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Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Deuteronomy (NIV Application Commentary, The)"

TITLE: Deuteronomy (NIV Application Commentary, The)
AUTHOR: Daniel I. Block
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (880 pages).

Deuteronomy is more important than what many of us may have thought. Daniel Block,  Old Testament Professor at Wheaton College, has reminded us again that if anyone has a negative view of the Old Testament, the book of Deuteronomy is the antidote. Jewish tradition has called the book the "Torah." The Church fathers have tried to interpret the book "Chrsistologically," just like the Apostle Paul. The Reformers like Luther and Calvin tend to elevate the point of grace and their efforts have unwittingly put down the place of Old Testament law. Modern scholarship during the Enlightenment era tends to be more critical, seeing Deuteronomy more as "pseudepigraphic" (meaning not written by Moses, but use the name of Moses), or primarily a book re-discovered by Josiah for the purpose of reforming Israel. Still, other scholars have pointed to Moses being merely a "legendary" figure. More recently, scholars have painted Deuteronomy as a book to help tide the people of God over during a time of crisis.

Block dispels these by affirming the place of Deuteronomy as a book of expositions by Moses, interpreting law from the lens of God's grace. It is Moses who ordered the Torah to be written and placed with the Ark. It is Moses who has personally given the sermons to remind the people of Israel to remember, to be taught about the book of the Law, and to learn to trust and love God. Here are some of Block's key observations about Deuteronomy.

  • It provides a "theological base" for virtually the Old as well as the New testaments.
  • There is no doubt about Moses as the author of the book.
  • The Torah is Moses's "inspired commentary on the covenent" between God and Israel
  • The Torah refers expressly to "the speeches of Moses"
  • Deuteronomy is the conclusion of the Pentateuch
  • If Deuteronomy is not authoritative, it has direct implications on the authoritativeness of other books, like the Psalms, the Prophets, and large parts of the New Testament.
  • Paul is the Moses of the New Testament
  • The sequence of hearing Deuteronomy:
    "Reading > Hearing > Learning > Fear > Obedience > Life"

Block says that we need to interpret the book beginning with reading it as an "ancient" document written for those times. Secondly, the book is seen as "eternal truth," that every command has minimally a principle truth to be held. Thirdly, the original meaning can uncover new significance for modern world. Five theological themes are highlighted.
  1. The book begins and ends with God
  2. It is a comprehensive picture of God's relationship with the people of God
  3. It is a thorough treatment of the covenant
  4. Theology of land is well developed
  5. It provides instructions for the administration of the covenant.
The five main blocks of the book comprises the first sermon, the second sermon, the third sermon, the song of Moses, and finally the benediction of Moses. The first sermon talks about the need to remember God's providence and remember the grace of God. The second sermon explains the grace of God. The third sermon touches on trusting the grace of God. 

The commentary follows a set manner. It begins with a passage from the New International Translation version. Block goes on to provide an "original meaning" (first hermeneutical step), describing the genre, the author, the addressee, the time etc. Next comes the bridge (second hermeneutical step). Finally, the significance for the contemporary world is put under "contemporary significance" (third hermeneutical step). Interspersed throughout the commentary are tables, illustrations, and multiple footnotes to guide the reader toward deeper research and understanding. 

This is a great commentary from an application angle. Block makes sure that the scholarship involved does not wear down the reader. Exegesis has been provided when the contexts require it. The strongest part of the commentary comes from the application perspective and the way to interpret the book with New Testament grace. I appreciate the way Block has honed upon the book as an exposition of the law rather than mere repetition of the Law. This is something very practical for modern ears especially for those of us who like to hear expository sermons week after week. It is also very illuminating on how Moses interprets the law, and on how Paul follows this pattern in his writings of the epistles. Without a doubt, if there is any one recent book to help increase in readers a love for the book of Deuteronomy, it is this commentary. 

Indeed, if there is another title for the book of Deuteronomy, instead of the Law of the Lord, it can also be seen as the love and grace of the Lord, demonstrated through the Torah. 

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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