Deuteronomy Study Guide
Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Bible. It is the last book of the Pentateuch, what the Biblical authors have referred to as “the law of Moses.” These five books give the back story of the Old Testament and the foundation for God’s work in the world in the New Testament and beyond. Deuteronomy is a law book. It has been used traditionally by the Jewish people to teach their children God’s law and remind them how to live and please God.
The word Deuteronomy literally means “second law.” The book summarizes Moses’ last speeches to the nation of Israel before his death, and it reviews the law that God has given to His people. Deuteronomy also includes an exhortation by Moses to obey the law and follow God’s ways.
Moses’ final address to Israel takes place in the plains of Moab right before they begin their entrance into and conquest of the promised land (that part of the story happens in the book of Joshua). Since Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land, he spends his final days reminding the generation who will fight for the land of God’s laws and the blessings that come from obeying Him. He uses a series of speeches to encourage them to be ready to take hold of the promise that God had given to them and to remind them of His covenant with them. He doesn’t want them to repeat the errors of their forefathers by not trusting God’s promises.
Deuteronomy also retells much of what God had done throughout Israel’s history and how God had given them the law to obey. In Deuteronomy, Moses believes it is imperative for the people of Israel to obey God’s law, and he knows how important it will be to Israel’s success in the future.
Overview: Deuteronomy begins with a retelling of the history of Israel (1-4), how they had been saved out of Egypt and then broke the law and doubted God. The book then explains the laws that they must obey in Canaan (the promised land), exhorting the people to recommit to the covenant they had with God way back when He led them out of Egypt.
Moses reminds them that this is the time for them to make a choice to obey and be loyal to their God. He encourages them to commit, but he also warns them that they will be unfaithful (foretelling much of what happens in the rest of the Old Testament). Again, Moses reminds the people of God’s faithfulness despite their unfaithfulness. Then, after announcing that Joshua will be his successor, Moses dies.
Where Deuteronomy fits in the whole story of the Bible: As the fifth book of the Pentateuch, also known as the Torah, this book gives detailed information to the people of Israel. When the prophets (and others) refer to the law of Moses, they are referring to the Torah, which includes the book of Deuteronomy and the law that God had given to the people of Israel. This book is important to the people of Israel because it gives themtheir standard by which to live. When they think of obeying God, they think of the law referenced in the book of Deuteronomy.
Foundational stories in Deuteronomy (and where to find them):
- Historical Overview of Israel: Chapter 1-4
- Idolatry forbidden: Chapter 4
- The Ten Commandments: Chapter 5
- The Greatest Commandment: Chapter 6
- Reminder that they are God’s Chosen People: Chapter 7-9
- Instructions for Passover: Chapter 16
- Blessings and Curses for Obedience and Disobedience: Chapter 28
- Renewal of the Covenant: Chapter 29
- Joshua chosen as Moses’ successor: Chapter 31
- Moses’ song: Chapter 32
- Moses’ final blessing: Chapter 33
- Moses’ death: Chapter 34
Reading through Deuteronomy gives you a great overview of God’s work in Israel. It helps you understand how God works with His people and teaches the next generation, and it will help you understand the rest of the Old Testament.