Deuteronomy 1:1-3:32 (D’varim)  – July 17, 2010  [Mike Rubin notes for TBS Torah Study/revised]


  • Deuteronomy: From the Greek: “The Second Law” [Septuagint translating “mishneh-ha torah”, also translated “copy of this teaching” or “book of teaching”; see Deut 31:26];
  • D’varim. “These are the words…”  [But whose words are they? Are they a first person narrative of Moses or is Moses invoked as the speaker because this adds credibility and weight to the words? Such ascribing of authorship to a hallowed forefather so frequently occurs that it is referred to as “pseudopigraphy”.]
  • On its surface Deuteronomy consists of the Farewell Speeches of Moses (his ethical will to his family).
    1. Passing of Leadership to Joshua and to Judges [Deut: 34:9 “Joshua …was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him;” also see Deut:13-18.]
    2. “How Great Moses Is!” Deuteronomy represents the elevation of Moses to the highest pinnacle [Deut 34:10-12  “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses …” [At whose expense is Moses’ elevation?]
    3. Contrast the sudden elevation of Moses in Deuteronomy with Moses’ declining role in Numbers in relationship to the Aaronid Priests – culminating in the metaphorical assassination of Moses in Numbers at the affair of Peor (when Pinchas takes the initiative to thrust a spear through a Midianite woman and the son of an Israelite chieftain because, like Moses, the Israelite was partnering with a Midianite woman). (Moses versus the Aaronid Priesthood).
    4. Where in Deuteronomy is the Aaronid Priesthood? [It is missing – only the Levitical Priesthood is present.]
  • Deuteronomistic History: Consists of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges I & II, First Kings and Second Kings. [Believed to be written by the same authors.]
    1. 621 BCE – Discovery of the Book of Teaching in the Temple during repairs. See Second Kings 22:1-23:3;  [Reign of Josiah began 640 BCE (at age 8) and ended  608 BCE.] [Note the same words used in Deut 32:24-26 for the “book of teaching” that Moses gave to the Levites to place beside the Ark as are used in Kings for the discovery of the book of teaching during Josiah’s reign.]
    2. Josiah followed by 4 sinful kings and the Babylonian exile; Babylonians invade Judah in 605 BCE, Temple destroyed in 586 BCE, Cyrus decree of return 539 BCE. Temple rebuilt 516 BCE.
    3. The Book of Teaching is not all of Deuteronomy. It consists of the law code in Deut. 12:1-26:15.
    4. Josiah’s reforms.
      1. Centralization of Worship in Jerusalem. In Deuteronomy this is presaged by the words “Place that [God] will choose” [Also note Passover worship is to be held in Jerusalem at the Temple, rather than in the home as stated elsewhere in the Torah.]
      2. Purging of foreign cults [and images and foreign places of worship ]
    5. Levitical Authority – Aaronid Priesthood conspicuously missing. [Levites are the Priests and to be cared for.]  [Moses gives the Book of Teaching to the Levites to place by the Ark.]
    6. Mount Horeb is referenced (just as in the E source) instead of Mount Sinai (as in the J source). This implies a northern authorship for Deuteronomy.
    7. “You shall set a king over you..”  (17:15).  Deuteronomy sanctions having a king, long before the institution of kingship, if Deuteronomy was written during Moses’ time.
    8. Places limits on prophecy [Deut 4:2 “You shall not add anything … or take anything away …”] [Emphasis on the law code in the Book of Teaching.]
    9. Deuteronomy introduces the Shema: [All encompassing Fidelity to God.]  References the “soul” in connection with the love of God.
    10. Conditional Covenant. Deuteronomy accepts a Conditional Covenant.  [In the South, David was promised that his progeny would rule forever, no conditions attached.  The North rejected David’s line and its kings always operated on a conditional covenant with God, ending in the dissolution of North through the Assyrian conquest in 721 BCE.  The Book of Teaching was brought to the South and laid the groundwork for the dissolution of the Davidic kings, at least until the Messiah.]
    11. Theodicy: In the face of the catastrophe of the exile, Deuteronomy became perhaps the first great explanation in Judaism for why bad things happen.  There will be blessings if you follow the Law; curses if you do not follow the Law.
  • Four Viewpoints from which to read Deuteronomy:
    1. Moses at the end of his journey with the People [the surficial account].
    2. Dtn – The Book of Teaching [The new law book (12:1-26:15) from a Northern Perspective that emphasizes the Levites instead of the Aaronid Priesthood and serves as the basis for the Josiah reforms].
    3. Dtn 1. The Return of the Good King and prosperity. [Possibly laying the foundation for a re-conquest of the North by a new Moses-like king.  This editing was before the catastrophe of the exile].
      1. See Kings 23:25: “There was no king like him before … nor did any like him arise after him.”
    4. Dtn 2. Post Exilic – The necessary re-editing of Dtn 1 to explain how disaster came upon us and to provide hope for the future.
  • Friedman’s view of authorship of Deuteronomy from “Who Wrote the Bible”.
    1. The author was a Levitical but non-Aaronid, priestly descendent of the priests from Shiloh. Shiloh was the national religious center (where the Ark was kept) in days of Samuel (also see Eli).  The Shiloh Priests were the high priests and were Levites and some believe they were descendents of Moses (Mushite priests). David appointed as high priests Abiathar (a Shiloh priest) and an Aaronid priest.  Later, Solomon expelled Abiathar (who supported a rival to Solomon).  The northern king did not install Abiathar as high Priest in the north (unclear if the northern high Priests were even Levites), but the descendents of the Shiloh priests lived on, though out of office.   Friedman posits that a descendent of the Shiloh priests wrote E (a northern source) and that a later descendent of the Shiloh priests wrote the Deuteronomistic history, including Deuteronomy.  He posits the prophet Jeremiah or his companion, Baruch the Scribe, as the author.  Jeremiah lived during Josiah’s reign and thereafter during the exile.
  • Ellis Rivkin’s perspective (See: The Unity Principle: The Shaping of Jewish History).
    1. Deuteronomy viewed as a joint attempt by the Priests and kingly rulers to curb rampant prophecy that threatened chaotic uncertainty.  Prophecy thereafter was allowed but would be measured by the Book of Instruction.  [Deut 4:2 “You shall not add anything … or take anything away …”.]
  • The law code of Deuteronomy [Deut. 12:1-26:15] as the First Written Book of Torah. There were no assembled written books of Torah at the time of Josiah.  The Torah was redacted from J, E, P and D during the exile.
  • Haftorah reading for D’varim is Isaiah 1:1-27. It echoes the same themes as Deuteronomy.
  • Questions:
    1. Why does the Torah end without possession of the land?
    2. Whose agenda does Deuteronomy promote? With whose agenda does it conflict?
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