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Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible. It is part of Judaism's Torah - the first segment of the Tanakh and also Christianity's Old Testament. Its Hebrew name is Devarim דברים ("words"), which comes from the opening phrase "Eleh ha-devarim" ("These are the words..."). The term can also stretch to mean "discourses" or "talks", as is generally the case with the Greek word "logos".

In all the Hebrew manuscripts the Pentateuch forms one roll or volume divided into larger and smaller sections called parshioth and sedarim. It is not easy to say when it was divided into five books. This was probably first done by the Greek translators of the book, whom the Vulgate follows.

The fifth of these books was called by the Greeks Deuteronomion, i.e., the second law, hence our name Deuteronomy, or a second statement of the laws already promulgated. The Jews designated the book by the two first Hebrew words that occur, 'Elle haddabharim, i.e., “These are the words.” They divided it into eleven parshioth. In the English Bible it contains thirty-four chapters.

It consists chiefly of three discourses delivered by Moses a short time before his death. They were spoken to all Israel in the plains of Moab, in the eleventh month of the last year of their wanderings.

The first discourse (Deuteronomy 1-4:40) recapitulates the chief events of the last forty years in the wilderness, with earnest exhortations to obedience to the divine ordinances, and warnings against the danger of forsaking the God of their fathers.

The second discourse (Deuteronomy 5-26:19) is in effect the body of the whole book. The first address is introductory to it. It contains practically a recapitulation of the law already given by God at Mount Sinai, together with many admonitions and injunctions as to the course of conduct they were to follow when they were settled in Canaan.

The concluding discourse (Deuteronomy 27-30) relates almost wholly to the solemn sanctions of the law, the blessings to the obedient, and the curse that would fall on the rebellious. He solemnly adjures them to adhere faithfully to the covenant God had made with them, and so secure for themselves and their posterity the promised blessings.

These addresses to the people are followed by what may be called three appendices, namely

(1) a song which God had commanded Moses to write (Deuteronomy 32:1-47);

(2) the blessings he pronounced on the separate tribes (Deuteronomy 33); and

(3) the story of his death (Deuteronomy 32:48-52) and burial (Deuteronomy 34:1-12), written by some other hand, probably that of Joshua.

These farewell addresses of Moses to the tribes of Israel he had so long led in the wilderness “glow in each line with the emotions of a great leader recounting to his contemporaries the marvelous story of their common experience. The enthusiasm they kindle, even to-day, though obscured by translation, reveals their matchless adaptation to the circumstances under which they were first spoken. Confidence for the future is evoked by remembrance of the past. The same God who had done mighty works for the tribes since the Exodus would cover their head in the day of battle with the nations of Palestine, soon to be invaded. Their great lawgiver stands before us, vigorous in his hoary age, stern in his abhorrence of evil, earnest in his zeal for God, but mellowed in all relations to earth by his nearness to heaven. The commanding wisdom of his enactments, the dignity of his position as the founder of the nation and the first of prophets, enforce his utterances. But he touches our deepest emotions by the human tenderness that breathes in all his words. Standing on the verge of life, he speaks as a father giving his parting counsels to those he loves; willing to depart and be with God he has served so well, but fondly lengthening out his last farewell to the dear ones of earth. No book can compare with Deuteronomy in its mingled sublimity and tenderness.” Geikie, Hours, etc.

The whole style and method of this book, its tone and its peculiarities of conception and expression, show that it must have come from one hand. That the author was none other than Moses is established by the following considerations:

(1) The uniform tradition both of the Jewish and the Christian Church down to recent times.

(2) The book professes to have been written by Moses (Deuteronomy 1:1; Deuteronomy 29:1; Deuteronomy 31:1, Deuteronomy 31:9-11, etc.), and was obviously intended to be accepted as his work.

(3) The incontrovertible testimony of our Lord and his apostles (Matthew 19:7, Matthew 19:8; Mark 10:3, Mark 10:4; John 5:46, John 5:47; Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37; Romans 10:19) establishes the same conclusion.

(4) The frequent references to it in the later books of the canon (Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 2:9; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 25:4; 2 Chronicles 34:14; Ezra 3:2; Ezra 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1; Daniel 9:11, Daniel 9:13) prove its antiquity; and

(5) the archaisms found in it are in harmony with the age in which Moses lived.

(6) Its style and allusions are also strikingly consistent with the circumstances and position of Moses and of the people at that time. This body of positive evidence cannot be set aside by the conjectures and reasonings of modern critics, who contended that the book was somewhat like a forgery, introduced among the Jews some seven or eight centuries after the Exodus.


Origin of the name Deuteronomy

The English name, "Deuteronomy", comes from the name which the book bears in the Septuagint Greek (Δευτερονόμιον) and in the Latin Vulgate (Deuteronomium). This is based upon the Septuagint rendering of "mishneh ha-torah ha-zot" (xvii. 18), which grammatically can mean only "a repetition [that is, a copy] of this law," but which is rendered by the Septuagint τὸ Δευτερονόμιον τοῦτο, as though the expression meant "this second-giving of the law." While, however, the name is thus a mistranslation, it is not inappropriate; for the book does include, by the side of much new material, a repetition or reformulation of a large part of the laws found in the non-priestly sections of Exodus.

Summary of the book

Deuteronomy consists chiefly of three discourses said to have been delivered by Moses a short time before his death, given to the Israelites, in the plains of Moab, in the penultimate month of the final year of their wanderings through the wilderness.

The first discourse (1-4) is a historical recollection, recapitulating the chief events of the past forty years in the wilderness, with earnest hortatory exhortations to obedience to the divine ordinances, and warnings against the danger of forsaking the God of their fathers.

The second discourse (5-26) is, in effect, the main body of the whole book, and is composed of two distinct addresses. The first of these (5-11), forms a second introduction, expanding on the Ten Commandments given at Mount Sinai. This other, second, address (12-26) is the Deuteronomic Code, a series of mitzvot (commands), forming extensive laws, admonitions, and injunctions to the Israelites, regarding how they ought to conduct themselves in Canaan, the land they regard to have been promised by YHWH as their permanent home. For example, YHWH prohibits wives from making a groin attack on their husband's adversary.

The concluding third discourse (27-30) is hortatory, relating almost wholly to the solemn sanctions of the law, the blessings to the obedient, and the curse that would fall on the rebellious. In this discourse, the Israelites are solemnly adjured to adhere faithfully to the covenant between them and YHWH, and so secure for themselves, and for their posterity, the promised blessings.

After the final discourse, the text describes Moses preparing himself to die. As the main part of preparation, Moses is described as conditionally renewing the covenant between YHWH and the Israelites, the condition being the loyalty of the people, and at the same time, Joshua is also appointed by Moses as heir, a leader to lead the people into Canaan.

These addresses to the people are followed by what is generally regarded as three short appendices, namely:

The Song of Moses, apparently being created by Moses by the request of YHWH ( 32:1-47).

The Blessing of Moses, which is pronounced upon the individual tribes of Israel (33)

The story of the death of Moses ( 32:48-52), and subsequent burial (34).

Analysis Of Authorship

Early Jewish analysis

Several Talmud rabbis were the first to notice problems concerning the supposed premise that Moses wrote the entire five books of the Torah. Basing themselves on this premise, they asked how he could possibly have written the text describing his own death and burial, as well as describing, after his own death, that ... there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses. While some contended that he wrote them prophetically, the dominant opinion of these rabbis seems to be that Joshua wrote them and appended them to the text.

Later Jewish biblical exegetes, such as Abraham ibn Ezra (c. 1093-1167 AD) also noted the distinctly different meditative style, and language, of Deuteronomy and stated that a number of verses must have been written by a later author, again, probably, in their view, Joshua. Similarly, in his introduction to Deuteronomy, Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508 AD) was adamant that the book had a different author, than did the first four books of the Pentateuch. Both ibn Ezra, and Don Abravanel, prefigured more contemporary exponents of multiple authorship.

These writers had no problem identifying a period for the text to have been written within. At the end of the 2 Kings, there is an account of the religious reform conducted during the reign of King Josiah, also recounted more briefly in the 2 Chronicles 34:3. After eradicating the rival cultic centres to Jerusalem, Josiah purged the Temple in Jerusalem of pagan influences (621 BC). During the process of cleansing, Hilkiah, the High Priest, found a lost scroll of the Torah, the content of which inspired a series of reforms.

The biblical story continues that Josiah and Hilkiah went to Huldah, the Prophetess to confirm that this was indeed a lost book of the law. She did so, adding that failure to comply would result in the fulfillment of the curses described in the book, and as a result, a ceremony, only otherwise mentioned in Deuteronomy, was arranged. In this ceremony, the king read the entire scroll that was found, to the people assembled for Sukkot, in order to renew the covenant between them and the Law, in a re-enactment of the events at Mount Sinai.

Several rabbis in the Talmud cite a longstanding tradition, echoed by most modern researchers, that the scroll discovered by Hilkiah was none other than Deuteronomy, lost but now recovered by Hilkiah. Some claim the Deuteronomy is the only book of the Pentateuch to mention the centralisation of worship into a single location where sacrifices were permitted to be offered. However, this is untrue, such practice is also mentioned in the Book of Leviticus and the Book of Exodus. In effect, this return to the centralised worship of his forefathers was the very essence of Josiah's reform.

These rabbis also point to various aspects of the story, which are somewhat enigmatic, in their efforts to understand what had actually happened. For example, they ask why the king and high priest chose to go to an otherwise unknown prophetess for confirmation of the text, when there were two major prophets, Jeremiah, and Zechariah, living at that time. The answer they give is that Zechariah was home sick that day, and Jeremiah was away on business.

In fact, this answer may actually be an indication of the historical importance of the Reform and the conflict it would have generated among the masses. Rather than have it originate with overly zealous religious leaders (the prophets), it came from the king and high priest, both of whom were political. By attributing the book to Moses, it could have the same authority as the other books, and its precepts would be similarly observed and respected


Orthodox Judaism scholars and Jews and Christians believe that the original author of the book was Moses, and that the book really was lost and recovered.

The book itself claims to have been written by Moses (Deuteronomy 1:1; Deuteronomy 29:1; Deuteronomy 1:1; Deuteronomy 31:9-11, etc.), and, as everyone agrees, was obviously intended to be accepted as his work.

The frequent references to it in the later books of the canon (Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 25:4; 2 Chronicles 34:14; Ezra 3:2; Ezra 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1; Daniel 9:11,Daniel 9:13) prove its antiquity.

Orthodox Jews point to testimony, within the Mishnah and Talmud, that Moses authored nearly all of Deuteronomy.

Christians identify further testimony of Mosaic authorship from the New Testament. Matthew 19:7-8, Mark 10:3-4, John 5:46-47, Acts 3:22 and Acts 7:37, and Romans 10:19, all establish the same conclusion.

1. Name

In Hebrew אלה הדּברים, 'ēlleh hă-debhārīm, “these are the words”; in Greek, Δευτερονόμιον, Deuteronómion, “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 YHWH is represented as speaking unto Moses, whereas in Deuteronomy, Moses is represented as speaking at YHWH'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 YHWH and to His revealed law. Taken as a whole the book is an exposition of the great commandment, “Thou shalt love YHWH 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, Matthew 4:7, Matthew 4:10; compare Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 6:16, Deuteronomy 6:13).

3. Analysis

Deuteronomy is composed of three discourses, followed by three short appendices:

(1) Deuteronomy 1:1 through Deuteronomy 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 through Deuteronomy 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 through Deuteronomy 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 through 11, an extended exposition of the Ten Commandments on which theocracy was based;

(b) chapters 12 through 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 through Deuteronomy 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 Mount 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 through Deuteronomy 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 through Deuteronomy 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' Song (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 34:1-12) 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 “YHWH has chosen Israel, let Israel choose YHWH.”

4. Ruling Ideas

The great central thought of Deuteronomy is the unique relation which YHWH as a unique God sustains to Israel as a unique people. “Hear O Israel; YHWH our God is one YHWH.” 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) YHWH, A Unique God

YHWH is the only God, “There is none else besides him” Dt (Deuteronomy 4:35, Deuteronomy 4:39; 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” (Deuteronomy 7:9), who abominates graven images and every species of idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 7:26; 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, Deuteronomy 4:15), and whose name is “Rock” (Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, Deuteronomy 32:31). Being such a God, He is jealous of all rivals (Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 29:24-26; Deuteronomy 31:16, Deuteronomy 31:17), 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, Deuteronomy 7:16; Deuteronomy 20:16-18; Deuteronomy 12:2, Deuteronomy 12:3).

(2) Israel, A Unique People

The old Israel had become unique through the covenant which YHWH 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; Deuteronomy 5:2, Deuteronomy 5:3). 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 YHWH (Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2, Deuteronomy 14:21; Deuteronomy 26:18, Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 4:37), disciplined, indeed, but for their own good (Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 8:5, Deuteronomy 8:16), to be established as a people, as YHWH's peculiar lot and inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:9; Deuteronomy 4:7).

(3) The Relation Between YHWH and Israel a Unique Relation

Other nations feared their deities; Israel was expected not only to fear YHWH but to love Him and cleave to Him (Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 10:20; Deuteronomy 11:1, Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 11:12; Deuteronomy 13:3, Deuteronomy 13:4; Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 30:6, Deuteronomy 30:16, Deuteronomy 30:20; Deuteronomy 31:12, Deuteronomy 31:13). 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).

5. Unity

The essential unity of the great kernel of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 5 through 26) is recognized and freely allowed by nearly everyone (e.g. Kautzsch, Kuënen, Dillmann, Driver). Some would even defend the unity of the whole of Deuteronomy 1 through 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 Ḳal 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; Deuteronomy 29:1; Deuteronomy 33:1, Deuteronomy 33:7, Deuteronomy 33:9, Deuteronomy 33:22; Deuteronomy 34:1) and a few archaeological notes such as Deuteronomy 2:10-12, Deuteronomy 2:20-23; Deuteronomy 3:9, Deuteronomy 3:11, Deuteronomy 3:14; Deuteronomy 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.

6. Authorship

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 YHWH, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of YHWH your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee” (Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:24-27). 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 H̬ammurabi, 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” Dt (Deuteronomy 3:21); and “I charged your judges at that time” (Deuteronomy 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, Deuteronomy 4:14; Deuteronomy 5:31). They must expel the aborigines (Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 9:1-3; Deuteronomy 20:17; Deuteronomy 31:3), but in their warfare they must observe certain laws in keeping with theocracy (Deuteronomy 20:1-20; Deuteronomy 23:9-14; Deuteronomy 21:10-14; Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:7), 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; Deuteronomy 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, Deuteronomy 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 through 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 through 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 through 4?

(2) The Double Allusion to the Cities of Refuge (Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Deuteronomy 19:1-13)

On the supposition that Deuteronomy 5 through 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 Numbers 35:14). 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 through 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

“YHWH 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, Joshua 6:18) in keeping with Deuteronomy 13:15 (compare Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:12, Joshua 11:15 with Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:16, Deuteronomy 20:17). 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, Joshua 10:27). As in warfare, so in worship. For instance, Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30, Joshua 8:31), “as Moses the servant of YHWH 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, Deuteronomy 27:8). 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, Deuteronomy 27:13, and Joshua read to all the congregation of Israel all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings (Joshua 8:34, Joshua 8:35), in strict accord with Deuteronomy 31:11, Deuteronomy 31:12.

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 YHWH's direct commands (Judges 6:25-27; Judges 13:16); especially the case of Micah, who congratulated himself that YHWH 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; Deuteronomy 33:8-11). In 1 Samuel 1:1-9, 1 Samuel 1:21, 1 Samuel 1:24 the pious Elkanah is pictured as going yearly to worship YHWH 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, 1 Samuel 7:17; 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 YHWH 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, Deuteronomy 12:11). 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 YHWH's “covenant” and “statutes” (1 Kings 11:3, 1 Kings 11:11). 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, 2 Kings 18:22). 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, Hosea 4:15). He also alludes to striving with priests (Hosea 4:4; compare Deuteronomy 17:12), removing landmarks (Hosea 5:10; compare Deuteronomy 19:14), returning to Egypt (Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3; compare Deuteronomy 28:68), and of YHWH's tender dealing with Ephraim (Hosea 11:3; compare Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:10). The courage of Amos, the shepherd-prophet of Tekoa, can best be explained, also, on the basis of a written law such as that of Deuteronomy with which he and his hearers were already more or less familiar (Amos 3:2; compare Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 4:7, Deuteronomy 4:8). He condemns Israel's inhumanity and adultery in the name of religion, and complains of their retaining overnight pledges wrested from the poor, which was distinctly forbidden in Deuteronomy (Amos 2:6-8; compare Deuteronomy 24:12-15; Deuteronomy 23:17). Likewise, in the prophecies of Isaiah there are conscious reflections of Deuteronomy's thought and teaching. Zion is constantly pictured as the center of the nation's religion and as YHWH's secure dwellingplace (Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 29:1, Isaiah 29:2; compare Micah 4:1-4). In short, no one of the four great prophets of the 8th century BC - Isaiah, Micah, Amos, Hosea - ever recognized “high places” as legitimate centers of worship.

9. The Critical Theory

Over against the Biblical view, certain modern critics since De Wette (1805) advocate a late origin of Deuteronomy, claiming that it was first published in 621 BC, when Hilkiah found “the book of the law” in the temple in the 18th year of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8). The kernel of Deuteronomy and “the book of the law” discovered by Hilkiah are said to be identical. Thus, Dr. G. A. Smith claims that “a code like the Book of Deuteronomy was not brought forth at a stroke, but was the expression of the gradual results of the age-long working of the Spirit of the Living God in the hearts of His people” (Jerusalem, II, 115). According to Dr. Driver, “Deuteronomy may be described as the prophetic reformulation and adaptation to new needs, of an older legislation. It is probable that there was a tradition, if not a written record, of a final legislative address delivered by Moses in the steppes of Moab: the plan followed by the author would rest upon a more obvious motive, if he Thus worked upon a traditional basis. But be that as it may, the bulk of the laws contained in Deuteronomy is undoubtedly far more ancient than the author himself.... What is essentially new in Deuteronomy is not the matter, but the form.... The new element in Deuteronomy is Thus not the laws, but their parenetic setting” (Deuteronomy, lxi, lvi). This refined presentation of the matter would not be so very objectionable, were Drs. Smith and Driver's theory not linked up with certain other claims and allegations to the effect that Moses in the 15th century bc could not possibly have promulgated such a lofty monotheism, that in theological teaching “the author of Deuteronomy is the spiritual heir of Hosea,” that there are discrepancies between it and other parts of the Pentateuch, that in the early history of Israel down to the 8th century plurality of sanctuaries was legally permissible, that there are no traces of the influence of the principal teachings of a written Deuteronomy discoverable in Hebrew literature until the time of Jeremiah, and that the book as we possess it was originally composed as a program of reform, not by Moses but in the name of Moses as a forgery or pseudepigraph. For example, F. H. Woods says, “Although not a necessary result of accepting the later date, the majority of critics believe this book of the law to have been the result of a pious fraud promulgated by Hilkiah and Shaphan with the retention of deceiving Josiah into the belief that the reforms which they desired were the express command of God revealed to Moses” (HDB, II, 368). Some are unwilling to go so far. But in any case, it is claimed that the law book discovered and published by Hilkiah, which brought about the reformation by Josiah in 621 BC, was no other than some portion of the Book of Deuteronomy, and of Deuteronomy alone. But there are several considerations which are opposed to this theory:

(1) Deuteronomy emphasizes centralization of worship at one sanctuary (Deuteronomy 12:5); Josiah's reformation was directed rather against idolatry in general (2 Kings 23:4).

(2) In Deuteronomy 18:6-8, a Levite coming from the country to Jerusalem was allowed to minister and share in the priestly perquisites; but in 2 Kings 23:9, “the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of YHWH in Jerusalem, but they did eat unleavened bread among their brethren.” And according to the critical theory, “Levites” and “priests” are interchangeable terms.

(3) The following passages in Exodus might almost equally with Deuteronomy account for Josiah's reformation: Exodus 20:3; Exodus 22:18, Exodus 22:20; Exodus 23:13, Exodus 23:14, Exodus 23:32, Exodus 23:33; Exodus 34:13, Exodus 34:14-17.

(4) The law book discovered by Hilkiah was recognized at once as an ancient code which the fathers had disobeyed (2 Kings 22:13). Were they all deceived? Even Jeremiah (compare Jeremiah 11:3, Jeremiah 11:4)? “There were many persons in Judah who had powerful motives for exposing this forgery if it was one” (Raven, Old Testament Introduction, 112).

(5) One wonders why so many archaic and, in Josiah's time, apparently obsolete laws should have been incorporated in a code whose express motive was to reform an otherwise hopeless age: e.g. the command to exterminate the Canaanites, who had long since ceased to exist (Deuteronomy 7:18, Deuteronomy 7:22), and to blot out Amalek (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), the last remnants of whom were completely destroyed in Hezekiah's time (1 Chronicles 4:41-43). Especially is this true of the score and more of laws peculiar to Deuteronomy, concerning building battlements on the roofs of houses (Deuteronomy 22:8), robbing birds' nests (Deuteronomy 22:6, Deuteronomy 22:7), the sexes exchanging garments (Deuteronomy 22:5), going out to war (Deuteronomy 20:1), etc.

(6) Especially remarkable is it that if Deuteronomy were written, as alleged, shortly before the reign of Josiah, there should be no anachronisms in it betraying a post-Mosaic origin. There are no allusions to the schism between Judah and Israel, no hint of Assyrian oppression through the exaction of tribute, nor any threats of Israel's exile either to Assyria or Babylonia, but rather to Egypt (Deuteronomy 28:68). “Jerusalem” is never mentioned. From a literary point of view, it is psychologically and historically well-nigh impossible for a writer to conceal all traces of his age and circumstances. On the other hand, no Egyptologist has ever discovered any anachronisms in Deuteronomy touching Egyptian matters. From first to last the author depicts the actual situation of the times of Moses. It is consequently hard to believe, as is alleged, that a later writer is studying to give “an imaginative revivification of the past.”

(7) The chief argument in favor of Deuteronomy's late origin is its alleged teaching concerning the unity of the sanctuary. Wellhausen lays special emphasis upon this point. Prior to Josiah's reformation, it is claimed, plurality of sanctuaries was allowed. But in opposition to this, it is possible to point victoriously to Hezekiah's reformation (2 Kings 18:4, 2 Kings 18:22), as a movement in the direction of unity; and especially to Exodus 20:24, which is so frequently misinterpreted as allowing a multiplicity of sanctuaries. This classical passage when correctly interpreted allows only that altars shall be erected in every place where YHWH records His name, “which presumably during the wanderings and the time of the judges would mean wherever the Tabernacle was” (Mackay, Introduction to Old Testament, 110). This interpretation of this passage is confirmed and made practically certain, indeed, by the command in Exodus 23:14-19 that Israel shall repair three times each year to the house of YHWH and there present their offering. On the other hand, Deuteronomy's emphasis upon unity of sanctuary is often exaggerated. The Book of Deuteronomy requires unity only after Israel's enemies are all overcome (Deuteronomy 12:10, Deuteronomy 12:11). “When” YHWH giveth them rest, “then” they shall repair for worship to the place which “God shall choose.” As Davidson remarks: “It is not a law that is to come into effect on their entry into Canaan; it is to be observed from the time that YHWH shall have given them rest from all their enemies round about; that is, from the times of David, or more particularly, Solomon; for only when the temple was built did that place become known which YHWH had chosen to place His name there” (Old Testament Theology, 361). Besides, it should not be forgotten that in Deuteronomy itself the command is given to build an altar in Mount Ebal (Matthew 27:5-7). As a matter of fact, the unity of sanctuary follows as a necessary consequence of monotheism; and if Moses taught monotheism, he probably also enjoined unity of worship. If, on the other hand, monotheism was first evolved by the prophets of the 8th century, then, of course, unity of sanctuary was of 8th-century origin also.

(8) Another argument advanced in favor of the later origin of Deuteronomy is the contradiction between the laws of Deuteronomy and those of Lev-Nu concerning the priests and Levites. In Numbers 16:10, Numbers 16:35, Numbers 16:40, a sharp distinction is drawn, it is alleged, between the priests and common Levites, whereas in Deuteronomy 18:1-8, all priests are Levites and all Levites are priests. But as a matter of fact, the passage in Deuteronomy does not invest a Levite with priestly but with Levitical functions (compare Deuteronomy 18:7). “The point insisted upon is that all Levites shall receive full recognition at the sanctuary and be accorded their prerogatives. It goes without saying that if the Levite be a priest he shall serve and fare like his brethren the priests; if he be not a priest, he shall enjoy the privileges that belong to his brethren who are Levites, but not priests” (J. D. Davis, article “Deuteronomy,” in Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, 117). The Book of Deuteronomy teaches not that all the tribe, but only the tribe of Levi may exercise priestly functions, Thus restricting the exercise of priestly prerogatives to one and only one tribe. This was in perfect harmony with Lev-Nu and also in keeping with the style of popular discourse.

(9) Recently Professor Ed. Naville, the Egyptologist, has propounded a theory of the origin of “the Book of the Law” discovered by Hilkiah, which is not without some value. On the analogy of the Egyptian custom of burying texts of portions of “the Book of the Dead” at the foot of statues of gods and within foundations of temple walls, as at Hermopolis, he concludes that Solomon, when he constructed the Temple, probably deposited this “Book of the Law” in the foundations, and that when Josiah's workmen were about their tasks of repairing the edifice, the long-forgotten document came to light and was given to Hilkiah the priest. Hilkiah, however, upon examination of the document found it difficult to read, and so, calling for Shaphan the scribe, who was more expert in deciphering antique letters than himself, he gave the sacred roll to him, and he in turn read it to both Hilkiah and the king. The manuscript may indeed have been written in cuneiform. Thus, according to Naville, “the Book of the Law,” which he identifies with Deuteronomy, must be pushed back as far as the age of Solomon at the very latest. Geden shares a similar view as to its date: “some time during the prosperous period of David and the United Monarchy” (Intro to the Hebrew Bible, 1909, 330).

But why not ascribe the book to the traditional author? Surely there can be no philosophical objection to doing so, in view of the now-known Code of H̬ammurabi, which antedates Moses by so many hundreds of years! No other age accounts so well for its origin as that of the great lawgiver who claims to have written the bulk of it. And the history of the disintegration of the book only shows to what extremes a false method may lead; for example, Steuernagel separates the “Thou” and “Ye” sections from each other and assigns them to different authors of late date: Kennett, on the other hand, assigns the earliest strata to the period of the Exile (Jour. of Theol. Studies, 1904), On the whole, no theory is so satisfactory as that which, in keeping with Deuteronomy 31:22, Deuteronomy 31:24, ascribes to Moses the great bulk of the book.

See also Criticism Of The Bible; Pentateuch.


On the conservative side: James Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament, The Bross Prize, 1906; article “Deuteronomy,” Illustrated Bible Dict., 1908; James Robertson, The Early Religion of Israel, 1892; article “Deuteronomy,” The Temple Bible Dict., 1910; John D. Davis, article “Deuteronomy,” Davis' Dict. of the Bible, 1911; John H. Raven, Old Testament Intro, 1906; A. S. Geden, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 1909; W. Möller, Are the Critics Right? 1903; R. B. Girdlestone, The Student's Deuteronomy, 1899; Hugh Pope, The Date of the Composition of Deuteronomy, 1911; A. S. Zerbe, The Antiquity of Hebrew Writing and Lit., 1911; Ed. Naville, The Discovery of the Book of the Law under King Josiah, 1911; E. C. Bissell, The Pentateuch: Its Origin and Structure, 1885; G. L. Robinson, The Expositor, “The Genesis of Deuteronomy,” October and November, 1898, February, March, May, 1899; W. H. Green, Moses and the Prophets, 1891; The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch, 1895; A. M. Mackay, The Churchman's Introduction to the Old Testament, 1901; J. W. Beardslee, Outlines of an Introduction to the Old Testament, 1903; G. Vos, The Mosaic Origin of the Pentateuchal Codes, 1886.

On the other side: S. R. Driver, A Crit. and Exeg. Commentary on Deuteronomy, 1895; The Hexateuch, by J. Estlin Carpenter and G. Harford-Battersby, I, II, 1900; G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 1908; W. Robertson Smith, The Old Testament in the Jewish Church, 1895; A. Kuënen, The Hexateuch, 1886; H. E. Ryle, article “Deuteronomy,” HDB, 1898; G. F. Moore, article “Deuteronomy,” Encyclopedia Bibl., 1899; J. A. Paterson, article “Deuteronomy,” Encyclopedia Brit, VIII, 1910.

In German: De Wette, Dissert. crit-exeget., 1805; Kleinert, Das Dt u. d. Deuteronomiker, 1872; Wellhausen, Die Comp. des Hexateuch. u. d. hist. Bücher des Altes Testament, 1889; Gesch. Israels, 1895; Steuernagel, Der Rahmen des Deuteronomy, 1894; Entsteh. des dt. Gesetzes, 1896.

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