Summary of the Book of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy is a book containing four sermons that Moses gave to the people before entering the Promised Land. The events of the book took place over very few days prior to his death and the entering in to the land of Canaan.
The teachings of Moses in Deuteronomy are important enough to be quoted 90 times in 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament. When tempted by Satan in Luke 4, Jesus Christ quoted exclusively from the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13, 16).
The English title Deuteronomy comes from the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament. The word means “second law.” This is not a new law, rather a second telling, or re-telling of the law which was given in Mt. Sinai. The people living during the sermons in Deuteronomy were a new generation of Israelites who were not present when the Law was initially given to Moses 40 years before.
Besides the fact that the book consists of the sermons of Moses, there are Old and New Testament references to Moses as the author. 2 Chronicles 25:4 refers to Moses as the author of the law written in Deuteronomy 24:16. Jesus quoted the book of Deuteronomy and attributed the writings to Moses (Matthew 19:7-9 compared to Deuteronomy 24:1-4; John 5:45-47 compared to Deuteronomy 18:15). Paul attributed the writing of the book to Moses in Romans 10:19 (compare with Deuteronomy 32:21).
While there are obvious proofs that Moses wrote the book, someone else had to have written the final chapter which contains the death of Moses. Most Bible scholars hold to Joshua and Ezra as the probable authors of that chapter. There are, however, biblical critics who claim (like Numbers) that the entire book was written several hundred years after Moses.
This book covers a time period somewhere between one and two months (Deuteronomy 1:3; 34:5, 8; Joshua 4:19). It was written very close to the death of Moses in 1400 B.C.
Purpose of Deuteronomy
The people who were about to enter into the Promised Land with Joshua were not the same people who left Egypt. These were now the son’s and daughters who had not experienced the great miracles of the Exodus of the previous generation. Moses spoke to the people as a reminder of all that God had done for them in the past. These were not the people who had received the Law of God directly. Emphasis needed to be given to God’s holiness and the command for obedience.
Moses, the only leader these people had known, was about to die. Moses transferred the leadership of the people over to Joshua and Caleb. These two men were the only other adults, besides Moses, who came out of Egypt and experienced all that God had brought them through. Moses gave a final charge to the people before they entered the battleground that was soon to come.
Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
Deuteronomy 10:12, 13 “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”
Deuteronomy 32:46, 47 “And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.”
- Hear – Used about 50 times.
- Do, keep, observe – Used 177 times.
- Love – Used 21 times.
Outline of Deuteronomy
The outline of the book of Deuteronomy is fairly straightforward. Moses preaches four sermons which comprise all but a few parts of the book.
- Moses’ First Sermon (Deuteronomy 1-4)
- Moses’ Second Sermon (Deuteronomy 5-26)
- Moses’ Third Sermon (Deuteronomy 27-28)
- Moses’ Fourth Sermon (Deuteronomy 29-30)
- Moses’ Final Words (Deuteronomy 31-33)
- Death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34)
Summary of Deuteronomy
Each of the sermons of Moses has a different focus and purpose. The first sermon recorded in chapters 1 to 4 reminded the people of where they came from. Moses gave a history of Israel and how God led them out of Egypt. This was a reminder of what their parents had experienced. It was also a summary of the book of Numbers—the experiences the people had because of refusing to trust the Lord.
The second sermon of Moses was focused on the Law. The Ten Commandments are restated in chapter 5 and an admonition was given to teach and obey God’s Law. As they were about to enter a land filled with idolatry, they were reminded of the laws against idolatry and the need to destroy any worship outside of true worship to God. During this sermon is the “second telling of the Law,” which is where the name Deuteronomy comes from. Moses re-told much of the law with an emphasis on obedience.
Moses’ third sermon focused on Israel’s future. He commanded the people to keep records of God’s laws and taught about the consequences of disobedience.
The fourth sermon is the Palestinian Covenant. If they were disobedient to the covenant, they would be driven from the land. But restoration was promised if they would repent and return to God.
The final section (chapters 31-33) can be summarized like this: the completion of the book (31), the singing of the song (32), the pronouncement of the blessing (33) and the ending of the life (34).