The Book of Deuteronony
A Bible Study
Name of the book
The word "Deuteronomy" which means "repetition of the law" arose from a mistranslation in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate of a phrase in Deut. 17:18 which in Hebrew means "copy of this law." The copy error is not serious, however, since Deuteronomy is, in a certain sense, a "repetition of the Law." The Hebrew name of the book simply "words."
The book itself testifies that, for the most part, Moses wrote it (1:5; 31:9,22,24) and other Old Testament books also agree (l Kings.2:3; 8:53; 2 Kings 19:6 18:12). The preamble (1:1-5) and the report of Moses' death (chapter 34) were written by someone else. Jesus also gives testimony to the authorship of Moses in Matthew 19:7-8; Mark 10:3-5; John 5:46-47, as do other New Testament writers Acts 3:22-23; 7:37-38; and Romans 10:19. In the New Testament there are almost 100 quotations of and allusions to the book of Deuteronomy.
Date of the writing
The book is probably to be dated around 1406 B.C. just before Moses' death.
Historical Setting of the book
Deuteronomy locates Moses and the Israelites in the territory of Moab in the area where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea (1:5). As his final act at this important time of transferring leadership to Joshua, Moses delivered his farewell addresses to prepare the people for their entrance into the land of Canaan.
These addresses were actually a covenant renewal. In them, Moses emphasized the laws that were especially needed at such a time, and he presented them in a way appropriate to the situation. In contrast to the matter-of-fact narratives of Leviticus and Numbers, the book of Deuteronomy comes to us from Moses' heart in a warm, personal, sermonic form of expression.
A simple outline which we may follow
1. First Address (1:1-4:43)
2. Second Address (4:44-28:68)
3. Third Address (chapters 29-33)
4. Moses' Death
I. The First address: a historical look at where the people had been.
A. God's gracious guidance from Horeb to Moab. (1:1-3:29)
The book of Deuteronomy contains the speeches of Moses which were delivered at a major turning point in Israel's history. In the fortieth year after leaving the house of bondage, the second generation of the former slaves in Egypt had arrived "in the land of Moab" (verse 5) Within a short time they were to cross the Jordan. Life in Canaan would be different.
How would life be different? First, they would no longer move about from place to place, but would receive places of permanent residence. They would no longer have the solidarity of a single camp, but live in widely separated communities. No longer would the only leader they had known be there to direct them. In order to prepare the wanderers for this transition to a new social, economic, and civic environment, Moses spoke to them primarily of what would not change: the promises and obligations of God made with the people at Sinai.
The manner in which the setting of Moses words is given is designed to bridge the dimensions of time and space that separate his hearers from God's first giving of the covenant at Mt. Horeb. The 38 years of their wandering, Moses insisted, did not affect the validity of the law for the survivors and their children. This covenant was true for all generations.
When the Israelites had arrived at "Kadeshbarnea" almost four decades earlier, they could have entered Canaan within a short time after leaving Horeb. The distance between these two points is only "eleven days journey." Because of their rebellion against God, they had been subjected to the long delay that finally came to an end when Moses addressed them in Moab. In this setting Moses addressed his contemporaries. They were to listen to him as if they heard God speaking to them again from Mt. Sinai and making the covenant with them.
There is a particular reason for Moses repeating the Law to the Israelites; the men to whom the Law was first given were all dead, and a new generation had sprung up. The Lord wanted Moses to speak to this generation and remind them of these Laws in an effort to make a lasting impression upon them. Now that they were going to take possession of the Promised Land, Moses had to read the articles of agreement (Covenant) to them, that they might know upon what terms they were to hold and enjoy this land.
What God has spoken once we need to hear twice, to hear many times. We need to study God's Word daily in an effort to remind ourselves what the Lord has done for us and what He expects of us in our daily living. "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
1:10 The Lord your God. This divine title occurs almost 300 times in the book of Deuteronomy. It links the people with God's revelation of the past. He who has chosen them "to be a people of his own possession" (4:20) and had redeemed them "out of the house of bondage" (13:5) was still there to help them. They could rely on this Lord who never changes, to be faithful to His promises. However, this title was also to remind them of their covenant obligation to "walk in His ways" and to "obey His voice" (26:17-18). The account of their journey from Horeb to Moab was to convince them that this Lord will not tolerate any disloyalty to Him. At the same time, He is a God of mercy, ready to forgive when they return to Him in sincere repentance. The God of the new covenant is no different. We were made His own in our baptism, yet we daily sin much. But He who called us into "the fellowship of His Son" "is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1:13 Appoint them! God had made Abraham's descendants "as the stars of heaven" (Gen.15:5) But He did not let them disintegrate into an unorganized rabble. Moses was in command. As suggested to him by Jethro, he in turn delegated authority to "wise...and experienced men" who were to assist him in maintaining law and order. As "Judges," they were to be impartial and recognize "the small and the great." All had equal right since, "the Judgment is Gods." Even "the alien" was not to be deprived of justice.
All government is given by the Lord, and in selecting Judges to rule over the Israelites as Jethro suggested Moses established civic government. Good government is a blessing from the Lord. If a group of people or a nation is to enjoy peace and prosperity, law and order, there must be good leaders. The choice of leaders is very important. The chosen leaders are to be men of righteousness, who fear God and do justice. Moses impressed on the chosen leaders the high and holy responsibilities of their office, namely, that they were rulers under and for God and represented the divine laws in the earthly sphere.
We, today, greatly desire the blessings of good government. We have a responsibility in maintaining good government. This responsibility includes choosing good leaders, serving faithfully as leaders of the land. These responsibilities are outlined for us in the following Bible passages: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men-for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior." (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by Him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well." (1 Peter 2:13,14)
1:22 Sent men. Passing over the events that happened on the way to Kadeshbarnea (Num.10-20). Moses drew attention to the sending of the spies from there (Num.13:1ff). This event in the history of God's people became a turning point with the result of a 40 year stay in the wilderness.
The behavior of the Children of Israel at that time revealed a lack of faith, unbelief in the Lord. Moses had given them God's Word. Instead of trusting in the Lord's promise that this was a good and fertile land, they had to send spies out ahead of them. By doing this they were trusting more in humans instead of divine counsel.
Even after the spies had returned and reported that this was a good and fertile land, they still continued their murmurings by complaining about the size of the people and the high walls around the cities. If they had trusted in the Lord, it would not matter how strong and powerful these people were, or how high their city walls were. God had told them He was going to take care of them.
Unbelief and weak faith in our hearts do much harm today. The Lord has promised that He will take care of us, come what may; but how often we doubt this promise. We worry and fret about what will become of us. Often we go on our own way without asking the Lord to give us the guidance we need. We depend upon our own human reasoning instead of the Lord's divine counsel.
When Jesus was here on earth, He often had to rebuke His disciples for their lack of faith, even though they had heard Him say many times that He would take care of them. After He had stilled the storm, Jesus said to His disciples, "Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?" (Mark 4:40)
Underneath the Israelites' loud professions of repentance, it was obvious that there was still the old unbelief. They did not believe God's threats, just as before they had not believed His promises. The old self-will was still there. They took God's Law into their own hands, and ignored God's wishes altogether. First, they revolted against their duty, and then they revolted against their punishment. They did not listen to the Lord's warnings, but pursued their own way.
We believers of the New Testament should remember the many evidences of the goodness and mercy of the Lord, who leads us through the wilderness of this world with such tender love and holds out before us the certainty of heaven. The remembrance of our disobedience in the past should serve to keep us truly humble and cause us to cling to the Lord in the confidence of a firm faith.
The test of obedience is a willingness to do what God requires of us at the time He requires it, and not at some time of our own which may be too late. "If you hear God's voice today do not be stubborn; as your ancestors were when they rebelled against you, as they were that day in the desert when they put Him to the test." (Hebrews 3:7,8)
2:1-23 Edom, Moab and Amon are to be left alone
In verses 10-12, Moses gave some historical information about the people who formerly lived there. The Emim used to live in that area. They were a very large tribe, tall as the giants of Anakim; both the Emlm and the Anakim are often referred to as the Rephaim, but the Moabites called them Emim.
In earlier days, the Horites lived in Seir, but they were driven out and displaced by the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, just as Israel would displace the peoples of Canaan, whose land had been assigned to Israel by the Lord.
In verses 20-25, Moses again gave some historical information regarding the former inhabitants: "That area, too, used to be inhabited by the Rephaim, called Zamzummim' by the Ammonites. They were a large and powerful tribe, as tall as the Anakim; but Jehovah destroyed them as the Ammonites came in, and the Ammonites lived there in their place. The Lord had similarly helped the descendants of Esau at Mount Seir, for He destroyed the Horites who were living there before them. Another similar situation occurred when the people of Caphtor (Crete) invaded and destroyed the tribe of Avvim living in villages scattered across the countryside as far away as Gaza.
The Lord gave the Israelites very definite orders not to molest the Edomites, Moebites, or the Ammonites, because these tribes were all occupying territory that had been assigned to them. These tribes, though related to Israel, were not in the Covenant, still God had guaranteed to them certain temporal blessings, and He showed Himself faithful in His dealings with them.
The Edomites, Moabites, and the Ammonites were all enjoying the temporal gifts of God. The laws that regulate nature are the ordinances of God, so the benefits irreligious nations receive through the laws of nature are really the gifts of the Lord's bounteous hand. It is part of God's plan of mercy to treat all men generously. We must look to Christ's atonement to understand the justice of this merciful treatment of mankind. The death of Jesus Christ purchased temporal as well as spiritual blessings. Believers know all blessings are from the Lord, even though heathen nations may not know this truth.
The Lord often gives people and nations additional opportunity to learn this truth. He did this for the Edomites, Moabites, and the Ammonites. Jesus died for every man. "And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again." (II Corinthians 5:15)
2:24-37 Israel defeated King Sihon
Sihon, though an Amorite, was not to be destroyed immediately. Like Pharaoh, he had the opportunity to avoid ruin by agreeing to Moses' reasonable request to a1low the Israelites to pass through his country. King Sihon, as Pharaoh did, hardened his heart and took the course that made his destruction inevitable. The Lord, in His mercy, was allowing King Sihon another day of grace. This was a momentous and decisive opportunity for him, but he did not respond to it. King Sihon hardened his heart because he misunderstood the patience and goodness of the Lord. As a result he incurred the wrath of the Lord.
So that we may not become like this king, we must remember: "Perhaps you despise His great kindness, tolerance, and patience. Surely you know that God is king, because He is trying to lead you to repent. But you have a hard and stubborn heart, and so you are making your own punishment ever greater on the Day when God's anger and righteous Judgments will be revealed." (Romans 2:4,5)
3:1-11 Israel conquered King Og
The Lord wanted the Children of Israel to conquer King Sihon, the weaker foe, first. Having given them a success in war, He then asked them to undertake the much greater and more serious task of overcoming King Og, the giant king of Bashan.
So it is with the believers today, when we are fighting the good fight of faith. One little victory over an easily conquered sin gives us courage to face the fight of overcoming a sin that is harder to resist. The "muscles" of our soul grow strong through exercise, and greater victories are won. Believers can go forward in confidence and faith knowing what the Lord has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials for we know that they are good for us-they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us to trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady" (Romans 5:3-4, Living Bible)
3:12-22 Distribution of the land East of the Jordan
All the Israelites had helped to conquer the land east of the Jordan River. After it had been conquered, the Lord divided it among three tribes, Gad, Reuben, and half of the tribe of Manasseh. The tribes living west of the Jordan had not been given any land up to this time. The tribes already possessing their land were told by the Lord that they should not settle down in their land until the remaining tribes had conquered the land that they were to possess. The Lord commanded the warriors of the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh to arm themselves and go to battle to help conquer the land that was to be given to the remaining tribes.
The Lord wanted to teach the Israelites not to be selfish and look out only for themselves and their own families, but to be willing to help others in need. Those having their land were not to prefer any private interest before the welfare of their brothers.
When we are at rest, enjoying the Lords blessings, we too, should be willing to help others to be at rest, both in a spiritual and in a material way. "Look out for one another's interest, not just for your own."(Philippians 2:4)
3:23-29 Moses is not to enter Canaan
Moses longed to enter the Promised Land but was refused by the Lord. The two conquests over Sihon and Og had filled Moses with a sense of God's matchless power. Moses saw in this first portion of the fight the assurance of a glorious invasion. He longed to be at its head, and to enter the land which God had promised, and to see the work completed in which he had been so involved. Though Moses pleaded with God, he was denied an entrance, but the Lord gave him a mountain view of the Promised Land. It was natural for Moses to long for the completion of his work. All else in his life had been in preparation for this. Moses admitted that God was angry with him, and stated the reason. (cf. Numbers 20:7-12) It is well to recognize that deserved wrath and chastisement may coexist with profound and tender love. Moses was loved by God, even though excluded from the Promised Land of Canaan. God gave him Paradise instead of Canaan.
B. The new generation admonished to cherish the law 4:1-40
4:1-14 The call to obedience
The Israelites were about to end their desert wanderings and take possession of the land given them by the Lord their God. Regardless of outward changes, God's relationship to them would remain the same.
When God declared His Covenant at Mt. Sinai, the Israelites had a glimpse of His power and glory. They were to fear the consequences of disobeying the Commandments, so they were to keep close to God and obedient to His Word. They could call on Him whenever they needed help.
We, too, must be obedient to the Lord and keep close to Him by hearing and knowing His Word and by prayer. By use of the Sacraments we are also drawn to the Lord and given strength of our faith. "Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe." (Hebrews 12:28)
4:15-28 Warnings against idolatry
God made the sun, moon, and stars to give light on earth for the benefit of all people. They were not to be worshiped, but were blessings which the Lord their God gave to all nations. The Israelites were God's Chosen People; they were to serve Him only and were not to worship idols of any kind. "I am the Lord, that is My name; My glory I give to no other, nor My praise to graven images." (Isaiah 42:8)
God's threats were not empty words. If the Israelites would break the Covenant by "doing what is evil," He would deprive them of their inheritance and scatter them among other nations. (verse 27)
The Israelites were not to make a tangible form of any figure to represent the Almighty God, for He had "no form" (verse 15). When God made Himself known to them at Horeb, He did it by His voice; this was to teach them that faith cones by hearing. God in His Word (Scripture) is near us, but to see God as He is, is reserved for our happiness in heaven. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:17)
4:29-40 Forgiveness assured
God's Covenant with the Israelites was one of salvation, and its fulfillment was guaranteed by God's promise. Loyalty to the Covenant was to be their response to what God had done for them. It was purely out of goodness and mercy that he had chosen them and their descendants. This honor required obedience from them, so all would go well with them, and they would live long on the earth (verse 40)
In spite of their unfaithfulness, and no matter how corruptly the people of Israel had violated the Covenant, God did not fail them when they sought forgiveness with a broken and contrite heart. We, too, sin daily and violate God's laws, but He will not fail us when we come to Him, through Christ, with true repentance. The Lord said, "You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)
C. Appointment of the Transjordanian cities of refuge 4:41-49
Moses again repeated the commandments which the Israelites were to observe, so they would know the Laws they were to follow and teach. It would be their duty to be obedient to these Laws in this new land, Canaan.
In obedience to God's direction, Moses set apart three cities of refuge east of the Jordan which were to serve as asylums for unintentional killers. (cf. Numbers 35:9-29)
As God provided three cities of refuge for the Israelites, so He also provided a place of refuge for us through His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
II. The Second Address Laws by which Israel is to live
5:1-22 The Ten Commandments
God had abundantly revealed Himself to the Israelites as the Lord. He had made them His people by bringing them out of bondage. He had spoken to them face to face with a great voice out of the fire and thick darkness, so they might hear and understand the Commandments that they were to learn, remember, and obey. "Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:28)
Moses called all Israel together to stress the validity of the Covenant with the Israelites and all future generations. He emphasized that God intended the terms of the Covenant to apply not only to the former generation, but to have binding force as well for "all of us here alive this day." (verse 3)
In the same way, the benefits of the new Covenant are available to all generations and not merely to those who stood on Golgotha's hill where Christ was crucified. For this reason Christ is the one who arranges a new Covenant, so that those who have been called by God may receive the eternal blessings that God had promised. This can be done because there had been a death which sets people free from the wrongs they did while the first Covenant was in effect. (Hebrews 9:15)
5:23-33 The people are afraid
Moses wanted to impress on the Israelites that their relationship to God was very important. He recalled the appearance of God's glory at Mt. Sinai when they heard His voice out of the midst of the fire, and they were afraid. However, the voice of the living God sounded forth and they still lived. They could not bear to hear more, so they earnestly requested that God speak to them through Moses, with a promise that they would hear and do what he said, as from God Himself. God then appointed His servant Moses to be His messenger, to receive the Laws from His mouth, and to communicate it to them. Moses reminded the Israelites of their agreement to obey God, thereby receiving the promise of a long and prosperous life.
6:1-9 The great commandment
The Commandments were vitally important to the Israelites in their everyday life. They were to listen to and obey the Laws, read, think, and talk constantly about these words, and teach them to their children, so all would go well with them.
They were to remember that the Lord Jehovah was the one and only true God who had done so much for them. They were to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and might. (verse 5)
Jesus also tells us the most important Commandment in the Law of Moses is ...the one that says, "Hear, O Israel the Lord our God is the one and only God. And you must love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength!" (Mark 12:29-30, Living Bible)
6:10-25 Warning Against Disobedience
The Israelites were to give total obedience to God in response to His mercy and remain faithful to His Word. They were to fear and love God. Covenant faith required complete trust in God. God commanded nothing but what was really for their good. Therefore, it was their duty to honor and obey Him.
The fathers were to teach their children the meaning of the testimonies, statutes, and ordinances. They were to observe God's Law in grateful remembrance of their deliverance. Every generation was to recognize its debt to God for His undeserved goodness, and God would bless their obedience, which is the fruit of faith.
Moses repeatedly warned the Israelites not to forget God when all was going well and they were prospering. The same warning applies to Christians today. Too much prosperity often creates the love of money and the want for more money. "The love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some
people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10, Living Bible)
7:1-11 God's chosen people
The Israelites were to destroy the seven heathen nations in Canaan. They were not to associate with the heathen people, show them any mercy, and were to destroy all their idols; for the Lord hates any form of idolatry. Those that hate God cannot hurt Him, but will certainly destroy themselves. "Your hand, O Lord, will find Your enemies, all who hate You. When You appear, they will be destroyed in the fierce fire of Your presence. The Lard will destroy them and their children." (Psalm 21:8-10, Living Bible)
God has chosen the Israelites to be His special people. They were to rely on the Lord their God to supply their physical needs and direct their future. God's promises of unmerited blessings were subject to their response to the terms of the Covenant. They were justified through faith in God's grace, as was Abraham and his descendants. This did not come through the Law but through the righteousness of faith. "It is clear then that God's promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was not because Abraham obeyed God's Laws but because he trusted God to keep His promise." (Romans 4:13, Living Bible)
We also are justified through faith in God's grace. "So now, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith in His promises, we can have peace with Him because of what Jesus our Lord has done for us." Romans 5:1)
7:12-26 Blessings of obedience
If the Israelites would sincerely endeavor to keep their part of the Covenant, God would certainly keep His promise. If they were constant in their duty to God (loving, serving and obeying Him) He would love them, bless them, and multiply them greatly.
The Lord promised to deliver the Israelites from Egypt's dreadful diseases just as He had rescued them from Egypt's Pharaoh. Moses reminded them of how their God had saved them in Egypt. They had no need to fear, as God was still in their midst to help them destroy the heathen people, nations, and kings of Canaan. "What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31)
Neither do Christians today need to fear or worry, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, King James Version)
In the midst of the second address Moses tells the people to remember God's grace. Moses now paints a picture for the Children of Israel of the life they will soon have among the heathen nations of Canaan. He forecasts their victories and a prosperity they have never before known.
At the same time he warns them of the perils all this enjoyment will bring-the danger of losing their identity as God's people and the danger of false pride, of thinking they have accomplished all this by themselves instead of giving the credit to God.
So Moses urges them in these chapters, "Remember the past! Remember your life in Egypt and in the wilderness and how sinful you really were. Then think of God's love for you--how He delivered you from bondage, His mighty miracles on your behalf, and the giving of His Law for your benefit. Let the memory of God's grace keep you humble, faithful, and obedient."
8:1-10 A good land to be possessed
Moses told the Israelites to remember their forty years in the wilderness, where God taught them how utterly dependent on Him they were.
It was humbling to the Israelites to have the same food, without any variety, and the same clothes for forty years! In this way the Lord taught them that the happiness of man does not depend on having find food and clothing, but rather on being in fellowship with God in learning His righteous Judgments. Gods Law, which was given to Israel in the wilderness, was to be more important to them than material blessings. In this sense, Jesus quoted verse 3 of this chapter when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-4)
We should remember how God leads us through the wilderness" of our life in this world, at times humbling us and testing us; for it is only when a person despairs of his own strength that he is ready to hear and obey God.
The Word of God is the food of the soul. The manna was a picture of Christ, "the Bread of Life" (John 6:35). He is "the Word of God" (Revelation 19:13), by Him we live.
The good land (verse 10) was a figure of good things to come, an illustration of the "better country." (Hebrews 11:16) Heaven is the good land to be possessed, in which there is nothing wanting, and where there is a fullness of joy.
8:11-20 Warning against pride
Moses armed the Israelites against the temptations of prosperity by charging them to stand upon their guard against pride and presumption. Ignoring God follows pride; for it is "because of his angry pride the wicked won't ask Him (God) for help. God is left out of all his plans." (Psalm 10:4, Beck's American Translation) Those who admire themselves despise God.
If the Israelites were to turn from the Lord their God and join the heathen nations of Canaan in their enmity toward Him (verse 19), they would also have to share their punishment. This had, in fact, already happened. (cf. Exodus 32)
Through humiliations and temptations the Lord tests the faith of His children in order to keep them humble in prosperity as well. Christians should always remember that it is not their own ability and intelligence to which they owe their position and wealth, but the goodness of the Lord.
We are basely ungrateful if, the better God is to us, the worse we are to Him. Always acknowledge the Lord as the Giver of all good gifts. "Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God..." (James 1:17, Good News Bible)
The same thing apples to our spiritual wealth. It is our duty to seek wisdom and understanding of God's Word. Yet it is the Holy Spirit that gives that wisdom, and we must acknowledge it is God's grace that gives us the power to acquire it. (cf. I Corinthians 2:6-16)
9:1-6 Warning against self-righteousness
The Israelites had every reason to give sole allegiance to the Lord their God. They were not a self-made nation. Only because He went before them "as a devouring fire" (verse 3) would they be able to dispossess the inhabitants of Canaan.
Moses now warned the people of Israel against self-righteousness; for it was not only pride and presumption they must guard against, but also accepting success as due them for their own virtues. They must remember that their status as the Covenant People was a gift of God's grace.
The wickedness of the Canaanites alone, especially their worship of false gods and their hatred of the Lord God of Israel, would have been reason enough for the Lord to destroy them and give their land to the Israelites. But His chief reason was founded upon His faithfulness to His promises given to the patriarchs that He would give this land to their descendants. It was for their fathers sakes that the Israelites were beloved. (Romans 11:28)
God also gives us salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, because He promised it--"that in Abraham all families of the earth would be blessed." (Genesis 12:3) God had determined to channel His gift of salvation to all mankind through Abraham's descendants. As the other promises to Abraham were fulfilled, this would be too. For when the time had fully come God gave His only Son as He swore to our father Abraham. (cf. Galations 3:~6-9)
Just as Abraham was saved because of his faith in God's promise to send the Savior, so are we saved through our faith in the fulfillment of that promise. Like the Israelites, we should remember that our gaining possession of heaven is due solely to God's grace and not to our own merit; only in Christ do we have righteousness. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9, King James Version)
9:7-21 Israel's sin at Mt. Sinai
Israel's rebelliousness had been a constant challenge to the wrath of God. Moses' sharp reproof was necessary so that the people would feel the extreme wickedness of their sins in order to remain in the fellowship of the Lord in proper humility.
While Moses was receiving the Law of the Covenant from God in writing, the burning mountain top (indicating God's presence) was always visible to the Israelites below. Yet they made a golden calf and worshiped it in the very place where the Law (by which they were expressly forbidden to worship God by images) had been given to them.
The Lord was very angry with Aaron. No one man, his place or character can shelter him from the wrath of God if he leads people into idolatry! Moses indicated that the ordination of Aaron as High Priest, after he had allowed the people to commit this great sin, was also a manifestation of pure divine grace.
Moses' long and intense intercession for the Israelites should have made them realize how great God's displeasure was going to cost them, and what a narrow escape they had from destruction. In this same context, we can understand the greatness of God's anger against all nations and in fact all mankind--that no less a person than His Son, and no less a price than His own blood, would serve to turn it away. "But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God." (Romans 5:8,9
Revised Standard Version)
9:22-29 Moses' plea for Israel's forgiveness
After driving home the point that God was not giving the Israelites the land of Canaan because of their righteousness, Moses returned to that critical moment at Horeb when Israel's worship of the molten calf violated the primary requirements of the Covenant.
In his long struggle with the Lord for the people he loved, Moses reminded God that the Children of Israel were His people and pleaded that the Lord would show the same love and forbearance to the children that He had shown to their ancestors (a reminder to God of His promise to the patriarchs). Moses also wanted God's honor unstained before the heathen nations, even if Israel thought so little of that honor.
Moses' use of God's promises as a reason for the Lord to forgive the Children of Israel proves to us that we can depend on God's Word and claim His promises when asking for forgiveness or blessings for ourselves or our fellow believers.
For the same reasons that Moses reviewed Israel's past rebellions against the Lord, it is good for us to remember with sorrow and shame our own sins, humbly admitting that we never merited at God's hand anything but wrath and the curse for not fulfilling His Law. Only then can we see how much we are
indebted to God's free grace in forgiving us through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
10:1-11 The second set of tablets
God did not destroy Aaron, as He had threatened, but reinstated him as HIGH PRIEST, and after Aaron's death allowed his son, Eleazar, to succeed him. However, Moserah, where Aaron died and was buried, means "Chastisement." This designated the site of Aaron's death as a place of punishment for his unfaithfulness at Sinai.
The Lord accepted Moses as an advocate or intercessor for Israel and reappointed him as their leader under the renewed Covenant. It was a mercy to the Israelites that they had such a friend as Moses, so faithful both to God who appointed him and to those for whom he was appointed. It was fitting that he who had saved them from ruin by his intercession with the Lord should have the command of them.
In this sense, Moses was a picture of Christ, who, as "He ever lives making intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25) has "all power both in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28:18)
10:12-22 What the fear of God demands
Moses had demonstrated from the past that the Israelites owed their existence solely to the forgiving mercy of God. And now--in grateful recognition of this undeserved goodness--they were to respond with whole-hearted love toward God and toward their fellowmen.
The true fear of the Lord, as the believer learns to understand the mercy of God, is ever the source of love toward Him. This, in turn, shows itself in wholehearted service that puts aside all selfish motives.
Mere outward observances of rites and ceremonies are not enough. Obedience to the Lord must come from the heart cleansed of its natural inclination to self-will. Without this preparation of the heart, which is repentance, neither true fear nor love of God is possible.
11:1-9 The Lord's greatness
Moses could not say it often enough that the Israelites owed the Lord a debt of love. He had taken them out of bondage in Egypt, chosen them to be His Covenant People, and forgiven them their rebellions against Him. But the Lord's Judgment on Koran, Dathan, and Abiram (verse 6) was a grim reminder that He would not tolerate abuse of His grace. (cf. Numbers 16:1-35)
Sin tends to the shortening of the days of persons and nations; but obedience to the Lord brings God's blessings on both individuals and their countries.
Question: Where does our country stand today?
A long and a happy life as the reward of faithfulness and obedience was made an inducement to the Children of Israel. Temporal blessings are also held out before the believers of the New Testament in order to spur them on in their efforts to please the Lord; for example, "Honor your father and mother...
11:10-21; Blessings of the promised land
Obedience to the words of the Covenant (verse 13) required a commitment to the Lord that sprang from the deepest recesses of heart and soul and excluded other gods. The Israelites were never to lose sight of their debt of total consecration; it was to be a determining factor in every moment and in every situation of their lives.
As Christians, we, too, should constantly keep God's Commandments in our hearts and minds. His Law teaches us what we must do to lead a God-pleasing life.
Verse 19 is an excellent summary of hints for the bringing up of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, namely, through the constant use and application of the Word of God. "You know how, when you were a small child, you were taught the Holy Scriptures; and it is these that make you wise to accept God's salvation by trusting in Christ Jesus." (II Timothy 3:15 Living Bible)
11:22-23 Blessing or curse
In the Israelites' relationship to God there was no possibility of neutrality. The Covenant presented them with unavoidable alternatives-a blessing or a curse. After crossing the Jordan they were to remind themselves of this "either-or" by a recital of the blessing on Mt. Gerizim and the curse on Mt. Ebal.
These two mountains were visible to the Israelites as they looked westward across the Jordan. In the Arabah, the rift valley of the Jordan, lay Gilgal, where they would first encamp on the east border of Jericho. In sending the Israelites to the oak of Moreh at Shechem to hear the blessing and the curse, God reminded them of the promise He had made to Abraham in that very place.(cf. Genesis 12:6-7)
God's great deeds for the Israelites in the past and His promises to them for the future were intended for the purpose of strengthening their trust in Him.
The remembrance of all the mercies of the Lord in our past, and the certainty of receiving still more evidences of His loving kindness in the future, should make all of us willing to trust in Him. "The wicked will have to suffer, but those who trust in the Lord are protected by His constant love." (Psalm 32:10 Good News Bible)
We come to another important section of this rather long second address. Moses continues telling Israel about the laws and regulations that would govern their lives and worship as God's Chosen People. These laws would be in effect when they crossed over the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land.
12:1-14 One God and One place to worship
Before the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, the Lord wanted to impress upon them the importance of worshipping Him. First He demanded that they destroy all of the false gods the people of these lands had worshiped. They were to be completely destroyed so that the Israelites would not be tempted to bow down and worship them, as the heathen people were doing. The Lord had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, and had taken care of them for forty years while they wandered in the wilderness. Now it was time for them to enter the Promised Land, and He wanted them to remember who their God was and what He had done for them. He commanded Israel that He was the ONLY ONE they were to worship.
12:15-28 Divine regulation of food
In giving these commandments regarding their worship and their sacrifices, Moses wanted to impress upon the people the absolute necessity for public worship. The permission to slay and eat meat at home did not remove the fact that the central altar was ordained for the reception of the sacrifices and the place for the religious feasts of God's people. The eating of meat at home must, of course, consist of the flesh of clean animals, and the blood must be carefully poured out on the ground; but, after these precautions, it was perfectly possible for the Israelite to live luxuriously at home. However, private luxury must not be substituted for the public peace offering and the Levitical support connected with the ritual.
There is a great temptation with weak Christians today to neglect public worship. It is often said by these people that the Bible can be studied at home as well as in any congregation. But the fact is that the private worship is a poor substitute for the public. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, "Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing." (Hebrews 10:25) There is in the public congregation a power of sympathy, solemnity, and attention which is missed elsewhere. The private services, when separated from the public, usually result in religious weakness.
As the Lord demanded support for the Levitical priesthood, so the Lord demands support today for the holy, public ministry. Support for the public ministry will not severely tax loyal Christian people. Public services, public organizations of the Church, and the public ministry are all to be continued to the end of time.
12:29-32 Warning against idolatry
The Lord warned the Israelites that they were not to be curious about the customs of the people of Canaan regarding the worship of false gods. He knew the Children of Israel were weak and their prying into evil customs would lead them into trouble.
We will sin less if we make the Lord both our God and our model. We must match our ways to His, to love what He loves and to hate what He hates. Idolatry in any form (whether of graven images, or material wealth, or human friend) is open treason against God. "Now, if we're God's children, we shouldn't think God is like gold, silver, or stone, carved by man's art and imagination." (Acts 17:29, Beck's American Translation)
Human life, to be a success, is a perpetual battle with evil. We cannot afford to be friendly with the enemy (Satan) or give him a single advantage. Constant watchfulness is our safety.
13:1-11 False prophets must die!
It is taken for granted that false prophets will arise in Canaan (vs.1) They did arise in Old Testament times, and they still do. The Lord, through Moses, wanted to warn His people regarding them. The Children of Israel were not to be misled even if the sign or wonder of a false prophet would come to pass. If the false prophet suggested to the Israelites to worship other gods, they could be sure that he did not receive his uncanny power from the Lord, but from the "father of lies", Satan.
These false prophets were to be stoned to death, even if they were a relative or close friend of an Israelite. The integrity of the family was safeguarded, but loyalty to God was to rise above the obligation of the most human ties. They were not to love father or mother, son or daughter more than God. The infliction of capital punishment, harsh though it was, was designed to protect the people against being infected by a sin, the wages of which is eternal death.
To this day a teacher of false doctrines is to be shunned although he may claim the ability to perform miracles. We do well to heed the admonition of Jesus and John in Matthew 24:24 and I John 4:1-3.
13:13-18 Idolatrous cities to be destroyed
The Lord, through Moses, warned the Christian today as well as the Children of Israel that they would face temptations to worship false gods after they had settled in the various cities in the Promised Land. The Lord had commanded the Israelites to destroy a city and all its inhabitants if they were guilty of proven idolatry. Thereby, He wanted the Israelites to see how great a crime it was to worship false gods, and He wanted to show what a jealous God He is in the matter of worship.
If the Israelites would worship false gods, their crime would be even greater because they had known the true God and the way of righteousness and then had turned aside from Him and His righteousness.
Christians today must heed this same warning! The New Testament speaks of fellowship with idolaters as a sin which, above any other, provokes the Lord to jealousy, and dares Him as if we were stronger then He. (cf. I Cor.10:20-22) All men must know that God will not give His glory to another, nor His praise to graven images.
14:1-21 Restrictions in customs and diet
The Israelites were to demonstrate that they were the sons of the Lord by avoiding superstitious mutilations of markings on their bodies, practiced by the heathen. The heathen were very violent in their show of grief over the loss of their dead. They tore their hair, cut their faces, and beat their breasts in an effort to please their heathen gods.
It is important for the Israelites, as well as Christians today, to understand that now we fully belong to the Lord God and, as His people, enjoy His hope and comfort, not only in our everyday living, but also in the presence of death. "Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep we should live together with Him." (I Thessalonians 5:10, King James Version)
By observing laws of diet, the Children of Israel would be noticed in all mixed companies as a separate people, His Chosen Ones. He wanted to keep them from mingling with and conforming to their idolatrous neighbors.
14:22-29 The Law of the tithe
In every aspect of human life, God requires His proprietorship to be recognized. In commanding the tithe, the Lord was insisting that the Israelites remember His proprietorship of all things. As their Lord He declared that the Israelites' possessions were to be used for His glory and honor, for their own and their family's welfare, and for the welfare of the people around them, including the Levites. For the Hebrews, He was obviously and directly landlord. He had put them into possession of their estates, and He rightfully could exact from them a rent.
In respect to all worldly substance, God is the absolute proprietor. He has an original right as the Creator. It is His supreme power that maintains the existence of the treasures of this earth. Even the ability we have to accumulate wealth is derived from the Lord. It is a gift from Him, because we had nothing with which to purchase it. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1 King James Version)
It is true that God's blessings are free; we cannot buy them. Yet the continued enjoyment of God's blessings is closely connected with their use. Our misuse of God's gifts can destroy the precious fellowship with Him. We are to remember always that fellowship with God is more precious and worth infinitely more than all the material gifts we have received from our Lord. Our conviction must be that of the Psalmist. "The Law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver." (Psalm 119:72, King James Version)
Chapters 15-28 continue to list rules and judgments about food, Sabbaths, and feast days, the treatment of specific offenses and penalties for such sins as witchcraft and false prophecy many of which have already been covered in the study. We will now look at Moses' third address in chapter 29.
III. The Third Address The Terms of the Covenant: Past, Present and Future
29:1-15 Basis of the covenant, God's mercy
In the closing address Moses stressed once more the perennial validity of the covenant which he "undertook to explain" to the people. This is an "everlasting covenant" therefore every new generation must "enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord" (verse 12) as their fathers had done when at Sinai they had agreed to do "all that the Lord had spoken." (Exodus 19:7-9)
The following points are to be remembered in this covenant:
(a) their partnership with God was not something they had merited; it was a gift.
(b) unfaithfulness to the covenant would provoke God's anger and result in their expulsion from the land;
(c) If the people would then penitently "return to the Lord" He would renew the covenant relationship;
(d) the people cannot claim ignorance of God's revealed will;
(e) the covenant confronts the Children of Israel with the alternatives: life or death.
29:16-29 Covenant disloyalty: God's anger
If the Children of Israel forsook the covenant, "the curses written in this book" would come to fruition as surely as a root produces a yield after its kind.
It behooved the people and their children forever to remember what God had revealed to them in the promises and threats of His covenant. These are for our learning that we may believe and live.
30:1-10 Covenant renewal: God's faithfulness
Moses repeatedly warned against apostasy. He foresaw that the Children of Israel would walk "in the stubbornness" Or their hearts (Deut.29:4). This stubbornness would bring about "all the curses written in this book." (29:27) However, God would even then let the door of the covenant grace stand wide open. He would let them again be His children if they returned to Him with hearts circumcised in true repentance and with the sincere intention to love the Lord "with all your heart and with all your soul."
This speaks of what the Father has done for us in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus who through His perfect obedience and suffering reconciled the world to God assured us that our heavenly Father is ever ready to forgive us, although as in the words of Martin Luther, "We daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment." This is what the prodigal son is all about. Jesus is calling us back to the Father's open arms. At His second coming the Son of man will "gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven." (Mark 13:26, King James Version)
30:11-14 Covenant revelation: God's condescension
God spoke in simple, straightforward words, He did this so all may know and understand His will. The Children of Israel do not have to venture far off to learn of God's Word. He had not kept it locked up in His impenetrable heaven. He had condescended to bring it "very near" to them, in their own hearing.
For the Christian, God's full revelation in Jesus Christ is so simple a little child can even understand and yet this Gospel that makes us "wise and understanding" becomes folly to those who reject it.
30:15-20 Covenant life and death: God's promise and threat
At the close of his address Moses once more reminds his hearers of the crucial alternatives which they face in the covenant. God made His promises and threats in the hearing of the whole world. His whole creation was summoned to testify that He had told His people in advance what the results of their choice would be: It was a matter of life and death.
In the judgment not one can say to the Lord that "they did not know." The Law of the Lord is written upon man's heart so that not a one is without excuse. (cf. Romans 1)
33-32 Assurance of undiminished power
Moses' work is just about over. The people are ready to move, therefore Moses charged all Israel and his successor "to be strong and of good courage." At the same time, future generations were not to forget the Covenant. Lest this happen, Moses put this law into written form and commanded the priests to read it "before all Israel"...at the end of every seven years. (verses 9-13)
The new leader was to have the same divine authorization as his predecessor. Both "presented themselves in the tent of meeting" in which God had appeared to Moses "in a pillar of cloud." Under the new leadership, the same principles were to be in effect. Moses was to summarize the terms of the Covenant in a song (verses 19-21). After he had written it (verse 22) both he and his successor recited it "in the hearing of the people." (32:44) By jointly "speaking all these words to all Israel" the people were to be assured that the Lord had "commissioned Joshua" to take over Moses' responsibility and authority.
Finally there never was to be any doubt what God's will was. After Moses "had finished writing the words of this law in a book" it was to be deposited for safekeeping "by the side of the ark of the covenant" (verses 24-27)
At the age of 120 years, Moses' "eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." (34:7) But he was no longer equal to the exhausting demands of leadership, particularly to the rigors of the military campaigns across the Jordan River.
As announced previously, the day of Moses' death had come (cf. Numbers 27:12-13)
33:1-29 Moses' parting blessing
Dying Jacob had announced the fate of the 12 tribal ancestors. Before his death Moses left a legacy to their descendants, now confederated into a covenant nation. The dominant "note" of Moses' song was a warning against unfaithfulness. In his last will and testament Moses stressed the blessings of being faithful to the Lord. This they could expect from the Lord who "loved his people." (verse 3)
In the conclusion to the blessing of the individual tribes Moses glorified the only true, eternal omnipotent God and reminded Israel of its blessed relationship to Him, as he had done in the introductory verses (verses 1-5) Upheld by "everlasting arms" the covenant people "dwelt in safety." No enemies would be able to rob them of the blessings God had in store for the instrument of His choice to bring salvation to a sin-cursed world.
In the New Testament, Jesus is like Moses as a prophet and mediator of a new covenant promised that "the powers of death shall not prevail against" His Israel which is the Church. As Christians we are the elect of all nations. We are redeemed by His blood. (cf. Matthew 16:18; 28:18-20; John 10:28)
34:1-12 The end of Moses' leadership
Moses did as he was commanded climbing to Mt. Hebo. From this pinnacle in the Abarim mountain range, a panoramic view of "all the lands of Canaan" is possible.
On the Mountain of Transfiguration, Moses appeared to the transfigured Christ and spoke to Him "of His departure" which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31) Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage took place under the leadership of Moses, "the servant of the Lord." Moses was a foreshadow of what God purposed to do through that servant who was "obedient unto death." (Philippians 2:8) Through Jesus "we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" and the promise of an eternal inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven." (Colossians 1:12-14; 1 Peter 1:3)
Moses "died there." He was not bodily translated to heaven like Elijah, who appeared with him on the Mount of Transfiguration. His burial by the Lord has been interpreted to mean that his lifeless body was immune to decay. According to Jude 9, "the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses."
Thirty days were devoted to mourning the death of Moses like his brother Aaron. God had provided for Moses and the people. Now a new leader had come. God provided for this change in administration. In this critical period Israel was not left without a leader but one full of the spirit of wisdom.
So ends our Study in the book of Deuteronomy and the first five books of the Bible.
Concordia Self Study Bible – New
International Version Robert G. Hoerber Editor
Concordia Publishing House St. Louis, MO. 1986 pp.242-286
Concordia Self Study Commentary Robert R.
Roehrs Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis,
MO. 1979 pp. 121-140
Of Old Testament – Introduction Gleason L. Archer
Jr. The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL. 1978 pp. 251-262