Deuteronomy

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy (dōōtərŏn´əmē), book of the Bible, literally meaning "second law," last of the five books (the Pentateuch or Torah) ascribed by tradition to Moses. Deuteronomy purports to be the final words of Moses to the people of Israel on the eve of their crossing the Jordan to take possession of Canaan. Moses rehearses the law received at Sinai 40 years previously, reapplying it to the new generation who accept its claim on them at a ceremony of ratification recorded in the Book of Joshua. The history of Israel found in Joshua and Second Kings is written from the Deuteronomic point of view, and is often called the "Deuteronomic history." Deuteronomy functions as the introduction to this historical work and provides the guiding principles on which Israel's historical traditions are assessed. The bulk of the book is the record of three speeches of Moses, and may be outlined as follows: first, the introductory discourse reviewing the history of Israel since the exodus from Egypt; second, an address of Moses to the people, beginning with general principles of morality and then continuing with particulars of legislation, including a repetition of the Ten Commandments, and a concluding exhortation in which Moses again appeals to the people to renew the covenant; third, a charter of narrative in which Moses nominates Joshua as his successor and delivers the book of the Law to the Levites; fourth, the Song of Moses; fifth, the blessing of Israel by Moses; and sixth, the death of Moses. The legislation is oriented toward life in the Promised Land, with the eventual foundation of a single lawful sanctuary.

See A. D. H. Mayes, Deuteronomy (1979); M. Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (1981); P. D. Miller, Deuteronomy (1990). See also bibliography under Old Testament.

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