More on Weinfeld’s Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School

I’m continuing my way through Moshe Weinfeld’s Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School.  I have four items:

1. On page 156, Weinfeld states:

“None of the above precludes the possibility that Moses was also responsible for the covenant of vassalship between God and Israel.  In the light of the ancient Near Eastern covenant typology, however, one must distinguish between the covenant of law, which is basically social and internal or national, and the covenant of vassalship, which is political and external or international.  If we adhere to this distinction in our analysis of the ancient covenantal traditions of Sinai and Shechem, we must conclude that the Sinai covenant belongs to the former, the Shechem covenant to the latter type.”

Weinfeld’s point is, first of all, that there was a pre-Deuteronomic mixture of covenant with law (and Weinfeld brings into the discussion Sumerian and Old Babylonian law-codes, such as the codes of Hammurapi, Lipit-Ishtar, and Ur-Nammu), and that “the author of Deuteronomy…enriched the covenant theme by introducing all the elements of the vassal treaty”, perhaps during the time of Josiah.  Second, Weinfeld’s argument is that Sinai concerned a law-code rather than a covenant because the Israelites there were accepting new laws, not a new sovereign, whereas the covenant at Shechem in Joshua 24 (which Weinfeld attributes to E on page 165, whereas other opinions are that it was post-Deuteronomistic, or post-Priestly) was more like a covenant of vassalship because people were reaffirming their “loyalty to God, which was so strongly at stake as a result of Canaanite-Israelite amalgamation”, plus the “autochthonic population” was being introduced to a “new faith” (page 156).

Weinfeld’s acknowledgment of the historicity of Moses interested me because of something I read in Jeffrey Tigay’s Jewish Publication Society commentary on Deuteronomy, on page 434: Tigay states that, “So far as our evidence goes, therefore, ever since the time of Moses most Israelites seem to have regarded only YHVH as an independently effective divine power, and that belief is most simply explained as due to the teachings of Moses himself.”

2.  Yesterday, I presented Weinfeld’s argument that the Levites did not write Deuteronomy.  Today, I read Weinfeld’s view about who did write it—or, rather, expanded it, for Weinfeld states on pages 158-159 that, “although the exact extent of the book found in the Temple cannot be determined, it is nevertheless clear that it was not found in its present form”.  In the same way that Weinfeld believes that the author of Deuteronomy expanded on pre-Deuteronomic ideas, some of them going back to Moses himself, so also does Weinfeld hold that Deuteronomy’s author expanded on a book that was actually found in the Temple—meaning that Weinfeld accepts the historicity of the Josiah story, and does not appear to regard Deuteronomy as a “pious fraud”.

For Weinfeld, scribes were involved in the expansion of Deuteronomy.  We see in the Book of Jeremiah that the royal scribe Shaphan and his family helped Jeremiah.  But did not Jeremiah criticize the scribes in Jeremiah 8:8, which is why some scholars think that Jeremiah did not care for the Book of Deuteronomy?  Weinfeld argues that Jeremiah there is not saying that the scribes are producing lying words, but rather that the scribes have made their own teaching vain (another meaning of sheqer—see I Samuel 25:21) by not obeying it.  We saw yesterday that Weinfeld did not think that Levites wrote Deuteronomy because they wouldn’t have had access to the variety of sources that are reflected in both the book and also the Deuteronomistic History.  Royal scribes, however, would have had such access.  On page 188, Weinfeld highlights that Deuteronomy, unlike P, is concerned about secular issues—such as the judiciary, the monarchy, family and inheritance laws, loans and debts, quarrels and litigation, trespassing, and false testimony—which could be support for his argument that Deuteronomy was from royal scribes (though I’m curious as to how Weinfeld might address Deuteronomy’s political neutering of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

3.  On page 165, Weinfeld speculates about the origin of the two tablets for the Ten Commandments.  He notes that E presents Moses setting up matzevot at Sinai (Exodus 24:3-8) and Joshua erecting a large stone (Joshua 24:26), things of which the Deuteronomic School disapproved.  Consequently, Weinfeld concludes that “the author of Deuteronomy…transformed the stones into a law document which was to serve the Israelites as a guide upon their entry into the promised land” (page 165).  In effect, Deuteronomy pulled the stones from their ritual use, making them items that contained the law.  A professor of mine also believes that the two tablets were based on the ritual stones, but his argument is that the two tablets emerged when the Israelites were in exile, and ritual stones in Palestine would be useless to them (at least to the Jews who were in exile, since there were many who stayed behind).

4.  Weinfeld disagrees with Wellhausen’s view that P was post-exilic and originated after Deuteronomy.  On pages 180-182, Weinfeld refers to places in which Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History reflect priestly terminology, showing that Deuteronomy was interacting with P.  On page 183, Weinfeld says that the fact that Jeremiah drew from Deuteronomy and Ezekiel from P—and these were prophets whose ministries extended back to the pre-exilic period—demonstrates that Deuteronomy and P “already existed in fixed literary form” (page 183).  And, on pages 185-186, Weinfeld contends that priestly laws do not reflect post-exilic times, for “These laws do not presuppose the theocentric state of the post-exilic period—as Wellhausen believed—because post-exilic Judah did not conduct wars nor were its leaders appointed in the presence of the congregation.”  Weinfeld thinks that P and the author of Deuteronomy were contemporaneous and pre-exilic, and that Deuteronomy disagreed with P.  For example, whereas P thought that God lived in the sanctuary, explaining the rules surrounding it, Deuteronomy maintains that God’s name is what dwells there, not God himself.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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