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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Deuteronomy

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Deuteron´omy, the Greek name given by the Alexandrian Jews to the fifth book of Moses. It comprises that series of addresses which the Lawgiver delivered (orally and by writing, ; , etc.) to assembled Israel in the second month of the fortieth year of their wandering through the desert, when the second generation was about to cross the Jordan, and when the parting hour of Moses had nearly arrived.

The speeches begin with the enumeration of the wonderful dealings of God with the chosen people in the early period of their existence. Moses clearly proves to them the punishment of unbelief, the obduracy of Israel, and the faithfulness of Jehovah with regard to his promises, which were now on the point of being accomplished. Fully aware of the tendencies of the people, and foreseeing their alienations, Moses conjures them most impressively to hold fast the commands of the Lord, and not to forget his revelations, lest curses should befall them instead of blessings (Deuteronomy 1-4). The Lawgiver then expatiates on the spirit of the law, and its reception into the hearts of men, both in a positive and negative way. Fear, he says, is the primary effect of the law, as also its aim. As Israel had once listened to the announcement of the fundamental laws of the theocracy with a sacred fear, in like manner should man also receive, through the whole system of the law, a lively and awful impression of the holiness and majesty of God (Deuteronomy 5). But as the essence and sum of the law is love to Jehovah, the only and true God, man shall by the law be reminded of the Divine mercy, so variously manifested in deeds; and this reflection is calculated to rouse in man's heart love for God. This love is the only and true source from which proper respect and obedience to the law can proceed (Deuteronomy 6).

There were, however, two tempting deviations, in following which the people were sure to be led astray. The law, in its strict rigor, was but too apt to tempt them to desert Jehovah, and to yield to idolatry (the very approval of which even in thought polluted the heart), by discontinuing to bear the heavy yoke of the law. Hence the most impressive warnings against Canaan's inhabitants and idols; and hence the declarations that Israel, in placing themselves on a par with the heathens, should have to endure an equal fate with them, and be repulsed from the presence of Jehovah ().

The other, not less dangerous, deviation is that of self-righteousness—the proud fancy that all the favors Jehovah had shown to his people were merely in consequence of their own deservings. Therefore Jehovah tells them that it was not through their own worthiness and purity of heart that they inherited the land of the heathens. It was only through His free favor; for their sins bore too strong and constant testimony how little they ought to take credit to themselves for it (Deuteronomy 9).

The history of the people, before and after the exile, shows these two deviations in their fullest bearings. Idolatry we find to have been the besetting sin before that period, and presumptuous pride of heart after it; a proof how intimately acquainted the Lawgiver was with the character and disposition of his people, and how necessary therefore those warnings had been.

Therefore, adds Moses, turn to that which Jehovah, in giving you the tables of the law, and establishing the Tabernacle and priesthood, has intimated as a significant symbol, 'to circumcise the foreskin of your heart,' and to cherish love in your inward soul. Think of Jehovah, the just and merciful, whose blessings and curses shall be set before your eyes as a lasting monument upon the mounts Ebal and Gerizim (Deuteronomy 10-11).

The mention of that fact leads the Lawgiver to the domestic and practical life of the people when domesticated in their true home, the Land of Promise; which he further regulates by a fixed and solid rule, by new laws, which for this, their new design and purport, form a sort of complement to the laws already given. There, in the land of their forefathers, Jehovah will appoint one fixed place for His lasting sanctuary, when every other place dedicated to the worship of idols is to be destroyed. At that chosen spot alone are the sacrifices to be killed, while cattle in general, which are not destined for sacred purposes, but merely for food, may be slaughtered at all places according to convenience—a regulation which still leaves in full force the previous laws concerning the eating of blood, and the share of Jehovah in slaughtered cattle. This sanctuary was to be considered as the central point for all sacred objects. The whole land was, by means of the sanctuary established in the midst of it, consecrated and dedicated to Jehovah. This consecration was incompatible with any defilement whatsoever. On that account the Canaanites must be exterminated, and all idolatrous abominations destroyed, since nothing ought to be added to or taken from the laws of God (Deuteronomy 12). For the same reason (i.e. for the sake of the holiness of the land, diffused from the sacred center), no false prophets or soothsayers are to be tolerated, as they may turn the minds of the people from the law, by establishing a different one, and therefore even a whole town given to the worship of idols must be demolished by force of arms (Deuteronomy 13). Neither, in like manner, must the heathen customs of mourning be imitated, or unclean beasts eaten; but the people must always remain true to the previous laws concerning food, etc. and show their real attachment to Jehovah and his religion by willingly paying the tithe as ordained by the law (Deuteronomy 14). To the same end likewise shall the regulations concerning the years of release and the festivals of Jehovah (to be solemnized in the place of the new-chosen Sanctuary) be most scrupulously observed (Deuteronomy 15-16). Only unblemished sacrifices shall be offered, for all idol-worshippers must irrevocably be put to death by stoning. For the execution of due punishment, honest judges must govern the nation, while the highest tribunal shall exist in the place chosen for the Sanctuary, consisting of the priests and judges of the land. If a king be given by God to the people, he shall first of all accommodate himself to the laws of God, and not lead a heathen life. Next to the regal and judicial dignities, the ecclesiastical power shall exist in its full right; and again, next to it, the prophetic order (Deuteronomy 17-18). Of all these institutions, the duties of the judicial power are most clearly defined; for Jehovah does as little suffer that in His land the right of the innocent shall be turned aside, as that indulgence shall be shown to the evil-doer (Deuteronomy 19). The exposition of the civil law is followed by that of the martial law, which has some bearing upon the then impending war with Canaan, as the most important war and representing that with the heathen nations in general (Deuteronomy 20). These are again followed by a series of laws in reference to the preceding, and referring chiefly to hard cases in the judicial courts, by which Moses obviously designed to exhibit the whole of the civil life of his people in its strict application to the theocratic system of law and right. Therefore the form of prayer to be spoken at the offering up of the firstlings and tithe—the theocratic confession of faith—by which every Israelite acknowledges in person that he is what God has enjoined and called him to be, forms a beautiful conclusion of the whole legislation (Deuteronomy 21-26).

The blessings and curses of Jehovah, the two opposite extremes which were to be impressed upon the minds of the people at their entrance into Canaan, and which have hitherto been spoken of only in general terms, are now set forth in their fullest detail, picturing in the most lively colors the delightful abundance of rich blessings on the one hand, and the awful visitations of Heaven's wrath on the other. The prophetic speeches visibly and gradually increase in energy and enthusiasm, until the perspective of the remotest future of the people of God lies open to the eye of the inspired Lawgiver in all its checkered details, when his words resolve themselves into a flight of poetical ecstasy, into the strains of a splendid triumphal song in which the tone of grief and lamentation is as heart-rending as the announcement of divine salvation therein is jubilant (Deuteronomy 27-28). The history of the law concludes with a supplement concerning him who was deemed worthy by the Lord to transmit his law to Israel (Deuteronomy 34).

Thus much regarding the contents and connection of the book of Deuteronomy.

The date, however, of the composition of the book, as well as its authenticity, has given rise to a great variety of opinion, more especially among those who are opposed to the authorship of Moses. The older critics considered Deuteronomy as the latest production of all the books of the Pentateuch; while the more recent critics have come to just the contrary opinion, and declare it to be the earliest of the Mosaic writings.

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 laws upon which they are based.

Among the arguments advanced against the authenticity of Deuteronomy, are:

1. The contradictions said to exist between this and the other books of Moses;

2. Certain anachronisms committed by the author.

These contradictions are more especially alleged to exist in the festival laws, where but arbitrary and unwarranted views are mostly entertained by such critics with regard to the nature and original meaning of the festivals, which they identify altogether with natural or season festivals, and without lending to them a more spiritual character and signification.

3. That the Sinai of the other books is always called Horeb in Deuteronomy.—They forget, however, that Horeb is the general name of the whole mountain, while Sinai is the special name of a particular part of it. This distinction is, indeed, most scrupulously observed everywhere in the Pentateuch.

4. That in are mentioned the Amorites, instead of the Amalekites, as in .—Here also they have forgotten to notice that, in the sequel of the very passage alluded to in Deuteronomy, both the Amorites and Amalekites are mentioned.

5. That the cause of the punishment of Moses is differently stated in , and .—To this objection we reply, that both the guilt and punishment of Moses are described in both books as originating with the people; comp. also , etc.

Among the anachronisms in Deuteronomy are reckoned the allusions made in it to the Temple (Deuteronomy 12; , sqq.), to the royal and prophetic powers (Deuteronomy 13; Deuteronomy 17-18), to the different modes of idol-worship (; ), and to the exile (Deuteronomy 28, sq.). In suggesting these critical points, however, they do not consider that all these subjects are most closely and intimately connected with the spirit and principles of the law itself, and that all these regulations and prophecies appear here in Deuteronomy, as necessary finishing-points to the Law, so indispensable for the better consolidation of the subsequent and later relations of the theocracy.

More anachronisms are said to be,

1. The sixty dwelling-places of Jair mentioned , sq. (comp. , sq.). We consider, however, that the men mentioned in the two passages are evidently different persons, though of the same name. Nor is it difficult to prove from other sources, that there really existed at the time of Moses a man by name Jair.

2. The notice () concerning king Og, which looks more like a note of a subsequent writer in corroboration of the story told in the chapter. But this hypothesis falls to the ground when we consider that Moses did not write for his contemporaries merely, but also for late posterity. The book contains, moreover, not a small number of plain, though indirect traces, indicative of its Mosaic origin. We thus find in it:

1. Numerous notices concerning nations with whom the Israelites had then come in contact, but who, after the Mosaic period, entirely disappeared from the pages of history: such are the accounts of the residences of the kings of Bashan ().

2. The appellation of 'mountain of the Amorites,' used throughout the whole book (; ; ), while even in the book of Joshua, soon after the conquest of the land, the name is already exchanged for 'mountains of Judah' (; ).

3. The observation (), that the Emim had formerly dwelt in the plain of Moab: they were a great people, equal to the Anakim. This observation quite accords with .

4. A detailed account () concerning the Horim and their relations to the Edomites.

5. An account of the Zamzummim (), one of the earliest races of Canaan, though mentioned nowhere else.

6. A very circumstantial account of the Rephaim (, sq.), with whose concerns the author seems to have been well acquainted.

The standing-point also of the author of Deuteronomy is altogether in the Mosaic time, and had it been assumed and fictitious, there must necessarily have been moments when the spurious author would have been off his guard, and unmindful of the part he had to play. But no discrepancies of this kind can be traced; and this is in itself an evidence of the genuineness of the book.

A great number of other passages force us likewise to the conclusion, that the whole of Deuteronomy originated in the time of Moses. Such are the passages where

1. A comparison is drawn between Canaan and Egypt (, sq.), with the latter of which the author seems thoroughly acquainted.

2. Detailed descriptions are given of the fertility and productions of Egypt (, sq.).

3. Regulations are given relating to the conquest of Canaan (, sq.; 20:1, sq.), which cannot be understood otherwise than by assuming that they had been framed in the Mosaic time, since they could be of no use after that period.

Besides, whole pieces and chapters in Deuteronomy, such as Deuteronomy 32-33, betray in form, language, and tenor, a very early period in Hebrew literature. Nor are the laws and regulations in Deuteronomy less decisive of the authenticity of the book. We are struck with the most remarkable phenomenon, that many laws from the previous books are here partly repeated and impressed with more energy, partly modified, and partly altogether abolished, according to the contingencies of the time, or as the new aspect of circumstances among the Jews rendered such steps necessary (comp. e.g. with ; Deuteronomy 12 with Leviticus 17). Such pretensions to raise, or even to oppose his own private opinions to the authority of divine law, are found in no author of the subsequent periods, since the whole of the sacred literature of the later times is, on the contrary, rather the echo than otherwise of the Pentateuch, and is altogether founded on it. Add to this the fact, that the law itself forbids most impressively to add to, or take anything from it, a prohibition which is repeated even in Deuteronomy (comp. ; ); and it is but too evident, that, if the opinion of the critics be correct, that this book contains nothing more than a gradual development of the law—it clashes too often with its own principles, and pronounces thus its own sentence of condemnation.

The part of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 34) respecting the death of Moses requires a particular explanation. That the whole of this section is to be regarded as a piece altogether apart from what precedes it, or as a supplement from another writer, has already been maintained by the elder theologians; and this opinion is confirmed not only by the contents of the chapter, but also by the express declaration of the book itself on that event and its relations; for Deuteronomy 31 contains the conclusion of the work, where Moses describes himself as the author of the previous contents, as also of the Song (Deuteronomy 32), and the blessings (Deuteronomy 33) belonging to it. All that follows is, consequently, not from Moses, the work being completed and concluded with Deuteronomy 33. There is another circumstance which favors this opinion, namely, the close connection that exists between the last section of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Joshua (comp. with ), plainly shows that Deuteronomy 34 is intended to serve as a point of transition to the book of Joshua, and that it was written by the same author as the latter. The correct view of this chapter, therefore, is to consider it as a real supplement, but by no means as an interpolation.

On the literature of Deuteronomy, compare the article Pentateuch.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Deuteronomy'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/d/deuteronomy.html.

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Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
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