The English title of this book, “Deuteronomy”, comes from the Greek translation (the Septuagint) of the Hebrew word “misneh” in 17:18 (Hebrew was the original language the Old Testament was written in). “Mishneh” means: double, copy, second, repetition. It does not mean that there was an additional law, or another law that was given…as in a second law that was added to the first law. But, it means that the original law was copied, duplicated…“a copy of this law”. The Jewish title for this book simply means “words” and comes from the first verse.
For additional information on the Septuagint see:
Much of the content of Deuteronomy details the responsibilities of Israel as God’s covenant people. Many of the laws contained in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are repeated here.
This book contains the last messages that Moses gave to the people of Israel during the final months that they were camped in the plains of Moab before entering into the Promised Land. Many adversaries and adversities lay ahead of them and these people had not experienced the miracles of Egypt, the delivery at the Red Sea, or the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. This was to be a reminder of God’s power, presence, and law.
Chapter 34 contains an account of the death of Moses. Obviously he could not have written this portion of the book. But this does not negate Moses’ authorship of the rest of the book.
The Historical Timeline of Genesis thru Deuteronomy:
Genesis (In Genesis we see man ruined)…history from Creation through entry into Egypt
Exodus (In Exodus we see man redeemed)…history from the Exodus from Egypt through the arrival at Sinai
Leviticus (In Leviticus we see man worshipping)…it is one year after the Exodus…these are the Laws for living and instructions for the use of the Tabernacle…given during the month and 20 days between the setting up of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the departure of the people from Sinai (Numbers 10:11).
Numbers (In Numbers we see man wandering)…history starting one month after the close of the book of Exodus and continuing through 39 years of wandering in the wilderness…concluding with their arrival at the Jordan River, the eastern border to the Promised Land (Canaan).
Deuteronomy (In Deuteronomy we see man governing)…the addresses given by Moses during the final months of his life while Israel was camped across the Jordan River from the Promised Land.
This book is something of a constitution, a legal document, for the theocratic (based on and centered around God) government of Israel once it is settled in the Promised Land.
Two important passages are:
(1) 5:6-21 The 10 Commandments
(2) 6:4-9 The Great Commandment (Shema)
The Lessons Learned from the Past Deuteronomy 1:1-4:43
Deuteronomy 1:1-5 Introduction
Deuteronomy 1:1-4-Deuteronomy was written during the last months of Moses' life...before the people would enter the Promised Land. None of these people had experienced the exodus from Egypt, or the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. “Arabah” means “desert, wilderness.” Verse 2 tells us that it is only an 11-day journey from Horeb (another name for Mt. Sinai) to Kadesh-barnea…the place where Israel had refused to believe God some 38 years earlier when He had first led them to enter the Promised Land. How many times has our refusal to follow God led us into a wilderness journey…where there were consequences for our disobedience. And then later, we would arrive right back at the same circumstance, the same situation…and once again have to make a decision. The wonderful truth though, is that God never gives up on us…but will always bring us back to an opportunity to be obedient to Him.
Deuteronomy 1:5-4:43-This is a review of the history of Israel from Horeb to their present location.
Deuteronomy 1:6-18 Lessons Learned at Sinai
Deuteronomy 1:6-8-Israel at Sinai. The “Negev” is a large area of desert in the southern part of Canaan (covering about 4,500 sq. miles).
Deuteronomy 1:9-18-The assigning of judges (Exod. 18:13-27) from the tribes to assist Moses in matters of dispute between the people.
Deuteronomy 1:19-46 Lessons Learned at Kadesh-barnea
Deuteronomy 1:19-46-The journey from Kadesh-barnea to Moab (Numbers 13-14). At the urging of the people, Moses sends spies into the land and they return with a bad report…that the people are too large and numerous…and that they cannot be conquered. Despite God’s protection in the past and His promise for the future…the people refuse to enter the Promised Land...based on the report by the spies. When God tells them that He is going to punish them by sending them back into the wilderness they make an attempt on their own to go into the Promised Land but are soundly defeated. The “descendants sons of Anak”, were a tribe that lived near Hebron in the southern part of Palestine. They were apparently very large in stature (:33; cf. Deuteronomy 2:10). They were a part of the “Nephilim” (:33; 2:10-11,20-21). The only other reference to the “Nephilim” is in Genesis 6:4, where they were a race of people that lived prior to the flood (antediluvian).
Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29 Lessons Learned in the Wilderness
Deuteronomy 2:1-8-The land of the descendants of Esau...Seir (the entire area of Edom, the mountainous region south of the Dead Sea)…they were not to disturb them.
Deuteronomy 2:9-23-The land of the descendants of Lot...Ar (the land of Moab)…they were not to disturb them.
2:14-It took 38 years to go from Kadesh-barnea to the book Zered...during which time all the men of war died.
In the case of the lands of Lot and Esau there is a comment made by God that giant, powerful people had previously lived there...but the LORD had destroyed them so that these people could possess the land (:10-12, 20-23). Could this be meant as a word of encouragement to the people...since they knew that there were giant people in the Promised Land that they would have to face, as well?
Deuteronomy 2:24-3:11-The Conquest of the Lands of Transjordan
Deuteronomy 2:24-37-The land of Sihon the Amorite, King of Hesbon (region of Argob)…they were to totally destroy them (2:34-"utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor."). By destroying the Amorites God was going to place fear of His people in the hearts of other nations. This land and that in 3:1-11 is the land of the Transjordan (cf. 3:12ff).
Prayer: Lord, help me to learn the lessons that You want to teach me the first time. Don’t let me fail to see what You are doing. Don’t let me somehow work my way out of it. I know that if I fail to learn them the first time…it will mean that I have to face something again (and perhaps even additional times)…until I finally learn the lessons.