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 restating the Ten Commandments to the new generation of Israelites (chapter 5), Moses now shifts his attention to the present to expand on the meaning and benefit of following the commandments and the rest of the laws. This covenant described by Moses is a mutual covenant, where each party has obligations. Moses makes Israel’s obligations clear, together with consequences for compliance and noncompliance. Moses urges the Israelites to observe God’s precepts in order that they and their descendants might learn to fear the LORD (vv. 1-3), and to love Him with an undivided love because He alone is their God (vv. 4-5). Moreover, Moses commands the Israelites to reflect on God’s covenantal laws (vv. 6-9), to display an attitude of gratitude to God for what He has done and who He is (vv. 10-15), and to trust and obey Him, instead of putting Him to the test (vv. 16-19). Moses encourages the Israelites to study their redemptive testimony well in order to share it with boldness with their descendants in the future (vv. 20-25). The result of living obediently will be righteousness, which will include a harmonious community serving one another to mutual benefit.