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).
Deuteronomy 8 tells us God’s reason for putting Israel through difficulty in a hostile wilderness, and requiring them to rely on Him daily for their basic necessities. God did it for their good. He was training them to possess the Promised Land in a manner that would bring them blessing rather than destruction.
This chapter reminds the people of God’s provision, providing them with food, water, and clothing. This included manna — a previously unknown food God miraculously provided. Now Israel has been promised they will occupy the land, if they are courageous and obedient. In contrast to the lack of food and hardships experienced in the wilderness, Israel will enjoy prosperity in the land of Canaan and will lack nothing (Deut. 8:9; 6:3; 11:9). The Israelites are to remember that their blessing comes from their Suzerain (Ruler) God, not from themselves. They are to be grateful rather than prideful.
Moses uses the wilderness experience to encourage Israel to remember, know, and keep the entire commandment of God. Moses states that if the Israelites forget their experience and turn away from the Suzerain God to worship other gods, they will be defeated just as the original inhabitants of Canaan. The chapter can be outlined as follows:
I. Moses commands Israel to carefully observe the whole commandment of God in order to live and multiply, and go in and possess the Promised Land (v. 1).
II. Moses calls Israel to reflect on and carry lessons learned from the discipline and training they received in the wilderness experience in order to walk in God’s ways and to fear Him. (vv. 2-6).
III. Moses urges Israel to bless and thank God when they live a life of material abundance in the Promised Land. He exhorts them to choose an attitude of gratitude. (vv. 7-10).
IV. Moses exhorts Israel not to forget that their wealth in Canaan is God’s provision for them, just as the manna of the wilderness has been. He exhorts them to remain grateful, and give way to pride. (vv. 11-16).
V. God’s objective in disciplining and training Israel was for their good. God was seeking their best interest. Now Moses warns Israel against the danger of not listening to the voice of their Suzerain (Ruler) God, the one from whom all blessings flow. Failing to hear God’s voice would bring divine judgment on Israel, just as it did to the original inhabitants of Canaan. (vv. 17-20).