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The Main Theological Concerns Within The Book Of Deuteronomy

3716 words - 15 pages

The Main Theological Concerns Within the Book of Deuteronomy The book of Deuteronomy is one of the most important and extensive
books within the Old Testament. Its content is diverse and explicit,
focussing specifically on the introduction of an apparently new and
radical theology. One of its primary aims was not, as many OT books
had done previously, to initiate and educate a minority of the
Israelite people, rather its aim was to teach and manifest the
theology of the nation to the nation[1]; and promulgate a
comprehensible religion proposing unrivalled belief in and devotion to
YHWH.

Of the theological concerns within the book of Deuteronomy, the
doctrine of God is easily the most important, and is explicitly
referred to throughout the book. The Deuteronomic writers were trying
to initiate the people to a new line of thought, to destroy the
superstitious and magical elements present within Israel[2]. That
there were many rival sects within Israel at that time was of great
importance for the foundation of Deuteronomic theology. It tried to
clearly express the nation's belief in one God, in order to curb the
encroaching sects and cults. Chapter 6:5 explicitly asserts that
there is in Israel one single God, namely YHWH, and that the
Israelites are now part of a monotheistic nation[3]. From this God
emanates power and love, a manifestation of the uniqueness of the God
of the Israelites. Various scholars have noted that this was the
first assertion of 'practical monotheism' within the Bible. In
proposing that the people were now governed by a single God, the
Deuteronomists then proceeded to emphasize the superiority of their
God with regard to the Gods that were worshipped by the surrounding
nations[4]. The superiority of YHWH necessarily supposed that the
Israelites were obliged to obey him, thus re-affirming the Ten
Commandments given to Moses by YHWH on Mt.Horeb. YHWH's position was
portrayed to the Israelites as one of supreme power, but also one of
abounding love and compassion towards his followers. This in turn
allowed Deuteronomy to make reference to the punishments applicable to
those who did not believe in the God of the Israelites (7:1-5). Such
punishments were seen to be wholly necessary for those who turned
against YHWH and refused to obey him[5].

The refutation of polytheistic beliefs within Deuteronomy naturally
led to the rejection of any symbol or object being erected by the
people in the place of YHWH (5:8; 4:1-40). The Deuteronomists assumed
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