Introduction to Deuteronomy


Deuteronomy is the final book in what is referred to as the Pentateuch or Torah. provides the following explanation of terms, “The word Pentateuch comes from a combination of the Greek word penta, meaning ‘five’ and teuchos, which can be translated ‘scroll.’ Therefore, it simply refers to the five scrolls that make up the first of three divisions of the Jewish canon. The name Pentateuch can be traced at least as far back as AD 200, when Tertullian referred to the first five books of the Bible by that name. Also known as the Torah, which is the Hebrew word meaning ‘Law,’ these five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.”

Both the Old and New Testaments testify that Moses was the author of Deuteronomy: Deuteronomy 1:1; Joshua 1:7-8; Judges 1:20, 3:4; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Ezra 3:2; Matthew 19:7; Mark 12:19; Luke 20:28; Acts 3:22; Romans 10:19; and 1 Corinthians 9:9 among others. Skeptics raise the issue that the final chapter records details of Moses’ death, so he could not have written it. HCSB introduction to the book of Deuteronomy provides the following rebuttal, “…ancient Jewish tradition (Baba Bathra 14b-15a)…suggests…that the book was completed by someone else, most likely Joshua. This slight concession in no way undermines the position that Deuteronomy as a whole is Mosaic…”

The survey of Deuteronomy describes it as a collection of sermons delivered by Moses over a period of 40 days: “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 (Joshua 4:19). Subtract 30 days of mourning after Moses’ death (Deuteronomy 34:8), and we’re left with 40 days.” NLT Illustrated Study Bible further characterizes this book as “Moses’ farewell address to the tribes of Israel” which is “composed as a treaty text, using elements common to covenants between nations.”

The NLT Illustrated Study Bible provides the following outline:

1:1-5 Preamble to the covenant

1:6- 4:49 Historical prologue

5:1- 26:15 Stipulations of the Covenant

26:16- 29:1 Blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience

29:2- 30:20 Land Covenant (I differ from the NLT outline for these chapters, the Land Covenant reflects my belief. The issue will be discussed in the notes for those chapters.)

31:1-29 Deposit of the text of the covenant

31:30-32:43 Witnesses of the covenant

The overall theme of Deuteronomy as noted by the NLT Illustrated Study Bible is the covenant which “provided the means for the Lord to unite himself to Israel. The covenant stated that the Lord was Israel’s God, Israel was God’s people, and the relationship between them would achieve God’s purposes.” The same source draws attention to this important point, “This covenant did not make Israel God’s people; God’s promise of a national offspring to Abraham had already done that (Genesis 17:1-8).” Of course, God further specified that the covenant promises would continue through the descendants of Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5). God’s covenant did not continue through Abraham’s other sons (Ishmael by Hagar, or his other sons by his wife Keturah, which he took after Sarah’s death). From here the covenant promises continued through the descendants of Jacob only (Genesis 28:10-22), not through the descendants of Isaac’s other son, Esau. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible continues, “The covenant made at Sinai gave Israel the privilege of serving the Lord as a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:4-6). Deuteronomy reiterates the terms and conditions of this covenant: if Israel could remain faithful to its role as a ‘kingdom of priests and my holy nation,’ it would direct God’s blessings to the whole world.”

Deuteronomy 18:15-19 foreshadows Jesus’ coming. As Gotquestions notes, “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).”

In his commentary on this book David Guzik references the events of Matthew 4 when he writes, “Deuteronomy is also a book of note, because it was a useful book of reminder and preparation for Jesus. In His temptation in the wilderness, it seems obvious that Jesus meditated on Deuteronomy because in answering Satan, He quoted from it three times.”

The Gotquestions survey provides an excellent practical application for this book in our lives today, “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.”

Click here to go to chapter 1