103-1401 introduction and Chapter 1

Deuteronomy

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Introduction

Summary

Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell address to the tribes he had served as prophetic leader. The book includes narratives, exhortations, warnings, instructions, and promises of blessings for Israel’s faithfulness. Using elements common to covenants between nations, Deuteronomy is composed as a treaty text. It is similar to other treaties from other Near Eastern sources, particularly from Hittite archives. Moses, clearly aware of the patterns used in typical covenants, communicates God’s purposes to Israel in a familiar literary and legal form.

Paying careful attention to the formal structures of Deuteronomy yields a great deal of insight into the theological nature of the book. As a covenant text, it underscores the seriousness of God’s promises and of Israel’s need, as the covenant partner, to obey the terms of treaty so that God can fulfill His promises. As a farewell speech, Deuteronomy is rooted in a historical and geographical setting.

The following outline reflects the analysis of Deuteronomy as a covenant document.

  • 1:1-5 Preamble to the covenant.
  • 1:6-4:49 Historical prologue.
  • 5:1-26:15 Stipulations of the covenant.
  • 26:16-29:1 Blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.
  • 29:2-30:20 Review of the covenant and choice between life and death.
  • 31:1-29 Deposit of the text of the covenant.
  • 31:30-32:43 Witness of the covenant

The outline embedded in the Bible text reflects Deuteronomy’s structure both as a covenant text and as a farewell speech and a series of sermons.

Title

The Greek title of “mishneh” is “copy of this law,” and is translated Deuteronomy. In the Greek it is translated “second law,” which is written Deuteronomium in the Latin version. (Deuteronomy 17:18) In Hebrew the translation reads, “These are the words,” and come from the first four words in the text. The Hebrew is a better translation as this is not a second law but the words of Moses’ explanation concerning the law. The Book of Deuteronomy completes the five part unit written by Moses and is call the Pentateuch.

Author and Date

Traditionally Moses is recognized as the author of Deuteronomy. Moses claimed authorship in Deuteronomy 1:5. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament this claim is supported. (1 Kings 2:3; 1 Kings 8:53; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 18:12; Acts 3:22-23; Romans 10:19) It is believed that Deuteronomy 32:48-34:12 was written after the death of Moses by Joshua, the rest of the book was written by the hand of Moses who died in 1405 BC.

Background and Setting

As was with Leviticus Deuteronomy does not advance the historical text but takes place in one location over a month of time. Israel was camped in a valley east of the Jordan River at the time of this writing. The location is referred to in Numbers 36:16 as “the plains of Moab” an area north of the Arnon River across the Jordan River from Jericho. It has been forty years since the Israelites had exited Egypt.

Deuteronomy concentrates on events that took place in the final weeks of Moses’ life. The major event was the divine communication that Moses received and gave to the people of Israel. The other events recorded were 1) Moses recording the law in a book, 2) Moses’ commissioning of Joshua as the new leader, 3) Moses’ viewing of the land of Canaan from Mount Nebo, 4) Moses’ death.

As in Leviticus Deuteronomy contains much legal detail, but this detail is in the context of the people rather than to the priest. Moses was calling his people to be obedient to the covenant made with God at Sinai and he reminded the people of their past history. Moses also reminded the people of the victories the Lord had given them over their enemies. And most importantly Moses reminded the people to take the land that God had promised them under oath to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses not only looked back but looked ahead and saw Israel’s future failures that would lead to them being scattered among the nations before the fulfillment of God’s promise could be fulfilled.

Along with Psalm and Isaiah the book of Deuteronomy reveals to us much about the attributes of God. By the peoples obedience they would receive the blessings of God. Obedience and the pursuit of holiness is always based upon the character of God. Because of who God is His people are also to be holy.

The Deeds and the Demands of God 1:6 to 4:40

Moses gives three speeches that are confessional in nature in Deuteronomy and is also found in two other major parts of Deuteronomy. In the first speech of Moses there is a balanced emphasis between the deeds of God and the demands of God. In his second speech there is a contrast between the nature of God and the demands that flow from His character. In the third speech of Moses he continues his appeal for the people to respond to the Lord. As with all of Moses’ speeches there is a principle of confession and exhortation.

Proclaiming God’s Mighty Acts 1:6 to 3:29

In these chapters we see a resume of God’s mighty acts during Israel’s pilgrimage between Sinai and Moab. Throughout the book of Deuteronomy Horeb is used as a name for Sinai. The deeds of God and the response of Israel may be summarized in these chapters as a portrait in fear and failure and as a portrait in providential leadership.

A Portrait in Fear and Failure 1:6-46

Israel is now challenged to leave the Sinai where God has so gloriously manifested Himself, Israel was prompted to leave that mountain scene, cooperate in achieving God’s purposes, and conquer the land that God had promised so long before to Abraham. Israel confronted by that challenge was a portrait in fear and failure, a people who allowed their fear to erode their commitment as to assure their failure. This study is appropriate today in modern society where we see the polarities of fear and failure.

Chapter 1

Preface 1-5

This chapter begins in a third person context with these words, “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness.” The writer of these words probably lived on the west bank and wrote them later than the time of Moses. The writer goes on to remind the readers of his day that it was an eleven days journey from the Sinai to Kadesh-barnea. This was probably added for an audience beyond the time of Moses.

In all the other books written by Moses his speech was grounded in “all that the Lord had given him.” The words that Moses spoke were the words that God had given him to speak. Moses’ message was not grounded in himself but in God. Now in the land of Moab Moses “undertook to explain the law.” That is to interpret covenant stipulations and demands for the life of the covenant people. Moses as a teacher/preacher is an ideal model for any age. Moses gave himself to the ministry of others to understand the implications of God’s revelation for life.

The Call to commitment 6-8

The Israelite people had become content with their surroundings and the assurance of God’s presence. As with Israel those who have become comfortable in the surroundings of the Church should also hear this call from the Lord. “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” The command that the Lord had given them was clear. “Turn and set your journey.” People of God are pilgrims and are always in motion to achieve the purposes of God’s tomorrows. This is also the call to commitment for the Church today. You have stayed long enough where you are, be on your journey to where I will lead you.

A Call to cooperation 9-18

Here again we see the choice of shared leadership. As earlier when the seventy were chosen in the book of Exodus and Numbers. (Exodus 18:13; Numbers 11:10-17) each narrative of shared leadership has different aspects to add to each but they are an unedified concept of shared leadership. The very success of the Israelites as a covenant community, as in the new covenant, call for the implementation of this principle of shared leadership. The call of conquest by God is a call to cooperation.

The Call to Conquest 19-46

The call of God to Israel placed them between two poles, their fear of God and their fear of other persons. Although they had the fear of God from when they were at Sinai that fear was replaced at Kadesh-barnea by their fear of the Canaanites and what might happen if they invaded their land. Their abortive effort can be seen from four perspective.

First the goal that God had set before them as seen in verses 19-25. “It is a good land which the LORD our God is about to give us.” The pervious expedition of the twelve spies, (Numbers 13-14) we again see here in abbreviated form. There was no question of the goodness of the land, the question was the commitment of Israel to possess the land fulfilling the purpose of God. The odds of victory looked over whelming to the people and they lost their trust in God’s word.

Second there are times when the faithful will falter. (26-33) The reason Israel faltered is not difficult to see. They lacked faith in God’s promise. To believe God is to trust Him, it does not matter the comparative size and power of the opposition. It was not that the goal before them was questionable but their lack of disciplined commitment that would be needed to accomplish that goal. This is ever true. It is not the value or the goodness of the goal, it is the price demanded to achieve that goal. If they are not willing to make the commitment to pay the price then their lack of faith causes fear and failure.

Third, to succumb to fear of other persons rather than a fear of the Lord is a position where one forfeits their future.  “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers.” There were only two groups of people who would see the Promised Land. The two spies who brought positive news of the Promised Land and the children who turned back with the elders who refused to go forward at Kadesh.

Forth Israel’s delay in response to the Lord’s command is the danger of learning too late. After hearing the rebuke of the Lord the people may have made an abortive attempt to enter the land on their own. Once aware of their failure the people repented. “We have sinned against the LORD; we will indeed go up and fight.” But now it was too late as the opportunity had slipped through their fingers. The Lord gave them counsel through Moses. “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.” But Israel was determined and went up to the hill country in spite of the Lord’s words. The Amorites came out to meet them, and chased them away as bees. The Israelites returned to Kadesh and remained there for a long stay.

It is possible for one to learn from their mistakes and poor judgments and turn their lives around. It is also possible to wait too long and learn the lesson too late. It is too late when the opportunity has passed by. For most persons the opportunity comes at a unique time and then passes on. When that time has passed the opportunity has passed with it. It is important to perceive the precise time and the right moment to achieve the purpose of God. It may pass to another generation or to another person to achieve it. But for the one who learns too late they will never accomplish their God given mission.

God’s War

The Lord’s command to Israel to annihilate its enemies poses a major ethical problem. How could the God of love mandate genocide? What justification could Israel have had for invading, conquering, and destroying the land of Canaan and its peoples? From a human perspective, it appears that Israel’s aggressive campaigns to settle Canaan were illegal and immoral.

However, the war against the Canaanites was led by God, not by mere human whim. The conquest was directed against wicked people who had rebelled against the Lord and His purposes. Their sin had reached its full measure and now warranted their destruction. Israel became God’s instrument to carry out this judgment.

The war that Israel was authorized to wage was limited historically and theologically to its Old Testament setting. Medieval campaigns, such as the crusaders by European “Christians” against Middle Eastern “infidels,” or the more recent jihads of Islamic terrorism cannot be justified based on Old Testament practice. Jesus made it very clear that “God blesses those who work for peace” (Matthew 5:9) and that “those who use the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) No justification for such action exists in the modern world. In the final judgment, God Himself will pour out His holy wrath on Human wickedness. (Revelation 19:11-21)


Quizzes

103-1401 introduction and Chapter 1


Academic Administrator for Durant Bible College Pastor's Assistant First Baptist Church of Durant Clerk First Baptist Church of Durant

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