Learn more about Deuteronomy in the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series
Allan Harman is an Australian Presbyterian theologian and Old Testament scholar. He has written commentaries on Psalms, Daniel, Deuteronomy and Isaiah. Dr. Harman studied at the University of Edinburgh, gaining a Bachelor of Divinity in 1960, and Master of Letters in Hebrew and Semitic Languages, before going on to Westminster Theological Seminary where he achieved a Master of Theology in 1961 and later a Doctor of Theology. In 2003, he was granted an honorary Doctor of Theology from the Australian College of Theology. He was also one of the translators of the New King James Version.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Deuteronomy?
I first became especially interested in Deuteronomy during graduate studies at Westminster Theological Seminary under Dr Meredith Kline, who was linking the Near East treaty documents with the OT. When I started lecturing in OT myself I dealt with some of the issues regarding covenant, but being asked to work on Deuteronomy for the NKJV stimulated my interest more deeply. Teaching graduate courses on Deuteronomy, prompted me to commence a commentary to draw together some of the insights I had developed.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? Professors? Students? Lay Christians in the local church?
Along with other commentaries in the Focus on the Bible Series, this commentary was intended to reach an audience more particularly of students and pastors, but with some interest for more academic discussions particularly on the structure of the book. I try and write without a great deal of discussion with other commentators, and I think that that helps lay readers to use my commentaries as well. My aim is to try and explain the Hebrew text as I understand it.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Deuteronomy?
Probably the most distinctive feature is how I argue that chapters 6-26 are structured around the Decalogue. If we want a detailed exposition of the Decalogue we turn to Deuteronomy to see how Moses explained its significance, and applied its basic covenant stipulations to life in Israel.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Deuteronomy consists of Moses’ preaching to the children of Israel before the entry into Canaan. The sermons come to a climax in chapters 29 and 30, and I was amazed at the intensity with which Moses pressed home his message. He sets before Israel the alternatives of life and death, and wants them to choose life (30:19-20). This passage, of course, lies behind Paul’s words in Romans 10:1-13. It is a reminder that true preaching brings hearers to a crisis point in responding to the challenge set before them — belief or unbelief?
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
It was a blessing to work on the translation of the book, which forced me to be so conscious of many details in the text. Deuteronomy refers back to the previous history of Israel, especially at Sinai and then in the wilderness journeys. But it also shows how submission to the lordship of a sovereign God has to be demonstrated in obedience to God’s covenantal requirements. In general, its teaching emphasises redeeming grace, displayed in the Exodus, and which came to even fuller expression in Christ’s redemptive work. This concept of grace was a particular blessing when working on the book. Passages such as the institution of kingship (17:14-20) and prophecy (18:9-22) were also very helpful in pointing forward to Christ’s ministry as prophet and king.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Deuteronomy?
One of the most suggestive commentaries on Deuteronomy is Meredith Kline’s commentary in the Wycliffe Bible Commentary (pp. 155-204). This was reprinted in his book Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), along with his articles on covenant contributed to the Westminster Theological Journal.
I have always liked the Tyndale Commentary by my fellow Australian, John Thompson, and the exceedingly clear study by Peter Craigie in the NICOT series.
Commentaries by two other evangelical writers are also ones I recommend. Eugene Merrill contributed the volume in the New American Commentary series (1994), while John Currid wrote in the Study Series of Evangelical Press (Darlington: 2006).
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I now have written several commentaries on OT books. They are:
Psalms (Mentor Series: Christian Focus, 1998)
Deuteronomy (Focus on the Bible Series: Christian Focus, 2001)
Isaiah (Focus on the Bible Series: Christian Focus, 2005)
Daniel (Study Commentary Series: Evangelical Press, 2007)
Psalms, 2 vols. (Mentor Series: Christian Focus, 2011)
Exodus (Focus on the Bible Series: Christian Focus, 2017)
Amos (forthcoming from the Banner of Truth)
Joel (in the Minor Prophets volume of the Crossway commentary on the ESV, scheduled for publication in September, 2018)
At present I am working on some shorter articles on OT subjects. Though I gave up the editorship of the Reformed Theological Review in 2013 (after 35 years), I am still connected with it, and both write articles and contribute book reviews. Most of my writing is done for three Christian publishers — Christian Focus Publications, The Banner of Truth Trust, and Evangelical Press — and readers can look on their websites.
Another interest interest of mine is the biblical commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714). I own twenty-nine of his sermons in his own handwriting, and edited them for publication. The volume is entitled Matthew Henry’s Unpublished Sermons on the Covenant of Grace (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). They also appeared in Dutch (2002) and Spanish (2005). My biography of him, Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence, was published by Christian Focus Publications in 2012.