be given, and in fact they are not (Deuteronomy 19:1-13); the territory of Sihon and Og had not yet been conquered and the cities of refuge, accordingly, had not yet been designated (compare Numbers 35:2:14). But in Deuteronomy 4:41-43, on the contrary, which forms a part of the historical introduction, which ex hypothesi was delivered just at the end of the 39 years' wanderings, after Sihon and Og had been subdued and their territory divided, the three cities of refuge East of the Jordan are actually named, just as might be expected.
(3) Section Deuteronomy 4:44-49.
The section Deuteronomy 4:44-49, which, in its original form, very probably introduced chapters 5-26 before these chapters were adapted to the new situation in Moab.
(4) The Phrase "Began Moses to Declare This Law" (Deuteronomy 1:5).
The phrase "began Moses to declare this law" (Deuteronomy 1:5), suggesting that the great lawgiver found it necessary to expound what he had delivered at some previous time. The Hebrew word translated "to declare" is found elsewhere in the Old Testament only in Deuteronomy 27:8 and in Habakkuk 2:2, and signifies "to make plain."
(5) The Author's Evident Attempt to Identify the New Generation in Moab with the Patriarchs.
"Yahweh made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day," i.e. with us who have survived the desert discipline (Deuteronomy 5:3). In view of these facts, we conclude that the book in its present form (barring the exceptions above mentioned) is the product of the whole 39 years of desert experience from Horeb on, adapted, however, to meet the exigencies of the Israelites as they stood between the victories already won on the East of the Jordan and those anticipated on the West. The impression given throughout is that the aged lawgiver's work is done, and that a new era in the people's history is about to begin.
8. Deuteronomy's Influence in Israel's History:
The influence of Deuteronomy began to be felt from the very beginning of Israel's career in Canaan. Though the references to Deuteronomy in Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings are comparatively few, yet they are sufficient to show that not only the principles of Deuteronomy were known and observed but that they were known in written form as codified statutes. For example, when Jericho was taken, the city and its spoil were "devoted" (Joshua 6:17, 18) in keeping with Deuteronomy 13:15 (compare Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:12, 15 with Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:16, 17). Achan trespassed and he and his household were stoned, and afterward burned with fire (Joshua 7:25; compare Deuteronomy 13:10; Deuteronomy 17:5). The fact that his sons and his daughters were put to death with him seems at first sight to contradict Deuteronomy 24:16, but there is no proof that they suffered for their father's sin (see ACHAN; ACHOR); besides the Hebrews recognized the unity of the household, even that of Rahab the harlot (Joshua 6:17). Again when Ai was taken, "only the cattle and the spoil" did Israel take for a prey unto themselves (Joshua 8:27), in keeping with Deuteronomy 20:14; also, the body of the king of Ai was taken down before nightfall from the tree on which he had been hanged (Joshua 8:29), which was in keeping with Deuteronomy 21:23 (compare Joshua 10:26, 27). As in warfare, so in worship. For instance, Joshua built an altar on Mt. Ebal (Joshua 8:30, 31), "as Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded" (Deuteronomy 27:4-6), and he wrote on them a copy of the law (Joshua 8:32), as Moses had also enjoined (Deuteronomy 27:3, 8). Moreover, the elders and officers and judges stood on either side of the ark of the covenant between Ebal and Gerizim (Joshua 8:33), as directed in Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:12, 13, and Joshua read to all the congregation of Israel all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings (Joshua 8:34, 35), in strict accord with Deuteronomy 31:11, 12.
But the passage of paramount importance is the story of the two and a half tribes who, on their return to their home on the East side of the Jordan, erected a memorial at the Jordan, and, when accused by their fellow-tribesmen of plurality of sanctuary, emphatically disavowed it (Joshua 22:29; compare Deuteronomy 12:5). Obviously, therefore, Deuteronomy was known in the days of Joshua. A very few instances in the history of the Judges point in the same direction: e.g. the utter destruction of Zephath (Judges 1:17; compare Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:16 f); Gideon's elimination of the fearful and faint-hearted from his army (Judges 7:1-7; compare Deuteronomy 20:1-9); the author's studied concern to justify Gideon and Manoah for sacrificing at altars other than at Shiloh on the ground that they acted in obedience to Yahweh's direct commands (Judges 6:25-27; Judges 13:16); especially the case of Micah, who congratulated himself that Yahweh would do him good seeing he had a Levite for a priest, is clear evidence that Deuteronomy was known in the days of the Judges (Judges 17:13; compare Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:1-8; 33:8-11). In 1 Samuel 1:1-9, 21, 24 the pious Elkanah is pictured as going yearly to worship Yahweh at Shiloh, the central sanctuary at that time. After the destruction of Shiloh, when the ark of the covenant had been captured by the Philistines, Samuel indeed sacrificed at Mizpah, Ramah and Bethlehem (1 Samuel 7:7-9, 17; 1 Samuel 16:5), but in doing so he only took advantage of the elasticity of the Deuteronomic law: "When. he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; then it shall come to pass that to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, thither shall ye bring all that I command you: your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices" (Deuteronomy 12:10, 11). It was not until Solomon's time that Israel's enemies were all subdued, and even then Solomon did not observe strictly the teachings of Deuteronomy; "His wives turned away his heart," so that he did not faithfully keep Yahweh's "covenant" and "statutes" (1 Kings 11:3, 11). Political disruption followed, and religion necessarily suffered. Yet Jehoiada the priest gave the youthful Joash "the crown" and "the testimony" (2 Kings 11:12; compare Deuteronomy 17:18). King Amaziah did not slay the children of the murderers who slew his father, in conscious obedience apparently to the law of Deuteronomy (2 Kings 14:6; compare Deuteronomy 24:16). Later on, Hezekiah, the cultured king of Judah, reformed the cult of his day by removing the high places, breaking down the pillars, cutting down the Asherahs, and even breaking in pieces the brazen serpent which Moses had made (2 Kings 18:4, 22). Hezekiah's reforms were unquestionably carried through under the influence of Deuteronomy.
It is equally certain that the prophets of the 8th century were not ignorant of this book. For example, Hosea complains of Israel's sacrificing upon the tops of the mountains and burning incense upon the hills, and warns Judah not to follow Israel's example in coming up to worship at Gilgal and Beth-aven (Hosea 4:13, 15).
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