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And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: (KJV)

What exactly was the king suppose to copy? Was it the whole Pentateuch, the Law (600+ laws, rules, regulations, judicial decisions, etc.), or only the book of Deuteronomy?

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The Biblical 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) and is a re-statement and expansion of the Moral Law based around the 10 Commandments. 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. See also Deut 17:18.

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Deut 17:18 What was included in the king's “copy of this law”?

Only the book of Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 17:18 (NET Bible)

18 When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this law [a] on a scroll[b] given to him by the Levitical priests.

Footnotes: [a]

Deuteronomy 17:18 tn Or “instruction.” The LXX reads here τὸ δευτερονόμιον τοῦτο (to deuteronomion touto, “this second law”). From this Greek phrase the present name of the book, “Deuteronomy” or “second law” (i.e., the second giving of the law), is derived. However, the MT’s expression מִשְׁנֶה הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת (mishneh hattorah hazzoʾt) is better rendered “copy of this law.” Here the term תּוֹרָה (torah) probably refers only to the book of Deuteronomy and not to the whole Pentateuch.

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