Book Review – The Message of Deuteronomy (Raymond Brown)

The book of Deuteronomy brings us more than a simple reiteration of the law, but a series of sermons that teach about the character of God, revelation and grace. They were full of practical application of how God’s law should be put into effect in everyday life. This is how Brown introduces the book to us, and from the outset he declares his intent to take the paradigms and find their contemporary relevance, rather than simply dismissing the teaching as “no longer applicable”.

In the early chapters Brown draws some leadership lessons from the life of Moses, but from then on the dominant theme is the character of God. As his fine section on the Ten Commandments shows, the laws are not simply designed to teach us how to obey God, but how to be like God. He accepts analysis of the structure of the book that link it to an ancient treaty document, with its stipulations in general and specific terms as well as warnings against breaking the covenant. In this model the Lord is the “suzerain” who would provide benefits to his “vassal people” the Israelites if they kept the terms of the covenant which are spelled out in some detail.

Even though he is commenting on an Old Testament book, he is quite willing to make links with New Testament passages to show how these things apply in the New Covenant. In fact rather than a verse by verse exposition, he typically will turn a section into a sermon, drawing out the principles and including examples for contemporary application.

Brown does not shy away either from discussing some of the “difficult” sections. These include harsh punishments, obscure prohibitions and even some commands to wipe out certain nations. Without pretending to provide easy answers, his comments bring some perspective on the reasons and context, but also look ahead to the law of Christ expressed in the New Testament.

The end of the book describes the blessings and curses for obeying or disobeying the ‘treaty’, along with provision for the new leadership of Joshua. Lots of space is given to the song of Moses and his blessings of the tribes, whilst the well-known blessings and curses of chapter 28 are passed over surprisingly quickly.

There are approximately 10 pages of commentary for each of the 34 chapters of Deuteronomy, making it a realistic prospect to read this book alongside a daily reading of one chapter from the Bible. This makes a welcome change from some in the BST series that dwarf the size of the book on which they are commentating.

Deuteronomy is regularly quoted by the New Testament writers, but is perhaps not so well known and loved by modern Christians. Brown’s commentary serves as a valuable guide to the main themes and lessons that this book has to offer.

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  1. Pingback: Commentary Series Review – Bible Speaks Today « wordandspirit

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