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Deuteronomy Essentials

Deuteronomy Essentials


Deuteronomy follows the ancient pattern of a covenant renewal document:



Covenant renewal treaties began by recounting the history of the parties involved, just like here. Moses looked back over the 38 years since leaving Mount Sinai, recalling key events, both good and bad (1:1-3:29), and urging continued obedience to God (4:1-40).



Moses then outlined the terms Israel must follow as their part of the covenant. The Ten Commandments were given central place (5:1-33) and were then summed up in one short commandment: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (6:4-5). Jesus himself would say that this commandment summed up all the others (Mark 12:28-31).


This absolute allegiance to God was then underlined by instructions to destroy the Canaanites who might otherwise turn their hearts to their gods (7:1-26). (In fact, this was exactly what would happen.) Warned not to forget God and all he had done (8:1-20), they were reminded that they would conquer Canaan, not because of their own goodness or abilities, but because God was with them. If they feared God alone (10:12-22) and remained obedient, they would indeed be blessed (11:1-32).


Chapters 12-26 then give a wide range of religious, social and legal laws governing life in the Promised Land.



Having outlined the terms of the covenant, Moses listed curses that would follow if they disobeyed (27:1-26; 28:15-68) and blessings if they obeyed (28:1-14). The covenant was then ratified (renewed) (29:1-30:20).


The covenant renewed, Moses’ work was complete and he handed over leadership to Joshua, who had been alongside him since leaving Egypt, encouraging him to be strong and courageous for the task ahead (31:1-8). He praised God for all he had done (32:1-43), blessed the twelve tribes (33:1-29) and then died, being buried on Mount Nebo on the very edge of the Promised Land (34:1-12) – so close, and yet so far.




The message

God’s people are called to respond to God’s salvation with love and loyalty, worshiping the one true God in the midst of surrounding cultural idolatries and living in the midst of the nations as a community shaped at every level of life by God’s character of grace, justice, purity, compassion and generosity.



During His earthly ministry, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy more than any other Old Testament book, such as when he countered Satan’s temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). When asked to name the greatest Old Testament commandment, again Jesus turned to Deuteronomy (Matthew 22:37). And when the Pharisees rebuked Him for failing to perform ceremonial washings, He quoted Deuteronomy to rebuke their hypocritical disobedience of God’s commands (Mark 7:10). It was certainly an appropriate book for Jesus to cite. For as does God the Father in Deuteronomy, Jesus promises life to all who follow Him, raises up a new generation of disciples, and never withdraws His offer of salvation, even when men and women rebel against Him.


Key Doctrines in Deuteronomy

The Promised Land of Israel (1:8; 6:10; 9:5; 29:13; 30:20; 34:4; Genesis 12:7; 15:5; 22:17; Exodus 33:1; Leviticus 18:24; Numbers 14:23; 34:1–15; Joshua 24:13; Psalm 105:44; Titus 3:5)

The Lord’s faithfulness to give Israel victory over its enemies (2:24–3:11; 29:2,7–8; Numbers 21:3,33–34; Joshua 1:7; 10:8–12; Judges 1:1–4; 1 Kings 2:3; Psalm 18:43; Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:54–57; 1 John 5:4)


Israel’s rebellion against the Lord (1:26–46; 9:7–10:11; Exodus 14:11; Numbers 14:1–4; Ezra 4:19; Psalm 106:24; Jeremiah 5:6; Ezekiel 18:31; Daniel 9:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Jude 1:11,15)

The scattering of Israel as judgment from God (4:25–31; 29:22–30:10; 31:26–29; Leviticus 26:33; 1 Kings 14:15; Nehemiah 1:8; Psalm 106:25–27; Ecclesiastes 3:5; Jeremiah 9:15–16; Amos 9:8)

Holiness of God and His people —God declares Israel His chosen people (7:6–11; 8:6,11,18; 10:12,16–17; 11:13; 13:3–4; 14:1–2; Exodus 19:5–6; Proverbs 10:22; Amos 3: 2; Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:1; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Peter 2:9)


God’s Character in Deuteronomy

God is accessible —4:7

God is eternal —33:27

God is faithful —7:9

God is glorious —5:24; 28:58

God is jealous —4:24

God is just —10:17; 32:4

God is loving —7:7–8:13; 10:15,18; 23:5

God is merciful —4:31; 32:43

God is powerful —3:24; 32:39

God is a promise keeper —1:11

God is provident —8:2,15,18

God is righteous —4:8

God is true —32:4

God is unequaled —4:35; 33:26

God is unified —4:32–35,39–40; 6:4–5; 32:39

God is wise —2:7

God is wrathful —29:20,27–28; 32:19–22


Christ in Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy speaks directly of the coming of a new Prophet similar to Moses: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (18:15). This Prophet is interpreted by both the Old and New Testaments as the Messiah or Christ (34:10; Acts 3:22–23; 7:37).

Moses illustrates a type of Christ in several ways: 1) Both were spared death as babies (Exodus 2; Matthew 2:13–23); 2) Both acted as priest, prophet, and leader over Israel (Exodus 32:31–35; Hebrews 2:17; 34:10–12; Acts 7:52; 33:4–5; Matthew 27:11).


Key Verses:

Deuteronomy 10:12, 13; 30:19, 20—“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (10:12, 13).


“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them” (30:19, 20).


Key Words in Deuteronomy


Statutes: Hebrew choq —4:1,14; 5:1; 6:1; 7:11; 10:13; 16:12; 28:15; 30:16—conveys a variety of meanings in the Old Testament, including a verb that means “to decree” or “to inscribe” (Proverbs 8:15; Isaiah 10:1; 49:16). It often refers to commands, civil enactments, legal prescriptions, and ritual laws decreed by someone in authority—whether by humans (Micah 6:16) or by God Himself (6:1). The Law of Moses includes commandments (miswah ), judgments (mispat ), and statutes (choq ) (4:1–2). Israel was charged to obey God’s statutes, and they had pledged to do so (26:16– 17).


Swore: Hebrew shaba ‘—6:13; 7:8; 10:20; 13:17; 19:8; 29:13; 31:7—the verb translated swore is related to the word used for the number seven. In effect, the verb means “to bind oneself fully”; that is, “seven times.” In ancient times, oaths were considered sacred. People were promising to be faithful to their word no matter what the personal cost. The Old Testament describes God as taking an oath (Genesis 24:7; Exodus 13:5). He was not forced to do this; He did not have to swear in order to ensure His own compliance with His word. Instead, He made an oath so that His people would be assured that His promises were completely trustworthy.


Worship: Hebrew shachah —4:19; 8:19; 11:16; 26:10; 30:17—this most common Hebrew word for worship literally means “to cause oneself to lie prostrate.” In ancient times, a person would fall down before someone who possessed a higher status. People would bow before a king to express complete submission to his rule. Following the example of the ancient people of faith, true Christian worship must express more than love for God; it must also express submission to His will.


Cursed: Hebrew ‘arar —7:26; 13:17; 27:15,20,23; 28:16,19—literally means “to bind with a curse.” A curse is the opposite of a blessing. It wishes or prays illness or injury on a person or an object. God cursed the serpent and the ground after the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14,17).

Jeremiah, in despair, cursed the man who brought news of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14–15). The seriousness of God’s covenant with His people is illustrated by the threat of a curse on any who violate it (28:60–61). In the New Testament, Paul taught that Jesus Christ became a “curse” for us, so that we might be freed form the curses of the Law (Galatians 3:13).




Teaching Structure

Deuteronomy has a covenant structure comparable to ancient treaties. There is a historical prologue (chs. 1-3), a call to loyalty (chs. 4-11), detailed stipulations (chs. 12-26), blessings and curses (chs. 27-28), and witnesses (e.g., 30:19; 31:19; 32). However, its literary structure is nicely balanced, as outlined below, with an outer frame setting the historical context (chs. 1-3; 31-34), an inner frame stressing covenant loyalty (chs. 4-11; 27-30), and a central section that, in broad terms, follows the flow of the Decalogue in “preaching” how Israel should live.


  1. Looking back: remembering the wilderness (chs. 1-3)
  • Warning from past failure (ch. 1)
  • Encouragement from past victories (chs. 2-3)
  1. Called to covenant love and loyalty (chs. 4-11)

Know the Lord and avoid idolatry (ch. 4)

  • Ten Words: the Decalogue recalled (ch. 5)
  • One Lord, one love, all of life (ch. 6)
  • The challenge of election (ch. 7)
  • Remember God in the bad times and in the good times (ch. 8)
  • Not because of your righteousness (ch. 9)
  • What does God require? (ch. 10)
  • The crucial choice: life or death; blessing or curse (ch. 11)
  1. Decalogue unpacked: guidance for the life and culture of God’s people (chs. 12-26)
  • Exclusive worship of the living God alone (chs. 12-13)
  • The sabbatical rhythms of life, meant for economic generosity (chs. 14-16)
  • The responsibility of social, religious and political authorities (chs. 17-18)
  • The sanctity of life in differing contexts (chs. 19-21)
  • Handling disordered sexuality (ch. 22)
  • The claims of justice and compassion in society (chs. 23-25)
  • Celebrating God’s grace and responding in practical obedience (ch. 26)
  1. Confirming the covenant relationship (chs. 27-30)
  • Blessings and curses sanction and protect the covenant (chs. 27-28)
  • Anticipated failure, future grace, present challenge (chs. 29-30)
  1. Looking forward: anticipating the Land (chs. 31-34)
  • Israel’s history in advance, in prophetic song (chs. 31-32)
  • The blessings, death and epitaph of Moses (chs. 33-34)



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