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Book of Deuteronomy

Book of Deuteronomy
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The fifth and final book of the books authored by Moses, completing the Pentateuch, or Torah, is the Book of Deuteronomy. Organized into 34 chapters, its meaning is the "second law." The chief characteristic of this book is its vigorous oratorical style. In a series of formal conversations, Moses presents the theme of the covenant renewal in a religious framework. His aim is to enforce among the Israelites the Lord's claim to their obedience, loyalty, and love.

The events contained in the Book of Deuteronomy too place in the plains of Moab between the end of wanderings in the desert and the crossing of the Jordan River, a period of no more than forty days. The Book of Deuteronomy, written after the Israelites had for centuries been resident in the Land of Promise, takes the form of a testament of Moses to his people on the eve of his death.

Chapters of the book can be organized into the following manner:

  1. Historical review and Exhortation
  2. God and His Covenant
  3. Exposition of the Law
  4. Final Words of Moses

A narrative summary of the final book of the Pentateuch, the Book of Deuteronomy, is as follows.

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I. Historical Review and Exhortation - Deuteronomy 1-4:43.

A new generation had arrived on the east bank of the Jordan River one month before entering the Promised Land. Those of the generation which had left Egypt were dead. They were a petulant generation marked in unbelief and disobedience of God's Law. This new generation was unfamiliar with the experiences of Mt. Sinai, and they needed to have the Law called to their attention and interpreted in the light of their experience and future dwelling in the Promised Land. Moses provides an historical recounting to this new generation so that they might know what and Who they have to be grateful.

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II. God and His Covenant - Deuteronomy 4:44-11.

Moses restates the Law of love and obedience. A vigorous repetition and interpretation of the Ten Commandments and religious and national regulations are renewed in this generation. God’s past dealings and assurances for future are made known to them. God knew Israel and although the past was not good, God sent Israel to Egypt and brought them out of Egypt into the Promised Land.

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III. Exposition of the Law - Deuteronomy 12-26.

Exposition of the Law is anchored in that Israel has only one place to worship in land. Here, Moses provides God's warning against and test of false prophets and false gods. Regulations pertaining to the three main feasts are issued: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles. Cities of Refuge are placed within the context and the extent of land and extremity of Law. Laws regulating warfare are promulagated.

There are laws regulating murder, marriage and delinquent sons. Also expected of each Israelite is proper behavior in personal relations. Hence, regulations are laid down for domestic and personal relations, miscellaneous laws concerning brother relationships, dress, marriage, and divorce.

The guilty are to be punished (40 stripes). Here we find laws protecting widows, punishment for other crimes and the judgment of Amalek. In all things, the Israelites are told to give of the First Fruits as thanksgiving to God.

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IV. Final Words of Moses - Deuteronomy 27-34.

Moses gives to this new generation his final instructions from the Lord before he relinquishes his leadership of the nation through death. He reviews the desert experiences, he reemphasizes certain features of the Law, and he reveals their future course in the light of the Palestinian covenant that God had made with him relative to the Land of Promise. Finally, Moses teaches them a new song; he blesses the twelve tribes; and then he prepares to die. A requiem to Moses regarding the future of the land, (blessings and curses), concludes the Book of Deuteronomy.

This completes our survey of the Pentateuch. We will now direct our focus on the next compilation of books in the Old Testament, the Historical Books.

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