Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


9. Deuteronomy: Restoring the Covenant

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Explain the chiastic structure of the speeches of Moses
  • Outline the basic content of the book of Deuteronomy
  • Identify the major theme of each of the three speeches given by Moses
  • Explain the purpose of Moses’s speech about the law
  • Demonstrate how the laws discussed in chapters 12–26 are based on the Ten Commandments
  • List the reasons why Deuteronomy is primarily a covenant document
  • Compare the structural similarities between Deuteronomy and the treaties of the ancient Near East
  • Evaluate the place of Deuteronomy in the first nine books of the Old Testament

Chapter Summary

  1. In the form of three addresses given by Moses, the book of Deuteronomy presents an exhortation to the Israelites to keep the covenant.
  2. The book of Deuteronomy is orga¬nized in a five-part concentric pattern known as a chiasm.
  3. The faithfulness of God is the topic of Moses’s first speech.
  4. The subject of Moses’s second speech is a review of the covenant, which stipulates that the promised land is for the Israelites.
  5. Moses presented a monotheistic approach for the Israelites as contrasted with the polytheism of the ancient Near East.
  6. The arrangement of the law in chapters 12–26 follows the major topics of the Decalogue.
  7. In his third speech, Moses discusses the sanctions of the covenant.
  8. Before his death, Moses pronounced a blessing over every tribe.
  9. The organization of the Book of Deuteronomy is that of a suzerainty treaty, which was a common political agreement in the ancient Near East.
  10. The six parts of a Hittite suzerainty treaty are: (a) preamble, (b) historical prologue, (c) stipulations, (d) provision for deposit and periodic reading, (e) list of gods as witnesses, and (f) curses and blessings formula.
  11. Deuteronomy is at the center of the primary history of the Old Testament.
  12. Deuteronomy is the foundation for what is called Deuteronomistic History.

Study Questions

  1. In what way does the title “Deuteronomy” fail to express the essence of the book? What is the geographic location in the book’s opening scene?
  2. What are the subjects of the first (1:1–4:43), second (4:44–26:19), and third (27:1–31:30) literary units? Describe the book’s appendixes.
  3. When do the events of the book occur? How do the book’s legal materials differ from the laws of Exodus and Numbers? What is the basis of Moses’s authority?
  4. In his first speech (1:6–4:43), what does Moses illustrate in the survey of Israel’s recent past?
  5. What are the two sections of Moses’s second speech (4:44–26:19)? What is the function of the Ten Commandments here? What truths are contained in the Shema? What questions does it answer? How are we instructed to respond to the character of God? What is the proper balance of love and fear in our relationship with God? How do these combine to accomplish the goal of Deuteronomy 5–26?
  6. What new situation is addressed in Deuteronomy 12–26? How do the Ten Commandments provide a structure to the laws of Deuteronomy 12–26?
  7. What are the two parts of Moses’s third speech (27:1–31:30)? Describe the covenant renewal ceremony and the doctrine of retribution. What prediction is made and what choice is offered in the final part of Moses’s speeches (29:1–30:14)? What are the two provisions for the nation’s future in Deuteronomy 31?
  8. How was the Song of Moses used by later prophets? What is the warning to future leaders in Moses’s death outside the promised land?
  9. What is a suzerainty treaty? What elements of a Hittite suzerainty treaty are seen in Deuteronomy? What elements of an Assyrian vassal treaty are found here?
  10. How does Deuteronomy serve as a bridge between the Pentateuch and the historical books?