|Deuteronomy and the JEDP Thesis|
[Deuteronomy a Unity?] [Is This a Repeat?][Deuteronomy as Treaty][Mountain Men][Deut. 1:1, 5][Deut. 1:9-13][Deut. 1:22][Deut. 2:2ff] [Deut. 4:41-3][Deut. 5:3][Deut. 9:3, 9:9, 12, 17][Deut. 11:6][Deut. 12:1-14][Deut. 13][Deut. 16:3, 8, 21][Deut. 17:14-20][Deut. 18:3, 10, 16][Deut. 19:14-6][Deut. 20:20][Deut. 23:4][Deut. 26:1-11][Deut. 27:2-4][Deut. 28:27-9][Deut. 28:58][Where's Simeon?][Moses the Geritol Man?][Minor Points and Arguments, For and Against][Conclusion]
Very little is simple about any variant of the JEDP theory. But one of the simple parts of it is what exactly the "D" is.
As the critics parse the rest of the Pentateuch into parts portioned out to one or more Js, a fellow named E, a more negative person named P, and heaven knows which other letters of the alphabet, the book of Deuteronomy, following a period when attempts were made to parcel it out to J and E, has remained since the work of DeWette in 1805 [VR.Dt, 11] a mostly, mysteriously unified whole dedicated to a single writer/editor designated D who was reckoned to have lived in the seventh century BC, with perhaps a few remarks interpolated by the sourpuss P.
Although there are some minor variations on the theory that place D in the time of Hezekiah or elsewhere, for most critics, Deuteronomy is identified with the "book of the law" found in the Temple in 2 Kings 22:8-11, with the assumption that the priests of Josiah or one of the prophets put it together on the sly and passed it off as an authentic document, managing to fool everyone into thinking it was a genuine work of antiquity and authority which everyone immediately recognized in spite of being radically unfamiliar with it, perhaps by using some genuinely old material.
This assumption in turn is generally used to date and analyze the remaining documents of J, E and P. The date, origin and function of D is the "fulcrum" (as one of the earliest JEDPers, Wellhausen, acknowledged) upon which JEDP rests: It is "primarily in relation to (Deuteronomy) that the other documents are dated." [Man.BL, 10; cf. Wein.Dt111, lx]
Which is not to say that "D" means a unified whole. In accordance with the usual presumption that what is written in the Bible must have evolved rather than been revealed, critics are naturally anxious to partition this book and assign levels and layers of development however and wherever possible (just as is done with the NT).
Typically such partitionings follow what I call the "grocery list" method: Taking a typical grocery list, one could conceivably assert that the original list contained only fruit and vegetables and was composed by a "vegetarian community"; this list was later picked up by an "omnivorous community" that added meats to the lists, interspersing them throughout the list.
Finally, a "practical community" redacted the list, adding things like mops and household cleansers. Thus we have a complex evolution of a simple, original grocery list that is not supported by a shred of textual or physical evidence. It is simply a matter of finding categories, dividing the text according to these categories, figuring out which order they might reasonably come in, and finally positing a clever fellow who made the final product look like a reasonable unity.
This is how many literary critics in Biblical circles operate, although with a great deal more complexity and many more permutations, albeit not often a great deal more logic.
How is this done for Deuteronomy generally? Here are some methods and arguments that have been used:
The unity of Deuteronomy as an original whole, on the other hand, is supported by these factors:
Critics, of course, will continue to argue for piecemeal construction of Deuteronomy, asserting that its unified nature is the work of later redactors; but this begs the question of the existence of piecemeal sources in the first place. As it stands, Deuteronomy is overwhelmingly a unified and consistent whole that requires no supposition of ancient priests with scissors and paste.
Exodus and Leviticus II?
Is Deuteronomy merely a repeat of laws set forth in Exodus and Leviticus? Why was it necessary to have Deuteronomy at all?
Early critics scratched their heads and wondered if Deuteronomy was intended to replace what was found in Exodus and Leviticus. In a sense they were correct. But Deuteronomy should not be understood merely as a repeat of what is found in previous books. It is, rather, "an amplification and advancement of the covenant text first articulated to Moses and Israel at Sinai nearly forty years earlier." [Merr.Dt, 22] In explaining this, it is important to note these things:
In summary, it is a misperception to suppose that Deuteronomy simply repeats what has already been written elsewhere. Deuteronomy reflects a new generation and its objectives, a generation that must be dealt with differently. Hence also Deuteronomy may report things differently than the other books of the Pentateuch for polemical purposes: Though critics see such differences as a result of JEDP divisions, we simply see them as the result of a generational division.
For example, McConville and Millar [McC.TPD, 29] chalk up differences in the travel itineraries between Deut. 2 and Numbers 20-1 as something intended "to provoke the Israelites to jealousy and expose to them the folly of their past actions" while emphasizing that in them, Israel has a second chance here on the plains of Moab. Such rhetorical and polemical changes, we will argue, are in fact found in several places.
The Format of Deuteronomy
One of the key factors in dating Deuteronomy to the traditional time of Moses is its format. Earlier JEDP theorists (followed by many today) assumed that Deuteronomy was merely a collection of hortatory discourses by Moses followed by recitation of laws and covenant, and worked their theories upon that basis; von Rad, for example, writing when the data we are about to present was just starting to be noticed, supposed that Deuteronomy was "following a traditional cultic pattern, probably that of a liturgy or cultic festival." [VR.Dt, 12, 21-2]
However, the critics were somewhat off the mark in understanding exactly how those discourses were formatted. If the proper connection had been made years ago, this pillar of the JEDP theory would never have been erected.
In format Deuteronomy is most compatible with Hittite suzerain-vassal treaty texts -- secular texts which "find their florescence in a period slightly later than 1400 (BC)" and went out of style in 1200 BC. [Merr.Dt, 23, 36] Deuteronomy contains "all the essential elements of these Hittite treaty texts and in precisely the same order" [ibid., 28] as well as a few other additions suitable to the context (a farewell address, itineraries, and hymns, for example -- and of course, modifications for monolatry: Where Hittite treaties called upon the "gods" (in one case, over 50 of them - Hill.CHBI, 36) as well as "heaven and earth" [as members of the Hittite pantheon - May.Dt, 155; cf. 382] to be witnesses, Deuteronomy calls upon "heaven and earth" [30:19], representing the totality of creation, as a witness alone).
One does find that there is "considerable variation" [Mend.LCAI, 32] in the order and wording of this format, but there are nevertheless key basic elements that fit a recognizable pattern-outline. Let's look at how Deuteronomy matches up to one of these treaties [Merr.Dt, 30ff; Mend.LCAI, 32ff; Balt.CF, 9ff; McC.TC, 28ff; Hill.CHBI, 29ff]:
The implications of this data are obvious. Those who insist on a very late date for Deuteronomy must explain how it is that this book manages to preserve a treaty form that passed away some 500-700 years before the work was even written by their accounting, and exemplifies unity in at least two other major ways.
How do the critics intent upon this late date explain away the format evidence? In several ways:
(It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)
A popular minor hinge point for the JEDP theory seeks to divide text based on the name given to the location of the original giving of the covenant. We are told that D and E prefer "Horeb" (all through Deut., and Ex. 3:1, 17:6, 33:6), whereas J and P prefer "Sinai" (although it does appear once in D, at 33:2).
"Horeb", however, means "waste place" [McC.TPD, 138], and this probably has a certain significance. Mayes acknowledges that "Horeb" was more likely originally a regional designation rather than simply a second name for the mountain itself, as it eventually came to be [May.Dt, 115].
We agree with this assessment: "Horeb" is used in Deuteronomy in order to detract from the idea of a specific "mountain of God" with which there might be associations of the former generation of Israelites. In view of the words of Deuteronomy being spoken to the new generation, it is not surprising that the broader "waste" designation was used, in a way that emphasized the "waste" or desolation of the previous, failed generation.
Note that of the three Exodus passages, the first two seem to designate "Horeb" in a regional way [cf. Ex. 17:6, which speaks of Rephidim as being "in Horeb" -- was it inside a mountain? - Man.BL, 52] -- though the point remains regardless of what the preposition means; the use is regional) whereas the third reference refers to a mountain, and this after the incident of the Golden Calf -- perhaps offering a hint as to the reason for the double naming.
Note also that the only use of "Sinai" in Deut. refers only to the Lord coming from it, not to the apostasy of the Israelites.
Thus the Sinai/Horeb differentiation is easily explicable under quite understandable grounds. This leaves very little other than a broad and unsupportable generalization that the Horeb/Sinai differentiation can mean anything in terms of defining authorship. There is no need to appeal to it at all.
There are also a couple of other "mountain" name issues used to divide the text of Deuteronomy. One concerns the site of Aaron's death, recognized as Mt. Hor everywhere but Deut. 10:6, where a place name is given as Moserah [see Wein.Dt111, 419].
Neither location is known today, and conservative exegetes reply that Moserah is probably the name of a region Mt. Hor was in, rather than another name for it (perhaps even a late one; this verse has the character of a late addition).
This makes sense, for Moserah is designated in 10:6 as a place where the Israelites travelled, and Aaron's death is mentioned incidentally -- obviously, not all of Israel (or even a decent representative sample) would fit on top of Mt. Hor.
A second "mountain" issue concerns the mountain where Moses went to die. Two places in Deut. say Pisgah (3:27, 34:1); one says Mount Nebo (32:50). Critics see conflicting traditions here, but if Merrill [Merr.Dt, 430] is correct and Pisgah is to be identified with the present Ras es-Siyaghah, which is just north of Mt. Nebo and is geographically a part of it, or else if Pisgah is seen as a regional name [Chr.Dt111, 60; Wein.Dt111, 180] for a range of mountains of which Nebo was the summit, then the problem disappears.
Otherwise, no discrepancy can be proven because there is no other idea what or where "Pisgah" is -- whether it might also be a regional name, for example. However, Manley [Man.BL, 61] notes that "Pisgah" comes from the root Hebrew word pasagh, meaning "cleave" -- so that "Pisgah" may be a common noun designating a cleft in the rock, or a ridge with a broken outline; cf. Num. 21:20.
These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the desert east of the Jordan--that is, in the Arabah--opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab...In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them...East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying:
The critics home in right away on this as evidence of non-Mosaic authorship, saying that these verses are written from the perspective of one who has already crossed over the Jordan [Wein.Dt111, 126].
Merrill [Merr.Dt, 62n] counters that the phrase in question is a "technical expression that provides no clue about the location of the author" and simply means "in the region of the Jordan".
But even if not, what of it? Once again we may distinguish between Moses as "author" and "authority" -- and there is no problem with supposing that the scribe who penned Deuteronomy did so after crossing the river. The difference is that the critics want a period of hundreds of years, whereas we can deal with a period of only days or weeks.
Also in this area, 1:3 is put down as a "priestly" verse ascribed to P because it is said that only P writes time in this manner. But this is certainly using minor points to the advantage of begging the question. One must show that this method of reckoning time was not an affectation of the scribe who put Deuteronomy together at Moses' bequest, and that this method is somehow unique to the presumed time and writer of P, before such a distinction can be accepted.
At that time I said to you, "You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky...But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you."
Mayes [May.Dt, 119] compares this verse and what follows to the account of the event in Numbers 11. In Numbers, he says, "Moses is violent in his complaint to God" whereas here, "this complaint is softened out of existence to the point that the cause of it now becomes a reason for praise because of the fulfillment of the divine promise to the patriarchs."
All of this is done, we are told, because D's "main concern is that Moses should be exonerated from all blame for the disasters which overtook the people." In other words, it isn't history, but psychology.
But some 40 years pass between Numbers 11 and Deut. 1; does Mayes by chance suppose that Moses would stay just as angry that entire time? Wouldn't 40 years be sufficient for some reflection and re-evaluation, a bit of mellowing out and divesting one's self of the temper?
And why should the anger be expressed to this second generation that wasn't in on the foul-up in the first place? Mayes' Moses must have been one tough and unforgiving customer.
Mayes also argues that the same psychoanalysis is the reason behind Moses being the one responsible for choosing leaders of the people in Exodus, whereas in v. 13 it is the people themselves who make the choice.
This is hardly necessary. When Exodus says that Moses "chose" the leaders based on their ability, are we to suppose that Moses knew every Israelite personally and was able to make the choices himself? Exodus implies no such thing, and does not exclude the people selecting leaders and having Moses set them over them (indicating that while they offered candidates, he made the final choices -- note also v. 15, which proleptically refers to those who were chosen as the leaders - Mer.Dt, 69-70). It may well be that Deuteronomy is phrased differently in order to stress the responsibility of the people (which is quite sensible, in light of Moses' anticipated death), but there is hardly any reason to go as far as Mayes does and posit such extravagant psychological explanations where a much simpler one that does justice to the texts will do.
Weinfeld [Wein.Dt111, 139-40], in addition to the above, also finds these alleged discrepancies between Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1:
Deut. 1:22 Then all of you came to me and said, "Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to."
Num. 13:1-2 The LORD said to Moses, "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders."
Contradiction is also found in these verses, and while some are content to use a rather clumsy harmonization [Merr.Dt, 73], we suggest that Weinfeld's solution [Wein.Dt111, 144-5] is sufficient. The Deut. account shows every sign of being aware of the Numbers account; and "contradiction" must be regarded as intentional, and the polemic purposes of Deuteronomy provide an answer. Because the sending of the spies resulted in sin by the people, it is now THEY who are given "credit" for the idea rather than God.
Deut. 2:5 Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own.
Mayes [May.Dt, 135] finds conflict here with Numbers 20:14-21, which reads:
Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying: "This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come upon us. Our forefathers went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers, but when we cried out to the LORD, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. "Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the king's highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory." But Edom answered: "You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword." The Israelites replied: "We will go along the main road, and if we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to pass through on foot--nothing else." Again they answered: "You may not pass through." Then Edom came out against them with a large and powerful army.
According to Mayes, Numbers provides "quite a different overall picture" than Deuteronomy on the Edom passage: Numbers, he says, shows Israel bypassing Edomite territory, whereas Deut. shows them as having passed through and purchased food and drink.
However, verse 2:1, which Mayes says almost nothing about, says "For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir." This would seem to indicate agreement with Numbers that Israel was on the edge of Edomite territory. I see no justification in Deut. for the idea that Israel passed through the middle of the Edomite territory (as they requested to do in Numbers) at all; food and drink could just as easily be purchased on the roundabout trek on Edom's fringes from travelling merchants and motivated entrepreneurs. [Man.BL, 57]
Mayes also prefers for this reason the LXX translation of v. 8, which has Israel going "through" Edom, versus the MT, which has them travelling "away from" Edom. [ibid., 136] but Weinfeld asserts that this would require "too many corrections" of the MT. [Wein.Dt111, 156]
On the other hand, Weinfeld  does believe that there is contradiction with Num. 20:14, for these Edomites in Deuteronomy do not seem to be "afraid".
But fear, after all, has many possible responses, and one of them would obviously be to tell the Israelites to stay away.
There is also an interesting parallel here to the Hittite treaties, which tell the vassals to claim their land, but not to bother others who have received land from the king.
Our position also holds that Moses' words in 2:29 are a case of tactical duplicity on his part [Merr.Dt, 101; Wein.Dt111, 172] -- and we are well aware that Moses was not perfect.
Then Moses set aside three cities east of the Jordan, to which anyone who had killed a person could flee if he had unintentionally killed his neighbor without malice aforethought. He could flee into one of these cities and save his life. The cities were these: Bezer in the desert plateau, for the Reubenites; Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites.
These verses are sometimes put down as a late addition because they seem to be out of context. Christensen [Chr.Dt111, 69], however, shows that they fit into a chiastic structure:
A "And now, O Israel, obey Yahweh's commands." (4:1-40)
B setting apart of 3 cities (4:41-3)
C "This is the Torah" -- the Ten Words (4:44-6:3)
D "Hear, O Israel, Yahweh is our God..." (6:4-7:11)
E Obey and be blessed (7:12-26)
E' Disobey and you will perish (8:1-20)
D' "Hear, O Israel, you are about to enter the Promised Land..." (9:1-29)
C' At that time Yahweh spoke the Ten Words (10:1-7)
B' setting apart of tribe of Levi (10:8-11)
A' "And now, O Israel, what does Yahweh ask of you?" (10:12-11:25)
This shows that the insertion of 4:41-3 is part of a schematic plan -- and why should a redactor be credited with this, other than begging the question and assuming that there was a redactor?
Deut. 5:3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.
This verse deserves brief attention, for it has been cited as problematic thusly: Does it not deny events at Sinai actually transpired?
We've had this sort of argument before -- this verse contains a negation idiom designed to emphasize the importance of the present covenant.
A similar matter notes several verses such as this one and asks, "Didn't the entire generation except for Caleb and Joshua die off? How then can it be said that the present generation saw these things?"
The answer is in the common ANE precept of corporate experience and responsibility, which allowed the blurring of generations such that it could be said that the entirety of a people, past, present and future, could be said to have experienced a present event. (See Wein.Dt111, 237 for an Assyrian parallel.)
5:22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
9:3 But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
9:9 When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water.
9:12 Then the LORD told me, "Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made a cast idol for themselves."
9:17 So I took the two tablets and threw them out of my hands, breaking them to pieces before your eyes.
10:1 At that time the LORD said to me, "Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones and come up to me on the mountain. Also make a wooden chest.
These two chapters provide a host of minor critical objections:
The fact that reference is made to Dathan and Abiram, and not to Korah, who was also part of the rebellion (Num. 16), leads critics to suggest [Wein.Dt111, 443-4] that this is evidence of sources, where Korah's story was a priestly tradition grafted into Numbers.
But the conclusion is unnecessary: Korah is not mentioned here because he was a priest trying to take over religious matters, whereas the other two rebels were political, and the subject here is political alone; hence the reference to the Pharaoh of Egypt [Merr.Dt, 207n].
Should anyone be contentious about this, we might ask: Is not a single author or authority capable of the same motivations that critics suppose were behind the supposed JEDP sources' editing and placement of this material?
These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess--as long as you live in the land. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way.
But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit, since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you. But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name--there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD.
These verses from Ch. 12 are taken as evidence of a late date under the presumption that it was part of the master plan of Josiah's priests to institute a single place of worship and give that idea authority.
That this is merely a case of "mirror reading" dependent on the presumption of the truth of the very hypothesis at issue is quite clear. Evolution of Israel's religious methodology from "many authorized places of worship" to "one authorized place of worship" is assumed rather than proved.
I should add that one need not posit miraculous or special revelation to argue effectively that "one place" worship forms were an early and immediate development, no more so than monotheism had to have evolved first from polytheism. In purely human terms, why would this be a difficult step of thought?
The centralization command, at any rate, fits precisely with suzerain-vassal treaty demands that presentations of loyalty and tribute be brought to a single palace of the king in the capital city - Merr.Dt, 221.
More than that, however, it is hardly clear that these verses perform the function that the critics assign to it. Often cited for the case is Exodus 20:24 --
Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.
The "evolutionary" ideas of JEDP suppose that this verse allowed multiple places of worship, and that Deut. is attempting to secede this allowance. But there are several problems with this idea [Man.BL, 123ff]:
It is also clear from the context that the command was not against altars per se, but the methods of worship which caused the breaking of the pagan altars. There was no command against building altars as memorials to places where God had done something unusual (as with Gideon) or in using them in ways the pagans did not. Deuteronomy has nothing to do with removing such monuments, or with the removal of the high places.
Chapter 13 contains a number of regulations concerning apostasy from the faith of Yahweh. Von Rad [VR.Dt, 15] supposes that these rules must have a late source because the chapter assumes that the apostasy is initiated by a prophet; and:
...(S)uch a suggestion can, after all, have come only from a class of prophets which was already seriously contaminated by Canaanite syncretism; moreover the nebiim (prophets) during Samuel's time did not possess such a leading position in the people's life.
Likewise, von Rad supposes that the misleading of an entire city is something that could only have happened under the monarchy.
Why was a "class" of prophets necessary? Did the position of "prophet" not exist before this time? Did not the Egyptians and the Canaanites and others well before Moses have alleged "prophets"? (Cf. Gen. 20:7 - the role of the prophet is "abundantly attested" in the ANE as one who was an "ambassador of the gods" - Merr.Dt, 230) Are not the social roles of the charismatic and the dupes one that has existed since time immemorial? Does syncretism wait for evolution? (Not according to the way modern cults operate!)
Here as always it is merely assumed that Israelite belief was an evolutionary process, when in fact all of the social and historical factors were sufficiently in place at the traditional date of Deuteronomy. There is no need to assume evolution.
Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste--so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt...For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to the LORD your God and do no work...Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the LORD your God...
Mayes [May.Dt, 255] supposes that vv. 3 and 8 above are contradictory, and that v.8 is a late addition. It may indeed be, although there is no real reason to suppose so: The "problem" is resolved by regarding the six days in v. 8 as describing a time following the days given in v. 3.
On a minor point, some critics allege that the use of the singular "the altar" in v. 21 indicates knowledge of a single central sanctuary corresponding with a late date, but Mayes acknowledges [ibid., 265] that the phrase does not always indicate that only a single altar is in mind (cf. Exod. 20:24).
These verses on regulations for kings is a particular favorite to late-date, under the assumption that the kingship must have come first [VR.Dt, 119-20; Hill.CHBI, 155-6], and it is added that the rules seem directed towards the known excesses of later Jewish kings, in particular Solomon.
Of course the basic answer is the same: There were plenty of kings in the ANE, and plenty of poor role models, with plenty of common vices (as if Solomon was the only one to put a harem together!), even as early as 1400 BC.
Furthermore, since monarchy was the standard ruling paradigm, why would it be surprising that rules were set up in anticipation of Israel's own venture into the process? What did the critics expect? A republic? As Merrill [Merr.Dt, 265] puts it:
...(M)onarchy was the prevalent mode of government in the Late Bronze Age throughout the eastern Mediterranean world. It is inconceivable that Israel alone would embrace some other system even as a theocracy.
This is the share due the priests from the people who sacrifice a bull or a sheep: the shoulder, the jowls and the inner parts...Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft...For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."
In this chapter we have these minor issues:
Do not move your neighbor's boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess. One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime...
We have two different arguments to look at here:
However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.
Von Rad argues that this passage must be late, for it takes for granted "an advanced technique of siegecraft" [VR.Dt, 16]. How so? His only elaboration is that it "takes for granted a wide choice of standing timber, which was not likely to exist everywhere." [ibid., 133]
This is an inadequate reason for assigning a late date to this verse. It does not take a lot of sense to figure out that anticipation of varying topographies could have occurred at any point in Israel's history, and that this rule, rather than taking for granted "a wide choice of standing timber", merely takes for granted that where the wide choice IS available, this rule will have to be followed, and that if there are nothing but fruit trees (Does von Rad actually know of such a place?), then too bad for siege works, at least using the local timber.
No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you.
A small note on this verse: Mayes argues that whoever wrote this verse must not have known the Genesis story of the ancestry of Moab and Ammon -- for "reference to it here would have been inevitable."
One is constrained to ask why. Mayes certainly offers no reason for such tabloid-worthy details, which had no effect on the Israelites whatsoever, to be brought up in a serious and solemn covenant document between the Israelites and their God.
When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, "I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us." The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God. Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me." Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.
This passage is regarded as "not a uniform composition" [May.Dt, 332], one in which the role of the priest in the ceremony was a later addition, for two reasons:
And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster: And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee. Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaster them with plaster. (KJV)
Mayes [May.Dt, 340] asserts that verses 2 and 4 above are evidence of a lack of unified authorship, for they suppose that the laying of the stones could be done the same day that Israel entered the land, but it is unlikely that they could manage the entry and the laying of the stones in the same day, because the location of the altar (Ebal) is too far away from where they were presently located on the plains of Moab.
This is resolved by noting the OT use of the phrase "in that day" or "on that day" elsewhere in the OT, where it simply indicates immediate action following an event (cf. 1 Kings 2:42)Thus it is indicated that it was not precisely expected that the entry and the construction of the altar were to be done in the very same 24-hour period.
The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.
Mayes (May.Dt, 355; see also Wein.Dt111, 7) thinks that these verses are "impossible to explain except in the context of Mesopotamian religion" for they contain an "association of skin diseases on the one hand with the curse of darkness and lawlessness" on the other, and this correlates with the Mesopotamian gods of leprosy and plague (Sin) and darkness symbolizing lack of justice and law (Shamash), who are most often paired together at the head of the catalog of Assyrian gods.
One wonders, first of all, if Deut. has such a pairing behind it, what to make of the separating interlude in v. 28.
Second, one may ask: Would these not simply reflect the quite typical and two most common, visible, and/or alarming "curses" in an ancient world where pest and contagious disease control (including of the most visible skin diseases) were non-existent, where good personal hygiene was virtually unpracticed (being for most people practically impossible), and where government control was nearly impossible beyond a limited geographical circle, so that social chaos and disorder was more common than not? Why is it necessary, other than for the need to date Deuteronomy late in line with the JEDP theory, to make this stretch into the Assyrian pantheon?
If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name--the LORD your God...
It is argued that these verses, because they treat Deuteronomy as a unified whole, must be late [VR.Dt, 176].
Aside from begging the question of the origin of Deuteronomy in the first place, this objection fails to account for Deuteronomy as being in full-fledged treaty form and for other unification factors. (The Hebrew word here does not mean a "book" in a modern sense, of course: It can mean oracle, chronicles, provision, speech, etc.)
In chapter 33 of Deut. there is a listing of the tribes of Israel and Moses' final words on them -- with the exception of Simeon. Where'd his people go, assuming that he wasn't dropped out in transmission?
Critics take this as a sign of a late date, saying that by the time of Deut. Simeon had been absorbed into Judah [May.Dt, 396], but this explanation won't do, since it is clear that Simeonites were still identifiable after the time critics assign to Deuteronomy (cf. 1 Chr. 4:34-43). Merrill proposes rather [Merr.Dt, 437-8] that the lack of blessing here (and the lack of any territory being allotted to Levi) goes back to the Shechem incident (Gen. 29; cf. Gen. 49:5-7), and perhaps to a decimation of Simeon due to their involvement in idolatry at Beth Peor.
Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.
Finally, Mayes [May.Dt, 413] finds contradiction between Deut. 31:2 and 34:7, declaring that these "can scarcely derive from the same hand", for the former indicates that Moses is no longer physically able to lead the Israelites.
But 34:7 is hardly a full statement on the entirety of Moses' physical capacity. For one thing, the reference to Moses' "natural force" or "strength" is too vague to be defined with any specific bodily condition; at the same time, the bit about his eyes not growing dim refers to the strength of the servant to persevere "until justice reigns in the earth" (cf. Is. 42:4), which is exactly what Moses did. (One might also note that 34:7 fits the mold of a "heroic motif" [Chr.SPPS, 182ff] -- perhaps it should be taken with the same grain of literal salt that one might take with, for example, an epitaph.)
We will close with a collection of minor arguments used both for and against Deuteronomy's authenticity.
In spite of varied attempts to do so, there is absolutely no reason to re-invent Deuteronomy as a document of the 7th century BC and not a work created under the personal authority of Moses. It is quite likely, however, as Merrill indicates, that any amount of evidence will force a change in the JEDP paradigm that is so preciously held in OT critical circles, where the "assured results" of speculative literary and form criticism and the presumption of evolution are given precedence over hard data.