The Song of Moses (Deut 32:1-43) and the Historical Plausibility of the OT Use of the OT

With the publication of Schnittjer’s massive Old Testament Use of the Old Testament (Zondervan, 2021), the concept of the “Old Testament use of the Old Testament” received a significant boost in evangelical circles. In actuality, this topic has already been receiving attention by scholars for some time (e.g., Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel), including at ETS (e.g., Scriptural Use of Scripture). Naturally, there has been debate about criteria for determining the likelihood of an allusion (e.g., common terms, themes, plot structure, syntax, genre, etc.). The related issue of directionality has also been taken up in some cases.

Granting the importance of such criteria and of directionality, the purpose of this paper is to argue from a different perspective for the historical plausibility of the Old Testament use of the Old Testament in the special case of the Song of Moses (Deut 32:1-43). In Deut 31:19-21, the Lord commanded Moses to teach this song to Israel and “put it in their mouths” so that it would bear witness against them when they rebelled later. When “many distressful disasters” strike, Israel will remember this song, “for it will not be forgotten from the mouth of their offspring.” Since these “disasters” are an expression of divine wrath and best understood as focused on the exile (cf., Deut 31:17-18, 29; 32:23), the Lord’s words in Deut 31:19-21 are a prophecy that Israel will remember this song for future generations, even for centuries until the exile and perhaps beyond.

For those who accept the historical reliability of this account as well as the validity of the Lord’s prediction, there is thus an a priori plausibility for proposed allusions to the Song of Moses (Deut 32:1-43) because the song was part of the collective memory of future generations Israelites. If even rebellious generations remembered this song, later OT authors would have remembered it all the more and their allusions to it would have had a good chance of being understood by original audiences. The memorization of the Song of Moses by ancient Israel strengthens the case that passages with observed textual parallels, such as 1 Sam 2:1-10 and Isaiah 1, allude to the song. Furthermore, the Lord’s choice of the Song of Moses for memorization is especially apt because of its intertextuality with other Pentateuch texts (e.g., Gen 3; Ex 32), which increases its impact as a sort of summary of the Pentateuch.

5 thoughts on “The Song of Moses (Deut 32:1-43) and the Historical Plausibility of the OT Use of the OT”

  1. Chen, The Song of Moses (Deut 32:1-43) and the Historical Plausi
    This seems mostly a rather simple study of the historicity of Deut 32 and its fulfillment/awareness. I don’t see how this can add much to the OT in the OT discussion.

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  2. I think this could be a
    I think this could be a good/interesting paper, especially if the focus was on the final paragraph of the abstract (perhaps for one of the general sessions).

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