1 Title. The English title of this book derives from a mistranslation of Deut. 17:18. Instead of reading "a copy/repetition of the law" the translators of the Septuagint rendered the phrase "second law" or Deuteronomy. Its title in the Hebrew Bible "these are the words" follows the Jewish tradition of naming a book by its opening phrase (Craigie, 1976: 17).
2 Authorship. The authorship of Deuteronomy is closely related to conclusions regarding its date (See 3). Traditionally Moses has been recognised as the originator of the majority of the book which is a record of his addresses to Israel in the Transjordan in the territory of Moab immediately preceding his death (1:1, 3, 5; 4:44: 31:1, 9, 22). However, it is clear that Moses himself did not commit the whole of the book to writing himself. One significant piece of evidence is that Jesus accepted the Mosaic Authorship of the book (Matt. 19:8; cf. Deut. 24:1-4), as did Paul (1 Cor. 9:9; cf. Deut. 25:4) and the writer to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:28; cf. Deut. 17:2-6). However, it should be noted that in these cases the Jesus and the NT writers may simply have been using the name Moses as the designation for the scroll of Moses which contained the Pentateuch. The references to Moses writing the Law in Deut. 31:9, 24 need not refer to the book of Deuteronomy or any part of it - the term is simply not defined (Thompson, 1974: 49-50).
3 Dating. Since the time of Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) it has been assumed by critical scholars that the book of Deuteronomy was the work of seventh century Jewish writers in Jerusalem and associated with Josiahs reform of 622 BC. Such is the commitment of liberal OT scholars to the documentary hypothesis, of which Deuteronomy forms a vital component, that to a large extent arguments for Mosaic authorship have been ignored. There is no such disagreement about the importance of the dating of Deuteronomy to OT criticism. "...fix the date of Deuteronomy and then date the rest of the Pentateuch by comparison with it. J and E must be written before it and P after it." (Wenham, 1985a: 17). There is also general agreement that the book of Deuteronomy (or some version of it) is to be identified with the book of the Law found during the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-10; 2 Chron. 34:14). What is disputed is the role that this book played in the reformation and whether it was written in the seventh century to justify the centralisation of worship in Jerusalem.
3.1 Arguments for a Seventh Century Date
3.1.1 The language of Deuteronomy. There is a close affinity between the style of Deuteronomy and that of the books of 2 Kings, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (see Table 1). Because these books were probably written in the seventh or early sixth centuries BC it is argued that Deuteronomy must also have been written at that time by members of the same "deuteronomist" prophetic school.
Against these arguments it should be noted that religious language is conservative by nature and tends to change only slowly. The same can be said of the literary language which is far less subject to change than spoken language. This is supported by examples from Egyptian texts which demonstrate that a language could continue to be used as a national written language with very few changes for over a thousand years. The similarities between Hosea, Amos, 2 Kings and Jeremiah could just as easily be explained by the influence the Deuteronomy (in some form) had on the respective writers (Wenham, 1985a: 18).
3.1.2 The Demand for Centralisation of Worship. 2 Kings 23 describes Josiahs reforms and the removal of the high places where the people of the Judah had been worshipping for centuries. This activity, which is expressly stated to be in accordance with the requirements of the recently discovered "Book of the Law" (2 Kings 23:24), follows very closely the commands found in Deuteronomy. It is argued that the book of Deuteronomys requirement for a central place of worship (12:4-8, 17-19) was written to justify the reforms being carried out by Josiah. It would of course be anachronistic for it for refer to Jerusalem as the place of worship and so instead the location is referred to a "the place that the LORD your God will choose".
There are a number of flaws in this line of reasoning which conservative scholars have pointed out. a) It is not impossible for the Lord to have revealed to Moses the name of the place he would chose in advance to Moses. After all he did reveal to an unnamed prophet the name of the king who would fulfil his prophecy (1 Kings 13:2; cf. 2 Kings 23:16-18). Such a statement concerning Jerusalem would have placed the legitimacy of Josiahs reforms beyond doubt and yet it does not occur. b) Deuteronomy does not limit all sacrifices to Jerusalem as is claimed. Chapter 27:4-8 refers to sacrifices on Mt. Ebal overlooking the city of SHECHEM, a command was later fulfilled at the time of the conquest (Josh. 8:30-35, 24:1-27). If the book of Deuteronomy was written with the intention of limiting all worship to Jerusalem then such a reference would seem somewhat contradictory. It cannot be argued that this reference was a later addition to the book because it forms a integral part of its context (Craigie, 1976:49). The problem disappears when a seventh century date for the book is rejected. c) The accounts of the reforms in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34 does not say that the finding of the book of the law initiated Josiahs reforms. The book was found as a result of the reforms that had already been under way for 6 years (2 Chron. 34:3-14). The finding of the book certainly added impetus to the reforms (2 Kings 23:24), but it cannot been seen as initiating them (Wenham, 1985b:15-16). (See COVENANT 3.3.6) It is more probable that Josiah saw himself initially as continuing in the footsteps of his godly predecessor Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-8). The centralisation of worship in Jerusalem was therefore a result of the reformation rather than its intention (Craigie, 1976:49). (See COVENANT 3.3.5)
3.1.3 Deuteronomy & Seventh Century Covenants. Mosse Weinfeld has argued that the form of Deuteronomy fits better the style of the seventh century BC treaties of Esarshaddon than it does the Hittite suzerainty treaties of the 2nd millennium. Deuteronomys extensive list of curses (28:23-35) find close parallels in the Assyrian treaty documents (Weinfeld, 1992:171-172). In this case it seems that the differences between 1st and 2nd millennium treaties has been exaggerated while their differences are played down. The 2nd millennium treaties include a historical prologue - as does Deuteronomy - but this is missing in Assyrian treaties. Weinfeld argues that this is due either a) to damage to the tablets were this section ought to be found or b) to the arrogance of Assyrian kings who saw no need to humiliate themselves with a record of their benevolence in the manner of Hittite kings (Weinfeld, 1992: 170). The first of these arguments is by far the stronger, but is by its very nature an argument from silence.
There are good reasons, however, to think that Deuteronomy is modelled along the lines of 2nd millennium treaty, as Kenneth Kitchen has noted:
While these factors support an early date for the composition of Deuteronomy they cannot prove such a date, due to the fragmentary nature of the archaeological record. It must also be considered that the neither the Holy Spirit nor the Hebrew writer(s) felt bound to follow blindly the documentary styles of their neighbours and no doubt adapted them to suit their own purposes as they saw fit (Craigie, 1976: 27).
4 Structure. Deuteronomy is a work on consummate literary genius and as such defies reduction into any one of the possible structures described below. It is best to view the book as a combination of all of these structures, while recognising that further contributions to the study of this subject will undoubtedly arise in the future.
4.1 Deuteronomy as A Covenant Document. Although scholars disagree as to the details of how to divide the various sections of Deuteronomy, most agree that it is patterned on a covenant document as follows:
4.2 Concentric Literary Pattern. Such has been the preoccupation among scholars with the supposed sources of Deuteronomy that until relatively recently little work has been done on other literary features of the text. Recently D.L. Christensen has argued that Deuteronomy is constructed in such a way as to form concentric layers as shown below. This form, known as a chiasmus, continues themes begun in the Outer Frame (A), such as Joshua, into A. Likewise the theme of blessings and curses is carried on from B into B. Each of these frames can be read as a unit, which of course supports the essential unity as well as the prodigious literary skill and artistry of the author.
4.3 An Expanded Decalogue. It has been argued that the central section of stipulations in Deuteronomy is an expansion of the 10 commandments given in chapter 5:6-21. Although the exact relationship is not clear cut it is does indicate an influence of the Decalogue on the order the detailed commandments. Wright (1996:5) summarises the evidence as shown in Table 2.
5 Occasion & Purpose
5.1 Covenant Renewal. As noted above Deuteronomy contains the last instructions of Moses to his people. The people had agreed to obey (26:16-17) and Moses went on to make arrangements for a further covenant renewal in the land of Canaan (27:1-8).
5.2 A Successor for Moses. Moses was forbidden to enter the Promised Land but was to hand the leadership of the people over to Joshua son of Nun, his second in command (Deut. 1:37-38; 3:21-28; 31:1-8; 34:9). Presumably Deuteronomy would serve to legitimise Joshuas leadership as well as providing him with clear instructions on how to proceed.
5.3 Preparation for Life in Canaan. Conditions in Canaan were very much different from life in the desert and so new instructions were required specific to the new situation the Israelites would face. Instead of tents the Israelites would live in houses (Deut. 6:10-11) which would require careful construction (22:8). In a similar way even the growing of crops was to reflect their faith in Yahweh and distinctiveness from the nations around them (22:9-10). By obeying these commands the people would ensure that their position in the land was secure (32:47).
5.4 Prophetic Fulfilment. The substance of the promises made to the Patriarchs forms an important theme. The Israelites had seen the promises partly fulfilled - they had been brought out of Egypt. The fact that they had been brought that far served as a guarantee that they would receive the rest of the promise - that they would enter the land and possess it (6:3, 10, 23; 7:8, 13; 8:1, 18; 9:4-6; 10:11; 11:9, 21; 13:17; 19:8; 26:3; 28:11; 29:13; 30:20; 31:7, 20).
5.5 Prophetic Predictions. The predictions made in Deuteronomy have long been treated as records written after the event and then read back into the mouth of Moses. However, given the early dating for the book demonstrated above there is no reason why the predictive element of the book should not be given proper recognition.
5.4.1 Kingship. The regulations for kingship follow those of other civic leaders (16:14-20). Although 1 Sam. 8 casts the peoples request for a king in a rather negative light it is not necessary to read this passage in the same manner. Not only was a king set over the people, but the institution disregarded the instructions regulating it. As a result Solomon acquired great numbers of horses and wives with tragic results (1 Kings 4:26; 11:1-10; Neh. 13:26).
5.4.2 Exile & Restoration. Tragically the people failed to obey the commandments of the Lord and eventually found themselves in Exile (4:28-31; 30:1-10). Writing to the exiles in 597 BC the prophet Jeremiah uses the words of Deuteronomy to reassure them that Lord would restore them to the land (Jer. 29:12-13; cf. Deut. 4:4:29-30).
5.4.3 The Prophet. Moses looked forward to a Prophet like himself who would speak Gods words to Israel (18:14-19; 34:10). This prophecy was uniquely fulfilled in Jesus himself (John 1:21, 25, 45; 5:46; 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22-26; 7:37).
6 Theology. The book of Deuteronomy takes the form of a covenant document and it is therefore appropriate to follow the same structure when discussing its theology (see COVENANT 2).
6.1 Preamble. In Hittite suzerainty treaties the prologue identified the giver of the covenant. Deuteronomy opens in a similar way by saying "These are the words of Moses..." (Deut. 1:1) and it is Moses who speaks the words of God to the people (1:3). The reason for Moses role are explained more fully in chapter 5:22-30 where after hearing the voice of God from the mountain the people were filled with fear and Moses became Gods spokesman with whom he spoke "face to face" (34:10).
6.2 Historical Prologue. In this part of the covenant document the Hittite kings would recite their past benevolent actions in order to inspire devotion and loyalty from their vassals and reassure them of similar treatment in the future if they kept the covenant. Clearly such accounts would have been meaningless unless they were substantially accurate. Deut. 1:6 - 4:49 records a number of such benevolent actions, alluding to the fulfilment of the promises made to the patriarchs (1:8; 4:37-38; 8:1; 10:14-15; 30:20; 34:1-4), the deliverance from slavery in Egypt (1:30-31; 7:17-19; 8:14; 11:1-4; 26:1-11) and Gods sustaining care for them during the forty years in the wilderness (2:7; 8:2-5, 15-16; 11:5). It was fear of giants that precipitated the rebellion (1:26-28) and so during the forty years in the desert three of these races of giants were destroyed by Israels distant relatives and the invading Philistines (2:20-23). Once the fighting men of the faithless generation had perished in the desert (2:16) God gave their successors victory over the Kings of Heshbon and Bashan East of the Jordan (2:26-36; 3:1-11). Gods actions on their behalf are motivated by grace and love. He loved the patriarchs and blessed their descendants (4:37-38). This love was not based upon their numbers or military strength, but upon Gods faithfulness to His Promises (7:7-10; 9:4-6; cf. Gen. 12:2-3). This relationship initiated by grace demanded a response in love and obedience (7:11-12) which would ensure the continuance of their unique relationship (4:32-34).
6.3.1 Monotheism. Secular treaties demanded obedience to the suzerain and did not permit the vassal to make any treaties with any other nation. It is not surprising therefore that Deuteronomy repeats again and again its warnings against idolatry which was seen as disloyalty and rebellion against the Lord (4:15-28, 39; 6:14-15; 7:16, 25-26; 8:7-21; 11:26-28; 12:29-31; 13:1-18; 16:21-22; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:24-28; 31:15-21). The importance of this concept is demonstrated by the first and second commandments (5:7-10). The demands the Lord makes on his people are contrasted with the activities of those peoples that the Israelites must drive out of the land (7:3-6; 12:4-7).
6.3.2 Deuteronomic Humanitarianism. The revelation of the character of God demands more than an intellectual response. If the Lord defends the cause of the fatherless, the widow and the alien (10:18) then so must his people they to were once aliens in Egypt (10:19; 24:17-22; 26:12-13; 27:19). This humanitarianism was to extend to all aspects of life: justice must be done and seen to be done (10:17;16:19; 19:15-21; 21:1-9; 24:7, 16; 25:1-3; 27:25); the poor must be cared for (15:7-11; 24:6, 10-15); slavery must be regulated and limited (15:12-18; 23:15-16), and human greed must not upset the ecology of the land (22:6-7; 20:19-20). Warfare to, although an essential part of the purging of evil from the land (6:19; 7:1-11; 9:1-3; 11:23-25; 12:29-31), must also be regulated (20:1-20).
6.4 Blessings and Cursings. Moses gave specific instructions that upon entering the land a covenant renewal was to be carried out near SHECHEM (11:29-31; 27:1 - 28:68). During this ceremony the blessings and the cursings of the covenant were to be recited, reciprocal blessings and cursings that form major themes of the book.
6.4.1 The Land. The promise of a land was an integral part of the covenant with Abraham and the patriarchs. In Deuteronomy Israel is in the process of realising these promises having had had a foretaste by capturing territory in the Transjordan (3:12-17). Obedience would bring blessing in the form of realising the promises and possessing the land (6:10-11; 8:6-9; 11:8-15, 22-25; 28:1-6), enjoying good health (7:15) and rest (see 6.4.2). Disobedience would bring cursing which would result in drought and famine (11:16-17; 28:23-24, 38-42), disease (28:21-22, 27, 60-61), defeat (28:25-26, 49-52), slavery and exile from the land (4:25-28; 8:10-18; 28:36-37, 64-68) just as the behaviour of the Canaanites had brought about their destruction (8:19-20). Like Adam Israel was formed outside of the land and placed within it (Gen. 2:8), only to fall into sin and be expelled from it (3:23-24). Like Eden the Promised Land was to be a place were God dwelt among His people in the place He would choose (Deut. 12:5-7).
6.4.2 Rest. Related to the promise of the land is that of rest and a peaceful life there (3:20; 12:9; 25:19). Recalling the life of Adam in Paradise before the fall rest was enshrined in the fourth commandment (the Sabbath) (5:12-15) and the sabbatical year (15:1-18). Though faithfulness Joshua brought a partial fulfilment of this blessing (Josh. 14:15) the Israelites failure to obey the covenant resulted in a loss of this rest. Today Christians look forward to its fulfilment by Christ (Heb. 4:6-11).
6.5 Provision for Public Reading of the Covenant. To ensure that each generation understood and committed themselves to the terms of the covenant Moses commanded that it was to be read to all the people at the feast of Tabernacles every seven years (30:9-13). The book of the Law itself was to remain beside the ark of the covenant (31:24-26).
7 Quotations from and Allusions to Deuteronomy
7.1 Hosea & Amos. In the 19th century E.W. Hengstenberg (1802-1869) carried out an extensive study of the use made of the books of the Pentateuch by the eighth century prophets. His research demonstrates that these prophets were not the originators of Israels legal traditions as critical scholars have claimed. Rather the prophets referred back to the documents of the Pentateuch (and especially to Deuteronomy) as their source of authority. The influence of Deuteronomy is now recognised as being integral to Hoseas message without which there would be hardly anything left of the book (Wenham, 1985a: 18). Deuteronomy must therefore have not only been in existence by the eighth century, but must also have been accepted as authoritative by that time - a further line of support for an early date for the book. Table 3 lists some of the clearer allusions to Deuteronomy made by Hosea and Amos (Hengstenberg, 1857: 107-169).
7.2 Deuteronomy in the Gospels. Matthew and Luke both describe Jesus temptations in some detail (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) and record his use of Deuteronomy 6:13, 16 and 8:3. The typology is fairly clear: just as Gods son Israel (Deut. 8:5) had to learn the lessons of the wilderness before being allowed to enter the promised land, so had Jesus, the Son of God, before he began his ministry (France, 1989:208). It has also been noted that Matthews Gospel shows many signs of being influenced by the content of Deuteronomy. Jesus sets the same choices before Israel as Moses: life or death, blessing or cursing (Matt. 7:13-14, 24-27; 25:1-13, 31-46). Like Moses he ascends a mountain before his departure and commands his people to continue as he has instructed them (Deut. 34; Matt. 28:16-20). His disciples are not a new Israel, but the true descendants of the Patriarchs and heirs to their promises (Wright, 1996: 388).
7.3 Deuteronomy & the Writings of Paul. The theology of the apostle Paul was deeply influenced by what is known as the Deuteronomic view of Israels history. Ultimately derived from the book of Deuteronomy this interpretation was developed in the later OT and Intertestamental writings (especially Baruch) as a means of understanding Gods part in the plan of God. According to this view the restoration of Israel is still to come, the second temple period being at best a foreshadowing of this event. This finds its clearest and fullest expression in Pauls writings in Romans 9-11. The Deuteronomic view can be broken down into six component parts. 1) It is affirmed that Israel has been stiff-necked and rebellious throughout its history (Deut. 9:7; 29:25-27; 2 Kings 17:7-12; Neh. 9:29; Ezek. 2:3-4; 20:28-31; 23:1-21; Bar. 1:13 - 3:8 (Scott, 1993: 798). Paul makes this point in Romans (2:1-29; 9:31; 10:31) and in 1 Thess. 2:15-16. In Galatians 3:10 Paul cites Deut. 27:26 to support the same argument: Israel is under a curse because of national sin.
2) In response to the nations sin God sent his prophets to call his people to repentance (Scott, 1993: 798). (2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chron. 24:19; 36:15; Jer. 7:24). 3) The peoples response was to reject the prophets message and even to try to kill them (Scott, 1993: 798) (1 Kings 19:10; 2 Chron. 36:16a; Neh. 9:26; Jer. 7:25-27; Bar. 1:21-22). 2) & 3) are often combined in one phrase (e.g. Jer. 25:4-6). In Romans (11:2-4) Paul cites Elijahs speech (1 Kings 19:10, 14) to demonstrate that God has reserved himself a faithful remnant, but the passage also serves to show both prophetic activity and Israels typical response it. 1 Thess. 2:16 expresses the same thought.
4) This rejection of correction brought judgement upon Israel culminating in the Exile (Deut. 4:25-28; 28:15-68; 2 Chron. 36:16b-19). As mentioned above the Deuteronomic view was that the Exile would continue until the time of the restoration which explains why Paul writes of Gods wrath still abiding on Israel (Rom. 2:6-8; 3:5; 1 Thess. 2:16) (Scott, 1993: 798). 5) During the Exile repentance is still possible, but the people still persisted in rejecting calls to do so. Paul, writing as one of those who has repented and turned to God (Rom. 9:24), argues that God has a twofold purpose in including the Gentiles in his message of salvation. First of all it will provoke some of the Jews to jealous when they see the Gentiles experiencing the blessings that they should be enjoying (Rom. 11:13-14). Secondly, evangelising the Gentiles brings closer the time when the full number of Gentiles will be brought in, the end will come and all Israel will be saved (11:25-27). 6) Finally, national repentance takes place and the people are restored. Those who still refuse to repent suffer the final judgement of God together with Israels enemies (Scott, 1993: 798-799). Paul looks forward to this event in Romans 11:25-32 when Gods promises will be fulfilled (Jer. 31:31-34). The inclusion of the Gentiles is part of that plan as Romans 15:7-13 makes clear (v. 10 cites Deut. 32:43) (Scott, 1993: 804-805).
© 1999 Robert I. Bradshaw
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