("repetition of the law".) Containing Moses' three last discourses before his death, addressed to all Israel in the Moabite plains E. of Jordan, in the eleventh month of the last year of their wanderings, the fortieth after their departure from Egypt; with the solemn appointment of his successor Joshua, Moses' song, blessing, and the account of his death subjoined by Joshua or some prophet (Deuteronomy 1:1
- 4:40; Deuteronomy 2:9-13
- 26:19; Deuteronomy 27:1
- 29:29). The first is introductory, reminding Israel of God's protection and of their ungrateful rebellion, punished by the long wandering; and warning them henceforth to obey and not lose the blessing. The second discourse begins with the Ten Commandments, the basis of the law, and develops and applies the first table; next declares special statutes as to:
(2) administration of justice and public officers,
(3) private and social duties.
The third discourse renews the covenant, reciting the blessings and curses. The discourses must have been all spoken in the eleventh month; for on the tenth day of the 41st year Jordan was crossed (Joshua 4:19
). Joshua 1:11
; Joshua 2:22,
three days previous were spent in preparations and waiting for the spies; so the encampment at Shittim was on the seventh day (Joshua 2:1
). Thirty days before were spent in mourning for Moses (Deuteronomy 34:8
); so that Moses' death would be on the seventh day of the twelfth month, and Moses began his address the first day of the eleventh month, fortieth year (Deuteronomy 1:3
). Hence, the discourses, being delivered about the same time, exhibit marked unity of style, inconsistent with their being composed at distant intervals. The style throughout is hortatory, rhetorical, and impressive.
A different generation had sprung up from that to which the law at Sinai had been addressed. Parts of it had been unavoidably in abeyance in the wilderness. Circumcision itself had been omitted (Joshua 5:2
). Now when Israel was to enter Canaan, their permanent abode, they needed to be reminded of much of the law which they but partially knew or applied, and to have under divine sanction, besides the religious ordinances of the previous books, supplementary enactments, civil and political, for their settled organization. Thus, Deuteronomy is not a mere summary recapitulation, for large parts of the previous code are unnoticed, but Moses' inspired elucidation of the spirit and end of the law. In it he appears as "the prophet," as in the previous books he was the historian and legislator. Two passages especially exhibit him in this character.
The first Deuteronomy 18:15-19
; "the Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord ... in Horeb, Let me not hear again the voice of ... God ... that I die not; and the Lord said, I will raise them up a Prophet ... and I will put My words in His mouth ... And whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him." In the ultimate and exhaustive sense Messiah fulfills the prophecy; Numbers 12:6-8
expressly says "there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." So Deuteronomy 34:10
; Hebrews 3:2-5,
state how the Antitype exceeded the type. In a lower sense the whole order of prophets, the forerunners of THE PROPHET, is included; hardly Joshua, for he was already designated as Moses' successor (Numbers 27:18
; Numbers 27:23
), and the prophecy contemplates a future "prophet."
Our Lord Himself must have had this prophecy in view in John 5:46,
"Moses wrote of Me." The Samaritans, who received the Pentateuch alone, must have drawn their expectation of the all-revealing Messiah from it: "when He is come He will tell us all things," answering to "I will put My words in His mouth ... He shall speak in My name." In Acts 3:22,
etc., Acts 7:37,
Peter and Stephen both quote it as fulfilled in Jesus. The Jews, the adversaries of Christianity, are our librarians, so that we Christians cannot have altered the passage to favor our views. It at once foretells Christ's coming and their own chastisement from God ("I will requite it") for "not hearkening" to Him.
The second passage is Deuteronomy 28, where he declares more fully than in Leviticus 26 what evils should overtake Israel in the event of their disobedience, with such specific particularity that the Spirit in him must be not declaring contingencies, but foretelling the penal results of their sin which have since so literally come to pass; their becoming "a byword among all nations where the Lord has led them"; their being besieged by "a nation of a fierce countenance, until their high walls wherein they trusted came down"; their "eating the fruit of their own body, the flesh of their sons and daughters, in the straitness of the siege, and the eye of the tender and delicate woman being evil toward the husband of her bosom and toward her child which she shall eat for want of all things secretly in the siege"; their dispersion so as to "find no ease, and the sole of their foot to have no rest among the nations," but to have "a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind, their life hanging in doubt, in fear day and night, and having none assurance of life"; "the whole land (Deuteronomy 29:23
) not sown, nor bearing, nor having grass."
Nay, more, Moses foresaw their disobedience: "I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you, and evil will befall you in the latter days" (Deuteronomy 31:29
). So also Deuteronomy 32, Moses song. But in the distant future he intimates, not merely their continued preservation, but also a time when Israel, dispersed "among all the nations, shall call to mind how all these things, the blessing and the curse, have come upon them, and shall return unto the Lord with all their heart and soul; though they be driven unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord their God gather them, and He will circumcise their heart, and make them plenteous in the fruit of their land, and again rejoice over them for good" (Deuteronomy 30, also Deuteronomy 32:36
; Deuteronomy 32:43
In Deuteronomy 32:8
Moses intimates that from the beginning the distribution of races and nations had a relation to God's final purpose that Israel should be the spiritual center of the kingdom of God; "when the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bound: of the people according to the number of the children of Israel," i.e., that their inheritance should be proportioned to their numbers. The coincidences of Moses' song with other parts of the Pentateuch and of Deuteronomy confirm its genuineness. The style is no more different than was to be expected in a lyrical, as compared with a historical, composition. Psalm 90, which is Moses' work, resembles it: Psalms 90:1
; Psalms 90:13-16,
with Deuteronomy 32:4
; Deuteronomy 32:7
; Deuteronomy 32:36
; explain Deuteronomy 32:5
"they are not His children but their spot," i.e. a disgrace to them (to God's children).
Also Deuteronomy 32:42,
not "from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy," but "from the head (i.e. the chief) of the princes of the enemy." These are the germs in Hoses which the prophets expand, setting forth the coming glory of the gospel church, and especially of Israel under the final Messianic kingdom. Herein Deuteronomy, "the second law," is the preparation for the gospel law; and Moses, in the very act of founding the Sinaitic law, prepares for its giving place to the higher law which is its end and fulfillment. The falsity of the theory that Deuteronomy is of a later age is proved by the fact that the archaisms of vocabulary and grammar characterizing the Pentateuch occur in Deuteronomy. The demonstrative pronoun haeel , characteristic of the Pentateuch, occurs Deuteronomy 4:42
; Deuteronomy 7:22
; Deuteronomy 19:11,
and nowhere else but in the Aramaic (1 Chronicles 20:8
and Ezra 5:15
). The use of h local. The future ending in -un .
The passive construed with 'eth of the direct object. Κeseb for Κebes (Deuteronomy 14:4
). Ζakur for Ζakar (Deuteronomy 16:16
). Ancient words: 'abib , yequm , shegar , 'alaphim , methim , hermeesh for magal , teneh for sal . The Canaanite 'ashteroth hatsion , "offspring of the flocks." Υeshurun , for Israel, copied in Isaiah 44:2
. Μadweh , "sickness." The resemblance of Jeremiah to Deuteronomy is accounted for by the fact that the sins denounced in Deuteronomy were those abounding in Jeremiah's time. Jeremiah, as a priest of Anathoth, familiar with the law from childhood, naturally adopts the tone of Deuteronomy (as does Huldah his contemporary; compare 2 Kings 22:16,
etc., with Deuteronomy 29:2,
etc.), both in denunciation and in final consolation.
Possibly also the book of the law found in the temple by Hilkiah the high priest and brought before king Josiah, after disuse for the 60 years of the two previous reigns, was Deuteronomy alone. But if it was the whole Pentateuch put by the Levites, at Moses' command, in the sides of the ark (Deuteronomy 31:9
; Deuteronomy 31:26
; 2 Chronicles 34:14
), still Deuteronomy was the part that mainly awakened the conscience of king and people (Deuteronomy 12:2-3
; Deuteronomy 12:16
; Deuteronomy 12:18
; Deuteronomy 29:25-27
; compare 2 Kings 22:13-17
; 2 Kings 22:23
). Josiah's reforms are just those most insisted upon in Deuteronomy. Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, probably related to the high priest, and his uncle, Shallum, was apparently the husband of Huldah, the prophetess. But while having some resemblance the language and idioms of Jeremiah are of an altogether later date than Deuteronomy.
While he imitates or repeats phrases of Deuteronomy, he uses characteristic expressions never found in Deuteronomy; for instances see The Introduction to Deuteronomy, Speaker's Commentary. The writer of Deuteronomy, if a forger, would never, having the rest of the Pentateuch before him, have left apparent discrepancies between his work and it, when desiring his work to appear as if by the same author. The original writer, Moses, could alone treat his own work in such a free spirit. The different circumstances and objects in view clear the seeming discrepancies. Thus, the directions in Deuteronomy 12:6
; Deuteronomy 12:17
; Deuteronomy 14:22
; Deuteronomy 14:28-29
; Deuteronomy 26:12,
etc., do not supersede the directions in Leviticus 27:30-34
; Numbers 18:20,
etc. The earlier directions refer to the general and first tithe of all produce, animal and vegetable, for the maintenance of the priests and Levites.
The later in Deuteronomy refer to the second and additional tithe on the increase of the field only, and for celebrating the sacred feasts each first and second year in the sanctuary, every third year at home with a feast to the Levites, the stranger, fatherless, and widow; like the love-feasts of New Testament (Deuteronomy 11:5
.) The first tithe is taken for granted in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 10:9
; Deuteronomy 18:1-2
), and no fresh injunction as to it is given, it being from the first recognized in Genesis 14:20
; Genesis 28:22,
as well as in Leviticus and Numbers.
The different way in which the priests and Levites respectively are regarded in Deuteronomy and in the preceding books (in these "the Levites" ministering to the priests "the sons of Aaron," as the priests minister to God (Numbers 3:5,
etc.; 4; Exodus 28:1
; Exodus 29:1,
etc.), and not mentioned as "blessing" the people, the prerogative of the priests (Numbers 6:23-27,
compare Deuteronomy 10:8-9
); but in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 18:7
; Deuteronomy 11:6
) the Levites and Aaronite priests not being mutually distinguished, and Korah not being mentioned with Dathan and Abiram in their rebellion) is accounted for by the consideration that Moses in Deuteronomy is addressing the people, and for the time takes no notice of the distinction of orders among ministers, and, similarly referring to the rebellions of the people against God, takes no notice of the minister Korah's share in the rebellion, as not suiting his present purpose. His additional enactment are just of that supplementary and explanatory kind which would come from the legislator himself, after a practical experience of the working of the law during the years of the wilderness wanderings.
In Deuteronomy 19:14,
"thou shalt not remove ... landmark which they of old time have set in thine inheritance which thou shalt inherit," "they of old time" are those about first to occupy the land. Moses lays down a law for distant generations, as the land was to be a lasting inheritance; the words "shalt inherit" prove that the occupation was still future. The relaxation granted in Deuteronomy 12:15
as to killing in all their gates, whereas in Leviticus 17:3-4,
the victim even for ordinary eating must be killed at the door of the tabernacle, is precisely what we might expect when Israel was on the verge of entering Canaan, which they were at the time of the delivering of Deuteronomy. Our Lord attests Deuteronomy by quoting from it alone the three passages wherewith He foiled the tempter in the wilderness (Matthew 4; Deuteronomy 8:3
; Deuteronomy 6:13
; Deuteronomy 6:16
Paul (Romans 10:6
; Romans 10:19
; Romans 15:10
attests it Deuteronomy 30:12
; Deuteronomy 30:18
; Deuteronomy 32:21
; Deuteronomy 32:43
). Moses tells us that all the words of this law he wrote and gave to the Levites to be put in the side of the ark at the one time (Deuteronomy 31:9
; Deuteronomy 31:22-26
. Paul's quotations, "Rejoice, O ye nations (Gentiles), with His people," and "I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people," prove that Moses did not understand his own law as possessing that localized narrowness to which Judaism would restrict it. Many circumstances which would naturally be noticed on the eve of Israel's entrance into Canaan occur for the first time in Moses' last address. Now first he enjoins the observance of the three great feasts (mentioned previously), at the place which the Lord shall choose (Deuteronomy 12:5
Now first he introduces the appointment of judges in the different cities (Deuteronomy 16:18
; Deuteronomy 19:11
; Deuteronomy 21:18
). Tents were the abodes spoken of in the previous books, now houses. In first recording the appointment of captains, he attributes it to Jethro's counsel (Exodus 18:17,
etc.); in repeating the fact to the people (Deuteronomy 1:9,
etc.) he notices their part in the selection. Jethro doubtless suggested the plan, and Moses, after consulting God, laid it before the people, assigning the choice to them. So in Numbers 13; 14, the Lord commands the sending of the spies; but in addressing the people (Deuteronomy 1:19,
etc.) Moses reminds them of what was not noticed before, but was most to his point now, their share in sending them.
They had been told to go up at once and possess the land, but requested leave first to send spies; God in compliance with their wish gave the command. His allusion to the Lord's anger and exclusion of himself, when speaking of that of the people, accords with the character of the meekest of men (Deuteronomy 1:34-38
). A forger would magnify the miracles in referring to them; Moses alludes to them as notorious, and uses them only as an incentive to enforce obedience. His notices of the children of Esau supplanting the Horims by God's help, and Moab supplanting the giant Emim (Deuteronomy 5:1
) are made the argument why Israel need not, as their fathers, fear the giant Anakims