BIBLE STUDY SERIES #446, 447 and 448

11 June, 2000

INTRODUCING DEUTERONOMY - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Today we approach the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the five Books of Moses called the Pentateuch. We find a number of suitable references which provide the reader with scholarly outlines of this work, among which one must search for the most suitable for a given presentation. Perhaps I might begin by noting the contribution of the Encyclopaedia Judaica on this work. It states that the name, "Deuteronomy", (Heb. ... Devarim), the fifth book of the Pentateuch, "is derived from the Greek translation of [mishna ha-torah] (Deut. 17:18): (Gk. )To Deuteronomion ('the second law' or 'the repeated law') and hence the Latin Deuteronomium." It explains "It is presented as a long farewell speech of Moses, styled in the first person singular (except for a few small digressions...)"..(These are carefully listed.) The account continues: "It is likewise said to have been written by Moses and delivered to the levitical priests for custody." The whole account contains about eleven paginated columns of fine print, worthwhile to the specialist, which cover the contents of Deuteronomy, a critical assessment of it in several directions, and then a defence of the traditional view of the book.

The New Bible Dictionary simply explains at the start of the Deuteronomy entry "The word is derived from the LXX deuteronomion (Vulg. deuteronomium), 'repetition of the law', which is based upon a mistaken understanding of the words 'copy of this law' in Dt. xvii. 18."

The New Bible Commentary amplifies somewhat using the words "the 'second law' or 'the law repeated'", and adds "It consists of discourses addressed by Moses to the people on the eve of their entry into the promised land. The title is justified by the words of Dt. xvii. 18 and by the inclusion of 'the law' in chapters v - xxvi, for the religious, social and civil life of the people." That reference continues: "In contrast with the detailed rules contained in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers regarding the tabernacle, its worship, and other matters, which were particularly intended for the instruction of the priests and Levites, the words of Deuteronomy are addressed to every member of the whole congregation. In terms easy to understand, the common man is told what God requires of him. When priests and Levites are mentioned here and there, it is from the layman's point of view, pointing to them as his ministers and teachers in the law, and commending them to his support."

If we turn to the Commentary by Keil and Delitzsch, we find, after a somewhat more scholarly and amplified presentation of the same definitions as those already quoted, the view of the authors of that reference expressed thus: "The book of Deuteronomy contains not so much "a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers", ... as "a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know." This latter quote, they ascribe to Luther.

Keil and Delitzsch follow this observation with a long amplifying summary which is worded thus: "Consequently it is not merely a repetition and summary of the most important laws and events contained in the previous books, still less a mere "summons to the law and testimony," or a "fresh and independent lawgiving standing side by side with the earlier one," a "transformation of the old law to suit the altered circumstances," or "merely a second book of the law, intended for the people that knew not the law"; ... "but a hortatory..." (we might say "timely")... "description, explanation, and enforcement of the most essential contents of the covenant revelation and covenant laws, with emphatic prominence given to the spiritual principle of the law and its fulfilment, and with a further development of the ecclesiastical, judicial, political, and civil organization, which was intended as a permanent foundation for the life and well-being of the people in the land of Canaan. There is not the slightest trace, throughout the whole book, of any intention whatever to give a new or second law."

Holding each reference for further consultation, we might, considering the time available to us, use the words from The New Bible Commentary to give us an over-view suitable for our present need. Under the heading "II. Background", we read: "The place and time of Moses' discourses are minutely specified (i. 1-5, iii. 29, iv. 46, xxix. 1) and should be carefully borne in mind if their purport is to be understood and difficulties avoided. They were addressed to the assembled multitude in the uplands of Moab, amid its green and fertile fields and pastures, overlooking Jericho and the plain of Jordan. Although distant from Horeb by only eleven days' journey (i. 2), they had wandered forty years in the wilderness (i. 3), and had fought their way through the territory east of Jordan which was now being settled by the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. They stood at a crisis of their history, facing new and formidable foes, and about to meet fresh trials and temptations, under a new leader. At this time, and being warned of his approaching death, Moses calls them together, reminds them of God's gracious and mighty deliverances, gives them encouragements to faith and obedience, warnings against idolatry and other sins, promises of blessing and threats of judgment. He repeats the Ten Words, first given 'from the midst of the fire', and expounds their meaning (v-xi). He then recapitulates laws received at divers times, some probably dating from the days of the patriarchs, some revealed during the stay at Horeb, and others as God had taught him from time to time. These are now modified and adapted to fit the new age and to provide guidance for Israel in the promised land. The best summary of them is found in the words, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself' (Lk. x. 27) with the addition of the words, 'This do, and thou shalt live' (28). The New Testament contains over eighty citations of and references to Deuteronomy: these must be studied if the meaning of the book is to be understood and its Message received."

Proceeding under the heading "III. Authorship" the reference continues: "The claim is distinctly made that Moses 'declared' the law (i. 5) and that he wrote it in a book, which was placed beside the ark and delivered to the Levites for safe keeping (xxxi. 9, 26). Jewish tradition and Samaritan tradition are unanimous in attributing the book to Moses as the author, and this is confirmed by Ne. viii. 1. The passages in Joshua which presuppose it are too many and too closely inter-woven with the context to be assigned simply to later insertion."

Here, the Commentary turns to examine some divers theories of the last century's critical schools, but shows that these did not agree with one another, and each includes hypothetical aspects which others among the critical schools themselves dispute, thus tending to nullify each other. The Commentary then proceeds with the further statement that "The present tendency is towards a greater acknowledgment of the Mosaic origin of much of the contents of the book. The internal evidence in favour of Mosaic authorship is very strong. The Moabite background crops up in scores of incidental geographical details. The reader feels himself with Moses crossing the torrent of Zered (ii. 13), halting at the wilderness of Kedemoth (ii. 26), turning on the road to Bashan and abiding at last in the valley over against Beth-peor (iii. 29). The reminiscences of Moses interject themselves with unexpected suddenness into his discourses (ix. 22) and even into the delivery of the laws (xxiv. 9). Thus we are frequently and vividly reminded of his own thoughts, emotions and prayers. The character of Moses, as revealed in the earlier books, shows itself in various ways. His ardent spirit (Ex. ii. 12, 13) manifests itself in bursts of fiery indignation (ix. 21ff.) and emotional appeal (x. 12-22). The effect of his early education (Acts vii. 22) is shown in his skill as a leader and writer. He knows how to combine positive teaching with imaginative picturing; how to emphasize essentials whilst not neglecting detail; how to draw upon his wide experience and yet to speak to the heart; and both his prose and poetic style are justly admired. As the devoted 'servant of the Lord' (xxxiv. 5) the name of Jehovah is constantly on his lips. His skill as a leader and the power of appeal which are displayed in the histories of Exodus and Numbers are here reproduced." Perhaps that would be a suitable point at which to leave off reading the Commentary, and to allow our own thoughts to focus upon the themes raised to this point which can form a welcome meditation for the coming week.

18 June, 2000

INTRODUCING DEUTERONOMY - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Today we continue our approach to the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the five Books of Moses called the Pentateuch. On Part I, we had mentioned a number of suitable references which provide the reader with scholarly outlines of this work, among which one must search for the most suitable for a given presentation. Perhaps I might begin today by briefly reviewing the general thrust of what we discovered last week. Keil and Delitzsch quote Luther in the words of this description: "The book of Deuteronomy contains not so much 'a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers', ... as 'a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know'."

Noting the preliminary contributions which we extracted out of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, The New Bible Dictionary, and The New Bible Commentary, in addition to the volumes of Commentary by Keil and Delitzsch to this same general opinion, we found ourselves gathering from these a general sense that the higher critics of the last century have not shown sufficiently convincing arguments in their hypotheses to discredit the traditional opinion that Moses, indeed, was the author of the Book of Deuteronomy, as also of the other Books contained in the Pentateuch. From varied sources we found support which would permit us to express with some confidence the assertion that the authorship, (which resided, in the last analysis with The Almighty), had been granted through those inspired thoughts and insights which were imparted to Moses, and by his hand were written down in that ancient time for the guidance and use of succeeding generations of the children of Israel, even to this present hour.

Lest this talk of Moses, and of the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy mislead any of our listeners, we ought to insert the reminder that we, of the British-Israel-World Federation, present the view, with strong evidences, that today the vast majority of those descended from the Tribes of the Children of Israel of Old Testament and New Testament times are now recognized to be the great populations of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred nations in the world today. This is so because the ancient prophetic words of many Scriptures point to the enlargement of the progeny of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, (re-named Israel in Genesis 32:28), and the sons of Jacob with particular attention to the birthright descent through Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph in Genesis 48:20.

A short summary outline of the contents of the Book of Deuteronomy is found in The New Bible Dictionary. It says: "The book falls naturally into three sections. a. i. 1-xi. 32. Discourses by Moses, of a prefatory character, with small elements of narrative. In i. 6-iii. 29 Moses rehearses the course of their journeyings from leaving Horeb to the valley where their camp was pitched. In iv. 1-40 he addresses exhortations and warnings to the coming generation. Moses also selects three cities of refuge, and the narrator gives a detailed geographical statement of the place where the words following were spoken (iv. 41-49). Chapters v-xi form a continuous discourse by Moses, beginning with a rehearsal of the Decalogue, and leading up to the legislation which follows. b. xii. 1-xxvi. 19. The legislation which Moses put before the people ... . c. xxvii. 1-xxxiv. 12. A supplement, consisting of narrative and discourse, leading up to Moses' death. Chapter xxvii contains instructions for recording the law on stone, and for a solemn covenant, after the crossing of Jordan. Chapter xxviii follows with blessings upon obedience and curses on disobedience. In chapters xxix, xxx Moses binds the people in a covenant to serve Yahweh their God, and Him alone (xxix. 1, 10). In chapter xxxi Joshua appears on the scene, and the narrator tells how Moses exhorts and commissions Joshua, and how together they teach the people a 'song' (xxxi, xxxii. 1-47). The book closes with an account of Moses' death (xxxii. 48-52, xxxiv. 1-8), Moses' blessing on the tribes 'before he died', and the people's obedience to Joshua his successor (xxxiv. 9-12)."

The New Bible Commentary, before making a similar presentation notes of the date of the writing that "the historical references are all to events prior to the conquest; the writer betrays no knowledge of the division of the kingdom, nor of the oppression by the Philistines nor of other events recorded in the book of Judges. The legislation of chapters xiii and xx was applicable to the conquest period, and would have been an anachronism under the monarchy. The most characteristic phrases, such as 'all Israel' and 'the inheritance which the Lord your God giveth you', point to the same time."

The Commentary has short notes on the leading ideas, which it lists under seven short paragraphs. These are as follows.

Under the heading: "a. Bondage and redemption", we read "Israel must 'not forget' (iv. 9) that he was a 'bondman in the land of Egypt' (v. 15), often called the 'house of bondage' (v. 6), and that from this the Lord had 'redeemed' him (vii. 8) 'through a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm' (iv. 34)."

Similarly we find " b. The goodly inheritance: God 'gives' the people a 'good land' (i. 25), 'flowing with milk and honey' (vi. 3), as He 'sware unto (their) fathers' that they might 'go in and possess' it (i. 8) for an 'inheritance' (iv. 21)."

Heading "c. The love of God", yields "They must 'love' the Lord their God (v. 10) with 'all (their) heart and soul' (iv. 29), because He has first loved them (iv. 37). They must 'fear' Him (iv. 10) and 'cleave' unto Him (x. 20). As for 'other gods' (v. 7) 'which they have not known' (xi. 28), they must 'blot out their name' entirely (vii. 24)."

The list continues "d. The people of the Lord 'All Israel' (i. 1) is to be one people hearing the words of the Lord (v. 1). His 'holy' nation and 'peculiar possession' (vii. 6). Because they are 'brothers' (i. 16) they must care for the less fortunate, 'the stranger, the fatherless and the widow' (x. 18)."

"e. The Lord's altar" notes "All gifts and sacrifices shall be brought to 'the place' which He 'shall choose' to 'cause his name to dwell there' (xii. 5, 11), and there they shall 'rejoice' before Him (xii. 7)."

"f. Sin and cleansing" yields "All 'sins' are condemned (xv. 9), especially idolatry which is 'abomination' (vii. 25). As regards punishment for grievous sin the rulers are told 'thine eye shall not pity' (xiii. 8), in order that the people may 'hear and fear' (xiii. 11) and 'put away evil from (their) midst' (xiii. 5)."

The last is "g. Promises of blessing" which notes "There are promises of 'blessing' (vii. 13) when God shall have given them 'rest' from their enemies (iii. 20). If they will 'observe and do' His commandments (v. 1), their 'days shall be long' (iv. 26), it shall 'be well' with them (iv. 40), the 'work of their hand' shall prosper (ii. 7), they shall 'eat and be full' (vi. 11) after 'all the desire of (their) soul' (xii. 15)."

That having been said, we are at present attempting to see the nature and scope of the words to be found in the Book of Deuteronomy, so perhaps we ought to see how this book itself begins the records in Deuteronomy 1:1-5:

1. These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
2. (There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)
3. And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;
4. After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei:
5. On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,

The Companion Bible note on Verse 1 points out that the reference to "These" words actually covers ten addresses, in the Book which are specified by chapter and verse. At verse 2, "Seir" means Edom, and at verse 5, "began = undertook with will", while "declare" in Hebrew is "make plain, show sense, set forth, especially in writing" and "law = torah = instruction." As we have approached the end of today's Study, we shall end with the thought that God today is preparing the descendants of those Israelites to enter into their Promised Land in a new and spiritual sense, having God's Law written upon their hearts. We will leave that thought for your meditation for the coming week.

25 June, 2000

INTRODUCING DEUTERONOMY - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Today we continue our approach to the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the five Books of Moses called the Pentateuch. On Part I, we had mentioned a number of suitable references which provide the reader with scholarly outlines of this work. Briefly, the general thrust of the Book of Deuteronomy is given in a quote by Keil and Delitzsch from the words of Luther: "The book of Deuteronomy contains not so much 'a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers', ... as 'a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know'."

Noting the preliminary contributions which we extracted out of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, The New Bible Dictionary, and The New Bible Commentary, in addition to the volumes of Commentary by Keil and Delitzsch to this same general opinion, we found ourselves gathering from these a general sense that the higher critics of the last century have not shown sufficiently convincing arguments in their hypotheses to discredit the traditional opinion that Moses, indeed, was the author of the Book of Deuteronomy, as also of the other Books contained in the Pentateuch.

Lest this talk of Moses, and of the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy mislead any of our listeners, we ought to repeat the reminder from the last Study that we, of the British-Israel-World Federation, present the view, with strong evidences, that today the vast majority of those descended from the Tribes of the Children of Israel of Old Testament and New Testament times are now recognized to be the great populations of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred nations in the world today. This is so because the ancient prophetic words of many Scriptures point to the enlargement of the progeny of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, (re-named Israel in Genesis 32:28), and the sons of Jacob with particular attention to the birthright descent through Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph in Genesis 48:20.

On Part II of this sequence, we found that the Book of Deuteronomy is quite concisely described in The New Bible Dictionary. It says: "The book falls naturally into three sections"; a statement which, while brief, is sufficient for our present purpose as we will come to see the parts and their sub-divisions as we proceed. Having read the first few verses at the end of the last Study, we are today continuing our preparation to pick up the rest of the text of the Scripture passage in Deuteronomy 1.

But let us pause before we begin. Moses has prepared an address to the nation of Israel, which he is about to deliver both by word of mouth to all those present on that occasion, and by the written word in the Book of The Law to be delivered into the hands of the Priests for future review and reference. These words are to form the teaching manual for those generations which, in after centuries, will yet be born to the citizens here present.

We might, for a moment stop to see things as he perhaps would see and wish to review them. Multitudes of honoured senior citizens, who have reached their major point of retirement in life must already have sensed the direction of my thoughts in the description which I am about to attempt. Indeed also, in a very junior sense, even the valedictorians in many ranks and generations of students, who are graduating from their short years of educational endeavours in many lands and institutions, will possibly understand.

How does one profitably search one's storehouse of corporate memories, to sift out a selection of truth worthy of one's final moments before departure? The Valedictory address by a chosen student, or the wise sentences of a Senior who is leaving his working world behind for a quieter existence of gracious loneliness, generally contain words which spring from the depths of heartfelt contemplation, however lightly they may be glossed with humour, and they form a parting viewpoint which may help to underline and bond enduring thoughts. Such insights will picture a summation of times of trial and of fellowship, of tests of ability, stress of character and endurance. Engulfed within will be glimpsed the occasions of laughter, perhaps the moments of self-control under duress, the lasting values which emerge in shared memories, the review of common bonds of experience all of which convey treasures for the storehouse of the mind. All these are grist to the mills of thought and contemplation. These will often offer some of the things which have accumulated through the maturing years and they will, perhaps, be recalled by many when even the name of the speaker has perhaps migrated into a forgotten file of the half-remembered.

At a climax in the concourse of time in the life of any individual, such a person will in all probability have garnered some special thoughts and memories, some values and some points of understanding which separate those things which are of lasting or eternal value from the less significant. These, they will wish to sort out and impart with understanding to friends and associates within the multitude before they themselves depart into a future, the detailed pattern of which is yet in process of unfolding, and diverse as the assembled lives of the audience.

Moses has by this time lived a long and full life which has reached to six score years, and included many forms of experience. Perhaps choice of that word, "score" is a particularly good one in this instance, for it is defined in the dictionary as a "mark or notch for keeping count: a line drawn: the number twenty, once represented by a larger notch: a reckoning: a debt: ... an account."

As he seeks for the words for this, perhaps his most important bequest to those multitudes who are to hear, what might he have remembered out of his past? His birth had been in the oppressive circumstances of Israel's bondage in Egypt, and he was, at three months, to float, cradled in the basket daubed with slime and pitch, amidst the crocodile haunts of rushes on the sacred waters of The Nile. Lifted from bondage by Pharaoh's daughter in Exodus 2:5, he had grown to manhood and become, as Acts 7:22 tells us, "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians."

At two score years, He had killed an Egyptian, and fled to the wilderness where The Almighty had bestowed upon him the additional wisdom of the desert reaches, and a wife and sons, in the further years while tending the flocks of Jethro, the priest of Midian.

How will The Almighty now speak through his "slow tongue", that impediment mentioned when, at four score years, Yahweh's presence was manifested to him in The Burning Bush on Sinai's slopes, described in Exodus 4:10? He had raised that vocal impediment in his appeal to Yahweh by which argument he had sought to excuse himself and find release from God's directive to face and address Pharaoh on behalf of God's people.

Now, having reached the tally of those six score years which is to mark his departure from the charge which has burdened and occupied his attentions through the arduous years of leadership of the assembled multitudes of Israel's Tribes, he must find those God-imparted and inspired words by which to instruct the nation. A new leader must be selected and the robe of authority settled upon him. The work is not finished, for that nation is to emerge down the centuries and on into millennia as the nucleus seed-bed of the Kingdom of God upon the fertile earth of God's Vineyard. With what words must he address the people? What should be certain of inclusion? What should be omitted at this time, to preserve clarity in the message? Only divine guidance would form the words which he must speak. Doubtless much concerned prayer and preparation would have descended upon him as he sought to form the final culminating message before taking his final view from Mount Nebo, of the distant Promised Land of Israel's inheritance, followed by his departure alone and his burial in the valley in the land of Moab, in a grave unmarked and unknown, as we read in Deuteronomy 34:6.

As our time has expired, we shall leave with you for your meditation the somewhat poignant thoughts of Moses during the preparation of this final Book of Deuteronomy as he forms the inspired words through prayer-filled thoughts, and records them for posterity.

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