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).
After the defeat of King Sihon, the Israelites next defeat King Og of Bashan (2:32-37). After the defeat of both kings, Moses distributes their territory to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Following the land distribution, Moses commands these two and half tribes to help the remaining tribes in the conquest of the west side of Jordan and encourages Joshua to cross over the Jordan with the people. Finally, Moses pleads with the LORD that he be allowed to enter Canaan, but God rebukes him and simply allows him to view the land from afar. The chapter can be outlined as follows:
I. Moses explains the defeat of King Og and summarizes Israel’s victory over both kings of the Amorites (3:1-11).
II. Moses distributes the territory of King Sihon and King Og to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (3:12-17).
III. Moses commands the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to help the remaining tribes to conquer Canaan (3:18-22).
IV. Moses pleads with the LORD that he be allowed to enter Canaan, but God rebukes him and simply allows him to view it from afar (3:23-29).