Deuteronomy is the final book of the Pentateuch and the fifth book of the Bible. The Hebrew name suggests a “second law” or more specifically a retelling of the Law given at Sinai. Deuteronomy is also a summary of the Hebrew journeys and travails from Sinai until and including the death of Moses and the appointment of Joshua as the new leader of God’s people. In some respects it is like a walk down memory lane for Moses.
Deuteronomy includes some material not previously included in the preceding four books. Nevertheless it is largely a restating or summary of the preceding four.
There are many important passages in Deuteronomy but one that strikes me is Moses challenge near the very end of his life. It is found in Deuteronomy 30:15-20
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Moses provides a stark contrast between the ways of the world and God’s ways. It was important for Israel to remember this clash between good and evil as they prepared to enter the promised land. The coming life of ease (as compared to their desert wanderings) could be deadly for their souls. I cannot help but think that there is a message within that passage for modern man too.
Deuteronomy: Authorship, Dating and Technical Details
The long standing traditional position points to Mosaic authorship sometime in the 13th or 14th century. More recently a number of scholars have posited a 7th century date. But there is no reason to discard the traditional date and the date which seems to be given by the book itself.
Some are troubled with chapter 34 where Moses offers the details of his own death and offers certain post death details about the mourning for him. Such is not troubling at all if one understands and accepts the concept of divine inspiration. The author here is not Moses but the Holy Spirit. Moses, like all other Bible writers, is only a conduit through which the Spirit operates. It would be nbo surprise that the eternal Spirit could instruct Moses to write of things he could not otherwise know.
Like the other four books of the Pentateuch, there is controversy among scholars as to the nature of the authorship. Some more liberal scholars hold to the documentary hypothesis of authorship which posits the existence of several different sources and one or more editors or redactors. A discussion of the documentary hypothesis is far beyond the scope of this article however Wayne Jackson offers some insight in high criticism at his website. More material is available about the so-called JEDP theory at Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.