Session 5 (Study Day): The Deuteronomistic History Part 1


By the end of this session you should be able to: 

  • understand the significance of the figure of Moses in the Old Testament;

  • describe the structure of the book of Deuteronomy and begin to understand the theological themes of the Deuteronomistic History;

  • continue to develop an understanding of Israelite laws and their significance;

  • identify the geographical areas key to the Old Testament and its stories and to understand its significance

Zoom Link, Programme & Preparation

In preparation for the study day please complete the two sections below and bring your thoughts on the exercises to the Study Day for discussion in groups.


Deuteronomy is a key book in the Old Testament and its themes reverberate through the nation's history.  Gordon Wenham (2003) goes as far as to call it “arguably the most influential book of the Old Testament” (p.123). It presents laws that emphasize social justice and personal responsibility, charging the Israelites to care for the weak, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow.  As we will see in session 7 these themes will be taken up by the prophets. In terms of authorship, as Hayes clearly notes, it would have been impossible for Moses to have been the author of the end of this book and, because of its themes and textual features, it is highly likely that much of it was compiled in the 8th Century BCE with some parts being edited and completed as late as the 6th Century BCE.



Make a note of the major themes of the book of Deuteronomy and reflect on how these relate to our faith today.


Make notes of your thoughts for discussion in the group session.


The book of Joshua begins the story of the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelite tribes - a small strip of land, control and habitation of which, as Hayes notes, has been the cause of more wars and battles over the last 4000 years than any other (2012, p188).



Make a note of the structure of the the book of Joshua and the three possible theories for the emergence of Israel in the land of Canaan. 


Why do you think this particular piece of land has been so fought over and desired?

The ending of the book of Joshua with its call to remember the Covenant, to hold fast to it, to serve Yahweh and not to intermarry is an important moment as the Israelites settle into the land that God has promised them.




As Wenham notes, the wars in the Old Testament conflict with the concern to preserve human life written into the Law (p137) .  There are other problems too. Consider the story of Rahab in the light of Joshua's insistence on keeping the laws of the Torah.  Rahab outrightly defies one of the the ten commandments and yet in doing so she saves her people and helps to secure the nation's future. God blesses her for this.  This raises some interesting moral questions and dilemmas, for instance, in what situations do you think that it is OK to lie (for example, those who hid Jews in the second world war)?   Make notes of your thoughts for discussion in the group session.

Image by Gigi

Study Skills: Theological Reflection

From the Resources section below, download and read the document 'Theological Reflection'.  Next look at the scenario in the document 'Theol Reflection: An Example'.  The video below starts at the point in the afternoon where we had done these two things, discussed the scenario in breakout rooms and then come back together for a plenary discussion.


Spend some time prayerfully thinking about what you have discovered in this session.  Below, in the Resources section, you will find some resources from the Study Day for you to download and keep.


Blessed are you, Lord our God, all things come from you:

from you come our life, this world and all that we have and are.

Teach us to love and respect your creation and give glory to you.

Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen

To Do in Church This Week

Listen carefully to the words of the service - the liturgy, the hymns, the intrecessions and the readings.  How much of the theology of the book of Deuteronomy can you hear? Make a note of what you find - what are you hearing and where it is located within the service?

Post your findings on the discussion board in the Forum (optional this week).