The title Deuteronomy is derived from the Greek words; “Deuteros”, meaning “second”, and “Nomos”, meaning “law”, thus making the book to be “the second law”. This could be misleading as the first law had neither failed nor did it need replacing by a second law. The book is actually a reiteration of the original law to the second generation. The key verse suggesting the name has been rendered “and he shall write out for himself this repetition of the law”, 17. 18.
The Hebrew title for the book when translated is “these are the words”, this being derived from its opening words, see 1.1. The people of Israel are gathered together on the east of Jordan at the very borders of Canaan to hear Jehovah’s word through Moses.
Writer. Ancient Hebrew tradition was unanimous in attributing the authorship of this book to Moses. It records his speeches to the new generation v/which needed moral prepar-ation for its future possession of the land. In 1. 5 Moses explained the law and subsequently wrote it in a book which was placed beside the ark of the covenant and delivered to the Levites for safe keeping, 31. 9, 22-26. This passage is of more than traditional value, and should not be ignored. See Ezra 7. 6; Neh. 8. 1.
The authorship of no other book in the Old Testament is so emphatically emphasized. Moses wrote this book at the command of God. Nearly forty times Moses’ name occurs, and in most instances as the authoritative author of the subject. He had ability for this work, Acts 7. 22. Joshua or Eleazar may have written the account of Moses’ death.
Authority. Satan has attacked this book through the “Higher Critics" with the object of weakening its authority. This book is referred to about ninety times in the New Testament. Perhaps what our Lord loved so much and used so effectively Satan specially hates. It is the only book quoted by our Lord in the temptation in the wilderness. He took words from this book as a weapon to silence His great enemy; compare 8. 3; 6. 16; 6. 13 with Matthew 4. 4, 7,10.
Value. In spite of critical questions, this book has a moral and spiritual value for us today and lessons for every succeeding generation. There were no amendments so far as the moral law was concerned. There were adjustments to the civil and ceremonial laws, caused by changing conditions as they entered the land. While social life is ever changing requiring adjusted laws, the moral life never changes. Sin is still sin, Eph. 2. 1-3. God requires that we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. He still calls us to holiness, obedience, love and duty.
The new revelation of “love" in this last book of the Pentateuch will enable us to honour God in all things. Obed-ience to God is the only path of blessing, both today and for all time.
Purpose. The book was written to recall the uniqueness of Israel’s God, and the unique relation which Jehovah sustains to His ancient people. It is written to fit the new generation to enter into the land, which their fathers had failed to do through unbelief. The divine purpose is “possess" (70 times), “the land" (100 times) given “this day” (70 times). One thing is demanded, that is obedience, based upon a relation to Jehovah. By this means they will have true joy.
The book is an historical summary in the form of dis-courses or exhortations, showing the true meaning of the teaching contained in Exodus and Leviticus. It embraces the history and legislation of these books, and impresses upon the hearts of the people, the need of fidelity to the covenant, and securing its lasting duration.
Character. This book was addressed to the people, as a whole, while Leviticus was particularly for the priests. Here the people are looking over their experiences and drawing lessons from them. It is a book of obedience, 6. 3; everything depended on this, even life itself, victory over foes, happiness and prosperity. It is an inspired commentary on the law, and a supplement to it. There are positive assurances that God will be with His people and will fight for them. They must revere their God, 4. 29; 5. 10, and have no contact with the false gods worshipped by pagans, 6.14; n. 16.
It is a book of remembrance; they were once in bondage in Egypt, 5. 15; they were rescued by divine power, 4. 20. It looks back to redemption out of Egypt and discipline and punishment in the wilderness. It is also a book of prospect, looking to the future in Canaan and the prophetic forecast of Israel’s future, ch. 32-33.
Message. (1) Divine faithfulness. This is the bedrock of divine revelation. God kept His promises. He cared for them, provided for them. They knew His goodness to them; for almost forty years, in spite of their waywardness, His protection and provision had been enjoyed. (2) Human failure. Numbers is the record of Israel’s [wanderings, while Deuteronomy emphasizes their responsibility. They were unfaithful and disobedient, and God administered judgment accordingly. Obedience to the law of God was essential to their peace and prosperity. Chapter 6. 3 is the key to the book. Obedience is based on relationship, and its standard is His Word. His commandments are the rule of life, “observe to do”. The fear of God should produce obedience, and such obedience would be beneficial, “it would be well with thee”. Obedience would promote health, national prosperity and welfare. As with Israel, His Word is our guide too. We are to keep it carefully and constantly, 6. 17-19, and to remember His redemptive power and purposes, 6. 21-23. Have His record in your heart, 6. 6; teach it, 6. 7–8; do not forget the Lord, 6. 12; keep thyself pure, 6. 14; and always obey, 6. 18.
The Historical Review, chs. 1-4. The Backward Look.
Introduction, 1. 1-5, place, time and date.
The Journey Reviewed, 1. 6-46. Reminders, 5-12; respon-sibility, 13-25; rebellion, 26-33; results, 34-36.
The Journey Resumed, chs. 2-4. Israel content, 2. 1-3; charged, 4-23; conquering, 24-3. 17; contemplating, 3. 18-22; cheered, 3. 24-29. Israel charged, ch. 4. Instructions, 1-24; incentives, 25-31; inducements, 32-38; interests, 39-49.
The Helpful Reminders, chs. .5-11. The Inward Look.
About the Law, chs. 5-6. The decalogue repeated., 5. 1-21; doubtful response, 22-33. Divine requirements, ch. 6. Learning His will, 1-3; loving His word, 4-9; live by obedience, 5-25.
About the Lord, chs. 7-8. His exalted standard, 7. 1-5; electing love, 6-11; encouraging promises, 12-26. Chapter 8, exhortations and warnings. Be grateful, 1-6; be hopeful, 7-10; be careful, 11-20.
About the Land, chs. 9-11. Chapter 9, the great day, 1-3; grave departure, 4-16; great intercession, 17-20, 25-29; grievous rebellions, 22-24; goodness revealed, 10. 1-11; God to be reverenced, 12-22, and obeyed, 11. 1-8; good days ahead, 9-25; the great alternative, 26-32.
The Heritage is Rich, chs. 12-26. The Forward Look.
Laws for Religious Life, chs. 12-16. (a) Purity in worship, chs. 12-14. Chapter 12: the divine choice, 1-11; daily communion, 12-15; cautions, 16-25; counsel, 26-32. Chapter 13: false prophets, 1-5; foolish passions, 6-11; final punishment, 12-18. Chapter 14: food laws, 1-21; financial laws, 22-29. (b) Piety in worship, chs. 15-16. The year of release, 15. 1-14; things to remember, 15. 15-23; redemption and rejoicing, 16. 1-17.
Laws for Political Life, chs. 16. 18-20. 19. The administra-tion of justice. The function of the judge, 16. 18 to 20. 19. No perversion, no partiality, no bribery, 16. 19; no idolatry, 17. 1-7. The priest, 17. 8-13, the highest court of appeal. The function of the king, 17. 14-20. His character, 14-17; conduct, 18-20. The priests and Levites, ch. 18: to be supported, 1-8; abominations to be rejected, 9-14; true and false prophets, 15-22. Chapter 19, protection in the land: refuge provided, 19. 1-10; righteousness demanded, 14-20. Rules for warfare, ch. 20; promises, 1-4; provision, 5-11; principles, 12-20.
Laws for Personal and Social Life, chs. 21-26. Chapter 21: the restraint of lawlessness, 1-9; regard for women, 10-17; the rebellious son, 18. 21. Chapter 22: rules for charity and purity. Chapter 23: rights of citizenship, 1-8; regulations against impurity, 9-14; civil rights, 19-25. Chapter 24: sanctity of marriage, 1-5; sacredness of human life, 6-9; special regard for the poor, 10-22. Chapter 25: rules of justice, mercy and purity. Chapter 26: reaching the land. Remember thy God, 1-9; recognize His claims, 10-15; resolve to keep His Word, 16-19.
The Highway of Responsibility, chs. 27 to 31. 13. The Inspiring Look.
Instructions for the Land, ch. 27. The law inscribed, 1-10; the law implied, 9-26.
Involvement in the Land, chs. 28 to 31. 10. The experience of blessing, 28. 1-14; emphasis on curses, 28. 15-68. Exposition of the covenant, ch. 29. Its cautions, 1-29; its challenge, 30. 1-10; its choice, 11-20; its commands, 31. 1-13.
The Hero’s Final Revelation, chs. 31-34. The Godward Look.
Counselling, ch. 31. Charges to Joshua and the Levites.
Singing, ch. 32. Of Israel’s election, 6-14; rebellion, 15-19; rejection, 20-21; retribution, 22-35; restoration, 36-44. Closing exhortation, 45-52.
Blessing, ch. 33. The tribes individually, 1-25; then inclus-ively.
Passing, ch. 34. The vision he was given, 1-4; the valley of burial, 6-8; his value to the nation, 10-12.
Suggestions for Closer Study. The key passages of the book are worthy of study; see especially chapters 6. 4-5; 7. 6-13; 10. 12-13; 11. 26-28; 26. 16-19 and 32. 46-47. Its keywords are the expressions “The Lord thy God” and “The Lord your God”, over 200 times; “The land which the Lord thy God giveth thee”, 24 times; the commands to “do”, 50 times, to “remember”, and “forget not”, over 20 times; to “fear the Lord”, 14 times; and to “love the Lord”, 10 times.