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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

- Deuteronomy

by Arthur Peake



I. Name.— Deuteronomy is the English form of Gr. Deuteronomicn (non-occurrent in classical Gr., Vulg. Deuteronomium), taken from the LXX rendering of Deuteronomy 17:18,* where “ a copy of this law” is in Gr. inaccurately translated “ this repetition of the law,” this Deuteronomicn. In post-biblical Heb. the book is called by the two first words of the book: sometimes by the second word alone: and also by the Heb. for “ a copy of the law” ( Deuteronomy 17:18).

II. Place in the Canon.— It occurs in the Heb. and modern Bibles as the fifth book of what in post-biblical Heb. is called the Torah ( Deuteronomy 1:5 *), and in what is now called “ The Pentateuch” (p. 121, this name was due to Origen, who died A.D. 253).

III. Contents.— The book consists ostensibly of seven addresses, delivered by Moses before his death at the close of the wilderness wanderings and immediately before the crossing of the Jordan. Since the record begins with the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year of the Exodus ( Deuteronomy 1:3), and closes with the tenth day of the first month of the following year (see Joshua 4:19 P, cf. Deuteronomy 34:8), it covers a period of forty days only. Moses’ seven discourses are as follows :

First discourse, Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:40, with an historical introduction ( Deuteronomy 1:1-5); a short survey of the events of the journey from Mt. Sinai to the Jordan, with practical reflections on Israel’ s duty.

Second discourse, Deuteronomy 5-11, with an historical introduction ( Deuteronomy 4:45-49). This comprises D laws ( cf. the Decalogue, Deuteronomy 5:6-21) but mainly exhortations on Israel’ s duty to worship and serve Yahweh as the only true God. The sin of idolatry is constantly emphasized.

Third Discourse, Deuteronomy 12-26 with Deuteronomy 28, including an historical introduction ( Deuteronomy 4:44). This consists of laws political, social, and religious (with promises and threats in Deuteronomy 28), ostensibly for the government of the nation when it has settled in its new home. Here for the first time in the book (see Deuteronomy 12:5) the fundamental principle of the D legislation, the centralisation of worship, is taught, the earlier laws of J, E, etc., being modified to suit this principle (see especially Deuteronomy 16:1-17, the laws of the three annual festivals).

Fourth discourse, Deuteronomy 29:1 to Deuteronomy 30:20; exhortations to observe the terms of the covenant with Yahweh, with threats of punishment for disobedience and promise of restoration from exile for obedience.

Fifth discourse, Deuteronomy 31:1-13; Moses encourages the people, appoints Joshua his successor, and places the new (D) law in charge of the Levites.

Sixth discourse, the so-called Song of Moses ( Deuteronomy 32:1-47), with introduction ( Deuteronomy 31:16-30, except Deuteronomy 31:23).

Seventh discourse, Deuteronomy 33; containing the “ Blessing of Moses.” The rest of the book has been interwoven or added to so as to complete the history and literary form, such as the accounts of the death and burial of Moses ( Deuteronomy 32:48-52 P, 34 P, J, E, RD).

It is interesting that in Ex.– Nu. God is the speaker, Moses being the reporter. In D, on the contrary, Moses is the speaker (see Deuteronomy 5:1 ff.): this is in accordance with the wish of the people expressed to Moses (see. Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 1:25-31, Deuteronomy 18:15; Exodus 20:19 (E)).

IV. Authorship and Date. 1. Negatively.— The following statements are capable of conclusive demonstration. ( a) That Moses is not the author of Dt. Nowhere throughout the Pentateuch does he appear as author (p. 121). Many passages in Dt. imply that the writer resided W. of the Jordan, i.e. in Canaan ( Deuteronomy 1:1 *, etc.). There are innumerable passages which Moses could not have written (see Deuteronomy 2:34 (“ at that time” ), Deuteronomy 3:11, and especially Deuteronomy 34:10-12). The teaching of the book is later than that of Amos, Hosea, and even Isaiah, not to speak of Moses. The present writer holds, nevertheless, that the basal teaching about God, pure worship, and right conduct taught in Dt. ( cf. especially the Decalogue, Deuteronomy 5:6-21) is traceable farther back than even the age of Moses. ( b) That the author or authors of Dt. could not have written the preceding four books of the Pentateuch, because the laws in Dt. ( cf. those about the festivals, Deuteronomy 16), representing a certain stage in the evolution of Heb. legislation, contradict those of J, E, and P in the previous books, and the same is true of the general teaching about God, sin, sacrifice, etc. There are, besides, many historical discrepancies between Dt. and the preceding books ( cf. Deuteronomy 17:9-13 and Exodus 18:13-26 (J), etc.) ( c) That Dt. cannot have proceeded from one hand, though the sources used (J, E, P, D, etc.) have been so selected and manipulated that the whole book, with slight exceptions, bears the stamp of one man’ s dominating mind and is pervaded by the same practical religious spirit. Dt. stands in sharp contrast with the first four books of the Pentateuch in this respect.

2. Positively.— The peculiar legislation of Dt. does not seem to have been applied, even if it was known, before the last quarter of the seventh century B.C. If the reforms instituted by Josiah (640– 609 B.C.) about 620 B.C. (see 2 Kings 23:1-15) be compared with the teaching of Deuteronomy 12 ff., it will be seen that he acted in harmony with this code. Thus the high places were suppressed ( Deuteronomy 12:3; cf. 2 Kings 23:8-10; 2 Kings 23:13), heathen altars and idols destroyed (123; cf. 2 Kings 23:4-12), etc. Now it is expressly stated in 2 Kings 22 f. that Josiah was induced to set about these religious reforms by the discovery in the Temple of a book of the Law in accordance with which he acted. Most modern scholars agree that this “ book of the Law” is identical with the original part of Dt. (at least Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 19:13 with slight omissions). It is noteworthy that the doctrine of one sanctuary and the consequent sinfulness of sacrificing at high places is not taught by any prophet before Jeremiah, who lived when Josiah’ s Law-book was discovered and that king’ s reforms were inaugurated. Moreover, the peculiar phraseology of Dt. occurs throughout Jeremiah (see Driver, ICC, p. xciii). It is natural to conclude from these and many other considerations that Josiah’ s Law-book and D are the same. The influence of D is traceable in portions of Samuel, throughout Kings (see on these books), and in late (P) parts of Gen., Nu.: or must we assume an earlier date than 621 B.C. for centralisation of worship and the consecration of Levi to the priesthood? (See Deuteronomy 10:5 f.* and Deuteronomy 33:8-11 *.) Yet that the Law-book found by Hilkiah was not identical with our Dt. is almost certain. ( a) It was read through twice in one day ( 2 Kings 22:8; 2 Kings 23:2). ( b) It was pre-eminently a book of precepts about worship, sacrifice, etc. ( c) It is in Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 19:13 that the doctrine of a central sanctuary and its consequences are taught, and this may represent the original D. ( d) On the other hand, Deuteronomy 12-26 with Deuteronomy 28 go well together, and form a unity as regards teaching and style, and not improbably these chapters (with slight omissions) constitute the original code. The curses of Deuteronomy 28 for disobedience would explain Josiah’ s fears of the consequences if the new law were not obeyed ( 2 Kings 22:13). We must add Deuteronomy 4:44, apparently an introduction to 12ff. Deuteronomy 5-11 is an independent piece in which no notice at all is taken of the great law of D— that all sacrificial worship must be at the one place which Yahweh should choose.

It is evident from 2 Kings 22 that the Law-book found in the Temple had been written long enough before it was discovered to have been lost and even forgotten. According to 2 Kings 18:1-8 (unnecessarily rejected by some) Hezekiah (727– 699 B.C.) inaugurated reforms similar to those required by D and carried out by Josiah (2 Kings 22) . It seems a likely hypothesis that the Dt. code was compiled about that time, but that owing to the religious persecutions of the next reign (Manasseh, 698– 643 B.C.) the reform movement was stopped and its literary endorsement (D) suppressed (but see pp. 45, 74f., 129).

The present Dt. makes large use of JE, the laws in which are adapted, and the historical parts of which it follows, but a later editor has drawn upon P. though in a very few instances ( Deuteronomy 1:3, Deuteronomy 32:48-52, Deuteronomy 34:1; Deuteronomy 34:7-9, etc.). It may, however, be safely assumed that Dt. was written in ignorance of P and before P was compiled, i.e. before c. 500 B.C.: though an editor of subsequent times made some additions as late as c. 400 B.C.

Jerome (died A.D. 420) was the first to suggest that Dt. and Josiah’ s Law-book were identical; but his suggestion was ignored by nearly all scholars until comparatively recent times.

Staerk, Steuernagel, and Cornill (IOT, p. 60) hold that the parts where Israel is addressed in singular (“ thou,” etc.) and plural (“ ye,” etc.) represent different sources, a view which involves an unnatural breaking up of sections and verses.

Bearing of the Aramaic Papyri on the Question of the Date of D.— According to the Aramaic papyri (p. 79, Jer. 248) recently discovered in Upper Egypt and edited by Sayce-Cowley, Sachau, and others, there was at Syene (= Assouan) in 525 B.C., when Cambyses invaded Egypt, a Jewish temple with its priesthood and ritual (sacrifice, etc.). This was in contravention of the law of one sanctuary. Some have drawn the conclusion that D is later than 525 B.C. Others, supporting an early (Mosaic?) date, see in these papyri evidence that the non-observance of the D code is no proof of its non-existence. The present writer makes the following suggestions: ( a) This temple may have been erected immediately after the destruction of the Jerusalem sanctuary and intended to take its place, at least temporarily. ( b) It is possible that the Jews of Egypt, finding the Jerusalem Temple too distant, felt themselves justified in setting up a temple of their own. There might well have been among them members of the Levitical guild. ( c) Perhaps this temple at Syene was erected by priests and others belonging to the northern kingdom soon after its fall in 722 B.C., i.e. prior to the publication of D: indeed, this kingdom could hardly be expected to recognise a code which implied its own effacement and the cessation of its own religious life.

Peculiar Teaching of Deuteronomy.— The main points are the following: ( a) That Yahweh is the only true God, the only God that really exists (see Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 6:4). ( b) That He has chosen Israel to be His peculiar people ( Deuteronomy 10:15, etc.). ( c) That the tribe of Levi is to be set apart for the priesthood (see Deuteronomy 10:8). ( d) That all sacrificial worship should be performed at the one place which Yahweh should choose ( i.e. Jerusalem; see Deuteronomy 12:1-28 *). ( e) That obedience to Yahweh pays here and now (see Deuteronomy 4:1).

Literature.— For works dealing with the sources of the Hexateuoh in general (including Dt.), see p. 132.

Commentaries: ( a) Wheeler Robinson (Cent.B, a skilful compend of notes based on the latest authorities); ( b) Driver (ICC, the best in English, makes large but independent use of Dillmann); ( c) Dillmann (KEH, very full and scholarly); Steuernagel (HK); Bertholet (KHC); Hoffmann (on Deuteronomy 1:1 to Deuteronomy 21:9 cites Jewish authorities and defends traditional views). Other literature: P. Kleinert, Das Deut.; Staerk, Das Deut.; Steuernagel, Der Rahmen des Deut. and Die Entstehung des Deut.; Pukko, Das Deut.; McNeile, Deuteronomy, its place in Revelation; Articles in Bible Dictionaries, especially EBi. (Moore).

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