The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of the first 4 books and picks up exactly where the book of Numbers ends (with the people on the plain of Moab). Therefore, as we set the context for the book of Deuteronomy, it is important that we briefly summarize the theme of the previous books to see how the story of God unfolds.
Genesis describes God’s plan to bless the Israelites and the world through one man named Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Exodus focuses on God’s loving act by which He rescued the Israelites from Egypt in order to have a covenant relationship with them. Once the children of Israel are redeemed, Leviticus instructs them to live a holy life that reflects the life of their covenant redeemer (cf. Lev. 19). Since the first generation of the Israelites failed to obey God wholeheartedly, the book of Numbers displays a strong contrast between God’s faithfulness and the nation’s failure. That is why the book of Deuteronomy reiterates and expands on the covenant to a new generation of Israelites poised to enter and conquer the Promised Land. The message of the book is centered around two key terms: love and loyalty (Deut. 6:4-5).
Outline of Deuteronomy:
I. Introduction: Moses will explain the law (1:1 – 5)
II. Moses’ First Sermon – a Recounting of the LORD’s Faithfulness (1:6 – 4:43)
III. Introduction to Second Sermon on expositing the Law (4:43 – 49)
IV. Moses’ Second Sermon – an Exposition of the Law Given at Mt. Sinai (5:1 – 26:19)
V. Script for Covenant Renewal Ceremony Once they enter the land (27:1 – 29:1)
VI. Moses’ Third Sermon – a Call to Obedience (29:2 – 30:20)
VII. The Last Acts of Moses (31:1 – 34:12)
Deuteronomy 17 deals with three subjects. The first relates to the sacrificing of animals. The second subject pertains to the administration of justice toward those who violate the covenant by giving allegiance to other gods. Moses also advises local judges to appeal to the Levitical priests at the central sanctuary or to the judge in office in order to seek guidance when some cases seem too difficult for them to handle. The last subject pertains to the establishment of an earthly king over Israel once the conquest is over and the people live in the Promised Land. The king should be chosen from among the Israelites and should not imitate the other ancient Near Eastern kings who often multiply horses, wives, or silver and gold for themselves. Israel’s king should not be a king who forces others to serve him. Instead, the king is to observe all the covenantal laws, to fear the LORD his God and to serve Him alone. This means that rather than being a tyrant, such a king would be a servant to God’s people. He would be a servant king, leading the people to love their neighbors as themselves and see justice done for all.
Deuteronomy 17 can be outlined as follows:
-Principles Concerning Flawed Sacrificial Animals (Deut. 17:1)
-Principles Concerning Punishment of Covenant Violators (Deut. 17:2 – 13)
-Dealing with Pagan Worshippers (Deut. 17:2 – 7)
-Dealing with Complex Issues (Deut. 17:8 – 13)
-Principles Concerning Kings (Deut. 17:14 – 20)