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Deuteronomy: Rewritten to Reflect on the Exile and Future Redemption

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Eckart Otto

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Deuteronomy: Rewritten to Reflect on the Exile and Future Redemption

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Deuteronomy: Rewritten to Reflect on the Exile and Future Redemption

Revised in the post-exilic period in the voice of Moses, Deuteronomy describes Judah’s destruction and exile to a foreign land כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה “as it is still the case” (Deuteronomy 29:27), but reassures the people that, at the end of days, Israel will be reconciled with YHWH, who will circumcise their hearts to ensure their permanent loyalty.

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Deuteronomy: Rewritten to Reflect on the Exile and Future Redemption

Kennicott Bible, 1476, ff. 117v-118r. Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Unlike the other books of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy is framed primarily as Moses addressing the Israelites in the first-person discourse, telling them in his own words what YHWH’s rules and expectations are.

In my reconstruction of Deuteronomy’s composition history,[1] the oldest, pre-exilic layer of Deuteronomy in the 7th century B.C.E.—the core of the legal section (chs. *12–*26)—did not feature Moses as the speaker; instead YHWH himself, addressed the people of Israel directly.[2] Only in the exilic period, when later Deuteronomic scribes became familiar with some form of what is now the book of Exodus, did Moses come to be seen as a mediator of the divine revelation, and the law collection at the core of the book was recast in this way.

In the middle of the legal section, in a supplement that belongs to the exilic layer of Deuteronomy (6th cent. B.C.E.),[3] Moses characterizes himself as the archetype of all true future prophets:

דברים יח:טו נָבִיא מִקִּרְבְּךָ מֵאַחֶיךָ כָּמֹנִי יָקִים לְךָ יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵלָיו תִּשְׁמָעוּן.
Deut 18:15 YHWH your God will raise up for you a prophet from among your own people like myself, him you shall heed.

Moses goes on to explain that the people expressed fear of hearing YHWH directly at Horeb and asked for an intermediary (v. 16), and YHWH acceded to their request:

דברים יח:יז וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הוָה אֵלָי הֵיטִיבוּ אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּרוּ. יח:יח נָבִיא אָקִים לָהֶם מִקֶּרֶב אֲחֵיהֶם כָּמוֹךָ וְנָתַתִּי דְבָרַי בְּפִיו וְדִבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶם אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּנּוּ.
Deut 18:17 YHWH said to me, “they have done well in speaking thus. 18:18 I shall raise up a prophet for them from among their brethren like you. I shall put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I commanded him…”

These verses do not envision ancient Near Eastern-style court prophets, soothsayers, and augurs, who delivered divine messages and predictions directly to the king, as we see elsewhere in the Bible.[4] Instead, these Deuteronomistic authors envision a prophet who speaks directly to a large group of (non-royal) people; Moses is the archetype for this type of prophet.

From Archetype Prophet to Arch-Prophet: Post-Exilic Revision

The stature of Moses increases in Deuteronomy’s post-exilic revision (5th cent. B.C.E.),[5] in which Moses moved from the archetype for later prophets to the arch-prophet, with a level of closeness to the deity that could never be duplicated. So says the Torah’s epitaph:

דברים לד:י וְלֹא קָם נָבִיא עוֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוֹ יְ־הוָה פָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים. לד:יא לְכָל הָאֹתוֹת וְהַמּוֹפְתִים אֲשֶׁר שְׁלָחוֹ יְ־הוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם לְפַרְעֹה וּלְכָל עֲבָדָיו וּלְכָל אַרְצוֹ. לד:יב וּלְכֹל הַיָּד הַחֲזָקָה וּלְכֹל הַמּוֹרָא הַגָּדוֹל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה לְעֵינֵי כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל.
Deut 34:10 Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom YHWH knew face to face 34:11 for the various signs and wonders that YHWH sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his land, 34:12 and all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

The הָאֹתוֹת וְהַמּוֹפְתִים “the signs and wonders” Moses is said to have done here is the same phrase used earlier to describe YHWH’s deeds:

דברים כט:א וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אַתֶּם רְאִיתֶם אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְ־הוָה לְעֵינֵיכֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְפַרְעֹה וּלְכָל עֲבָדָיו וּלְכָל אַרְצוֹ. כט:ב הַמַּסּוֹת הַגְּדֹלֹת אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ הָאֹתֹת וְהַמֹּפְתִים הַגְּדֹלִים הָהֵם.
Deut 29:1 Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: You have seen all that YHWH did before your very eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his courtiers and to his whole country: 29:2 the tremendous feats that you saw with your own eyes, those tremendous signs and wonders.

Thus, Moses is (almost) on par with YHWH, who knows Moses face to face. This depiction of Moses gives Deuteronomy the character of a prophetic book, and adds heft to its “predictions” about Israel’s future.

Moses Predicts the Exile: Deuteronomy 4

An early chapter of Deuteronomy (also post-exilic) has Moses predicting Israel’s Babylonian exile, brought about by Israel’s future sinfulness:

דברים ד:כה כִּי תוֹלִיד בָּנִים וּבְנֵי בָנִים וְנוֹשַׁנְתֶּם בָּאָרֶץ וְהִשְׁחַתֶּם וַעֲשִׂיתֶם פֶּסֶל תְּמוּנַת כֹּל וַעֲשִׂיתֶם הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְהַכְעִיסוֹ.
Deut 4:25 When you have children and children’s children and become complacent in the land, if you act corruptly by making an idol in the form of anything for yourself, thus doing what is evil in the sight of YHWH your God and provoking him to anger,

In reaction to this sinfulness, Moses warns Israel that they will be removed from the land:

דברים ד:כו הַעִידֹתִי בָכֶם הַיּוֹם אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ כִּי אָבֹד תֹּאבֵדוּן מַהֵר מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ לֹא תַאֲרִיכֻן יָמִים עָלֶיהָ כִּי הִשָּׁמֵד תִּשָּׁמֵדוּן. ד:כז וְהֵפִיץ יְ־הוָה אֶתְכֶם בָּעַמִּים וְנִשְׁאַרְתֶּם מְתֵי מִסְפָּר בַּגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר יְנַהֵג יְ־הוָה אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה.
Deut 4:26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy, where YHWH will lead you. 4:27 YHWH will scatter you among the peoples, and only a scant few of you shall be left among the nations to which YHWH will drive you.

This exile from the land will lead to the loss of connection to YHWH, which in turn, will finally bring the Israelites to repent and reestablish their connection with the deity:

דברים ד:כח וַעֲבַדְתֶּם שָׁם אֱלֹהִים מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי אָדָם עֵץ וָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִרְאוּן וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּן וְלֹא יֹאכְלוּן וְלֹא יְרִיחֻן. ד:כט וּבִקַּשְׁתֶּם מִשָּׁם אֶת יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּמָצָאתָ כִּי תִדְרְשֶׁנּוּ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ. ד:ל בַּצַּר לְךָ וּמְצָאוּךָ כֹּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלוֹ.
Deut 4:28 There you will serve other gods made by human hands, objects of wood and stone that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 4:29 From there you will seek YHWH your God and find him if you search after him with all your heart and being. 4:30 In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in the end of days, you will return to YHWH your God and heed him.

The phrase “in the end of days” is not simply an expression for a theologically underdetermined “later,” rather, it has an eschatological connotation. The post-exilic authors of the fifth century are utilizing Moses’ arch-prophetic voice to assure the returning Judeans that with future repentance comes an eschatological reconciliation with YHWH:

דברים ד:לא כִּי אֵל רַחוּם יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא יַרְפְּךָ וְלֹא יַשְׁחִיתֶךָ וְלֹא יִשְׁכַּח אֶת בְּרִית אֲבֹתֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לָהֶם.
Deut 4:31 Because YHWH your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you, he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.

This prophetic reassurance towards the beginning of Deuteronomy functions as the counterpart to Moses’ message towards the end of Deuteronomy, which I will now explore.[6]

Reflecting on the Exile: Deuteronomy 29–30

After Moses has mediated YHWH’s covenant with Israel on the plains of Moab (Deut 29:1–14), another prophecy of doom and salvation follows (Deut 29:15–30:20). This time, Moses frames his description from the point of view of non-Israelites looking upon the destroyed land of Israel and wondering what the people did to deserve this fate:

דברים כט:כא וְאָמַר הַדּוֹר הָאַחֲרוֹן בְּנֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר יָקוּמוּ מֵאַחֲרֵיכֶם וְהַנָּכְרִי אֲשֶׁר יָבֹא מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה וְרָאוּ אֶת מַכּוֹת הָאָרֶץ הַהִוא וְאֶת תַּחֲלֻאֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר חִלָּה יְ־הוָה בָּהּ... כט:כג וְאָמְרוּ כָּל הַגּוֹיִם עַל מֶה עָשָׂה יְ־הוָה כָּכָה לָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת מֶה חֳרִי הָאַף הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה.
Deut 29:21 When the next generation, your children, will grow up after you, and a foreigner who arrives from a distant land sees the plagues of the land and the diseases by which YHWH has made it sick… 29:23 then all peoples will ask: Why did YHWH do this to this land? What is the meaning of such frenzied, furious anger?

Moses then offers a rebuke of Israel by having the non-Israelites posit an answer that comports with Deuteronomy’s theology:

דברים כט:כד וְאָמְרוּ עַל אֲשֶׁר עָזְבוּ אֶת בְּרִית יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתָם אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת עִמָּם בְּהוֹצִיאוֹ אֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. כט:כה וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיַּעַבְדוּ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא יְדָעוּם וְלֹא חָלַק לָהֶם.
Deut 29:24 Then people will answer: It is because they abandoned the covenant of YHWH, the God of their fathers, which he made with them, when he brought them out of Egypt. 29:25 They turned to the service of other gods and worshipped them, gods, whom they had not experienced and whom He had not allotted to them.

The author then tips his hand with a reference to the “curses in this book” which lacks any semblance of verisimilitude, as if the non-Israelite onlookers were reading out of the book of Deuteronomy itself:

כט:כו וַיִּחַר אַף יְ־הוָה בָּאָרֶץ הַהִוא לְהָבִיא עָלֶיהָ אֶת כָּל הַקְּלָלָה הַכְּתוּבָה בַּסֵּפֶר הַזֶּה. כט:כז וַיִּתְּשֵׁם יְ־הוָה מֵעַל אַדְמָתָם בְּאַף וּבְחֵמָה וּבְקֶצֶף גָּדוֹל וַיַּשְׁלִכֵם אֶל אֶרֶץ אַחֶרֶת כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה.
Deut 29:26 This was why YHWH was incensed at that land and brought upon it all the curses recorded in this book. 29:27 YHWH uprooted them from their soil in anger fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as is still the case.

The phrase כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה “as it is still the case” shows that the author was one of the Judahites who experienced exile and diaspora. In other words, Moses is depicted as speaking from the perspective of a post-exilic person looking back on the destruction that occurred and at Judeans who are still living in the diaspora after the exile.[7]

As in chapter 4 (quoted above), Moses here too states that after this devastating punishment, Israel will recognize their sinfulness and return to their deity:

דברים ל:א וְהָיָה כִי יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחֲךָ יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה. ל:ב וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְקֹלוֹ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ.
Deut 30:1 When the time arrives that all these things have come upon you, both the blessings and the curses, which I have presented to you, and you are among the peoples to which YHWH your God has driven you, then at last you will begin to think about what has happened to you 30:2 and you will return to YHWH your God and listen to what he has said, which will be exactly, what I am ordering you today, you and your children, with all your heart and all your being.

In response, YHWH will accept this repentance and be reconciled with them:

דברים ל:ג וְשָׁב יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת שְׁבוּתְךָ וְרִחֲמֶךָ וְשָׁב וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה.
Deut 30:3 Then YHWH your God will reverse your turning away and take you back in love from all the peoples, where YHWH your God had scattered you.[8]

Thus, bookending Deuteronomy, Moses prophesizes that Israel will sin, receive a devastating punishment, and then be reconciled with YHWH.

YHWH’s Own Words: Just Doom

The next chapter in Deuteronomy has YHWH communicate Israel’s future directly to Moses. Surprisingly, YHWH speaks only about sin and punishment, with nary a word about reconciliation:

דברים לא:טז וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם אֲבֹתֶיךָ וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ וַעֲזָבַנִי וְהֵפֵר אֶת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אִתּוֹ.
Deut 31:16 YHWH said to Moses: Soon you will lie down with your ancestors. Then this people will begin to prostitute themselves to foreign gods in their midst, the gods of the land into which they are going. When they are with those gods, they will abandon me, breaking my covenant, that I have made with them.

YHWH continues by describing the punishment they will receive, and how he will not respond to their cries:

דברים לא:יז וְחָרָה אַפִּי בוֹ בַיּוֹם הַהוּא וַעֲזַבְתִּים וְהִסְתַּרְתִּי פָנַי מֵהֶם וְהָיָה לֶאֱכֹל וּמְצָאֻהוּ רָעוֹת רַבּוֹת וְצָרוֹת וְאָמַר בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא הֲלֹא עַל כִּי אֵין אֱלֹהַי בְּקִרְבִּי מְצָאוּנִי הָרָעוֹת הָאֵלֶּה. לא:יח וְאָנֹכִי הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר פָּנַי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא עַל כָּל הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה כִּי פָנָה אֶל אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים.
Deut 31:17 Then my anger will flare up, and I will abandon them and hide my face from them. They will be devoured, and many calamities und trouble will come upon them. Then they will ask: Have not these calamities come upon us because our God is not here with us? 31:18 But I shall be hiding my face from them because of all the evil they will have done in turning to other gods.

Contrary to Moses’ prophecies in chapters 4 and 29, Deuteronomy here lacks a message of salvation, putting Moses’ prophecies in some tension with YHWH’s message.[9] This tension is intentional; the reader shall see this tension and await its theological solution.[10]

The Song, Haʾazinu, as a Witness

YHWH continues by commanding Moses to teach a specific shirah, “song” or “poem,” that will function as a witness against the Israelites:

דברים לא:יט וְעַתָּה כִּתְבוּ לָכֶם אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת וְלַמְּדָהּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שִׂימָהּ בְּפִיהֶם לְמַעַן תִּהְיֶה לִּי הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת לְעֵד בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
Deut 31:19 Therefore write down this poem and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouth, in order that this poem may be my witness against the people of Israel.

The song is for when Israel, in the future, sins and is punished, and it will function as evidence that YHWH warned them that this would happen before they even entered the land.[11] But the song continues with a distinct, if subtle, hint at the reconciliation that will occur after the destruction and exile.

Haʾazinu Hints at Salvation

The song begins with calling on the heavens and earth to witness YHWH’s testimony, paralleling Moses’ words in his speech in chapter 4 (v. 26), tying the two warnings together. The first part of the song speaks of YHWH’s judgment for Israel,[12] but in the second part, YHWH implies that a remnant of Israel will survive:

דברים לב:כו אָמַרְתִּי אַפְאֵיהֶם אַשְׁבִּיתָה מֵאֱנוֹשׁ זִכְרָם. לב:כז לוּלֵי כַּעַס אוֹיֵב אָגוּר פֶּן יְנַכְּרוּ צָרֵימוֹ פֶּן יֹאמְרוּ יָדֵינוּ רָמָה וְלֹא יְ־הוָה פָּעַל כָּל זֹאת.
Deut 32:26 I said, “I will make an end of them and blot out the memory of them from humankind,” 32:27 but I feared provocation by the enemy, for their adversaries might misunderstand and say, “Our hand is triumphant; it was not YHWH who did all this.”[13]

Later YHWH offers a vague promise to vindicate his people:

דברים לב:לו כִּי יָדִין יְ־הוָה עַמּוֹ וְעַל עֲבָדָיו יִתְנֶחָם כִּי יִרְאֶה כִּי אָזְלַת יָד וְאֶפֶס עָצוּר וְעָזוּב.
Deut 32:36 Indeed, YHWH will vindicate his people, have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, neither bond nor free remaining.

YHWH also promises to wreak vengeance on those who brought about Israel’s destruction (even if YHWH himself decreed it!):

דברים לב:מ כִּי אֶשָּׂא אֶל שָׁמַיִם יָדִי וְאָמַרְתִּי חַי אָנֹכִי לְעֹלָם. לב:מא אִם שַׁנּוֹתִי בְּרַק חַרְבִּי וְתֹאחֵז בְּמִשְׁפָּט יָדִי אָשִׁיב נָקָם לְצָרָי וְלִמְשַׂנְאַי אֲשַׁלֵּם.
Deut 32:40 For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, as I live forever, 32:41 when I whet my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me.

Unlike the Mosaic prophecies, Deuteronomy leaves YHWH’s promise of vindication vague, without YHWH stating outright what will happen to Israel after the exile. Why is YHWH so vague about redemption, merely pointing to the song with its many allusions as opposed to making a straight out promise?

I suggest that the nature of the song holds the key. Haʾazinu is a patchwork of quotations and allusions to passages in the Prophets, especially to the Book of Isaiah, the Psalms, especially the Asaph-Psalms, and Proverbs, all of which point to Israel’s future redemption. Indeed, Haʾazinu functions on two levels: the text of the song in the foreground and the quoted and alluded texts of as the background.[14] The implied message then is that this proto-canon of scripture as a whole represents the divine promise of redemption.[15]

The Concealed Acts: Salvation

Moses’ second prophecy to Israel about the future actually addresses the hidden or implied nature of YHWH’s promise of Israel’s future redemption in a verse that sits on the borderline between the message of doom in chapter 29 and that of reconciliation in chapter 30:

דברים כט:כח הַנִּסְתָּרֹת לַי־הוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ עַד עוֹלָם לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת.
Deut 29:28 Concealed acts are with YHWH our God but overt acts are with us and our children forever, to apply all the words of this torah.

In the context of the passages analyzed above, the overt acts are the sins of the people of Israel, and the concealed acts are how YHWH will deal with these sins. This includes not just the explicit punishments of Israel but also Israel’s eschatological redemption by YHWH by the circumcision of the heart.

Circumcision of the Heart: Reassuring the Returnees

The authors of chapter 30 have Moses reveal some of the mechanics of the נִסְתָּרֹת “concealed acts,” thus solving a theological problem that they were dealing with in the post-exilic period: If the Israelites return to YHWH, as Moses claims here and in chapter 4, will they again be in danger to serving other gods and their idols in the future and thus be punished again? Is the dialectic of doom and salvation cyclical?

Moses thus explains in chapter 30 that once Israel repents, and YHWH returns them to the land, their hearts will be forever changed to make any future disloyalty impossible:

דברים ל:ו וּמָל יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת לְבָבְךָ וְאֶת לְבַב זַרְעֶךָ לְאַהֲבָה אֶת יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ לְמַעַן חַיֶּיךָ.
Deut 30:6 Then YHWH your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children, so that you will love YHWH your God with all your heart and all your being and you will live.

Thus, one aspect of salvation will be that Israel will return to the Promised Land. More significantly, after this return YHWH will circumcise the hearts of the Israelites and their progeny so that they will follow all His commandments forever.[16]

This verse alludes to the circumcision of the foreskin in Genesis 17:10–11 as the sign of the everlasting covenant between YHWH and Israel, such that circumcision of the heart becomes the climax of a theology of the covenant in the Torah.[17]

The eschatological circumcision of the heart guarantees that Israel shall not again transgress YHWH’s commandments and so lose its final salvation. This eschatological finale of Israel’s history will mean the end of all Israel’s pre-eschatological history and the dawning of a new age.

Published

August 28, 2023

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Last Updated

February 24, 2024

Footnotes

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Prof. Eckart Otto is Ordinarius (emeritus) of the Ludwig Maximilians-Universität München and Honorary Professor at the University of Pretoria (South Africa). He holds a Ph.D. and Habilitation in Theology from the University of Hamburg. Otto is the author of a 4-volume German commentary on Deuteronomy (2012-2017) for Herder's theological commentary on the Old Testament series (HThKAT), and among his many monographs are Theologische Ethik des Alten Testaments (Kohlhammer, 1994); Das Deuteronomium: Politische Theologie und Rechtsreform in Juda und Assyrien (de Gruyter 1999); Gottes Recht als Menschenrecht. Rechts- und literaturhistorische Studien zum Deuteronomium (Wiesbaden 2002); and Mose: Geschichte und Legende (2006).