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Moses depicted receiving the Law (top half), and then reading the Law to the Israelites (bottom half)

Deuteronomy (Greek: Deuteronomion, "second law") or Devarim (Hebrew: דְּבָרִים‎, literally "things" or "words") is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fifth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch.

A large part of the book consists of three sermons delivered by Moses reviewing the previous forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and the future entering into the Promised Land. Its central element is a detailed law-code by which the Israelites are to live within the Promised Land.

Theologically the book constitutes the renewing of the covenant between Yahweh, the Jewish God, and the "Children of Israel."

One of its most significant verses is considered to be Deuteronomy 6:4, which constitutes the Shema, a definitive statement of Jewish identity: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD (YHWH) (is) our God, the LORD is one."

Conservative Bible scholars are united in their conviction that Moses wrote this book.[1] Much of modern critical scholarship, while agreeing that Deuteronomy contains a core of material from ancient Mosaic traditions or writing[2], dates the book several centuries after Moses time, to the late 7th century BC. This latter view sees Deuteronomy as a product of the religious reforms carried out under king Josiah, with later additions from the period after the fall of Judah to the Babylonian empire in 586 BC.[3]



In English, the title is derived from the Greek Deuteronomion (Δευτερονόμιον, "second law") and Latin Deuteronomium. The Greek title is derived from the erroneous Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew phrase "mishneh ha-torah ha-zot" - "a copy of this law", in Deuteronomy 17:18, as "to deuteronomion touto" - "this second law".

In Hebrew, the book is called Devarim (דְּבָרִים, "words", specifically spoken words),[4] from the opening phrase Eleh ha-devarim, "These are the words...".


Deuteronomy consists of 34 chapters and is in the form of a series of sermons delivered by Moses to the Israelites in the plains of Moab before their entry into the Promised Land.

Significant Chapters

Chapters 5-6

Deuteronomy 5 opens with Moses emphasizing the authority of YHWH and linking the Decalogue with Sinai Covenant. The Decalogue, which precedes the more detailed stipulations of later chapters sets a theological foundation for the rest of the law. Within the first few verses of chapter six is the famous shema, "Hear, O Israel, Yahweh (is) our God, Yahweh is one." (6:4-9 NRSV) The exhortation surrounding the shema and linking chapters 5 and 6 focuses on practically remembering and weaving the law into everyday life. The Law is both grounded in history and conditional, although YHWH's overarching promise is unconditional.[5]

Chapter 8

The central theme of Deuteronomy 8 is an exhortation to Israel to not forget YaHWeH when they have taken possession of the 'promised land.' Craigie comments on the frequency of remembering and forgetting language in the chapter.[6] In the opening verses Moses reminds the Israelites of YaHWeH's miraculous provision during their years wandering in the Wilderness. Then in the midst of an extravagant description of the promised land, there is the reminder to not forget YHWH during times of prosperity. As Brueggemann observes "Israel does not have many resources with which to resist temptation. Their chief one is memory. At the boundary [of the 'promised land'] Israel is urged to remember."[7]

Chapter 12

Deuteronomy 12 is focused on the correct worship of YHWH. It opens with instructions to destroy Canaanite religious places. The purpose here being to keep Israel religiously pure and ideologically distinctive. The chapter then moves to the cultic aspect of worship; the type and manner of sacrifice. Significantly there is a reference to "the place that the Lord your God will choose" (Deuteronomy 12:5) for the centralised worship of YHWH.[8]

Chapters 16-18

Along with law and history, the book of Deuteronomy contains instructions about various festivals including the Passover and Unleavened Bread festival. Craige says that the "Passover was a celebration and commemoration of the event on which the covenant community of God was established."[9] Deuteronomy 16 also then reviews the Feast of Weeks, later known to Christians as Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. The second half of chapter 16 and all of chapter 17 through to chapter 18 is focused on the provision of justice and the offices of Kings, priests and prophets. The distinctive feature of this early Hebrew justice system is the right of appeal and the finality of judgement to prevent payback.[8] The office of King is a heavily regulated one unlike the generous provisions for Levites at the beginning of chapter 18. After a warning against foreign religious practices the role of prophet is delineated as one who mediates between YHWH and Israel.[8]

First sermon

Deuteronomy 1-4 recapitulates Israel's disobedient refusal to enter the Promised Land and the resulting forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The disobedience of Israel is contrasted with the justice of God, who is judge to Israel, punishing them in the wilderness and destroying utterly the generation who disobeyed God's commandment. God's wrath is also shown to the surrounding nations, such as King Sihon of Heshbon, whose people were utterly destroyed. In light of God's justice, Moses urges obedience to divine ordinances and warns the Israelites against the danger of forsaking the God of their ancestors.

Second sermon

Deuteronomy 5-26 is composed of two distinct addresses. The first, in chapters 5-11, forms a second introduction, expanding on the Ethical Decalogue given at Mount Sinai. The second, in chapters 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 promised by the God of Israel. The laws include (listed here in no particular order):

  • The worship of God must remain pure, uninfluenced by neighbouring cultures and their idolatrous religious practices. The death penalty is prescribed for conversion from Yahwism and for proselytisation.
  • The death penalty is also prescribed for males who are guilty of any of the following: disobeying their parents, profligacy and drunkenness.
  • Certain Dietary principles are enjoined.
  • The law of rape prescribes various conditions and penalties, depending on whether the girl is engaged to be married or not, and whether the rape occurs in town or in the country. (Deuteronomy 22)
  • A Tithe for the Levites and charity for the poor.
  • A regular Jubilee Year during which all debts are cancelled.
  • Slavery can last no more than 6 years if the individual purchased is "thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman."
  • Yahwistic religious festivals—including Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot—are to be part of Israel's worship
  • The offices of Judge, King, Kohen (temple priest), and Prophet are instituted
  • A ban against worshipping Asherah next to altars dedicated to YHWH, and the erection of sacred stones
  • A ban against children either being immolated or passing through fire (the text is ambiguous as to which is meant), divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spellcasting, and necromancy
  • A ban preventing blemished animals from becoming sacrifices at the Temple
  • Naming of three cities of refuge where those accused of manslaughter may flee from the avenger of blood.
  • Exemptions from military service for the newly betrothed, newly married, owners of new houses, planters of new vineyards, and anyone afraid of fighting.
  • The peace terms to be offered to non-Israelites before battle - the terms being that they are to become slaves
  • The Amalekites to be utterly destroyed
  • An order for parents to take a stubborn and rebellious son before the town elders to be stoned.
  • A ban on the destruction of fruit trees, the mothers of newly-born birds, and beasts of burden which have fallen over, or are lost
  • Rules which regulate marriage, and Levirate Marriage, and allow divorce.
  • The procedure to be followed if a man suspects that his new wife is not a virgin: if the wife's parents are able to prove that she was indeed a virgin then the man is fined; otherwise the wife is stoned to death..[10]
  • Purity laws which prohibit the mixing of fabrics, of crops, and of beasts of burden under the same yoke.
  • The use of Tzitzit (tassels on garments)
  • Prohibition against people from Ammon, Moab, or who are of illegitimate birth, and their descendants for ten generations, from entering the assembly; the same restriction upon those who are castrated (but not their descendants)
  • Regulations for ritual cleanliness, general hygiene, and the treatment of Tzaraath
  • A ban on religious prostitution
  • Regulations for slavery, servitude, vows, debt, usury, and permissible objects for securing loans
  • Prohibition against wives making a groin attack on their husband's adversary.
  • Regulations on the taking of wives from among beautiful female captives.[11]
  • A ban on transvestism.[12]
  • Regulations on military camps, including a cleanliness regime for soldiers who have had wet dreams and procedures for the burial of human excrement.[13]

Third sermon

The concluding discourse sets out sanctions against breaking the law, blessings to the obedient, and curses on the rebellious. The Israelites are solemnly adjured to adhere faithfully to the covenant, and so secure for themselves, and for their posterity, the promised blessings.

Death of Moses

Moses depicted viewing the Promised Land, as in Deuteronomy 34:1-5.

Moses renews the covenant between God and the Israelites, which is conditional upon the people remaining loyal to YHWH. By the direction of YHWH, Moses then appoints Joshua as his heir to lead the people into Canaan. He writes down the law and gives it to the Priests, commanding them to read it before all Israel at the end of every seven years, during the Feast of Booths.

Three short appendices follow:

  • The Song of Moses, which Moses wrote and taught the people at the request of God (Deuteronomy 32);
  • The Blessing of Moses, which Moses laid upon the individual tribes of Israel (Deuteronomy 33);
  • The death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34).

Composition and Structure


Views about the composition and date of the Book of Deuteronomy can be divided into four major groups:[14]

  1. Deuteronomy was primarily the work of Moses: This was the traditional view until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Scholars holding this view have argued that the New Testament authors attested to Mosaic authorship and that although kingship is mentioned, Jerusalem is omitted and the book presents itself as being written prior to the first millennium. Meredith G. Kline more recently proposed Deuteronomy should be viewed as a suzerain/vassal treaty between God and the people of Israel mirroring other ancient near Eastern treaties from the second millennium.[15] There are scholars who hold this view such as Meredith G. Kline and Christopher Wright[16] who concede that some additional post-Mosaic material and editing has occurred.[17]
  2. Deuteronomy was the work of Moses, but it was compiled and substantially edited during King Josiah's reforms: Theodor Oestreicher suggested in 1923 that Josiah began reforms prior to the discovery of the law and the discovery of 'the book' only added impetus to the reform.[18] Scholars holding this view such as E. Robertson hold that a core Deuteronomistic amount of material is Mosaic but that subsequent additions were made around the time of King Saul.[19] Gerhard Von Rad took this view in 1938, suggesting that the original Mosaic material was edited by Levities from the Northern Kingdom, which subsequently became the book of law discovered by King Josiah.[20]
  3. Deuteronomy was the work entirely of King Josiah and his reforms: M. L. de Wette initiated this view in 1805 by suggesting King Josiah had Deuteronomy created as a type of "pious fraud" to further his agenda of religious reform.[20] Since then this has become the dominant view among most scholars.[21] Proponents of this view point to the lack of penalties for attending feasts and theological theme of centralized worship.[22]
  4. Deuteronomy was the work of the Jews in Babylonian exile: Martin Noth in 1943 published a thesis that suggested Deuteronomy through Kings was a single Deuteronomistic history, largely the product of one author.[23] Noth held that Deuteronomy was competed during the exilic period.[23]


Deuteronomy, unlike the Book of Numbers, is largely a book of speeches that both look back on the history of the Israelites wanderings in the wilderness and look forward to them entering 'promised land.'[24]


  • 1:1-5 Preamble: identifying the speaker and addressees
  • 1:6-4:49 Historical Prologue: relating significant events
  • 5-11 General Stipulations
  • 12-26 Detailed Stipulations
  • 27-28 Blessings and Curses
  • 30-34 Witnesses


  • 1-4:43 New Introduction
  • 4:44-11 Original Introduction
  • 12-26 Deuteronomic Code
  • 29-34 Original Conclusion
  • 32 Blessings
  • 33 Prophesy of exile, captivity and future restoration
  • 34 Report on the death of Moses


  • 1:1-4:43 Survey of History Retrospective account of God's saving acts and Israel's rebellion
  • 4:44-28:68 Moses' second Address Decalgoue and then more extensive stipulations
  • 29:1-30:20 Moses' third Address A recapitulation of the covenant
  • 31-34 Final acts of Moses Parting words, charge to Joshua and death


  • 1-3 Historical prologue
  • 4-11 Basic stipulations
  • 12-26 Detailed stipulations
  • 27 Covenantal clause
  • 28 Blessings and Curses
  • 29-30 Recapitulation and appeal
  • 31-34 Historical conclusion



The Covenant, a major theme of the Pentachuch, plays a central role in the theology of Deuteronomy.[29] Israel is YHWH's vassal, and Israel's tenancy of the land is conditional on keeping the covenant, which in turn necessitates tempered rule by state and village leaders who keep the covenant. "These beliefs," says Norman Gottwald, "dubbed biblical Yahwism, are widely recognized in biblical scholarship as enshrined in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua through Kings), with [apparent] pronounced affinities to the Pentateuchal 'E' source and to the prophets Hosea, Jeremiah, and Malachi."[30]


Dillard and Longman stress in their Introduction to the Old Testament the 'living' nature of the covenant between YHWH and Israel as a nation.[31] The people of Israel are addressed by Moses as a unity. Their alligence to the covenant is not one of obscience, but comes out of a pre-existing relationship between YHWH and Israel, established with Abraham and attested to by the Exodus event. In many ways the laws of Deuteronomy set the nation of Israel apart, signally the unique election of the Jewish nation.


The book of Deuteronomy is set immediately prior to the Israelite invasion of the 'promised land.' Therefore it is not surprising that land forms a major theme of the book. Israel is called to possess the land and many of the laws, festivals and instructions in Deuteronomy are given in the light of Israel's occupation of the land. Deuteronomy presents God as giving Israel the land. Dillard and Longman note that "In 131 of the 167 times the verb 'give' occurs in the book, the subject of the action is YHWH."[32]


After the review of Israel's history in chapters 1 to 4, there is a restatement of the Decalogue in chapter 5. This arrangement of material highlights God's sovereign relationship with Israel prior to the giving of establishment of the Law.[33] The Decalogue in turn then provides the foundational principles for the subsequent, more detailed laws. Some scholars go so far as to see a correlation between each of the laws of the Decalogue and each of the more detailed 'case-law' of the rest of the book.[34] This foundational aspect of the Decalogue is also demonstrated by the emphasis to actively remember the law of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), immediately after the Decalogue. The Law as it is broadly presented across Deuteronomy defines Israel both as a community and defines their relationship with YHWH. There is throughout the law a sense of justice. For example the demand for multiple witness (Deuteronomy 17:6-7), cities of refuge (19:1-10) or the provision of judges (17:8-13). The Law also features an important distinction between clean and unclean foods.

Classes Clean Unclean
Mammals Two qualifications: 1. Cloven hoofs 2. Chewing of the cud Carnivores and those not meeting both "clean" qualifications
Birds Those not specifically listed as forbidden Birds of prey or scavengers
Reptiles None All
Water Animals Two qualifications: 1. Fish 2. Scales Those not meeting both "clean" qualifications
Insects Those in the grasshopper family All except grasshoppers

Through history there have been several explanations for the rationale of this division. John Calvin asserted the division was arbitrary. Another suggestion is that some of the animals deemed unclean were used in pagan sacrifices. Other commentators suggest hygiene as a rationale. Finally some scholars suggest the rationale is symbolic and the cleanness of animals is based on their proximity to humanity.[35]


Millar writing in the Dictionary of Biblical Theology sees the major theme of Deuteronomy as obedience.[36] The historical overview of the first several chapters demonstrate Israel's disobedience but also God's gracious care. This is followed up after the Decalogue, with a long call to Israel to choose life over death and blessing over curse, in chapters 7 to 11.[37] Daniel Block notes that the assumption in Deuteronomy is that "obedience is not primarily a duty imposed by one party on another, but an expression of covental relationship."[38]


The book of Deuteronomy presents only YHWH as the God of Israel and speaks against the worship of other gods. For example in chapter 17 Israel is warned against worshiping the gods of other nations. This focus on the exclusive worship of YHWH has led some scholars such as Wright to say "Deuteronomy is uncompromisingly, ruthlessly monotheistic."[39] The focus of most of the book is YHWH. Throughout Deuteronomy either his actions, attributes or purposes are in view.[40] To the exclusion, notes McConville, of other deities.[41]


The centralization of worship is an important and repeated theme in Deuteronomy.[42] Dillard and Longman remark that the emphasis on centralization is designed to focus the hearers attention on the unique and exclusive holiness of YHWH.[42]

Deuteronomy in later tradition

Judaism: the shema (שמע)

Deuteronomy 6:4-5: "Hear (shema), O Israel, the Lord (YHWH) is our God, the Lord (YHWH) alone!" has become the basic credo of Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation is a mitzvah (religious commandment). The shema goes on: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy might;" it has therefore also become identified with the central Jewish concept of the love of God, and the rewards that come with this.


The earliest Christian authors interpreted the prophetic elements of the book of Deuteronomy dealing with the eschatological restoration of Israel as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Christian church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Luke 1-2, Acts 2-5). Jesus himself was the "one (i.e., prophet) like me" predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 (Acts 3:22-23), and St. Paul, drawing on Deuteronomy 30:11-14, explains that the keeping of torah, which constituted Israel's righteousness under the Mosaic covenant, is redefined around faith in Jesus and the gospel (the New Covenant):[43]

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things (i.e., who follows the Jewish laws described in the torah) shall live by them, but the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead,) but what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Romans 10:6-9 KJV

See also

Books of the Torah
  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy


  1. ^ Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Rev. Ed. of: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.; Includes Index. (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).
  2. ^ Paul J. Achtemeier, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, Includes Index., 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 219.
  3. ^ Christopher Wright, Deuteronomy NIBC (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1996): 6.
  4. ^ morfix online dictionary; in modern Hebrew this meaning is "smichut" (genitive noun construct), e.g. "לפי דבריך" = "according to what you said".
  5. ^ L. Wilson, 'Pentateuch' Unpublished Lecture given at Ridley College. (May 2009).
  6. ^ P. C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy NICOT (London: Erdmans, 1976).
  7. ^ W. Brueggemann, Deuteronomy AOTC (New York: Abingdon, 2001).
  8. ^ a b c Wilson, 'Pentateuch'.
  9. ^ Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy.
  10. ^ Deut. 22:13-21
  11. ^ Deut. 21:10-14
  12. ^ Deut. 22:5
  13. ^ Deut. 23:10-14
  14. ^ Thompson, Deuteronomy, 48.
  15. ^ Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994): 96.
  16. ^ Wright, Deuteronomy, 7-8.
  17. ^ Thompson, Deuteronomy, 52.
  18. ^ Thompson, Deuteronomy, 54.
  19. ^ Thompson, Deuteronomy, 56.
  20. ^ a b Dillard & Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 93.
  21. ^ Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: HarperCollins, 1997).
  22. ^ Thompson, Deuteronomy, 58.
  23. ^ a b Dillard & Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 96.
  24. ^ J.G. McConville, 'Deuteronomy, Book of' Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003): 183.
  25. ^ Wright, Deuteronomy, 3.
  26. ^ Ronald L. Troxel, Deuteronomy and the Torah Published Lecture delivered at the University of Wisconsin.
  27. ^ J. A. Thompson , 'Deuteronomy' New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996): 274.
  28. ^ Thompson , 'Deuteronomy, Book of', 274.
  29. ^ J. G. Millar, 'Deuteronomy' Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000): 160.
  30. ^ Norman K. Gottwald, review of Stephen L. Cook, The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism, Society of Biblical Literature, 2004
  31. ^ Dillard & Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 102.
  32. ^ Dillard & Longman An Introduction to the Old Testament, 104.
  33. ^ Thompson, Deuteronomy, 112.
  34. ^ G. Braulik, The Theology of Deuteronomy: Collected Essays of Georg Braulik (Dallas: D. & F. Scott Publishing, 1998).
  35. ^ Gordan J. Wenham, 'The Theology of Unclean Food' Evangelical Quarterly 53 (1981) 6-15.
  36. ^ Millar, 'Deuteronomy', 160-165.
  37. ^ Millar, 'Deuteronomy', 161.
  38. ^ Daniel I. Block, 'Dueteronomy' Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005): 172.
  39. ^ Wright, Deuteronomy, 10.
  40. ^ Block, 'Deuteronomy, Book of', 171.
  41. ^ McConville, 'Deuteronomy, Book of', 190.
  42. ^ a b Dillard & Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 104.
  43. ^ J. G. McConville, "Deuteronomy", in Dictionary of the Old Testament: The Pentateuch (IVP, 2002); and "Deuteronomy 30:11-14 As a Prophecy of the New Covenant in Christ," Steven R. Coxhead, Westminster Theological Journal 68 (2006).

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DEUTERONOMY, the name of one of the books of the Old Testament. This book was long the storm-centre of Pentateuchal criticism, orthodox scholars boldly asserting that any who questioned its Mosaic authorship reduced it to the level of a pious fraud. But Biblical facts have at last triumphed over tradition, and the non-Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy is now a commonplace of criticism. It is still instructive, however, to note the successive phases through which scholarly opinion regarding the composition and date of his book has passed.

In the 17th century the characteristics which so clearly mark off Deuteronomy from the other four books of the Pentateuch were frankly recognized, but the most advanced critics of that age were inclined to pronounce it the earliest and most authentic of the five. In the beginning of the 19th century de Wette startled the religious world by declaring that Deuteronomy, so far from being Mosaic, was not known till the time of Josiah. This theory he founded on 2 Kings xxii.; and ever since, this chapter has been one of the recognized foci of Biblical criticism. The only other single chapter of the Bible which is responsible for having brought about a somewhat similar revolution in critical opinion is Ezek. xliv. From this chapter, some seventy years after de Wette's discovery, Wellhausen with equal acumen inferred that Leviticus was not known to Ezekiel, the priest, and therefore could not have been in existence in his day; for had Leviticus been the recognized Law-book of his nation Ezekiel could not have represented as a degradation the very position which that Law-book described as a special honour conferred on the Levites by Yahweh himself. Hence Leviticus, so far from belonging to an earlier stratum of the Pentateuch than Deuteronomy, as de Wette thought, must belong to a much later stratum, and be at least exilic, if not post-exilic.

The title "Deuteronomy" is due to a mistranslation by the Septuagint of the clause in chap. xvii. 18, rendered "and he shall write out for himself this Deuteronomy." The Hebrew really means "and he [the king] shall write out for himself a copy of this law," where there is not the slightest suggestion that the author intended to describe "this law" delivered on the plains of Moab as a second code in contradistinction to the first code given on Sinai thirty-eight years earlier. Moreover the phrase "this law" is so ambiguous as to raise a much greater difficulty than that caused by the Greek mistranslation of the Hebrew word for "copy." How much does "this law" include? It was long supposed to mean the whole of our present Deuteronomy; indeed, it is on that supposition that the traditional view of the Mosaic authorship is based. But the context alone can determine the question; and that is often so ambiguous that a sure inference is impossible. We may safely assert, however, that nowhere need "this law" mean the whole book. In fact, it invariably means very much less, and sometimes, as in xxvii. 3, 8, so little that it could all be engraved in large letters on a few plastered stones set up beside an altar.

Deuteronomy is not the work of any single writer but the result of a long process of development. The fact that it is legislative as well as hortatory is enough to prove this, for most of the laws it contains are found elsewhere in the Pentateuch, sometimes in less developed, sometimes in more developed forms, a fact which is conclusive proof of prolonged historical development. According to the all-pervading law of evolution, the less complex form must have preceded the more complex. Still, the book does bear the stamp of one master-mind. Its style is as easily recognized as that of Deutero-Isaiah, being as remarkable for its copious diction as for its depths of moral and religious feeling.

The original Deuteronomy, D, read to King Josiah, cannot have been so large as our present book, for not only could it be read at a single sitting, but it could be easily read twice in one day. On the day it was found, Shaphan first read it himself, and then went to the king and read it aloud to him. But perhaps the most conclusive proof of its brevity is that it was read publicly to the assembled people immediately before they, as well as their king, pledged themselves to obey it; and not a word is said as to the task of reading it aloud, so as to be heard by such a great multitude, being long or difficult.

The legislative part of D consists of fifteen chapters (xii. - xxvi.), which,thowever, contain many later insertions. But the impression made upon Josiah by what he heard was far too deep to have been produced by the legislative part alone. The king must have listened to the curses as well as the blessings in chap. xxviii., and no doubt also to the exhortations in chaps. v. - xi. Hence we may conclude that the original book consisted of a central mass of religious, civil and social laws, preceded by a hortatory introduction and followed by an effective peroration. The book read to Josiah must therefore have comprised most of what is found in Deut. v. - xxvi., xxvii. 9, To and xxviii. But something like two centuries elapsed before the book reached its present form, for in the closing chapter, as well as elsewhere, e.g. i. 41-43 (where the joining is not so deftly done as usual) and xxxii. 48-52, there are undoubted traces of the Priestly Code, P, which is generally acknowledged to be post-exilic.

The following is an analysis of the main divisions of the book as we now have it. There are two introductions, the first i. - iv. 44, more historical than hortatory; the second v. - xi., more hortatory than historical. These may at first have been prefixed to separate editions of the legislative portion, but were eventually combined. Then, before D was united to P, five appendices of very various dates and embracing poetry as well as prose, were added so as to give a fuller account of the last days of Moses and thus lead up to the narrative of his death with which the book closes. (I) Chap. xxvii., where the elders of Israel are introduced for the first time as acting along with Moses (xxvii. i) and then the priests, the Levites (xxvii. 9). Some of the curses refer to laws given not in D but in Lev. xxx., so that the date of this chapter must be later than Leviticus or at any rate than the laws codified in the Law of Holiness (Lev. xvii. - xxvi.). (2) The second appendix, chaps. xxix. - xxxi. 29, xxxii. 45-47, gives us the farewell address of Moses and is certainly later than D. Moses is represented as speaking not with any hope of preventing Israel's apostasy but because he knows that the people will eventually prove apostate (xxxi. 29), a point of view very different from D's. (3) The Song of Moses, chap. xxxii. That this didactic poem must have been written late in the nation's history, and not at its very beginning, is evident from v. 7: "Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations." Such words cannot be interpreted so as to fit the lips of Moses. It must have been composed in a time of natural gloom and depression, after Yahweh's anger had been provoked by "a very froward generation," certainly not before the Assyrian Empire had loomed up against the political horizon, aggressive and menacing. Some critics bring the date down even to the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. (4) The Blessing of Moses, chap. xxxiii. The first line proves that this poem is not by D, who speaks invariably of Horeb, never of Sinai. The situation depicted is in striking contrast with that of the Song. Everything is bright because of promises fulfilled, and the future bids fair to be brighter still. Bruston maintains with reason that the Blessing, strictly so called, consists only of vv. 6-25, and has been inserted in a Psalm celebrating the goodness of Jehovah to his people on their entrance into Canaan (vv. 1-5, 26-29). The special prominence given to Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) in vv. 13-17 has led many critics to assign this poem to the time of the greatest warrior-king of Northern Israel, Jeroboam II. (5) The account of Moses' death, chap. xxxiv. This appendix, containing, as it does, manifest traces of P, proves that even Deuteronomy was not put into its present form until after the exile.

From the many coincidences between D and the Book of the Covenant (Ex. xx. - xxiii.) it is clear that D was acquainted with E, the prophetic narrative of the Northern kingdom; but it is not quite clear whether D knew E as an independent work, or after its combination with J, the somewhat earlier prophetic narrative of the Southern kingdom, the combined form of which is now indicated by the symbol JE. Kittel certainly puts it too strongly when he asserts that D quotes always from E and never from J, for some of the passages alluded to in D may just as readily be ascribed to J as to E, cf. Deut. i. 7 and Gen. xv. 18; Deut. x. 14 and Ex. xxxiv. 1-4. Consequently D must have been written certainly after E and possibly after E was combined with J.

In Amos, Hosea and Isaiah there are no traces of D's ideas, whereas in Jeremiah and Ezekiel their influence is everywhere manifest. Hence this school of thought arose between the age of Isaiah and that of Jeremiah; but how long D itself may have been in existence before it was read in 622 to Josiah cannot be determined with certainty. Many argue that D was written immediately before it was found and that, in fact, it was put into the temple for the purpose of being "found." This theory gives some plausibility to the charge that the book is a pious fraud. But the narrative in 2 Kings xxii. warrants no such inference. The more natural explanation is that it was written not in the early years of Josiah's reign, and with the cognizance of the temple priests then in office, but some time during the long reign of Manasseh, probably when his policy was most reactionary and when he favoured the worship of the "host of heaven" and set up altars to strange gods in Jerusalem itself. This explains why the author did not publish his work immediately, but placed it where he hoped it would be safely preserved till opportunity should arise for its publication. One need not suppose that he actually foresaw how favourable that opportunity would prove, and that, as soon as discovered, his work would be promulgated as law by the king and willingly accepted by the people. The author believed that everything he wrote was in full accordance with the mind of Moses, and would contribute to the national weal of Yahweh's covenant people, and therefore he did not scruple to represent Moses as the speaker. It is not to be expected that modern scholars should be able to fix the exact year or even decade in which such a book was written. It is enough to determine with something like probability the century or half-century which best fits its historical data; and these appear to point to the reign of Manasseh.

Between D and P there are no verbal parallels; but in the historical resumes JE is followed closely, whole clauses and even verses being copied practically verbatim. As Dr Driver points out in his careful analysis, there are only three facts in D which are not also found in JE, viz. the number of the spies, the number of souls that went down into Egypt with Jacob, and the ark being made of acacia wood. But even these may have been in J or E originally, and left out when JE was combined with P. Steuernagel divides the legal as well as the hortatory parts of D between two authors, one of whom uses the 2nd person plural when addressing Israel, and the other the 2nd person singular; but as a similar alternation is constantly found in writings universally acknowledged to be by the same author, this clue seems anything but trustworthy, depending as it does on the presence or absence of a single Hebrew letter, and resulting, as it frequently does, in the division of verses which otherwise seem to be from the same pen (cf. xx. 2). The inference as to diversity of authorship is much more conclusive when difference of standpoint can be proved, cf. v. 3, xi. 2 ff. with viii. 2. The first two passages represent Moses as addressing the generation that was alive at Horeb, whereas the last represents him as speaking to those who were about to pass over Jordan a full generation later; and it may well be that the one author may, in the historical and hortatory parts, have preferred the 2nd plural and the other the 2nd singular; without the further inference being justified that every law in which the 2nd singular is used must be assigned to the latter, and every law in which the 2nd plural occurs must be due to the former.

The law of the Single Sanctuary, one of D's outstanding characteristics, is, for him, an innovation, but an innovation towards which events had long been tending. 2 Kings xxiii. 9 shows that even the zeal of Josiah could not carry out the instructions laid down in D xviii. 6-8. Josiah's acceptance of D made it the first canonical book of scripture. Thus the religion of Judah became henceforward a religion which enabled its adherents to learn from a book exactly what was required of them. D requires the destruction not only of the high places and the idols, but of the Asheras (wooden posts) and the Mazzebas (stone pillars) often set up beside the altar of Jehovah (xvi. 21). These reforms made too heavy demands upon the people, as was proved by the reaction which set in at Josiah's death. Indeed the country people would look on the destruction of the high places with their Asheras and Mazzebas as sacrilege and would consider Josiah's death in battle as a divine punishment for his sacrilegious deeds. On the other hand, the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people would appear to those who had obeyed D's instructions as a well-merited punishment for national apostasy.

Moreover, D regarded religion as of the utmost moment to each individual Israelite; and it is certainly not by accident that the declaration of the individual's duty towards God immediately follows the emphatic intimation to Israel of Yahweh's unity. "Hear, 0 Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one: and thou shalt love Yahweh thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength" (vi. 4, 5).

In estimating the religious value of Deuteronomy it should never be forgotten that upon this passage the greatest eulogy ever pronounced on any scripture was pronounced by Christ himself, when he said "on these words hang all the law and the prophets," and it is also well to remember that when tempted in the wilderness he repelled each suggestion of the Tempter by a quotation from Deuteronomy.

Nevertheless even such a writer as D could not escape the influence of the age and atmosphere in which he lived; and despite the spirit of love which breathes so strongly throughout the book, especially for the poor, the widow and the fatherless, the stranger and the homeless Levite (xxiv. 10-22), and the humanity shown towards both beasts and birds (xxii. 1, 4, 6 f., xxv. 4), there are elements in D which go far to explain the intense exclusiveness and the religious intolerance characteristic of Judaism. Should a man's son or friend dear to him as his own soul seek to tempt him from the faith of his fathers, D's pitiless order to that man is "Thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death." From this single instance we see not only how far mankind has travelled along the path of religious toleration since Deuteronomy was written, but also how very far the criticism implied in Christ's method of dealing with what "was said to them of old time" may be legitimately carried. (J. A. P.*)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From the name which the book bears in the Septuagint (Δευτερουόμιου) and in the Vulgate (Deuteronomium). This is based upon the erroneous Septuagint rendering of "mishnah 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 Δευτερουόμιου τοῦτο, as though the expression meant "this repetition of the law."

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Proper noun




  1. The fifth of the Books of Moses in the Old Testament of the Bible, the fifth book in the Torah.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

In all the Hebrew manuscripts the Pentateuch (q.v.) 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 (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 seond discourse (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 (ch. 27-30) relates almost wholly to the solemn sanctions of the law, the blessings to the obedient, and the extremely violent and sustained curses 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 (32:1-47); (2) the blessings he pronounced on the separate tribes (ch. 33); and (3) the story of his death (32:48-52) and burial (ch. 34), 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 marvellous 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 (1:1; 29:1; 31:1, 9-11, etc.), and was obviously intended to be accepted as his work. (3.) The incontrovertible testimony of our Lord and his apostles (Mt 19:7, 8; Mk 10:3, 4; Jn 5:46, 47; Acts 3:22; 7:37; Rom 10:19) establishes the same conclusion. (4.) The frequent references to it in the later books of the canon (Josh 8:31; 1 Kg 2:9; 2Kg 14:6; 2Chr 23:18; 25:4; 34:14; Ez 3:2; 7:6; Neh 8:1; Dan 9:11, 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.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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