Day 7: Deuteronomy

I used to think that Deuteronomy was one of those books that could do with a good editor. There seems to be so much repetition in it that you could cut it dramatically without losing anything of importance. It took me many years, but eventually I realised how limited a view that was. It didn’t take into account, for example, the importance of the threefold repetition that is fundamental to oriental teaching. Look for example, at how many times Jesus uses this concept, especially in his “The kingdom of heaven is like …; again the kingdom of heaven is like …” teachings.

It also didn’t take into account how complex a book Deuteronomy is. It is as if we think that the meaning of the name – which is derived from the Greek for ‘Second Law’ – indicates that the book has been cut and pasted from Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. In reality, Deuteronomy marks an astonishing development in the understanding of Jewish theology over two centuries or so. It purports to be a series of three farewell addresses by Moses detailing the history of the Jewish people and their relationship to God, and urging them to renew the covenant with God. To reinforce the message Moses gives a series of blessings which will accrue if people are faithful to God, balanced by a series of curses if they reject Him. At the end of his addresses Moses urges the people to choose life, a ringing call to be faithful to God. Choose life!

Alan F. Jesson

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/deuteronomy/1.html

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One Response

  1. It wasn’t until I read it right through that I came to really appreciate just what a different book it is compared to the previous offerings. A quite different writer covering the same material – the Deuteronomic historian/theologian – especially in tone. Not something I can quite put my finger on but I think I prefer this to the earlier two or three books. And no sacrifices!

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