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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 singular and plural method. Some early critics
especially attempted to divine early sources based on Deuteronomy's
seemingly pointless (to modern ears) switches between grammatical
mode of address in the second person; these switches were called
Numerusweschel. This method is not pursued as often as it
once was, because:
- The process of separation by this method in many places, even according to liberal scholars, does "unacceptable violence to the text" [May.Dt, 36].
- The switch in person is also attested in extra-biblical documents, including in treaty stipulations of the sort contained in Deuteronomy [May.Dt, 35; Wein.Dt111, 15]. Cazelles [Caz.PSDP, 208], though he offers no examples, dismisses the switches in other documents as "sporadic and explainable" whereas he finds Deuteronomy's switches "bewildering". But if it is an explanation for the switches in Deuteronomy he wants...
- ... Christensen [Chr.Dt111, 33-4] shows that these changes in tense occur at key places in the text and act as "an elaborate set of aural signals" intended to aid in reading the text aloud. These switches, he says further, take place at critical junctures within the musical pattern set down in Deuteronomy. (See below.)
- Concerns method. Mayes [May.Dt, 29] suggests a search for layers according to whether a text is concerned with legal or historical matters, and supposes Deuteronomy to have originally been a law code upon which historical and other material was layered. Not only is this an arbitrary "grocery list" category division, it also rejects the strong evidence of Deuteronomy's unity as a treaty. (See below, for this and Mayes' response to it.)
The unity of Deuteronomy as an original whole, on the other hand, is supported by these factors:
- The treaty form factor. See below on this.
- The musical chiasmus factor. In an extensively detailed
study, Christensen [Chr.Dt111, xli] analyzes the text of
Deuteronomy and finds it to be full of "carefully balanced
structures at virtually all levels of analysis." This could
be the product of late redaction as critics would undoubtedly
allege, but it is far more likely that these extensive structures
point to a single mind behind the text.
Space prevents us from offering too much detail here, but here are some of the examples that Christensen offers. To begin, the whole of Deut. itself may be arranged thusly:
A A Look Backwards (Dt. 1-3)
B The Great Peroration (4-11)
C Covenant Stipulations (12-26)
B' Covenant Ceremony (27-30)
A' A Look Forwards (31-34)
Here is another, more detailed chiasm in the text [ibid., 1ff]:
A summons to enter the Promised Land (1:6-8)
B organization of the people for life in the land (1:9-18)
C Israel's unholy war (1:19-21)
D march of conquest (2:2-25)
C' Yahweh's Holy War (2:26-31)
B' distribution of land in the Transjordan (3:12-17)
A' summons to take the Promised Land (3:18-20)
And here is another [ibid., 28ff], one which overlaps the one above -- is this more likely with a single author, or a host of redactors over hundreds of years?
A travel notice: Horeb to Kadesh Barnea (1:19)
B report: you have reached the Promised Land (1:20)
C summons to possess the Land (1:21)
D Israel sin: request for spies (1:22)
E report: I sent the spies (1:23-4)
F report of the spies and Israel's rebellion (1:25-8)
G summons not to fear (1:29-31)
F' Israel's rebellion and Yahweh's judgment (1:32-6)
E' report: Yahweh was angry with me (1:37-9)
D' Israel's sin: they confess but act presumptuously (1:40-1)
C summons not to fight for the land (1:42)
B' report: ypu failed to enter the Land
A' travel notice: Kadesh Barnea to Mt. Seir (1:45-2:1)
Other than these, Christensen also demonstrates that behind the structure of Deuteronomy lies what we might call for simplicity a musical balance, which also shows chiastic tendencies. It is noted that in antiquity law codes were usually sung aloud at festivals [Chr.Dt111, lv], which greatly facilitated the memorization process for pre-literate cultures. Christensen shows in his work that a distinctly musical pattern lies behind Deuteronomy's text, which suggests strongly that it was originally composed as a unified whole.
- The parallel commands structure factor. [Merr.Dt; Walt.DESL] Once the treaty parallel is established and understood, it becomes quite clear that these are specific stipulations expanding upon each of the general Decalogue stipulations. They are, in short, "elaborations or applications of the Ten Commandments in order." (More on this below.)
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:
- Deuteronomy claims its origin in the land of Moab (1:5), which
places it at the END of the Exodus. There is now a different
situation into which the people of Israel are entering, and the
laws are adjusted from those of prior to the wilderness trek
For example, laws concerning slaves in Ex. 21:2ff are different from those in Deut. 15:12ff, for the latter assumes now that there will be settled property and people going into debt over the obligations imposed by an organized society.
Similarly, the difference between Deut. 14:21 ("Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God.") and earlier versions that don't go into as much detail is explained by Weinfeld [Wein.Dt111, 22] on psychological grounds, but it is more than adequate to observe that the latter reflects a nation which will be involved in commerce and settled to the point where there will be poverty-stricken resident aliens; likewise theories on Deuteronomy's inclusion of the Transjordan in the Promised Land territory grant [ibid., 175ff], where before it was not included, are better set aside with the simpler explanation that the new territory could now be included under a new covenant.
Von Rad rightly notes that many former laws are applicable only to a pastoral situation [VR.Dt, 14], which describes perfectly Israel's trek in the wilderness, whereas the latter additions reflect "a considerably more advanced stage in economic history" -- they admit of a society where men secure loans to carry on their business. Unlike von Rad, however, we argue that the change is due to the entry into Canaan and the immediate premonition of a more organized society -- not because Deuteronomy, as he supposes, was written/edited during the time of the monarchy in Judah.
It is not as though Moses and the Israelites could not have KNOWN beforehand how their more-organized society would work; did they not have the experiences of the highly-civilized Egyptians to draw upon? And if Moses was highly-placed in the Egyptian government as Josephus insists, would he not also have a keen awareness of the problems of a more settled society, from a variety of political perspectives?
- In the ancient Orient, the reiteration and reaffirmation of a covenant was required with every new generation [Merr.Dt, 26-7]. Hence, it is perfectly in line with the available social data that the new generation of Israelites about to embark on the conquest were presented with this "second version" of the covenant.
- At the same time, covenant made between the suzerain and the
vassal people had to be renewed by the successors of the suzerain.
The historical prologue (see below) at this time would be brought
up to date, as would the stipulations.
God of course would have no successor, but did have Moses as mediator (in a role that parallels that of the third party in the making of ANE treaties -- Chr.Dt111, 133), and the situation of Deuteronomy is that Moses is about to die and be replaced by Joshua. It is quite right to suppose that the text of the covenant would be renewed and passed on. (cf. Josh. 1:7 - This also answers von Rad's query, wondering about whether we would expect Moses, just after the command to him to ascend Pisgah before he dies, would "launch out into a detailed introduction to his recital of the law" [VR.Dt, 48] -- according to this cultural paradigm, this is exactly what we would expect Moses to do; see more on treaty forms below.)
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]:
- Preamble - (1:1-5) Here were introduced "matters of setting and occasion". This part can also be called the "titulature" and would be a place for the sovereign to introduce himself. It is found in all extant treaties, albeit with minor stylistic variations.
- Historical prologue - (1:6-4:40) This presented the
right of the suzerain to assert rule over his vassals, and the
basis of their obligation towards him, often based on past
relationships and the history between the two parties. This would
include any instances where the suzerain or a predecessor had
delivered the vassals from some enemy or had granted them special
This section of Deuteronomy therefore shows that Yahweh had a claim on his people by sketching out highlights of national life between Sinai and the present day. (Some treaties extant from the Hittite period, however, do not have this section; it was seemingly "not an essential element of the treaty form" - McC.TC, 31. Hillers alludes to the idea that it may have been excluded where only force was needed to exert Hittite rule.)
- General stipulations - (5:1-11:32) "This section spells
out the principles of the relationship between the parties of the
covenant. It clarifies who the (suzerain) is, what he has done for
those whom he has chosen for covenant fellowship, what he will do
for the years to come, and how they are to respond."
It also includes prohibitions of foreign relationships apart from the Hittite emperor, here matched, quite sensibly, with the Shema (6:4-5) which disallows relations with any foreign gods; it recalls Yahweh's theophanic glory on Sinai; for general stipulations, it contains a reiteration of the Decalogue. Much space is also devoted to the expected response of the Israelites. In some treaties, however, this section is blurred with the one following:
- Specific stipulations - (12:1-26:15) Critics are fond of
speaking of the "haphazard" order [May.Dt, 49-50] and randomness of
this central section of Deuteronomy, but this is countered with two
- As noted above, the laws do follow a pattern after the
Decalogue. Although some critics acknowledged this to some extent
early on [May.Dt, 220], it was argued that there were places where
a match was not obvious or that there was overlap.
More recent exegetes have found that the correspondence is much closer than was supposed. Here's how it all breaks down according to commandment[Walt.DESL; alternate view of Chr.SPPS, if different, in brackets]:
- Deut. 6-11 - This section of Deuteronomy expands upon the first commandment by emphasizing God as the first priority and final authority.
- Deut. 12:1-32 [12:2-13:19, viewing this as the first commandment]
- Deut. 13:1-14:21 [14:1-21]
- Deut. 14:22-16:17
- Deut. 16:18-18:22 -- Some might argue that the correspondence breaks down here, for this is the command to honor father and mother; but the basic theme of the section is human authority - and who represents that better than fathers and mothers?
- Deut. 19:1-21:23
- Deut. 22:1-23:14 [22:1-12, 23:5-24:5 as bridges]
- Deut. 23:15-24:7 -- Rules on slaves are applicable here because of the theft of one's freedom. [24:6-7, 19-22]
- Deut. 24:8-(25:4?) -- For these last two commands there is a bit of overlap.
- Deut. (25:4?)-26:15
- Other ancient codes display what is (to modern eyes!)
"haphazard" arrangement. The Code of Hammurabi progresses with an
association of thought and wording, or by chronological order of
circumstances; others codes might progress by importance of matters in question, social position of the persons or value of the objects, or by "event/counter-event" methods.
Other Hebrew codes, and Roman codes, evidence "haphazard" arrangement as well. [Cr.SPPS, ibid., and May.Dt, 49-50, who in spite of this proceeds to assume his own modern notions of order in certain instances.]
- At this point, some treaties include a clause indicating a requirement to keep a copy of the treaty in a special place and provisions for the treaty to be read aloud. But this clause is "more often lacking than not" [McC.TC, 38] -- one may suggest that it was only used when the treaty was to be handled in a special way, as Deuteronomy would have been (i.e., being deposited in the Ark).
- As noted above, the laws do follow a pattern after the Decalogue. Although some critics acknowledged this to some extent early on [May.Dt, 220], it was argued that there were places where a match was not obvious or that there was overlap.
- Blessings and curses - (27:1-28:68) A treaty like this
quite naturally needed with statements of reward and sanction
according to whether or not the covenant was honored. An obvious
variation from the Hittite model acknowledges that God of course
will not violate the covenant, so that there is nothing indicating
what will happen if the suzerain violates the agreements.
Also, in he Hittite forms, curses were usually put before blessings, in opposition to what is found in Deuteronomy [Chr.SPPS, 129], but this s a variation we might expect from a kindly, concerned God verses an earthly tyrant.
- Witnesses - (30:19, 31:19, 32:1-43) As today, a treaty needed witnesses for certification. Deuteronomy also ends with some appropriate contextual variants, such as exhortations to fidelity and prophetic sections (which would obviously not appear in a secular treaty that did not have the benefit of an omniscient God). Generally, however, this section will be placed before the blessings and curses, which is one major way that Deut. breaks from the norm.
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:
- Pretending that the data doesn't exist. Many commentators say nothing about it. Others deny that Deuteronomy has the form of a treaty; McBride [McB.PCP, 236-7], for example, boldly states that Deuteronomy "has no true peer or parallel among the legal corpora preserved in the preceding books of the Pentateuch, nor has there yet been discovered an Ancient Near Eastern document equivalent to it." (He considers the treaty parallel to be an extreme position; but oddly enough, goes on to suggest Deut. as a "constitutional" document.)
- By "save the theory" question-begging. As Merrill wryly notes of the seventh-century date and its proponents:
...(N)o amount of alleged parallels can dislodge it from that setting. An uprooting of Deuteronomy from its place necessitates a total repudiation of source-critical and traditio-historical hypotheses that have been firmly in place since the time of Wellhausen.
Some, for example, assert (without a shred of literary evidence, or perhaps with a few common parallel phrases that could just have easily been derived from Israel to Assyria rather than vice-versa, or perhaps have been part of a typical ANE idiomatic topos) that the Hittite treaty form survived those centuries [McC.TC, 174].
Others like Mayes [32ff, 351] suggest that a better parallel is found in 7th-century Neo-Assyrian treaty models, even though the match is far from sufficient: For example, although Mayes admits that a historical prologue is more typical of the early treaties, and that later treaties were characterized by strings of "long and colorful curses" while sayng nothing about blessings, he nevertheless insists (without offering a parallel for comparison) that Deuteronomy fits the Assyrian model better.
Weinfeld [Wein.Dt111, 7] notes only one possible valid parallel in a treaty between Ashurbanipal and Yauta, king of the Qederites, where the supposed historical prologue does not serve as an apology as it does in the Hittite treaties. It may be noted that there aren't many treaties left to us that might serve as evidence, and that some may have lost their prologues to damage; but this amounts to an admission that the evidence for parallels is lacking.
Mayes also tries to downplay Deuteronomy as a treaty format, noting the exceptions to the typical practice as we have, but ignoring the fact that the exceptional practices found in Deuteronomy are by far outweighed by the typical practices; elsewhere he insists, without offering a single detail, that the parallel to Hittite treaty format in a specific place is "far from close" [May.Dt, 163] and states preference for the speculative findings of form-criticism.
Elsewhere, one may point to archaic linguistic features in Deuteronomy that point to an earlier date; but these will simply be dismissed as perhaps "the result of conscious archaizing rather than an actual early date." [May.Dt, 381] Or, faced with evidence, for example, that only Hittite treaties, like Deuteronomy, expressed the love of the king for the vassals, whereas Assyrian treaties never did, a critic like Weinfeld [Wein.Dt111, 8] will simply conclude that BOTH Hittite and Assyrian models influenced Deuteronomy, thus saving the JEDP theory from extinction.
One example Weinfeld cites of Assyrian influence is to note that while the terms of 2nd millennium BC treaties were validated by a sacrificial ritual and sometimes an oath [the cutting up of an animal was the most widely-attested method of swearing to a covenant -- cf. Abraham's experience -- Hill.CHBI, 40], 1st millennium BC treaties were validated by an oath alone, which is paralleled in Deuteronomy [Wein.DPS, 255], which has no ritual. But wouldn't the mass circumcision endured by the Israelites as soon as they entered the Promised Land [Josh. 5] fit into this category?
Mayes also argues [May.Dt, 35] that Deuteronomy's historical prologue does not act to inculcate obedience as they do in other treaties.
Really? I rather think that for a second-generation Israelite, having seen the wonders of God during the Exodus and having his ears filled with longer versions of the tales recounted by Moses in the prologue, Deut. 1-3 is perfectly suited to inculcate obedience.
Nicholson [Chr.SPPS, 87] tenders the unusual objection that a treaty parallel is incredible because it would "surely have been a bizarre depiction" of the love of God expressed in Deuteronomy to use a treaty form in which rulers expressed "love" that amounted to little more than a sort of beneficial political expediency.
This is like saying that one cannot use a commercial format to make a beneficial public service announcement about the dangers of cocaine because a politician has also used a commercial format to make insincere campaign pledges to get rid of cocaine. What matters in this case is the truth of the content, not the method of presentation. Even so, Nicholson has an anachronistic definition of love in mind; see here.
Brekelmans [ibid., 128] also objects that the treaty form was always used when a king was exerting influence over an area where he had no previous influence, and that wouldn't work with God. My answer is: Agreed! But nor were any of the kings omnipotent owners of the earth. Deuteronomy does exactly what we might expect under the circumstances.
Other critics grant an original form of Deuteronomy back to the time of Moses, or allow that significant parts of it (like the Blessing or Song of Moses, or anything that finds parallels in Ugaritic or Cannaanite literature [14th-12th century BC, the traditional time of Deut.; Weinfeld (Wein.Dt111) finds literally dozens of these]) go back to ancient periods, but then assert all manner of editing, redaction and development until the time of Josiah.
To a small degree this is not necessarily problematic: We may grant that terms that became anachronistic, for example, were modified during transmission, and that certain explanatory notes may have been added in transmission: Deut. 10:6-7 is a possible example, as is 3:11, and of course most suppose that the account of Moses' death was tacked on by a scribe after the fact. (Note that assigning authorship to Moses is usually not distinguished from authority of authorship: We may suppose that the actual work of writing Deuteronomy was given to a scribe.)
However, it is important now to consider in turn individual passages and how they are relegated to late-date status by the JEDP school. We will now look at such instances, with the exception of:
- Obvious dismissal of prophecy or prophetic warnings, such as
the idea that Deut. 4:9-24 and Deut. 28 must have been written
after 587 BC, because they seem to have knowledge of the Exile.
[VR.Dt, 50, 176]
This, by itself, is questionable: Other treaty curses contain threats of exile, but no one would suggest a backwritten prophecy; it is far more likely that this is just a typical threat of war and destruction.
- Claims of literary dependence on later works like Jeremiah,
which we obviously would argue are cases of dependency working the
other way around.
Along the same lines, arguments have been made that 8th century prophets like Amos show no sign of knowing Deuteronomy; however, this argument is tenuous at best, for there are some signs of Deut. in these prophets, and there is no certainty in a pre-literate society that someone like Amos, for example, would be especially familiar with the text. Nor, for that matter, is this clearly evidence of the non-existence of Deuteronomy: Mendenhall notes [Mend.FCAI, 11ff, 47; see also Hill.CHBI, 88-9] that:
- Law codes, strange as it may sound to us, were not considered important in court proceedings -- so that we do not see them referenced in such documents. Rather, they were educational tools first and foremost, and it is local courts that did the primary work.
- We do not have court documents from ancient Israel -- we have prophetic documents;
- As of when Mendenhall wrote in 1955, and to my knowledge continuing to today, "No legal document has been found which refers to the law of Hammurabi's code," nor is there any instance where an idiom is used that means "against the law" or "according to the law".
- In contrast, the I-thou form found in Deuteronomy IS preserved in the prophetic works.
- With some exceptions, places where it is obvious that evolution, fallacious or form-critical literary principles, or mirror-reading is being assumed. Examples not covered below are: Deut. 7:1-4 [VR.Dt, 67]; the idea that "positive" commandments ("You shall...") could not possibly be original; the idea that the "golden calf" episode is a polemical backwrite of the Northern Kingdom's two golden calves [May.Dt, 200] or that Passover found its origins in a pastoral migration festival [ibid., 256]; the idea that the blessings of Deut. 33 were not originally a unified composition because of their diverse length and format [ibid., 397]; etc.
- Obvious dismissal of prophecy or prophetic warnings, such as the idea that Deut. 4:9-24 and Deut. 28 must have been written after 587 BC, because they seem to have knowledge of the Exile. [VR.Dt, 50, 176]
(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:
- In Exodus, Jethro gives Moses the idea for appointing judges, whereas in Deuteronomy it is Moses' idea. But Deut. does not say that Moses came up with the idea all by himself at all. This is one of three such arguments used by Weinfeld, asserting that the lack of a stated detail in a parallel record constitutes a discrepancy, even if not contradictory.
- In Exodus, the judges are chosen for their moral qualities, whereas in Deut., it is for their wisdom. But note that Exodus only says what Jethro recommended; it does not say how the choices were ultimately made, and at any rate, are these not overlapping qualities to begin with? Indeed, wisdom found its expression in moral choices, as Proverbs makes clear.
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:
- 9:3 is cited as contradictory to this verse, 7:22 --
The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.
But the problem is one of translation, for "quickly" is better rendered "easily" -- which makes sense in context, for the point is that the Anakites are a supposedly difficult enemy to overcome. (Wein.Dt111, 375-6, 406 -- See this word also used in Eccl. 4:12.)
- Discrepancies are also cited between the accounts of Exodus and Deuteronomy on the matter of Sinai generally, relative to order of events. These are resolved by recognizing the order of events as reported in Exodus as topical rather than chronological, in line with occasional Semitic reporting practices: The rebellions are being reported in this chapter in the order of "lesser to greater" in terms of seriousness rather than chronologically. [Chr.Dt111, 191]
- 9:12 is cited as contradictory to other places where it is said that either God led the people or the people went forth on their own. [May.Dt, 199]
- I like to note 9:17 because of a rather odd objection that
once cropped up: "These were tablets that God Himself
had written on. Moses would never dare to smash such a holy
The purest monolatry would not recognize any object as so "holy" in the first place, but the smashing of the tablets as right in line with the procedure which accompanied the breaking of any treaty agreement in the ANE.
Two other parallels worth noting, which establish Deut. as a treaty form:
- Moses is said to break the tablets "before (the) eyes" of the people, a phrase which is used the same way regarding other treaty texts;
- The second copy of the tablets was placed in the Ark, which corresponds to the extra-biblical practice of placing copies of treaty texts in the sanctuaries of the treaty partners [May.Dt, 204]. This was the Ark for the time being; later it would be the Jerusalem Temple, where the Ark was kept.
- Re the creation of the Ark:
It is argued that whereas Priestly writers say a great deal about
the construction of the Ark, JE and D say little, almost nothing
about it. Mayes [May.Dt, 203; see also Wein.Dt111, 417; and the
elaborate Israel vs. Judah psychological-historical explanation of
Clem.DJC] draws his own conclusions from this, but they are rather
This is a "grocery list" division again. Of course "P" (embodied here in Leviticus) says a great deal about the details of constructing the Ark; who would need to know that except priests, for whom Leviticus was basically an instruction manual? "JE" and "D", consisting of history and treaty form respectively, would have not needed to go into such detail.
On the other hand, even Deuteronomy acknowdleges the sacred nature of the Ark, for the treaty paradigm required that treaty documents be stored near the image of the God (Dt. 10:1-5), and the Ark is the equivalent to that.
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:
- Regarding v.3, Mayes [May.Dt, 277] cites 1 Sam. 2:13 as
indicating that the priestly "dues had not yet been fixed with the
precision given" in Deuteronomy; hence he argues that Deut. must
reflect a later development in this verse.
Note the context of 1 Sam. --
Eli's sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD. Now it was the practice of the priests with the people that whenever anyone offered a sacrifice and while the meat was being boiled, the servant of the priest would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand. He would plunge it into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot, and the priest would take for himself whatever the fork brought up. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But even before the fat was burned, the servant of the priest would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, "Give the priest some meat to roast; he won't accept boiled meat from you, but only raw." If the man said to him, "Let the fat be burned up first, and then take whatever you want," the servant would then answer, "No, hand it over now; if you don't, I'll take it by force." This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord's sight, for they were treating the Lord's offering with contempt.
This practice in v. 13 is given among a listing of things done wrong by the wicked sons of Eli. In other words, it was a violation of the prescribed rules in Deuteronomy.
- Regarding v. 10, there is some question as to whether the
"passing through the fire" belongs here, as Mayes [ibid., 280] does
not think it fits in with the rest of the actions described. He
acknowledges that Driver suggested that this was a ritual of "trial
by fire" where the safe passage of the child through the fire was
looked upon as an omen.
There is no direct proof of this sort of significance to the passage, but it may be noted that this "fire trial" is twice linked with divination in the OT (2 Kings 17:17, 21:6).
- Regarding v.16, Mayes [ibid., 282] cites differences between
Deut. 5:23ff and 9:9ff which he says "preclude...unity of
authorship." However, he only names one difference: The earlier two
passages, he says, "understand the appointment of Moses as mediator
between God and people as a unique act" versus our target verses
which allow for successors.
We may acknowledge that there are indeed differing emphases in each of the three areas, as would be appropriate for rhetorical placement within the subject-coverage of Deuteronomy; but as for the objextion itself, context is all the answer we need. Of course Deut. 5 and 9 treat Moses' mediation as a "unique" event -- it was the first time such a thing had happened. At the same time, neither chapter says anything that precludes such mediation happening again.
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:
- It is argued that 19:14 is out of place, standing in
"remarkable isolation" [May.Dt, 283, 288] from the surrounding
chapters, which have to do with murder.
This is a point from one who has lived his entire life under the rubric of capitalistic property rights, deeds of sale, bureaucracy, and security fences. False appropriation of property was a common starting point for the crime of murder in ancient tines -- not only because of the support that the property provided agriculturally, but because of issues of inheritance as well. [Merr.Dt, 279] This law is not out of place at all.
- Vss. 15 and 16ff are said to be contradictory, and disproof of
unity of authorship, for two reasons [May.Dt, 289]:
- Because one is apodictic (a direct command) and the other is casuistic (case law) -- as though there is some barrier that prevents the two forms from appearing side by side at the behest of a single author. The types are found mixed together in Hittite and Mesopotamian law codes -- Mend.LCAI, 14 -- although admittedly, apodictic laws are rather rare outside the OT [McC.TC, 35; Hill.CHBI, 51], a matter easily explained by noting that none of the other treaties contain the commands of a Deity.
- Vv. 16ff describes "a case involving only one witness" whereas
the previous verses specify the necessity of two witnesses.
Vv. 16ff indicate that an investigation must take place -- in other words, because there is only one witness (suspected, as this law indicates, of being a hostile troublemaker and false accuser), the judges must seek out more witnesses to fulfill the requirements of the previous verses for 2 or 3 witnesses.
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:
- Because it contains two separate confessions, in verses 3 and
This is a sign of non-uniform composition? It seems to me that many religious ceremonies involve action interspersed with successive confessions or recitals.
- Because, according to Mayes, in verse 4, the priest lays the
basket before the altar, whereas in v. 10, the worshipper does
But that isn't what v. 10 says: In verse 4, the basket is laid before the altar; but in v. 10, it is laid before the Lord yor God, which is not the same thing at all. It suggests that at this point in the ceremony, the worshipper places the basket on top of the altar as an offering -- which then becomes, like other offerings, one made before God.
- As a side note, it may be noted that Jacob here is referred to as an "Aramean" because a) his mother was an Aramean; b) he spent 20 years living in Aram.
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.
- The Aramaic argument. Similar to the treatment of Daniel, it was once supposed that the presence of Aramaisms in Deut. indicated a late date. This argument is no longer considered valid, for there is ample evidence of Aramaic influences contemporary with the traditional time of Moses (the Ras Sharma texts). [Man.BL, 25]
- The characteristic phrases argument. Critics have cited
some phrases and themes in Deuteronomy as unique to that book and
as proof of authorship differing from the rest of the Pentateuch --
for example, memories of the past, entry into the land, and
However, an examination of these phrases indicates nothing that would not be especially expected for the historical context of Deut. as a covenant declared to a new generation about to take possession of the land of Canaan, which in turn would NOT be appropriate anywhere else in the Pentateuch. [Man.BL, 28]
- Missing divine names. On the positive side, if Deut. is
a late document, then it is curious that so many later names used
for God found in the prophets supposedly contemporary with D are
missing: "Yahweh God of Israel"; "the Holy One of Israel", and
especially "Lord of Hosts" -- a title with a military bearing that
would have gone over well in the context of an imminent conquest
over those nasty pagans. [Man.BL, 46]
Also missing are certain key late terms like the condemnation of those who "whore after" foreign gods; Deuteronomy uses the less polemical "walk after" [Hill.CHBI, 151] -- a little hard to believe if the a point of Deut. was to act against idolatry in Josiah's time.
- Pointless laws. If Deuteronomy is late, then the D
author did a lousy job of making it relevant. For example, Deut.
14:5 lists animals who lived in the mountains of Edom and would not
be accessible to later Israelites. Another example is the command
to clean out the Amalekites, who were long dead by this time.
[Man.BL, 93, 125]
Critics, of course, may simply claim that this is one of those laws D took up from an earlier source, which begs the question.
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.
- Balt.CF - Baltzer, Klaus. The Covenant Formulary. Fortress Press, 1971.
- Caz.PSDP - Cazelles, Henri. "Passages in the Singular Within Discourse in the Plural of Dt 1-4." Catholic Biblical Qarterly 29, April 1967, pp. 207-19.
- Chr.Dt111 - Christensen, Duane L. Deuteronomy 1-11. Waco: Word Books, 1991.
- Chr.SPPS - Chhristensen, Duane L. A Song of Power and the Power of Song. Eisenbrauns, 1993.
- Clem.DJC - Clements, R. E. "Deuteronomy and the Jerusalem Cult."
- Hill.CHBI - Hillers, Delbert R. Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea. Johns Hopkins, 1969.
- Man.BL - Manley, G. T. The Book of the Law. Eerdmans: 1957.
- May.Dt - Mayes, A.D.H. Deuteronomy. Eerdmans: 1979.
- McB.PCP - McBride, Dean S. "Polity of the Covenant."
- McC.TC - McCarthy, Dennis J. Treaty and Covenant. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963.
- McC.TPD - McConville, J. G. and J. G. Millar. Time and Place in Deuteronomy. Sheffied Academic Press.
- Mend.LCAI - Mendenhall, George E. Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East. Biblical Colloquium, 1955.
- Merr.Dt - Merrill, Eugene H. Deuteronomy. Broadman and Holman, 1994.
- VR.Dt - von Rad, Gerhard. Deuteronomy. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966.
- Walt.DESL - Walton, John H. "Deuteronomy: An Exposition of the Spirit of the Law." Grace Theological Journal 8, 1987, 213-25.
- Wein.Dt111 - Weinfeld, Moshe. Deuteronomy 1-11. New York: Doubleday.
- Wein.DPS - Weinfeld, Moshe. "Deuteronomy: The Present State of Inquiry."