2 Chronicles 17:7 In the third year of his [Jehoshaphat] reign he sent his officials ... 9 They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people.

More than two centuries later in 2 Kings 22:8:

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD." He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.

What exactly was this book?

2 Kings 22:11 When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his robes.

Was King Josiah surprised by the contents of the book?

  • Are any of these replies of any value to you? – Dottard Aug 23 '20 at 8:24
  • Thanks for the reminder. It's good to remind me. I often forget. – Tony Chan Aug 23 '20 at 15:57

The “Book of the Law” is a common phrase that refers to the book of Deuteronomy as an expansion of the Moral Law, or Covenant Law based around the 10 Commandments. “Book of the Law” is referenced in Deut 28:61, 29:21, 30:10, 31:26, Josh 1:8, 8:31, 34, 24:26, 2 Kings 22:8, 11, 2 Chron 17:9, 25:4, 34:14, 15, Neh 8:1-3, 8, 18, 9:3 (and 17:18). The Book of Deuteronomy (up to Ch 30) was placed beside the Ark of the Covenant (Deut 31:26). [Contrast the 10 Commandments which were placed inside the Ark, Ex 40:20.]

The Book of Deuteronomy means, “second law” because of the re-statement of the ten commandments in Deut 5:6-21 (and Deut 27:15-28). It often refers to the Israelite Covenant (Deut 4:13, 23, 31, 5:2, 3, 7:2, 9, 12, 8:18, 9:9, 11, 15, 10:8, 17:2, 29:1, 9, 14, 21, 31:9, 16, 20, 26, 33:9). The centrality and importance of the book of Deuteronomy can be gauged by the requirement for each king of Israel to personally write out a copy of the book and keep it with him (Deut 17:18).

The book consists of the last 4 orations of Moses to the Israelites on the border of the Promised Land.

First Oration: Deut 1:6 – 4:43. Historical background

Second Oration: Deut 4:44 – 26:19. The Law of the Ten Commandments expanded

Third Oration: Deut 27:1 – 28:68. Blessings and Curses of the law

Fourth Oration: Deut 29:1 – 30:20. Renewal of the Covenant

Some authors suggest that the third and fourth orations listed above were part of the same speech. A more complete analysis of Deuteronomy is listed below:

  • Preamble Deut 1:1-5
  • Historical prologue Deut 1:6 – 4:49
  • General stipulations Deut 5 – 11
  • Specific stipulations Deut 12 – 26
  • Blessings and Curses Deut 27 – 28
  • Witnesses Deut 30:15-20
  • Deposition of Text Deut 31:9, 24-26
  • Public reading Deut 31:10-13
  • Lawsuits against vassals Deut 32

The specific stipulations listed above can be broken down more precisely into sections dealing with each of the commandments.

1 & 2: Deut 12:1 – 31 – Worship

3: Deut 13:1 – 14:27 – name of God

4: Deut 14:28 – 16:17 – Sabbath

5: Deut 16:18 – 18:22 – Authority

6: Deut 19:1 – 22:8 – Homicide/murder

7: Deut 22:9 – 23:19 – Adultery

8: Deut 23:20 – 24:7 – Theft

9: Deut 24:8 – 25:4 – False Charges

10: Deut 25:5 – 16 – Coveting

It is instructive that within the text of the Bible, the Ten Commandments are referred to as a law (Ex 34:28, Deut 4:13, 10:4), and also as a covenant (Ex 24:7, 2 Kings 23:2, 21, 2 Chron 34:30). However, the book of Deuteronomy itself is called “The Book of the Law” Deut 28:61, 29:21, 30:10, 31:26, Josh 1:8, 8:31, 34, 24:26, 2 Kings 22:8, 11, 2 Chron 17:9, 25:4, 34:14, 15, Neh 8:1-3, 8, 18, 9:3.

It is obvious that the Book of the Law had become lost during Josiah's time because he was only vaguely aware (if at all) of its existence, much less of what it said and stipulated. This was the final part of the catalyst that motivated Josiah to implement such sweeping reforms throughout Judah.


Deuteronomy refers to itself as the Book of the Law, 31:26

Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you.

Josiah's grandfather Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 21:2). He built altars in the temple of the Lord (verse 4). It was probably at this time that this Book of Deuteronomy by the ark got lost somewhere in the temple. Some decades later, it was found by a repairman who gave it to Hilkiah. And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king (verse 10).

Deuteronomy 28:

15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:
20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. a 21The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

King Josiah was alarmed by the curses of the book. In fact Deuteronomy 31:26 was being fulfilled in his hearing.

There is additional evidence that the found book is the Deuteronomy. Later in 2 Kings 23:21, Josiah refers to the found book as Book of the Covenant.

The king gave this order to all the people: "Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant."

So they celebrated the Passover according to Deuteronomy 16:1-8:

Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night.
8 For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to the Lord your God and do no work.


Sorry to disagree, but I don't think it was only Deuteronomy for one very simple reason.

The Entire Pentateuch fitted on one papyrus scroll, and there's no reason to believe that it didn't include the entire Pentateuch (Genesis - Deuteronomy) commonly referred to as the Law, or the Torah. Exodus in particular was very strong against Idolatry. Some books (Samuel, Kings, & Chronicles) did not fit on one scroll. So a division was made into 2 shorter scrolls.

  • 1
    Please provide some evidence and references for your answer. – Dottard Jun 16 '20 at 20:11

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