The Suzerain Treaty

The structure of Deuteronomy from The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T. by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p. 260

Deuteronomy follows the pattern of the vassal treaties typical of the second millennium B.C. When a king (a suzerain) made a treaty with a vassal country the treaty usually contained six elements: (a) a preamble, (b) a historical prologue (a history of the king's dealings with the vassal), (c) a general stipulation (a call for wholehearted allegiance to the king), (d) specific stipulations (detailed laws by which the vassal state could give concrete expression to its allegiance to the king (e) divine witnesses (deities called to witness the treaty), and (f) blessings and curses (for obedience or disobedience to the treaty)….Deuteronomy approximates this structure, for 1:1-4 constitutes a preamble; 1:5-4:43 a historical prologue; 4:44-11:32 a general stipulation; chapters 12-26 specific stipulations; and chapters 27-28 blessings and curses. (Of course, Yahweh, being the only true God, did not call on other deities to witness the treaty.)

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