Deuteronomy: In all the Hebrew manuscripts the Pentateuch (q.v.) forms one roll or
volume divided into larger and smaller sections called parshioth
and sedarim. It is not easy to say when it was divided into five
books. This was probably first done by the Greek translators of the
book, whom the Vulgate follows. The fifth of these books was called
by the Greeks Deuteronomion, i.e., the second law, hence our name
Deuteronomy, or a second statement of the laws already promulgated.
The Jews designated the book by the two first Hebrew words that
occur, 'Elle haddabharim, i.e., "These are the words." They divided
it into eleven parshioth. In the English Bible it contains
thirty-four chapters. It consists chiefly of three discourses
delivered by Moses a short time before his death. They were spoken to
all Israel in the plains of Moab, in the eleventh month of the last
year of their wanderings.
1. The first discourse (
(Deuteronomy 1:1-4:40)) recapitulates the chief
events of the last forty years in the wilderness, with earnest
exhortations to obedience to the divine ordinances, and warnings
against the danger of forsaking the God of their fathers.
2. The seond discourse (
(Deuteronomy 5:1-26:19)) is in effect the body of
the whole book. The first address is introductory to it. It
contains practically a recapitulation of the law already given by
God at Mount Sinai, together with many admonitions and
injunctions as to the course of conduct they were to follow when
they were settled in Canaan.
3. The concluding discourse (
(Deuteronomy 27:1-31:20)) relates almost
wholly to the solemn sanctions of the law, the blessings to the
obedient, and the curse that would fall on the rebellious. He
solemnly adjures them to adhere faithfully to the covenant God
had made with them, and so secure for themselves and their
posterity the promised blessings.
These addresses to the people are followed by what may be called three
1. a song which God had commanded Moses to write
2. the blessings he pronounced on the separate tribes
3. the story of his death
(Deuteronomy 32:48-52) and burial
written by some other hand, probably that of Joshua.
These farewell addresses of Moses to the tribes of Israel he had so
long led in the wilderness "glow in each line with the emotions of a
great leader recounting to his contemporaries the marvellous story of
their common experience. The enthusiasm they kindle, even to-day,
though obscured by translation, reveals their matchless adaptation to
the circumstances under which they were first spoken. Confidence for
the future is evoked by remembrance of the past. The same God who had
done mighty works for the tribes since the Exodus would cover their
head in the day of battle with the nations of Palestine, soon to be
invaded. Their great lawgiver stands before us, vigorous in his hoary
age, stern in his abhorrence of evil, earnest in his zeal for God,
but mellowed in all relations to earth by his nearness to heaven.
The commanding wisdom of his enactments, the dignity of his position
as the founder of the nation and the first of prophets, enforce his
utterances. But he touches our deepest emotions by the human
tenderness that breathes in all his words. Standing on the verge of
life, he speaks as a father giving his parting counsels to those he
loves; willing to depart and be with God he has served so well, but
fondly lengthening out his last farewell to the dear ones of earth.
No book can compare with Deuteronomy in its mingled sublimity and
tenderness." Geikie, Hours, etc.
The whole style and method of this book, its tone and its
peculiarities of conception and expression, show that it must have
come from one hand. That the author was none other than Moses is
established by the following considerations:
1. The uniform tradition both of the Jewish and the Christian
Church down to recent times.
2. The book professes to have been written by Moses
(Deuteronomy 1:1; 29:1)
(Deuteronomy 31:1,9-11) etc., and was obviously intended to be accepted
as his work.
3. The incontrovertible testimony of our Lord and his apostles
(Matthew 19:7,8; Mark 10:3,4; John 5:46,47; Acts 3:22; 7:37; Romans 10:19)
establishes the same conclusion.
4. The frequent references to it in the later books of the canon
(Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 2:9; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 23:18)
(2 Chronicles 25:4; 34:14)
(Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1; Daniel 9:11,13) prove its antiquity.
5. The archaisms found in it are in harmony with the age in which
6. Its style and allusions are also strikingly consistent with the
circumstances and position of Moses and of the people at that
time. This body of positive evidence cannot be set aside by the
conjectures and reasonings of modern critics, who contended that
the book was somewhat like a forgery, introduced among the Jews
some seven or eight centuries after the Exodus.