Lesson 2 of 6
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Outline of Deuteronomy

1. Moses’ First Address (1:1-4:43)

Deuteronomy begins with the first of three farewell addresses delivered by Moses before his death and before Israel enters the promised land of Canaan.

A. Historical Retrospective (1:1-3:29)

In this historical retrospective Moses tells the story of Israel’s 40-year journey from Mt. Horeb to the plains of Moab east of the Jordan River–touching upon the Exodus, the revelation at Mt. Horeb, and Israel’s rebellion in the wilderness.

B. The Importance of Obedience (4:1-43)

In this sermon, Moses discusses the importance of observing the law by elaborating upon the significance of the first commandment (the second in Judaism) regarding the exclusive allegiance God demands.

2. Moses’ Second Address (4:44-28:68)

In his second of three farewell addresses, Moses discusses what life lived in covenantal relationship with God looks like, focusing on what it means to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (6:5).

A. Introduction (4:44-5:33)

Two basic elements of God’s will for Israel, the theophany at Mt. Horeb and the Ten Commandments, are presented as divinely revealed.

B. The Importance of Loyalty to God (6:1-11:32)

Here we find a selection of sermon fragments on the first commandment (chapter 6), the danger of assimilation with the Canaanites (chapter 7), the peril of prosperity (chapter 8), the temptation of self-righteousness (9:1-10:11), and obedience as a condition for prosperity in the land (10:12-11:32).

C. The Deuteronomic Code (12:1-26:15)

This long section is the heart of Deuteronomy. It presents the laws themselves, but not in the style of a legal code. Rather, it contains detailed excerpts from ancient law together with theological commentary. Chapters 12:1-16:17 are basically concerned with matters of worship; and 16:18-18:22 are generally concerned with the duties of judges, other officials, the king, the Levites, and the prophets; but chapters 19-26 defy schematization.

D. Covenant Renewal (26:16-28:68)

Moses describes a ceremony for renewing the covenant made at Mt. Horeb. The ceremony is to take place at Mt. Ebal near Shechem after crossing the Jordan River (26:16-27:26). Blessings if Israel complies (28:1-14) and curses if they do not (28:15-68) complete the sermon.

3. Moses’ Third Speech (29:1-30:20)

Moses’ third speech challenges Israel–whether on the verge of the Jordan, in the days of Josiah, or today–to choose between obedience and life, and disobedience and death.

A. Historical Review (29:1-29)

The third speech begins with a historical review of God’s covenant loyalty to Israel in the past (29:1-9). In verses 10-29, Moses switches from talking about the past to urging the present assembly to remain loyal.

B. Promise of Restoration (30:1-10)

Moses then reassures the people that, should they fail, restoration will follow if they repent. This appears to be an addition to the text, especially addressed to those in exile in the sixth century B.C.E.

C. Exhortation to “Choose Life!” (30:11-20)

The sermon concludes with an assurance that what the Lord requires is neither too difficult nor too far away (vv. 11-14) and a fervent appeal for the people to “Choose life!”-that is, life lived in covenantal relationship with the Lord (vv. 15-20).

4. Appendix (31:1-34:12)

Deuteronomy concludes with a number of unrelated passages that provide a measure of closure to Deuteronomy as well as the Pentateuch as a whole.

A. Joshua Appointed as Moses’ Successor (31:1-8, 14-15, 23)

The crucial transition from Moses to Joshua begins with Moses speaking of his own death and discussing what lies ahead for Israel. God will lead them into the Promised Land (vv. 1-6). Then he appoints Joshua as his successor (vv. 7-8), an action repeated by God in verses 14-15, 23.

B. The Torah Is Entrusted to the Levites (31:9-13, 24-29)

After committing the law to writing (v. 9a), Moses entrusts it to the Levitical priests (v. 9b), who are charged with its public reading every seventh year at the Festival of Booths (vv. 10-13).

C. The Song of Moses (31:16-32:47)

The first part of the Song of Moses (32:1-25) is presented as a lawsuit brought by God against Israel, accusing them of unfaithfulness (vv. 2-22) and passing sentence (vv. 23-25). The second part (vv. 26-42) depicts God pondering the consequences of this action (vv. 26-27), turning to accuse the nations of misunderstanding (vv. 28-38), and finally declaring a verdict upon these unnamed nations (vv. 39-42).

D. The Blessing of Moses (33:1-29)

Moses’ final words are words of blessing for each of the tribes (except Simeon) reminiscent of Jacob’s blessing of his sons, who became the tribes of Israel, at the end of Genesis (Genesis 49:2-27). Thus, the blessing serves as a conclusion to the Pentateuch as well as to Deuteronomy.

E. The Death of Moses (32:48-52; 34:1-12)

The death of Moses has been appended by the final redactor of the Pentateuch reporting that Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land (34:1-8) and assuring readers, once again, that Joshua is Moses’ divinely appointed successor (34:9). The redactor’s closing eulogy lifts up Moses’ vigorous physical strength (v. 7) as well as the strength of the Lord that accompanied his encounter with Pharaoh (vv. 10-12).