Deuteronomy and the covenant treaty form

DEUTERONOMY 1 International treaties drafted between suzerains' (overlords) and vassals (subject peoples) during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C. closely parallel the structure of the book of Deuteronomy.2 The best-preserved examples of these treaties come from the Hittites, but treaties from Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt demonstrate that a similar form was commonly used. The suzerain-vassal form of treaty also defined the relationship of God (suzerain) to his people (vassals), as evidenced in the overall form, as well as the content, of Deuteronomy. The Hittite treaties of the fourteenth through thirteenth centuries B.C. differ somewhat from later Assyrian treaties of the eighth through seventh centuries B.C. In these later treaties the historical prologue and the blessings disappear, a greater emphasis is placed on the curses and the order of elements is more variable.

Deuteronomy's closer connection to the earlier treaties confirms that this book was written during the Mosaic period, not in Israel's late monarchic period (late seventh century B.c.), as many scholars contend.3 Furthermore, Deuteronomy's close correspondence of form to these earlier treaties strongly suggests that the book should be considered an essential literary unit rather than a later composite of materials from various sources.


DEUTERONOMY 2. Centered beyond the Euphrates River in the Kharbur Valley of northern Mesopotamia, the kingdom of Mitanni encompassed a league of Indo-European Hurrian states. It became the most powerful kingdom in Mesopotamia and Syria during much of the fifteenth through fourteenth centuries B.C., the probable time frame for the Israelite exodus and conquest. Although Mitanni is never mentioned in the Bible, its economic and cultural influence unquestionably affected the perspectives and lifestyles of the Biblical world during the latter half of the second millennium B.C. And this kingdom's documented customs and social conditions enhance the credibility corresponding Biblical accounts of events during this period.

The details of Mitanni's history have for the most part been lost with the onrush of time, but a basic outline is clear. Tensions with Egypt to the south colored Mitanni's early years, but these stresses were eclipsed by Mitannian expansion during the latter half of the fifteenth century B.C. A dynastic marriage between Mitanni and Egypt around the turn of the ensuing century brought peace to the region, as well as thriving commerce, industry and arts.

But this harmony was shattered when northern neighbors, the Hittites under the leadership of King Suppiluliuma, began to subjugate a number of Mitanni's vassal states to the west. Seeing Mitanni's political situation in turmoil, the eastern kingdom of Assyria took advantage of her deteriorating circumstances to descend upon Mitanni, capturing her capital and ending Mitannian domination. Retaining little influence or power after this defeat, Mitanni still survived as a kingdom at least into the mind-thirteenth century B.C.

The Date of Deuteronomy

DEUTERONOMY 3 Until the nineteenth century most Biblical scholars simply assumed that Deuteronomy was written during

the days of Moses, its Biblically acknowledged author. The book is presented as an address from Moses' mouth, so its authorship and approximate date of origin were seen as self-evident.

Certain features of Deuteronomy, however, seem incompatible with Mosaic authorship. An obvious issue is that someone

other than Moses must have written the account of Moses' death and Joshua's assumption of leadership (34:5-12). On the other hand, it is important to realize that the central issue is not whether Moses wrote Deuteronomy precisely as it now reads, but whether he actually gave the speeches contained in the book. Thus it would be quite possible to accept that someone else

wrote about Moses' death and still not deny that the speeches are authentically Mosaic.

Some scholars, however, have questioned the entire notion of a Mosaic origin for Deuteronomy. Many of them contend

instead for a seventh-century B.C. date for its writing, associated with the reign of the reformer king Josiah. Such theologians/historians argue that the "Book of the Law"that was"found" during a renovation of the temple in Josiah's day (2Ki 22:8) was in fact Deuteronomy—but that the work itself was a pious fraud written by Josiah's officials to legitimize the king's reforms.

Critical to the argument either way is the comparison of Deuteronomy to other ancient Near Eastern "suzerain-vassal treaties."2 Because Deuteronomy is also a treaty (covenant) between a suzerain (God) and a vassal (Israel), it most likely dates to the time of the particular treaties it most closely resembles. Some scholars argue that Deuteronomy parallels fourteenth-century B.C. Hittite treaties (suggesting a traditional, fourteenth-century date for Dt as well), while others view it as more similar to the later, seventh-century B.C. Neo-Assyrian treaties. Incidental points have variously been used to support both sides of this argument:

    • Scholars supporting a later date point out that the order of the curses in Deuteronomy 27 and the Neo-Assyrian treaties dating from Esarhaddon's day are similar.

    • Deuteronomy and the Neo-Assyrian treaties share such phrases as "to go after" ("to fear" and "to listen to the voice of."

    • But historians supporting an earlier date point out that Hittite treaties included a historical prologue like Deuteronomy, a feature lacking in their Neo-Assyrian counterparts.

    • Deuteronomy and the Hittite treaties both use the word "love" to indicate the sovereign's fidelity to the vassal, but such usage is absent in the later, Neo-Assyrian treaties (where love is only commanded of the vassal). An identical, dual use of "love" appears among the Amarna letters, fourteenth-century B.C. correspondence between Egypt and its vassals and allies in Syria-Palestine.

    • Most significantly, the overall structure of Deuteronomy more closely follows the structure of Hittite (fourteenth century B.C.) the Neo-Assyrian (seventh century B.C.) treaties.

Another issue related to the dating of Deuteronomy is its similarity to the so-called "Deuteronomistic" texts of other Biblical books. Some scholars contend that several other Old Testament books reflect a theological perspective similar to that of Deuteronomy, citing this as the reason this particular viewpoint has been dubbed Deuteronomistic. Many of these other Biblical texts date from the eighth to sixth centuries B.C. (e.g., Jer, Hos and portions of Sa and Ki). Based on this reasoning, such scholars argue that Deuteronomy was written during this time, when "Deuteronomistic" theology was in its ascendancy. Yet a strong case can be made that books like Hosea allude to a Deuteronomistic brand of theology that already existed—in the book of Deuteronomy.

The theological problem posed by the projected "late date" for Deuteronomy is significant. If the book is indeed a "pious fraud"written during the reign of Josiah, it is difficult to imagine how it could still be regarded as authoritative Scripture. Overall, arguments for dating Deuteronomy to the second millennium B.C., as well as for believing its speeches to be authentic and written by Moses, remain strong.

Ramoth (in) Gilead

DEUTERONOMY 4 Ramoth in Gilead, one of three cities of refuge set apart for the Transjordanian tribes, was apportioned to the tribe of Gad (Dt 4:43; Job 20:8; 21:38; 1Ch 6:80) and later given as a Levitical city to the sons of Merari (Jos 21:34-38). As a city of refuge, Ramoth was no doubt easily accessible, perhaps located along the King's Highway (Nu 20:17; 21:22; Dt 2:27). This city became a focus of conflict between Syria and the northern kingdom of the divided Israel during the reigns of Ahab, Joram and Jehu (874-814 B.C.).

The Hebrew Ramoth "heights" or "knolls." Gilead is an elevated region extending between Heshbon and Bashan, divided by the Jabbok River and heavily wooded during the Biblical period. The status of Ramoth in Gilead during the period of the conquest in not directly indicated, but other cities in the same region are referred to as havvoth ("tent-villages"; Nu 32:41; 1Ki 4:13). Perhaps Ramoth at this stage of its history was an unfortified population center.

The site of Ramoth in Gilead has not been firmly identified, but the location most commonly accepted, Tell Ramith, seems too far north to be a part of the inheritance of the tribe of Gad. Paul Lapp's excavations of the site during the 1940s revealed iron Age II fortifications (1000-800 B.C.) and the bedrock level there dates from the period of salomon. Other site suggestions include locations south of the Jabbok River. If Ramoth in Gilead was essentially a tent village during the conquest period, there is little hope that surviving archaeological remains will be sufficient to make identification certain.

Lesser Known People of the Old Testament

DEUTERONOMY 7 At the time of the conquest, the population of Syria-Palestine was a mixture of various ethnic elements., Seven people groups, however, are mentioned repeatedly:

  • Hittites: The Hittite Empire, centered at Hattusus (Boghazkoey, Turkey), extended to Hamath and Qadesh in Syria, but isolated groups were located in central Judah. Several patriarchs encountered Hittites: See, for example, Genesis 23, 26-34 and 2 Samuel 11:3. Those Hittites not exterminated during Joshua's conquest maintained separate status until Solomon consigned them to forced labor (2Ch 8:7-8), and they eventually blended in with the people of Israel.

  • Girgashites: Not much is known of this group, though the name grgsh is mentioned in Ugaritic texts.They probably lived east of the Sea of Galilee.

    • Amorites: A people called Amurru controlled portions of Syria and Babylon, but "Amorite"is used in the Bible as a broad ethnic label, referring to the general population of the Holy Land (e.g., Ge 15:16). As such, the term is essentially interchangeable with "Canaanite." It often refers, however, to the population of the hills (e.g., Nu 13:29) and is used specifically of two kings in the Transjordan, Sihon and 0g,2 who were conquered under Moses' leadership (Nu 21:21-31).0ther Amorite centers were Ai, Hebron, Jarmuth, Jerusalem, Eglon and the region of Lebanon.

    • Canaanites: The term "Canaanite" is often used generically of the population of the Holy Land (e.g., Ge 10:18; Jdg 4:23-24) or"the land of Canaan." Elsewhere its usage is limited to the population of the coastal regions, including southern Syria, and specifically to inhabitants of the valleys and plains, including the Jordan Valley (e.g., Jos 5:1; 11:3). "Canaanite" later came to mean "mer-chant" —the principal occupation of these coastal peoples (e.g., Job 41:6; Eze 17:4).

    • Perizzites: Located mainly in the hill country of Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh, the Perizzites were associated with the Jebusites (Jos 11:3)."Perizzites" may have meant"inhabitants of peasant villages."

    • Hivites: These people were located in the Lebanon region"from Mount Baal-Hermon to Lebo Hamath" (Jdg 3:3). "Hivite" may mean "tent-dweller" and refer to Bedouins.

    • Jebusites: This clan lived mainly in Jerusalem (called Jebus in some texts; e.g., Jdg 19:10-11) and the surrounding hills.The Jebusites maintained limited independence at least until the time of King David,who captured Jerusalem (2Sa 5:6-9) and later purchased the temple mound from a Jebusite,3 Araunah (25a 24:18-25).

The Laws of Eshnunna

DEUTERONOMY 9 Eshnunna,which lay east of Babylon, was for a brief period around 1800 B.C. a dominant city in Mesopotamia, and a code of laws has been discovered from this civilization. Judging from the fragments that remain of the laws' superscription, it appears that King Dadusha, successor of Naram-Sin (founder of the dynasty), issued this law code for his city. It is the earliest example of an Akkadian law code discovered to date and anticipates in form and content its successor, the much more famous Code of Hammurabi (who conquered Eshnunna in c. 1766 B.c.).

The code of Eshnunna is fairly short but covers a wide range of topics, including price controls for products like barley and wool and regulations involving theft, the status of slaves, marital relations, crimes of violence, and vicious animals. It includes, for example, laws concerning a dangerous ox and the liability of its owner, which are closely paralleled in Exodus 21:28-32.

The Eshnunna law code is significant for Biblical studies. It reconfirms that the Bible did not spring into existence in isolation from its larger cultural and political milieu, as well as reinforces that a code of laws similar to those we find in the Bible could have existed as early as the time of Moses (some historians have argued that the bulk of Israel's laws were very late, coming into existence long after Moses' day).

It is striking, however,that while the superscription to the Eshnunna code celebrates the military prowess and worthiness of King Dadusha, Deuteronomy 9 focuses on the weakness and unworthiness of Israel, thereby emphasizing God's grace.

The Treaty of Suppiluliumas

DEUTERONOMY 11 For much of the second half of the second millennium B.C., the dominant power in central Anatolia' (modern Turkey) was the Hittite' Empire. Among the greatest Hittite kings was Suppiluliumas I, who reigned from approximately 1380-1346 B.C. Suppiluliumas extended Hittite power to the southeast into Syria, where he struggled for supremacy against Egypt, Assyria and Mitanni. Aziru, king of the Syrian state of Amurru, recognizing that Hittite power was on the rise, broke his treaty with Egypt and submitted to Suppiluliumas.

One Hittite and six Akkadian copies of a treaty between Suppiluliumas and Aziru exist; all are fragmentary, but by comparing them scholars have been able to reconstruct a fairly complete version.The treaty required that Aziru submit to and support Suppiluliumas, who in turn was to protect Aziru.This covenant is broadly similar in outline to Deuteronomy, which is also a treaty between a suzerain (Yahweh) and a vassal (Israel). This treaty, therefore, provides a specific point of comparison to the covenant text that we call Deuteronomy.

The Suppiluliumas treaty begins with a preamble and a statement about the main objective of the treaty—that Aziru offer uncompromised devotion to Suppiluliumas (cf. Dt 1:1-5 and chs.5-6).The historical background follows (cf. 1:6 — 4:49). The treaty then delineates specific stipulations relating to military and extradition obligations (cf. chs. 7 —26). At that point the Suppiluliumas treaty calls on all gods and goddesses as witnesses and pronounces both curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience. Deuteronomy 27-30 also pronounces curses and blessings, but 30:19 calls upon heaven and Earth, not on lesser gods, as witnesses. The importance of these parallels can hardly be overstated. As pointed out in the more general article "The Date of Deuteronomy" on page 259, they indicate once again that Deuteronomy is remarkably similar in form and content to second millennium B.C. Hittite treaties and should for that-reason most likely be dated early rather than late.They also help us to understand the literary context for Deuteronomy.


DEUTERONOMY 12 Hammurabi (also called Hammurapi) was the sixth king of the first dynasty of Babylon. Reigning in approximately the eighteenth century B.C., he was a vigorous and successful, but not a spectacular king. However, because of the universal fame of the Law Code of Hammurabi, and especially because of the large stele (inscribed stone monument) of that name now housed in the Louvre in Paris, he is without question the most recognized figure of Mesopotamian history.

Hammurabi began his royal career ruling over a city (Babylon) that was but one of many vying for power at the time in Mesopotamia. Through cunning diplomacy and force of arms, however, Hammurabi defeated first his main rival to the south, Rim-sin of Larsa,and then his challenger to the north, Zimri-lim of Mari. The empire Hammurabi put together, however, collapsed after his death. The era of Hammurabi was in some respects quite literate. In addition to the famous law code, diplomatic and personal correspondence has survived from his court, providing us a picture of the man himself. He appears to have been somewhat harsh and arbitrary, though not altogether tyrannical. His law code was not original to him but followed a pattern that had already been set in Mesopotamian society. Some scholars have noted that the laws of Hammurabi do not appear to have been the basis for day-to-day adjudication in his time but instead were probably exemplary.

Setting up steles with the king's laws inscribed on them, moreover, served to remind the people of Hammurabi's authority over all his domain. Some have suggested that Hammurabi was in fact the Biblical Amraphel from Shinar (Ge 14:1,9), but few espouse this view today. Although Hammurabi's laws remind us that legal texts did exist in the early second millennium B.C. (contrary to those who date the Biblical books of the law to the late first millennium—a later date), there does not appear to be any direct connection between Hammurabi and the Bible.


DEUTERONOMY 16 Pentecost, Greek for "fiftieth," refers in the Old Testament to the Israelite Feast of Weeks—so called because it took place in the spring seven weeks, or 50 days (counting inclusively), after the beginning of the grain harvest (Lev 23:15; Dt 16:9-10).' The Greek name appears also in the Apocryphal works of Tobit (2:1) and 2 Maccabees (12:32),2 as well as in the writings of the ancient Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities,310.6) and in the New Testament (Ac 2:1; 20:16; 1Co 16:8). The actual mention of 50 days comes from Leviticus 23:16.

Pentecost is one of three major Israelite festivals at which all males were required to appear before the Lord at the central sanctuary to make an offering (Dt 16:16; the other two are the Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles).The Feast of Weeks came at the close of the period of grain harvests, ending with the wheat harvest, which took place in the spring.3

Although verse 12 enjoined the Israelites to reflect at the time of this feast upon their slavery in Egypt, there is no other connection made between the festival and any important events in Israel's history, in contrast to Passover, and Tabernacles. In all probability the Old Testament Pentecost commemoration retained thanksgiving for the harvest as its primary focus. The main stipulations of verses 10-11 were to make a freewill offering to God and to conduct communal celebration in all the villages of Israel. Both of these elements are naturally linked to harvest time, with the offering being a means of thanking God for the harvest and the celebration a common element of harvest time remembrances in ancient agrarian societies (cf. Ru 3:7; Isa 9:3).

Christians naturally question the link between Old Testament Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. But already in the Old Testament there was a link between the agricultural blessings of rain and a good harvest and the spiritual blessings of the outpouring of the Spirit. This is especially clear in Joel,where a promise of rain and a good harvest (Joel 2:21-27) is immediately followed by a promise of the pouring out of the Spirit (Joel 2:28-32). In light of this connection, it makes sense that the gift of the Spirit is associated for Christians with Pentecost, an agricultural thanksgiving holiday.

Akkadian Divination

DEUTERONOMY 18 Deuteronomy 18:9 — 14 prohibited the Israelites from making use of diviners and sorcerers, who engaged in activities God regarded as detestable practices of the nations. Many ancient peoples, however, regarded divination, the attempt to find and interpret omens from the gods, as a science handed down from heaven. In fact, an enormous amount of Akkadian literature was devoted to cataloging particular signs and their meanings.

A few of the numerous means of divination practiced in Old Testament times were the reading of animal entrails (extispicy), the observation of patterns in oil dropped onto water (lecanomancy) and dream interpretation (oneiromancy). The extrabiblical omen texts assigned specific meanings to possible outcomes with regard to each sign. For example:

    • If a drop of oil spilled on water split in two, a sick individual would die or an army would fail to return from battle.

  • If a person dreamed about a dog ripping his or her clothing, that individual was in for a financial loss.

  • A black cat in someone's house was a sign of good fortune.

    • Magical texts also provided incantations useful in specific situations (e.g., there was an incantation to cure sick livestock).

In the Bible such natural events are never regarded as omens. There are no incantations for practicing magic or for counteracting evil portents. Although both Joseph and Daniel interpreted dreams based upon God's leading, no code for oneiromancy may be found iii Scripture. Rather, interpretation comes from God (Ge 40:8) and relates only to specific situations. God did provide Israel with a mysterious form of casting lots in the Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:29 — 30; 1Sa 14:36-41), but the lack of any Biblical description or explanation of these tools seems significant. It would appear that the texts do not intend for the reader to focus on or attempt to replicate these items.

The Hittite Laws

DEUTERONOMY 21 Many historians date Biblical law texts to fairly late in Israel's history. Explicitly or implicitly, they view regulations such as those spelled out in Exodus or Deuteronomy as too complex and advanced to stem from such a "primitive" period as that of Moses and Joshua. As already discussed in "The Middle Assyrian Laws" and "The Laws of Eshnunna", however, the discoveries of lengthy and detailed law codes from the ancient Near East would seem to belie this notion.

The Hittite laws have come to us in two versions, the first from the Old Kingdom period (c. 1600-1400 B.c.) and the second from the Middle Kingdom and Empire periods (c. 1400-1200). The second iteration parallels the first, being similar in order and content. Hittite laws deal with many of the same issues as their Biblical counterparts: quarrels resulting in maiming or unintended homicide (Ex 21:12-27); marriages and dowries (Ex 22:16-17); theft, especially of animals (Ex 22:1-15); and incest and bes-tiality (Lev 18).

Of course, the specific stipulations of Biblical and Hittite laws are often quite different. For example,the Hittite New Kingdom law IV states that if a murdered man was found on another's property, the owner was to forfeit his house, property and 6,040 shekels of silver. If the corpse was located in an open field, a village within 3 miles (4.8 km) of the victim was to pay the fee. In Deuteronomy 211 —9, on the other hand, if the body of a murder victim was discovered in an open field,the elders of the nearest village were to make a sacrifice and swear that they had no knowledge of the crime's perpetrator(s).This would purge the village of any culpability, and no fee was involved.

Once again, Hittite laws reveal that lengthy, complex law codes could and did exist in the mid-second millennium B.C., the implication being that Exodus and Deuteronomy may indeed be dated to this earlier period.

Ancient near eastern versus

Israelite laws and law collections

Ancient Near East

Law: Amoral and mean to insure the smooth running of society; offenses of the law were considered as offenses against civilization.

Law Collections: Propagandistic report to deity; a theoretical development of some of the forms justice might take.


Law: Meant to be a guide to godlikeness; offenses of the law were considered offenses against God.

Law Collections: Development of the forms morality or holiness would take; civil law tied to moral absolutes.

Prostitution in the Ancient World

DEUTERONOMY 23 Prostitution was known throughout the ancient world. While some who practiced the trade worked independently, others (such as slaves) were forced into it. In Mesopotamia it was actually possible to adopt a girl and then hire her out as a prostitute.

There is considerable controversy over the so-called temple prostitute. Herodotus (Histories, 1.1991 recorded that every Babylonian woman was required to prostitute herself at least once in the temple of Ishtar, but the reliability of this claim is disputed.' Most scholars agree that "sacred prostitution" was part of the ritual of the fertility cult, but some argue against this claim, suggesting that women sometimes prostituted themselves to obtain money to pay a vow or that temples simply used whore-dom as a source of income.

In the Greco-Roman world prostitution was also associated with the temples of Aphrodite (especially at Corinth, according to the ancient Greek historian Strabo), but the nature of this prostitution is uncertain.2 It is unlikely, however,that temples used such women only as sources of income with no religious link to the function of the temple itself; the promiscuous act was probably regarded as some kind of sacred rite, even as it catered to the lusts of the people.The weight of evidence suggests that "sacred prostitution" was real.

Biblical texts provide evidence for temple prostitution. The practice is associated with pagan worship in Hosea 4:14, a passage that condemns men who had encounters with the sacred prostitutes at the shrines and who offered sacrifices there. Prostitution is often used in the Old Testament as a metaphor for idolatry (Ex 34:15-16; Lev 17:7),which may strengthen the connection between temple prostitution and the idolatrous practices of other peoples. Prostitution or harlotry in any form was forbidden to the Israelites (Lev 19:29; Dt 23:17).

The Care of Widows and Orphan in the Bible

DEUTERONOMY 24 In Old Testament laws God commanded the Israelites not to "take advantage of a widow or an orphan" (Ex 22:22). In fact, Psalm 68:5 describes God himself as "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows." Israelite farmers were instructed to leave some grain unharvested so that Levites, widows, orphans and foreigners could glean the leftovers in their fields and eat (Dt 24:17-22). In addition, the tithes of every third year were to provide for widows, orphans, aliens and priests (26:12 — 13). Hebrews, who themselves had been aliens and slaves in Egypt, were never to pervert the justice due to widows, orphans or foreigners (24:17-18). In fact, one of the reasons God stipulated for allowing Israel and Judah to fall before Assyria and Babylon was his people's failure in their obligation to "defend the cause of the fatherless" and "plead the case of the widow" (Isa 1:17).

In the New Testament the widow of Zarephath' (Lk 4:24-26; cf 1Ki 17:7-24) and the widowed prophetess Anna (Lk 2:36-38) are cited as examples of faith, and an impoverished widow was held up by Jesus as a model of generosity (Lk 21:2-4). In one of Jesus' parables a widow provided a clear example of the innocent being easy prey for the unjust and indifferent (Lk 18:3-5). Jesus demonstrated mercy toward the widow at Nain (Lk 7:12-13) and refused to leave his own disciples"as orphans"with relation to his own coming departure from Earth (in 14:18). A Jewish widow had the right to expect financial maintenance from her husband's heirs. Yet Jesus went so far as to accuse religious scribes of stealing widows' properties (Mk 12:40; Lk 20:47).

The early church continued God's concern for such otherwise destitute women. Needy widows were fed (Ac 6:1-3), and the disciple Dorcas of her own accord sewed clothing especially for them (Ac 9:39). A ministerial order of widows was begun for the purpose of prayer (1Ti 5:3-10), and James, Jesus' brother, defined true worship as that demonstrated by visitation of distressed orphans and widows (Jas 1:27).

Joshua's altar on Mount Ebal

DEUTERONOMY 27 Both Deuteronomy 27:1-18 and Joshua 8:30-35 describe the, altar the Israelites constructed on Mount Ebal ("Map 2") after entering Canaan) A structure discovered on Mount Ebal in 1980 offers tantalizing parallels to the Biblical description of Joshua's altar. Constructed of unworked stones (in the state in which they were originally found), this rectangular structure, roughly 29 feet (9 m) long by 23 feet (7 m) wide, is filled with layers of ash, animal bones, potsherds and stones. Fragments of lime plaster were discovered in the immediate vicinity (cf. Dt 27:2, 4; Jos 8:30 — 31). In front of the installation a sloping wall divides two stone-paved courtyards, forming a ramp that ascends to the altar (cf. Ex 20:26). A low stone wall encloses the entire site, covering an area of 11,500 square feet (1,070 sq m). Based upon the pottery and associated finds at this open-air cult site, excavators have dated it to the early Iron Age,2 approximately 1200 B.C. (a date significantly later than the conquest).

While it is possible that this is Joshua's altar, a number of indicators suggest that it is not:

  • The current dating of the site does not fit with Biblical chronology, which suggests an earlier,fourteenth century (c.1400 B.c.) date for Joshua and the conquest. Late Bronze Age pottery, possibly dating to the fourteenth century B.C., was unearthed at the site, but the main phase, during which the ramped structure was built, appears definitely to date to the later Iron I period.

  • Likewise, Biblical sources mention only cattle, sheep, goats, doves and pigeons as valid sacrifices. Remains of these were found, but bones of other species were present as well, especially those of fallow deer.

It is possible that the Iron I structure was constructed on the site of Joshua's earlier-altar. The locations of ancient sacred sites tended to persist over time. Although the general tradition of the site's holiness may have been preserved, worship practices may have become heterodox (nontraditional or deviant) if foreign elements had at some point been introduced (such as offering animals other than those prescribed in the Biblical text).


DEUTERONOMY 29 Surprisingly little is known of Moab, a neighbor and frequent enemy of Israel.The information we have can be summarized succinctly:

  • Moabite Territory:

Moab proper (see Ge 19:30-38 for origins of Moab) lay between the deep gorges of the Arnon River in the north (Nu 21:13) and the Zered River in the south ("Map 4"). Moabite territory also included the"plains of Moab,"situated in the Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea (cf. Nu 22:1; Dt 34:1).

Numerous Biblical events related to Moab are connected to yet another area, the table-land north of the Arnon. This fertile agricultural zone was highly contested and regularly changed hands (Nu 21:21-32; Jdg 11:14 — 27). Thus, with few exceptions (cf. Ruth), Moabites and Israelites remained in almost steady conflict over the land (Nu 22-24; Jer 48).

  • Moabite History and Culture:

Moabites were closely related to the Israelites, as attested by the Biblical account linking Moab to Lot (Ge 19:37). The Moabite language was similar to Biblical Hebrew.

Moabite territory was known and recognized from the time of Moses (Nu 21:10-20; Dt 2:9-19). The Moabite king at the time of the conquest was Balak (Nu 22-24).

A Moabite ruler, Eglon, oppressed Israel during the Judges period (Jdg 3:12-30).

Moabite territory was at times under Israelite control (2Sa 8:2), but the inhabitants were known to rebel and break free of Israelite influence (2Ki 1:1;3:4-27).

Archaeological evidence suggests that Moab was dominated by Assyria during the eighth century B.C. Moab was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar around 582 B.C., after which it ceased to exist as an identifiable entity.' The land was subsequently occupied by other peoples, such as the Nabatean Arabs.

The Moabite national god was Chemosh, but the people were thoroughly polytheistic.

  • Archaeology and Moab: There is evidence of an increase in Moabite settlement during the Iron 12 period (1200 — 1000 B.c.), particularly in the form of small fortified farmsteads. However, it is difficult to make precise historical connections to the Moabites or to Israelite settlements in Transjordan (Nu 21:21-35; 32; Dt 2-3; Jos 13).

In contrast, the Mesha Inscription from the ninth century B.C. provides clear information about the wars between Israel and Moab (cf. 2Ki 3). This inscription attests to the regional importance of Moab during Israel's monarchy and is the most significant archaeological artifact discovered to date from Moab.

Assyrian, and possibly Egyptian, texts also mention Moab.