The Ethics Of Deuteronomy: An Exegetical And Theological Study -- By: J. G. Millar

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:2 (NA 1995)
Article: The Ethics Of Deuteronomy: An Exegetical And Theological Study
Author: J. G. Millar


The Ethics Of Deuteronomy: An Exegetical And Theological Study1

J. G. Millar

The introduction reviews recent work in OT ethics, highlighting the persistent methodological confusion. The discussion points out the importance of distinguishing between the related tasks of describing, synthesising and applying the ethics of the OT. Deuteronomy is proposed as a case study in description and synthesis, and an appropriate method developed. The implications of the outcome of this study for the possibility of speaking of a coherent ethical ‘system’ within the OT as a whole are examined.

The discussion of the form of Deuteronomy in Chapter 1 focuses on the significance of parallels with ANE Treaties. The ethical and rhetorical function of the covenant metaphor is considered. It is concluded that the structure highlights that Israel is a people constantly facing decisions as a consequence of their covenantal relationship with Yahweh. A study of the patriarchal promise tradition in the book shows that it is exploited to make this same point. The land is used as an ethical device, proclaiming both Yahweh’s grace and Israel’s responsibility. This reciprocity is shown to be a fundamental part of the rhetoric of the book. The selective rehearsal of recent history supports the view that Israel’s relationship with Yahweh demands decision. Discussion of the parenetic vocabulary (including the ‘number change’ phenomenon) in Deuteronomy underlines the fact that the call to decision pervades every part of the book.

In the second Chapter, it is demonstrated that ideas of time and place dominate the framework of Deuteronomy. The importance

of the journey metaphor in the book is pointed out. Chapters 1-3 are shown to be central to the theological agenda of the book, introducing a journey beginning in Horeb in the wake of the Exodus and moving to Kadesh Barnes. Kadesh is presented as the archetypal place of rebellion. The journey in the wilderness becomes the journey to the land, with the victories in Transjordan acting as a paradigm for the conquest to follow. Moab becomes the place of renewed opportunity, a new Kadesh. The development of this idea is traced in Deuteronomy 4, where the revelation at Moab is equated with that at Horeb and the journey motif extended to provide a metaphor for the entire ethical history of Israel. The day of decision at Moab is shown to recapitulate the days of decision of the past and anticipate those in the future. This is achieved by a deliberate conflation of generations, where the people at Moab are addressed as if they have experienced both the past and future of Isra...

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