In the latter half of the nineteenth century the Divine authorship of the Torah was challenged by the Wellhausen school of ‘Biblical Criticism’, which claimed that the Torah had multiple, human authors, and was compiled over a period of several hundred years. Interestingly enough, Abarbanel confronts a similar, albeit less dramatic, challenge which existed in his time. Because the fifth Book of the Pentateuch, Devarim, is primarily Moshe’s first-person farewell address to the nation, the question arose as to whether Moshe, rather than
Abarbanel explains that the impetus for such a challenge comes from three anomalies in the Book of Devarim. First of all, if
Abarbanel answers that the Book of Devarim must be viewed from two perspectives. Firstly, it should be viewed as Moshe’s personal farewell address to the nation. His purpose in repeating some of the mitzvot was not to admonish the nation or to teach them mitzvot that they had not heard at Sinai. On the contrary, they had already received all the mitzvot at Sinai. Some had been explained in detail, while others had been mentioned briefly or only hinted at. Knowing that his death was imminent he took it upon himself to explain those matters that required further clarification. In regard to the historical events that had transpired during the forty years in the wilderness, especially those which had transpired immediately after the Exodus from Egypt, Moshe’s goal was to explain to the new generation that was about to enter the Land what had happened to their fathers so that they would not have any doubts about the imminent entry into the Land of Israel. This answers the first question.
In regard to the second question, even though this was Moshe’s personal address to the nation, its final written form as the Book of Devarim was dictated by
This approach answers the third question as well. After having Moshe explain the mitzvot to the nation,
The principle that emerges from all of this is that the entire Book of Devarim is the precise word of