Book summary

Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell to the Israelites as they prepare to finally enter the Promised Land. He restates the word of God covered in the preceding books, basically going over them a second time. In fact, Deuteronomy literally means Second Law.

New Testament books quote or allude to Deuteronomy nearly a hundred times. When the devil tries to tempt Jesus, he responds by quoting passages from Deuteronomy. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus’ reply is Deuteronomy 6:5.

There are a few ways to look at the structure of this book. One is to read it as three sermons from Moses, and that’s the structure chosen below.

Chapters 1:1 to 4:43 — First sermon

Ch 1-3 — Remember how you were punished

  • In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go. When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.” (Deut. 1:32-36)

  • Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. (Deut. 2:14)

Ch 4:1-43 — So be obedient

  • Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you. (Deut. 4:1-2)

  • Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol… (Deut. 4:15-16)

Chapters 4:44 to 26:19 — Second sermon

Ch 4:44 to 11:32 — Serve only the Lord

  • These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me. (Deut. 5:22)

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut. 6:5)

  • If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God. (Deut. 8:19-20)

  • So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands. When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the Lord your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the Lord had commanded you. (Deut. 9:15-16)

Ch 12-26 — Remember his laws and commandments

Ch 12 — Commands concerning worship
  • Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. (Deut. 12:2-3)

Ch 13 — Commands concerning false prophets
  • If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. (Deut. 13:1-3)

Ch 14-15 — Command concerning food, tithes, debts, and servants
  • If any of your people — Hebrew men or women — sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. (Deut. 15:12-13)

Ch 16:1-17 — Commands concerning festivals
  • Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the Lord your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night. (Deut. 16:1)

Ch 16:18 to 18:22 — Commands concerning leaders, priests and prophets
  • Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. (Deut. 16:18)

  • If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge — whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults — take them to the place the Lord your God will choose. Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. (Deut. 17:8-9)

Ch 19-25 — Civil and social laws
  • One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deut. 19:15)

  • When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this. (Deut. 24:21-22)

Ch 26 — Confession of identity and loyalty
  • Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Deut. 26:5-9)

Chapters 27-30 — Third sermon

Ch 27-28 — Blessings if you obey, but curses if not

  • The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. (Deut. 28:9)

  • If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name — the Lord your God — the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. (Deut. 28:58-59)

Ch 29 — Renewal of the covenant

  • You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut. 29:12-13)

Ch 30 — Repentance

  • … and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. (Deut. 30:2-3)

Chapters 31-34 — Moses’ final actions and death

Ch 31:1-13 — Moses commissions Joshua

  • Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said.” (Deut. 31:1-3)

Ch 31:14-29 — Israel’s rebellion predicted

  • And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.” (Deut. 31:16)

Ch 31:30 to 33:29 — The song of Moses, and his blessing over the tribes

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he. (Deut. 32:3-4)

Ch 34 — Moses dies

  • Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt — to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deut. 34:10-12)