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An Introduction to Deuteronomy

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I. AUTHOR--MOSES: Particular internal evidence argues that Moses was the author of most of Deuteronomy. There was also an editor who concluded the book after Moses’ death

A. Moses was the author of most of Deuteronomy:

1. These are the words Moses spoke at the Transjordan (1:1-5) across from the Jordan in the valley opposite Beth-peor in the land of Sihon (4:44-49), in the land of Moab (29:1)

2. “Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel ... I am 121 years old ... no longer able to come and go ...” and not allowed to cross the Jordan (31:1-2)

3. 40 years after what should have been an 11 day journey Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that YHWH had commanded him to give to them 1:2-3

4. Moses says, “The LORD our God” 1:6

5. All throughout chapters 1-4 Moses refers to himself as among the people: “we” (1:19; 2:1,8; 3:1,4,6,7,12), “I and you” (1:9,13,15,16,20,24,29,43; 3:13,15,16,18,19,20,21,23; 4:1,2,5,8ff; 5:5; 6:2; 8:1,19; 9:9,15-21,25-26; 10:2-3,5,10; 12:32; 13:18; 30:15,18,19; 31:2 ), “me”(1:14,17,22,23,37,41,42; 2:1,9 17; 3:2; 4:5; 6:1; 10:11; 18:15 ), “our” (1:6,19,20,25; 3:3; 5:2,3; 9:10), “us” (1:20,25; 3:1; 5:2), to this day (8:18)

B. Someone beyond Moses concluded the book of Deuteronomy:

1. The parenthetical discussion of the need for Israel not to take the land The Lord has given to another just as the nation will take the land of thier possession is presented in the past tense indicating that it was written after Israel had already taken the land and thus after Moses died: “just as Israel did to the land of their possession which the LORD gave to them” (2:10-12)

2. “As it is to this day” (3:14) seems to imply a later editor.

3. The settings are written from a 3rd person perspective “this is the ... which Moses ....” (1:1-5; 4:41-43,44--5:1a; 27:1; 29:1; 31:1,30; 32:48; 33:1). This could have been done by Moses as well as an “editor.”

4. The final chapter is written in the the 3rd person (except for 34:4 which is a direct discourse of the Lord with Moses from Mt. Nebo). This could have been added by Joshua with the Lord’s words communicated by Moses to him just before he died or communicated by the Lord to him. However one phrase, “since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses” sounds as though it goes beyond Joshua to a time when Israel was an established nation in the land. Beyond that one can not be certain of the timing of this last chapter

II. DATE: The internal record of the chronology from Egypt to Moab is helpful in a reconstruction of the date of 1406 B.C. (or following) for the writing of Deuteronomy:

A. The people departed from Egypt on the fifteenth day of the first month--March/April [Nisan] 15, 1446 (Num 33:3; cf. Ex. 12:2 ,5)

B. The people reached the wilderness of Sinai on the first day of the third month--May/June [Sivan] 1, 1446 (Ex 19:1)

C. The tabernacle was erected on the first day of the first month of the second year--March/April [Nisan] 1, 1445 (Ex. 40:17)

D. Leviticus is given during the one month interval immediately following the filling of the Tabernacle by the glory of YHWH and before the people prepared to leave Sinai for the promised land--March/April [Nisan] 1-30, 1445 (Num 1:1; cf. Ex 40:17)

E. Numbers opens with a census taken on the first day of the second month in the second year--April/May [Iyyar or Ziv] 1, 1445 (Num 1:1)

F. The cloud is taken up to begin to lead the people to the promised land from the wilderness of Sinai on the twentieth day of the second month of the second year--April/May [Iyyar or Ziv] 20, 1445 (Num 10:11)

G. The people sin at Kadesh=Barnea (Num 13--14) and are sentenced to wander 40 years in the wilderness (Num 14:33). Numbers covers 38 years and nine months (cf. Num 1:1 with Deut 1:3)

H. Aaron dies on Mount Hor on the first day of the fifth month in the fortieth year--July/August [Ab] 1, 1406 (Num 33:38)

I. Deuteronomy opens on the Transjordan on the first day or the eleventh month of the fortieth year after what should have been an eleven day journey--January/February [Shebat] 1, 1406 (Deut 1:1-3

J. Therefore, a more precise date for the giving of the book of Deuteronomy would be January or February 1, 1406 B.C.

III. AUDIENCE: The Audience was all of Israel

All Israel


Across the Hordan

in the wilderness

in the Arabah


opposite Suph

between Paran and Tophel and
Leban and Hazeroth and Dizahab 1:1

A. 40 years after what should have been and 11 day journey Moses spoke to the children of Israel 1:2-3

B. Chapters 1-3 describe historical Israel from the Exodus to their time at the Transjordan.

C. Chapter 4 is a charge to Israel (4:1) at Beth-peor (3:29)

D. The nation is charged outside of the land (7:1)

E. Chapter 5 is a summons to Israel across form Beth-peor (4:44-49; 5:1a)

F. The nation is about to cross the Jordan to possess the land (11:31)

G. The nation is about to disposses the nations from the land (12:2)

H. The nation has not yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which the Lord is giving them (12:9)

I. The nation is told what to do “when you enter the land” (17:14; 18:9)

J. God has not yet cut off the nations or had Israel dispossess the nations and settle in their houses (19:1)

K. Israel is told “when you enter the land” implying that they are yet outside of it (26:1)

L. Israel is spoken to about the “day when you cross the Jordan to the land” (27:2,4,12

M. The sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days (34:8)


A. rab in the piel has the sense of “making clear, distinct, explaning or expounding (cf. Hab. 22; Deut. 27:8 cf. BDB, p. 91) This is what Moses was doing with the Law which they had.

B. The purpose of Moses’ exhortation is so that the nation might live, possess the land, and obey God (4:1-2; 6:3, 17-19, 24-25; 8:1; 10:12--11:32)

C. Moses warns the nation so that they might not be judged but blessed by the Lord in the land (6:15-19, 24-25; 7:4, 9-16; 15:4-6,10)

V. THE INTERNAL COMPONENT: GENRE (narrative, covenant, etc.)

A. Parenthetical discriptions are given to explain Israel’s actions (2:10-12, 20-23; 3:9-11; 21:23)

B. Historical setting 1:1-5; 3:29; 4:44--5:1a

C. A recounting of History with respect to Israel’s wanderings 1:6--3:28

D. Story or recounting of the event is employed (1:19-46; 2:1,8,13b,24-25, 26-30, 32--3:1,3-8,12-22,23,26,29; 4:41-43; 5:22-23, 28a)

E. Dialogue (or direct discourse) is employed (1:6-8, 9-14, 16-18, 20-22, 27-31, 35-43; 2:2-7,9,13a,18-19,31; 3:2, 24-25, 26-28; 4:1-40; 5:1-5, 6-21, 24-27, 28b-31; 32-33)

F. A listing of commands -- legal literature
(NB -- many of these sections begin with an introduction concerning “the statutes,” or “commandments”)

1. 10 commandments 5:6-21

2. To Love God 6:1-25

3. To destroy the nations 7:1-26

4. To remember their historical relationship with the Lord (8--11)
(This is developed through the retelling the story of history with direct discours from Moses and God to heighten its effect. There is also a historical)

5. To not copy the practice of those in the land whose places of worship Israel is to destroy but to worship at a central location which the Lord will reveal (12)

6. To destroy anyone who would attempt to lead the nation away from YHWH to any false gods (13)

7. To separate themeselves from those in the land in how they mourn for the dead and eat their food (14:1-21)

8. To tithe of their produce each year before the Lord except for every 3rd year where it goes to the Levite in their city (14:22-29)

9. To remit all debt at the end of the seventh year for those of Israel for the Lord to bless them (15:1-18)

10. The first born are to be consecrated and then offered in a sarifical meal before the Lord except for those with defect (15:19-23)

11. Three times a year all of Israel’s men are to appear before the Lord with an offering: the Feasts of: Unleavened bread, Weeks, and Booths (16:1-17)

12. Israel is to appoint judges who rule uprightly and execute the judgements of God in order to purge the evil from the land (16:18--17:13)

13. Israel’s king is to be appointed by God from among the people andto not multiply horses, wives or silver and gold, but is to obey the Lord for continuity of his reign in the generations to come (17:14-20)

14. The Levitical priests from the whole tribe of Levi shall have no portion of the inheritance of the land with Israel but shall be specifically provided for, in addition to any of their own assets, through the offerings to the Lord since He is their inheritance (18:1-8)

15. When Israel enters into the land, the Lord does not permit them to imitate the detestable spiritual practices of the nations: child sacrifices, divination, whtchcraft, interpreting omens or sorcery, casting spells, or acting as a medium or spiritist by calling up the dead so that they will not be driven out of the land as the nations before them are are being driven (18:9-14)

16. The Lord will raise up a prophet like Moses to speak as a mediator between the people and the Lord, as the people requested of Moses, bringing judgement from the Lord upon all of those who do not listen to him (18:15-19)

This is developed by:


affirmation (18:15)


The recounting of the story of history (16-19)


direct discourse (16-19)

17. Any “prophet” who speaks for another god or who says that he speaks for the Lord but is proven to be false since his words do not come true is to be killed by the people (18:20-22)

18. Israel is to prepare at least three and upto six cities of refuge (under God’s blessing) so that the nation might protect the unintentional manslayer from an angry advenger but not to protect the premeditated manslayer who must be brought before his advenger so that the Lord will continue to bless the land (19:1-13)

19. Israel is not to move his neighbor’s boundary mark from here the ancestors placed it to mark off the inheritence of the Lord (19:14)

20. A matter against a man is never confirmed on the witness of one person but on the evidence of two or three witness with false witnesses receiving the punishment they intended for their brother so as to purge the evil from the land and to be a deterent to others (19:15-21)

21. When Israel comes to battle against powerful enemies they are to realize that it is the Lord who is fighting for them, send home those who have unfinished beginnings in the land and to either wage a measured attack on distant cities or an unmeasured destruction on those peoples near to them (20:1-20)
(This unit contains: commands (1-20)which are often expressed through direct discourse (20:3-4,5-9)

22. In the event of an undetected homicide in the open country, the elders of the nearst city had to make atonement by breaking the neck of a heifer and then confessing their innocence before the priests above the dead heifer whereupon God would remove the bloodguiltness from upon the people (21:1-9)

23. Command with direct discourse by the elders (21:7-8)

24. Laws concerning the family are expounded: marring a captive woman, blessing the first born of an unloved wife and stoning a rebellous son (21:10-21)

25. Laws concerning community life in the land are given: buryial of a crimminal, responsibility toward neighbors, dress, animal life, building codes, purity rather than mixture in all of life, men who rape women, and children with stepmothers (21:22--22:30)

26. Laws concerning congregational life are given: whom to allow into the assembly, what to do with bodily funcitons, how to deal with runaway slaves, not to seek furtility from pagan gods (23:1-18)

27. Laws concerning the weak are given: charging interest, vows, eating when hungry, divorce, marriage taking pledges, kidnapers, leprosy, paying wages, responsibility for sin, widows, orphans and aliens, punishment of the wicked, leverite marrage, talionic justice, measuring weights, dealing with the ruthless Amalekites (23:19--25:19)

28. When Israel enters the land they are to offer the first fruits to the Lord at the place where He chooses to dwell declaring the Lord’s faithfulness to him and on the third year he is to give it to the Levite, stranger, orphan, and stranger in his city asking for the Lord’s blessing in obedience (26:1-15)

Legal perscription (26:1-3a,4-5a,10b-11,12-13a)

Story/direct discourse (26:3b,5b-10a,13b-15)

29. In a summary charge the Lord commands Israel to do all of the statutes and ordinances given with all of their heart and soul since they are in covenant relationship with Him so that in their obedience He may exalt the them as a people seperated unto Him (26:16-19)

30. Moses, the elders, and the Levites, exhort Israel to keep all of the commndments of the Lord and to proclaim them to the nation by writing the curses on Mt. Ebal where an alter and sacrifice are also to be placed and by writting the blessings on Mt. Gerizim by proclaiming them from each mountain as they cross the Jordan to the people (27:1-26)

Narrative (27:1a; 9a, 11)

Commands/direct discourse (27:1b-8, 9b-10, 12-26

31. The Lord promises to either bless or curse Israel in the land according to whether or not she follows Him in deligent obedience (28:1-68)

32. Moses renews the covenant with Israel at Moab by reviewing their historical relationship with the Lord, presenting it before those present and a future generation, telling of a future time when the nation will remember this covenant and be restored to its blessing, reminding them that these words are reachable so that they might obey the Lord, and reminding them that disobedience will bring about judgement from the Lord so they should choose obedience and life (29--30)

Narrative (29:1-2a)

The story of history (29:2b-8)

Legal exhortation (29:9--30)

Prophetic exhortation (29:16-28; 30:1-10

G. In a recounting of final charges Moses encouraged the Nation and Joshua to not fear but enter to take the Land, he gave the completed Law to be read to the nation each Year of Remission before the Lord, he was told by the Lord to write a song as a witness against the nation when Joshua was commissioned by the Lord, and he had the Law placed by the ark of the covenant as a witness against the nation (31:1-27)

H. Gathering all of Israel together to procliam one last time the need for obedience on their behalf for there to be blessing, Moses proclaims in his song the Lord’s magnivicant character which Israel will rebell against, and thus suffer judgment under the hand of the nations and then be delivered after they realized that the Lord alone is God (31:28--32:47)

Direct discourse (31:28-29; 32:46-47)

Narration (31:30, 44-45)

Poetry (32:1-43)

I. Before Moses goes to Mt. Nebo to see the land which he may not enter due to his sin and then to be gathered to his people in death, He prophetically blesses the nation tribe by tribe (32:48--33:29)

narration (32:48a; 33:1)

direct discourse (32:49-52)

J. As the last days of Moses came, he was shown the land from Mt. Nebo by the Lord, died and was buried in the plains of Moab according to the word of the Lord, mourned over by Israel, replaced in leadership by Joshua, but not replaced in Israel as a supreme prophet before the Lord (34:1-12)

Narration/story (34:1-3,5-12)

direct discourse (34:4)

VI. Purposes of Deuteronomy:


1. YHWH does permit the nation to grumble at Kadesh-barnea (1:26-33)

2. YHWH does permit the defeat of his rebellious people in the land (1:44)


1. The nation receives the Judgment of God for not taking the land as commanded: the men and Moses will not see the Land (1:34-40)

2. The nation is defeat by the Amorites when they go to take the land against the command of YHWH (1:41-44)

3. YHWH does not hear the nation’s grief in their sin (1:45)

4. YHWH commands that the nation goes into wandering for 40 years 2:1

5. The Lord does warn the nation of judgment for rebellion against their covenant (4:1-40)

6. YHWH Elohim will judge his people if they disobey his law (5:8-10, 11,


1. Promise is given by YHWH that even though Moses and the men of the exodus will not see the land, Caleb, Joshua and the nation’s sons will see and inherit the land (1:34-40)

2. YHWH commands the nation to go back toward the Land after 40 years (2:3 cf. vs. 7)

3. Moses recounts the statutes and judgments in order that the nation may live and possess the land (sounds contingent) (4:1)

4. The Lord does promise to deliver his people from judgment if (when) they turn again to him and listen to Him (4:29-31)


1. YHWH intends to bless his people with the possesion of the Land (1:6-8a)

2. YHWH Elohim intendends to bless His people if they will obey the Law (5:29, 32-33 “note under administration ‘Mosic covenant’”)

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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