The word “Deuteronomy” basically means “repetition of the law” .In this book Moses partially restates, explains and applies the law to those who are about to enter into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. The emphasis is upon Israel’s need to do and keep God’s Covenant. Their relationship with and responsibilities to the Lord are dealt with in this work. Deuteronomy can be seen as Moses’ farewell address to the nation of Israel, for once given he would not see them again. He was about to die in Moab, after viewing Canaan from a distance.
Moses begins with an historical summery and spiritual interpretation of how God had led Israel the past forty years through the wilderness to the borders of the land of Canaan (Chapter 1-4). He does so to reveal to the new generation that God expects them to do what their fathers did not, that is, obey God, otherwise they should be aware that the Lord would punish them too. He also repeated the Ten Commandments and encourage his listeners to observe them exactly. If they did this they could expect every blessing that the Lord had prepared for them (Chapter 5). They must love, serve and believe in the God who delivered them from Egypt (Chapter 6). Chapter twenty-eight contains the great blessings that God would pour out upon them if they would obey, but it also speaks of the terrible curses that will come upon them if they refused to follow the Lord.
Moses warns them not to intermarry or mix with the nations around them. Their religion and behaviour would destroy Israel and bring upon them the wrath of God. Instead they were to destroy their gods, priests, prophets, witches and sorcerers (Chapter 7, 13, 18). He also commanded that all the Canaanites were to be destroyed as Israel took over their cities (Chapter 20). They must also observe the hygiene laws when they were in their new homeland (23:9-14). All the feasts must be fully observed. Moses put great emphasis upon the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Chapter 16). Prophetically he speaks of the coming of Israel’s Messiah – The Prophet who would teach and guide them in all truth (Chapter 18).
They were instructed to appoint judges to govern the people. These men must be righteous men who would punish all those who broke the law in any way. Moses realised that Israel would eventually be ruled by a monarchy and so gave further instructions about how they should live under those circumstances. Because justice needed to be upheld, and because sometimes those pronounced guilty were in fact innocent, he ordered that Cities of Refuge were to be built to protect the innocent (Chapter 19).
Moses explained what they were to do when they found themselves at war with another nation. He advises that the fearful, faint-hearted, newlyweds, and those who have recently purchased property were to be excused from military service. Instructions were given regarding protection of animals, those eligible for priesthood, and weights and measures (Chapters 21-26).
He finally appeals to Israel to be true to the Lord, warning them of the consequences of not doing so, that grievous punishment would come upon them (Chapters 29-31). God did love and care for His chosen people, but they must in turn be obedient to His word. Moses repeats, as to press home his point, that God has remained faithful to them throughout all these years, and so pleads with them to be faithful to Him. The decision was theirs. Would they choose life or death, blessing or cursing, God or the flesh?
Moses exhorts them to follow their new leader Joshua. He also encourages Joshua to be bold and strong in whatever the Lord has called him to do (Chapter 31). A written copy of the law was presented to the priests and instructions were given regarding the reading of it (Chapter 31).
Finally Moses appears to sung a song which he composed. It is really a prophetic poem that captures what God has done during the entire history of the nation of Israel. In it he reveals the power, holiness and glory of the God they serve (Chapter 32). In this song he is asking Israel, “How can you not serve, love and obey such a God as this?”
Moses prepared himself to die on Mt. Nebo as he watched Israel gathering together to enter into the Promised Land. His final act was to bless the people (Chapters 33-34). From the top of the mount God showed Moses all the inheritance of Israel. At the age of one hundred and twenty, though far from being immobile, he died and was buried by the Lord in a secret place.
Moses was know by many names such as prophet, deliverer, lawgiver, but the one he probably loved the most was ‘the servant of God’ who saw God face to face. The whole message of Deuteronomy may be summed up in one verse “Hear, 0 Israel, the statutes and judgements which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep them, and do them” (5:1).