Deuteronomy, Book of
DEUTERONOMY, BOOK OF
The fifth and last book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy is presented as a second legislation of Moses given the nation just before it entered the Promised Land. This article treats in order the book's name, division, contents, and date of composition.
Name. The English name Deuteronomy is based on a transliteration of the Septuagint title τò δευτερονόμιον(the second law), itself an incorrect Greek rendering of the Hebrew term mišnê hattôrâ (Dt 17.18), more correctly translated as the copy or duplicate of the law.
Division. The book lends itself to a sixfold division. In the first section (Dt 1.1–4.43) the journey from Mt. Horeb to Baal Phogar is related in historical retrospect by Moses. In the second section (4.44–11.32) Moses explains with repeated exhortations that the nation's life and prosperity depend on observance of the covenant. The third section (12.1–26.19), technically known as the Deuteronomic Code, contains laws of religious cult, national and religious institutions, family life, and personal ethics. In the fourth section (27.1–28.69) Moses, with the elders of Israel, exhorts the people to fidelity to the Law; curses are pronounced against the nation if it should be disobedient, while blessings are promised the nation if it is faithful to Yahweh. The fifth section (29.1–30.20) contains a fresh exhortation to observe the covenant. The sixth and final section (31.1–34.12) contains the final events of Moses' life. He commissions Joshua as the new leader, warns the nation against apostasy in a didactic song known as the Canticle of Moses (32.1–32.43), and alludes to the nation's tribal history in a prophetic-styled song called Moses' Oracles (33.2–29). The last chapter of Deuteronomy narrates Moses' death and burial.
Contents. Above all, Deuteronomy contains a long section of legislation (ch. 12–26), most notable for its hortative framework, concern for centralization of cult, solicitude for the underprivileged, and insistence on Israel's separation from other peoples. The covenant-inspired legislation, instead of imposing itself on the people by authority, attempts to persuade them to obey the Law for the nation's welfare and thus for their own.
A version of the Ten Commandments, almost synonymous for the covenant in the mind of the author, appears in the book (5.6–18); so, too, does the great commandment of love of God, the ethical center of religion (6.5; cf. Mk 12.29–30 and parallels). It is much emphasized and repeated in the book that the children must be instructed in the Law by their parents (Dt 6.27; 11.29;31.13), since the nation's future in the land depends on their obedience to the Law (5.26; 11.21).
Separation from the religious practices of other peoples is a recurrent theme of the book (7.25; 12.29–31;18.9; 20.16–18). The Israelites must never forget they are God's chosen people, a holy people, His inheritance (4.20), and peculiar property (se gûlâ, 7.6; 14.2), a people apart, who must avoid contamination from corrupt religions of other peoples. Although the stranger (gēr ) in their midst is to be loved (1.16; 10.19; 24.14; 27.19), still the ban (anathema, Heb. ḥerem ) is sanctioned against the idolatrous Canaanites (7.2), the stubborn enemy in war (20.16), and even the Israelite city that would harbor apostates (13.16). Deuteronomy is colored by a nationalistic sentiment (see Manley, 31–33); in its teaching on retribution attention is focused on national solidarity.
Date of Composition. It is now commonly agreed that Deuteronomy in its present form is connected with the religious reform of Josiah. In 2 Kings it is narrated how Hilkiah the high priest, while engaged in taking money from the Temple treasury to pay the workmen, found a hitherto unknown "book of the Law" whence Josiah inaugurated a religious reform (2 Kgs 22.3–13). The main reform of Josiah was centralization of cult in agreement with the "reform" prescription of Deuteronomy ch. 12. Modern exegetes interpret the centralization
of cult, so strongly emphasized in Deuteronomy (12.5, 14, 18; 14.23–24; 15.20; 16.2, 6, 11; 26.2) as a reform of the previous Pentateuchal legislation (Ex 20.24) that permitted worship in many sanctuaries scattered throughout Israel (see Driver, Introduction, 85; Eissfeldt, 263). Other reform moves of Josiah (2 Kgs 23.4–24), designed to prevent contamination with foreign cults, coincide with the laws and spirit of Deuteronomy. From these reform laws, 19th-century criticism, beginning with M. L. De Wette in 1805 and climaxed by the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis in the latter part of the 19th century, maintained that the Law found in the Temple must have contained the substance of present Deuteronomy. This is still the reigning hypothesis, and a date of the 7th century b.c. is generally ascribed to Deuteronomy. However, criticism and resistance to this hypothesis have grown during the last 30 years (see Manley, 9–22). The 7th-century date does not mean that Deuteronomy is a totally new creation of this period; its sources, written and oral, go back, at least in its central message, to much older legislation in the spirit of Moses. Since it was the practice in Israel to modify, reinterpret, and make additions to existing documents according to religious and social exigencies of later times, it is not surprising that Deuteronomy took on its peculiar emphasis and style from a redaction in the 7th century b.c. of a document written a century before perhaps in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Bibliography: s. r. driver, Deuteronomy (International Critical Commentary ; New York 1906); An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (11th ed. New York 1905) 69–103. a. c. welch, Deuteronomy: The Framework to the Code (London 1932). g. r. berry, "The Date of Deuteronomy,"Journal of Biblical Literature (Boston 1881–) 59 (1940) 133–139. j. p. hyatt, "Jeremiah and Deuteronomy," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 1 (1942) 156–173. o. eissfeldt, Einleitung in das A.T. (2d ed.Tübingen 1956), 202–206, 262–278. c. r. north, "Pentateuchal Criticism," The Old Testament and Modern Study, ed. h. h. rowley (Oxford 1951) 48–82. g. t. manley, The Book of the Law: Studies in the Date of Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids 1957). g. von rad, Studies in Deuteronomy, tr. d. m. g. stalker (Chicago 1953); Old Testament Theology, tr. d. m. g. stalker (New York 1962–) 1:71–80, 99, 219–231. w. l. moran, "The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in Deuteronomy," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 35 (1963) 77–87.