Note: This Bible study was done by me years ago before I started in-depth theology. Enjoy...but not a source of research. Thanks for your understanding!
1526 b.c.- Moses' birth
1446 b.c.- The plagues and the first Passover
1446 b.c.- The Exodus
1446 b.c.- The Ten commandments & Mt. Sinai
1446-1406 b.c.- The desert wanderings
1443 b.c.- Exploration of Canaan
1406 b.c.- Moses dies; Joshua becomes leader
1406 b.c.- Israelites enter Canaan
I. Preamble (1:1-5)
II. Historical Prologue (1:6-4:43)
III. Stipulations of the Covenant (4:44-26:19)
-----A. Primary Demands (4:44-11:32)
-----B. Supplementary Requirements (12-26)
IV. Ratification; Curses and Blessings (27-30)
V. Leadership Succession under the Covenant (31-34)
Author, Audience, and Theme
Author: Deuteronomy is most often stated as being written by Moses, as were the earlier books. Deuteronomy means “second law” and is the fifth and final book of the Pentateuch. Like many other books of the Bible, the author is debated. Some scholars claim it was written in the seventh century B.C. by King Josiah’s officials in an attempt to legitimize Josiah’s reforms. Some claim that a “pre-final” version of Deut was found in the temple, giving it legitimacy, and was added upon by writers of that time. A third school of opinion holds that while the speeches may represent some of what Moses said, various scholars over the time developed the “final version” of which we read from today. It is this last that is most probable.
Audience: It was written as the Israelites were camped at Moab- where Numbers ended- immediately before the conquest of Canaan. The original audience was those who were ready to attempt the conquest. Later generations read it as both a historical record, as well as an explanation of the law that governed their lives.
Themes of Deuteronomy:
1. Covenant- this was covered and explained extensively in earlier books. However, it is also the central focus of this book. It is a “renewal” of the covenant before the conquest and gives the law a vital framework within it exists.
2. Choices- Deuteronomy underlines the fact that people always have a CHOICE on whether to obey God or not. Moses throughout the book corrects, threatens, exhorts, and loudly proclaims, all with the end of having the Israelite’s choose obedience to God. The fact he does all of these things only shows, yet again, that keeping the covenant was a choice.
3. The responsibilities of people towards others- special protections were designed and laid out in this book that protect the widows, orphans, resident foreigners, the disabled, and the elderly. These concepts are part of the law, and are quoted at length in the New Testament.
Lesson: Deuteronomy: Chapter 1
In chapter 1, one of the first acts of Moses is to have the tribes appoint judges, who will be their rulers and help them resolve conflicts. While Israel is undoubtedly a theocracy (a society ruled by God), there are echoes of a democracy with this section. If the people are unhappy with the ruling of their judge, they can go to the leader of the tribe. Failing that, they can go directly to Moses.
Question: Do you think any one type of government is better than another? Keep in mind there are theocracy, democracy, monarchies, socialists, etc.
Do you think the Bible itself supports one type of government or type of leader over another?
(5-13) Moses began to explain the law in the land of Moab beyond the Jordan, as follows:
"The Lord, our God, said to us at Horeb, 'You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Leave here and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all the surrounding regions, the land of the Canaanites in the Arabah, the mountains, the foothills, the Negeb and the seacoast; to lebanon, and as far as the Great River [the Euphrates]. I have given that land over to you. Go now and occupy the land I swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I would give to them and to their descendants.'
"At that time I said to you, 'Alone, I am unable to carry you. The Lord, your God, has so multiplied you that you are now as numerous as the stars in the sky. May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times over, and bless you as he promised! But how can I alone bear the crushing burden that you are, along with your bickering? Choose wise, intelligent and experienced men from each of your tribes, that I may appoint them as your leaders.'"
[14-18: has a brief description of the way that the judges were to wisely rule]
[19-25: history of the twelve scouts who reconnoitered the land of Canaan]
[26-40: the rebellion of the Israelites and God's decree that they will be punished by being forced to wander the desert for 40 years]
[41-46: the failed attempt at taking over Canaan against God's will]
Lesson: Deuteronomy: Chapters 2-3
At the end of the reading, Moses pleads with God to be allowed to set foot on the Promised Land. God denies him, still punishing him for his sin of pride earlier (when he claimed to be the one who provided water from the rock).
Moses, clearly, committed the sin of pride. Which "sin" do you commit most often?
Do you feel you are punished when you commit this sin?
Much of the conquest material re-iterated in Deut is in disagreement with the earlier account in Numbers. Part of this is due to abbreviation. The author(s) of Deut were not re-writing Numbers, they were attempting to compress the entire conquest into the opening verses. Other material in disagreement points to later authors adding to the book of Deut, as stated in the “author” section preceding Deut.
Do the disagreements between Numbers and Deut cause you to doubt the authorship, accuracy, or basis of either book?
Chapter 2: Covers the initial lands taken over by the Israelites after the 40 years of wandering. Material is covered more extensively in Numbers. This is simply a brief overview that Moses gave to later generations.
Chapter 3: Contains further information on the conquests.
(3:23-29) "And it was that that I besought the Lord, 'O Lord God, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and might. For what god in heaven or on earth can perform deeds as mighty as yours? Ah, let me cross over the see this good land beyond the Jordan, this fine hill country, and the Lebanon!' But the Lord was angry with me on your account and would not hear me.
'Enough!' the Lord said to me. 'Speak to me no more of this. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look out to the west, and to the north, and to the south, and to the east. Look well, for you shall not cross this Jordan. Commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall cross at the head of this people and shall put them in possession of the land you are to see.' This was while we were in the ravine opposite Beth-peor.
Lesson: Deuteronomy: Chapter 4
Again, we are listening to a speech by Moses to the Israelites. This is a new generation- the old that worshiped the golden calf have all died.
Towards the end of chapter 4, Moses says this to them: "This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and there is no other."
What is one thing we can do daily to help "fix our hearts" on God and no other?
Earlier in chapter 4, Moses not only warned the Israelites against making idols, but specifically prohibited them from worshipping the sun, moon, or any other stars. This shows a clear understanding of the gods worshipped by other cultures. This strict segregation of the God of Abraham from other gods is laid out more than once.
Today, do we keep the strict segregation of “our” God from “other” gods? Since the Jews worship the God of Abraham, as do the Muslims, is our segregation a good thing or a bad thing?
(1-8) "Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. In your observance of the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. You have seen with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal-peor: the Lord, your God, destroyed from your midst everyone that followed the Baal of Peor; but you, who clung to the Lord, your God, are all alive today. Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the Lord, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statues and say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.' For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?"
(25-26) "When you have children and grandchildren, and have grown old in the land, should you then degrade yourselves by fashioning an idol in any form and by this evil done in his sight provoke the Lord, your God, I call heaven and earth this day to witness against you, that you shall all quickly perish from the land which you will occupy when you cross the Jordan. You shall not live in it for any length of time but shall be promptly wiped out."
(36-39) "Out of the heavens he let you hear his voice to discipline you; on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard him speaking out of the fire. For love of your fathers he chose their descendants and personally led you out of Egypt by his great power, driving out of your way nations greater and mightier than you, so as to bring you in and to make their land your heritage, as it is today. This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and there is no other."
Lesson: Deuteronomy: Chapter 5
In the latter part in the reading, we listen as Moses re-iterates the fear that some of the Israelites have for God.
Do you think a reasonable amount of fear of God is healthy or unhealthy (-or- right or wrong)? Why?
Does fear cause a person to listen to God’s will or cause them to avoid God?
(4-5) "The Lord spoke with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. Since you were afraid of the fire and would not go up to the mountain, I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the Lord:"
[The Ten Commandments are recited again to the people.]
(28-29) "The Lord heard your words as you were speaking to me and said to me, 'I have heard that words these people have spoken to you, which are all well said. Would that they might always be of such a mind, to fear me and to keep all my commandments! Then they and their descendants would prosper forever."
Lesson: Deuteronomy: Chapter 6
This section from today’s reading: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates," is called the Shema, and is considered to be the principle Jewish confession of faith. It is still recited today.
This is also referred to by Jesus (Matthew 22:36-38) and is called the greatest commandment.
Do you practice this type of love towards God? Or do we divide our love and withhold part of it from God, no matter how unconsciously?
(1-9) "These then are the commandments, the statutes and decrees which the Lord, your God, has ordered that you be taught to observe in the land into which you are crossing for conquest, so that you and your son and your grandson may fear the Lord, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the Lord, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates."
(18-19) "Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that you may, according to his word, prosper, and may enter in and possess the good land which the Lord promised on oath to your fathers, thrusting all your enemies out of you way."
Lesson: Deuteronomy: Chapters 7-8
In this section, Moses promises all the blessings (along with all of the curses) that will fall upon Israel if they keep or don’t keep the Lord's commands.
Later in the bible, we learn that Christians will be persecuted and that we must "carry the cross" with the Lord.
These seem, at first glance, to be a direct contradiction.
What do you think of this- are we to be blessed or to "carry the cross"? Or both? Or neither? Why?
(7: 1-4) "When the Lord, your God, brings you into the land which you are to enter and occupy, and dislodges great nations before you- the Hittites, X, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites: seven nations more numerous and powerful than you- and when the Lord, your God, delivers them up to you and you defeat them, you shall doom them.
Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. You shall not intermarry with them, neither giving your daughters to their sons nor taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn your sons from following me to serving other gods, and then the wrath of the Lord would flare up against you and quickly destroy you.
(7: 25-26) The images of their gods you shall destroy by fire. Do not covet the silver or gold on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it; for it is an abomination to the Lord, your God. You shall not bring any abominable thing into your house, lest you be doomed with it; loathe and abhor it utterly as a thing that is doomed.
Lesson: Deuteronomy: Chapters 9-11
Moses is again addressing the people. One of the first things he says in today's reading is that the Israelites should not feel proud that God is giving them Canaan, for it is not their "goodness" that is "earning" them the land, but rather the fact that the current occupants are so wicked.
Have you ever had something bad happen to someone else, and just for a moment, you thought, "they deserved that"?
Do you ever take the credit for something good that has happened to you, without acknowledging that it was God that made it happen?
Moses goes on to say how much the Lord loves his people, yet that he also befriends the widow, the orphan, and the alien.
Do you find time to spend helping/visiting with someone who is NOT member of your church, your family, or your particular denomination? Why or why not?
(9:1) "Hear, O Israel! You are now about to cross the Jordan to enter in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than yourselves, having large cities fortified to the sky."
(9:4-6) "After the Lord, your God, has thrust them out of your way, do not say to yourselves, 'It is because of my merits that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land'; for it is really because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you."
(10:12-22) "And now, Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you but to fear the Lord, your God, and to follow his ways exactly, to love and serve the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, to keep with the commandments and statues of the Lord which I enjoin on you today for your own good? Think! The heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the Lord, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it. Yet in his love for your fathers the Lord was so attached to them as to choose you, their descendants, in preference to all other peoples, as indeed he has now done. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and be no longer stiff-necked. For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him. So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. The Lord, your God, shall you fear, and him shall you serve; hold fast to him and swear by his name. He is your glory, he, your God, who has done for you these great and terrible things which your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors when down to Egypt seventy strong, and now the Lord, your God, has made you as numerous as the stars of the sky."
(11:26-32) "I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse: a blessing for obeying the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today, to follow other gods, whom you have not known. When the Lord, your God, brings you into the land which you are to enter and occupy, then you shall pronounce the blessing on Mount Gerizim, the curse on Mount Ebal. [Are they not beyond the Jordan, on the other side of the western road in the country of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite the Gilgal beside the terebinth of Moreh?] For you are about to cross the Jordan to enter and occupy the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. When therefore, you take possession of it and settle there, be careful to observe all the statutes and decrees that I set before you today.