Overview of Deuteronomy
and Study of Deuteronomy 1-2

February 21st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016


The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth of the five books of the Pentateuch, all of which are assumed to have been written primarily by Moses. The first book, Genesis, had recorded the creation of the universe. Genesis also chronicled the lives of the ancestors of the nation of Israel, notably Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At the end of Genesis, Jacob and his extended family left their homeland because of famine and resided as guests in Egypt. The remaining four books record the struggles of their descendants to return to their land.

In the second book, Exodus, we learned that after 400 years, the descendants of Jacob were no longer treated like guests, but were oppressed as slaves for the Egyptians. God heard their cry and appointed Moses to lead them out of Egypt and back to their own land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. After enabling his people to escape the clutches of the Pharaoh, God formed a new covenant with the people. He provided instructions for healthy relationships with him and with each other in the form of the Ten Commandments.

The third and fourth books, Leviticus and Numbers, provide further edification of those instructions (laws) as well as defined practices for worship. The book of Numbers also provides accounts of the people’s rebellion and the mercy that God shows despite these events. They could have reached the Promised Land in the first year after the exit from Egypt, but their disobedience resulted in a punishment period equivalent to the lifetime of one generation, who spent that punishment period wandering in the desert. At the end of the book of Numbers, the people are camped near the Jordan River, facing the land they desire, a land of milk, honey, and other riches that stretches west to the sea and stretches far enough north and south to accommodate all the people. This was the land of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for which they had longed. But they were not yet given permission to enter.

Deuteronomy picks up where Numbers ended. The tribes are waiting for permission to move forward. The period of time in which the events of Deuteronomy took place was the last month of the 40th year after leaving Egypt. This was also the last month of the life of Moses, so he used the opportunity to address the people with a series of farewell speeches that summarized the events and lessons of the last 40 years. The Greek name of this book, Deuteronomion means “Second Law” because Moses reviews the laws from the previous books. The entire series of lectures by Moses was an important knowledge transfer because the people of the first generation that lived through those years had died. Moses needed to ensure that the second generation understood the history and the laws of their nation. The introduction to the book Deuteronomy in the New American Bible provides a fitting synopsis of the book and the talks given by Moses:

The series of speeches and the book itself can be divided into several sections:

Deuteronomy is an important book for Christians to study because of frequent references to it in the New Testament. It is referenced eighty times, which is more often than just about any other Old Testament book, and is mentioned at least once in all but six New Testament books (2). For example, Jesus makes three references to Deuteronomy when tempted by Satan in the desert, as described in the book of Matthew. The first instance is noted below:

References used for the analysis of the book of Deuteronomy include the following:

Deuteronomy 1-2 (Review Session - Wandering Years)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them. This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.

- Deuteronomy 1:3-4

Summary of Chapters

In the first two chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses summarizes the early years in the desert. In chapter 1, he explained how he had created a leadership structure that shared the burdens and responsibilities of all the tribes. He provided a fair amount of detail regarding the pivotal event in which the tribes refused to take possession of the land of the Canaanites because they lacked faith in the protection of the LORD, as described in Numbers 13. He noted that this is the reason that Caleb and Joshua were the only adult males from that period who will be permitted to enter the Promised Land. Moses explained that he too would be denied the opportunity to see the land to which he had brought God's people:

In chapter 2, Moses discusses some of the places they had lived and reminded everyone that wherever they camped, God always provided for them. He gave them food and water, and when the time was right he selected the lands that they could conquer and possess.

Reflection and Application

It’s important for us to review the stories, events, and lesson from the Bible because the repetition helps us remember. It’s also important to review our own personal histories to remember the lessons we have learned. As we look back it may be clearer to us that some of our long journeys and trials may have had a purpose in preparing us to serve the LORD. We can reflect on our moments of faith so that we can build on them, and can remember our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them – but we don’t need to dwell, as God offers forgiveness.

Moses reminded the new generation of the failures of their fathers so that they would be encouraged to follow God with faith and trust him even when future obstacles seem large. This is a reminder for us also to have faith that God will be beside us in whatever challenges we face. If we follow his laws and guidance we will find it easier to work through those challenges.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. What were your favorite topics in school?
    2. What do you believe was the most important message from the first four books of the Bible?
    3. What is the next step for which God is preparing you?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to remember the lessons we learned from you and help us to recognize the ways in which you are preparing us to serve you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Teachers and those training to be teachers


    (1) The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970, p. 142
    (2) Thompson, J.A., Deuteronomy, An Introduction and Commentary, Intervarsity Press, Leicester England, Downers Grove, IL, 1974. p11

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Deuteronomy 3-4 (Teach Your Children Well)

    Comments and Questions
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