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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- Deuteronomy

by Dr. Robert Utley



A. It is one of the four OT books quoted most often in the NT (i.e., Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah). Deuteronomy is quoted 83 times.

B. A quote from the Tyndale OT Commentary Series, “Deuteronomy,” by J. A. Thompson:

“Deuteronomy is one of the greatest books of the Old Testament. Its influence on the domestic and personal religion of all ages has not been surpassed by any other book in the Bible” (p. 11).

C. This must have been one of Jesus' favorite books of the OT:

1. He quoted repeatedly from it during His temptation by Satan in the wilderness

a. Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4 - Deuteronomy 8:3

b. Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12 - Deut. 6:26

c. Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8 - Deuteronomy 6:13

2. It is possibly the outline behind the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7).

3. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 as the greatest commandment (cf. Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28).

4. Jesus quoted this section of the OT (Genesis-Deuteronomy) most often because the Jews of His day considered it the most authoritative section of the canon.

D. This is one major example in the Scripture of the reinterpretation of a previous revelation by God to a new situation. An example of this would be the slight difference between the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:11 versus Deuteronomy 5:15. Exodus 20:0 was given at Mt. Sinai and relates to the Wilderness Wandering Period while Deuteronomy 5:0 was given on the Plains of Moab preparing the people for a settled life in Canaan.

E. Deuteronomy is a series of messages given by Moses on the Plains of Moab (eastern Jordan). The three sermons all begin with the designation of the physical place of the sermon. All may refer to the same place.

1. “across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab,” Deuteronomy 1:1

2. “across the Jordan in the land of Moab,” Deuteronomy 1:5

3. “across the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon the king,” Deuteronomy 4:46

4. “in the land of Moab,” Deuteronomy 29:1

F. Deuteronomy is also the center of dialogue today among OT scholars concerning its literary formation. Modern scholarship is divided on its theories regarding the compositions of both Deuteronomy and rest of the Pentateuch.


A. In Hebrew the titles of the books of the Tanakh (Pentateuch) are one of their first ten words, usually their first word:

1. Genesis, “In the beginning”

2. Exodus, “And these are the names”

3. Leviticus, “And He called”

4. Numbers, “In the desert”

5. Deuteronomy, “And these are the words”

B. In the Talmud Deuteronomy is called “repetition of the law” (Mishnah Hattorah from Deuteronomy 17:18).

C. In the Greek translation of the OT, called the Septuagint (LXX), written around 250 B.C., Deuteronomy is called “the second law” because of a mistranslation of Deuteronomy 17:18 (i.e., “make a copy of this law”).

D. We get our English title from Jerome's Latin Vulgate which calls it “the second law” (Deuteronomium).

E. It is a book of instructions on how to keep God's covenant.

1. “this book of the law,” Deuteronomy 28:61

2. “this law,” Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 17:18, Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 27:3, Deuteronomy 27:8, Deuteronomy 27:26

3. other descriptive phrases, Deuteronomy 4:1, Deuteronomy 4:45; Deuteronomy 6:17, Deuteronomy 6:20; Deuteronomy 12:1

III. CANONIZATION This is the concluding book of The Torah which forms the first of the three divisions of the Hebrew canon

A. The Torah or Law Genesis-Deuteronomy

B. The Prophets:

1. Former Prophets Joshua-Kings (except Ruth)

2. Latter Prophets Isaiah-Malachi (except Daniel and Lamentations)

C. The Writings:

1. The Megilloth (5 scrolls):

a. Song of Songs

b. Ecclesiastes

c. Ruth

d. Lamentations

e. Esther

2. Daniel

3. Wisdom Literature:

a. Job

b. Psalms

c. Proverbs

4. I & 2 Chr.


A. Deuteronomy is a mixture of several genres.

1. historical narrative

a. Deut. 1-4

b. Deuteronomy 34:0

2. exhortations - Deut. 6-11

3. guidelines, Deut. 12-28

4. psalms/hymns/songs -- Deuteronomy 32:0

5. blessings -- Deuteronomy 33:0

B. Deuteronomy describes itself as a book of guidelines from YHWH for life (Torah) in Deuteronomy 29:21; Deuteronomy 30:10; Deuteronomy 31:26. It is a book of teachings about faith and life to be passed on to future generations.

C. God's special leader is replaced by God's written revelation. Human leaders will remain, but the written revelation is emphasized as authoritative.


A. Jewish Tradition:

1. Ancient tradition is unanimous that the author was Moses.

2. This is stated in:

a. Talmud - Baba Bathra 14b

b. Mishnah

c. Ben Sirach's Ecclesiasticus 24:23 (written about 185 B.C.)

d. Philo of Alexandria

e. Flavius Josephus

3. The Scripture itself:

a. Judges 3:4 and Joshua 8:31

b. “Moses spoke”:

(1) Deuteronomy 1:1, Deuteronomy 1:3

(2) Deuteronomy 5:1

(3) Deuteronomy 27:1

(4) Deuteronomy 29:2

(5) Deuteronomy 31:1, Deuteronomy 31:30

(6) Deuteronomy 32:44

(7) Deuteronomy 33:1

c. “YHWH spoke to Moses”:

(1) Deuteronomy 5:4-5, Deuteronomy 5:22

(2) Deuteronomy 6:1

(3) Deuteronomy 10:1

d. “Moses wrote”:

(1) Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:22, Deuteronomy 31:24

(2) Exodus 17:14

(3) Exodus 24:4, Exodus 24:12

(4) Exodus 34:27-28

(5) Numbers 33:2

e. Jesus quotes from or alludes to Deuteronomy and states “Moses said”/”Moses wrote”:

(1) Matthew 19:7-9; Mark 10:4-5 - Deuteronomy 24:1-4

(2) Mark 7:10 - Deuteronomy 5:16

(3) Luke 16:31; Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44; John 5:46-47; John 7:19, John 7:23

f. Paul asserts Moses as author:

(1) Romans 10:19 - Deuteronomy 32:21

(2) 1 Corinthians 9:9 - Deuteronomy 25:4

(3) Galatians 3:10 - Deuteronomy 27:26

(4) Acts 26:22; Acts 28:23

g. Peter asserts Moses as author in his Pentecostal sermon - Acts 3:22

h. The author of Hebrews asserts Moses as author - Hebrews 10:28; Deuteronomy 17:2-6

B. Modern Scholarship

1. Many of the 18th and 19th century theologians, following the Graf-Wellhausen theory of multiple authorship (JEDP), assert that Deuteronomy was written by a priest/prophet during Josiah's reign in Judah to support his spiritual reform. This would mean that the book was written in Moses' name about 621 B.C.

2. They base this on:

a. 2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chronicles 34:14-15, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord”

b. Deuteronomy 2:0 discussed a single site for the Tabernacle and later Temple

c. Deuteronomy 17:0 discussed a later king

d. the truth that writing a book in the name of a famous person from the past was common in the ancient Near East and in Jewish circles

e. similarities of style, vocabulary and grammar between Deuteronomy and Joshua, Kings and Jeremiah

f. Deuteronomy records the death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:0)

g. obvious later editorial additions in the Pentateuch:

(1) Deuteronomy 3:14

(2) Deuteronomy 34:6

h. the sometimes unexplainable variety in the use of the names of Deity: El, El Shaddai, Elohim, YHWH, in seemingly unified contexts and historical periods.

C. There are obviously some editorial additions. Jewish scribes were trained in Egypt where they regularly updated ancient texts. Mesopotamian scribes were reluctant to add material.

Some examples in Deuteronomy are:

1. Deuteronomy 27:3, Deuteronomy 27:8

2. Deuteronomy 28:58

3. Deuteronomy 29:21, Deuteronomy 29:29

4. Deuteronomy 30:10, Deuteronomy 30:19

5. Deuteronomy 31:24


A. If written by Moses there are still two possibilities related to the time and duration of the Exodus from Egypt:

1. If 1 Kings 6:1 is meant to be taken literally then about 1445 B.C. (18th dynasty of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II):

a. LXX has 440 years instead of 480 years

b. This number may reflect generations not years (symbolic)

2. Archaeological evidences for 1290 B.C. for the Exodus (19th Egyptian dynasty):

a. Seti I (1390-1290) moved Egyptian capital from Thebes to delta region - Zoan/Tanis.

b. Rameses II (1290-1224):

(1) His name occurs in a city built by Hebrew slaves (cf. Genesis 47:11; Genesis 47:11; Exodus 1:11)

(2) He had 47 daughters

(3) He was not succeeded by his oldest son

c. All major walled cities of Palestine destroyed and rapidly rebuilt about 1250 B.C.

B. Modern Scholarship theory of multiple authorship:

1. J (YHWH) 950 B.C.

2. E (Elohim) 850 B.C.

3. JE (combination) 750 B.C.

4. D (Deuteronomy) 621 B.C.

5. P (Priests) 400 B.C.


A. The Hittite treaties of the 2nd millennium B.C. offer us an ancient, historically contemporary parallel to the structure of Deuteronomy (as well as Exodus-Leviticus and Joshua 24:0). This treaty pattern changed by the 1st millennium B.C. This gives us evidence for the historicity of Deuteronomy. For further reading in this area, see G. E. Mendenhall's Law and Covenants in Israel and the Ancient Near East and M. G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King.

B. The Hittite pattern and its Deuteronomy parallels:

1. Preamble (Deuteronomy 1:1-5, introduction of speaker, YHWH)

2. Review of the past acts of the King (Deuteronomy 1:6-49, God's past acts for Israel)

3. Treaty terms (Deut. 5-26):

a. General (Deut. 5-11)

b. Specific (Deut. 12-26)

4. Results of treaty (Deut. 27-29):

a. Benefits (Deuteronomy 28:0)

b. Consequences (Deuteronomy 27:0)

5. Witness of deity (Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:19, also 32, Moses' song functions as a witness):

a. a copy of the Treaty placed in temple of the deity

b. a copy of the Treaty kept in the temple of the vassal to be read annually

c. the uniqueness of the Hittite treaties from the later Assyrian and Syrian treaties were:

(1) the historical review of the past acts of the king

(2) the cursing section was less pronounced

C. The Hittite treaty pattern was slightly changed (one item dropped) in the first millennium B.C. The form of Deuteronomy fits the time of Moses and Joshua best!

D. For a good discussion of these Hittite treaties see K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, pp. 99-102.


A. Introduction to the book, Deuteronomy 1:1-5

B. First Sermon, Deuteronomy 1:6-43 (The past acts of YHWH for today)

C. Second Sermon, Deuteronomy 4:44-19 (The law of YHWH for today and for all days)

1. General - the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5-11)

2. Specific examples and applications (Deut. 12-26)

D. Third Sermon, Deut. 27-30 (YHWH's Law for the future Deut. 27-29)

1. Cursings (Deuteronomy 27:0)

2. Blessings (Deuteronomy 28:0)

3. Covenant renewal (Deut. 29-30)

E. Last Words of Moses, Deut. 31-33

1. “Good bye” sermon, Deuteronomy 31:1-29

2. The song of Moses, Deuteronomy 31:30-52

3. The blessings of Moses Deuteronomy 33:1-29

F. Moses' death, Deuteronomy 34:0


A. Final preparations before entering the Promised Land. God's Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:0) has been fulfilled!

B. Genesis 12:1-3 promised a land and a seed. The OT focuses on the land; the NT will focus on “the seed” (cf. Galatians 3:0).

C. Moses prepares the people for a settled agricultural life versus a nomadic life. He adapts the Sinai Covenant for the Promised Land. In a sense Deuteronomy is Israel's constitution.

D. The book emphasizes God's faithfulness in the past, the present, and the future. The covenant, however, is conditional! Israel must respond and continue in faith, repentance and obedience. If she does not the curses of Deut. 27-29 will become a reality. Moses is a prime example of God's love and justice! Even God's special leader is responsible for obedience. Disobedience always carries consequences!

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