Review in: JBLGevonden op: http://www.academicroom.com/bookreview/deuteronomy-1-11-new-translation-introduction-and-commentary
Deuteronomy 1-11: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, by Moshe Weinfeld (AB 5), New York/London: Doubleday, 1991. Pp. xiv + 458. $34 ($42 Canada).
The book of Deuteronomy has been a frequent storm center in the history of biblical interpretation. Considered by some the linchpin of pentateuchal criticism and by others the "theological center" of the Hebrew Scriptures, Deuteronomy forms both the capstone of the Pentateuch and the introduction to the Deuteronomistic History. The frequent quotations of Deuteronomy in the New Testament and in the classic rabbinical sources are evidence of its authority within both Jewish and Christian traditions. Given Deuteronomy's importance at so many levels, there have been surprisingly few good commentaries on Deuteronomy which combine critical acumen, literary sensitivity and theological insight. The void has begun to be filled by a number of recent monographs on Deuteronomy. Among these welcome newcomers is Moshe Weinfeld's contribution to the Anchor Bible series: Deuteronomy I-U: A New Translation, Introduction and Commentary.Weinfeld is Professor of Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has distinguished himself over almost thirty years with a long list of books and articles on Deuteronomy. The best known is his 1972 monograph entitled Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic School, a book noted for its thesis that Deuteronomy was in large part the product of sages in the wisdom tradition of ancient Israel. Weinfeld has also stressed the importance of ancient Near Eastern treaty forms in understanding Deuteronomy, particularly the suzerain-vassal treaties of the Hittite and neo-Assyrian varieties. Weinfeld's scholarly attention to Deuteronomy has ranged broadly, covering ancient Near Eastern, biblical and contemporary historical and theological concerns. The present commentary is a mature and well crafted distillation of a lifetime of work and thought.
Deuteronomy 1-11 begins with an extensive and readable 84-page introduction. Weinfeld presents his own positions on various issues along with selected scholars with whom he significantly agrees or disagrees. The seventeen topics range from historical and tradition-critical concerns ("Deuteronomy and Its Northern Roots:' "Deuteronomy and the Reform of Josiah,""Deuteronomy and Wisdom Literature") to literary and critical questions ("The Literary Form of Deuteronomy:' "Composition and Structurcn"Singular and Plural Layers:' "Relation of Deuteronomy to the Tetrateuch), to issues of a more thematic and theological bent ("The Idea of the Election of Israel:' "The Land in Deuteronomy "Deuteronomy as Turning Point in Israelite Religion"). The introduction is followed by a thirty-seven page bibliography on Deuteronomy which clearly undergirds Weinfeld's work in both the introduction and the heart of the commentary on Deuteronomy 1-ll which follows.
Weinfeld divides chapters 1-11 into two major sections: Deut 1:1-4:43 (Moses' First Address: Historical Survey) and 4:44-ll:32 (Moses' Second Address: Introduction to the Exposition of the Law). Deuteronomy I-U is further subdivided into twenty-three smaller sections ranging from a few verses to whole chapters. Each section contains a fresh translation, textual notes, notes and comment. The "Textual Notes" are largely text-critical in character and include consideration of unpublished Qumran fragments of the text of Deuteronomy. The "Notes" defend translations against other options in understanding a phrase, explore historical and critical issues, introduce rabbinic readings, and refer to parallel texts elsewhere in Deuteronomy or the Hebrew Bible.
The "Comment" sections build on Weinfeld's broader concerns to illuminate the literary structure, themes and theology of Deuteronomy It is the integration of the work of a skilled translator, historical-critical scholar, and biblical theologian that is this commentary's overriding strength. Weinfeld reaches independent conclusions and cannot be easily placed in any one "camp:' Readers will not always agree with Weinfeld's positions, but one will always find his conclusions clearly stated and defended. Weinfeld's judicious sampling of traditional rabbinic and Jewish interpretations opens the reader to the range of interpretations available in the history of biblical inter-pretation. Ibn Ezra discerns an order in the subject matter of the last five commandments of the Decalogue; from destroying and violating another's body (murder, adultery) to taking another's property by force (stealing), by mouth (false witness) or by mere intention (coveting). Weinfeld comments on the brutal holy war requirement in Deuteronomy 21 that the native population must be exterminated: "the rabbis could not conceive the removal of the Canaanites in such a cruel, radical manner and circumvented plain Scripture" by reinterpreting Joshua's conquest to allow for Canaanites either to leave Canaan, make peace with Israel, or fight. Weinfeld cites Philo and Martin Buber when discussing the second person singular "you" form of the Ten Commandments and its implied "I-Thou" relationship. Weinfeld's broader interpretive concerns are woven into the entire commentary.
Some questions arise as the reader works through this commentary. Weinfeld, for example, argues that Deuteronomy comes after and not before the Priestly tradition in date. The Priestly tradent for Weinfeld seems more ritualistic, magical, sacral and hence more primitive and earlier. On the other hand, Weinfeld argues that Deuteronomy is more rational, humanitarian and "secular" and thus later. But can such a clear distinction between the sacral-holy character of P and the secular-social character of D really be sustained? The purity laws in Deuteronomy 14, the concern for the worship place, festivals and liturgy in Deuteronomy 12, 16 and 26, the consistent concern for Levitical priests and prophets all suggest that Deuteronomy is not so much a more secular document. Rather, it has a different understanding of the sacral. And even if one could argue for such a sacral versus secular distinction between P and D, the assumption that a more secular or humanitarian tone necessarily entails a later dating is not self-evident. D and P may simply represent two different traditions of separate groups within Israel whose relative dating must depend on comparisons other than just the alleged sacral versus secular distinction.
Weinfeld is known for his thesis that Deuteronomy is associated with the wisdom tradition in ancient Israel. He rehearses what he perceives as the distinctive verbal and conceptual affinities between Deuteronomy and the wisdom literature, especially the book of Proverbs. Weinfeld concludes, 'All of this might support my thesis that scribes and wise men were engaged in the composition of Deuteronomy" (p. 65). The key word here is "might." It seems that Weinfeld has backed off somewhat from his thesis in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, recognizing that a list of scattered parallels is not overwhelming evidence for authorship as much as some borrowing from the wisdom tradition. The most one can say is there "might" be a connection of some sort.
One final question arising from the commentary is this: what does Weinfeld think is the central purpose which this book served in ancient Israel? Is it liturgical, political or theological? At times, Weinfeld argues that an attack on the cult was the book's central aim. "The very purpose of the book of Deuteronomy," writes Weinfeld, "was to curtail and circumvent the cult and not to extend or enhance it" (p. 37). Deuteronomy, claims Weinfeld, replaces the temple with the synagogue and the system of sacrifice and ritual with prayer and Torah reading. At other times, Weinfeld links the central purpose of Deuteronomy with kingship and the political programs of King Hezekiah and Josiah in their nationalistic efforts to restore old Israel, both north and south. At other times, especially in the discussion of Deuteronomy 4 and 30, Weinfeld sees Deuteronomy's central concern as introducing a "new consciousness of sin" (p. 59) and a word of hope for the exiles. Deuteronomy, writes Weinfeld, proclaims that "there is hope for restoration if the nation returns with sincerity" (p. 216).
The scattered and varied nature of Weinfeld's responses to the question of Deuteronomy's central purpose suggests a need for the author to spell out more clearly his assumptions about how one interprets this biblical book. Which level is definitive Hezekian, Josianic, exilic, post-exilic? What criteria does one use to determine what is a central purpose of the book? Was the transformation of worship in Deuteronomy an attack on the cult or a reasonable adjustment to the realities of the exile and the loss of the temple as a place of worship? Questions such as these may b e answered in the second volume of Weinfeld's Deuteronomy commentary, which will cover chaps. 12-34. In light of the contributions of this present work, we are fortunate that we have not yet heard the last word from Weinfeld on Deuteronomy.
Dennis T. Olson
Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, KJ 08542