|CLICK HERE TO PRINT!||[CLOSE WINDOW]|
There appear at this point in Moses' first address some very important features of Deuteronomy which have been perceived and appreciated only during the past two decades. "In the last twenty years, the problem of the structure of Deuteronomy has apparently been solved, and in a way that simultaneously vindicates its unity, and illuminates its purpose."F1 Furthermore, we do not hesitate to add that this understanding has also corroborated the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy. The key fact is that Deuteronomy follows very closely the covenant (treaty) pattern in vogue during the mid-second millennium B.C. This pattern, found in all of the suzerain treaties like those of the Hittite kings of that era, features the following items:
(1) identification of the author of the covenant as speaker;
(2) reference to past historical relations;
(3) the presentation of the central demand of the suzerain for pure devotion and obedience to the maker of the covenant;
(4) blessings and cursings invoked upon the lesser parties to the covenant;
(5) invocation of witnesses;
(6) the requirement to transmit the knowledge of the covenant to subsequent generations;
(7) allusions to the dynastic issue.F2
Kline further stated that, "Deuteronomy embodies to some extent all the features which constitute the documentary pattern of ancient suzerainty treaties."F3 Furthermore, the `critical orthodoxy' of the first-half of this century has stubbornly insisted on dating Deuteronomy around the seventh century B.C.; "but the pattern of covenant treaties followed here is of a kind that is typical of the mid-1400 B.C. era, and not of the seventh century."F4
There is also another striking fact. The conformity of Deuteronomy to those patterns prevalent in the times of Moses (about 1400 B.C.) is not the obvious, slavish copying of such patterns, like those that would have marked the work of any forger, but the conformity is a variable one, with all of the leading aspects of the covenant pattern "found here and there throughout Deuteronomy, and this is explained by the origin of the material in the free oratory of Moses' farewell."F5 The significance of this is profound. First, the documentary thesis with its alleged sources of the Pentateuch is discredited and denied. The Mosaic authorship is continued. The late-dating of Deuteronomy is intellectually impossible!
(Deuteronomy 4:1) introduces the final appeal of the first address of this book. Blair summarized the entire first address thus:
"Since God is what He is, since He has done what He has done and said what He has said, Israel must bring its attitudes and life into harmony with the will of God if the people are to live and prosper in the world."F6
Ye shall not add unto the word. neither shall ye diminish from it ..
(Deut. 4:2.). Craigie pointed out that this passage, along with Rev. 22:18,19, has been considered by the historical Christian Church, as a commandment of God with reference to the canonical writings of both Testaments.F7 And why not? It appears to this student that there is no other intellectual alternative. To deny this, and to affirm that these prohibitions are restricted to the law of God as contained in the canon, is an absurdity, for in such an interpretation one immediately confronts the difficulty of finding the canon in the canon! By the acceptance of such an absurdity, the truth-seeker must at once adopt a new god in the person of some critical scholar who will tell him where the true Word of God is located and where it is not!
Of course, it is precisely this colossal error of man's presuming to find "a canon in the Biblical canon" that constitutes the "lingering illness of Protestant theology ... and it has not been found."F8
The current theories of the origin of Deuteronomy by some unknown forger called "The Deuteronomist" are here confronted with a colossal absurdity, namely, that, "The Deuteronomists thought of their law as complete in spite of the fact that it contained none of the law provisions found in the book of the covenant (Exo. 20:22--23:33)."F9 The worthless explanation of this by Phillips cannot possibly be correct. The true explanation is that the passage applies to "The Five Books of Moses" and not to the occasional portions of it attributed to some unknown Deuteronomist!
That ye may live. and possess the land ..
(Deuteronomy 4:1). Moses here tied the prosperity of Israel to their success or failure in keeping God's commandments, and it is our conviction that this applies to all people wheresoever. The people of Sherman, Texas understood this as indicated by the inscription on their courthouse: Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34). Oberst stated the application of this truth as follows:
"Can America any longer be called, even by stretching the imagination, a "Christian nation?" Obviously not. And yet this is our hypocritical claim. There is only one possible end of such a nation -- the curse of God and degradation in the eyes of other nations. May we too remember that Israel became "a hiss and a byword" of the nations round about. And why? Because God's law and God's works were forgotten!"F10
The peoples. shall say ..
(Deuteronomy 4:6). True to this prophecy, the greatness of Israel among the nations is solely that of their ancient relationship to God. It is significant that this (relationship), and that not wealth, military power, or artistic achievement, is pointed out as the measure of Israel's greatness.F11 This is especially true with regard to the Incarnation, the coming of the Christ to redeem mankind.
Because of Baal-peor
(Deuteronomy 4:3). (For a full discussion of this shameful defection of many of the Israelites, see Vol. III in this series on the Pentateuch under Num. 25:1-5ff.)
Before leaving this passage, we must note the regrettable effort of John D. W. Watts in Broadman Commentary to make the application of Deut. 4:2 as a prohibition against either adding to or taking from the Bible a late development in the Christian Church dating "from the third century."F12 No! the prohibition against adding to or taking from the Sacred Scriptures dates from the remotest antiquity. Paul's statement that men should learn "not to go beyond what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6), as well as Jesus' declaration that "the Scriptures cannot be broken" (John 10:35), must mean that the inviolability of the sacred canon has been an accepted principle of Christianity from its inception. Furthermore, Josephus gave it as the opinion of all Judaism that "We have only twenty-two books (corresponding exactly to the O.T. as we now have it), which contain the record of all past times, which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses."F13 As a matter of fact, "The so-called canonical formula (You shall not add to ... nor take from) has a long history ... dating back to 2450 years B.C."F14
As we proceed in this study of Deuteronomy, we should also be aware of the total absence of any reason whatever for believing that any author except Moses was involved in writing it. The critics who would have it otherwise complain bitterly of this lack of support for their theories. They even refer to their task as "difficult!" "The most perplexing difficulty in attempting to analyze the literary growth of Deuteronomy is the remarkable homogeneity of the language, style, and ideology which pervade the book!"F15 Difficult is not really an applicable term here; it is impossible to destroy the evident fact of all of Deuteronomy's being composed by a single author, namely, Moses. "Remarkable homogeneity of language, style, and ideology" are incontrovertible proof of the conservative position here.
In Deut. 4:9,10 Moses addressed the people as if they personally had stood before the Lord in Horeb, an event that occurred forty years earlier, but this presents no problem whatever. Tens of thousands of the people (over forty years old) who stood before Moses when this was said, were present and vividly remembered what Moses mentioned here. One may only smile at the critical slur that "we are surprised that Moses would speak to his hearers as if they were present to see the theophany!" Indeed, vast numbers of them were present.
Ye saw no form
(Deuteronomy 4:12). This is presented here as an argument against making any kind of an image. If one should attempt to form an image of God, what form could it possibly take? There is powerful theological support here for the specific in the Decalogue, that Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
The identification of "the covenant" in this passage with "the ten commandments" (Deuteronomy 4:13) was natural, but it should be understood as a synecdoche in which "the Ten Commandments" stands for all that the Lord had spoken. Failure to observe this truth led in later years, as Cousins declared, "to a superficial and legalistic view of the covenant relationship."F16
Two tables of stone
(Deuteronomy 4:13). This has been understood throughout the ages as suggesting a division of the commandments into two classifications, for example, (1) duties to God, and (2) duties to man, but the new understanding of Deuteronomy's resemblance to the suzerainty covenant treaties of the Mosaic era tends to raise a question about this. As Cousins noted: The two tables may have been necessary because of the content; more likely they correspond to the two copies commonly made of treaty documents.F17 Phillips especially favored this reason why there were two tables of stone:
"The Commandments are not to be thought of as written partly on one tablet and partly on the other. Each tablet would have contained all the Commandments. This again reflects the normal practice of the suzerainty treaties under which one copy was retained by the suzerain and the other given to the vassal to deposit in the temple of his god. In Israel's case, both copies were placed in the Ark (Deut. 10:1-5; 31:9,26)."F18
It is of significance that by both tables being placed in the Ark, their being so placed, "symbolized the permanent presence of God"F19 in the midst of His people Israel.
Here Moses returned to the thought of Deut. 4:12, namely, that in the great theophany at Horeb, Israel "saw no form." Von Rad saw this place as "a comparatively insignificant passage,"F20 but, on the contrary, it vitally illuminates the prohibition against the making of images. The spirituality of God is emphasized dramatically here. "It is as a spirit that God is to be worshipped, and not under any outward representation."F21 "Men are not to worship anything that men can see."F22 The making of any kind of image is actually an attempt to define and limit God, "but to contain or limit God, whether by material form or theological proposition, is failure to be aware of the infinitude and transcendence of God."F23
Deut. 4:16-18 prohibited the making of any religious image like any animal, bird, fish, creeping thing, or anything else. Many such things were commonly worshipped in Egypt and throughout the ancient world.
Deut. 4:19 forbade the worship of sun, moon, stars, or any of the host of heaven. God made it clear in this passage that he had appointed the host of heaven to "serve mankind," hence, the foolishness of men who would "serve them" (Deuteronomy 4:19). Right here is one of the vast differences in the true religion and the religious superstitions that have troubled men throughout history. The astrology business, right now, in the U.S.A. is a two billion dollar business annually, and what is "astrology?" It is the science of trying to determine the influence of the stars over human behavior. Christian, get it straight: "The stars do not control you, they SERVE you." Some of the more discerning pagans understood this perfectly: "It is written in the stars when I myself shall write it there with lofty hand!" Conceited as such a remark assuredly is, it at least avoids the abasement of worshipping stars.
The iron furnace
(Deuteronomy 4:20). This metaphor is rendered as smelting furnace in the New English Bible. What is indicated is the severe and rigorous service imposed upon the Israelites in the land of their bondage, Egypt.
In Deut. 4:21,22, Moses again recalls the prohibition against his entry into Canaan, again adding the words "for your sakes," making it clear that Israel should get the point that, "if the leader of the whole nation was forbidden to enter the promised land because of his sin, then any sins committed by the Israelites themselves would most certainly bring punishment upon them."
Any old man talking about historical events will naturally throw in, now and then, some detail overlooked in other narratives of the event, and so it is here in Deut. 4:21, where Moses mentioned that God "sware" that he should not enter the promised land. This is the first mention of such an oath, and the critics almost go into ecstasy thinking they have found a contradiction! But Alexander effectively refuted this as follows:
"It is inconceivable, and it certainly does not follow, that because no mention was made in Numbers of God's swearing that he did not swear on the occasion here mentioned. Since God had sworn that the people (above 20 years of age) would never enter Canaan, would he not also have sworn when Moses was prohibited?"F24
There is no reason whatever to see these verses as post-exilic. Many centuries prior to the Babylonian captivity of Israel, "Defeat and deportation were familiar concepts to Israel."F25 The same author pointed out that, "What is really significant here is that Yahweh, unlike secular kings, might even forgive disregard of a solemn treaty."F26 Of course, the Christian view of the passage makes it an accurate prophecy on the part of Moses of exactly what would happen (and what did happen) to Israel in the ages to come. No critical scholar could possibly allow such a thing, because even before he even looks at any of the evidence, he has already decided that there is no such thing as predictive prophecy. That this is actually true is specifically attested by the great German scholar Maier:
"The very selection of the critical method prefigures, and predetermines the results. The historical-critical method represents a prejudgment in the sense of an a priori decision concerning the outcome. Such a method cannot allow certain conclusions (such as the existence of predictive prophecy, parenthesis mine, J.B.C.), though they may be proved a thousand times! ... This is the helplessness into which a falsely selected method blunders."F27
It actually happened exactly as Moses prophesied here. Israel became prosperous and they turned greedily after the licentiousness of the old Canaanite gods, the Baalim, with their shameful orgiastic, sexually oriented debaucheries, and it was not long until both the northern and southern Israels were corrupted. There is abundant evidence of all this in the minor prophets. As Dummelow said, "Prosperity sometimes acts like a narcotic and sends the soul to sleep."F28
Ye shall be few in number
(Deuteronomy 4:27). As found frequently throughout the Bible, the `remnant doctrine' appears right here in Deuteronomy. Phillips denied this, solely on the basis of his personal opinion, since no argument supporting the notion was even mentioned. And, of course, it was only a remnant that came back from Babylon. Phillips admitted that, This passage clearly betrays knowledge of the exile in Babylon ...F29 He means by this, of course, that the passage had to be written after the Babylon exile occurred. This is only the blindness of criticism. How can such men who have already been brain-washed so that they cannot believe in the supernatural, nor in God, nor in inspiration by the Holy Spirit, nor in anything whatever except the material things they can see or eat -- how can such men hope to be of any help to Christians in their study of the Scriptures? Regardless of the blind arrogance of unbelievers, however, right here we have Moses' prediction of what would happen after Israel was seduced by the false gods of Canaan. This prophecy was written in 1400 B.C., and the exile took place about eight centuries later.
Alexander read this prophecy of Israel's return to Jehovah "in the latter days" (Deuteronomy 4:30) as a promise of their restoration "as a nation."F30 However, it is our conviction that the expression, "the latter days," identifies this as a prediction of the intended return of all men, both Jews and Gentiles alike, unto God in the institution of the N.T., the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Every line of these verses carries the signature of their author, namely, Moses. Only Moses could have made a speech like this. There is not even a hint of anything here that does not fit the conviction that Moses is the speaker. Of course, drowning men catch at straws, and the critics seize upon the expression in Deut. 4:38, "as at this day." Can such an expression, so natural in the mouth of Moses who was present that day, and who so recently had seen the land of Moab and Bashan and Sihon inherited by some of the tribes of Israel, and indeed viewed all of Canaan as already in the hands of God's people, can such a natural expression, so appropriate to the occasion when Moses uttered it, -- can such an expression prove that the author of Deuteronomy "has here forgotten the fiction of Moses' speech before the conquest?"F31 Ridiculous. This expression indicates no such thing. A "straw" like this will drown any man who trusts it.
This paragraph affirms in the most positive and dogmatic terms possible that there is only one God, namely, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.
This is nothing new. In the Decalogue, God said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." "It is clear that the expression `before me' really means `besides me,' or `apart from me.'"F32 In addition to that, look what is stated right here in this chapter:
"Jehovah He is God; there is none else besides Him (Deuteronomy 4:35). Know therefore this day, and lay it to thy heart, that Jehovah He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else (Deuteronomy 4:39)."
Of course, critical enemies of the Bible must deny passages like this? How do they do it? Here is the way Phillips did it: "`There is no other' is best interpreted as `there is no other like him!'"F33 Any manuscript evidence of this? No! Any parallel passage elsewhere that supports such a view? No! Any evidence of any kind whatever that such a perversion ought to be allowed? NO! Why then are Phillips and all critical scholars determined to outlaw what the Bible plainly says? It denies their theories, therefore they must get rid of it. Should Christians allow such mishandling of the Sacred Text? A million times, NO!
If language means anything, monotheism is dogmatically affirmed by Moses right here in Deuteronomy, and, therefore, monotheism cannot be a post-Mosaic development, or discovery. Of course, some translations are being tampered with in order to make it appear otherwise. Moffatt, for example, rendered Deut. 4:19 in this chapter thus: "The Eternal your God has allotted them (the host of heaven) for worship to all nations under the broad sky."F34 Such a corrupt rendition is a fraud on its face, ranking along with Moffatt's phenomenal "goof" regarding "The Reed Sea." The same goes for all the subsequent versions and translations that have fallen for this crooked translation. As given by Moffatt, it makes Moses affirm that the sun, moon, and stars were God-authorized objects of worship among the pagan nations.
This paragraph ending in Deut. 4:40 closes the exhortations and admonitions section of Moses' first address. After this is described the appointment of three cities of refuge east of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 4:41-43); and the second address begins with Deut. 4:44.
The mention of the cities of refuge appears, not only here, but in Num. 35:9-24; Deut. 19:13; and in Josh. 20:1-9. There are two ways to understand this insertion of Moses' appointment of these cities right here squarely between the first and second addresses recorded in Deuteronomy:
(1) First, there is the dogmatic, unsupported, unproved, and ridiculous notion that the forger who gave us this work had no rhyme nor reason whatever in the way he put the book together. He just junked a lot of things together, and here is where this particular "tradition" came out! All who want that explanation are welcome to it.
(2) There is the accurate, Scripturally-supported reason for the appointment of these cities being mentioned right here: "The interval between the first and second addresses is exactly the point in time when Moses named and set apart these three cities."F35 Cook's further comment on this is:
"Then Moses severed the three cities, that is, the fact narrated took place historically after Moses spoke the one discourse, and before the delivered the other. Thus, Moses carried out a previous command of God, and so followed up his command for obedience by setting a punctual example of it, as far as opportunity was given him?"F36
THE SECOND ADDRESS OF MOSES (Deut. 4:44--26:19)
This second address of Moses constitutes the great heart of Deuteronomy. The very first two verses (Deuteronomy 4:44,45) are an effective title of the whole discourse, namely, The Law, The Testimonies, The Statutes, The Ordinances of Moses, as God Commanded Him.
Of course, in our way of thinking, it would have been nice if they had included these verses in the next chapter, but we shall follow divisions as they have come down to us. Cook divided the discourse into two parts, namely, Deut. 5--11, and Deut. 12--26. Alexander's outline of this rather long discourse is as follows:
The Second Address of Moses Introduction ... Deut. 4:44-49.
The Decalogue, Basis of the Covenant, the Essence of the Whole Law, etc. ... Deut. 5:1-33.
First and Great Commandment ... Deut. 6:1-25.
Entire Separation from Idolatry ... Deut. 7:1-26.
Exhortation to Obedience ... Deut. 8:1-20.
Dissuasives from Self-righteousness ... Deut. 9:1-29.
Renewed Exhortations to Obedience ... Deut. 10:1--11:33.
Announcement of Particular Statutes and Rights ... Deut. 12:1--26:19.
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.