Book Overview - Deuteronomy
by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE BOOK OF DEUTERONOMY
The fifth book written by Moses is called Deuteronomy on account of an erroneous Greek translation of Chapter 17:18. The words “a copy of this law” were translated by mistake “a second law.” Deuteronomy means “second law.” The Hebrews call it “haddeborim”, which means “the words.”
This book does not contain a second law, as suggested by the word Deuteronomy; nor is the book a mere repetition of the law previously given in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. The analysis and annotations as given in this work show that such is not the case. Dr. Martin Luther remarks on this book: “Deuteronomy is a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which relate to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally are required to know.” This is a correct view. It is “a hortatory description, explanation, and enforcement of the most essential contents of the covenant revelation and covenant laws, with emphatic prominence given to the spiritual principle of the law and its fulfilment; and with a further development of the ecclesiastical, judicial, political and civil organization which was intended as a permanent foundation for the life and well-being of the people in the land of Canaan. There is not the slightest trace, throughout the whole book, of any intention whatever to give a new or second law.”
The book of Deuteronomy is the book which demands obedience. Obedience is the keynote of almost every chapter. It is the great lesson of the book. Obedience in the spirit of love, flowing from a blessed and enjoyed relationship with Jehovah, is the demand made of His people. Over and over again in this final portion of the Pentateuch the people Israel are reminded of the great goodness and faithfulness of Jehovah. How He redeemed them out of the house of bondage, carried them through the wilderness, guided them, gave them food, sustained them is repeatedly stated. And He, who chose Israel and dealt thus with them has a perfect claim on their love; that love is to be expressed by obedience. There are some misguided believers who pass by this magnificent book as if there were no lessons to be learned here. To do this is a very serious mistake. No book in the Bible must be ignored. Each bears its own peculiar character and message. We do well to look under the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the spiritual lessons which are written for us here.
Is the principle of the book of Deuteronomy, obedience to Jehovah and His Word in the spirit of love and godly fear, abandoned in the New Testament? We answer, it is as prominent there as it is in this fifth book of Moses. New Testament believers, forming the body of Christ, are brought into the highest possible relationship with the Lord. They possess a position which Israel never possessed and of which even their greatest prophets were ignorant. Christian believers are one with the Lord Jesus Christ. Everywhere in the Gospels and in the Epistles this relationship into which the grace of God has brought believers forms the basis of exhortation to love the Lord and to obey His Word; to live unto Him. “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.... If a man love Me he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him and make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My sayings, and the Word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s, who sent Me” (John 14:21; John 14:23-24). “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). May God’s people everywhere be reminded, in the days of laxity and worldliness, that the Lord who has redeemed us and has washed us from our sins in His own blood, claims our love and obedience. This fact makes the book of Deuteronomy, if carefully studied in a spiritual way, of great importance to every child of God. If read it is bound to produce a response from every heart indwelt by His Spirit and a closer walk with God and more childlike obedience will be the result. It is deeply interesting at the same time to study this old book. This book, three thousand years old, having power to touch the heart and the life of all who receive its message, is an evidence in itself of its divine origin. Well has it been said: “Take any human writing of the same date as the book of Deuteronomy; if you should lay your hand on some volume written three thousand years ago, what would you find? A curious relic of antiquity--something to be placed in the British Museum, side by side with an Egyptian mummy, having no application whatever to us or to our time--a musty document--a piece of obsolete writing, practically useless to us, referring only to a state of society and to a condition of things long since passed away and buried in oblivion.”
Higher Criticism and Deuteronomy
On account of the sublime character of this book, Deuteronomy has been the object of the special attacks by the critics. These boasting “scholars” have left nothing unattacked, but have defiled with their foolish theories and inventions the perfect Word of God. Throughout our studies in the preceding books, we have touched repeatedly upon their arguments and repudiated their claims. It is quite impossible to follow here the history and development of the criticism of Deuteronomy. There is a reason, which we hope to state later, why this book has been the special object of these satanic attacks, to rob it of its authority. And we wish to add, that nowhere else in their criticism are the critics so at sea and often contradicting each other, as in their attacks upon Deuteronomy. All deny, of course, the Mosaic authorship. The dates are placed many centuries after Moses. To show how these “learned” gentlemen agree, we give a few names of professors and others and what they say about the date of the book. Oettli and others assume that it was composed during the earlier, but post-Solomonic, time of the kings. Vatinger and Koenig claim it was written under Hezekiah. Ewald, Riehm, Smith, Kautsch, etc., teach it was composed under Manasseh’s reign. De Wette, Bleck, Welshausen, Reuss, Dillman, etc., believe it was written when Josiah was king. Gesenius and a host of modern critics put the composition of Deuteronomy during or even after the Babylonian captivity. Here is harmony!
If Deuteronomy was not written by Moses immediately before his death, then the book has no claim whatever upon our confidence. It must be rejected as a colossal fraud. And if this book was not written by Moses and therefore must be classed as a forgery, then the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning this book would have to be dismissed as untrustworthy; that would rob Him of His infallibility. Furthermore the entire New Testament teaching would be affected by it, for the New Testament writers in their inspired testimony make constant use of the book of Deuteronomy.
Higher Criticism is Infidelity
Higher criticism is infidelity and that of the most dangerous kind, because it comes in the garb of an angel of light and often claims to be a friend and a helper, to lead people into the truth. All the prominent infidels (and most of them, if not all, immoral men) ridiculed the idea that Moses wrote Deuteronomy.
We quote from that well-known infidel, who lived more than a hundred years ago, Thomas Paine:
“In Deuteronomy the style and manner of writing marks more evidently than the former books that Moses is not the writer.” “Though it is impossible for us to know identically who the writer of Deuteronomy was, it is not difficult to discover him professionally, that he was some Jewish priest who lived, as I shall show in the course of this work, at least 850 years after Moses.”
Recently an official of high standing in the Methodist Episcopal Church wrote a book in which he followed closely in the tracks of German infidel critics. He made the following assertions:
“It is clear, say our modern authorities, that he (Moses) could not have been the author of this book (Deuteronomy). For reasons equally convincing, it is evident that the book must be the product of a period or periods far later than that of Moses.” “The date of its origin is probably not far from the middle of the sixth century B.C.”
Is there any difference between the statements of the infidel Thomas Paine and the Methodist preacher of prominent standing? Both speak the same language. Doubly sad it is, when the men, who adopt this destructive criticism, are destitute of any scholarship whatever. They are but weak echo-men of others.
Our Lord and Deuteronomy
Our Lord Jesus Christ put special honor upon this book. It is this book which He quoted exclusively when Satan came to Him with his vile temptations. Three times He took His answers from that one book, quoting chapter 6:13, 16; 8:3; 10:20. This certainly is highly significant. He, who knew the Word so well, might have gone to any other portion and used it with equal effect. But He chose to take refuge behind this book and draw the weapon from it to defeat Satan, who now tries, by his instruments, to destroy the trustworthiness of the book in which the Lord Jesus Christ so firmly believed as the very Word of God. And our Lord no doubt foresaw all this modern day infidel criticism. Did He know anything of the authorship of Deuteronomy? Would He have quoted from this book if it had been a forgery? if these words are not truly the Word of God, though claiming to be that, then they are falsehoods. How could Satan have been defeated by falsehoods? Alas! these critics go so far in their blasphemy, that they charge Christ with ignorance, or that He acquiesced in a popular error of His times! The testimony our Lord has given to this book is sufficient to establish its divinity as well as the Mosaic authorship.
But there is another reason why He selected Deuteronomy in answering the Devil. As we have seen Deuteronomy tells of obedience. Hence the One who had come to be obedient, yea obedient unto death, the death of the cross, went to that book, which speaks of obedience, to show how He submitted to the will of His Father and to defeat Satan thereby. Our Lord therefore bore witness also to the very character of the book itself.
In the New Testament
Equally striking it is that the Lord in many other instances made use of Deuteronomy. And the Holy Spirit in almost every portion of the New Testament connects His testimony with this great book. We earnestly request our readers to study the following passages and turn to these references. This not only shows how Deuteronomy is made use of in the New Testament, but it will help in understanding the book. Deuteronomy 1:16-17; Deuteronomy 16:19 and John 7:24; James 2:1. Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32 and Matthew 5:18; Revelation 22:18-19. Deuteronomy 4:7 and James 4:8. Deuteronomy 4:29-31; Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 11:6; Hebrews 8:8. Deuteronomy 5:5 and Galatians 3:19. Deuteronomy 7:8 and 1 John 4:10. Deuteronomy 9:7; Deuteronomy 9:24; Deuteronomy 10:16 and Acts 7:51. Deuteronomy 9:15; Deuteronomy 9:19 and Hebrews 12:18. Deuteronomy 10:17 and Acts 10:34 and 1 Timothy 6:15. Deuteronomy 13:14 and 2 Corinthians 6:15. Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:9 and 1 Peter 2:9. Deuteronomy 15:11 and Matthew 26:11; John 12:8. Deuteronomy 16:20 and 1 Timothy 6:11. Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Hebrews 10:28. Deuteronomy 18:15 and Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37; John 1:21; John 6:14; Matthew 17:5. Deuteronomy 18:16 and Hebrews 12:19. Deuteronomy 18:19 and Luke 10:16; John 12:48; Acts 3:23. Deuteronomy 18:18 and John 12:49. Deuteronomy 19:19; Deuteronomy 17:7 and 1 Corinthians 5:13. Deuteronomy 19:21 and Matthew 5:38. Deuteronomy 21:6 and Matthew 27:24. Deuteronomy 21:23 and Galatians 3:13. Deuteronomy 22:22 and John 8:4. Deuteronomy 23:25 and Matthew 12:1. Deuteronomy 14:1 and Matthew 5:31; Matthew 19:3. Deuteronomy 24:14 and James 5:4. Deuteronomy 25:3 and 2 Corinthians 11:24. Deuteronomy 25:4 and 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18. Deuteronomy 25:5 and Matthew 22:24. Deuteronomy 27:26 and Galatians 3:10. Deuteronomy 29:3 and Romans 11:8. Deuteronomy 29:18 and Hebrews 12:15. Deuteronomy 30:6 and Romans 2:29. Deuteronomy 30:11 and Romans 10:6-8. Deuteronomy 31:26 and Romans 3:19. Deuteronomy 32:21 and Romans 10:19. Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30. Deuteronomy 32:43 and Romans 15:10.
And if Deuteronomy were not true, not the Word of God, what then? Every part of the New Testament would collapse.
But Deuteronomy is also a book of prophecy. Moses is called in it a prophet. He exercises His office in this final book he wrote. From Pisgah he beheld the land in all its beauty. But before he had that vision, he had seen the future of the people, who had been his charge during the weary years through the desert sands. How wonderful it is that he, their appointed leader, who knew the people so well, uttered prophecies, which cover the past, present and future history of Israel. How minutely curses, which were to come upon the people, are predicted in this book! How minutely they were fulfilled and are still in course of fulfillment.
His great song (chapter 32) is wholly prophetic. It is, if rightly understood, a key to the entire prophetic Word. What is yet to come upon the nation, both in judgment and in blessing, was beheld by Moses.
His last message was the blessing. The man, the faithful servant of Jehovah, to whom was given the ministry of the law (which can do nothing but curse), ends his earthly testimony by uttering a blessing. That blessing will yet come upon the sons of Jacob and all nations will rejoice in coming days, when His people is brought back and all His promises are fulfilled. May it please God to make the study of this book a great blessing to all His people.
The Division of Deuteronomy
I. THE FIRST DISCOURSE OF MOSES AND RETROSPECT
1. Introduction (Deuteronomy 1:1-5)
2. From Horeb to Kadesh (Deuteronomy 1:6-46)
3. After the Forty Years: Conflict and Conquest (Deut. 2-3)
4. Hearken, O Israel! (Deuteronomy 4:1-40)
5. The Three Cities of Refuge (Deuteronomy 4:41-43)
II. THE EXPOSITION OF THE LAW AND THE STATUTES, EXHORTATIONS AND WARNINGS, BLESSING AND CURSE
1. The Proclamation of the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 4:44-49; Deuteronomy 5:1-33)
2. The First Commandment and What it Involves (Deuteronomy 6:1-25)
3. The Possession of the Land and Their Separation (Deuteronomy 7:1-26)
4. Thou Shalt Remember! Provision and Warning (Deuteronomy 8:20)
5. Warning Against Self-Righteousness and Their Previous Failures (Deut. 9-10:11)
6. Jehovah’s Love and His Requirements of His People (Deuteronomy 10:12-22)
7. Israel’s Responsibility: The Blessing and the Curse (Deuteronomy 11:1-32)
8. The Place of Worship (Deuteronomy 12:1-32)
9. Warning Against False Prophets and Their Punishment (Deuteronomy 13:1-18)
10. The Children of God and Their Separation (Deuteronomy 14:1-29)
11. The Year of Release and Liberation Of Hebrew Slaves (Deuteronomy 15:1-18)
12. The Firstlings and the Three Feasts (Deuteronomy 15:19-23; Deuteronomy 16:1-17)
13. Justice and the Choice of a King (Deuteronomy 16:18-22; Deuteronomy 17:1-20)
14. The Rights of the Priests and Levites, the True and the False Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:1-22)
15. Laws for Israel in the Land (Deuteronomy 19:1-21)
16. Concerning Future Wars (Deuteronomy 20:1-20)
17. The Expiation of an Uncertain Murder and Various Instructions (Deuteronomy 21:1-23)
18. Against Inhumanity and Different Violations, False Testimony and Sins of Adultery (Deuteronomy 22:1-30)
19. The Congregation of Jehovah: Its Constitution and Holiness (Deuteronomy 23:1-25)
20. Concerning Divorce and Laws of Mercy (Deuteronomy 24:1-22)
21. Various Laws and Responsibilities (Deuteronomy 25:1-19)
22. First Fruits and Prayer (Deuteronomy 26:1-19)
23. The Memorial of the Law at Mount Ebal, Gerizim, and Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:1-26)
24. The Blessing and the Curse (Deuteronomy 28:1-68)
25. The Repetition of the Covenant and the Restated Curse (Deuteronomy 29:1-29)
26. The Dispersion and the Return: The Final Appeal (Deuteronomy 30:1-20)
III. THE FINAL WORDS OF MOSES AND THE VISION OF THE FUTURE
1. Moses’ Final Charge, the Written Law Delivered, and Jehovah’s Word to Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-30)
2. The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43)
3. The Blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:43-52; Deuteronomy 33:1-29)
4. The Death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:1-12)
the Second Week after Epiphany