The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Torah and generally thought to be the last of the Five Books of Moses. Its name is Greek in origin and means “second law” or, more simply stated, “repetition of the law”.
Did you know that the Bible is jam-packed with detailed explanations and stories that take place in just one book? The Book of Deuteronomy is one of those books. Its Old Testament counterpart, Exodus, talks a lot about the history of where Israel was at the time. While Deuteronomy talks a ton about what happens when they get to their destination.
The Christian view of love is not what we see in the movies. It’s not merely about a feeling or an emotion or a relationship. Nor is love something that people fall into.
Love in the Bible is much more than that. But it’s also important to keep in mind that love is not simply the act of giving to a charity, either. Paul makes this clear when he says that if he were to give away all that he had, and yet he didn’t have love, something’s still missing (1 Cor 13:3).
Now, don’t get me wrong. Charity is a good thing, and I’m sure that Paul believed that too. But there’s something more to love than just helping out those in need for the sake of doing so.
Perhaps, it may be helpful to look at how Paul describes love in order grasp the biblical understanding of it:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (ESV)
What Is The Book of Deuteronomy About
“Deuteronomy” redirects here. For other uses, see Deuteronomy (disambiguation).
Deuteronomy (Greek: Δευτερονόμιον Deuteronómion, lit. ’second law’) is the fifth book of the Torah (in Judaism), where it is called Devarim (Hebrew: דְּבָרִים, lit. ’the words [of Moses]’) and the fifth book of the Christian Old Testament.
Chapters 1–30 of the book consist of three sermons or speeches delivered to the Israelites by Moses on the Plains of Moab, shortly before they enter the Promised Land. The first sermon recounts the forty years of wilderness wanderings which had led to that moment, and ends with an exhortation to observe the law. The second sermon reminds the Israelites of the need to follow Yahweh and the laws (or teachings) he has given them, on which their possession of the land depends. The third sermon offers the comfort that, even should the nation of Israel prove unfaithful and so lose the land, with repentance all can be restored.
The final four chapters (31–34) contain the Song of Moses, the Blessing of Moses, and the narratives recounting the passing of the mantle of leadership from Moses to Joshua and, finally, the death of Moses on Mount Nebo.
One of its most significant verses is Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema Yisrael, which has become the definitive statement of Jewish identity: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Verses 6:4–5 were also quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:28–34 as the Great Commandment.
Deuteronomy Meaning in Bible
Patrick D. Miller in his commentary on Deuteronomy suggests that different views of the structure of the book will lead to different views on what it is about.
The structure is often described as a series of three speeches or sermons (chapters 1:1–4:43, 4:44–29:1, 29:2–30:20) followed by a number of short appendices – Miller refers to this as the “literary” structure; alternatively, it is sometimes seen as a ring-structure with a central core (chapters 12–26, the Deuteronomic Code) and an inner and an outer frame (chapters 4–11/27–30 and 1–3/31–34) – Miller calls this the covenantal substructure; and finally the theological structure revealed in the theme of the exclusive worship of Yahweh established in the first of the Ten Commandments (“Thou shalt have no other god before me”) and the Shema.
Moses receiving the Law (top) and reading the Law to the Israelites (bottom)
(The following “literary” outline of Deuteronomy is from John Van Seters; it can be contrasted with Alexander Rofé’s “covenantal” analysis in his Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation.)
Chapters 1–4: The journey through the wilderness from Horeb (Sinai) to Kadesh and then to Moab is recalled.
Chapters 4–11: After a second introduction at 4:44–49 the events at Mount Horeb are recalled, with the giving of the Ten Commandments. Heads of families are urged to instruct those under their care in the law, warnings are made against serving gods other than Yahweh, the land promised to Israel is praised, and the people are urged to obedience.
Chapters 12–26, the Deuteronomic code: Laws governing Israel’s worship (chapters 12–16a), the appointment and regulation of community and religious leaders (16b–18), social regulation (19–25), and confession of identity and loyalty (26).
Chapters 27–28: Blessings and curses for those who keep and break the law.
Chapters 29–30: Concluding discourse on the covenant in the land of Moab, including all the laws in the Deuteronomic code (chapters 12–26) after those given at Horeb; Israel is again exhorted to obedience.
Chapters 31–34: Joshua is installed as Moses’s successor, Moses delivers the law to the Levites (a priestly caste), and ascends Mount Nebo or Pisgah, where he dies and is buried by God. The narrative of these events is interrupted by two poems, the Song of Moses and the Blessing of Moses.
The final verses, Deuteronomy 34:10–12, “never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses,” make a claim for the authoritative Deuteronomistic view of theology and its insistence that the worship of Yahweh as the sole deity of Israel was the only permissible religion, having been sealed by the greatest of prophets.
Main article: Deuteronomic Code
Deuteronomy 12–26, the Deuteronomic Code, is the oldest part of the book and the core around which the rest developed. It is a series of mitzvot (commands) to the Israelites regarding how they should conduct themselves in the Promised Land. The following list organizes most of the laws into thematic groups:
Laws of religious observance
All sacrifices are to be brought and vows are to be made at a central sanctuary.
The worship of Canaanite gods is forbidden. The order is given to destroy their places of worship and to commit genocide against Canaanites and others with “detestable” religious beliefs.
Native mourning practices such as deliberate disfigurement are forbidden.
The procedure for tithing produce or donating its equivalent is given.
A catalogue of which animals are permitted and which forbidden for consumption is given.
The consumption of animals which are found dead and have not been slaughtered is prohibited.
Sacrificed animals must be without blemish.
First-born male livestock must be sacrificed
The Pilgrimage Festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot are instituted.
The worship at Asherah groves and setting up of ritual pillars are forbidden.
Prohibition of mixing kinds of crops, livestock, and fabrics.
Tzitzit are obligatory.
Laws concerning officials
Judges are to be appointed in every city.
Judges are to be impartial and bribery is forbidden.
A central tribunal is established.
Should the Israelites choose to be ruled by a King, regulations for the office are given.
Regulations of the rights, and revenue, of the Levites are given.
Concerning the future (unspecified) prophet.
Regulations for the priesthood are given.
Debts are to be released in the seventh year.
Regulations of the institution of slavery and the procedure for freeing slaves.
Regulations for the treatment of foreign wives taken in war.
Regulations permitting taking slaves and plunder in war.
Lost property, once found, is to be restored to its owner
Marriages between women and their stepsons are forbidden.
The camp is to be kept clean.
Usury is forbidden except for gentiles.
Regulations for vows and pledges are given.
The procedure for tzaraath (a disfigurative condition) is given.
Hired workers are to be paid fairly.
Justice is to be shown towards strangers, widows, and orphans.
Portions of crops (“gleaning”) are to be given to the poor.
The rules for false witnesses are given.
The procedure for a bride whose virginity has been questioned is given.
Various laws concerning adultery, fornication, and rape are given.
Kidnapping another Israelite is forbidden.
Just weights and measures are obligatory.
Moses viewing the Promised Land, Deuteronomy 34:1–5 (James Tissot)
The historical background to the book’s composition is seen in the following general terms:
In the late 8th century BCE both Judah and Israel were vassals of Assyria. Israel rebelled and was destroyed c.722 BCE. Refugees fleeing to Judah brought with them a number of new traditions (new to Judah, at least). One of these was that the god Yahweh, already known and worshiped in Judah, was not merely the most important of the gods, but the only god who should be served. This outlook influenced the Judahite landowning ruling class, which became extremely powerful in court circles after placing the eight-year-old Josiah on the throne following the murder of his father, Amon of Judah.
By the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, Assyrian power was in rapid decline, and a pro-independence movement gathered strength in the court. This movement expressed itself in a state theology of loyalty to Yahweh as the sole god of Israel. With Josiah’s support, they launched a full-scale reform of worship based on an early form of Deuteronomy 5–26, which takes the form of a covenant between Judah and Yahweh to replace that between Judah and Assyria. This covenant was formulated as an address by Moses to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 5:1)
The next stage took place during the Babylonian captivity. The destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by Babylon in 586 BCE and the end of kingship was the occasion of much reflection and theological speculation among the Deuteronomistic elite, now in exile in the city of Babylon. The disaster was supposedly Yahweh’s punishment of their failure to follow the law, and so they created a history of Israel (the books of Joshua through Kings) to illustrate this.
At the end of the Exile, when the Persians agreed that the Jews could return and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, chapters 1–4 and 29–30 were added and Deuteronomy was made the introductory book to this history, so that a story about a people about to enter the Promised Land became a story about a people about to return to the land. The legal sections of chapters 19–25 were expanded to meet new situations that had arisen, and chapters 31–34 were added as a new conclusion.
Virtually all secular scholars (and most of Christian and Jewish scholars) reject the traditional Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy and date the book much later, between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE. Its authors were probably the Levite caste, collectively referred to as the Deuteronomist, whose economic needs and social status it reflects.
Chapters 12–26, containing the Deuteronomic Code, are the earliest section. Since the idea was first put forward by W.M.L de Wette in 1805, most scholars have accepted that this core was composed in Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE in the context of religious reforms advanced by King Josiah (reigned 641–609 BCE), although some have argued for a later date, either during the Babylonian captivity (597–539 BCE) or the Persian period(539–332 BCE). The second prologue (Ch. 5–11) was the next section to be composed, and then the first prologue (Ch. 1–4); the chapters following 26 are similarly layered.
The prophet Isaiah, active in Jerusalem about a century before Josiah, makes no mention of the Exodus, covenants with God, or disobedience to God’s laws; in contrast Isaiah’s contemporary Hosea, active in the northern kingdom of Israel, makes frequent reference to the Exodus, the wilderness wanderings, a covenant, the danger of foreign gods and the need to worship Yahweh alone; this has led scholars to the view that these traditions behind Deuteronomy have a northern origin. Whether the Deuteronomic code – the set of laws at chapters 12–26 which form the original core of the book – was written in Josiah’s time (late 7th century) or earlier is subject to debate, but many of the individual laws are older than the collection itself. The two poems at chapters 32–33 – the Song of Moses and the Blessing of Moses were probably originally independent.
Position in the Hebrew Bible
Deuteronomy occupies a puzzling position in the Bible, linking the story of the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness to the story of their history in Canaan without quite belonging totally to either. The wilderness story could end quite easily with Numbers, and the story of Joshua’s conquests could exist without it, at least at the level of the plot; but in both cases there would be a thematic (theological) element missing. Scholars have given various answers to the problem. The Deuteronomistic history theory is currently the most popular (Deuteronomy was originally just the law code and covenant, written to cement the religious reforms of Josiah, and later expanded to stand as the introduction to the full history); but there is an older theory which sees Deuteronomy as belonging to Numbers, and Joshua as a sort of supplement to it. This idea still has supporters, but the mainstream understanding is that Deuteronomy, after becoming the introduction to the history, was later detached from it and included with Genesis–Exodus–Leviticus–Numbers because it already had Moses as its central character. According to this hypothesis, the death of Moses was originally the ending of Numbers, and was simply moved from there to the end of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy stresses the uniqueness of God, the need for drastic centralisation of worship, and a concern for the position of the poor and disadvantaged. Its many themes can be organised around the three poles of Israel, Yahweh, and the covenant which binds them together.
The themes of Deuteronomy in relation to Israel are election, faithfulness, obedience, and Yahweh’s promise of blessings, all expressed through the covenant: “obedience is not primarily a duty imposed by one party on another, but an expression of covenantal relationship.” Yahweh has elected Israel as his special property (Deuteronomy 7:6 and elsewhere), and Moses stresses to the Israelites the need for obedience to God and covenant, and the consequences of unfaithfulness and disobedience. Yet the first several chapters of Deuteronomy are a long retelling of Israel’s past disobedience – but also God’s gracious care, leading to a long call to Israel to choose life over death and blessing over curse (chapters 7–11).
Deuteronomy’s concept of God changed over time. The earliest 7th century layer is monolatrous; not denying the reality of other gods but enforcing only the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem. In the later, Exilic layers from the mid-6th century, especially chapter 4, this becomes monotheism, the idea that only one god exists. God is simultaneously present in the Temple and in heaven – an important and innovative concept called “name theology.”
After the review of Israel’s history in chapters 1 to 4, there is a restatement of the Ten Commandments in chapter 5. This arrangement of material highlights God’s sovereign relationship with Israel prior to the giving of establishment of the Law.
The core of Deuteronomy is the covenant that binds Yahweh and Israel by oaths of fidelity and obedience. God will give Israel blessings of the land, fertility, and prosperity so long as Israel is faithful to God’s teaching; disobedience will lead to curses and punishment. But, according to the Deuteronomists, Israel’s prime sin is lack of faith, apostasy: contrary to the first and fundamental commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”) the people have entered into relations with other gods.
Dillard and Longman in their Introduction to the Old Testament stress the living nature of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel as a nation: The people of Israel are addressed by Moses as a unity, and their allegiance to the covenant is not one of obeisance, but comes out of a pre-existing relationship between God and Israel, established with Abraham and attested to by the Exodus event, so that the laws of Deuteronomy set the nation of Israel apart, signaling the unique status of the Jewish nation. The land is God’s gift to Israel, and many of the laws, festivals and instructions in Deuteronomy are given in the light of Israel’s occupation of the land. Dillard and Longman note that “In 131 of the 167 times the verb “give” occurs in the book, the subject of the action is Yahweh.” Deuteronomy makes the Torah the ultimate authority for Israel, one to which even the king is subject.
Judaism’s weekly Torah portions in the Book of Deuteronomy
Main article: Weekly Torah portion
Devarim, on Deuteronomy 1–3: Chiefs, scouts, Edom, Ammonites, Sihon, Og, land for two and a half tribes
Va’etchanan, on Deuteronomy 3–7: Cities of refuge, Ten Commandments, Shema, exhortation, conquest instructions
Eikev, on Deuteronomy 7–11: Obedience, taking the land, golden calf, Aaron’s death, Levites’ duties
Re’eh, on Deuteronomy 11–16: Centralized worship, diet, tithes, sabbatical year, pilgrim festivals
Shofetim, on Deuteronomy 16–21: Basic societal structure for the Israelites
Ki Teitzei, on Deuteronomy 21–25: Miscellaneous laws on civil and domestic life
Ki Tavo, on Deuteronomy 26–29: First fruits, tithes, blessings and curses, exhortation
Nitzavim, on Deuteronomy 29–30: covenant, violation, choose blessing and curse
Vayelech, on Deuteronomy 31: Encouragement, reading and writing the law
Haazinu, on Deuteronomy 32: Punishment, punishment restrained, parting words
V’Zot HaBerachah, on Deuteronomy 33–34: Farewell blessing and death of Moses
Influence on Judaism and Christianity
The Book of Deuteronomy, Debarim. Hebrew with translation into Judeo-Arabic, transcribed in Hebrew letters. From Livorno, 1894 CE. Moroccan Jewish Museum, Casablanca.
Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel (shema Yisra’el), the LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” has become the basic credo of Judaism, the Shema Yisrael, and its twice-daily recitation is a mitzvah (religious commandment). It continues, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy might”; it has therefore also become identified with the central Jewish concept of the love of God, and the rewards that come as a result.
Main article: Christian views on the Old Covenant
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:5 as a Great Commandment. The earliest Christian authors interpreted Deuteronomy’s prophecy of the restoration of Israel as having been fulfilled (or superseded) in Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Christian Church (Luke 1–2, Acts 2–5), and Jesus was interpreted to be the “one (i.e., prophet) like me” predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 (Acts 3:22–23). While the exact position of Paul the Apostle and Judaism is still debated, a common view is that in place of mitzvah set out in Deuteronomy, Paul the Apostle, drawing on Deuteronomy 30:11–14, claimed that the keeping of the Mosaic covenant was superseded by faith in Jesus and the gospel (the New Covenant).
Summary of The Book of Deuteronomy Chapter By Chapter
Papyrus Rylands 458 – the oldest Greek manuscript of Deuteronomy
“Deuteronomy” Archived 2018-06-20 at the Wayback Machine Dictionary.com.
Van Seters 1998, pp. 15–17.
Van Seters 1998, p. 16.
Deuteronomy 15:21, 17:1
Deuteronomy 23:21–23, 24:6, 24:10–13
Bos 2013, p. 133.
Sommer 2015, p. 18.
Van Seters 2015, pp. 79–82.
Rofé 2002, p. 4–5.
Pakkala 2009, p. 391.
Davies 2013, p. 101-103.
Van Seters 1998, p. 17.
Romer (1994), p.200-201
Thompson, Deuteronomy, 112.
Dillard & Longman, p.102.
Dillard & Longman, p.117.
Deuteronomy in NIV
Deuteronomy in Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)
Craigie, Peter C (1976). The Book of Deuteronomy. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802825247.
Miller, Patrick D (1990). Deuteronomy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780664237370.
Phillips, Anthony (1973). Deuteronomy. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780521097727.
Plaut, W. Gunther (1981). The Torah: A Modern Commentary. ISBN 0-8074-0055-6
Miller, Avigdor (2001). Fortunate Nation: Comments and notes on DVARIM.
Ausloos, Hans (2015-10-22). The Deuteronomist’s History: The Role of the Deuteronomist in Historical-Critical Research into Genesis-Numbers. ISBN 9789004307049.
Bandstra, Barry L (2004). Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Wadsworth. ISBN 9780495391050.
Block, Daniel I (2005). “Deuteronomy”. In Kevin J. Vanhoozer (ed.). Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Baker Academic.
Bos, James M. (2013). Reconsidering the Date and Provenance of the Book of Hosea. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-06889-7.
Braulik, G (1998). The Theology of Deuteronomy: Collected Essays of Georg Braulik. D&F Scott Publishing. ISBN 9780941037303.
Brueggemann, Walter (2002). Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes. Westminster John Knox. ISBN 9780664222314.
Bultman, Christoph (2001). “Deuteronomy”. In John Barton; John Muddiman (eds.). Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198755005.
Christensen, Duane L (1991). “Deuteronomy”. In Watson E. Mills; Roger Aubrey Bullard (eds.). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press. ISBN 9780865543737.
Clements, Ronald (1968). God’s Chosen People: A Theological Interpretation of the Book of Deuteronomy. In series, Religious Book Club, 182. London: S.C.M. Press.
Davies, Philip R. (2013). Rethinking Biblical Scholarship. Changing Perspectives. Vol. 4. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-84465-727-8.
Gottwald, Norman, review of Stephen L. Cook, The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism, Society of Biblical Literature, 2004
Knight, Douglas A (1995). “Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomists”. In James Luther Mays; David L. Petersen; Kent Harold Richards (eds.). Old Testament Interpretation. T&T Clark. ISBN 9780567292896.
Gili Kugler, Kugler, Moses died and the people moved on – a hidden narrative in Deuteronomy
Laffey, Alice L (2007). “Deuteronomistic Theology”. In Orlando O. Espín; James B. Nickoloff (eds.). An Introductory Dictionary of Theology and Religious Studies. Liturgical Press. ISBN 9780814658567.
Markl, Dominik (2013). “Moses’ Praise and Blame – Israel’s Honour and Shame: Rhetorical Devices in the Ethical Foundations of Deuteronomy”. Verbum et Ecclesia. 34. 34 (2). doi:10.4102/ve.v34i2.861.
Mendenhall, George E (September 1, 1954). Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition. Biblical Archeology 3/17.
McConville, J.G (2002). “Deuteronomy” (PDF). In T. Desmond Alexander; David W. Baker (eds.). Dictionary of the Old Testament: The Pentateuch. Eisenbrauns. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
McKenzie, Steven L (1995). “Postscript”. In Linda S. Schearing; Steven L McKenzie (eds.). Those Elusive Deuteronomists: The Phenomenon of Pan-Deuteronomism. T&T Clark. ISBN 9780567563361.
Pakkala, Juha (2009). “The date of the oldest edition of Deuteronomy”. Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. 121 (3): 388–401. doi:10.1515/ZAW.2009.026. hdl:10138/328053. S2CID 170672330.
Richter, Sandra L (2002). The Deuteronomistic History and the Name Theology. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110173765.
Rofé, Alexander (2002). Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation. T&T Clark. ISBN 9780567087546.
Rogerson, John W. (2003). “Deuteronomy”. In James D. G. Dunn; John William Rogerson (eds.). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837110.
Romer, Thomas (2000). “Deuteronomy In Search of Origins”. In Gary N. Knoppers; J. Gordon McConville (eds.). Reconsidering Israel and Judah: Recent Studies on the Deuteronomistic History. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575060378.
Romer, Thomas (1994). “The Book of Deuteronomy”. In Steven L. McKenzie; Matt Patrick Graham (eds.). The history of Israel’s Traditions: The Heritage of Martin Noth. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 9780567230355.
Sommer, Benjamin D. (June 30, 2015). Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition. Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library.
Tigay, Jeffrey (1996). “The Significance of the End of Deuteronomy”. In Michael V. Fox; et al. (eds.). Texts, Temples, and Traditions: A Tribute to Menahem Haran. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575060033.
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Deuteronomy at Bible Gateway
Paterson, James Alexander (1911). “Deuteronomy” . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.).
Jastrow, Morris (1905). “Deuteronomy” . New International Encyclopedia.
Deuteronomy at Mechon-Mamre (modified Jewish Publication Society translation)
Deuteronomy (The Living Torah) Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s translation and commentary at Ort.org
Devarim – Deuteronomy (Judaica Press) translation [with Rashi’s commentary] at Chabad.org
דְּבָרִים Devarim – Deuteronomy (Hebrew – English at Mechon-Mamre.org)
Online Bible at GospelHall.org (King James Version)
oremus Bible Browser (New Revised Standard Version)
oremus Bible Browser (Anglicized New Revised Standard Version)
Deuteronomy at Wikisource (Authorized King James Version)
Deuteronomy public domain audiobook at LibriVox Various versions
Deuteronomy means “second law,” a term mistakenly derived from the Hebrew word mishneh in Deuteronomy 17:18. In that context, Moses simply commands the king to make a “copy of the law.”1 But Deuteronomy does something more than give a simple copy of the Law. The book offers a restatement of the Law for a new generation, rather than a mere copy of what had gone before. Deuteronomy records this “second law”—namely Moses’s series of sermons in which he restated God’s commands originally given to the Israelites some forty years earlier in Exodus and Leviticus.
“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel,” says Deuteronomy 1:1. Mosaic authorship of this book finds the usual support from Jewish tradition (with the entire Pentateuch) but also from within the biblical text. Several times, Deuteronomy asserts Moses as author (1:1; 4:44; 29:1). Speaking to Joshua, Moses’s successor, the Lord referred to this “book of the law” as that which Moses commanded (Joshua 1:8). And when future Old Testament and New Testament writers quoted from Deuteronomy, they often referred to it as originating with Moses (1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 1:7; Malachi 4:4; Matthew 19:7;
Some obvious editorial changes were made to the text sometime after Moses recorded the bulk of it. For instance, he could not have written the final chapter, which dealt with his death. However, these and other small changes do not affect the generally accepted authorship of Moses.
Where are we?
Deuteronomy was written around 1406 BC, at the end of the forty years of wandering endured by the nation of Israel. At the time, the people were camped on the east side of the Jordan River, on the plains of Moab, across from the city of Jericho (Deuteronomy 1:1; 29:1). They were on the verge of entering the land that had been promised centuries earlier to their forefathers (Genesis 12:1, 6–9). The children who had left Egypt were now adults, ready to conquer and settle the Promised Land. Before that could happen, the Lord reiterated through Moses His covenant with them.
Why is Deuteronomy so important?
Moses addressed his words to “all Israel” at least twelve times. This phrase emphasized the nation’s unity, initiated by their covenant with God at Mount Sinai and forged in the wilderness. In the midst of widespread polytheism, Israel was distinctive in that they worshiped one God, Yahweh. Their God was totally unique; there was none other like Him among all the “gods” of the nations surrounding them. Deuteronomy 6:4 codifies this belief in the Shema, the basic confession of faith in Judaism even today. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD [Yahweh] is our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one!”
Deuteronomy also restates the Ten Commandments and many other laws given in Exodus and Leviticus. The book delivered to Israel God’s instructions on how to live a blessed life in the Promised Land. Chapters 27 and 28 specify the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience.
What’s the big idea?
Unlike the unconditional covenant God made with Abraham, the covenant between Yahweh and Israel was bilateral—a two-way street. God would keep His promise to bless the nation if the people remained faithful. The adult Israelites were too young to have participated in the first covenant ceremony at Mount Sinai. Therefore, Moses reviewed the Law at the doorstep to the Promised Land, urging this new generation to re-covenant with Yahweh, to recommit themselves to His ways.
How do I apply this?
In Moses’s conclusion, he entreated the people,
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20)
“This” in verse 20 refers to loving the Lord your God, obeying, and holding fast to Him. That is life! Our relationship with God is to be marked by faithfulness, loyalty, love, and devotion. Think of an ideal marriage—that’s the picture of how God wants us to cling to Him (Ephesians 5:28–32).
How closely do you cling to God? Pray and recommit your heart to that all-important relationship with Him.