Did Moses write the first five books of the Old Testament?

The first five books of the Old Testament, also called the Pentateuch or the Torah, are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The full title names of these books in the 1611 edition of the KJV are:

  1. The First Booke of Moses, called Genesis

  2. The Second Booke of Moses, called Exodus

  3. The Third Booke of Moses, called Leviticus

  4. The Fourth Booke of Moses, called Numbers

  5. The Fifth Booke of Moses, called Deuteronomie

The 1611 KJV attributes the authorship of these books to Moses because the scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are replete with statements that Moses wrote them. Yet in modern times some skeptics have focused on a number of seemingly anachronistic words in the Pentateuch to conclude that Moses during his lifetime could not have written those words. These critics believe that the Pentateuch was written or edited by a much later hand. This article considers these supposedly problematic verses and succinctly rebuts the belief that such verses support non-Mosaic authorship.

Genesis 12:6 – “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

Skeptics believe that this verse suggests that the author knew of a later time when the Canaanites were no longer in the land. Since such a time occurred after the death of Moses, skeptics take this verse as supporting non-Mosaic authorship. However, the verse only says that at the time of Abram the land was being occupied by the Canaanites. Previously in Genesis 10:18 we read, “…and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.” As what we had known previously about the Canaanites was just that they had dispersed abroad, Genesis 12:6 merely says that these migrating Canaanites had now settled in the land. Genesis 12:6 has nothing to do with hindsight of the eventual extinction of the Canaanites.

Genesis 14:14 – “And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.”

This verse is supposedly problematic for Mosaic authorship because the geographical location called “Dan”, being the name of one of the tribes of Israel, was established after the life of Moses during the conquest. However, it appears that Moses prophetically knew the future locations of the tribes as he blessed each of them. Concerning Dan, he said, “Dan is a lion’s whelp: He shall leap from Bashan.” (Deuteronomy 33:22). The future city of Dan would indeed be adjacent to the plains of Bashan, as shown by the map below:


Canaan as Divided Among the Twelve Tribes c. 1200-1020 B.C.

Copyright by C.S. Hammond & Co., N.Y.

As the purpose of writing the Pentateuch was to leave a record for the Israelites who would possess and assign the land among the tribes, it makes sense that Moses drew from his prophetic knowledge to identify the area in the Bashan plains as “Dan”. Of course the skeptics who do not believe in prophecy will not be persuaded by this explanation of Genesis 14:14; however, even those skeptics could perhaps entertain the possibility that the tribe of Gad self-fulfilled the prophecy concerning itself in Deuteronomy 33:22 by deliberately seeking out a city adjacent to the plains of Bashan to conquer and rename it.

Genesis 36:31 – “And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.”

Moses supposedly could not have mentioned that Edom had kings before Israel because such a statement requires the knowledge that Israel eventually had kings. However, even the patriarchs from before Moses knew that Israel would eventually have kings. God said to Abraham concerning Sarah, “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.” (Genesis 17:16). God said to Jacob, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;” (Genesis 35:11). God even explicitly told Moses that Israelites would eventually desire a king (Deuteronomy 17:14-15).

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