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DEUTERONOMY (Heb. םירָבד רֶפס, Sefer Devarim, short for סֵפֶר וְאֵלֶה הַדּבָרִים, Sefer ve-elleh ha-devarim, "The Book of 'These Are the Words'"), the fifth book of the Pentateuch. The name Deuteronomy is derived from the Greek translation of מִשְׁנֶה הַתּוֹרָה mishneh ha-torah (Deut. 17:8) by Τὸ Δευτερονόμιον Deuteronomion, "the second law" or "the repeated law," whence the Latin Deuteronomium. Strictly speaking, mishneh ha-torah in its biblical context means "a copy of the law." Nonetheless, "second/repeated law" is an appropriate name for the book, inasmuch as Deuteronomy repeats law and history, known from what in our canon are the preceding books of the *Pentateuch. The appellation מִשְׁנֶה תּוֹרָה mishneh torah for Deuteronomy is also common in post-biblical Hebrew sources, and it seems that the Jewish tradition stands behind the Greek term. In contrast to their view of preceding books of the Pentateuch, critics take Deuteronomy to be, for the most part, an organic literary creation. It is presented as a long farewell speech of Moses, styled in the first person singular (except for a few small digressions: 4:41–49; 27:1–26; 31:7–9, 14ff.; 32:44–45). Deuteronomy interrupts the narrative flow of the Pentateuch by delaying the death of Moses from where it might have been expected in Numbers 27, to the Priestly resumption in Deut. 33:48–52; 34:1–6. In Deuteronomy 31:9, "this Torah," which is said to have been written by Moses and delivered into the custody of the levitical priests, refers to Deuteronomy, or some form of it; not to the entire Pentateuch.


A notice indicating time and place (1:1–5) precedes the introductory discourse. The discourse contains a historical retrospect of the Israelite journey, alluding to various incidents attending the perilous journey (spies, defeat at Hormah, conquest of Sihon and Og, and occupation of the whole territory of east Jordan). The discourse stresses the Providence that brought Israel through the desert. An appeal is made to the people to observe the statutes and ordinances of God (1:6–4:40). The second discourse, which is the principal part of the book, falls into two parts. The first (4:44–11:32) consists of a hortatory introduction opening with an exposition of the *Decalogue, and develops the first commandment at great length. The second section (ch. 12–26) is the Deuteronomic Code of Laws containing special laws or statutes that supplement the Decalogue. These statutes may be divided in three categories: (a) Ceremonial laws: centralization of worship (12), injunction against idolatry (13), pagan mourning rites (14:1–2), clean and unclean food (14:3–21), tithes (14:22–29), year of release (15:1–18), firstling offerings (15:19–23), and holy seasons (16:1–17). (b) Civil Laws: appointment of judges and supreme tribunal (16:18–20; 17:8–13), selection of a king (17:14–20), regulations concerning rights and revenues of priests and levites (18:1–8), rules concerning prophets (18:9–22). (c) Criminal laws: homicide (19:1–13), encroachment on property (19:14), false testimony (19:15–21). From Chapter 20 on we find regulations concerning laws of war (20:1–20), statement of family rights (21:15–21), sexual purity (22:13–29) and various others. Although many scholars see randomness in the arrangement of some of the laws, Stephen Kaufman argues strongly that the laws of chapters 12 through 25 reflect the order of the Decalogue. Chapter 26 ends the series with a conclusion to the law and a formula of commitment to the covenant. Chapter 27, which interrupts the discourse and is a narrative in the third person, contains the directions for the building of an altar on Mt. Ebal and a ceremonial blessing and cursing between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. The following chapter (28) is a declaration of the blessings and curses which will overtake the people depending on whether they observe or neglect the prescribed statutes. Chapters 29–30 include Moses' third discourse, which insists on the fundamental duty of loyalty to God and embraces an appeal to Israel to accept the terms of the Deuteronomic covenant. Chapter 31 reports the appointment of Joshua (31:7–8, 14–15) and Moses' delivery of the Deuteronomic law to the levitical priests with instruction for it to be read publicly every seven years (31:9–13). Then follows the Song of Moses (Ch. 32), Moses' blessing (Ch. 33), and the final chapter (Ch. 34), which concludes the book with an account of the circumstances of Moses' death on Mt. Nebo.

Although no biblical source explicitly credits Moses with the composition of the entire Pentateuch, passages such as Deuteronomy 31:9 were read so expansively that Mosaic authorship was taken for granted in early Jewish tradition and the New Testament. Once Mosaic authorship became an article of faith for classical Judaism and Christianity the faithful found difficulty in the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, in which the death and burial of Moses are described. Some rabbis attributed the writing of these verses to Joshua; but another opinion had it that Moses wrote these verses too at God's dictation (bb 14b–15a). Medieval commentators, such as Abraham Ibn Ezra, were sensitive to some of the anachronistic passages in Deuteronomy incongruous to the time of Moses. The following are a few examples of difficult passages coped with by medieval commentators: (1) "beyond the Jordan" (1:1), a term generally employed by people living in Palestine could not properly be used by Moses who was then situated in Moab; (2) the expressions "at that time" (2:34; 3:4) and "unto this day" (3:14) imply that a long period of time has elapsed since the past spoken of; (3) the mention of Og's bedstead at Rabbath Ammon (3:11) as proof of Og's huge proportions and giant stature implies that Og was no longer alive to be used as living proof; (4) "As Israel did unto the land they were to possess" (2:12) refers to the conquest of Canaan which had not yet taken place according to the Bible; (5) the verse, "when Moses had put down in writing the words of this teaching to the very end, Moses charged the levites…" (31:24), probably refers only to certain chapters and not to the entire book since it is inconceivable that a book would relate the author's actions after the completion of the book. Ibn Ezra accepts the talmudic position of Mosaic authorship but probably felt that several verses were added to the book after Moses' death.

Critical Assessment

Deuteronomy is the only part of the Pentateuch called "the book of the law" (Sefer ha-Torah), i.e., the authoritative, sanctified guidebook of Israel. In the editorial framework of the Former Prophets, which is inspired by the book of Deuteronomy, it is designated by Sefer Torat Moshe, "the book of the law of Moses" (cf. Josh. 8:31; 23:6; ii Kings 14:6). Deuteronomy is, in fact, the only book of the Pentateuch to be ascribed to Moses (Deut. 31:9; see above) and, according to most scholars, the first book to have been sanctified publicly (ii Kings 23:1–3). Only after the other books were appended to Deuteronomy was the term "Torah" applied to the whole Pentateuch. The form of "testament" given to the book looks peculiar, but has its antecedents in the Egyptian method of diffusing wisdom and moral teachings. Addresses of kings and viziers to their successors in Egypt were couched in the form of a will, and this technique may have exerted an influence on Israel's literature, especially since there exist some affinities between Deuteronomy and the Wisdom Literature (see below). In spite of its apparent formal unity, the book is not a homogeneous piece of work. It has two introductions (1:1–4:40; 4:44–11:32), two different kinds of blessings and curses (27:11–26; 28:1–68), and appendices of various kinds (chapters 29ff.). The problem of the composite nature of the book has been dealt with by many modern scholars, and no final solution has been reached. There is general agreement in regard to chapters 5–26 and 28. It is believed that these chapters constituted the original book, which was later supplemented by an additional introduction (1:6–4:40) and by variegated material at the end of the book (27:1–8, 11–26; chapters 29–30). The rest of the material is to be divided into two categories: (1) the genuine Deuteronomic material dealing with the commissioning of Joshua (31:1–8); the writing of the Torah, its use in the future, and the depositing of it at the ark (31:9–13, 24–29; 32:45–47); and the death of Moses (chapter 34); and (2) ancient material appended to the book, such as the Song of Moses 32:1–43 with its introduction 31:14–23, the Blessing of Moses in chapter 33, and the later priestly passage in 32:48–52. According to M. Noth, Deuteronomy 1:1–4:40 and 31ff. is the work of the Deuteronomist who was responsible for editing the history of Joshua-Kings. In his opinion, this historian began with Deuteronomy 1 and incorporated Deuteronomy 4:44–30:20 into his work. His own material 1:1–4:40 and 31:1ff. is concerned with the preparations for the conquest and the commissioning of Joshua, which, in fact, serves as a good introduction for the conquest, opening the so-called Deuteronomic history of the Former Prophets. Some critics asserted that Deuteronomy 9:7–10:11, dealing with the events at Horeb (not the "Sinai" of the Priestly source), originally preceded the historical account in Deuteronomy 1:6ff. If this is correct, it lends support to the theory of Noth, because in this case there is a clear division of the book: the original code with its introduction on one hand, and the historical material added by the Deuteronomist on the other. However, as attractive as this theory may be, stylistically chapters 1–30 seem to be of the same stock and are different in nature from the Deuteronomic material of the Former Prophets. The composite nature of the book is recognizable not only in its framework but also in the code which forms the basic section of the book. Thus in chapter 12, two sets of prescriptions about centralization of cult are found: verses 1–12 and 13–25. The two sets may be distinguished by their style: in the former the people are addressed mainly in the second person plural, while in the latter the address is mainly in the second person singular. This distinction has been taken, since Steuernagel, as the basic criterion for distinguishing sources in Deuteronomy, in the code as well as in the framework. Steuernagel considered these as two different sources and thus he maintained that there were three strands in the chapter. In addition, Rofé (16–17) has demonstrated that within chapter 12 there is a difference between 12:13–19, which gives blanket permission for profane slaughter, and 12:20–28, which permits profane slaughter only if one is far from the chosen place. These last verses are what would later be called halakhic (legally orientated) Midrash in that they harmonize the blanket permission of profane slaughter of Deuteronomy 12:13–19 with its blanket prohibition in Leviticus 17:1–7. The combination of stylistic and linguistic clues together with indicators of historical and religious context are crucial to distinguishing sources.

date of composition

Deuteronomy gives its setting an antique flavor by providing ancient geographic and ethnic names, names of ancient giants and legendary peoples and details of ancient conquests (chapters 2–3). Yet the writers inform us that they are at some distance from the events related. For example, in order to write "there never again arose in Israel a prophet like Moses" (Deut. 34:10) it was necessary to know of a long line of prophets later than Moses. The first serious modern scholarly date for the composition of Deuteronomy was established by the pioneering work of de Wette in 1805. Trying to trace the historical circumstances underlying the book of Deuteronomy, de Wette found a correspondence between the reforms of *Josiah (640–609), which according to ii Kings 22–23 were motivated by the discovery of a book of torah (see below), and the legislation of Deuteronomy. Before Josiah places of worship throughout the land were considered indispensable for the religious life of Israel, so that, for Elijah, destroying altars of yhwh was almost tantamount to slaying His prophets (i Kings 19:10, 14). In the legislative literature in Israel, however, the demand for cult centralization occurs for the first time in Deuteronomy. This book would therefore be an outcome, or a reflection, of the reforms of Josiah. These reforms are reflected in Deuteronomy not only in the law of centralization but also in: (1) the prohibition against pillars in the worship of yhwh (16:22), which according to the older sources is legitimate and even desirable (e.g., Gen. 28:18; 35:14; Ex. 24:4; Josh. 24:26); 2) the references to "astral worship" (şeva ha-shamayim; Deut. 4:19; 17:3), which is not mentioned in the previous books of the Pentateuch and seems to have been introduced into Judah through Arameo-Assyrian cultural influence in the eighth century b.c.e.; (3) the correspondence between the manner of celebrating Passover in the days of Hezekiah (ii Chron. 30) and Josiah (see below) and the prescription in Deuteronomy 16:1–8. According to ii Kings 23:22, Passover had not been celebrated in such a manner since the times of the Judges. No less important for the date of Deuteronomy is the unique style of this book, both in its phraseology and manner of discourse (rhetoric). Style such as that found in Deuteronomy (see below) is not found in any of the historical and prophetic traditions before the seventh century b.c.e. Conversely, from the seventh century onward almost all of the historical and the prophetical literature is permeated by this style. Theologically and stylistically Deuteronomy has become the archimedian point for dating the sources in the Pentateuch and the historical books of the Old Testament. On this analysis, the legal codes which do not presuppose centralization of cult must be from pre-Josianic times. In contrast, the editorial passages of Kings which evaluate the kings of Judah in accordance with their observance of centralization of cult, and those passages in Joshua-Judges which are styled in Deuteronomic phraseology cannot be from before the time of Josiah. An objective clue has thus been established for fixing the date of the editorial parts of the historic literature.

ancient near eastern treaty forms and deuteronomy

A new dimension was added to the problem of the date of Deuteronomy by the discovery of the treaty between Esarhaddon king of Assyria (680–669 b.c.e.) and his eastern vassals (the longest Assyrian treaty as yet discovered). Affinities between ancient Near Eastern treaties and the biblical covenant in general had been stressed by Mendenhall in 1954 (see below), but the treaty of Esarhaddon, discovered in 1956, provided new material that is parallel only to that of Deuteronomy. The most important parallel is with the series of maledictions in Deuteronomy 28, which resemble strongly the Esarhaddon type of treaty (see Weinfeld 1965, in bibl.). The warnings against treason and inciting treason in Deuteronomy 13 closely resemble those found in the Esarhaddon succession treaty (Parpola in bibliography, 28–58) and in the contemporaneous Aramaic treaties. Especially striking is the warning against seduction by the prophet and cultic functionary, which has its parallel in the Assyrian treaty. The depiction of the scene of *Covenant and emphasis on the perpetual validity of the treaty as binding on all generations in Deuteronomy 29:9–14 also coincides with the description of the treaty scene in the Esarhaddon succession treaty and the earlier Aramaic treaty from Sefire (750–745 b.c.e.; cos ii: 213–17). The stipulations demanding exclusive allegiance to the God of Israel in Deuteronomy are formulated in the conventional manner of state treaties and documents, especially those of the seventh and eighth centuries b.c.e. Thus the expression "to love with all your heart" is the standard term for being loyal to the sovereign, and, similarly, the biblical expressions: "to go after" (= to follow), "to fear" (= to revere), "to hearken to the voice of," "to do as He commands," "to act in complete truth," "to be sincere," have their exact parallels in the Esarhaddon treaties and also in the oaths of allegiance of the princes and officials of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal to their masters. It has been therefore supposed – e.g., by Frankena – that Josiah's covenant with God was considered a substitution for the former treaty with the king of Assyria, thereby expressing vassalship to yhwh instead of vassalship to the king of Assyria. Less convincing is K.A. Kitchen (Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 90ff. and especially p. 99) who argues that "the Sinai covenant and its renewals must be classed with the late second millennium covenants."

The "Discovery" of the Book of the Law

In spite of the evidence established by the conventional theory for the date of Deuteronomy, it is hard to fix the exact date of its composition, and because of its complex nature, it is also difficult to mark the extent of its original form. The canonical book of Deuteronomy contains material ranging over centuries, from pre-monarchic material ignorant of Egyptian enslavement or the gift of the law at Sinai / Horeb (Deut. 33; Seeligmann; Rofé) to the realities of the Egyptian and other Jewish diasporas (Deut. 28–68; 29:27). There also Northern Israelite elements including the ceremonies at Mt. Gerizim and Ebal north of Shechem (Deut. 11:29–30; 27:4, 12–13), as well as the linguistic and doctrinal influences of *Hosea (Ginsberg). What is beyond doubt is that the "Book of the Law (torah)" was "discovered" in 622 b.c.e. (ii Kings 22). The identification of the "Book of the Law" with Deuteronomy is based on the following:

1) As already indicated, the term "the Book of the Torah" is not mentioned anywhere aside from Deuteronomy, where it refers to the Book of Deuteronomy itself.

2) The abolition of high places and the centralization of the cult enacted by Josiah following the discovery of the book are prescribed only in Deuteronomy.

3) Astral worship, which is referred to in detail in Josiah's reform (ii Kings 23:5, 11–12), is especially marked in Deuteronomy: "the host of heaven" (17:3).

4) The Passover celebrated in Jerusalem (ii Kings 23:21–23) is performed in accordance with the commands of Deuteronomy 16:1–8, in contrast to the tradition reflected in Exodus 12, according to which it was to be celebrated at home.

5) The pledge taken by the people to keep the law of this book (ii Kings 23:3) is styled in the manner of the Deuteronomic injunctions of loyalty and allegiance to God.

It seems, however, that the book "discovered" was not identical with Deuteronomy in its present form. It is unlikely that a king would sponsor a program which made condescending and uncomplimentary references to the monarchy (Deut 17:20; 28:36). It is improbable that the book in its present form was read three times in one day: by Shaphan the scribe (ii Kings 22:8), by the king (22:10), and presumably by Huldah the prophetess (22:13–14). Besides, though the prologues and epilogues of the code cannot be dated, it is nevertheless highly probable that a great amount of the material in the framework of the code is quite late and even post-Exilic (cf. e.g., Deut. 4:27–31; 30:1–10). The book could then consist mainly of a small introduction, a code (including above all chapters 12–19, which embody the principles of the reform), and the admonition of chapter 28 which may well explain the horror which befell the king at the recital of the book (ii Kings 22:11ff.; Kimḥi to ii Kings 22:11 quotes a rabbinic tradition that the scroll was found rolled to Deuteronomy 28:36 where the king's exile is predicted). If the idea of this basic Deuteronomy is accepted, the problem is when it was composed. The appropriate historical and religious background for the composition of this type of work is the time of Hezekiah and Josiah, with that of Josiah being more likely. Of the "good kings" only Hezekiah and Josiah are credited with both Kultusreinheit (cult-purification) and Kultuseinheit (cult-centralization). Although Hezekiah is credited with being the first king to implement the centralization of the cult, and he and his personnel are credited (like King Ashurbanipal of Assyria) with the collection of ancient literature (cf. Prov. 25:1), no book is cited as the motivation for Hezekiah's reform. The attribution of the book to Moses (directly in ii Chronicles 34 and by implication in ii Kings 22) would enable the proponents of centralization and purification to claim that their program was a restoration rather than an innovation. Earlier scholarship explained Josiah's religious reforms as directed against imposed Assyrian cults whose elimination was taken as political rebellion. For a number of reasons this view cannot be sustained. First, Assyria did not impose its cults on vassal states. Second, Josiah's actions were not directed against distinctively Assyrian cults but mainly against old local ones, including *Asherah. Third, in contrast to Hezekiah the Bible does not ascribe rebellion against Assyria to Josiah. Indeed, if we follow the chronology of Kings, by the time of Josiah's actions Assyria would have been in retreat. It is more likely that the religious reforms arose out of a genuine belief that Judah's troubles were due to infidelity to Yahweh. The "Yahweh-alone" movement could always adduce the fall of Samaria a century earlier in proof. No wonder, therefore, that the law book caused a national resurgence and led the people to turn back to God with great enthusiasm. The constant editing and reworking of Deuteronomy shows the great interest this book aroused. Furthermore, the religious upheaval of that time along with the contemporary antiquarian interest attested in Mesopotamia and Egypt gave impetus to the collecting of ancient traditions and putting them into a systematic historical framework. Though the so-called Deuteronomic history of the Former Prophets was not completed before the destruction of the Temple, its beginning, or the constituent stage of its crystallization, has to be sought in the Josianic period.

The Provenance of Deuteronomy

"History of Form," which opened up a new vista in biblical criticism, has also made a contribution in the field of research of Deuteronomy. The question of the "Sitz im Leben" of Deuteronomy, i.e., of the reality which gave birth to the style of its literary creation, was brought up by G. von Rad. By analyzing the peculiar structure of Deuteronomy: homily (chapters 1–11), laws (12:1–26:15), sealing of the covenant (26:16–19), and blessings and curses (27:11–26; chapter 28), he came to the conclusion that this combination of different literary genres could hardly have been invented. He assumed, therefore, that the complex literary structure must have been rooted in a cultic ceremony in which God's laws were recited by clergy. The recital opened with a homily and religious preaching and concluded with a public pledge sanctioned by blessings and curses. He claimed to find traces of an old cultic ceremony in Deuteronomy 27 and in the tradition of the Shechem covenant in Joshua 24. According to von Rad, Deuteronomy renews the cultic tradition of the old Shechem amphictyony, a theory that fits in well with the prevalent opinion about the affinities of Deuteronomy to northern traditions. As a matter of fact, in the previous century A. Klostermann had already conjectured that the homiletic style of Deuteronomy reflects a public recital, but he could not base his thesis on form-critical observations as did von Rad, and, therefore, did not connect it with the cult. In 1947 von Rad went a step further and identified the reciters of the law with the levites and moreover recognized them as the actual spokesmen of the Deuteronomic movement. He based this supposition mainly on Nehemiah 8:7, which speaks about the levites "instructing the people in law." According to von Rad's earlier study (1934), the sermons in Chronicles are the product of the levites of the post-Exilic period. Thus in seeking for the originators of the sermons in Deuteronomy, it was only natural for him to identify them also with the levites. However, Mendenhall in 1954 was the first to see the similarities between the Hittite treaties and the Israelite covenant. A treaty pattern with a common basic structure – historical introduction, stipulations, blessings and curses – was prevalent in the ancient Near East for a period of over 1,000 years. The structure of Deuteronomy would then follow a literary tradition of covenant writing rather than imitating a periodical cultic ceremony for which there is no evidence. Once it is unnecessary to assume a cultic ceremony for understanding the structure of Deuteronomy, the assumption that the levites preserved this cultic tradition becomes dubious too. If a literary pattern lies behind the form of Deuteronomy, it would be much more reasonable to assume that a literary circle familiar with treaty writing – in other words, court scribes – composed the book of Deuteronomy. Only scribes who dealt with literary and written documents and who had access to the court could have been familiar with the structure of treaties, and what is more important, with formulas originating in the Assyrian political milieu. The means that Deuteronomy used to foster its aims are identical with those employed by scribes-wise men in Israel and other ancient Near Eastern peoples. Like the sapiential teachers and pedagogues, the author of Deuteronomy also places great stress on the education of children. The author of the book repeatedly emphasizes that children must be taught the fear of God and that this is to be done by inculcation (6:7; 11:19), that is to say, by formal methods of education. The Book of Deuteronomy does indeed contain a wealth of didactic idioms that are not encountered in any other of the pentateuchal books, but that constitute part and parcel of the vocabulary of sapiential literature which, to be sure, was composed with a pedagogical object in mind. The author of Deuteronomy holds wisdom in esteem and sets it above other spiritual qualities. This becomes particularly evident when the traditions concerning the Mosaic appointment of judges in Exodus 18 are compared with Deuteronomy 1. According to Deuteronomy (1:13) the essential traits characterizing the judge and leader must be wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (ḥokhmah, binah, daʿat), that is to say, the same intellectual traits possessed by the scribes, and not other personal characteristics such as social standing (e.g., anshe ḥayil), as in Exodus 18:21. The particular esteem with which Deuteronomy regarded wisdom explains the presence in this book of exhortations that have a sapiential character and formulation (cf. e.g., Deut. 19:14 with Prov. 22:28; Deut. 23:16 with Prov. 30:10; Deut. 25:13–16 with Prov. 20:10, 23). Wisdom has been styled "the humanism of the ancient Near East," and it is due to its impact that humanitarian laws, which have no counterpart in any other of the Pentateuchal books, found their way into the Book of Deuteronomy.

The Relation of Deuteronomy to the Tetrateuch

As to the relation of Deuteronomy to the Tetrateuch (i.e., the first four books of the Bible), critical work in Deuteronomy has indicated that this book depends on the historical and legal traditions of the preceding books of the Pentateuch, especially on the so-called Elohistic source. An exception, however, has to be made in regard to the priestly code which did not influence the laws of Deuteronomy, except its latest sections (e.g., Deut. 12:20–28). This is to be explained by the lateness of the priestly literature. Deuteronomy shows dependence especially on the *Book of the Covenant (Ex. 21–23; Deuteronomy itself also contains "the words of the Covenant," 28:69). The author makes it quite clear that at Horeb the Decalogue was proclaimed, whereas the law proper could have been given to Israel by Moses on the plains of Moab. In other words, Deuteronomy would be seen as complementing the old Book of the Covenant or supplementing it. It cannot be known whether the author of Deuteronomy had before him "the Book of the Covenant" in its present form or used a legal source in which laws of the type found in Exodus 21–23 were incorporated. What is clear is that Deuteronomy used laws identical in formulation with those of the Book of the Covenant and revised them according to its ideology. The parallels are:

Exodus 21:1–11//Deuteronomy 15:12–18
Exodus 22:15–16//Deuteronomy 22:28–29
Exodus 22:24–26//Deuteronomy 24:10–13
Exodus 23:4–5//Deuteronomy 22:1–4
Exodus 23:8//Deuteronomy 16:19
Exodus 23:15//Deuteronomy 16:3
Exodus 23:17//Deuteronomy 16:16
Exodus 23:18//Deuteronomy 16:4
Exodus 23:19b//Deuteronomy 14:21b

The parallels mainly pertain to the moral-religious section of the Book of the Covenant, the so-called apodictic law (Ex. 22:17–23:19). The civil section of the Book of the Covenant, the so-called casuistic law (Ex. 21:1–22:16), is not represented in Deuteronomy except for two laws (Ex. 21:1–11; 22:15–16). This may be explained in the following way: the civil law section in Exodus 21:1–22:16 constitutes the common law of the ancient Near East and has strong affinities to the Mesopotamian law codes. As in the neighboring codes, this section in the Book of the Covenant is mostly concerned with offenses against property, and even when dealing with human rights (injury, slaves etc.), it is the compensation for the damage that stands at the center of the discussion. Deuteronomy ignored these laws since the author's purpose was not to produce a civil law book like the Book of the Covenant treating of pecuniary matters but to set forth a code of laws securing the protection of the individual and particularly of those persons in need of protection. At the same time, Deuteronomy incorporated laws concerning the protection of the family and family dignity (22:11–19) which are not in the Book of the Covenant.

The only laws from the civil section of the Book of the Covenant employed by Deuteronomy are the law of the Hebrew slave (Ex. 21:1–11) and the law of the seduction of a virgin (Ex. 22:15–16). These two laws, which are located at the beginning and at the end of the section respectively, were incorporated by Deuteronomy because they contain moral implications aside from their civil aspect. Moreover, by the way these two laws are presented, Deuteronomy actually deprived them of their civil-financial character and turned them into purely moral-social laws. In Exodus 21:1–11 the rights of the master are protected no less than those of the slave (cf. the provision about the slaves born in the master's home belonging to the master, the master's right of keeping the slave in perpetuity, etc.), the main concern of the legislator there being to define the status of the slave. Deuteronomy, however, is concerned with only the slave, and, therefore, the obligations of the master to his slave (to bestow gifts, etc.) are stressed. By the same token, the law of the seduced virgin in Exodus 22:15–16 is discussed from the pecuniary point of view (the loss of the bride price) whereas Deuteronomy is concerned with the humiliation or moral degradation of the virgin and therefore does not deal explicitly with the bride price and does not grant the man who violated the virgin the right to refuse to marry her, but compels him to marry her forever.

In a similar way the author of Deuteronomy revised all the social and religious laws that he drew from the ancient lore. The social laws were elaborated and made to favor the distressed, as for example, the injunction not to enter the house of the debtor to take the pledge (Deut. 24:11) and the duty to take care of the loss until it is claimed by the owner (22:2), demands that seem utopian even in modern society. The religious-sacral laws were adapted to the new concept of centralization. Thus, for example, the law of the three annual pilgrimages in Deuteronomy 16:16, which is verbally identical with Exodus 23:17, is supplemented by the words "in the place that He will choose," which stresses the principle of centralization. The real meaning of the Deuteronomic law can be fully understood by comparing the religious institutions as reflected in Deuteronomy with those occurring in the other codes, including the priestly one. These show the uniqueness of the Deuteronomic law code. Though Deuteronomy deals basically with the same laws as the other codes, i.e., laws relating to sacrifices, the tithe, firstlings, the first fruits, festivals, the year of release, the cities of refuge, the judiciary, and the holy war, these appear here, according to some modern exegetes, in a completely new light and reflect a change not only in the institutions as such but in the religious concepts underlying them. Laws and institutions that have a substantially sacroritual character have in Deuteronomy undergone, it is held, a process of rationalization. Following the elimination of the provincial sanctuaries, the judiciary, which was closely associated with the sanctuary, was freed of its sacred ties and took on a more secular aspect. The cities of asylum that previously served as sacral places of refuge for the accidental homicide became in Deuteronomy secular cities whose exclusive function was to protect the manslayer from blood vengeance. Profane slaughtering which had been forbidden by the previous codes is allowed by Deuteronomy (12:13–19), a necessary consequence of the law of centralization. The year of release whose main essence in the earlier codes is the prohibition of the cultivation of the land (Ex. 23:10–11; cf. Lev. 25:1–7) is given here a new application, namely the remission of debts, and thus serves to ameliorate the condition of the poor (Deut. 5:1–11). All these innovations of the Deuteronomic Code, this theory maintains, revolutionized the religious life of the people, and, in fact, changed certain concepts in the faith of Israel. The sanctuary is here presented as a dwelling place of the name of God (e.g., 12:5, 11, 21), rather than the domicile of God Himself as in the ancient sources (cf. e.g., i Kings 8:13). Similarly the ark which in the previous sources is regarded as the seat of God or His chariot (e.g., Ex. 25:22; Num. 10:33–36; i Sam. 4:4) is seen in Deuteronomy only as the receptacle for the tablets (10:1ff.). A similar attitude is reflected in the descriptions of the revelation in Deuteronomy. According to Exodus 19, God went down to Mt. Sinai and from there made His voice heard to Moses and the people, whereas in Deuteronomy, God proclaimed His word from His seat in heaven, but it was transmitted to Israel through the great fire on the mount.

Deuteronomy is often characterized as monotheistic but the reality is more complex. Israelites must worship Yahweh exclusively (monolatry; Deut 5:7, 8; 6:4; 13:3–18; 28:15–20, 23–25; 30:17–18, etc.), but according to Deuteronomy 4:19, a verse that warns Israelites against worship of the heavenly bodies, it was Yahweh himself who designated the heavenly bodies as objects of worship for the Gentiles. Similarly subversive of monotheism, the belief that there is but one god in existence, is Deuteronomy 32:8–9, which informs us that when the Most High set up the boundaries of the nations he did so according to the numbers of the lesser divinities (Qumran bny ʾl or bny ʾl[m]). The existence of lesser divinities is acknowledged as well in Deuteronomy 10:17 where Yahweh is styled "god of gods and lord of lords." Deuteronomy 4:35, "It has been clearly demonstrated to you that Yahweh is God; there is none beside him," and Deuteronomy 4:39, "Know therefore this day and keep in mind that Yahweh alone is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is no other," are usually cited as denials of the existence of all other divinities. Yet the context of these verses cannot be ignored. Verse 34 asks rhetorically whether any god ever took another nation to himself as Yahweh has done for Israel. Verse 35 responds "Yahweh is that god; none beside him." The same sentiment is expressed in Deuteronomy 32:12: "Yahweh alone did guide him. No alien god at his (Yahweh's) side." Verse 39 is part of the same pericope, to be understood as "Know therefore … Yahweh alone is < the only > god in heaven above and on earth below, there is no other < who did these things. >"

style and phraseology

The style of Deuteronomy is distinguished by its simplicity, fluency, and lucidity and may be recognized by its phraseology and especially by its rhetorical character. The main characteristic of Deuteronomic phraseology is not the employment of new idioms and expressions, because many of these can be found in earlier sources and especially in the e source. Indeed, it cannot be said that in the seventh century a new vocabulary and new expressions were suddenly created. Language grows in an organic and natural way and it is not created artificially. What constitutes the novelty of the Deuteronomic style, therefore, is not new idioms and new expressions but a specific jargon reflecting the religious upheaval of this time. The Deuteronomic phraseology revolves around a few basic theological tenets such as:

  1. the need to extirpate the native cults.
  2. the centralization of the cult.
  3. exodus, covenant, and election.
  4. the repeated demand on Israel to serve Yahweh alone.
  5. observance of the law and loyalty to the covenant.
  6. inheritance of the land.
  7. retribution and material motivation.

The editor of the Former Prophets, who was inspired by Deuteronomy, uses the phraseology of Deuteronomy and even elaborates upon it. Like the Book of Deuteronomy so also the Deuteronomist makes use of speeches and discourses in order to express his ideology. Another branch of Deuteronomic writing may be recognized in Jeremiah's prose, where Deuteronomic phraseology is encountered and the oration is very common. According to this argument, therefore, the Deuteronomist, the editor of Joshua-Kings, and the editor of the prose sermons in Jeremiah are products of a continuous literary school starting in the middle of the seventh century and ending somewhere in the second half of the sixth century.

There are, however, less radical theories regarding the origin and date of Deuteronomy. These are reviewed in R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (1970), 631ff.

[Moshe Weinfeld /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

Defenses of the Traditional View

The orthodox standpoint that Moses was the author of the Book of Deuteronomy as well as of the other books of the Pentateuch has been defended by a number of traditional scholars. These scholars maintain that the main theme of Deuteronomy is not centralization of worship, but opposition to idolatry. The struggle against idolatry could never have reached such intensity except in the age of Moses, the period of the formation of Israel's religion. It ideally fits into the period placed by tradition, immediately after Israel's apostasy to Baal of Peor (Num. 25), when the very existence of the new faith was threatened by contact with the Baal cult of Canaan. The centralization of the cult does not prove that Deuteronomy is of late origin since it may be argued that the law of a central sanctuary is quite early and primitive. Moreover, had a later author wished to impress the importance of cultic centralization he would have not failed to mention the city of Jerusalem, the main cultic center. Most of the laws repeated in Deuteronomy from the Book of the Covenant are found in one or more of the ancient Near Eastern codes, thereby testifying to their antiquity. As for the characteristic Deuteronomistic laws having no parallels in the Near Eastern codes, such as the law of release, the laws of kingship, appointment of judges, etc., there is nothing in these provisions incompatible with conditions and institutions of those early days. Not only the religious and legal but also the political background of Deuteronomy resembles that of the Mosaic and no other age. The order to destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, the enemies of Israel (20:16–18), the denouncement of the inveterate enemies Ammon and Moab, the attitude toward the Edomites and Egyptians (23:8), and the omission of any mention of the Philistines or the division of the kingdom point to the political circumstances of the Mosaic age. The civil institutions are also of a nature approaching the primitive stage. There is no king. The elders of Israel are pictured sitting at the gate in judgment, while judges and clerks preside in trials in accordance with the advice of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law (Ex. 18). The book's covenantal structure fits ancient Near Eastern treaty forms; the Hittite vassal treaty form is a model by which the Book of Deuteronomy may be analyzed (see *Covenant). Linguistically, there is nothing against placing Deuteronomy in the days of Moses. Although the refined and polished style of the book may suggest a high state of development, it is probable that such a style existed in oratorical discourse, particularly in light of the perfect form of the 15th century b.c.e. Ras Shamra texts. Certain words are of an admittedly early period (נער for אל, נערה for אלה), and some of the ritual terms and practices such as shalem (peace offering), kalil (burnt offering), maaser (tithe), tenufah (wave offering), have their parallels in Ugaritic literature. Parallelism not only in poetry, but also in prose, accounts for many repetitions which higher criticism ascribes to different sources. Another principle of this sort is the change of person and the variation from singular to plural which higher critics take as a criterion for various sources, but is a general characteristic of the Bible and is common to all ancient Oriental composition. As to passages in the third person, they may be due to a late editor of the original book. Traditional scholars therefore believe that the best way to account for the book is to say that the bulk originated during the last days of Moses. The Israelites standing at the threshold of Canaan were about to graduate from a nomad group to a settled agricultural people and this change necessitated an amplification of the earlier codes of Exodus and Leviticus, which resulted in the book of Deuteronomy. The anachronisms and discrepancies may very well be explained by the reasonable assumption of later marginal notes by learned readers which in the course of time crept into the text itself and became an integral part thereof. Although the historical framework often lacks precision and strict sequence, as stated in the Talmud, "There is nothing prior or posterior in the Torah," for its chief aim is religious and moral and not purely historical.


J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (1957); idem, Die Composition des Hexateuchs… (1899), 190ff.; G.R. Driver, Deuteronomy (icc, 19023); C. Steuernagel, Deuteronomium (19232); M. Noth, Ueberlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien (1943), 3–110; G. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy (1953); Alt, Kl. Schr, 2 (1953), 250–75; G. Mendenhall, in: ba, 17 (1954), 50ff.; D.J. Wiseman, in: Iraq, 20 (1958), 1–99; D. McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant (1963); O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, an Introduction (1965), 219–33, 281–301; R. Frankena, in: ots, 14 (1965), 122–54; A. Klostermann, Der Pentateuch, 2 (1907), 154ff.; M. Weinfeld, in: Sefer Y. Kaufmann (1960), 89–105; idem, in: Tarbiz, 30 (1960/61), 8–15; 31 (1961/62), 1–17; idem, in: jbl, 80 (1961), 241–7; 86 (1967), 249–62; idem, in: Biblica, 46 (1965), 417–27; M. Haran, in: Tarbiz, 37 (1967/68), 3–11; idem, in: Biblica, 50 (1969), 258–61; R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (1970); K.A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (1966). add. bibliography: M. Smith, in: Pseudepigrapha, 1 (1971), 193–215; idem, Palestinian Parties and Politics that Shaped the Old Testament (1971); M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (1972); idem, Deuteronomy 1–11 (ab; 1991), Bibliography, 85–122; idem, in: abd ii, 168–83; F. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (1973), 274–87; S. Kaufman, in, maarav, 1 (1978/9), 105–58; R. Freedman, in: B. Halpern and J. Levenson (eds.), Turning Points. fs Cross (1981), 167–92; H.L. Ginsberg, The Israelian Heritage of Judaism (1982); S. Parpola and K. Watanabe, Neo-Assyrian Treaties and Loyalty Oaths (1988); A. Rofé, Introduction to Deuteronomy (1988); M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, ii Kings (ab; 1988), 218–22, 293–300; I. Seeligmann, Studies in Biblical Literature (1992), 189–204; J. Tigay, Deuteronomy (jps; 1996); S.D. McBride, in: dbi i, 273–94; B. Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (1997); idem, in: J. Day, In Search of Pre-exilic Israel (2004), 272–375; K. van der Toorn, in: idem (ed.), The Image and the Book (1997), 229–48; G. Knoppers and J.G. McConville (eds.), Reconsidering Israel – …Studies in Deuteronomistic History (2000); M. Sweeney, King Josiah of Judah the Lost Messiah of Israel (2001), 64–76, 167–72; J. van Seters, A Law Book for the Diaspora (2002); R. Nelson, in: jsot, 29 (2005), 319–37.


views updated May 14 2018

Deuteronomy. The fifth book of the Pentateuch in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament. The English title (‘second law’) derives from the Septuagint Gk. version of 17. 18. The usual Hebrew title Devarim (‘words’) is the second word of the text.


views updated May 21 2018

Deuteronomy Biblical book, fifth and last of the Pentateuch or Torah. It contains three discourses ascribed to Moses, which frame a code of civil and religious laws.


views updated May 23 2018

Deuteronomy the fifth book of the Bible, containing a recapitulation of the Ten Commandments and much of the Mosaic law.