The Bible Says What? Deuteronomy was made up by a religious zealot?!
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The Bible Says What? Deuteronomy was made up by a religious zealot?!

Rabbi Pete Tobias looks into the Torah and offers a Liberal Jewish response to a controversial passage

Rabbi Pete Tobias

The Bible Says What?

Deuteronomy was made up by a religious zealot?!

“I have found the book of the Law,” the priest Hilkiah tells Shaphan the scribe in 2 Kings, Chapter 22.

Shaphan has been sent by King Josiah to the Temple in Jerusalem to ensure that those working to renovate it are being paid.

Suddenly he is in possession of a remarkable find: the Sefer HaTorah that had apparently been hidden in the walls of Solomon’s Temple.

This discovery is what makes up some or all of the book of Deuteronomy (most likely the middle section, chapters 13 to 26). But is it just a  Biblical dodgy dossier?

Shaphan would surely have been
intrigued to be handed such a mysterious scroll. But he simply takes it to the king, reports that the workers have been paid and then adds “and Hilkiah the priest gave me this book”.

Shaphan then reads this “book” (actually a scroll) to Josiah. Judah’s young king tears his clothes on hearing how far his people have fallen short of these laws.

Only after tearing his clothes does the King think to check the authenticity of the source by sending Shaphan and some others to Huldah the prophetess for confirmation.

Shaphan is the key figure in this mystery. It is thought that he was the ringleader of a group of scribes and prophets – now referred to by biblical scholars as Shaphanites – who were keen to reform religious life in Judah.

To add further intrigue, Huldah, who confirms the text as God’s word, was almost certainly part of this gang too.

Later Shaphan and his sons feature in the book of Jeremiah (a contemporary), and his grandson, Gedaliah, becomes the first governor of the Babylonian province of Y’hudah
before being murdered by the Judahites as a traitor. We can certainly conclude there is more to Shaphan and his family than 2 Kings reveals.

υRabbi Pete Tobias serves  The Liberal Synagogue Elstree

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