Survey of Deuteronomy
Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); the fifth book of the Old Testament; the fifth book of the Bible; the fifth of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.
Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Deuteronomy is part of the "Law of Moses." He was 120 years old at the time of its writing.
Audience: The title Deuteronomy means "second law." The book is Moses' re-stating various laws and regulations given in the prior Scriptures. Moses wrote to the Jewish people during their 40-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula. This book was written during the final 40-day period before the Jews entered the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:3). It provides an account of God's many works among the nation of Israel during their 40-year journey. This was especially important for the younger generation of Jews who were born during this time period.
Date: During the 40 years in the wilderness, approximately 1440—1400 BC. Some suggest a more exact date of 1406 BC.
Overview: This book consists of 34 chapters that include a brief introduction (Deuteronomy 1:1–4), three major speeches by Moses (Deuteronomy 1:5—30:20), followed by four chapters of concluding activities.
The first speech of Moses (Deuteronomy 1:5—4:43) consists of three major themes. First, Moses reviews God's many gracious acts from their time at Horeb (Mount Sinai) to Beth Peor. Second, Moses gives encouragements in Deuteronomy 4:1–40 regarding obedience to the law of the Lord. Third, three cities of refuge are noted (Deuteronomy 4:41–43) for people to flee to in situations involving accidental deaths.
Moses' second speech is much longer, starting in Deuteronomy 4:44 and running through chapter 28. It provides the main teaching section of the book, reviewing the laws provided in Exodus and Leviticus. This includes the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5), fully obeying the Lord (Deuteronomy 6), warnings against other gods (Deuteronomy 7), warnings against forgetting God (Deuteronomy 8), examples of Israel's past rebellions (Deuteronomy 9—10:11), and the positive exhortation to fear God, love Him, and obey His commands (Deuteronomy 10:12—11:32).
Many specific areas of application are then provided in this second address. They include instructions for worship (Deuteronomy 12:1—16:17), leadership (Deuteronomy 16:18—18:22), community laws (Deuteronomy 19:1—25:19), firstfruits and tithing (Deuteronomy 26:1–15), and a call to obedience (Deuteronomy 26—28).
The third speech of Moses covers Deuteronomy 29:1—30:20. It emphasizes a renewal of the Mosaic covenant (Deuteronomy 29) followed by repentance and forgiveness (Deuteronomy 30). It concludes with the call to decide between life according to the Lord's ways, or death (Deuteronomy 30:11–20).
These three speeches are followed by a series of important concluding events. First, Moses transitions leadership to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:1–8). Second, rules are given regarding the future reading of the law (Deuteronomy 31:9–13). Joshua is commissioned by God, God prophecies regarding Israel's future and instructs Moses to write a song and teach it to the people, and Moses calls the people together (Deuteronomy 31:14–29). The song of Moses is then recorded, covering an extended portion of material (Deuteronomy 31:30—32:47). Moses then records information about his coming death and offers a blessing to the people (Deuteronomy 32:48—33:29).
The book ends with the record of Moses' death in chapter 34. This passage is the only part of the book connected to any authorship dispute. Most scholars believe this information was recorded by one of Moses' close associates after his death, possibly Joshua.
Key Verses (ESV):
Deuteronomy 4:2: "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you."
Deuteronomy 6:4–7: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
Deuteronomy 32:46–47: "He said to them, 'Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.'"