Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch As Narrative. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Chapter 5, “Deuteronomy” pp. 423-479.
Sailhamer opens this chapter with a reminder of the overall integrity of the Pentateuch and an observation that the word “deuteronomy” is actually taken from 17:18. A “copy” of the Law was taken as a “second” law. There is a strong restatement of the Law but it is presented as explanation, not a mere repetition (Sailhamer 1992, 423). The presentation of events is not as strictly chronological as it is topical (Sailhamer 1992, 424). Sailhamer also observes differences in the narratives themselves, emphasizing the explanatory nature (Sailhamer 1992, 426).
On pp. 428-430 Sailhamer surveys various views of Israel’s location during the 38 years’ andering. The text-critical views consider there to be great differences in the accounts, with a report of Israel at Kadesh versus a report of Israel circling Mount Seir. Other views harmonize the accounts by drawing a balance of time in various places.
An overall theme which Sailhamer suggests but does not spell out in his review of Deuteronomy 1-3 (Sailhamer 1992, 430-433) is that God, not Israel, is responsible for all his people’s success. Deuteronomy emphasizes this work of God to a greater extent than Numbers.
In chapter 4 of Deuteronomy the focus shifts to God’s commands rather than his actions. Sailhamer discusses the Ten Commandments and numbering, reaching a conclusion that the distinction between the neighbor’s wife and property (as in Lutheran and Roman numbering) is significant (Sailhamer 1992, 437-438).
At Deuteronomy 9 the narrative moves back to a historical survey, focused at Sinai (Sailhamer 1992, 442ff). Sailhamer observes that God shows his care for his people despite their rebellion, not because of their obedience. At chapter 12 the view moves to the future of Israel in the promised land (Sailhamer 1992, 445ff).
The text goes on to describe Israel in the land as a people who would remain loyal to the Lord and who would obey him, especially by caring for the needy, including the tribe of Levi who had no inheritance. Beginning in chapter 16 the author discusses civil government and legal officials who will care for the purity of God’s people (Sailhamer 1992, 453ff). A very significant warning is in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, where the king who falls into temptations of great power is foreshadowed. “Underlying these warnings is the larger issue that Israel was ultimately to look to God as their King and thus not put their trust in another human being” (Sailhamer 1992, 454).