Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch As Narrative Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Introduction, “Interpreting the Pentateuch” pp. 1-79
Part I, “The Mosaic Law and the Theology of the Pentateuch” pp. 59-78.
What does the composition of the Pentateuch tell us about how the author viewed the Law? “The Pentateuch, as I have suggested, represents an attempt to point to the same hope as the later prophets, namely, the new covenant. The narrative texts of past events are presented as pointers to future events” (Sailhamer 1992, 60). Sailhamer addresses the work of Hans-Christoph Schmitt who sees the Pentateuch as playing the faith of Abraham against Moses and keeping the law. Sailhamer argues that, “among other things, the Pentateuch is an attempt to contrast the lives of two individuals, Abraham and Moses” (Ibid., 61).
As to genre, Sailhamer views most of the Pentateuch as biography of Moses rather than as historical narrative (Ibid., 62). He goes on to discuss whether the laws presented are given with the intent to inform the reader (the construction of the Ark, for instance) or to instruct the reader (how to make sacrifice, for instance). Some ancient law codes may be taken to show the character of the law giver. Sailhamer considers this to be the case with Hammurapi (Ibid., 64).
Next comes the question of the distinction between Abraham as a man of faith and Moses as a man of law. On p. 66 Sailhamer identifies Abraham from Genesis 26:5 as one who kept God’s law. Early attempts to explain this statement focused on Abraham as the recipient of the Mosaic Law by special revelation or in some lost source document. A more likely understanding (Ibid. 70-71) is that Abraham kept the law by having faith in God.
On p. 72 Sailhamer turns to Moses as the example of a man who lived by law. In his discussion of this he turns to Moses in Numbers 20, where he is to speak to the rock and give people water. Since the staff was typically used to strike things, Sailhamer does not think the striking was the sin. He spoke harshly to the people, which some have seen as the sin. Some also see Moses as taking credit for the water. Sailhamer is not entirely conclusive but does indicate it was a lack of faith in this setting which condemned Moses.