Deuteronomy is the final book of the Pentateuch and the fifth book of the Bible. The name Deuteronomy comes from a Greek word that means “second law,” because in Deuteronomy, Moses repeats the laws given by God to the people of Israel. The book picks up where the previous book, Numbers, left off. After 40 years in the wilderness, the new generation of Israel is ready to enter the Promised Land.
Before they do, Moses reviews with them everything that happened in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers from Egypt to Mount Sinai to the wilderness, as well as the laws of the covenant.
Before and after he reviews the law, Moses pleads with Israel to remain faithful to God.
The nation of Israel is about to enter into the Promised Land, which is currently full of people who worship gods and idols other than the One, true God. Deuteronomy is God’s charge to the people of Israel, through Moses, to remain faithful to Him, despite their sinful nature.
The book ends with Moses appointing Joshua as the next leader of Israel, before walking up to the top of a mountain to glimpse the Promised Land one last time before he dies.
Listen: Israel is asked not only to hear God’s instructions but to obey them.
Love: God desires a wholehearted, willful devotion from Israel.
God alone: Israel is to worship the One, true God only. Worshiping the idols of the surrounding nations and the people currently occupying the land of Canaan leads to destruction, but worshiping the Lord leads to life.
By obeying God and following the law, Israel can show all the surrounding nations the wisdom and justice of God.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “‘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.’”
Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “‘This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’”
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
The book of Deuteronomy, like Leviticus, contains many laws given by God to the people of Israel—laws that may seem difficult to apply to the Christian faith today.
It is important when reading the laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus to remember that they were given under the Sinai Covenant to ancient Israel. It is more helpful to compare them with other laws of the day, including the laws of ancient Assyria or the Code of Hammurabi, rather than the laws of today.
When studying the laws given to Israel, it’s best to look for core principles and themes, rather than trying to apply specific laws to modern contexts.
As with any book of the Bible, understanding the context of Scripture is key to understanding God’s heart in Scripture.
At the end of Deuteronomy, there are still many unanswered questions. How is God going to rescue His people, defeat evil, restore their relationship with Him and transform their hearts?
These questions will continue to arise throughout the rest of the Old Testament. It will be many centuries of waiting until God’s promises are truly filled through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.