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 9 describes Moses’s warning to Israel to choose obedience, and be courageous to conquer the land. Moses reminds Israel of the severe consequences that come from disobedience. Moses tells the Israelites that they are prone to disobedience because they are a stubborn people. The conquest of Canaan will be the outcome of the LORD’s will and promise, and come through their obedience. It is not a reward for their righteousness, but a judgment on the current inhabitants.
Israel is not above the same judgment if they fall into the same corruption. Moses demonstrates this through Israel’s history of disobedience and rebellion. But Moses also reminds Israel of God’s faithfulness, and His mighty hand in rescuing them from Egypt. If they will walk according to God’s commands, God will also bring them victory in the Promised Land, in spite of the obvious obstacles. The chapter can be outlined as follows:
I. Moses reassures the people of Israel of their imminent conquest of Canaan, despite the seeming invincibility of its inhabitants. He tells Israel that it is Yahweh their God who is crossing over the Jordan before them as a consuming fire. (vv. 1-3).
II. Moses tells the Israelites that Canaan will be conquered to execute justice upon the inhabitants, and to fulfill His oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not because Israel is righteous. Israel is a stubborn people, as they had demonstrated. (vv. 4-6).
III. Moses recounts Israel’s disobedience with the molten calf at Mount Sinai to demonstrate God’s assertion that they are not gaining the land because of their righteousness. (vv. 7-14).
IV. Moses continues to recount the molten calf incident at Mount Sinai. He reminds the Israelites of the time when he interceded on their behalf, so that the LORD might not destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven.(vv. 15-21).
V. Moses outlines other instances of Israel’s rebellion and the adverse consequences brought by the disobedience to exhort this generation to follow God completely. (vv. 22-24).
VI. As Moses resumed the story of the molten calf, he reminded the Israelites of his intercessory prayer on their behalf so that the LORD might not destroy them and start over with Moses. They narrowly averted destruction, an important lesson as the consequence for disobedience. (vv. 25-29).