The book of Deuteronomy

If you’ve made it this far in our Bible reading plan don’t let anything stop you from completing it! Well done so far. We hope this has been deeply meaningful to you.

“Deuteronomy”, translated into English, simply means “repetition of the law”. The book is a series of final addresses given by Moses on the plains of Moab. If Moses wrote a ‘last will and testament’ this would be it. Moses was preparing and reminding the people to obey the covenant way of life they promised to live by. It is essentially a repetition of the Law from Leviticus and Numbers but is concerned more with the ‘spirit’ of the Law than the definite details.

Therefore it tends to be less technical than the previous books. You can hear Moses ‘preaching’ and applying the Law to the people. It contains reasons and encouragement that the other accounts leave out. If you listen carefully you can hear Moses saying, “Come on! Please obey the Lord with your whole heart.” He was doing this especially because they were about to come into the Promised Land.

Moses’ final address starts with four chapters of him reminding Israel about the key issues they faced in the desert. The failure at Kadesh Barnea, skipping past the Edomites and Moabites on their way north. He recalls God giving them victory over the Amorites. Moses summarises their position in 4:40: “You shall keep His commandments, that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land God is giving you forever.”

Chapter 5 to 30 is taken up with Moses detailing and pressing the Sinai covenant upon the people. The explanation is long and rich. Moses moves from details and pleas (5-26) to explanation of the blessings and curses in store for them (27-30). Bear in mind that the people who were now to go into the Promised Land were small children when they came through the Red Sea. They needed to be well acquainted with the Law of God. It was their ability to obey that meant success or failure.

The last four chapters are a final goodbye from Moses. Joshua is declared the new leader. The book ends with the death of Moses. Thus Deuteronomy is a grandiose view of Israel’s life at a key moment. Moses warns of the past errors, tells them how to live now, and reminds them of the glorious future they can have.

We can see ourselves so clearly in the big scope of the book. We need to know what to do with our past – mostly break from its mistakes and forget it. Then we live out our present responsibility and live for God with all our energy and passion. Then remember the future – forever in the heavenly Promised Land!

Picture: Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law (illustration by Gustave Doré)

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