The first few fragmentary verses set the context for the testament. Moses called Joshua and commanded him to go forth in the strength of the Lord. Moses tells Joshua he was prepared by the Lord to be the mediator of the covenant and now he is about to die. Moses must pass along to Joshua some knowledge and books which he is to preserve. Moses tells Joshua will lead the people into the land, but some of the tribes will violate the covenant and commit idolatry.
Chapter 3-4 “predicts” the fall Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the exile and the return from exile. Moses predicts they will be captives in the east for seventy-seven years (rather than expected seventy years). A prophet-like character will pray to the Lord on behalf of the nation, as does Daniel in Dan. 9:4-19. God will remember his covenant and return two of the tribes to the land, the other ten will spread out through the nations.
Chapter 5-6 is prophetic speech concerning the Maccabean period. People will worship idols and “play the harlot,” a reference to Hellenism. Priests who are not truly priests will be active (the non-Zadokite high priests of the Hasmoneans). The prophecy into the reign of Herod the great (thirty four years in power, a wanton and rash man, killing both young and old).
Chapter 7-8 is fragmentary but appears to describe “the time of the end” when people please only themselves and commit criminal deeds. Moses describes a great persecution, including torture and Jews forced to undergo reversal of the circumcision (8.3).
Chapter 9 – This is by far the most difficult text in the book. A man from the tribe of Levi named Taxo will appear with seven sons. Cf. 1 Maccabees 6, the story of the martyrdom of Eleazar, 2 Maccabees 7:20f, seven sons martyred, parallel to 4 Maccabees 15. Tobias, in his final testament, has seven sons (Tobit 14:3).We cannot be sure what it is this Taxo does because the text is corrupt, but it appears he leads in a resistance against evil which leads to martyrdom.
The poetic section is the high point in the book (ch. 10), drawing together numerous Old Testament apocalyptic themes and texts. It describes a kingdom during which time the devil will be at an end. The heavenly one will arise from his kingly throne and will cause the earth to tremble and make the valleys low.
The book concludes with Joshua writing out the words of Moses as a testament. He then falls at Moses feet, weeping and mourning. He desires to know where the tomb of Moses will be, but the question is never answered. He continues to ask how he will lead the people in Moses’ absence. Moses encourages Joshua by telling him God has created everything and has foreseen all things, all things are “under the ring of his hand.”
Unfortunately, the text breaks off at this point.