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).
In Chapter 2, the Israelites resume their journey to Canaan from Kadesh, the place where they “remained” many days after their defeat at Hormah by the Amorites (1:41-46). Instead of entering the land of Canaan straight from the wilderness, as they could have done thirty-eight years earlier, the people of God must now take a different route. This new geographical path requires them to pass through five countries east of the Jordan River: Edom, Moab, Ammon, Heshbon, and Bashan.
As the Israelites proceed, God asks them to protect the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites, because these three people groups are Israel’s kinsmen (2:1-23). God has already promised them their land as their own possession (Deut. 2:5, 9, 19). Nevertheless, God asks the Israelites to destroy King Sihon of Heshbon since He has already hardened Sihon’s heart to deliver him over to His people (vv. 24-31). This chapter, ending with Israel’s victory over Sihon and the Amorites (vv. 32-37), demonstrates God’s care for other families of the earth besides Israel, as well as His willingness to fight for His people when they trust and obey Him. The chapter can be outlined as follows:
I. God instructs the Israelites concerning their Kinsmen (2:1-23).
1. He instructs them concerning Edom (vv. 1-8).
2. He instructs them concerning Moab (vv. 9-15).
3. He instructs them concerning Ammon (vv. 16-23).
II. God Instructs the Israelites to confront Sihon. God hardens Sihon’s heart to deliver him over to His people (2:24-37).
1. He commands the Israelites to defeat King Sihon (vv. 24-25).
2. He hardens the heart of King Sihon (vv. 26-31).
3. He delivers Sihon over to the Israelites (vv. 32-37).