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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Deuteronomy - Introduction

Deuteronomy means “second law,” a name appropriate because chs. 12–26 repeat much of the legislation found in Exodus–Leviticus–Numbers. In Deuteronomy Moses speaks in the first person in three addresses ( 1.6–4.40; 5.1–28.68; and 29.1–30.20 ) given in the plains of Moab, as his farewell to his people. Chapters 31–34 resume in the third person the narrative found at the end of Numbers.

The first address is a review of the wilderness experience as the basis for exhorting Israel to fidelity in its forthcoming invasion of Canaan. The tone of the legal section is hortatory rather than legislative. The climactic third address (chs. 29–30 ), in the renewal of the covenant, joins the beckoning future to the record of God's gracious action in the past.

Within the repetition of the laws, a theme recurs that there is to be only one valid sanctuary, this in order for Israel to avoid contamination by the paganism lurking in a multiplicity of local shrines. Since the early nineteenth century, modern scholarship has associated this theme, and hence the Book of Deuteronomy, with the religious reformation in 621 B.C.E. of King Josiah (2 Kgs. chs. 22–23 ), by which the temple of Jerusalem became the only legitimate shrine. The writing of Deuteronomy is attributed to the age of Josiah, though older traditions are embodied and later materials apparently added. The exhortation seems addressed specifically to the kingdom of Judah so as to enable it to escape the fate of conquest and exile suffered by the kingdom of Israel which fell to Assyria in 721 B.C.E.

In addressing the people assembled before Moses just prior to his death, the Book of Deuteronomy is meant to speak to all future generations.

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