Introduction to Deuteronomy

Moses had reached the end of his term. Deuteronomy is the last month of Moses’ life. He couldn’t go into the Promised Land—even though they were really close to entering it. So, he realized that his life was soon going to end (Deut. 4:22). Therefore, he rehearses the law to the people. Deuteronomy literally means “second law.” It took the Israelites 40 years to take control of what God had already given them. It is of interest to note that Moses never makes it into the Promised Land until he is seen with Jesus (Mt. 17:3)!

How to Prepare as a Teacher

Here are some steps to help you to prepare for your teachings each week:

STEP #1: Copy and paste your Scripture into a Word document

As you prepare for your teaching, copy and paste all of your chapters into a Word document. You will eventually send this out to the group, so that we can all read from the same document. We suggest using the NIV or NLT for the Old Testament. The NASB is a little too choppy and literal for narrative.

STEP #2: Cut, cut, cut!

We are going to fly through the Old Testament quickly. Therefore, each teacher will be covering massive amounts of Scripture each week. This means that they will need to massively cut down on the verses listed in their section. Ask yourself: Which verses are absolutely necessary to read in order to get the main point of these ten chapters? This is the teacher’s prerogative. Hopefully, you can cut down the verse count, so that the guys aren’t reading ten chapters in a sitting. This would take over an hour, and we wouldn’t have time to discuss anything! Your job as the teacher is to determine what is important to read and what can be cut. Of course, encourage the guys to read the entire passage of Scripture on their own. Utilize the chapter summaries below. These will prove useful in skipping over certain chapters that aren’t necessary to cover in your teaching.

Feel free to add pictures, charts, etc. into this handout that will help guide the study.

STEP #3: Study up on your problem passages and theology.

I am going to address any major problem passages in our section on my website. I suggest reading up on these there, or read a good text on Bible difficulties somewhere else (e.g. Norman Geisler, Walter Kaiser, Gleason Archer). The point is that we should have already read on these difficult passages in advance—just in case the guys raise a question.

STEP #4: Listen to a teaching on your passage (OPTIONAL).

You can also listen to Chuck Smith’s teaching on your passage, if you want to hear his take on things, which is generally very good. His teachings are free to download on Calvary Chapel’s website. We think this is optional, because we don’t want this to turn into a topical study. We want exegesis of the passage, first and foremost.

Teaching Format

We feel that this teaching format helps the group to engage with the text for themselves the best. By the time this study is over, we hope to have taught them the Old Testament, but more importantly, we hope to have taught them how to read the Bible for themselves. This format helps the guys to interpret properly, work through difficult passages, and most importantly apply the Bible to their lives.

1. Recap the Past (2 minutes)

Where are we in the story of the Bible? Where are we in salvation history? Help the guys connect to the previous several weeks.

2. Tell the Story (3 minutes)

Open up the teaching by telling the story of your entire passage. Explain the story from beginning to end. Feel free to ruin the ending. Try and be as entertaining and engaging as possible in narrating the story.

3. Read the passage (20-30 minutes)

Break down the passage into short sections. This could be broken up by chapters or even smaller sections if necessary. As you read the passage as a group, ask the guys to look for two things:

God: What can we learn about God in this passage of Scripture? Which passages support this?

The main characters: What can we learn about the main characters from this story? Who are the people of faith? Who are the unbelieving? What can we learn about them?

As we noted above, make sure to skip certain verses that are repetitive if necessary. You can summarize these verses with a statement like, “In this section, Moses goes back home and speaks to Aaron about ________. Okay, let’s jump down to the next chapter.”

4. Theology

Now that we’ve read our passage, was there anything that you wanted more explanation of?

Were there any problem passages that you needed to harmonize?

5. Application

Now that we have interpreted this passage, how does it affect you in your walk with Christ? (Teachers: refrain from giving the application… Instead, ask the group to give the answer)

[This will be our basic format for each week…]

Week 1: Chapters 1-10

The difficulty of this teaching will be to keep it interesting. This section is a recap of the story up until this point. Do your best to teach this in a way that will not be mundane or boring. Think outside of the box.

Deuteronomy 1: Recap of Israel’s Failure

Deuteronomy picks up a month before the Jews enter the Promised Land and Moses dies (v.3). Moses recaps how he delegated authority to faithful judges and leaders (vv.9-18). He also recaps what had happened at Kadesh Barnea (v.19ff). The idea about the spies came from the people—not Moses (v.22). They accused God of hating them. Instead, God was actually trying to bless them (v.27). The Anakim were the giants (v.28). The problem was their fear (v.29). The problem was their faith (v.32). He recaps the judgment of God for failing to have faith (v.34ff). Even Moses wasn’t permitted to inherit the land (vv.37-40). The people thought that they could take the land from their own power (v.42-44).

Deuteronomy 2: Recap of Israel’s Wandering and Conquering

Even though God was judging them, God was still providing for them in the Wilderness (v.7). In the rest of the chapter, Moses recaps how God allowed them to conquer the different Amorite kings. He might be emphasizing this to bolster their faith for finishing the job (i.e. “I provided for you in the past, and I will surely do the same in the future!”). Moses was able to write this—even though he hadn’t been to the Promised Land (v.12).

Deuteronomy 3: Recap of Israel’s Conquering

Moses recaps how they took over Og of Bashan. This is directly attributed to the power of God (v.2). He goes on to recount how they conquered the land (vv.8-11). If his bed is this big, how big was this guy? (v.11) The focus in their take over was their fear (v.22). God repeats the fact that Moses wasn’t allowed into the land (v.26ff). Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the people, because he had poorly misrepresented God to the people. Moses made God seem angrier than he really was. This is important to believers in our witness to the world (2 Cor. 5:19-20). These words are not indicative of henotheism (v.24).

Deuteronomy 4: Recap of the Law’s and Decrees

Moses recaps how God slew those who worshipped Baal (v.3). I wonder if God allowed this to happen, so that this would serve as a monument to future generations of those who wanted to break off from God. They were taught not to add or take away from them (v.2). The purpose of the nation was to be a light to the other nations of the world (vv.6-8). He tells them not to forget what God had done for them (v.9). He reminds them that God is formless (v.15); therefore, they should not make idols (v.16ff). He predicts the exile to the people (v.27). He tells them this so that they aren’t afraid when it happens, they are aware of the ridiculousness of worshipping idols (v.28), and they are aware of how to repent and get back with God (v.29).

Deuteronomy 5: Recap of the 10 Commandments

Moses repeats the 10 commandments here. Why? He probably does this to repeat the law to the new generation (40 years later). He gives them a conditional covenant. If they follow it, they will be blessed. If they disobey, they will be cursed.

Deuteronomy 6: The Law and Loving God

The purpose of God giving them the law was to bless them (v.3). Verse 4 gives the great shema (pronounced shem-AWW), which the Jews recited as a formal statement of faith (v.4). The point of the law was to love God (v.5). They were supposed to talk about the word with their kids and think about them often (vv.6-9). When the people asked about the laws, they were supposed to remind them—not of the laws—but God’s rescue from Egypt (v.21ff). They were to focus on God’s redemption—not their own righteousness. Righteousness comes second—not first (v.25).

Deuteronomy 7: The Ban

God explains how he is going to fight for them as they attack the 7 nations under “the ban.” We could skip this material, because we’re going to cover it under the conquest in Joshua 6. The purpose of God’s love is not because of something in us, but because of his nature and promise (vv.7-8). He keeps speaking to their fear (v.17), reminding them of God’s power from the past in Egypt. They are told not to keep the idols—even if they are valuable (v.25). This occurs under Achan (v.26).

Deuteronomy 8: Recap of the Provision for 40 Years

Apparently, God allowed the people to hunger, so that he could show his provision for them (v.3). God will allow us to be stretched thin, so that he can provide for us. Moses recaps how God provided for the people. He reminds them that they should remember the bad times, so that when they come into the land they will learn to be thankful (vv.11-12). There is a tendency to forget the Lord in times of prosperity (vv.13-14). This is a really good chapter on God’s provision over and against our wealth.

Deuteronomy 9: Recap of the Golden Calf

Their inheritance of God’s blessing was based on God’s love—not their righteousness (vv.4-6). He proves this by recapping how the people had fallen with the Golden Calf incident (cf. Ex. 32). Apparently, Moses had interceded over the period of 40 days (v.26). This shows that intercessory prayer is not just one prayer, but many. Moses recaps this incident so that they wouldn’t have a second spout of unbelief. God probably wouldn’t have been patient a second time.

Deuteronomy 10: Recap of the Second Issuing of the Law

This is a recap of creating the Ark and rewriting the Law. He reminds them of their failure of the law, and exhorts them to love God completely (vv.12-13). They needed more than outward circumcision, but needed an inward heart change to accomplish this (v.16).

Week 2: Chapters 11-18

This section has a lot to do with false religion (i.e. idolatry) and false teachers (i.e. prophets). Consider structuring this teaching around those themes.

Deuteronomy 11: Blessings and Cursings

Again, he warns them to obey the commands. Otherwise, they are kicked out. Why the repetition? He is really trying to warn them! He reminds them of the great acts of the Lord in the past, and tells them of the rewards in the future. Moses repeats all of this, so that they would have the courage to take over the land (v.8). If they obey the covenant, God will actively provide for their crops (v.11). He outlines blessings and cursings (vv.26-28). The blessings were on Mount Gerazim, and the cursings were on Mount Ebal (v.29).

Deuteronomy 12: Idolatry Smashed

The people are supposed to destroy the false idols (vv.1-3). God specifies where the place of worship should be. He is very particular (v.5). And he keeps setting this up against how the Pagans worship. They are to destroy the altars and high places. God chose the place where they were to worship.

Deuteronomy 13: False Prophets

Moses with a test for false prophets (vv.1-5). It also gives us some of the most drastic measures for dealing with false religion, wiping out those who were following other gods. This makes sense in light of the context of Deuteronomy. The text states that false religion can lead to child sacrifice (12:31), so false teachers should be executed (v.5). We should even have our own family executed, if they try to turn us away from God (vv.6-10). The consequence was so severe, so that the people wouldn’t mess with this (v.11). This was done through careful investigation (v.14). Even with such a severe law, the nation strayed from God over and over again, and the results were awful.

Deuteronomy 14: Food Laws

Moses gives another account of these in Leviticus 11 (see also “Why the Arbitrary Laws?”). Tithing was given to teach them to fear the Lord (v.23). God didn’t need the tithe.

Deuteronomy 15: Debt Cancellation

This entire chapter is a great testimony for God’s heart for the poor. It explains how the Jews were to take care of the poor and slaves. God set up a system of debt cancellation to protect the poor (v.1). They could keep debts for foreigners (v.3). Copan believes that this is because foreigners were rich—especially if they were in Israel. The goal was no poverty (v.4). The goal was to give to the nations (v.6). The goal was to take care of the needy (v.11). Slaves were let go every seven years (v.12), and they were given food as they left (vv.13-14). Slaves could freely choose to stay (vv.16-17).

Deuteronomy 16: Passover

They were given the Passover in order to remember their former life in Egypt (v.3). He mentions the feast of Tabernacles (vv.13ff). The purpose was to be happy for seven days (v.14). He closes with words against bribes and idol worship.

Deuteronomy 17: Capital Punishment and Kingship

An individual could face capital punishment, but there needed to be at least two or three witnesses (v.6) and investigated thoroughly (v.4). The witness needed to be the first to stone an individual (v.7), so this would be a deterrent against accusing someone. It’s different when you have to be the one to flip the switch on the electric chair. In difficult cases, they were supposed to go to the priests, who were the spiritual leaders of Israel (vv.8-13) and an objective third party.

Consider doing a short study on what it meant to be a king in Israel. Ask the group to pick out the qualities and requirements:

(v.15) God chooses this person.

(v.15) He must be an Israelite—not imported in from another country.

(v.16) He must be modest.

(v.17) He must be sexually pure.

(v.17) He must live simply.

(v.18) He must write out the Law himself! This would have taken a long time, and it was probably there to get him to think about the Law.

(v.19) He is below the Law, and he needs to read it daily. In the ancient Near East, the king was above the law (Rex Lex)—not below it (Lex Rex).

(v.20) He is to be humble.

(v.20) He is to follow the Law perfectly.

After you read through these requirements, you start to wonder: What man could accomplish all of this? Jesus—the perfect and humble King—is the only one who could handle the power and responsibility, without letting it go to his head.

Deuteronomy 18: Test for Prophets

Levites were supposed to be taken care of by the people, because they didn’t own land (vv.1-8). The Canaanites were being booted from the lands, because of their evil practices, as well as their beliefs (vv.9-14). The two are conjoined together.

God wanted to speak directly to the people, but they didn’t want this (v.16). So God spoke through prophets. What are the characteristics of a true prophet of God?

(v.18) He must be Jewish.

(v.18) He must speak only what God wants him to say.

(v.19) People are judged based on what the prophet says.

(v.20) If he speaks for false deities, he will be killed.

(v.21) He needs to make accurate short-term predictions.

Peter applies this passage to Jesus (Deut. 18:15). Muslims erroneously apply it to Muhammad. False teachers were justly put to death (v.20).

Week 3: Chapters 19-24

This section contains a lot of material on civil law and the practical aspects of life for the people. Remember: as the teacher, you can summarize entire chapters and look closely at some chapters. Don’t feel the burden of reading (or focusing on) the entire chapter.

Deuteronomy 19: Cities of Refuge

These cities of refuge were for unintentional killers. For instance, if you were chopping wood and your axe head fell off and killed someone, you could find refuge in one of these cities. Intentional killers couldn’t find refuge here (v.11). False witnesses would be killed (v.18).

Deuteronomy 20: Rules of War

Married men and those with something at home are allowed not to fight (vv.5-9). Also, the scared soldiers were allowed to defect (v.8). The normal method of battle in Israel was forming a peace treaty. Using them as forced labor was mild compared to the ancient Near East (v.11). Peace treaties did not apply to the seven cities under the ban (v.17), because they would bring them away from God (v.18). The method for battle with these cities was like seeing a rabid dog coming into a school yard. You would be at fault, if you didn’t kill the dog.

Deuteronomy 21: Civil Laws

Unknown murder cases were supposed to be paid for with a heifer (vv.1-9). Moses gives rules for taking female captives from war. These are surprisingly dignified (vv.10-14). Men couldn’t show favoritism between sons from different wives—even if they loved one more than another (vv.15-17). Rebellious sons were to be publicly stoned (vv.18-21). This had an effect on the entire community for them not to be rebellious. Finally, Moses says that people who were hanged from a tree should be buried. Otherwise, he will be under God’s curse, if he is left overnight (vv.22-23). Paul picks up on this concept in regards to Jesus in Galatians 3:13. Since Jesus was hanged, he was under the curse of God… for our sins.

Deuteronomy 22: More Civil Laws

The people were not allowed to be guilty of omissive sins (vv.1-4). Neglecting to help someone is a sin. No cross-dressing (vv.5-6). The highest correlation for homosexuality is gender confusion. This may be why this is being mentioned here.

Women claiming to be virgins (but who weren’t) were killed (v.21). However, if she really was a virgin, then the man would be fined (v.19). Adultery was a capital crime, too (v.22). Rape laws were very strict (vv.23-29).

Deuteronomy 23: More Civil Laws

Only certain people could be with the assembly of God (vv.1-5). The Moabites were never allowed in. But the Edomites and Egyptians were. Here are rules for wet dreams (!!) and burying your poop (!!). God was against ritual prostitution (v.17).

Deuteronomy 24: Divorce Laws

Women couldn’t be passed around from man to man in marriage and divorce (vv.1-4). A recently married man should stay at home from war for the first year to take care of his wife and family (v.5). There are many great laws for taking care of the disadvantaged. They had a great welfare system (24:20). The poor had had to harvest it themselves.

Week 4: Chapters 25-34

Consider spending most of the time on the “passing of the baton” from Moses to Joshua. Also, consider asking the question of why Moses didn’t get to enter the land.

Deuteronomy 25: The Role of the Judge

The laws were brought out in a civilized manner before a judge (v.1). They weren’t allowed to incur vigilante justice. There were limits for the judgment that even a judge could dispense, so that they wouldn’t overdo what the person earned. Human dignity was still a concern for the people (v.3). Widows were supposed to be taken care of by the family (v.5). If the brother in law didn’t want to take care of him, then he was supposed to be publicly humiliated (vv.9-10). A widow could spit in the brother in law’s face publicly for not helping out (see the book of Ruth). A woman should have her hand chopped off, if she tried to crush a man’s genitals (vv.11-12). They weren’t supposed to have different scales to deceive and trick people out of their money in unfair deals (vv.14-16). Amalek was the one that Samuel said to wipe out 1 Samuel 15. The last Amalek was Haman from Esther. He comes back to destroy the Jews completely later. They should have listened to verse 18.

Deuteronomy 26: First Fruits

They were told to celebrate the first fruits in order to remember God’s rescue from Egypt (vv.1-9). God promises to make them a great nation. This is a recitation of the Abrahamic covenant. Archer notes, “The typical second-millennium suzerainty treaty contained the following elements in a fixed and standard order.”[1]

Deuteronomy 27: Altar of Remembrance

When the Jews crossed the Jordan, they were supposed to build an altar to remember what God had done for them, covering it with plaster (vv.2-3). They were supposed to write all of the Torah on the stones (v.8). Different tribes gave blessings and curses (vv.12-13). It goes on to list a number of reasons for cursing.

Deuteronomy 28: Blessings and Cursings

The people were promised blessing or cursing, contingent on their response to the law. This was a conditional covenant. The alternate account is found in Leviticus 26. The blessings and curses were transitory. The cursings are very explicit, but so are the blessings. The Jews are currently picked on by anti-Semites today (v.37). There will be savage times for Israel if they don’t follow the covenant, including cannibalism (v.55ff). They will be kicked out of the land (v.64).

Deuteronomy 29: Renewing the Covenant

God, again, promises to destroy the people if they disobey the covenant (v.25).

Deuteronomy 30: Future Blessing

This chapter describes how God will be merciful to the people in the future after the blessings and curses (vv.1-10). Moses tells the people that this instruction isn’t too confusing or secret for them to understand (vv.11-14). He implores them to choose life—not death (v.19).

Deuteronomy 31: Moses’ Farewell

Moses dies at 120 years old (v.1). God warned him about his death (v.14). He builds up Joshua as his successor (v.7). God’s presence is our basis for not being afraid or discouraged (v.8). God knew that the people would abandon him (vv.16-17). God gave them a song to sing, so that they would know that God hadn’t abandoned them. Moses wrote down the law before he died (v.24).

Deuteronomy 32: Moses’ Song

This is a great song to exposit. This song explains the greatness of God, the sin of idolatry, and the judgment of God. This song was supposed to be for the future Israelites (v.46). God tells Aaron where he will die (v.50). He tells Moses why he will not enter the land: “Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51 because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel” (vv.50-52).

Deuteronomy 33: Moses Blesses the Tribes

He blesses each of the twelve tribes.

Deuteronomy 34: Moses Blesses the Tribes

God gives him a nice view of the Holy Land, but he doesn’t get to see it (v.4). Moses was strong until the end (v.7). Joshua takes over after Moses (v.9). The book concludes with Joshua recording Moses’ death.

[1] Gleason Archer “Old Testament History and Recent Archeology from Moses to David” Bibliotheca Sacra April 1970. 103.