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In Deuteronomy, torah often signifies the body of legislation known as the Deuteronomic Code found in chapters ; ; , thus pointing to its character as "law. The material that frames the law code in chapters ; occasionally shifts back and forth between singular and plural forms of "you. In the past, scholarship attributed this variation to different traditions in the history of the growth of the text. These days, while not denying the considerable editorial expansion in these chapters, the variations are usually seen as a feature of Deuteronomy's rhetorical style. For example, by couching the Ten Commandments in the second person singular "you," the Deuteronomist addresses each individual Israelite with the claim of each commandment upon one's life.

Presented as a series of sermons, Deuteronomy differs from the other legal collections of the Pentateuch. Those other traditions are cast in the form of a long speech from God to Moses, which comprises the bulk of the Sinai covenant found in Exodus Numbers Deuteronomy, in contrast, is cast as Moses' speech to the people of Israel before they enter the land of Canaan.

Many see Deuteronomy as a "covenantal document" based upon the pervasive treaties of the ancient Near East in the second millennium. This structuring of the book has been discussed elsewhere in this section. Others see the basic shape as the "constitution" of Israel, due to its distinctive character as a treaty document with features of a law code.

As such, Deuteronomy seeks to protect the most vulnerable segments of the population.

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To date, no agreement exists between the suggestions of sermon, covenant document, and constitution. Deuteronomy seems to partake of all these elements. Whereas the traditions found in Exodus depict the ark as the place where the tablets of the covenant are housed and, more important, as a symbol of God's presence--since it is God's footstool, and the cherubim above the ark are described as God's throne from which God speaks to Moses Exodus 25 --Deuteronomy describes the ark only as a chest that houses the tablets Deuteronomy ; Further indications of Deuteronomy's rejection of the ark as a symbol of God's presence are its omission of the ark from those texts in Numbers that depict God traveling above the ark in the wilderness Deuteronomy , 42; Numbers Deuteronomy's refusal to limit God's presence to objects such as the ark helps to explain its similar rejection of the temple as God's house and the use of the divine name as indicative of God's presence.

In the priestly materials it usually has reference to things set apart for use in the cult, and therefore holy. In the Deuteronomic tradition, however, the ban has to do with war. Any spoils or booty attained in military encounters were understood to be devoted to God and therefore not to be used by Israel.

In fact, following a victory, everything must be "utterly destroyed" the verbal root of "ban"; Deuteronomy ; ; , , 17; The point of this is not to advocate violence, but that Israel is not to profit by means of warfare. Deuteronomy describes the blessings that Israel will receive for faithful obedience:. God brought about all of this in the occupation of the land. Deuteronomy , however, describes the curses that Israel would receive for apostasy:. Deuteronomy 12 is important for the later Deuteronomistic editors because of its insistence upon the centralization of worship.

When Jeroboam revolted and established the northern kingdom of Israel, he needed to set up shrines in Bethel and Dan as rival sanctuaries to the Jerusalem temple.

Deuteronomy 33 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre

This became the primary sin that brought condemnation upon all the northern kings in the judgment of the Deuteronomistic editors. The relevant items in Deuteronomy 12 include:. Within Deuteronomy the emphasis on centralized worship forms the background for the following passages:. It is important to recognize that no specific city is named in the chapter. If these traditions arose in the north, it is likely that Shechem, the most important shrine in Israel, was meant. Election, God's free choice, is an important aspect of the theology of Deuteronomy. Most important, Israel was regarded as an elect nation, chosen by God ; ; ; This means that Israel owed its very existence to the gracious initiative of God's prior choice, simply because God loved them, apart from any merit on Israel's part Besides Israel, God has also freely chosen the king , the priests , , and the place of worship ; ; ; This understanding of God's prior establishment of the relationship militates against the common notion that Deuteronomy is a "legalistic" work in which God rewards Israel for its compliance with the commandments.

On the contrary, God chose Israel before Israel had a chance to obey. Israel's response follows God's election and flows out of gratitude chapter 8.

Where are we?

This order is especially clear in Deuteronomy "O Israel! Therefore obey the LORD your God, observing his commandments and his statutes that I am commanding you today" emphasis added. Due to their affinity with the religion of the Canaanites, these three cultic items were especially abhorrent to the Deuteronomistic editors.

Since early-nineteenth century, Josiah's extensive reform of the cult in B. Comparison with 2 Kings 23 yields the following verbal correspondences; in most cases, the Deuteronomic citation is representative of terminology that frequently appears:. Deuteronomy provides the blueprint for what kingship should look like:. Deuteronomy is often seen as the Bible's charter document for monotheism, the belief that there is only one God.

This fundamental belief at the root of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, however, is not quite present in Deuteronomy, since it fails to deny the existence of other gods. Deuteronomy , "You shall have no other gods before me," implies that there are other gods; the point of the commandment is that they are not to be worshiped alongside or in addition to the Lord.


Deuteronomy's frequent reference to the name of God in phrases like "the name of the LORD your God," "his name," "the name of the LORD," and others, has often been thought to be the means by which God is revealed. But the occurrence of this terminology in Deuteronomy may be an implicit critique of earlier, less sophisticated theological beliefs that God was actually present in Israel's places of worship see Exodus , 22; ; Following the division of the kingdom, which denied the northern tribes--where Deuteronomy probably originated--access to the ark, the authors of Deuteronomy intended to show that no earthly structure can "contain" God see 1 Kings ; what is present is not "God," who dwells in heaven Deuteronomy , but God's "name" Deuteronomy never urges the people to become one, because this state of affairs was assumed by the covenantal nature of their relationship to God.

A further indication of Israel's assumed unity is the unusual habit of referring to members of the community as "brothers"-a term variously translated in the NRSV see ; , 20; ; , 7, 9, 11; ; , By so doing, Deuteronomy effectively minimized the tribal differences that had divided the people in the past and fostered a perception among them of a united entity.

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  • The emphasis on the "oneness" of God, the unity of the people, and the prescription to worship only in Jerusalem has led to the oft-repeated Deuteronomic dictum of "one people worshiping one God at one central sanctuary. Deuteronomy is the only law code that addresses the role and function of prophecy. Contemporary notions of the prediction of future events are especially denounced in where divination, soothsaying, augury, sorcery, the casting of spells, the consultation of ghosts or spirits, and the seeking of oracles from the dead are declared to be abhorrent practices.

    Notice that the possibility of such practices is not denied; Saul will later consult a medium who successfully conjures up the spirit of Samuel 1 Samuel Rather, Deuteronomy prohibits such practices. In Deuteronomy the role of the prophet is modeled upon the role of Moses who, at the time the torah was given on Mt. Horeb, was designated as mediator, that is, as the one to explain and apply the torah to the lives of the people.

    "Where Did We Get the Bible?" (Genesis-Deuteronomy, Joshua & Judges)

    The prophets are Moses' successors in this regard. They are subservient to the regulation of the torah; if their message or behavior should deviate from its prescriptions or lead the people astray, they must forfeit their lives In addition they are also enjoined to be attentive to new revelations from God One has the feeling that eighth-century prophets like Amos, Micah, Hosea, and Isaiah of Jerusalem would have been delighted with the book of Deuteronomy. In both traditions there is a clear emphasis on the necessity for social justice, particularly with regard to those on the margins of society, debtors, indentured servants, escaped slaves, Levites, the poor, widows, orphans, women, foreigners, even animals and convicted criminals.

    This is especially clear in the following passages:. Such extensive humanitarian activity on behalf of those in need is based on Israel's own past experience ; All this is to be implemented through fair and impartial judges and a legal system designed to uphold the social fabric of the community But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

    Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you. And the blood shall be forgiven them. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.

    Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy

    And all the people shall say, Amen. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation. Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? God Gives Freedom of Choice - People are free to obey or disobey God, but they should also know they are responsible for the consequences. A contract, or covenant, requires obedience, and God expects nothing less. Children Must be Taught - To keep the covenant, the people must instruct their children in God's ways and be sure they follow them.

    This responsibility continues through every generation. When this teaching becomes lax, trouble begins. Deuteronomy Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.

    Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. Share Flipboard Email. Jack Zavada is a writer who covers the Bible, theology, and other Christianity topics. Updated September 11,