Deuteronomy (Greek "deuteronomion", Δευτερονόμιον "second law") is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. In form it is a set of three sermons delivered by Moses reviewing the previous forty years of wandering in the wilderness; its central element is a detailed law-code by which the Children of Israel are to live in the Promised Land.

In theological terms the book constitutes a covenant between Hashem and the "Children of Israel"; this is the culmination of the series of covenants which begins with that between Yahweh and all living things after the Flood (Genesis 9). One of its most significant verses constitutes the shema ("Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!"), which today serves as the definitive statement of Jewish identity. The majority scholarly opinion is that the bulk of the book appears to have been composed in the late 7th century BC, during the religious reforms carried out under king Josiah, with later additions from the period after the fall of Judah to the Neo-Babylonian empire in 586 BC; a minority view holds that the book is largely a creation of the post-Exilic, Persian period, i.e. the 4th century BC and even later. Its essential concerns mirror the thrust of Josiah's reforms: Hashem is to be accepted as the sole God of Israel, and worshiped only in one place.


The title is derived from the Greek "Deuteronomion" (Latin "Deuteronomium"), "second law", from "to deuteronomion touto," "this second law", from the erroneous Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew phrase "mishneh ha-torah ha-zot", "a copy of this law" (Deuteronomy 17:18). Its Hebrew title is Devarim, ] and the account of Moses' death was moved to where it lies now, Deuteronomy 34. In the final redaction of the Torah, c.450 BC, Deuteronomy 34 gained additional verses describing the death of Moses from two other originally independent documents, the Jahwist and the Priestly source. [ [ Deuteronomistic History overview.] ]

More recently Meredith G. Kline has proposed that Deuteronomy should be viewed as a suzerain/vassal treaty between God and the people of Israel. According to Kline, a conservative scholar who wished to restore the case for the book's Mosaic provenance, these treaties were based on Hittite treaties of the second millennium BC. Moshe Weinfeld subsequently argued that Deuteronomy’s extensive list of curses (28:23-35) fits better the style of seventh century BC Assyrian treaties. "Deuteronomy adapts the literary form and the vocabulary of a treaty but places the deity YHWH, the God of Judah, in the place of the Assyrian king. ... The writer(s) are therefore deliberately taking an instrument of Assyrian subjugation, the client treaty, and using it as a mechanism to bolster Judean commitment to their national deity and to reinforce national identity". [ [ Peter Bedford, "Empires and Exploitation: The Neo-Assyrian Empire, p.23] ]


YHWH and Israel

Polytheism was a feature of Israelite religion down through the end of the Iron Age. [ [ Mark S. Smith, "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts", (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), at "Bible and Interpretation"] ] " [T] here is no clear and unambiguous denial [in the Hebrew bible] of the existence of gods other than YHWH before Deutero-Isaiah in the 6th century B.C. ... The question was not whether there is only one elohim [god] , but whether there is any elohim like YHWH." [John McKenzie, "Aspects of Old Testament Thought" in Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., "The New Jerome Biblical Commentary" (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990), 1287, S.v. 77:17.] . The theological position underpinning Deuteronomy is that Yhwh is the patron god of Israel, as Chemosh was the patron of Moab and Marduk of Babylon: "When the Most High ("El Elyon") apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods, the Lord's ("YHWH's") own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share" (Deuteronomy 32:8-9) [ [ Deuteronomy 32] ]

The concept of the covenant also plays a central role in the theology of Deuteronomy. Israel is YHWH's vassal, and Israel's tenancy of the land is conditional on keeping the covenant, which in turn necessitates tempered rule by state and village leaders who keep the covenant. "These beliefs, dubbed biblical Yahwism, are widely recognized in biblical scholarship as enshrined in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua through Kings), with pronounced affinities to the Pentateuchal E source and to the prophets Hosea, Jeremiah, and Malachi." [Norman K. Gottwald, review of [ Stephen L. Cook, "The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism", Society of Biblical Literature, 2004] ]

Deuteronomy, unlike the Priestly source which makes up most of Leviticus and Numbers, does not promote the supremacy of the Aarond priesthood (i.e., the clan of priests claiming descent from Aaron who at various times monopolised the High Priesthood in Jerusalem): for Deuteronomy, all Levites have priestly functions. It does, however, promote the centralisation of worship.

Deuteronomy in later tradition

Judaism: the shema (שמע)

Deuteronomy 6:4-5: "Hear ("shema"), O Israel, the Lord (YHWH) is our God, the Lord (YHWH) alone!" has become the basic credo of Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation is a mitzvah (religious commandment). The shema goes on: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy might;" it has therefore also become identified with the central Jewish concept of the love of God, and the rewards that come with this.


The earliest Christian authors interpreted the prophetic elements of the book of Deuteronomy dealing with the eschatological restoration of Israel as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Christian church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Luke 1-2, Acts 2-5). Jesus himself was the "one (i.e., prophet) like me" predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 (Acts 3:22-23), and St. Paul, drawing on Deuteronomy 30:11-14, explains that the keeping of torah, which constituted Israel's righteousness under the Mosaic covenant, is redefined around faith in Jesus and the gospel (the New Covenant) [ [ J. G. McConville, "Deuteronomy", in "Dictionary of the Old Testament: The Pentateuch" (IVP, 2002)] ; and [ "Deuteronomy 30:11-14 As a Prophecy of the New Covenant in Christ," Steven R. Coxhead, Westminster Theological Journal 68 (2006)] .] :

ee also

*Biblical criticism
*Documentary hypothesis
*Mosaic authorship
*Weekly Torah portions in Deuteronomy: Devarim, Va'etchanan, Eikev, Re'eh, Shoftim, Ki Teitzei, Ki Tavo, Nitzavim, Vayelech, Haazinu, V'Zot HaBerachah.


External links

* [ "Book of Deuteronomy" article] (Jewish Encyclopedia)
* [ Teacher's Guide to Teaching Deuteronomy]
* [ Dealing with Deuteronomy, Or, a Treaty Poorly Treated]
* [ "Deuteronomy" by Rob Bradshaw]
* [ "Deuteronomy 30:11-14 As a Prophecy of the New Covenant in Christ," Steven R. Coxhead, Westminster Theological Journal 68 (2006)]
* [ "Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God", Michael S. Heiser, Bibliotheca Sacra 158 (January-March 2001)]

Versions and translations

*Jewish translations:
** [ Deuteronomy at Mechon-Mamre] (modified Jewish Publication Society translation)
** [ Deuteronomy (The Living Torah)] Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's translation and commentary at
** [ Devarim - Deuteronomy (Judaica Press)] translation with Rashi's commentary at
** [ דְּבָרִים "Devarim" - Deuteronomy] (Hebrew - English at

* Christian translations:
** [ "Online Bible" at] (King James Version)
** [ Deuteronomy - Chapter Indexed] (King James Version)
** [ "oremus Bible Browser"] (New Revised Standard Version)
** [ "oremus Bible Browser"] ("Anglicized" New Revised Standard Version)
** (Authorized King James Version)

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  • DEUTERONOMY — (Heb. םירָבד רֶפס, Sefer Devarim, short for סֵפֶר וְאֵלֶה הַדּבָרִים, Sefer ve elleh ha devarim, The Book of These Are the Words ), the fifth book of the Pentateuch. The name Deuteronomy is derived from the Greek translation of מִשְׁנֶה הַתּוֹרָה …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Deuteronomy — 1 Deuteronomy 2 Deuteronomy 3 Deuteronomy 4 Deuteronomy 5 Deuteronomy 6 Deuteronomy 7 Deuteronomy 8 Deuteronomy 9 Deuteronomy 10 Deuteronomy 11 …   The King James version of the Bible

  • Deuteronomy — • This term occurs in Deut., xvii, 18 and Jos., viii, 32, and is the title of one of the five books of the Pentateuch Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Deuteronomy     Deuteronomy …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Deuteronomy — Deu ter*on o*my, n. [Gr. ?; ? second + ? law: cf. L. Deuteronomium.] (Bibl.) The fifth book of the Pentateuch, containing the second giving of the law by Moses. || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Deuteronomy — 5th book of the Pentateuch, late 14c., from L.L. Deuteronomium, from Gk. Deuteronomion, lit. second law, from deuteros second + nomos law (see NUMISMATICS (Cf. numismatics)). A mistranslation of Hebrew mishneh hattorah hazzoth a copy of this law… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Deuteronomy — [do͞ot΄ər än′ə mē, dyo͞ot΄ər än′ə mē] n. [LL(Ec) Deuteronomium < Gr Deuteronomion: see DEUTERO & NOMY] the fifth book of the Pentateuch in the Bible, in which the law of Moses is set down in full for the second time: abbrev. Deut or Dt …   English World dictionary

  • Deuteronomy — /dooh teuh ron euh mee, dyooh /, n. the fifth book of the Pentateuch, containing a second statement of the Mosaic law. Abbr.: Deut. [ < LL Deuteronomium < Gk Deuteronómion (see DEUTERO , NOMY); earlier Deutronome, ME Deutronomie < LL] * * * ▪… …   Universalium

  • Deuteronomy —    In all the Hebrew manuscripts the Pentateuch (q.v.) forms one roll or volume divided into larger and smaller sections called parshioth and sedarim. It is not easy to say when it was divided into five books. This was probably first done by the… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Deuteronomy — noun the fifth book of the Old Testament; contains a second statement of Mosaic law • Syn: ↑Book of Deuteronomy • Instance Hypernyms: ↑book • Part Holonyms: ↑Torah, ↑Pentateuch, ↑Laws …   Useful english dictionary

  • DEUTERONOMY RABBAH — DEUTERONOMY RABBAH, aggadic Midrash on the Book of Deuteronomy. Name In medieval literature the work was also referred to as Haggadat Elleh Ha Devarim Rabbah and Devarim Rabbati, the designation Rabbah being used to distinguish it from… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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