Now Moshe Weinfeld–Moshe Weinfeld is one
of the leading scholars of Deuteronomy and he describes the book as expressing ideology
by means of a programmatic speech put into the mouth of a great leader. That’s a very
common practice in later Israelite historiography, and he says it’s happening here already. And
I’ll be referring quite a bit to Weinfeld’s work as we talk about Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy
differs from the other books of the Pentateuch in other significant ways. So for example,
according to the Priestly writer, Israel received its laws, its Torah, from God at Mount Sinai.
But in Deuteronomy the laws were given here on the Plains of Moab, 40 years after Sinai,
before the Israelites crossed the Jordan. At Sinai the Israelites heard the Decalogue
but the remainder of the laws, it would seem, are delivered on the Plains of Moab.
We can look at the basic structure of Deuteronomy in a couple of ways. We can do a kind of literary
division, which I have on this side of the board, according to the speeches. So to begin
we have the first speech which is a sort of introductory speech in the first four chapters,
going through Deuteronomy 4:43. There’s an introduction that gives us the location, where
the Israelites are, and also then Moses’ first sermon. Moses in this sermon is giving a historical
review, and the purpose of this historical review is didactic; he wants the Israelites
to learn something, to infer something from this review of their history from Sinai to
the present day. And in that review, as he retells the story, which we’ve just been reading
about in the previous books, we see his selective choice of events, we see how he’s describing
things in a way that underscores God’s faithful, loyal, fulfillment of the covenantal promise,
and he’s using this to urge the Israelites to do their part by obeying God’s laws.
The second speech extends from Deuteronomy 4:44 through 28:6. And this also contains
a bit of a historical review, again retelling some of the narrative of the earlier books
of the Torah and again giving us an insight into this phenomenon of inner biblical interpretation,
or parts of the Bible that review parts elsewhere [and] are already beginning to interpret and
present that material in a particular light. But then we have a central section of laws
being presented, beginning at about 12; so this is still part of Moses’ second speech,
but stretching from Deuteronomy 12 through 26 we have laws, and this is in many ways
a repetition of much of the revealed legislation we’ve already encountered. That central portion
of laws, 12 through 26, is thought to be the earliest core of the book. We’re going to
come back and talk about that in a moment.