Deuteronomy: The Law Renewed
The Law Renewed
Covenant Renewal in preparation for entering Promised Land
Background: Moses records the covenant renewal for a new generation just prior to his death
Theme: A covenant between the LORD and His people
Outline: The Covenant Mediator, History, Stipulations, Ratification, and Continuance
Key Verse: "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" (Deut 10:12-13, NIV)
Introduction: The title, 'Deuteronomy', is from the Greek title, meaning "the second giving of the Law". The Hebrew title is 'Divarim', 'Words', from the phrase "These are the words which Moses spoke". The Greek gives an acceptable title to the book, but it is unfortunate that most people do not understand what the Greek title means. I have therefore subtitled the book, "The Law Renewed" as the whole book is in the form of an ancient treaty, a pact between the LORD God and His people, in which the requirements of the Law are clearly stated.
Moses probably wrote this book following the wilderness wanderings, prior to his death and the Hebrews entry into the Promised Land. He either recorded his death in advance, knowing that he was going into the mountains alone to die, or Joshua or another leader may have written that section. Moses gave this book as a long speech, around 1405 B.C. In it, he recounts the events of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings (1445 - 1405 B.C.).
This book is in the form of a treaty or covenant between the Lord and the people of Israel. It states the 'rules' which are to govern the relationship between God and the Nation of Israel. The rest of the Old Testament is predecated upon whether Israel will obey this treaty and be blessed by the Lord, or disobey and be disciplined.
Deuteronomy Chapter Index
Study Guide Contents by Section
(6 Chapters Each)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34
1-6 Observations Summary Questions 7-12 Observations Summary Questions 13-18 Observations Summary Questions 19-24 Observations Summary Questions 25-30 Observations Summary Questions 31-34 Observations Summary Questions
Mr. Chad Woodburn, of the Disciples' Institute of Biblical Studies, has made comments on this draft. I have included them for the sake of fairness to other viewpoints, as I greatly respect his opinion. They are highlighted in blue. The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.
It is very important to understand the importance of Deuteronomy in the history of Israel. Before entering the land, the new generation renews the covenant made with the Lord at Sinai. Recent research of the ancient Near East has revealed many treaties of that era granted by a Sovereign to a people. The book of Deuteronomy is in that format, with the LORD being the Sovereign. This is in sharp contrast to the view of some that this is just a repetition or second giving of the Law (as implied by the unfortunate English title). It also contradicts the skeptical view that Deuteronomy was collated by priests upon the return from Exile, with the purpose of consolidating the power of the clergy in the resettled land. The Hebrew title, 'Divarim', means 'words' and is from the first verse. I choose to remember this book as Covenant with the LORD. In the following outline, I have indicated the treaty parts with words between asterisks.
Chapters 1-6: Observations
I. Introduction *Mediator* (1:1-4)
1:3 The practice of substituting the Hebrew word for Lord in place of the name YHWH was evidently the practice of New Testament authors, for in Jesus' quotes of the Old Testament scriptures the Greek New Testament records the word Lord (Kyrie) in place of the name YHWH. For this reason, most English Bibles use the word LORD (all capitals) in place of YHWH. A few use Yahweh, others the traditional Jehovah.
II. Prologue *History* (1:5-4:43)
2:14-15 Thirty-eight years have passed, and the demise of all of the fighting men at the time of the refusal to enter Canaan at Kadesh Barnea is very specific. The LORD took deliberate action to ensure these men died, as indicated by "the LORD's hand was against them".
A. God's Acts (1:5-3:29)
3:8-11 An unusual early use of iron. Israel was still a Bronze Age culture, even in the time of David 400 years later. The Hittites were one of the earliest peoples to develop the methods of purifying and using iron, and it spread to other Canaanite and surrounding peoples. This was a great advantage in war, as iron swords and shields were harder and more durable than bronze weapons. At this time iron was very scarce and valuable. Perhaps the bed was simply overlaid or decorated with iron.
B. Exhortation (4:1-43)
4:15-18 Spells, incantations, and magic could be performed on an idol in an attempt to force the represented deity to perform an action. Our God may be prayed to and worshiped, but idols of Him as well as magic (in the sense of trying to force Him to act a certain way) are forbidden.
4:20 The furnace is constructive, transforming fairly soft ore into durable iron. The iron ore was not melted, but softened and beaten or forged for strength. The Exodus forged Israel into the covenant people of God.
4:28 It is easier (as here) to prove that idols do not work the way people believe, than to prove that the false gods do not exist.
4:32-34 Only the LORD has chosen a people and revealed his long-term goals to them. Other ancient Near Eastern religions inferred what their gods wanted, and considered them fickle or without plans, doing whatever struck their fancy at the moment.
III. Obligations *Stipulations* (4:44-26:19)
A. Law at Horeb (4:44-5:33)
5:6-21 For a fuller discussion, refer to my notes on Exodus. Scholars used to speculate on how the commandments were arranged between the two tablets, and whether they were on one side or both sides. If the LORD followed ancient Near East practice, there would have been two permanent copies of the Law. That would mean one copy on each tablet, and probably written on both sides. They may have been five to eight inches wide and eight to twelve inches long, and on fairly thin stone (Moses was able to break the first pair by throwing them on the ground).
B. Great Commands (6-11)
6:4 This is the Old Testament equivalent of John 3:16, a verse commonly used in the Synagogue as a call to worship. In the printed Hebrew Bible it is specially marked by ending the first and last words with an extra large first letter (the only place this is done in the Hebrew Scriptures). The first word, 'Hear', is a command to listen carefully, pay attention to, and put into practice (obey) what is said.
6:6-9 These verses emphasize studying and meditating on God's word. It is not enough to feel a love for God and do our best by following our highest thoughts and our conscience. We are to put our love for God into practice by following His specific instructions, and our ideas of what God is like and what pleases Him must be based on what He has said.
6:13-19 The obedient Israelite, and an obedient Christian today, would not be exempt from trials! A trial is not a sign that God has deserted us or that we have failed Him. It is our response to the trial that shows us the nature and strength of our faith, or lack of it.
6:13 Taking an oath attributed power to enforce it to the deity called upon. Israel was to totally reject the gods of Canaan associated with its fields, wells, and prosperity.
6:20-25 It is the parent's responsibility to pass the faith on to their children. The parent is the teacher. The church organization may assist, but that does not relieve the parent of responsibility. I am in favor of Sunday School, I teach it and have always brought my children to it. But it is my responsibility to raise them in the admonition of the Lord, and this is never simply given over to the church organization. Children are not meant to simply discover the truth for themselves, to someday choose what they think is good or evil, to make up their own minds in a vacuum. As they grow they must develop their own faith, and make their own commitment to the Lord, but we are to clearly teach the truths of Scripture.
Chapters 1-6: Summary
The first two parts of a treaty are given and the third begun. Moses is described as spokesman for the LORD, followed by a rapid review of recent history. The history basically covers the time between the previous covenant and the present time. God's acts are described in order to show the character of Israel and the LORD, and their relationship. An exhortation is given to remember the LORD, and to worship Him exclusively and in contrast to the manner of the idolaters and Canaanites. The Law given at Horeb is repeated. The Shema begins an exhortation and practical directions on how to pass the knowledge of this Covenant and the LORD to the following generations.
Chapters 1-6: Questions
1. Why is the recent history reviewed in Deuteronomy?
2. Did the men who died in the wilderness die natural deaths?
3. How is the manner of worshipping of the LORD contrasted to pagan worship?
4. Do the Ten Commandments apply to us today? If so, how?
5. From the Shema section, how can we pass knowledge of the LORD to the next generation?
Chapters 7-12: Observations
7:2 A treaty with any Canaanites would therefore violate the treaty (covenant) with the LORD.
7:15 Diseases of Egypt are taken by some as the ten plagues. However, the plain meaning of diseases is fitting. There are health stipulations along with the ceremonial law. If practiced by Europeans in the Middle Ages, they would have averted the Black Death which decimated the population of the German territories. Even the precaution of washing hands after touching a dead body was a revolutionary step forward when adopted by doctors in the twentieth century.
7:17-26 Faith is strengthen by the study and application of God's written word (previous notes above) and by applying to the future the lessons of our past. As we experience God helping us in our walk with Him, we learn to trust Him, and in future struggles we need to remember what He has done and expect "the LORD your God will do the same" (7:19)
7:26 Achan is presumably hearing these words, but will ignore them during the conquest and pay the price.
7:17-26 Some of the idols mentioned here were the 'pornography' of the day. A strong tie exists between sexual sin and deserting the LORD for false Gods.
8:1 This is a conditional promise. Only through obedience will this particular generation receive the land promised to the forefathers.
8:2-5 Detail is provided on the 40 years of wandering that is not included in the book of Numbers.
8:10 The Israelites learned to deal with adversity in Egypt, the Sinai, and the wilderness. Soon they will face the test of prosperity in the Promised Land.
9:1 The NASB uses 'today' and the NIV 'now about to'. The Hebrew is 'this day'. A little more than one month will pass from Moses speaking these words to the actual event. It must be understood that the people are preparing and are ready, but not yet crossing over.
9:3 There is a balance of divine power and human instrumentality here. The verse says that God will destroy the Canaanites and that Israel will annihilate them as the LORD has promised.
9:4-8 Why did God permit the destruction of the Canaanites? It was because of their great wickedness, and not because the Israelites were righteous or deserving of the land.
9:17 The stone tablets were not merely a record of the Ten Commandments, but were also the physical evidence and surety of the covenant. Moses broke them as the covenant they represented was already broken by the people. This would be like someone ripping up a contract that has become meaningless because it is not being followed.
9:18 Moses fasted for a second 40 days.
9:20 Exodus does not give this detail, that God's anger burned specifically against Aaron.
10:12-13 The LORD asks the people to respect, follow, love, serve, and obey Him.
11:1 The NIV 'keep' translated the Hebrew 'shamar' which more literally means to guard or keep watch over. This is a constant watchfulness. We are to be like the secret service agents guarding the President of the United States. They are constantly on guard, closely watching and taking action to keep him safe.
11:16-17 This verse will be applied in the time of Elijah, producing a three year drought.
11:29 By pronouncing the blessings and curses in the Promised Land, Israel will ratify the treaty.
C. Specific Laws (12:1-26:15)
12:5 The LORD is indicating that a central city with His house (tabernacle and later the temple) will be named later. After the exile of the Northern Kingdom, the Samaritans, who resettled the land and only use the Torah, will claim this place is Gerazim. It is clearly Jerusalem, but this was not revealed at the time of Moses.
12:15 The slaughter of animals at places other than the Sanctuary will be allowed in the Promised Land. During the Exodus and wanderings, all of Israel was near enough to the tabernacle to slaughter the animals there as sacrifices.
Chapters 7-12: Summary
Moses gives more instructions concerning entry into the Promised Land and life there. Treaties with Canaanites are forbidden. Israel is sharply warned against adopting Canaanite customs and worship. The Exodus and wandering are reviewed to show the LORD's love for Israel and the results of disobedience. Israel is exhorted to follow the LORD, and specific laws applying to the Promised Land are give.
Chapters 7-12: Questions
1. Name some health benefits of a Christian lifestyle.
2. Are we also to respect, follow, love, serve and obey the LORD? How is this different from Israel? How is it the same?
3. What is involved in keeping God's word?
4. Given verse 9:20, that LORD's anger burned against Aaron, what do we conclude from God allowing Aaron to remain a priest?
Chapters 13-18: Observations
13:1-5 There is a real possibility of a false prophet doing signs, perhaps by demonic power.
14:8 The prohibition on eating pork is a good point to address the whole issue of the Law and the Christian. See the discussion following these observations.
14:21 Although Israel is not allowed to eat the dead animal, it is not forbidden to the foreigner or alien. Jews may even sell it to them. In modern Kosher meat-packing houses, animals that pass USDA inspection but fail Kosher inspection are moved to a different processing section or line and sold to 'goyim' or gentiles.
14:22-29 Rabbis and Josephus favor the interpretation of three tithes, but I favor one. I interpret the three categories (Levite, communal meal, and third year) as different applications of a single tithe.
14:25 This practice was abused in Jesus' day by the Temple money-changers.
15:17 This verse varies from Exodus 21:7 where maidservants are not to go free. Apparently, Deuteronomy as a covenant for settled life in the Promised Land varies from regulations for the life of wandering in the wilderness on minor points.
16:2 The whole week is in view. The lamb is from the flock, and is required for the Passover meal. None of it is to remain for the next morning. For the remainder of the week, either flock or herd animals may be eaten.
16:18 The Hebrew "in all your gates" literally shows the custom of the elders of the city giving counsel and decisions at the gates of the city.
16:19 "Twists the words of the righteous" may be translated "overturns the case of the righteous". Are the 'words' counsel of the righteous in general, or words used to present their own case. If the latter, the righteous lose a just case because of the bribe.
16:20 Repetition of a word in Hebrew normally indicates emphasis. The literal "follow justice justice" may be translated "follow true justice" to emphasize the nature of the justice.
16:21-17:1 In modern times as well as ancient, it is difficult to maintain pure doctrine and worship. Do we take our concepts from the Bible, or do we borrow 'spiritual' ideas from other philosophies and religions?
17:2-7 We do not live in a theocracy, and there is no public law against the worship of other gods or 'spiritual' practices such as astrology or palm reading today. Nevertheless, these practices are strongly offensive to God; the penalties here indicate just how offensive they are to the Creator.
17:14 About 370 years will pass before a king is chosen.
17:16-17 The wisest king, Solomon, neglected to follow these commandments, to the detriment of Israel.
17:18 The Septuagint mistranslated "a copy of this law" as "this second law" or 'Deuteronomy'. This mistranslation became the English title of the book.
17:18-20 The requirement for the king to copy (by hand), read, and follow the entire book of Deuteronomy are in keeping with this being a contract or covenant between the LORD and his people. The king is a servant of the LORD and his representative before the people.
18:9-11 The exact translation for some of the Hebrew words is uncertain. They probably include astrology (sorcery) and the use of drugs (sorcery) or potions to induce visions.
18:15 The LORD will provide adequate means for communicating His will to his people. This does not mean that He is obligated to give us instant answers or information at our command.
18:20-22 The obligation to obey the prophet raised up like Moses is important for us to consider when thinking of the Jews today. If Jesus was a true prophet (he was) every Jew who does not follow Him in obedience is breaking this verse. If Jesus was not a true prophet like unto Moses, then all Christians are deceived. It is our obligation to proclaim to all men, including Jews, the truth of this verse, and not assume that because they worship the same YHWH that their religion is acceptable to God. True worship of YHWH includes obedience to "the prophet like unto Moses." See John 1:45.
Chapters 13-18: Topic - The Law and the Christian
How does the Law of Moses relate to Christians? Groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists saw the whole law is binding on Christians. Many Reformed groups follow the Westminster Standards in dividing the Law of Moses into moral, ceremonial, and judicial law. The moral law is summarized by the Ten Commandments. Article XIX states that the ceremonial and judicial law "are now abrogated". All conservative Christian groups agree.
The moral law is where conservative Christians differ. The Westminster Standards state, "The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation." Calvin viewed the Law as a unity, and did not separate the parts. In James 2:8 it says that whoever breaks one part of the law breaks the whole law, and the example is favoritism. In the opposing view, the whole Law of Moses was abrogated as we came under the New Covenant. We obey nine commandments as they are given in the New Testament. The Sabbath is not, although we do celebrate the Lord's Day as the early church did. The Reformed view is that the Lord's Day fulfills the principle of the Sabbath. Until recent times, this included not only worship, but abstaining from work (unless absolutely necessary) and games. However, both views keep Sunday as a regular day of worship.
The Bible Fellowship "Article of Faith XXI: The Lord's Day" states "The first day of the week has been recognized by the Church as the Lord's Day since apostolic times. We believe, therefore that it ought to be observed by all believers, voluntarily and in love, as a continuation of the sabbath principle, a day of remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord from the dead and a day of worship of God, rest from physical toil, service for the Master, and fellowship of the saints. Christians should engage only in duties of necessity and mercy on the Lord's Day." By stating 'voluntarily' the statement takes a middle position.
Concerning the Law, Acts 15:5 says, "Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.'" The question put to the Council of Jerusalem is both circumcision and the whole Law of Moses. The answer in Acts 15:28-29 was, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things." In reading the whole chapter, it is clear that the Law of Moses was not imposed upon gentile believers, which includes the majority of Christians today.
Paul spoke for Jewish and gentile believers when he said in Galatians 3:23-25, "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." The Law was intended to function for the nation of Israel for a 1500 year period of time, from Moses until the coming of a New Covenant through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul states in Galatians 5:18, "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." I do not believe that either Jewish or gentile believers are under the Law of Moses today. 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 may be summarized by saying that the Law brought death and was fading, but the Spirit brings righteousness and lasts.
Are Christians under any law? Galatians 6:2 refers to the Law of Christ, and Romans 8:2 to the Law of the Spirit of Life. The New Testament or New Covenant does express the will of God for us today, and this expression is called the Law of Christ. We are to live godly lives, to love one another, and to put aside the deeds of the flesh. Some laws contained in the Law of Moses are repeated, such as putting aside all falsehood, but that does not bring us under the old law. Rather, the Law of Moses contained some 663 rules, some of which are contained in the Law of Christ and many which are not.
The bottom line is – we obey the instructions in the New Testament, which restates the Ten Commandments (except for Sunday worship and fellowship in place of Sabbath observance). We are not under any portion of the Mosaic Law. However, we follow the instructions of the New Testament which includes some instructions from or similar to those in the Mosaic Law. We seek to walk by the Spirit, obey the Law of Christ, and not satisfy the cravings of the sinful self.
Chapters 13-18: Summary
Moses warns against false prophets and the temptation to follow the worship practices of the Canaanites. Further laws are explained, including food, tithing, and the annual festivals. Judicial rules are set, such as city judges and cities of refuge. Kingship is addressed, with the king to keep and read this book. Moses introduces a line of prophets to be raised up by the LORD, which will culminate in Jesus Christ.
Chapters 13-18: Questions
1. Is it really all right if we eat bacon on occasion, or are we skirting the Law and dishonoring God?
2. What do you think about a Church picnic on a Sunday, perhaps with a ball game?
3. Are Jews obligated to follow Jesus Christ if he was a legitimate prophet?
4. What warnings in this section did David and Solomon fail to heed?
Chapters 19-24: Observations
19:18 A false witness in a murder case could be subject to the death penalty.
20:5 Since the people have not taken possession of the land, they would not have just built a house. These instructions are for the life of the nation, not just for this initial conquest of the land.
20:6 For the first three years of a vineyard, no fruit is to be harvested. Fruit of the fourth year belongs to the LORD as firstfruits. It will not be until the fifth year that the vineyard produces fruit that the owner may use.
21:15-17 Note that the problem of Jacob and his two wives (plus two servants), and his favoritism to Joseph rather than the firstborn, would not have been sanctioned under this Mosaic law. However, Jacob had not been given this law over 400 years earlier, and God had used that situation at that time to build up the family of Jacob into the nation of Israel.
22:2 God definitely does not teach, "Finders keepers, losers weepers." Rather, the finder is under obligation to take care of what he found in order to restore it to the owner.
22:8 This would be equivalent to putting a handrail on exposed high stairs or an elevated deck. Care must be exercised to prevent someone else from a likely accident on our property.
22:9-11 The reasons for the prohibitions of mixtures in cloth and seed are not known. They applied to the Nation of Israel and are not in force for Gentile Christians. (Although wool and linen are mixed in the Priest's outer garment.) As an aside, the planting of squash, corn, and beans in a single hill was an Indian practice taught to the pilgrims in Colonial America. Blends of manmade and natural fibers make up most of the cloth used today.
22:23,25 The marriage pledge required fidelity. Sexual unfaithfulness with a pledged woman would be adultery.
22:28-29 Centuries earlier (Gen 34) Shechem had raped Dinah daughter of Jacob, with the result that the sons of Jacob deceived the men of Shechem and slaughtered all the men of the town.
23:13 Plague and illness were a constant hazard of warfare. This sanitary law was practical as well as symbolic. In those times the causes of disease were not understood by men, but God has always known the proper preventive measures which his people were to take on faith.
23:18 Does it matter where the Church obatins money for it's purposes? Certainly! God does not want money earned certain ways, or ill-gotten gain. The focus is on temple prostitution here, but I believe the principle can be applied beyond this.
23:20 During the middle ages in Europe, Christians and Jews carefully practiced this law not to charge a brother interest. The interpretation, however, allowed Jews to charge interest to Christians (not considered brothers). Therefore, the 'Christian' society relied on non-Christians (Jews) as moneylenders. They both loaned to and borrowed from Jews, who for this reason dominated the later banking establishments. In reality, Christians were both the lenders and borrowers, but it was all 'washed' through Jewish moneylenders (later, bankers).
24:1-4 This law on divorce and remarriage sets an interesting limit on the restoration of a relationship, once the woman has remarried it is absolutely forbidden under any circumstances to return to her former husband. Perhaps up to that time reconciliation was still possible, but the new marriage closes the door on returning to the past (even if the new husband dies, or she is divorced again). I knew a man, whose wife had divorced him and remarried, who kept hoping her second marriage would fail so that they could get back together. This is not God's revealed will for him.
24:6 The lower millstone was stationary rock of some weight. The upper millstone would weight only a few pounds and would be moved over the grain by hand.
24:7 The Patriarchs were guilty of this, for the sons of Jacob had sold Joseph into slavery.
Chapters 19-24: Summary
These chapters continue to list stipulations of the covenant for life in the promised land. They cover moral law (false witnesses), agriculture and relationships (gleaning), military considerations (exclusion from service), and health (sanitation in the camp). Restraints on human nature are given in the areas of divorce, loans, and even fair treatment of work animals.
Chapters 19-24: Questions
1. Why did God forbid charging interest on loans to other Israelites?
2. Laws are given against some things that the Patriarchs have done. Discuss a few and their ramifications.
3. Why are laws concerning rape different in the countryside and in the town? How do we define these differences in our law codes today?
Chapters 25-30: Observations
25:4 Few farmers owned a team of oxen. They would be provided by local government or borrowed from a wealthier farmer. The borrowing farmer is not to grudge the oxen food while it is working on his grain.
25:5-6 Tamar was an example of Levitate marriage (she married the eldest son of Judah). Upon his death, the brother was to perform this duty (although not written in God's law at that time). After the death of the second son, Judah refused to have his third son marry Tamar, which in time led to Tamar posing as a temple prostitute to seduce Judah in order to carry on the family line. The other notable example was the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, and this explains the request of Ruth for Boaz to spread his cloak over her.
25:9 The sandal represented the land. Land was measured in triangles that could be walked off in an hour, day, or week. Presumably, they walked in sandals. (IBBC)
D. Commitment (26:16-19)
26:16-18 'This day' refers to the day when the treaty is ratified.
IV. Covenant *Renewal* (27:1-29:1)
A. Renewal commanded (27)
27:8 We do not know how clearly the book was written on the pillars of stone, but through the ages the Jews have taken extraordinary care in writing the scriptures. We are much more certain of the original text of the Hebrew scriptures than we are of any other comparable document such as Homer's Iliad.
27:16 Dishonoring parents would include striking, cursing, failing to provide support for aging parents, and failing to provide proper burial.
B. Blessings and Curses (28)
28:1-14 The blessings are national and not individual. The whole nation will prosper if the nation as a whole is obedient.
C. Conclusion (29:1)
29:1 Chapter and verse numbers are not a part of the original text, and were added around the middle ages. Our divisions come from the numbering of a Latin bible by a single monk, the Hebrew from numbering of Hebrew scriptures. Our English chapter and verses, based on the Latin, are sometimes different from the Hebrew Bible divisions. They are useful for referencing passages, but it is to be expected that differences of opinion will exist on where chapters should divide, even on whether the headings of the Psalms are verses or not! It is seen that verse numbers often occur in the middle of sentences, a problem compounded by translation difficulties. So, in our reading and quoting, we should always consider the text before and after the verse we are studying to be certain of both the context and the complete meaning of the thought. Even a chapter heading is not a certain guide. The issue for this chapter division is whether the verse is summarizing the previous chapters or introducing the following chapter. There is no concensus among interpreters on this one.
V. Covenant Summary (29:2-30:20)
30:15 For the nation there are two options; obedience leading to life or disobedience leading to death. There is no middle ground or third option.
Chapters 25-30: Summary
The stipulations are concluded with the levirate laws. The next section of the covenant form, ratification, will include writing the covenant on stone and pronouncing the blessings and curses from two mountains in the Promised Land. The essence of the covenant is summarized with a choice: obey and live or disobey and die.
Chapters 25-30: Questions
1. How will the importance of the covenant be emphasized for all the people?
2. How do the laws concerning Moabites and levirate duties relate to the story of Ruth?
3. Is 'perfect' obedience required from the entire populace for the nation to proper?
4. How did the curses work out in Israel's history.
Chapters 31-34: Observations
VI. Transition to Joshua *Continuance* (31-34)
A. Appointment of Joshua (31:1-29)
31:1 Moses' 120 year life may be divided into 40 year periods. The first 40 was in Egypt as Pharoah's daughter's son, the next 40 as a shepherd, and the final 40 as the leader of Israel.
31:2 Three leaders are mentioned: Moses who will not cross over, the LORD himself who will cross over and destroy the nations, and Joshua who will be the visible leader.
31:6 "He will never leave you or forsake you." This is the reason for confidence and allows us to put aside fear in times of need. During desperate times friends and allies may desert us, but the LORD will not.
31:9 As stated in BKC this probably refers to a reading of all 34 chapters of Deuteronomy. It would make quite a service! Clearly this command was disobeyed later in the history of Israel, the book even being lost for a time. Regardless, we may take this as an inspiration for us to read the entire Bible. Only a small number of Christians can claim to have read it 'cover to cover' in their lifetimes (three chapters a day will do it in a just over a year).
31:11 Commentators sometimes take this verse as referring to the whole Penteteuch, or to only a portion of Deuteronomy. I take it as the whole book of Deuteronomy in keeping with its nature as a legal covenant document. Not only men, but also women and children were to attend and hear the reading of the Law.
B. Song of Moses (31:30-32:43)
31:30 Because the following song is so clear about the results of apostasy, and they were actually experienced much later in Israel's history, unsaved man has a difficult time believing these words could have been written in the time of Moses. There are a large number of critics that have built elaborate schemes of how the book of Deuteronomy must have been written after these judgments occurred, quite late in history. However, God was well aware of the nature of man then and now, and the recent events of the wanderings must have demonstrated adequately to Israel and Moses the nature of man's disobedience and God's discipline.
32:7 For future events, Moses wrote from the view of a future point in time, when the events after his life will have already taken place. One such event is the apostasy of Israel. It would be important for Israel (in captivity) to know that the LORD will restore a repentant nation.
32:10 "Apple of his eye" is an English idiom for the eye's pupil.
C. Preparation for Moses Death (32:44-52)
D. Blessing of Moses (33)
It is possible that Moses said these blessings and someone else wrote them down, although Moses may have also recorded them himself.
E. Death of Moses (34)
Chapters 31-34: Summary
Moses commissions Joshua, gives a teaching song of warning, pronounces blessings on Israel and the tribes, and dies.
Chapters 31-34: Questions
1. In what ways were the people to be reminded of the covenant with the LORD? Would any of them be used today?
2. Why did Moses tell Israel that a time of apostasy would come?
3. How did power pass from Moses to Joshua?
4. How was the death of Moses recorded? (Did Moses write it?)
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Updated March 2012