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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

- Deuteronomy

by Editor - Joseph S. Exell

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic



By the

Author of the Commentaries on the Chronicles and Minor Prophets






I. The Name. The Books of the Pentateuch are called by their first word, e.g., Genesis בְרֵשִׁית B’rçshîth = “In beginning:” Exodus וְאֵלֶּֽה שְׁמֶוֹת V’çl’leh Sh’môth = “And these the names.” So Deuteronomy has been called אֵלֶּֽה הַדְּבָרִים Çl’lĕh Hădd’bhârim = “These the words.” The Rabbins, however, sometimes named the Book סֵפָר תוֹכָחוֹת Sçphĕr Thôchâhôth = “Book of Rebukes.” But by the Jewish people it was frequently called מִשְׁנֵה הַתּוֹרָה Mĭshçh Hăttörâh = recapitulation or repetition of the law, from Deuteronomy 17:18, which name was adopted by the LXX. Who christened the Book Δευτερόνομιον, and the Vulgate, following, Deuteronomium; English, Deuteronomy.

II Author. “One of the first questions connected with the Pentateuch” (and of course Deuteronomy) “is that of authorship” (Davidson). “Moses was the originally received author of the Book of Deuteronomy. In early times no one, Jew, Christian, or heathen, denied the Mosaic authorship till Aben Ezra, in the twelfth century, raised some doubts” (Patrick). “In the seventeenth century Richard Simon, in his ‘Critical History of the Old Testament,’ denied that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch” (Kitto’s Dict., s. v. Simon). “Since the middle of the eighteenth century, the authorship of the Pentateuch has given rise to much discussion” (Horne’s Introduction). But the whole controversy may be summarised under two heads: (a.) The Supplementary (Horne) or Fragmentary Hypothesis (llävernick); and (b.) The Mosaic authorship. In our limited space we refrain from adding one word to the controversy, but would rather refer the reader to two or three works where the question is stated and literature on the subject is given, e.g., Articles “Pentateuch,” “Deuteronomy,” in Kitto’s Cyc. Bib. Lit. and Smith’s Dictionary; Horne’s Introduction, vol. ii. 593; Davidson’s Introduction to Old Testament, vol. i.; Keil and Delitzsch on Pentateuch, vol. i. 17–28; Hengstenberg’s Egypt and Books of Moses; Hävernick’s Introduction to Old Testament; Colenso’s Pentateuch; Speaker’s Commentary. We would, however, quote a word from two writers on this matter before leaving it: “If the Pentateuch is not the work of him who names himself in it as its author, it is the work of deception. The history is then an untrue history: the laws are falsely ascribed to Moses: the predictions have been invented post eventum” (Hävernick). “The genius and disposition in other words, the character of the author; the contents of the Books themselves, or what they treat of in relation to historical, political, and geographical topics; the nature of the style and language, and the arrangement and form of these Books, all show Moses to be the author” (Jahn).

III. Contents. The Book is divided into two parts: the first, from Deuteronomy 1-30; the second, from Deuteronomy 31-34

I. Consists of three addresses which Moses delivered to all the people according to the head of Deuteronomy 1:1-4

(a.) Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:40. First address, to prepare the way for exposition and enforcement of the law.

(b.) Deuteronomy 5-26. Second address, is the law itself, which Moses set before the people, and consists of two parts—

(1) Deuteronomy 5-11. General.
(2) Deuteronomy 12-26. Special.

(c.) Deuteronomy 27-30. Third address, has reference to the renewal of the covenant.

II. The second part of the Book contains the close of Moses’ life and labours.

(a.) Appointment of Joshua to be the leader of Israel into Canaan (31.)
(b.) Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-47).

(c.) Announcement of Moses’ death (Deuteronomy 32:40-52).

(d.) Blessing of Moses (33)

(e.) Account of Moses’ death (34)

Vide Keil and Delitzsch, Angus’ Handbook to Bible, Davidson’s Introduction, Smith’s Dictionary, Speaker’s Commentary, and Kitto’s Cyc. Bib. Lit.

IV. Date. If the Mosaic authorship be accepted, then the date of the Book is easily fixed, and may be determined by Deuteronomy 1:3, which implies that the Book was composed during the last two months of the life of Moses. (Cf. Keil and Delitzsch, Horne, Hävernick, Speaker’s Commentary.) On the other hand, if the Mosaic authorship be rejected, then the date is fixed variously by different critics, e.g., De Wette, time of Solomon; Ewald, of Manasseh; and so on, and so on, quot homines tot senteniæ. But see the authorities already named, with the addition of Jahn, from whom a word: “The language of the Pentateuch is very ancient Hebrew, and differs considerably from the Psalms and other more modern books. There are no foreign words to be found in the Pentateuch, except some of old Egyptian origin. Archaisms occur, and forms less frequent in the modern books.”

V. Purpose of the Book. Exodus depicts the inauguration of the kingdom of God on Sinai. Leviticus and Numbers, the former narrates the spiritual, the latter the political organisation of the kingdom, by facts and legal precepts. Deuteronomy recapitulates the whole in a hortatory strain, embracing both history and legislation, and impresses it upon the hearts of the people, for the purpose of arousing true fidelity to the covenant, and securing its lasting duration. The economy of the old covenant having been thus established, the revelation of the law closes with the death of its Mediator (Keil and Delitzsch).

VI. Relation of Deuteronomy to the other Books of the Pentateuch. It is not quite accurate to speak of Deuteronomy as merely a recapitulation of things commanded and done in the preceding books, nor yet as a compendium and summary of the law. Large portions of the Mosaic code are omitted. Still less is it a manual for the ignorant … Deuteronomy is an authoritative and inspired commentary on the law, serving in some respects also as a supplement and codicil to it. The preceding books displayed Moses principally in the capacity of the legislator or annalist. Deuteronomy sets him before us in the light of the prophet (cf. Speaker’s Commentary, Keil and Delitzsch).

VII. Genuineness. “A very strong proof of the genuineness of the Book lies in its relation to the later writings of the prophets. Of all the books of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy has been made most use of by the prophets, simply because it is best calculated to serve as a model for prophetic declarations, as also because of the inward harmony that exists between the prophecies and the law upon which they are built” (Hävernick).

VIII. Style. “The speeches exhibit a unity of style and character which is strikingly consistent with such circumstances. They are pervaded by the same vein of thought, the same tone and tenor of feeling, the same peculiarities of conception and expression. They exhibit matter which is neither documentary nor traditional, but conveyed in the speaker’s own words. Their aim is strictly hortatory; their style earnest, heart-stirring, impressive, in passages sublime, but throughout rhetorical” (Speaker’s Commentary). “The style throughout is changed” (from that of the other books of the Pentateuch). “The manner of representation is somewhat rhetorical, verbose, and not unlike the prophetic. The tone is no longer that of the narrator or a lawgiver, but that of a moral preacher who expatiates in long exhortations. Moreover, the style has some peculiar turns, which appear not in the other books, but in the prophets, especially Jeremiah” (Schumann). “In Deuteronomy the speaker is evidently an old man, whose age has rendered him somewhat verbose, captious, and querulous, and disposed to censure the errors of his juniors” (Jahn).

IX. Deuteronomy in the Synagogue. The Jews divided the Pentateuch into fifty-four parts. The division into fifty-four sections was to provide a lesson for each Sabbath, from the Pentateuch, of those years which, according to Jewish chronology, have fifty-four Sabbaths. In those years which have only fifty-two Sabbaths, four shorter sections are read on two Sabbaths. The first section, Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 6:8, is read on the first Sabbath after the Feast of Tabernacles. Deuteronomy embraces sections 44 to

54. For a full account see Dr. Ginsburg’s article “Haphtara,” in Kitto’s “Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature.”

X. Estimates of Deuteronomy. “The Book is superior to all the other books of the Pentateuch, for it is the summing up … Its contents are a Divine revelation in words and deed, or, rather, the fundamental revelation through which Jehovah selected Israel to be His people, and gave to them their rule of life (νομος) or theocratical constitution as a people and kingdom” (Keil and Delitzsch).“Moses delivered this address to Israel a short time before his death … The address of Moses is in perfect harmony with his situation. He speaks like a dying father to his children. The words are earnest, inspired, impressive. He looks back over the whole forty years of their wanderings, reminds of blessings received, ingratitude returned, God’s judgments and His love, explains laws, adds what is necessary, &c.” (Hengstenberg). “The Book of Deuteronomy contains, not so much a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, as a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know” (Luther). “With respect to the prophetic parts of Deuteronomy, it should be remarked that Messiah is here more explicitly foretold than in the preceding books, and described as the completion of the Jewish economy. The prophecies of Moses increase in number and clearness toward the end of his writings. As he approached the end of his life he appears to have discerned futurity with more exactness” (Clapham).

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