Deuteronomy: The True Meaning


Deuteronomy: Laws, Covenant, Obedience, Blessings, Curses, History

The book of Deuteronomy was believed to have been written between 1406 and 1380 B.C., in the plains of Moab, near the Jordan River, just east of the ancient city of Jericho. This region was characterized by vast, arid landscapes, punctuated by the occasional oasis and fertile valleys. The cities of the time, such as Heshbon and Dibon, were small but thriving centers of trade and agriculture, shaped by the unique geographic challenges of the area.

During this period, the Israelites were on the cusp of their exodus from Egypt, journeying towards the Promised Land of Canaan. They were led by Moses, who had received the divine law on Mount Sinai and was now preparing his people to enter the land under the leadership of Joshua. The Israelites were primarily an agrarian society, relying on livestock and the cultivation of crops like wheat, barley, and grapes. They were also deeply influenced by their encounters with other civilizations, such as the Canaanites and the Moabites, blending their monotheistic Yahwism with the polytheistic traditions of the surrounding cultures.

The book of Deuteronomy holds immense significance in the Christian tradition. It records Moses’ final instructions to the Israelites, including the reiteration of the Ten Commandments and the establishment of the Mosaic covenant. This covenant, based on obedience to God’s laws, would later serve as the foundation for the Abrahamic covenant and the subsequent development of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Deuteronomy’s emphasis on the oneness of God, the importance of worship, and the call to holiness have profoundly shaped the theological and ethical underpinnings of Christianity.

The Author of Deuteronomy

The book of Deuteronomy is traditionally attributed to Moses, the leader chosen by God to deliver the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses was raised in the court of the Pharaoh but later fled to Midian after killing an Egyptian overseer. There, he encountered God in the burning bush and was called to lead the Israelites out of bondage. Throughout their journey in the wilderness, Moses served as the mediator between God and the people, receiving the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law on Mount Sinai.

Moses’ motivation for writing the book of Deuteronomy was to prepare the Israelites for entering the Promised Land without him. He knew he would not be able to accompany them due to his disobedience to God at Meribah. Therefore, he reminded the people of their history, reiterated the laws given by God, and encouraged them to remain faithful to God even in his absence. Personally, Moses was facing his own mortality as he neared the end of his life, which added a sense of urgency to his final words of instruction and exhortation to the Israelites.

Overview of Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, is a crucial part of the Pentateuch, also known as the Torah, which encompasses the first five books of the Old Testament. The name “Deuteronomy” derives from the Greek word “Deuteronomion,” meaning “second law,” as it provides a restatement and elaboration of the laws given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

The structure of Deuteronomy can be divided into three main sections. The first section includes a series of speeches delivered by Moses to the Israelites, recounting their journey from Egypt, reiterating the laws, and emphasizing the importance of obedience to God. The second section presents a collection of laws and regulations that the Israelites are to follow as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. The third section includes blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, serving as a reminder of the consequences of their actions.

Throughout Deuteronomy, there are numerous references to earlier events in Israel’s history, such as the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea. These references serve to remind the Israelites of God’s faithfulness and their own shortcomings. Verses like Deuteronomy 6:4-9, known as the Shema, underscore the significance of loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength.

Deuteronomy holds great significance in Christianity, as it not only provides a historical account of the Israelites but also lays the foundation for understanding the relationship between God and His people. Jesus Himself quoted from Deuteronomy when tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), highlighting the importance of obedience to God’s Word. Christians often turn to Deuteronomy for guidance on living a life of faithfulness and obedience to God’s commands. Deuteronomy serves as a powerful reminder of God’s faithfulness, the importance of obedience, and the consequences of disobedience. It continues to inspire and instruct believers in their walk with God, emphasizing the need for wholehearted devotion and adherence to His laws.

Key themes of Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy is about Obedience

The key theme of obedience in the book of Deuteronomy is emphasized throughout the text as Moses instructs the Israelites to follow God’s commandments and laws. In Deuteronomy 11:26-28, Moses sets before the people a choice between blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. He urges them to listen and obey God’s commands so that they may prosper in the land they are about to enter. Obedience is seen as essential for the Israelites to maintain their covenant relationship with God and to experience His blessings. The book repeatedly stresses the importance of obeying God wholeheartedly, as seen in Deuteronomy 30:2 where it states that when the people return to the Lord and obey Him with all their heart and soul, He will restore their fortunes. Obedience is not just about following rules, but about demonstrating love and loyalty to God, as reiterated in Deuteronomy 10:12-13 where it says that the Israelites are to fear the Lord, walk in all His ways, love Him, serve Him with all their heart and soul, and keep His commandments for their own good. The theme of obedience in Deuteronomy serves as a reminder for believers to trust and follow God’s guidance in order to receive His blessings and remain in a right relationship with Him.

Deuteronomy is about Covenant

Deuteronomy emphasizes the theme of covenant, highlighting the special agreement between God and His people. The book stresses the importance of obeying God’s commandments and following His ways as a sign of loyalty to the covenant. In Deuteronomy 7:9, it is mentioned that God is faithful to those who keep His covenant and love Him. The covenant is a bond of love and commitment between God and His people, as seen in Deuteronomy 10:12-13, where the Israelites are called to fear God, walk in His ways, love Him, and serve Him with all their heart and soul. The covenant also includes blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience, as outlined in Deuteronomy 28. Ultimately, the covenant in Deuteronomy serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and the call for His people to remain faithful to Him.

Deuteronomy is about Worship

Worship is a central theme in the book of Deuteronomy. The Israelites are repeatedly reminded to worship and serve the Lord alone, as seen in Deuteronomy 6:13-14. They are instructed to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength, and to teach these commandments diligently to their children (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). The book emphasizes the importance of obeying God’s laws and staying faithful to Him in worship, as a way to receive blessings and avoid the consequences of disobedience (Deuteronomy 28). The Israelites are called to remember God’s faithfulness in the past and to worship Him with gratitude and reverence for all He has done for them (Deuteronomy 8:10). Ultimately, the book of Deuteronomy highlights the significance of worshiping God wholeheartedly and following His commandments as a way of life.

Deuteronomy is about Justice

At the heart of the book of Deuteronomy lies the theme of justice. In Deuteronomy 16:20, it is emphasized that justice must be pursued diligently, without partiality or bribery. The book instructs the Israelites to appoint judges and officials who will administer justice fairly and impartially (Deuteronomy 1:16-17). Furthermore, Deuteronomy 27:19 warns against perverting the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. The concept of justice in Deuteronomy extends beyond legal matters to encompass social justice, as seen in commands to leave portions of the harvest for the poor (Deuteronomy 24:19-22). Ultimately, the pursuit of justice in Deuteronomy reflects God’s character and His desire for His people to live in righteousness and equity.

Deuteronomy is about Blessings

A key theme in the book of Deuteronomy is the concept of blessings. Throughout the book, God promises blessings to the Israelites if they obey His commandments and follow His ways. In Deuteronomy 28:1-14, God outlines the blessings that will come upon them if they are faithful, including prosperity, victory over enemies, and abundance in all areas of life. However, disobedience to God’s laws will result in curses instead of blessings (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The book emphasizes the importance of choosing to follow God’s ways in order to receive His blessings, highlighting the connection between obedience and the favor of God. This theme serves as a reminder of the importance of faithfulness and obedience in experiencing the blessings of God in our lives.

Important Verses in Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 4:2: 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 6:4-5: 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7: 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 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 6:16: 16 Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

Deuteronomy 8:3: 3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13: 12 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,
13 To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?

Deuteronomy 18:15: 15 The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

Deuteronomy 30:19-20: 19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
20 That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.