How to Read and Understand Deuteronomy

books of the bible Mar 08, 2020

I remember a while back the hashtag #famouslastwords grew in popularity. There were some funny ones like, “Hey guys, watch this!” Or, “hold my beer.”

Deuteronomy is a much more serious lesson for the people of Israel and the last words of Moses. He had one last chance to tell this new generation of Israelites something before he died and the book of Deuteronomy is his recorded words.

The word Deuteronomy actually means “second law” but it is the same law given in Exodus and Leviticus, just recapped by Moses. Moses repeats some of the highlights from the previous 4 books of the Bible, in order to make sure this new generation follows God. These are his final instructions after leading the people for over 40 years. He is passing the torch and lighting the fire in them to follow God with everything they’ve got. 

Deuteronomy is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament book and is quoted often by Jesus. One of those frequently quoted verses is Deuteronomy 6:4-5. It is known as the Shema. We know this in the New Testament as the Greatest Commandment. 

 4“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

All of the laws come back to this one verse. The Shema is named for the first word of the verse - “listen.” That Hebrew word is “Shema.” Shema means more than to simply listen, but it is a call to obey. These final words of Moses called the Israelites to listen and obey by loving the Lord with everything they’ve got. He doesn’t want them to make the same mistakes their parents did, knowing what would befall them if they did. But Moses encourages them to instead take this path of obedience and devotion to the Lord.

What to look for when reading Deuteronomy:

  • Stories of God’s faithfulness
  • Commands to Israel to love, serve and obey God 
  • Promises of God’s blessing if Israel upholds her end of the covenant. 
  • Promises of God’s curse if Israel does not uphold her end of the covenant.