“These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of Jordan…”
This week, we begin reading the final book of the Pentateuch – the book of Deuteronomy. This book records Moses’ final sermons to Israel before his death. These sermons review the history of the wilderness years and repeat many points of the law given at Mount Sinai for the new generation of Israelites. These sermons also motivate the new generation of Israelites to obey the Lord as they enter the Promised Land.
The name “Deuteronomy” literally means “a second giving of the law.” While this name is partially correct (since Deuteronomy does contain a restatement of the legislation previously given at Mt. Sinai), the book contains more than a simple repetition of laws. The book reads more like a sermon than a book of laws. It is full of promises and warnings, both in its legislative as well as in its historical sections. Repeatedly, Moses reminds Israel of God’s gracious, redeeming acts, which he carried out in spite of their unfaithfulness. He encourages and exhorts God’s people to be faithful to the covenant.
The book of Deuteronomy presents a further development or explanation of the law in view of Israel’s future as a people living a settled life in the land of Canaan. Explanations and illustrations are now furnished as to how the laws are to be applied to the forms of the religious, social, and political life of the nation in their new land. The closing chapters (Deuteronomy 31-34) present the last acts and death of Moses, the great deliverer and leader of God’s Old Testament people.
May God richly bless our reading of the first major division of the Bible!