This anglicized Greek word (meaning “five rolls” or “fivefold volume”) refers to the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Contents. The Pentateuch is a most important segment of God’s written Word, furnishing a solid foundation upon which much that follows firmly rests. Its first book, Genesis, gives us the inspired account of creation and also traces man’s history from Eden down through much of the patriarchal era to the death of Joseph (“in the beginning” to 1657 B.C.E.). The second book, Exodus, begins with the death of Joseph and tells of Moses’ birth during a time of slavery, of the deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage, and of the inauguration of the Law covenant at Sinai; it includes details for the construction of the central structure for worship, namely, the tabernacle in the wilderness (historic events from 1657 to 1512 B.C.E.). Leviticus, the third book, covering only about one month’s time (1512 B.C.E.), gives invaluable information about the Levitical priesthood, its ordination, and its duties, as well as laws and regulations governing the congregation’s obligatory support of Jehovah’s worship. The fourth book, Numbers, as its name implies, tells of the censuses taken near the beginning and end of the wilderness journey. It also gives us many details on the 40 years of wandering (down to 1473 B.C.E.) and includes many laws embraced within the framework of the national covenant. The final book, Deuteronomy, covers about two months’ time (1473 B.C.E.); it explains portions of the Law covenant and provides many ordinances necessary for the new generation of Israelites who were poised on the Plains of Moab, ready to invade and occupy the Promised Land. The closing chapters tell of the appointment of Joshua as leader and the death of Moses.
Writership. There is no single text saying that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch, but scattered throughout the material are explicit statements serving the same purpose. (Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Nu 33:2; De 31:9, 19, 22, 24-26) There are also many sections where the words are directly credited to Moses, beginning with his first recorded conversation (Ex 2:13, 14), continuing to his final blessing on the people (De 33:1-29), and including some of his lengthy speeches (De 1:1; 5:1; 27:1; 29:2; 31:1) and notable songs. (Ex 15:1-19; De 31:30–32:43) The opening verses of 20 out of 27 chapters of Leviticus tell us that what follows are the words of Jehovah spoken to Moses so he, in turn, could inform the people. The same is true in more than 50 instances in the book of Numbers. So, with the exception of the closing verses of Deuteronomy, the evidence within the Pentateuch itself shows that its writership properly belongs to Moses.
Many other passages in the Bible witness to the fact that the Pentateuch was from the hand of Moses. (Jos 1:7; Jg 3:4; 2Ki 18:6; Mal 4:4) Such men as David (1Ki 2:1-3), Daniel (9:11), Ezra (6:18), Nehemiah (8:1), Jesus (Mr 12:26; Lu 16:29; Joh 7:19), Luke (24:27), and John (1:17) make references to this work as that of Moses. More directly to the point, Jesus acknowledged that Moses was the writer (Mr 10:3-5; Joh 5:46, 47), as did also the Sadducees.—Mr 12:18, 19.