Reading 2,27 - 34 Chapters - 959 verses - 28,461 words

Vital Statistics


The Hebrew name of the book is 'elleh haddebarim ("These are the words") or, more simply debarim ("words"; see 1.1). The word "Deuteronomy" (meaning "repetition of the law") arr-0Y, from a mistranslation in the Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT) and the Latin Vulgate of a phrase in Dt 17:18, which in Hebrew means "copy of this law." The error ., not serious, however, since Deuteronomy is, in a certain sense, a "repetition of the law.

Author and Date of Writing

The book itself ascribes most of its content to Moses (see 1:1,5; 31:24 and notes). For that Ian reason, the OT elsewhere ascribes the bulk of Deuteronomy and other Pentateuchal legislation (se to Moses (see, e.g., Jos 1:7-8; 23:6; 1Ki 2:3; 8:53; Mal 4:4 and notes). Similarly Jesus attributed OE Dt 24:1 to Moses (Mt 19:7-8; Mk 10:3-5), Peter attributed Dt 1 8:1 5,1 8-1 9 to Moses (Ac 3:22-23), as did Stephen (see Ac 7:37-38 and notes), and Paul attributed Dt 32:21 to Moses (Ro 10:19). See also Mt 22:24 and note; Mk 12:18-19; Lk 20:27-28. At the same time, it seems clear that the narrative framework within which the Mosaic material is placed (e.g., the preamble [1:1-5] and the conclusion [ch. 34]; see also 5:1; 27:1, 9, 11; 29:1-2; 31:1, 7, 9-10, 14-25, 30; 32:44-46, 48-52; 33:1-2) comes from another -- and unknown -- hand.

Historical Setting

Deuteronomy locates Moses and the Israelites in the territory of Moab in the area where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea (1:5). As his final act at this important time of transferring leadership to Joshua, Moses delivered his farewell addresses to prepare the people for their entrance into Canaan. In them, Moses emphasized the laws that were especially needed at such a time, and he presented them in a way appropriate to the situation. In contrast to the matter-of-fact narratives of Leviticus and Numbers, here the words of Moses come to us from his heart as this servant of the Lord presses God's claims on his people Israel.

Special Function in the Bible

The trajectory of the story that unfolds in Genesis-Numbers seems to call for an account of the conquest of Canaan as found in Joshua to bring closure to the movement from promise to fulfillment (see Introduction to Joshua: Title and Theme). But Deuteronomy intervenes as a massive interruption. Here there is very little forward movement. At the end of Numbers, Israel is "on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho" (Nu 3 6:33) and at the end oil, Deuteronomy, the people are still there (Dt 34:8) waiting to cross the Jordan (see Jos 1:2).,A, that has happened is the transition from the ministry of Moses as God's spokesman and official representative to that of Joshua in his place (Dt 34:9; see Jos 1:1-2). But Moses' final acts as the Lord's appointed servant for dealing with Israel are so momentous that Deuteronomy's account of them marks the conclusion to the Pentateuch, while the book of Joshua, which narrates the initial fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs and the conclusion to the mission on which Moses had been sent (see Nu 17:15-23; Jos 21:43-45), serves as the introduction to the Former Prophets.

So Deuteronomy creates a long pause in the advancement of the story of redemption:

(1) of deliverance from bondage to a world power (Egypt) to a place in the earth where Israel can be a free people under the rule of God;

(2) of deliverance from rootlessness in the post-Babel world (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) to security and "rest" (see Dt 3:20 and note; 12:10; 25:19) in the promised land;

(3) of deliverance from a life of banishment from God's Garden (Ge 3) to a life in the Lord's own land where he has pitched his tent (Jos 22:19).

But in that long pause on the threshold of the promised land Moses, in this renewal of the Sinaitic covenant, reminded Israel at length of what the Lord required of them as his people if they were to cross the Jordan, take possession of the promised land and there enjoy the promised "rest" in fellowship with him. It was a word that Israel needed to hear over and over again. Upon reading the Pentateuch, Israel was brought ever anew to the threshold of the promised land and its promised "rest" to hear again this final word from God through his servant Moses (see also Ps 95:7b-22). For this reason, all the history of Israel in Canaan as narrated in the Former Prophets is brought under the judgment of this word.

Theological Teaching and Purpose

The book of Deuteronomy was cast in the form of ancient Near Eastern suzerainty-vassal treaties of the second millennium B.C. It contained the Great King's pledge to be Israel's Suzerain and Protector if they would be faithful to him as their covenant Lord and obedient to the covenant stipulations as the vassal people of his kingdom.There would be blessings for such obedience, but curses for disobedience (chs. 27-30). Deuteronomy's purpose was to prepare the new generation of the Lord's chosen people to be his kingdom representatives in the land he had unconditionally promised them in the Abrahamic covenant (see Structure and Outline below; see also notes on 3:27; 17:14,18).

The love relationship of the Lord to his people, and that of the people to the Lord as their sovereign God, pervade the whole book. Deuteronomy's spiritual emphasis and its call to total commitment to the Lord in worship and obedience inspired references to its message throughout the rest of Scripture. In particular, the division of the Hebrew Bible called the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) is thoroughly imbued with the style, themes and motifs of Deuteronomy. Among the Latter Prophets, Jeremiah also reflects strong influence from this book.

Structure and Outline

Deuteronomy's literary structure supports its historical setting. By its interpretive, repetitious, reminiscent and somewhat irregular style it shows that it is a series of more or less extemporaneous addresses, sometimes describing events in non chronological order (see, e.g., 10:3). But it also bears in its structure clear reflections of the suzerain-vassal treaties of the preceding and then-current Near Eastern states, a structure that lends itself to the Biblical emphasis on the covenant between the Lord and his people.

Deuteronomy Interpretive Challenges

Three interpretive challenges face the reader of Deuteronomy.

    1. First, is the book a singular record, or is it only a part of the arger literary whole, the Pentateuch? The remainder of the Scripture always views the Pentateuch as a unit, and the ultimate meaning of Deuteronomy cannot be divorced from its context in the Pentateuch. The book also assumes the reader is already familiar with the four books that precede it; in fact, Deuteronomy brings into focus all that had been revealed in Genesis to Numbers, as well as its implications for the people as they entered the Land. However, every available Hebrew manuscript divides the same way as the present text, indicating that the book is a well-defined unit recounting the final speeches of Moses to Israel, so it may also be viewed as a singular record.

    2. Second, is true structure of Deuteronomy based on the secular treaties of Moses’ day? During the last 35 years, many evangelical scholars have supported the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy by appealing to the similarities between the structure of the book and the ancient Near Eastern treaty from of the mid-second millennium B.C. (the approximate time of Moses). These secular suzerainty treaties (i.e., a ruler distanting his will to his vassals) followed a set pattern not used in the mid-first millennium B.C. These treaties usually contained the following elements:

          1. preamble— identifying the parties to the covenant

          2. historical prologue— a history of the king’s dealing with his vassals

          3. general and specific stipulations

          4. witnesses

          5. blessings and curses

          6. oaths and covenant ratification

    3. Deuteronomy, it is believed, approximates this basic structure. While there is agreement that 1:1-5 is a preamble, 1:5-4:43 a historical prologue, and chaps. 27, 28 feature blessings and cursings, there is no consensus as to how the rest of Deuteronomy fits this structure. While there might have been a covenant renewal on the plains of Moab, this is neither clearly explicit not implicit in Deuteronomy. It is best to take the book for what it claims to be: the explanation of the law given by Moses for the new generation. The structure follows the speeches given by Moses.


Deuteronomy Horizontal

God's character in Deuteronomy

  1. God is accessible - 4:7

  2. God is eternal - 33:27

  3. God is faithful - 7:9

  4. God is glorious - 5:24; 28:58

  5. God is jealous - 4:24

  6. God is just - 10:17; 32:4

  7. God is loving - 7:7, 8, 13; 10:15, 18; 23:5

  8. God is merciful - 4:31; 32:43

  9. God is powerful - 3:24; 32:39

  10. God is a promise keeper - 1:11

  11. God is provident - 8:2, 15, 18

  12. God is righteous - 4:8

  13. God is true - 32:4

  14. God is unequeles - 4:35; 33:26

  15. God is unifies - 4:32-35, 39, 40; 6:4, 5; 32:39

  16. God is wise - 2:7

  17. 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 as the Messiah, or Christ, in both the OT and NTs (34:10; Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37).

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