A Bible text and commentary on the book of Deuteronomy. Written by Philip Smith. November 2012.
There are three main opinions about who wrote the book of Deuteronomy.
1. Deuteronomy says that Moses wrote it. In Deuteronomy 1:5 it says, ‘Moses began to explain God’s law.’ In Deuteronomy 31:9 it says, ‘Moses wrote down this law.’ In Deuteronomy 31:24 it says, ‘Moses wrote in a book all the words of God’s laws.’ 2 Kings 14:6 refers to ‘the Book of the Law of Moses’. Then it refers to Deuteronomy 24:16. Jesus said that Moses wrote the book. (See Matthew 19:7-8 and John 5:46-47.) In Mark 12:19, the Sadducees said that Moses wrote the book. (The Sadducees were a group of people. They belonged to the religion of the *Jews when Jesus was alive. They read only the first five books of the Bible.) In Acts 3:22, Peter says that Moses wrote the book. Also, Paul says that in Romans 10:5, 19. The devil tempted Jesus when he was in the *desert. And Jesus used the book of Deuteronomy to answer the devil. The book describes what Moses taught the *Israelites just before his death. Probably scribes wrote what Moses said. (Scribes were people who wrote things for other people.) They added some explanations. They wrote also about Moses’ death. In the first few chapters of Deuteronomy, the author often refers to old names of people and places. An author who lived later would not have known those names.
2. Some people say that a *prophet wrote it about the year 630 *B.C. (*B.C. means before Christ. So, 630 *B.C. refers to an event that happened 630 years before Jesus’ birth.) They do not know the name of the *prophet. He wanted Jerusalem to be the very important place of *worship. He hid the book in the *temple. The chief priest, Hilkiah, found the book and he gave it to King Josiah. Then Josiah made the religion in *Israel better. The story of Josiah is in 2 Kings chapters 21 and 22. However, this theory (an idea that nobody has proved) seems doubtful.
3. Other people say that a priest wrote the book after that event. King Josiah’s changes did not last. There were priests when Nehemiah was alive. They described what they wanted the *Israelites to be like. The *Israelites had returned to their own country. People wanted the *Israelites to be free from foreigners after this. This idea seems doubtful also.
If Moses was the author, the date of the book was probably about 1406 *B.C. We read this in 1 Kings 6:1. The 4th year of King Solomon’s rule was 480 years after the *Israelites escaped from Egypt. We know that Solomon began to rule in 970 *B.C. Therefore they escaped from Egypt in 1446 *B.C. The *Israelites went into the country called Canaan 40 years later. Moses wrote Deuteronomy just before then. So, the date is about 1406 *B.C.
The word Deuteronomy means ‘the second law’. This translates the Greek title of the book. (Greek is the language in the country called Greece. People used to speak that language in the whole region near the Mediterranean Sea.) The title in the Hebrew language is ‘these are the words’. (Hebrew is the language that the *Israelites spoke.) The book does not just repeat earlier laws. It is a record of the *covenant relationship between God and the *Israelites. The book teaches people how to love God and their neighbours. There are 100 references from Deuteronomy in the *New Testament. Deuteronomy is still important for Christians today, although the culture is different. The book is sometimes called ‘The Book of *Covenant Life’.
What the book contains
Deuteronomy contains three speeches that Moses gave. He gave them just before the *Israelites entered Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had given to the *Israelites. God wanted the *Israelites to obey the law. Deuteronomy is about the relationship with God by means of the *covenant of the law. The law is not just a series of rules to obey. It explains how people should make this relationship work. Deuteronomy also shows us how to show our love for God and for people. Moses told the *Israelites to do things because God had given *grace and love to them. The Christian must do the same.
· 1:1-4 The beginning: When Moses wrote the book.
· 1:5 to 4:43 First Speech: Moses reminds the *Israelites about the things that God has done for them in the past.
· 4:44 to 28:68 Second Speech: Practical rules for how we should live.
· 29:1 to 30:20 Third Speech: Choose to live in the way that God wants you to live.
· 31:1 to 33:29 From Moses to Joshua.
· 34:1-12 Moses dies.
The book is like the agreements that some kings used to make at that time. That was in the nation called the Hittites. They made the agreement with the people whose country they *captured. The kings spoke to the people who made the agreement. A king would describe what he had done for his nation in the past. Then, he would tell the people what he expected them to do. Often these agreements warned about *curses if people did not obey the agreement. The three sections of Deuteronomy are very similar to this.
Moses told the *Israelites that God would send to them another *prophet like him (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Jesus was that *prophet. (See John 1:45.) The *Israelites went through the *desert and Jesus was in the *desert too. Moses spoke about *blessings and *curses and Jesus spoke about *blessings and *curses. (See Luke 6:20-26.) Moses climbed a mountain and he told people to obey his commands. Jesus did that also. (See Matthew 28:16-20.)