"These are the WORDS"
Deuteronomy is one of the
most majestic, fascinating and significant books in
the Old Testament. It is cited or quoted 195 times
in the New Testament. It is exceeded only by
references to Psalms, Isaiah, Genesis and Exodus in
that order. Indeed, Jesus quoted from it on three
occasions at the temptations (Matthew 4:1–11; cf.
Deut. 8:3; 6:13, 16). He even quoted Deut. 6:5 when
asked what was the greatest commandment.
Deuteronomy means "second law," or "Repetition of
the Law." It is based on an erroneous Greek
translation of the three Hebrew words in 17:18,
which is correctly rendered "a copy of this law."
The Hebrew title is 'ellah had devarim, "These are
the words," from the first two words in the
original. Deuteronomy is more than a repetition of
the law found in the preceding books of Moses. In
this book the law is further expanded, interpreted,
explained and applied to daily life of the Jewish
people. Perhaps simply "Words" is the best title for
The book claims to consist almost entirely of the
farewell speeches of Moses as he addressed the
people of Israel just before they would cross over
into the Promised Land. Internal and external
evidence is strong for Moses as the author of this
book along with all the first five books of the Old
Testament (Deut. 1:1; 31:9, 22, 24ff; Exodus 17:14;
24:4, 7; Numbers 33:2). The author has a firsthand
knowledge of the geographical details and history of
the Exodus. Only Moses could tell of the details of
the events in chapter three. Someone writing
hundreds of years later would not be familiar with
such details. Moses was a literate well-educated man
and would have been familiar with the Near Eastern
treaties and their form of writing. The Egyptian
elements also favor Moses as the author. No
Egyptologist has ever detected an anachronism or any
trace of age or circumstances not confined to Moses'
day. The very ancient Jewish conviction that Moses
was the author is expressed in the alternative title
for Deuteronomy, "The Fifth Book of Moses." Moses is
stated as the speaker of nearly the entire book
(1:1; 5:1; 27:11; 29:2; 31:1; 31:30; 33:1). He is
definitely the responsible author of the book. He
directed, controlled and was responsible for all
that was in the original text. There is remarkable
unity and consistency in this writing. The binding
theme is the worship of Yahweh. Other than Christ,
Moses is the greatest interpreter of that worship.
Christ not only quoted the book, but attributed it
to Moses (Matt. 19:7–9; John 5:45–47; cf. Deu.
18:18). So do Luke, Peter, Paul and James in the New
Testament. Probably Joshua wrote the obituary of
Moses in Deuteronomy 34. Moreover, archaeology has
proven that Moses could have been the author. There
is nothing in the book that could not have come from
the time of Moses. In fact, it contains what we
would expect to come from the pen of Moses.
Much has been written
about the documentary hypothesis or theory of the
Pentateuch, which holds the view that some unknown
editor, or editors went through the ancient books
and abstracted various parts. Proponents add that
Moses' name was given as the author to give status
to the books. It is highly imaginative but lacks
credibility because literature is not produced this
way. It is unnatural and leads to absurdities and
the false principle of evolution of religion for
formulas in the formation of the Pentateuch. The
documentary hypothesis contradicts the plain
statements of both the Old and New Testaments that
Moses is the author of the Pentateuch. One wag said:
"If the five books of Moses were not written by
Moses, they must have been written by somebody else
named Moses." One of the best arguments for Moses
authorship is the internal evidence that presents
archaic words and obsolete constructions as an
exhibit for Moses as author. Moses had helpers like
Eleazar the priest and this would account of slight
variations in style. Even though it has gone through
wars, calamities, efforts of the enemies to destroy
it, laid aside and lost for centuries, it still has
the sense of the original and a trustworthy text.
The authorship of Moses has had the unanimous
unbroken tradition of both Jewish and Christian
scholarship until recent years. Frankly, no one has
proven that Moses did not write these five books.
The documentary hypothesis as originally presented
has almost completely deteriorated among scholarly
students of the Pentateuch.
Chapters 28–30 are one of
the most amazing prophecies in the Bible because it
predicts the entire history of the Jewish people. It
even points to the time when they cease to be a
nation and are scattered over the face of the earth
(28:64; 30:1–6). With graphically vivid word
pictures Moses describes for them what would result
if they turned from Yahweh to serve the idols of
their neighbors. Consequently, Israel wandered for
many centuries as a people without a land. Moses
looked far into the future and saw the people
dispersed in lands of captivity, and then he saw God
gathering them again to a final restoration.
It is significant that
Moses is never praised until after his death in
keeping with his humility (34:10). It is very
reasonable to conclude that this work is the result
of a true historical connection between the man and
the book that bears his name as author. It clearly
reflects the personality of Moses, the geographical
data of Egypt, the wilderness of Sinai and
historical setting we would expect in its contents.
It is a great book by a great author.
The people of Israel are located at the last camp
ground in the wilderness on the plains of Moab
during the interval of forty days before crossing
the Jordan to begin the conquest of Canaan. The
physical setting is the same as the opening of
Joshua in the wilderness. The entire book takes
place on the plains of Moab. Those who left Egypt
have wandered in the wilderness for nearly 38 years
(Numbers 16:1–17:13; 20:1; Deut. 1:19–46). They are
now in the same spot they were 38 years before. At
the beginning of the fortieth year they are at
Kadesh–barnea a second time (Num. 20:1–21:35), and
now we have before us the last month in the life of
Moses. What will the great leader have to say to his
people? What will be his last will and testament?
c. 1406 B. C. and covers about forty days.
The theme of Deuteronomy is set forth in the words
"possess" and "possession." These are exhortations
and instructions concerning the possession of the
Promised Land. We are on the verge of going across
the Jordan River and taking possession of the land.
The emphasis of the covenant in Deuteronomy is on
the settlement in the Promised Land. This is a
covenant of possession of the land. In this expanded
covenant, there is also the provision for exile if
the people reject Yahweh to serve idols.
"Remember," "possess," "obey"
Deuteronomy is a restating of the instructions and
laws to a second generation of Israelites who grew
up in the wilderness journey. All of the first
generation is now dead, except for Joshua, Caleb and
Moses. Moses will die before Israel crosses over the
Jordan. It is basically a review of the law before
crossing into the Promised Land. This pivotal book
helps the people adjust to a new leader and a new
life in the covenant in a new land. The audience
that heard these messages preached is described as
"all Israel." However, the readers would be the
people after they have settled in the land. The book
serves as a reminder of God's purpose for Israel and
how they should live as His people in the new land.
"And now, Israel, what
does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear
the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love
Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your
heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD's
commandments and His statutes which I am commanding
you today for your good?"
This is primarily a book of horatory consisting of
sermons or speeches containing the law and
redemptive history. It contains farewell messages
given by Moses as he reviews the history of the
chosen people. The three main speeches are preceded
by a brief introduction (1:1–5) and followed by an
epilogue (34) which gives the eulogy of Moses. It
serves as a "bridge" between the first and second
generation of Israelites. Deuteronomy is written in
a style consistent with exposition of the civil,
moral and religious Law, and is didactic. It has the
tone of an elderly father speaking to his children
reminding them of the importance of obedience. It
conveys the impression of an old man rebuking his
children for disobedience. He is anxious that they
remember the covenant and be faithful to the LORD
God when he will no longer be around to remind them.
There is also the strength of being acknowledged as
a responsible and respected leader with his
GOD'S CHOICE OF ISRAEL:
Yahweh chose Israel to be His own possession (Deu.
7:6–8). The concept of "election" of Israel in the
Old Testament is most often communicated by the verb
"to choose." The LORD God expressed His choice by
creating a new people, i.e., His own peculiar
people. When we think of divine election, we should
not think of God choosing from an already existing
nation while rejecting all the others. Through the
work of redemption, God created a new people. He
started from scratch with a new family, Abraham, and
created a new nation, Israel, based on a new
covenant. Genesis 3 through 11 demonstrates that all
the nations of the earth had become corrupt beyond
the imagination (Gen. 6:5ff, 11). With Abraham and
his descendents, God was doing something entirely
new. He was creating His own special people whom he
chose to love rather than completely destroying the
earth. Here is a family that has now grown into a
nation who did not speculate about God. They knew
Him from their experiences with Him. They had
experienced His deliverance from Egypt and He
demanded their obedience and worship. That great act
of faith and obedience is expressed it the great
Shema in 6:4–5.
Why did the LORD choose
Israel? The covenant begins with love, "because the
LORD loves you" (7:8). It was an act of grace
This is why the command
in Joshua to completely destroy her enemies is so
critical. It is strange to us in the 20th century.
However, it would have been the death of a new
nation if Israel have not obeyed God. Their very
survival was at stake. Yahweh chose Israel, and He
is the God of Israel. He has not entered into a
covenant with any other nation. However, the stress
of Deuteronomy is that Israel keeps in mind the
dangers of contaminating their faith with the
idolatry of the Canaanites. The worst sin Israel
could commit against God was to turn to other gods.
The penalties for idolatry were terribly severe. God
would not tolerate idolatry because of the special
relationship with His people. The failure of Israel
to obey God's law led to gross idolatry and
ultimately the destruction of the kingdom and exile
from the Promised Land.
It is taken for granted
in Deuteronomy and Joshua that the Canaanites are
reprobate people. The utter destruction of
Canaanites is necessary to prevent corruption of
Israel. The purity of Israel's loyalty and worship
could not be preserved unless these perverted
characters were annihilated. Numbers 25:1 is a good
reminder of what happened when Israel played with
the idolatry of Moab. They cannot afford to repeat
the same mistake (Deut. 7:1–5). Polytheism is
Moreover, let us not
forget the purpose of this covenant. Israel was to
be a missionary nation. God would bless all the
families of the earth through Israel (Gen. 12:3).
"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; and
the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own
possession (or special treasure) out of all the
peoples who are on the face of the earth" (Deu.
14:2). Israel belonged to the LORD in a peculiar
way, with personal rights to them as His personal
possession. Through Israel the Messiah would come.
Israel was the depository of divine revelation and
she would carry God's message to all the nations.
The Jewish people were no better, no wiser, no
stronger than any other nation. By the time Christ
came they were the best-prepared people to carry the
Good News to the gentile (non-Jewish) nations. The
whole nation was to be witness to the nations
(Exodus 19:5, 6; Amos 3:2).
All God asked of Israel
was that she love Him and serve Him with all the
heart and soul. The keeping of His commandments was
simply the expression of love. If we love Him, we
will do what He says to do. If we love Him, we will
keep His commandments.
NEAR EASTERN TREATY
COVENANTS AND DEUTERONOMY
Recent scholarship has
emphasized the consistency of the covenant in
Deuteronomy and the Near Eastern treaties during the
13 and 14th centuries B.C. Hebrew uses the same word
for an international treaty and a covenant between
Yahweh and His people. Most of these treaties
discovered date between 1500 and 600 B.C. We are
dealing with this same time frame in Deuteronomy.
The ideas and terms show a remarkable relationship
between parties in treaties and the covenant between
God and His people. The new relationship with God
was called a covenant. This covenant was a decisive
step in the creation of the nation of Israel.
resemble treaties in respect to their rhetorical
language, structure and ideology. The purpose of a
treaty was to secure the entire allegiance of the
vassal–king or city–state to the other partner in
the treaty. Rhetorical style is a characteristic of
Deuteronomy. Terminology is replete with words like
"fear," "love," "hearken to the voice of," "go
after." In deed, a rebellious vassal "sins" as do
the people of the covenant.
The most striking
similarity is the structure of the treaties and
covenants in the Old Testament. There were six parts
to a treaty: A preamble naming the author of the
treaty, a historical prologue defining the
relationship between parties, the stipulations
describing mutual responsibilities, the treaty
document which was to be read at regular intervals,
a list of the gods who witnessed the treaty, and its
resultant curses, blessings and threats if the
treaty is broken. Of course, the Old Testament
omitted the list of gods because Yahweh was cutting
the covenant with His chosen people. At least four
of these elements are found in Deuteronomy: the
prologue, the stipulations, the treaty document and
blessings and blessings.
Moreover, both begin with
history and insistence on grace and mercy of the
author of the covenant. Kindness is often shown to
the vassal state. Here we see Yahweh reminding
Israel often of His mercy. The stipulations come
after the LORD has reminded His people of what He
has done for them. Of course, blessings are promised
for obedience and curses if the treaty is broken.
God has entered into a covenant with Israel and He
expects them to be obedient and loyal to Him. Exile
from the Promised Land is the curse if they are
disobedient and go after idols. The prophets were
sent of God to bring prophetic judgments when the
people disobeyed. God kept reaching out to His
people with grace and mercy. Other examples of the
treaty motif are suggested in Exodus 19–24; Joshua
24 and I Samuel 12.
It is worthy of note that
these treaties were transmitted to subsequent
generations as inviolable documents. They were
sealed and placed in secure locations such as in
temples. This is probably the strongest evidence
against an evolutionary process of writing and
developing the first five books of the Bible, and
A PROPHET LIKE UNTO
MOSES: Deuteronomy 18:15–19 gives
Israel assurance that God will not forsake them, but
will guide and lead them. Jesus is the prophet par
excellence. He understood this prophecy as referring
to Himself in John 5:46, and the Apostle Peter also
understood it as referring to Jesus (Acts 3:22–26).
The language unmistakably points to the Messiah,
The general principles in
Deuteronomy are timeless. Just as Jesus found
strength in God's Word to face the Tempter, so we
can find spiritual power in the face of opposition
as we apply God's Word to our lives. The people were
commanded to write certain portions of Scripture on
their doorposts and memorize them. We can write them
on cards, inscribe on posters, plaques, listen to
them on cassettes as constant reminders to read and
heed to God's Word. The important thing is to get it
before us and into our hearts so we can abide in it.
Jesus said the two great
commandments of the law were to love the LORD God
and to love one's neighbor. This is the heart of
Deuteronomy. Love is the key to life with God. We
owe Him our hearts because He first loved us.
God has revealed Himself
in the facts of history. He is concerned about human
situations, yours and mine.
Yahweh chose Israel out
of grace. Grace is the only explanation for the
nation of Israel. It is the only explanation for God
choosing us as well.
The emphasis of
Deuteronomy is on the relationship between true
faith and a holy life. Christianity is not about a
life insurance policy that gets you into heaven. It
is about God's eternal purpose for us in conforming
us to the likeness of His Son. Getting us saved is
just the first phase, important as it is. Much of
our shallow Christianity is the result of our fire
insurance preaching. The LORD has redeemed us and He
demands our loyalty to Him.
"The LORD our God is one
LORD." The unity of the Godhead is presented. He is
"one" as a unity with distinctions with the persons
of the Godhead.
What are some Canaanites
in our lives that we need to remove? Do you have
some spiritual "marriages" with the modern culture
that violate God's values?
The worst sin is still
idolatry. The penalty was terribly severe for
Israel. It was the failure of Israel to obey
Yahweh's command to destroy the Canaanites that led
to gross idolatry, and ultimately to the destruction
of the kingdom and exile from the Promised Land.
This great book ends with
the pathos of Moses' death. The gifted writer F. B.
Meyer has expressed it thus:
At 120, his eye not
dimmed, nor his natural force abated, the aged man
climbed Mt. Pisgah, and, as he viewed the Promised
Land, into which he longed to go, God gently lifted
him into the Better Land. In a moment, his soul had
passed within the veil, and he was at home with God.
God buried his body. Of his sepulchre, no man knows.
His remains were removed from all reach of idolatry.
The last glimpse we have
of Moses in the Scriptures is on the Mount of
Transfiguration, along with Elijah, talking to Jesus
about His coming exodus. Because of His death and
resurrection, He promised us, "I go to prepare a
place for you."
Series on Christ in the
Title: Introduction to
Series: Introduction to