OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF DEUTEROMONY
Author: The name comes from the Latin word "deuteronomium," literally the "second law," from deuteros "second" + nomos "law". Moses wrote the Book of Deuteronomy, which is in fact a collection of his sermons to Israel just before they crossed the Jordan. "These are the words which Moses spoke" (1:1). Someone else (Joshua, most likely) may have written the last chapter.
Date of Writing: These sermons were given during the 40-day period prior to Israel's entering the Promised Land. The first sermon was delivered on the 1st day of the 11th month (1:3), and the Israelites crossed the Jordan 70 days later, on the 10th day of the 1st month (Josh. 4:19). Subtract 30 days of mourning after Moses' death (Deut. 34:8), and it leaves 40 days. The year was 1406 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: A new generation of Israelites was about to enter the Promised Land. This multitude had not experienced the miracle at the Red Sea or heard the law given at Sinai, and they were about to enter a new land with many dangers and temptations. The book of Deuteronomy was given to remind them of God's law and God's power.
Brief Summary: The Israelites are commanded to remember four things: God's faithfulness, God's holiness, God's blessings, and God's warnings. The first three chapters recap the trip from Egypt to their current location, Moab. Chapter 4 is a call to obedience, to be faithful to the God Who was faithful to them. Chapters 5-26 are a repetition of the law. The Ten Commandments, the laws concerning sacrifices and specials days, and the rest of the law are given to the new generation. Blessings are promised to those who obey (5:29; 6:17-19; 11:13-15), and famine is promised to those who break the law (11:16-17). The theme of blessing and cursing is continued in chapters 27-30. This portion of the book ends with a clear choice set before Israel: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing." God's desire for His people is found in what He recommends: "choose life" (30:19). In the final chapters, Moses encourages the people; commissions his replacement, Joshua; records a song; and gives a final blessing to each of the tribes of Israel. Chapter 34 relates the circumstances of Moses' death. He climbed Mt. Pisgah, where the Lord showed him the Promised Land that he could not enter. At 120 years old, but still with good eyesight and the strength of youth, Moses died in the presence of the Lord. The book of Deuteronomy ends with a short obituary on this great prophet.
Foreshadowings: Many New Testament themes are present in the Book of Deuteronomy. The foremost among them is the necessity of keeping perfectly the Mosaic Law and the impossibility of doing so. The endless sacrifices necessary to atone for the sins of the people-who continually transgressed the Law-would find their fulfillment in the final "once for all" sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 10:10). Because of His atoning work on the cross, we would need no further sacrifices for sin. God's choosing of the Israelites as His special people foreshadows His choosing of those who would believe in Christ (1 Pe. 2:9). In Deut. 18:15-19, Moses prophesies of another prophet-the ultimate Prophet to come who is the Messiah. Like Moses, He would receive and preach divine revelation and He would lead His people (John 6:14; 7:40).
Practical Application: The book of Deuteronomy underscores the importance of God's Word. It is a vital part of our lives. Although we are no longer under the Old Testament law, we are still responsible to submit to the will of God in our lives. Simple obedience brings blessing, and sin has its own consequences.