I am on vacation until August 5th. While away I will post some of my notes from a series I have started at the Church on the Overview of the Old Testament…..
The title of this book in the Hebrew Bible is Elleh Ladderbarim; these are the words (1:1).
Ancient Near Eastern territorial treaties usually began with These are the words. Hence the jewish title gives a strong clue to the literary character of Deuteronomy.
The English Title, which comes from the Septuagint was actually an error due to a bad translation of Deut. 17:18 When he is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.
The translators of the Septuagint mistakenly renders copy of this instruction as this second law – which is what Deuteronomy means.
Deuteronomy is to some extent a repetition of the law. Moses presents the law which was given at Mt Sinai to this new generation as they prepare to enter Canaan. It is a wonderful example of the elder teaching and preparing the younger.
In the Jewish nation Deuteronomy is an important book. It is to be read publicly during the feast of Tabernacles at the close of each Sabbatical Year:
Deut. 31:10 Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
Deuteronomy is largely a sermon – or a series of sermons preached by Moses. It is a motivational sermon urging Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant laws of Sinai given 40 years previously.
The first sermon is Deut 1:1-4:43. It recounts God’s mighty acts on Israel’s behalf from the time of the covenant at Sinai to this renewal ceremony.
The second sermon is 4:44-26:19. This restates the covenant laws originally given in Ex 20-23.
The third sermon is 37:1-31:30. This is Moses final address to the nation – the blessings and the curses are read out.
The book ends with three appendixes: the Song of Moses (32), the blessing of Moses (33) and the death and burial of Moses (34)
If Exodus was about redemption – Leviticus about sanctification and Numbers about Obedience then Deuteronomy is about faithfulness.
Moses constantly reassures the people of God’s faithfulness and his power to keep his promises and he urges the people to remain faithful to God and the covenant. It may well be the longest farewell speech in recorded history!
The concept of the covenant is at the heart of Deuteronomy.
We know that a covenant has is an agreement between two parties who wish to enter into a relationship. They agree to certain actions, which have certain consequences and even certain punishments if the agreement is broken.
The theological values of Deuteronomy can hardly be exaggerated. It stands as the wellspring of biblical historical revelation. It is a prime source for both the OT and NT theology. Whether the covenant, the holiness of God or the concept of the people of God is the unifying factor of Old Testament theology, each finds emphasis and remarkable definition in Deuteronomy.
Deut is quoted some 95 times in the NT. Jesus quotes from Deut more than any other OT book. Most famously, Jesus quotes Deut 6:4-5 as the first and greatest commandment. And this shows us the big idea of Deuteronomy – if loving God is the greatest commandment, then obedience and faithfulness to God’s commands is the greatest expression of love for God and for their neighbor.
OK, lets summarize Deuteronomy:
CONTENT: rehearsal of the covenant for a new generation of Israelites just before the conquest.
EMPHASIS: the oneness and uniqueness of yahweh; yahweh’s covenant love for Israel in making them his people; yahweh’s universal sovereignty over all peoples; Israel as yahweh’s model for the nations; the significance of the central sanctuary where Yahweh is to be worshipped; Yahweh’s concern for justice; that his people reflect his character; the blessings of obedience and the dangers of disobedience.
What drives Deuteronomy from beginning to end is an uncompromising monotheism – one God – coupled with an equally deep concern for Israel’s uncompromising loyalty to Yahweh.
As you read Deuteronomy watch for three things:
The constant reminder that Israel is about to possess the land (a phrase which occurs 100 x in Deut). God is about to fulfill his oath to Abraham
The relentless demand that, when entering the land, Israel not only avoid idolatry but they completely destroy the high places of worship in Canaan. If they do not do this then Canaan idolatry will destroy the Israelites reason for being: Deut. 7:1 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, and He drives out many nations before you—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you— 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you and you defeat them, you must •completely destroy them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 because they will turn your sons away from Me to worship other gods. Then the LORD’S anger will burn against you, and He will swiftly destroy you. 5 Instead, this is what you are to do to them: tear down their altars, smash their standing pillars, cut down their •Asherah poles,a and burn up their carved images. 6 For you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be His own possessiona out of all the peoples on the face of the earth. Deut. 7:23 The LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will hand their kings over to you, and you will wipe out their names under heaven. No one will be able to stand against you; you will annihilate them. 25 You must burn up the carved images of their gods. Don’t covet the silver and gold on the images and take it for yourself, or else you will be ensnared by it, for it is abhorrent to the LORD your God. 26 You must not bring any abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be •set apart for destruction like it. You are to utterly detest and abhor it, because it is set apart for destruction. Also – 12:1-3; 13:6-18; 16:21-17:7; 20:16-18. The only way for Israel to bless the nations (4:6) is for them to obliterate all forms of idolatry and to walk in the ways of the God who redeemed them to be his people (5:32-33).
The requirement that they regularly worship at one central sanctuary – Deut. 12:10 When you cross the Jordan and live in the land the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all the enemies around you and you live in security, 11 then the LORD your God will choose the place to have His name dwell. Bring there everything I command you: your burnt offerings, sacrifices, offerings of the tenth, personal contributions,a and all your choice offerings you vow to the LORD. This is repeated in 12:14; 18, 26; 14:23-25; 15:20; 16:2-16; 17:8-10; 26:2. Yahweh will dwell among his one people in one place unlike the pagans who worshipped many gods on many high places.
Why are these issues so important? God, through Moses is driving home the total distinction between yahweh and Baal. There can NEVER be any compatibility between Yahweh and Baal – no similarity in function or practice.
There are two final things to point out regarding Deuteronomy.
The first is that within this book about the law of God to Israel we have a strong emphasis upon God’s love for others: Deut. 10:19 You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt Deut. 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land;a that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’
Deut. 24:14 “Do not oppress a hired hand who is poor and needy, whether one of your brothers or one of the foreigners residing within a towna in your land. Deut. 31:12 Gather the people—men, women, children, and foreigners living within your gates—so that they may listen and learn to •fear the LORD your God and be careful to follow all the words of this law.
The second is the prophetic element of Deuteronomy. The covenant required the people to uphold their side of the covenant – obedience and faithfulness. Moses is making sure that this second generation knows the deal. And Moses does not just say what might happen – he tells them what WILL happen!!!
Deut. 4:25 “When you have children and grandchildren and have been in the land a long time, and if you act corruptly, make an idol in the form of anything, and do what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, provoking Him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that you will quickly perish from the land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. You will not live long there, but you will certainly be destroyed. 27 The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be reduced to a few survivorsa among the nations where the LORD your God will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see, hear, eat, or smell. 29 But from there, you will search for the LORD your God, and you will find |Him| when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.a 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will return to the LORD your God in later days and obey Him. 31 He will not leave you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them by oath, because the LORD your God is a compassionate God.a
Deut. 30:2 and you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doinga everything I am giving you today, 3 then He will restore your fortunes,a have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.b 4 Even if your exiles are at the ends of the earth,a He will gather you and bring you back from there. 5 The LORD your God will bring you into the land your fathers possessed, and you will take possession of it. He will cause you to prosper and multiply you more than |He did| your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearta and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul, so that you will live. 7 The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 Then you will again obey Him and follow all His commands I am giving you today. 9 The LORD your God will make you prosper abundantly in all the work of your hands with children,a the offspring of your livestock, and your soil’s produce. Indeed, the LORD will again delight in your prosperity, as He delighted in that of your fathers, 10 when you obey the LORD your God by keeping His commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to Him with all your heart and all your soul.
Deut. 32:26 I would have said: I will cut them to piecesa
and blot out the memory of them from mankind,
27 if I had not feared insult from the enemy,
|or feared| that these foes might misunderstand
and say: Our own hand has prevailed;
it wasn’t the LORD who did all this.”
You can hear the plea of Moses to this generation in Deut 30:19-20: I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 love the LORD your God, obey Him, and remain faithfula to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
This is the plea to us from Deut – remain faithful, loyal, love and devotion to God!
Let me end with a quote from a theologian:
The Church today needs to return to the principles of godly living explained in Deuteronomy. Only then can we move forward in victory, by faith in Christ, and claim the inheritance He has appointed for us. To love God supremely and our neighbors as ourselves, and to seek to glorify God in all that we do, is the essence of Deuteronomy; and its a message we need to return to as we face the challenges of the future.