Deuteronomy, or Second Law, gets its name from its contents. It repeats the Decalogue to a generation, which had grown up in the wilderness. The book consists of the parting counsels of Moses to Israel, in view of their future entrance into the land of Canaan. The book breathes the sternness of the law, and the outstanding key words are “Thou shalt.”
While the land of promise was unconditionally given to Abraham and his seed in the Abrahamic Covenant, (Genesis13: 15; 15:7), it was under the conditional Palestinian Covenant, (Deuteronomy 28-30), that Israel entered the land under Joshua. For violations the Israelites were sent forth into the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, but their ultimate return to the land will come to pass after the extended period of judgment is fulfilled, Ch.30: 1-3.
Deuteronomy is in seven divisions as follows:
1. Chs. 1-3. Summary of the History of Israel in the Wilderness.
2. Chs. 4-11. A Restatement of the Law, and Warnings and Exhortations.
3. Chs. 12-27. Instructions, Warnings and Predictions.
4. Chs. 28-30. The great closing prophesies summarizing the history of Israel to the second coming of Christ.
5. Chs. 31. Last counsels to priests, Levites, and to Joshua.
6. Chs. 32-33. The Song of Moses and his parting blessing.
7. Ch. 34. The death of Moses.
SUMMARY OF THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS.
After the forty years of wilderness wandering, Moses summarized the experiences of Israel. Having been kept by God through some of the dangers of the way, they were exhorted by Moses to go up and possess the land, Ch.1: 20. They requested, however, that spies be sent in to look things over. Through the evil report of ten of them the people refused to go forward and God turned them back into the wilderness to wander from place to place. During that time, certain enemies were subdued, and various judgments had been visited upon the people because of their murmurings and complainants. Moses became involved, in that in anger he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. For this he was barred from entering the land and from Ch.3: 23-27, we learn how keenly he felt about it.
A RESTATEMENT OF THE LAW.
In this division of the book we have a restatement of the Law, and other words of instruction, which pertained to the same subject. The men who came out of Egypt had largely died off and the new generation born in the wilderness knew very little of the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. For this reason the law was repeated in their hearing that they might enter Canaan with clear directions as to how they were to conduct themselves.
Three cities were designed on the east of Jordan as cities of refuge, as that territory was already subdued by Israel, Ch. 4:41-43. The great underlying principle of their walk with God is mentioned in Ch.6: 4-5. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Upon entering the land God knew the people would be surrounded with heathen neighbors, therefore, He exhorted them to observe strict rules of separation, lest the coming generation be turned aside from worshiping the one true and living God, Ch. 7:2-4.
Four chapters are given over to warnings and exhortations, Chs.8-11. So prone is the human heart to wander that God carefully states His mind so that no one shall have an excuse for going wrong.
INSTRUCTIONS, WARNINGS AND PREDICTIONS.
Chs. 12-27 inclusive contain a variety of matters pertaining to the temporal, physical, and spiritual well-being of Israel, and also refers to their domestic relationships. God wanted them to be a happy and contented people, but to have His blessing they must seek to conform to His high standard of living. False prophets were to be tested and if proven in their wrong doing were to be stoned to death, even though a near blood relation was involved, Ch.13: 6, 9-10. Should any one of their cities turn to idolatry, full proof of it was to be obtained, then the inhabitants were to be slain and the city burned with firs, vs.14-16.
Certain rules were given by which a king must be governed when they desired one to rule over them. He must be Divinely chosen; he must not multiply horses to himself, nor take a large number of wives; and he must write a copy of the law for himself by which he should be governed, Ch.17: 14-20. A prophecy of the coming of the Messiah was given, Ch.18: 15-19, whom the people must heed even as they had obeyed the leadership of Moses. Three cities of refuge were to be chosen out of their inheritance on the west side of Jordan, so that a man who slew another by accident could claim protection from the avenger of blood until his case had a fair hearing, Ch.19; Num.35: 24-25.
Concerning warfare, the people were told not to be afraid of an army of greater numbers, for the Lord their God would fight for them, Ch.20: 1-4. Various instructions follow, showing how the members of the army should be governed, and how to treat women and children taken captive in battle. A prodigal son was to receive severe treatment so that for drunkenness and kindred sins he was to be stoned by the elders of the people, Ch.21: 18-23. One see what is must have meant to live under the law as touching domestic relationships. Chs.23-25 contains various regulations including the matter of divorce, and a great number of things, which made up the national life of the people.
All of Ch.26 is used to deal with the offering of the first fruits and the paying of the tithe. The people were told to recall how God had led them out of Egypt, and had given them the beautiful land of Canaan, vs.5-9. God then promised to make them high above all nations that they might be a separated people unto Himself, vs.18-19. A twelve-fold curse, to be quoted aloud by the Levites, to each of which the people were to respond with “AMEN!” are mentioned in Ch.27.
THE GREAT CLOSING PROPHECIES SUMMARIZING THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL TO THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST.
Ch. 28 contains a detailed statement of the blessings and curses of God, which would be visited upon the people dependent upon the faithfulness or unfaithfulness to His law. Both temporal and physical treatment was included showing that the welfare of the nation was very much wrapped up with their behavior. One statement reveals clearly the source of sickness. In v.61, we read that the Lord would bring upon them every form of sickness. In the margin of our Bible it reads, cause to ascend showing plainly that such things come from beneath and light upon the disobedient. When this chapter is coupled with Gal. 3:13, we see how Christ has redeemed us from poverty and sickness being made a curse, i.e. being punished in our place.
The Palestinian Covenant is given in Chs. 29-30. The first of the two chapters is introductory recalling what good things God had done for them in accordance with His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Ch.29: 13, and stipulating that God’s blessing on them would be conditional upon their behavior. God foresaw their backsliding and the resultant scattering of the people among the nations, but promised to again gather them when they should return unto Him, Ch.30: 1-3. Such a promise is far reaching in that God himself will turn their hearts back to Himself, vs.6-8, and it will be fulfilled in the last days at the second coming of Christ, as per Romans 11:26-27.
In Ch. 29:29 we read how God reveals sufficient of His counsel that we may know His will and do it. Whatever He fails to reveal is His secret and we need not delve into such. There is plenty in the Word to keep us fully occupied as we endeavor to walk pleasing in His ways.
LAST COUNSELS TO PRIESTS, LEVITES, AND TO JOSHUA.
In view of God prohibiting Moses from entering the land He gave his parting counsel to the spiritual heads of the people. Joshua was called and in the sight of all Israel was told to be of good courage that God would be with him to defeat all their enemies, even as He had already dealt with Sihon and Og, kings of the Amorites, Ch. 31:3-7. Then God called Moses and Joshua into the tabernacle and gave the latter a charge. Moses was told that he was to sleep with his fathers, and that the people would in course of time go after the gods of the lands, vs.14-16. For this the anger of the Lord would be kindled against them. Moses was then told to write a song to be rehearsed by the Levites in the ears of all the people.
THE SONG OF MOSES AND HIS PARTING BLESSING.
In the sublime spirit of prophecy Moses gave forth a song, which for accuracy of foreknowledge cannot be equaled. It called upon Israel to remember how God had condescended to choose them and had blessed them beyond what had been done for the other peoples of the Earth. Their backsliding is then foretold and the judgments which would result, and the final restoration of His people is clearly stated, Ch. 32:1-43. The whole of Ch.33 contains the statement of Moses’ blessing upon the tribes of Israel. Moses’ heart was knit to his people, and before his death he remembered every tribe with some helpful word.
THE DEATH OF MOSES.
To the great lawgiver was granted a vision of the land, which the people were to inherit. God called him up to the top of Mt. Pisgah and showed him a wonderful panoramic view of the north and south, Ch.34: 1-4. Then Moses passed on to his reward and the Lord buried him. The testimony of his physical state is left on record, v.7, that all might learn how God can keep a man even to a good old age and then go home to heaven.