The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: The Book of Deuteronomy
by A. F. Kirkpatrick
/ Varda Books
Like other books of the Pentateuch, this, the fifth, owes its present name of Deuteronomy to the Septuagint. The Greek translators misrendered this by the words ‘this second law-giving,’ and gave the title Deuteronomium, to the whole Book; while some later Jewish writings refer to it as ‘Mishneh Torah.’ Though thus born in error, the name Deuteronomy is so far appropriate that the Book contains the second codification of the Law of Israel, the first being that which is found in the Prophetical Narrative of the Pentateuch.
As some of its names imply, Deuteronomy is the record and contents of a Second Legislation or Covenant of Law delivered through Moses to Israel—second, that is, to the Legislation or Covenant of Horeb—which he proclaimed and expounded to all the people at the close of their wanderings between Egypt and the Promised Land, when they were encamped in one of the gorges that break downwards from the north-west edge of the plateau of Moab into the valley of Jordan, over against Jericho. The Laws proper assigned to this occasion form the central bulk of the Book. They are introduced by long discourses, with Moses as the speaker, in form both historical and hortatory, and in purpose expository of the facts and principles on which they are based; and they are followed by other discourses from Moses enforcing them on the obedience of the people. The Book—and with it the Pentateuch—closes upon further chapters of exhortation and narrative which carry events up to the death of Moses and prepare for the succession of Joshua.
The force and individuality of the Book; its consistency and distinctiveness from the other documents of the Pentateuch as well as its differences from much of the custom and practice both in early and later Israel, are all obvious. Not only in its Cardinal Law of the One Altar, with all the consequences of this, and in other laws peculiar to itself such as those of the King and Prophet, and in its expansions and modifications of earlier law, both written and consuetudinary, but also in its religious temper and general spirit of humanity, Deuteronomy evidently occupies a particular stage in the development of the religion of Israel. Can we mark any point in Israel’s history, at which both the style and characteristic doctrines of the Book appeared as operative on the life and literature of the people? We are fortunate in having evidence in the Old Testament which enables us to fix that point with exactness...
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