Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 7, “Deuteronomy” pp. 131-144.
The book of Deuteronomy takes its English name from the Greek for “second law.” Lessing points out that the content clarifies God’s words from Mount Sinai (Lessing 2014, 131). Lessing considers the claims throughout Deuteronomy assigning the words to Moses as a claim of Mosaic authorship, which he accepts. However, he concludes that there are some passages which indicate additional material inserted after the time of Moses (Lessing 2014, 132). Other critical views will assign composite authorship, often at a much later time. The book is, however, in the form of treaties used only for a brief time, around the time of Moses (Lessing 2014, 132). This encourages Lessing to hold to a Mosaic view of authorship.
Deuteronomy is by and large a series of sermons, in which Moses clarifies and restates the history of God’s dealings with his people (Lessing 2014, 133). The text is sometimes compared in structure to treaties used in Hittite territories at the time of Moses (Lessing 2014, 135). In any analysis, there are several lengthy discourses, all organized around the way God and his people dwell together.
Critical scholarship sees in Deuteronomy a radical shift from the theology in Genesis through Numbers (Lessing 2014, 136). The scholars see it as centralizing the authority recognized of God. They also see a corrective against a more mythic and allegedly earlier view in which God has location. The concept of Torah is very important in Deuteronomy (Lessing 2014, 137). Lessing considers “law” as an inadequate translation of the concept of “Torah.” The text not only states legal principles but it reveals God’s great and gracious will as an expression of his character. It is, above all, a preached message (Lessing 2014, 137). A powerful and related theme is that of idolatry. Pursuing worship of anything other than God is a false religion (Lessing 2014, 139). Punishment for false religions is very strict. In contrast to the other nations, Israel is the chosen people of God, who exercises sovereignty in his rule over his people (Lessing 2014, 139). These are the people who will inherit the land, another major theme (Lessing 2014, 140). This land, promised to Abraham, will become the home for God’s people.
Deuteronomy is referred to in the New Testament more than almost any other Old Testament book (Lessing 2014, 141). Israel, God’s chosen people, is reduced to one in Jesus, the chosen Son of God. Moses appears in Deuteronomy as the one who foreshadows the Christ (Lessing 2014, 142). The images of bodily care of people, hearts, hands, eyes, etc., are all embodied in Jesus.
The concept of sin and grace is very clear in Deuteronomy (Lessing 2014, 142). The people have a strong history of rebellion against God. They are a chosen people not because of their goodness but because of God’s great mercy.