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There appear at this point in Moses' first address some very important features of Deuteronomy which have been perceived and appreciated only during the past two decades. "In the last twenty years, the problem of the structure of Deuteronomy has apparently been solved, and in a way that simultaneously vindicates its unity, and illuminates its purpose." Furthermore, we do not hesitate to add that this understanding has also corroborated the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy. The key fact is that Deuteronomy follows very closely the covenant (treaty) pattern in vogue during the mid-second millennium B.C. This pattern, found in all of the suzerain treaties like those of the Hittite kings of that era, features the following items:
(1) identification of the author of the covenant as speaker;
(2) reference to past historical relations;
(3) the presentation of the central demand of the suzerain for pure devotion and obedience to the maker of the covenant;
(4) blessings and cursings invoked upon the lesser parties to the covenant;
(5) invocation of witnesses;
(6) the requirement to transmit the knowledge of the covenant to subsequent generations;
(7) allusions to the dynastic issue.
Kline further stated that, "Deuteronomy embodies to some extent all the features which constitute the documentary pattern of ancient suzerainty treaties." Furthermore, the `critical orthodoxy' of the first-half of this century has stubbornly insisted on dating Deuteronomy around the seventh century B.C.; "but the pattern of covenant treaties followed here is of a kind that is typical of the mid-1400 B.C. era, and not of the seventh century."
There is also another striking fact. The conformity of Deuteronomy to those patterns prevalent in the times of Moses (about 1400 B.C.) is not the obvious, slavish copying of such patterns, like those that would have marked the work of any forger, but the conformity is a variable one, with all of the leading aspects of the covenant pattern "found here and there throughout Deuteronomy, and this is explained by the origin of the material in the free oratory of Moses' farewell." The significance of this is profound. First, the documentary thesis with its alleged sources of the Pentateuch is discredited and denied. The Mosaic authorship is continued. The late-dating of Deuteronomy is intellectually impossible!
"And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes and unto the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which Jehovah, the God of your fathers, giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what Jehovah did because of Baal-peor; for all the men that followed Baal-peor, Jehovah thy God hath destroyed them from the midst of thee. But ye that did cleave unto Jehovah your God are alive every one of you this day. Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, even as Jehovah my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the midst of the land whither ye go in to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the people, that shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as Jehovah our God is whensoever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?"
"And now ..." (Deuteronomy 4:1) introduces the final appeal of the first address of this book. Blair summarized the entire first address thus:
"Since God is what He is, since He has done what He has done and said what He has said, Israel must bring its attitudes and life into harmony with the will of God if the people are to live and prosper in the world."
"Ye shall not add unto the word ... neither shall ye diminish from it ..." (Deuteronomy 4:2.). Craigie pointed out that this passage, along with Revelation 22:18,19, has been considered by the historical Christian Church, "as a commandment of God with reference to the canonical writings of both Testaments." And why not? It appears to this student that there is no other intellectual alternative. To deny this, and to affirm that these prohibitions are restricted to the "law of God as contained in the canon," is an absurdity, for in such an interpretation one immediately confronts the difficulty of finding "the canon in the canon!" By the acceptance of such an absurdity, the truth-seeker must at once adopt a new god in the person of some critical scholar who will tell him where the true Word of God is located and where it is not!
Of course, it is precisely this colossal error of man's presuming to find "a canon in the Biblical canon" that constitutes the "lingering illness of Protestant theology ... and it has not been found."
The current theories of the origin of Deuteronomy by some unknown forger called "The Deuteronomist" are here confronted with a colossal absurdity, namely, that, "The Deuteronomists thought of their law as complete in spite of the fact that it contained none of the law provisions found in the book of the covenant (Exodus 20:22-23:33)." The worthless explanation of this by Phillips cannot possibly be correct. The true explanation is that the passage applies to "The Five Books of Moses" and not to the occasional portions of it attributed to some unknown Deuteronomist!
"That ye may live ... and possess the land ..." (Deuteronomy 4:1). Moses here tied the prosperity of Israel to their success or failure in keeping God's commandments, and it is our conviction that this applies to all people wheresoever. The people of Sherman, Texas understood this as indicated by the inscription on their courthouse: "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). Oberst stated the application of this truth as follows:
"Can America any longer be called, even by stretching the imagination, a "Christian nation?" Obviously not. And yet this is our hypocritical claim. There is only one possible end of such a nation - the curse of God and degradation in the eyes of other nations. May we too remember that Israel became "a hiss and a byword" of the nations round about. And why? Because God's law and God's works were forgotten!"
"The peoples ... shall say ..." (Deuteronomy 4:6). True to this prophecy, the greatness of Israel among the nations is solely that of their ancient relationship to God. "It is significant that this (relationship), and that not wealth, military power, or artistic achievement, is pointed out as the measure of Israel's greatness." This is especially true with regard to the Incarnation, the coming of the Christ to redeem mankind.
"Because of Baal-peor ..." (Deuteronomy 4:3). (For a full discussion of this shameful defection of many of the Israelites, see Vol. III in this series on the Pentateuch under Numbers 25:1-5ff.)
Before leaving this passage, we must note the regrettable effort of John D. W. Watts in Broadman Commentary to make the application of Deuteronomy 4:2 as a prohibition against either adding to or taking from the Bible a late development in the Christian Church dating "from the third century." No! the prohibition against adding to or taking from the Sacred Scriptures dates from the remotest antiquity. Paul's statement that men should learn "not to go beyond what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6), as well as Jesus' declaration that "the Scriptures cannot be broken" (John 10:35), must mean that the inviolability of the sacred canon has been an accepted principle of Christianity from its inception. Furthermore, Josephus gave it as the opinion of all Judaism that "We have only twenty-two books (corresponding exactly to the O.T. as we now have it), which contain the record of all past times, which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses." As a matter of fact, "The so-called canonical formula (You shall not add to ... nor take from) has a long history ... dating back to 2450 years B.C."
As we proceed in this study of Deuteronomy, we should also be aware of the total absence of any reason whatever for believing that any author except Moses was involved in writing it. The critics who would have it otherwise complain bitterly of this lack of support for their theories. They even refer to their task as "difficult!" "The most perplexing difficulty in attempting to analyze the literary growth of Deuteronomy is the remarkable homogeneity of the language, style, and ideology which pervade the book!" Difficult is not really an applicable term here; it is impossible to destroy the evident fact of all of Deuteronomy's being composed by a single author, namely, Moses. "Remarkable homogeneity of language, style, and ideology" are incontrovertible proof of the conservative position here.
"Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes saw, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but make them known unto thy children and thy children's children; the day that thou stoodest before Jehovah thy God in Horeb, when Jehovah said unto me, Assemble me the people, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto heart of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And Jehovah spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you this covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even the ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. And Jehovah commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it."
In Deuteronomy 4:9,10 Moses addressed the people as if they personally had stood before the Lord in Horeb, an event that occurred forty years earlier, but this presents no problem whatever. Tens of thousands of the people (over forty years old) who stood before Moses when this was said, were present and vividly remembered what Moses mentioned here. One may only smile at the critical slur that "we are surprised that Moses would speak to his hearers as if they were present to see the theophany!" Indeed, vast numbers of them were present.
"Ye saw no form ..." (Deuteronomy 4:12). This is presented here as an argument against making any kind of an image. If one should attempt to form an image of God, what form could it possibly take? There is powerful theological support here for the specific in the Decalogue, that "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image."
The identification of "the covenant" in this passage with "the ten commandments" (Deuteronomy 4:13) was natural, but it should be understood as a synecdoche in which "the Ten Commandments" stands for all that the Lord had spoken. Failure to observe this truth led in later years, as Cousins declared, "to a superficial and legalistic view of the covenant relationship."
"Two tables of stone ..." (Deuteronomy 4:13). This has been understood throughout the ages as suggesting a division of the commandments into two classifications, for example, (1) duties to God, and (2) duties to man, but the new understanding of Deuteronomy's resemblance to the suzerainty covenant treaties of the Mosaic era tends to raise a question about this. As Cousins noted: "The two tables may have been necessary because of the content; more likely they correspond to the two copies commonly made of treaty documents." Phillips especially favored this reason why there were two tables of stone:
"The Commandments are not to be thought of as written partly on one tablet and partly on the other. Each tablet would have contained all the Commandments. This again reflects the normal practice of the suzerainty treaties under which one copy was retained by the suzerain and the other given to the vassal to deposit in the temple of his god. In Israel's case, both copies were placed in the Ark (Deuteronomy 10:1-5; 31:9,26)."
It is of significance that by both tables being placed in the Ark, their being so placed, "symbolized the permanent presence of God" in the midst of His people Israel.
"Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of form on the day that Jehovah spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire; lest ye corrupt yourselves and make you a graven image in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flieth in the heavens, the likeness of anything that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters under the earth; and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto the heaven, and when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, thou be drawn away and worship them, and serve them, which Jehovah thy God hath allotted unto all the peoples under the whole heaven. But Jehovah hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as at this day. Furthermore, Jehovah was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance: but I must die in this land, I must not go over the Jordan; but ye shall go over and possess that good land. Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of Jehovah your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image in the form of anything which Jehovah thy God hath forbidden thee. For Jehovah thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous God."
Here Moses returned to the thought of Deuteronomy 4:12, namely, that in the great theophany at Horeb, Israel "saw no form." Von Rad saw this place as "a comparatively insignificant passage," but, on the contrary, it vitally illuminates the prohibition against the making of images. The spirituality of God is emphasized dramatically here. "It is as a spirit that God is to be worshipped, and not under any outward representation." "Men are not to worship anything that men can see." The making of any kind of image is actually an attempt to define and limit God, "but to contain or limit God, whether by material form or theological proposition, is failure to be aware of the infinitude and transcendence of God."
Deuteronomy 4:16-18 prohibited the making of any religious image like any animal, bird, fish, creeping thing, or anything else. Many such things were commonly worshipped in Egypt and throughout the ancient world.
Deuteronomy 4:19 forbade the worship of sun, moon, stars, or any of the host of heaven. God made it clear in this passage that he had appointed the host of heaven to "serve mankind," hence, the foolishness of men who would "serve them" (Deuteronomy 4:19). Right here is one of the vast differences in the true religion and the religious superstitions that have troubled men throughout history. The astrology business, right now, in the U.S.A. is a two billion dollar business annually, and what is "astrology?" It is the science of trying to determine the influence of the stars over human behavior. Christian, get it straight: "The stars do not control you, they SERVE you." Some of the more discerning pagans understood this perfectly: "It is written in the stars when I myself shall write it there with lofty hand!" Conceited as such a remark assuredly is, it at least avoids the abasement of worshipping stars.
"The iron furnace ..." (Deuteronomy 4:20). This metaphor is rendered as "smelting furnace" in the New English Bible. What is indicated is the severe and rigorous service imposed upon the Israelites in the land of their bondage, Egypt.
In Deuteronomy 4:21,22, Moses again recalls the prohibition against his entry into Canaan, again adding the words "for your sakes," making it clear that Israel should get the point that, "if the leader of the whole nation was forbidden to enter the promised land because of his sin, then any sins committed by the Israelites themselves would most certainly bring punishment upon them."
Any old man talking about historical events will naturally throw in, now and then, some detail overlooked in other narratives of the event, and so it is here in Deuteronomy 4:21, where Moses mentioned that God "sware" that he should not enter the promised land. This is the first mention of such an oath, and the critics almost go into ecstasy thinking they have found a contradiction! But Alexander effectively refuted this as follows:
"It is inconceivable, and it certainly does not follow, that because no mention was made in Numbers of God's swearing that he did not swear on the occasion here mentioned. Since God had sworn that the people (above 20 years of age) would never enter Canaan, would he not also have sworn when Moses was prohibited?"
"When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have been long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image in the form of anything, and shall do that which is evil in the sight of Jehovah thy God, to provoke him to anger; I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over the Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And Jehovah will scatter you among the peoples, and ye shall be left few in number among the nations, whither Jehovah shall lead you away. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But from thence ye shall seek Jehovah thy God, and thou shalt find him, when thou searchest after him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, in the latter days thou shalt return to Jehovah thy God, and hearken unto his voice: for Jehovah thy God is a merciful God; he will not fail thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them."
There is no reason whatever to see these verses as post-exilic. Many centuries prior to the Babylonian captivity of Israel, "Defeat and deportation were familiar concepts to Israel." The same author pointed out that, "What is really significant here is that Yahweh, unlike secular kings, might even forgive disregard of a solemn treaty." Of course, the Christian view of the passage makes it an accurate prophecy on the part of Moses of exactly what would happen (and what did happen) to Israel in the ages to come. No critical scholar could possibly allow such a thing, because even before he even looks at any of the evidence, he has already decided that there is no such thing as predictive prophecy. That this is actually true is specifically attested by the great German scholar Maier:
"The very selection of the critical method prefigures, and predetermines the results. The historical-critical method represents a prejudgment in the sense of an a priori decision concerning the outcome. Such a method cannot allow certain conclusions (such as the existence of predictive prophecy, parenthesis mine, J.B.C.), though they may be proved a thousand times! ... This is the helplessness into which a falsely selected method blunders."
It actually happened exactly as Moses prophesied here. Israel became prosperous and they turned greedily after the licentiousness of the old Canaanite gods, the Baalim, with their shameful orgiastic, sexually oriented debaucheries, and it was not long until both the northern and southern Israels were corrupted. There is abundant evidence of all this in the minor prophets. As Dummelow said, "Prosperity sometimes acts like a narcotic and sends the soul to sleep."
"Ye shall be few in number ..." (Deuteronomy 4:27). As found frequently throughout the Bible, the `remnant doctrine' appears right here in Deuteronomy. Phillips denied this, solely on the basis of his personal opinion, since no argument supporting the notion was even mentioned. And, of course, it was only a remnant that came back from Babylon. Phillips admitted that, "This passage clearly betrays knowledge of the exile in Babylon ..." He means by this, of course, that the passage had to be written after the Babylon exile occurred. This is only the blindness of criticism. How can such men who have already been brain-washed so that they cannot believe in the supernatural, nor in God, nor in inspiration by the Holy Spirit, nor in anything whatever except the material things they can see or eat - how can such men hope to be of any help to Christians in their study of the Scriptures? Regardless of the blind arrogance of unbelievers, however, right here we have Moses' prediction of what would happen after Israel was seduced by the false gods of Canaan. This prophecy was written in 1400 B.C., and the exile took place about eight centuries later.
Alexander read this prophecy of Israel's return to Jehovah "in the latter days" (Deuteronomy 4:30) as a promise of their restoration "as a nation." However, it is our conviction that the expression, "the latter days," identifies this as a prediction of the intended return of all men, both Jews and Gentiles alike, unto God in the institution of the N.T., the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever a people hear the voice of God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that Jehovah your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightest know that Jehovah He is God; there is none else besides Him. Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct thee: and upon earth He made thee to see His great fire; and thou heardest His words out of the midst of the fire. And because He loved thy fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them, and brought thee out with His presence, with His great power, out of Egypt; to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as at this day. Know therefore this day, and lay it to thy heart, that Jehovah He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else. And thou shalt keep His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and thou mayest prolong thy days in the land, which Jehovah thy God giveth thee forever."
Every line of these verses carries the signature of their author, namely, Moses. Only Moses could have made a speech like this. There is not even a hint of anything here that does not fit the conviction that Moses is the speaker. Of course, drowning men catch at straws, and the critics seize upon the expression in Deuteronomy 4:38, "as at this day." Can such an expression, so natural in the mouth of Moses who was present that day, and who so recently had seen the land of Moab and Bashan and Sihon inherited by some of the tribes of Israel, and indeed viewed all of Canaan as already in the hands of God's people, can such a natural expression, so appropriate to the occasion when Moses uttered it, - can such an expression prove that the author of Deuteronomy "has here forgotten the fiction of Moses' speech before the conquest?" Ridiculous. This expression indicates no such thing. A "straw" like this will drown any man who trusts it.
This paragraph affirms in the most positive and dogmatic terms possible that there is only one God, namely, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.
This is nothing new. In the Decalogue, God said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." "It is clear that the expression `before me' really means `besides me,' or `apart from me.'" In addition to that, look what is stated right here in this chapter:
"Jehovah He is God; there is none else besides Him (Deuteronomy 4:35). Know therefore this day, and lay it to thy heart, that Jehovah He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else (Deuteronomy 4:39)."
Of course, critical enemies of the Bible must deny passages like this? How do they do it? Here is the way Phillips did it: "`There is no other' is best interpreted as `there is no other like him!'" Any manuscript evidence of this? No! Any parallel passage elsewhere that supports such a view? No! Any evidence of any kind whatever that such a perversion ought to be allowed? NO! Why then are Phillips and all critical scholars determined to outlaw what the Bible plainly says? It denies their theories, therefore they must get rid of it. Should Christians allow such mishandling of the Sacred Text? A million times, NO!
If language means anything, monotheism is dogmatically affirmed by Moses right here in Deuteronomy, and, therefore, monotheism cannot be a post-Mosaic development, or discovery. Of course, some translations are being tampered with in order to make it appear otherwise. Moffatt, for example, rendered Deuteronomy 4:19 in this chapter thus: "The Eternal your God has allotted them (the host of heaven) for worship to all nations under the broad sky." Such a corrupt rendition is a fraud on its face, ranking along with Moffatt's phenomenal "goof" regarding "The Reed Sea." The same goes for all the subsequent versions and translations that have fallen for this crooked translation. As given by Moffatt, it makes Moses affirm that the sun, moon, and stars were God-authorized objects of worship among the pagan nations.
This paragraph ending in Deuteronomy 4:40 closes the exhortations and admonitions section of Moses' first address. After this is described the appointment of three cities of refuge east of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 4:41-43); and the second address begins with Deuteronomy 4:44.
"Then Moses set apart three cities beyond the Jordan toward the sunrising; that the manslayer might flee thither, that slayeth his neighbor unawares, and hated him not in the past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live: namely, Bezer in the wilderness, in the plain country, for the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites."
The mention of the cities of refuge appears, not only here, but in Numbers 35:9-24; Deuteronomy 19:13; and in Joshua 20:1-9. There are two ways to understand this insertion of Moses' appointment of these cities right here squarely between the first and second addresses recorded in Deuteronomy:
(1) First, there is the dogmatic, unsupported, unproved, and ridiculous notion that the forger who gave us this work had no rhyme nor reason whatever in the way he put the book together. He just junked a lot of things together, and here is where this particular "tradition" came out! All who want that explanation are welcome to it.
(2) There is the accurate, Scripturally-supported reason for the appointment of these cities being mentioned right here: "The interval between the first and second addresses is exactly the point in time when Moses named and set apart these three cities." Cook's further comment on this is:
"Then Moses severed the three cities, that is, the fact narrated took place historically after Moses spoke the one discourse, and before the delivered the other. Thus, Moses carried out a previous command of God, and so followed up his command for obedience by setting a punctual example of it, as far as opportunity was given him?"
THE SECOND ADDRESS OF MOSES (Deuteronomy 4:44-26:19)
"And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel: these are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, when they came forth out of Egypt, beyond the Jordan, in the valley over against Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, when they came forth out of Egypt. And they took his land in possession, and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who were beyond the Jordan toward the sunrising; from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, even unto mount Sion (the same is Hermon), and all the Arabah beyond the Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the Arabah, under the slopes of Pisgah."
This second address of Moses constitutes the great heart of Deuteronomy. The very first two verses (Deuteronomy 4:44,45) are an effective title of the whole discourse, namely, The Law, The Testimonies, The Statutes, The Ordinances of Moses, as God Commanded Him.
Of course, in our way of thinking, it would have been nice if they had included these verses in the next chapter, but we shall follow divisions as they have come down to us. Cook divided the discourse into two parts, namely, Deuteronomy 5-11, and Deuteronomy 12-26. Alexander's outline of this rather long discourse is as follows:
The Second Address of Moses Introduction ... Deuteronomy 4:44-49.
The Decalogue, Basis of the Covenant, the Essence of the Whole Law, etc. ... Deuteronomy 5:1-33.
First and Great Commandment ... Deuteronomy 6:1-25.
Entire Separation from Idolatry ... Deuteronomy 7:1-26.
Exhortation to Obedience ... Deuteronomy 8:1-20.
Dissuasives from Self-righteousness ... Deuteronomy 9:1-29.
Renewed Exhortations to Obedience ... Deuteronomy 10:1-11:33.
Announcement of Particular Statutes and Rights ... Deuteronomy 12:1-26:19.
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18