This chapter begins the next major section of the book of Deuteronomy—namely, the specific stipulations of the covenant between Israel and God (Deut. 12:1- 26:15). Moses is still in the midst of his admonition to the nation of Israel prior to their imminent crossing of the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. He adds to his historical review of lessons they have learned, and now turns to review the terms and stipulations of the covenant Israel agreed to enter with God. It is the format of the ancient Suzerain-Vassal Treaty, but instead of a superior king making a treaty with a lesser king, this is the King of the universe with each Israelite. It is a treaty admonishing them to be self-governing.

These chapters will be presented as mini-seminars within Moses’ discourse to Israel just prior to entering the Promised Land on how and why the Ten Commandments should be kept.

Following that approach, Chapter 12 is a sermon about the first commandment—“You shall have no other gods before me” (Deut. 5:7). In this chapter, Moses exhorts the Israelites to consecrate themselves to their Suzerain (Ruler) God and to live according to His precepts. This entails destroying all the Canaanite religious sites and objects upon entering the Promised Land, thus removing every trace of pagan worship. Unlike the Canaanites who worship their many gods in many places, the Israelites are to worship the one true God (Yahweh) in the place which He chooses for His name to dwell.

Deuteronomy 12 can be outlined as follows:

  • Regulations Concerning Worship (Deut. 12:1 – 14)
    • Destroy All Pagan Worship (Deut. 12:1 – 3)
    • Worship the LORD at His place (Deut. 12:4 – 7)
    • Worship the LORD with Offerings (Deut. 12:8 – 12)
    • Conclusion (Deut. 12:13 – 14)
  • Regulations Concerning Blood (Deut. 12:15 – 28)
    • Rules about the Slaughter of Animals for Food (Deut. 12:15 – 16)
    • Rules about Animals Dedicated to the LORD (Deut. 12:17 – 19)
    • Rules about Eating Meat (Deut. 12:20 – 28)
      • Meat not Intended for Use in Worshipping the LORD (Deut. 12:20 – 25)
      • Meat Intended for Use in Worshipping the LORD (Deut. 12:26 – 28)
  • Regulations Concerning Pagan Gods (Deut. 12:29 – 32)

Deuteronomy 12:1-3

Moses commands the Israelites to utterly destroy all the religious sites where the Canaanites serve their gods. He commands them to cut down the engraved images of the Canaanite gods in order to erase them from memory.

Deuteronomy 12:4-7

Moses asks the Israelites to worship the Suzerain (Ruler) God at the place which He chooses for His name to dwell.

Deuteronomy 12:8-12

Moses instructs the Israelites on how they are to conduct their worship in the land of Canaan. They are to bring all their offerings in the place which the Suzerain God chooses, and they are to rejoice for God’s blessings.

Deuteronomy 12:13-14

The requirements for worshipping the LORD when living in the Promised Land are brought to a close. Moses emphasizes the importance of obeying these commands to the letter.

Deuteronomy 12:15-16

Moses gives guidelines concerning the slaughter of animals to be used for meals and not for sacrifices.

Deuteronomy 12:17-19

Moses warns Israel against eating sacrifices within their gates. This act is to be done before the Suzerain God in the sanctuary as a way of thanking Him for His provisions.

Deuteronomy 12:20-25

Moses again told the Israelites that they were allowed to slaughter of their herd and flock and eat their meat within their gates when the central sanctuary is too far from them. Also, the animal’s blood was to be poured out on the ground like water, because blood is the life of the flesh.

Deuteronomy 12:26-28

In contrast to allowing the eating of meat in the home, Moses commands the Israelites to take their holy things and their votive offerings to the central sanctuary in order to offer burnt offerings to the Suzerain (Ruler) God.

Deuteronomy 12:29-32

Moses warns the Israelites against behaving like the native Canaanites who burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.