Deuteronomy, Book of

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The name signifies “The Second Law,” but this does not properly describe it, as the ten commandments and Jehovah’s name and His covenant made in Horeb are the basis of its instructions. Neither does “Repetition of the Law” give the right thought, because some parts of this book were not given before. It rehearses God’s covenant, relationship with Israel under new circumstances: they had come to the border of the promised land, and were just about to enter into its possession, not on the ground of faithfulness to the law, but according to the covenant made with the fathers (Deut. 9:4-54Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. 5Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:4‑5)). Some things are added which could have had no application in the wilderness, even referring to their having a king.
The style of the book is different from those preceding it: a vast typical system is portrayed in the three preceding books, while in this the Spirit of God is occupied with the actual circumstances connected with their possession of the land of promise. Nearly all of Deuteronomy is what Moses rehearsed in the hearing of the people. Thus, “Moses began to declare this law” (Deut. 1:55On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying, (Deuteronomy 1:5)). He called all Israel, and said unto them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments” (Deut. 5:11And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. (Deuteronomy 5:1)). The book may be otherwise divided into three parts, thus: Deuteronomy 1-11: Moses rehearses the way the Lord had led them, the covenant with them at Horeb, their disobedience, the resumption of God’s relationship with them on the ground of Moses’ mediation, and putting the law in the ark. Deuteronomy 12-29: various commandments are given with the results of obedience and disobedience fully stated. Deuteronomy 30-34: things to come, the song of Moses, and his blessing the tribes.
The fact is stated that from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir, unto Kadesh-barnea on the south border of the land, was only an eleven days’ journey, yet it had occupied them, going backwards and forwards, nearly forty years. Moses then reminded them of the burden and strife which fell on him consequent on their being so great a people, and of the system of government that had been appointed among them; also that it was themselves who were the instigators of sending the spies to search out the land. This appears to clash with Numbers 13:1-21And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. (Numbers 13:1‑2), which says, “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men that they may search the land of Canaan.” The two passages show that the people proposed it; Moses consented (it pleased him well, he says here); and God commanded it. God’s first message was, “Go up and possess it”; but the people hesitated, and said they would send the spies (Deut. 1:21-2321Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. 22And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come. 23And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe: (Deuteronomy 1:21‑23)). Their rebellion and their wanderings were the result.
Deuteronomy 2-3. Moses continues their history after the many days of their wilderness wanderings. They had been told not to meddle with the Edomites—the descendants of Isaac through Esau; nor with the Moabites and Ammonites, for they were the descendants of Lot. Sihon the Amorite had been subdued. This was after they had traveled round to the east of the Dead Sea. Deuteronomy 10-12 and 20-23 should be read as parentheses: they are valuable historical notes. Og king of Bashan had been conquered and his cities taken, a pledge of the full victory which the Lord would give over the nations of Canaan. The two tribes and a half had had their portion assigned on the east of the Jordan. Moses should see the land, but was not to go over the Jordan, and Joshua was to be his successor.
Deuteronomy 4. Moses calls them to hearken to the commands he had given them, that they might live and go in and possess the land. The people must take heed unto themselves, that they make no similitude of Jehovah who had spoken to them, and so corrupt themselves.
Deuteronomy 5-6. The covenant at Horeb is rehearsed with exhortations to obedience, and the great truth pressed upon them of which they were the witnesses: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,” to whom every affection should flow.
Deuteronomy 7-8. The people are warned against making any covenant with the people of the land; for they themselves were a holy people. God had chosen them for a special people above all upon the face of the earth. They are reminded of all God’s goodness to them that they might not forget Him. He had humbled them and proved them, to do them good in their latter end.
Deuteronomy 9-11. Moses declares that God was not going to bring them into the land on account of their own righteousness or uprightness of heart; but because He would fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses plainly tells them “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you”; and he rehearses their failings, and God’s goodness, and His securing His covenant in the ark.
Deuteronomy 12-13. The idolatrous altars and groves found in the land were to be destroyed. There was but one place to which all the sacrifices were to be brought, where Jehovah would put His name, and there only were the consecrated things to be eaten. They were not to inquire after the heathen gods, lest they should be ensnared thereby. Strong delusion is guarded against — if a prophet’s sign came to pass, it might be to prove them. They must not follow such a one into idolatry, nor were they to spare the nearest relative who would lead them away from worshipping Jehovah their God.
Deuteronomy 14-19. Many of the laws which were given in the former part of the Pentateuch are rehearsed. If they would have a king, he must be the one whom God would choose, and the king’s duties are detailed.
Deuteronomy 20. Instructions as to going to battle; what cities were to be spared, and what people were to be utterly destroyed.
Deuteronomy 21-25. Divers commandments are rehearsed before the people.
Deuteronomy 26. When they were brought into the land, and one came to worship, he was to confess “A Syrian ready to perish was my father.” Then the goodness of God was to be confessed in the redemption from Egypt, and bringing into the promised land, and they were to rejoice in every good thing God had given them. Then grace should flow out to the fatherless and the widows. Obedience should follow, and all defilement be avoided. Blessing should be asked for all Israel.
Deuteronomy 27. The law was to be written on great stones, and set up on mount Ebal, where also an altar of whole stones was to be reared for both burnt offerings and peace offerings. Here, too, certain tribes were to stand to pronounce the curses which follow. Other tribes were to stand on mount Gerizim to bless. The blessings however are omitted, as in fact the people were under the curse, being under the law, as the apostle shows in the epistle to the Galatians when dealing with the principle of law.
Deuteronomy 28. The people being under the government of God, the consequences of obedience or disobedience are presented in blessings or cursings, the latter being realized in the subsequent history of the people.
Deuteronomy 29-30. The solemn fact is stated that, spite of all the signs and miracles they had seen, yet the Lord had not given eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor a heart to understand (compare John 3:2-32The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:2‑3)). They all on that day stood before the Lord their God, and He made the covenant with them. Deuteronomy 30:1515See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; (Deuteronomy 30:15) expresses it in few words—it was “life and good, death and evil.” The secret purpose of God is referred to, and when all was ruined under law, the principle of righteousness by faith is introduced.
Deuteronomy 31-32. The law was to be read to the people every seven years. To Joshua the “charge” was committed to bring the people into the land. Moses taught the people a song. It is partly prophetic, for their future is foretold. God would provoke them to jealousy by the Gentiles, as in Romans 10:1919But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. (Romans 10:19); but would finally bless them. Moses longed to go over Jordan and see the land; but it was forbidden him because he had transgressed. (Dispensationally Moses represents the law and that could not bring them into the promised land.)
Deuteronomy 33. Moses blesses the twelve tribes. When Jacob blessed them in Genesis 49 it was rather their prophetic history in the then future; here it is more their relationship with God in His government over them for blessing, when they will sit down at His feet and hear His words. Simeon is omitted; his portion was in the extreme south-west, near the desert; we read very little of this tribe, as if they were lost in the land. The number twelve was made up by the two sons of Joseph; however, we find that Simeon is among the twelve tribes sealed in Revelation 7 and in the future division of the land (Ezek. 48:2525And by the border of Simeon, from the east side unto the west side, Issachar a portion. (Ezekiel 48:25)).
Deuteronomy 34. The death of Moses is related and that God buried him in an unknown place, so his tomb could not be worshipped as a holy spot. There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.
The Book of Deuteronomy is in a word characterized by exhortations to obedience by a people brought into God’s land. It is often quoted in the New Testament and the Lord three times quoted from it when tempted of the devil. It is cited as written by Moses (Rom. 10:1919But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. (Romans 10:19); 1 Cor. 9:99For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (1 Corinthians 9:9)). The scripture thus fully refutes those who seek to attribute it to some unknown writer of a later date. Of course the last chapter is an exception: it may have been added by Joshua.