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Deuteronomy: Instruction of Israel Edit

Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book of the Pentateuch. The name means “second law;” Moses was giving the law a second time to the children of Israel.[1] Deuteronomy is basically a reminder of what God did to the previous generation of Israel and instructions to the generation entering the Promised Land of what God would do to them if they did not follow His commandments. Deuteronomy also contains the most doctrine of the five books of the Pentateuch, and is the most quoted book in the New Testament.

Author Edit

A popular belief today is that Deuteronomy was written by an unknown author during the seventh century.[2] The fact that Moses was the human author of the book of Deuteronomy can be proven many ways. One such proof is the fact that the structure of Deuteronomy is similar to Hittite writings that were written around the same time Deuteronomy was written. Deuteronomy has a preamble, historical prologue, stipulation, covenant ratification, and succession arrangements; this structure mirrors that of Hittite vassal treaties.

In recent decades studies of Hittite suzerainty treaties from the 2nd millennium b.c. have yielded interesting comparisons between those treaty forms and the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. In 1954 G. Mendenhall suggested that the form of the covenant at Mt Sinai was the same literary form used by Hittites in treaties with Syrian vassal states during the 14th and 13th centuries b.c. In 1960 M. G. Kline applied that idea to the Book of Deuteronomy, seeing it as a renewal of the Sinaitic covenant and outlining its structure as a literary unit reflecting the pattern of Hittite covenant forms.[3]

Another proof of Deuteronomy’s Mosaic authorship is the fact that Jesus and the Pharisees quoted from Deuteronomy. Jesus said in Matthew 19:7, referring to Deuteronomy 24:1, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” The Pharisees quoted Deuteronomy 25:5 when they asked Jesus in Mark 12:19, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us: If a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man must marry the widow and father children for his brother.”[4] If one believes that the entire Word of God is inspired, then one must believe that Moses wrote Deuteronomy.

Date Edit

If one believes that Moses wrote Deuteronomy, then one must believe that it was written in the 14th or 13th century. Moses probably wrote this book at the end of the forty years he and the children of Israel spent wandering the desert. This would have occurred sometime close to 1405 B.C. However, it is certain that Moses did not write the end of Deuteronomy. Since Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy, someone must have had to finish the book. That does not prove, however, that Moses was not the author of Deuteronomy, it just gives us an eulogy of the “friend of God.”

Historical Background Edit

Deuteronomy begins with Moses speaking to the children of Israel the words of the Lord. “And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them. Moses was reminding the Israelites of the covenant that God gave to them. He first gave an historical account of the wanderings of the previous generation and that generation’s failures and successes. Moses recalled the many times that God had provided manna, quail, and water for the children of Israel throughout their wanderings. He told the Israelites how God had helped them conquer the heathen nations on their side of the Jordan, and how God punished the Israelites when they disobeyed God. Moses admitted in Deuteronomy why he was not allowed to go into the Promised Land: “God had made it clear to Moses that he would not be permitted to enter the Promised Land because of his unbelief at the waters of Meribah”[5] Moses had struck the rock to call water out of it instead of speaking to the rock..

The final part of Deuteronomy covers the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua.

After the charge to the people (vv. 1–6) Moses commissioned Joshua as the Lord had told him (3:28). Moses had previously reminded the people of God’s decision to replace him with Joshua (1:38), but the repetition here in the presence of all Israel emphasized both God’s and Moses’ approval of Joshua. This helped facilitate the transition to the new leadership.[6]

After Moses passed the mantle to Joshua, he gave his final instructions to the nation of Israel. He told them to remember the Words of the Lord and to teach them to their children so that their children would continue to follow God’s Law.

After Moses’ final admonition, he blessed and cursed each of the tribes of Israel. In chapters 27-29 of Deuteronomy, Moses told the Israelites the conditions on which they would be cursed or blessed. These curses and blessings were for when they passed over into the Promised Land.

God told him to climb Mount Nebo so that Moses would be able to see the land in which the children of Israel would make their home. “Though one could not normally view the western sea (the Mediterranean) from Mount Nebo, perhaps Moses was supernaturally enabled by the Lord to do so (There the Lord showed him the whole land).”[7] Moses died on Mount Nebo, and God Himself buried Moses’ body. Nobody has found Moses’ grave; the Israelites would have surely made his body an idol or a religious symbol had he been buried by men. Jude gives evidence of Satan trying to get Moses’ body for that very reason in verse 9 of his letter. “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” Deuteronomy ends with Moses dead and the children of Israel poised to enter the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.

To Whom It Was Written Edit

Deuteronomy was written to the entire nation of Israel. “Moses’ words were addressed to all Israel, an expression used at least 12 times in the book.”[8] If something is repeated multiple times in Scripture, that usually indicates that it is important. God wanted the Israelites to know that they should be unified under His Law, and God’s Law was important for every single Israelite.[9] Deuteronomy is not for the Jews only, however. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy when he gave the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37; he also quoted from this book when he was tempted in Matthew 4:4-10. This shows that Deuteronomy is applicable to the Christian today.

Why It Was Written Edit

Deuteronomy was written as a sermon to the Jews. Moses wrote Deuteronomy so that the younger generation who came out of the forty years of wandering would know the Law of God and remember it. “His goal was to get the people to renew the covenant made at Sinai, that is, to make a fresh commitment to the Lord. Only by unreservedly committing themselves to the Lord could the people hope to enter the Promised Land, conquer its inhabitants, and then live in prosperity and peace.”[10] Moses also wanted the nation to renew the Sinai covenant that God gave to the children of Israel.[11]

In writing Deuteronomy, Moses encouraged the children of Israel as they went forth into the Promised Land. The fathers of the same generation he was speaking to had died in the wilderness because they did not place their trust in God.[12] Moses did not want the children of those Israelites to suffer the same fate as their fathers, and so he reminded them of what their fathers did so that they would not do the same. He also told them to teach their children about the Law and what they had learned during their wanderings so that what had happened to them would never be forgotten.[13] It is known from Judges 2:10 that the Israelites did not obey this commandment, and after Joshua’s death, there a generation who knew not God and His works.

The death of Moses concludes the book of Deuteronomy and the Pentateuch. Deuteronomy is important not only because it retells God’s Law for the children of Israel, but it gives an amazing historical account of how God provided and dealt with His people throughout their wanderings.


[1] Norman L. Geisler. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House, 1977. Pg. 77

[2] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 259.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 617.

[4] Dulle, Jason “Did Moses Write Deuteronomy?” https://theosophical.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/did-moses-write-deuteronomy/ (accessed December 9, 2014)

[5] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 268.

[6] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 316.

[7] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 322–323.

[8] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 261.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 260.

[11] Wolf, Herbert. An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1991, pg. 246

[12] Ibid.

[13] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 618–619.

For further studies, see also: Edit

Genesis Outline

Exodus Outline

Leviticus Outline

Numbers Outline

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