The Bible
  OT Overview
  NT Overview
  OT Books
  NT Books
  OT History
  NT History
  OT Studies
  Pentateuch Studies
  History Books Studies
  Studies in the Prophets
  NT Studies
  Studies in the Gospels
  Acts and Letters Studies
  Revelation Studies
  Inductive Study
  Types of Literature
  Early Church
  British Museum
  Historical Docs
  Life Questions
  How to Preach
  SBS Staff
Search for page by title (auto-completes)
Advanced search
Translate into
Advanced Search
Search for word or phrase within each page
Search by OT book and chapter
Search by NT book and chapter

Overview of the main sections of the Book of Deuteronomy

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives How to interpret OT law
Covenants in the OT Names of God in the OT
Sacrifices and offerings Jewish feasts and festivals
Tithing Jewish calendar and religious festivals
Hittite Suzerainty Treaties Introduction to Deuteronomy
Highlights from Deuteronomy The Ten Commandments

The importance of covenant

The covenant was a bond or treaty between God and his chosen people. The source of the covenant lies in God alone, and it represents an act of God's loving kindness, initiated by him in love, extending an offer of relationship to Israel. The essence of covenant lies in the relationship between God and his people, with God the initiator of that relationship, which requires a response from them. God first showed his love towards his people, and they must respond to him in love.

The making of the covenant at Sinai was the beginning of a continuing relationship between God and his people Israel. The people had to look back to this event when the covenant was renewed regularly, so each generation could commit itself in love and obedience to God. In his address, Moses exhorts the people to a new and wholehearted loving commitment to God.

By being structured as a treaty, the covenant would remind people of their liberty from bondage in Egypt, and their total commitment to God. They had been in bondage as vassals to the worldly power of Egypt, but through God's intervention in history they had been freed. At Mt Sinai, they had become vassals of God as their new suzerain. The bondage of Egypt had been exchanged for the Kingship of God (Ex 15:18).

An Overview of each section of the Covenant

1. Preamble (Deut 1:1-5)

In a Hittite suzerainty treaty the preamble identifies the treaty as the words of the Hittite king. In Deuteronomy the words are those of Moses, the mediator, but they are still clearly stated as the words of the Lord (v3b).

While on Sinai, because of their fear of hearing God, the people had requested a mediator (5:22-31). When the covenant was given, God spoke audibly. Now Moses was the prophet of God. Sometimes he speaks the words of God (1:6), at other times he speaks his own words (1:9).

Moses was the first prophet in Israel, and there was none to follow him whom the Lord knew face to face (34:10). In Deuteronomy 18:15-22 we see that Moses was in fact foreshadowing another prophet: Jesus. In the old covenant there was an intermediary (Gal 3:20), but in the new covenant God made the covenant in the person of Jesus.

In his role as a prophet, Moses is not just giving the Word of God, but expounding and emphasising it (v5). He knew the weaknesses and failings of the Israelites, and proclaimed the word of God to them, seeking to persuade and plead with them to be obedient, and to love God, and warning them of the consequences of falling away from relationship with him.

2. The Historical Prologue (Deut 1:6 - 4:43)

In the ancient near-eastern treaties there is a section which recounts the past relationship between the suzerain and the nation entering into the covenant. Often it would mention kindness bestowed upon that nation by the suzerain which had been unearned. What had happened in the past becomes a basis for what will happen in the future.

The fact that God had intervened in history by bringing Israel out of Egypt became the basis on which the covenant was made. History was used to help people remember the acts of God in the past, and to produce vision and anticipation for what God can and will do in the future. The past shows the faithfulness of God, and holds the promise for the continuation of the relationship. Otherwise, the past can remind people of their unfaithfulness, and show them the urgent need for commitment now to ensure the future of the relationship.

Moses reminds them of God's faithfulness through the promise of the land given to the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the law at Sinai, and their recent victories over Sihon and Og east of the Jordan.

He also reminds the people of their unfaithfulness, particularly the rebellion in the wilderness and their failure to possess the land.

The sense of history gives Deuteronomy an atmosphere of immediacy, because centuries of complex events have been leading up the present moment, a time of crucial importance for the covenant relationship. There is a tension between the promise of God for the future, and the responsibility for the Israelites to be faithful and obedient in their covenant commitment to God. As he leads the people in renewing the covenant Moses brings his people to the moment at which he can declare, "Today you have become the people of God" (27:9).

Therefore, history for Israel is not simply cause and effect, but the dealings of a sovereign God who is at work for His purposes.

3. The Covenant Stipulations - General Principles (Deut 4:44 -11:32)

In the Hittite treaties this section contains directives which relate to the future relationship between the parties of the covenant.

The section is closely related to the historical prologue, which contains the facts constituting the basis of the treaty relationship. It contains a summary giving the purpose of the following specific stipulations. It consists primarily of general imperatives, requiring loyalty on the part of the treaty vassal.

The one basic principle which underlies the relationship between God and his people is love, which is the heart of the law (6:4), both God's love for people, and the love his people must have for God.

God was not calling for a cold clinical obedience, rather a love relationship with the Suzerain who gives the laws (6:24) always for their good (10:12). The law is not to be observed out of legalism, but out of a heart of love for God, even as He has loved them (6:4-9 and 7:6-11). God's fatherly love for his people has two expressions, his compassionate care (1:31), and his discipline (8:5). His people are urged to respond to him from their hearts in love, thus recognising their tendency forget God and be faithless (6:12, 8:11,14,19, 9:7). To break the commandments was to disrupt the relationship of love, thus destroying the covenant.

In Deuteronomy this section begins with the Ten Commandments, which show how love for God, and love for fellow men are to be expressed. These are a summary of the law which is given in detail in the next section (ch 12-26).

There are at least eleven repeated themes. There is an emphasis on warnings about the dangers of idolatry, including a detailed reminder of the sin of the golden calf. There is great emphasis on obeying God, loving God, references to possessing the Promised Land, keeping free from idolatry, and reminders of God's power demonstrated in the Exodus from Egypt.

Both the general stipulations and the specific stipulations end with a choice between a blessing and curse (11:26, 27-30).

4. The Covenant Stipulations - Specific Stipulations (12:1 - 26:19)

"These are the statutes and ordinances that you must observe ..." (12:1).

The specific stipulations give the practical outworking of ‘love God’ (first four of the ten Commandments) and ‘love your neighbour’ (last six of the ten Commandments) to maintain a true and living relationship with the God of the covenant. There is a mixture of ceremonial, religious, civil and criminal law. To Israel there was no distinction between the religious and the secular in life, or in their laws. All life was to be lived under the dominion of God. The broad scope of the law showed that no area of life was unimportant to the member of the covenant community. The laws cover both individual and community responsibility, and the relationship between the two. The community only remains healthy if its members were faithful.

As part of the covenant, God had promised that he would set his people above the other nations as a holy people (26:19). Therefore they needed to live God's ways as a witness to the nations. To claim to be God's people and to live as other nations lived would be hypocrisy. Through this section there are many warnings to avoid foreign religious practices. To do these would disrupt the covenant.

They are in typical form for near eastern law. Sometimes Moses gives a law and then explains its outworking, or the reason. For example the law (14:1) followed by the reason (14:2). Some laws are stated, some are preached. Some adapt previous laws for living in the land rather than the wilderness, some laws are repeated and some new ones are added.

The foundation of all of the laws is to love God, love your neighbour, and love strangers.

5. Blessings and Curses (Deut 27:1 - 29:20)

All ancient treaties had this portion, which would be to call upon the gods to bless the obedient, or curse the faithless. Moses, of course, does not call on a pagan god, but instead he states God's Word. The curses act as a solemn warning to the people that is an awesome responsibility to enter into a covenant relationship with God.

The blessings and cursings affect the whole community. Obedience to the Lord would result in blessing, long life, and possession of the promised land, while disobedience would lead to disaster.

They also show that God is Lord of history, and Lord of nature. He controls the other nations, and the course of nature, all the factors which will affect the future well-being of Israel. If they were obedient, he had power to grant blessing, controlling the affairs of nations to give Israel peace, and giving them health, long life, and fruitful crops as Lord of the created world. When David's empire expanded, it was God who made room for it. When the land gave forth plenty, it was God’s doing. If they were disobedient, they could not escape from God in any sphere of life. The strength of their army or the richness of the land would be of no help if the relationship with God was broken.

This portion becomes very important in the light of Israel's subsequent history, because all of the events from the books of Joshua through to Nehemiah are summarised in these chapters. As they obeyed they were blessed. This occurred during much of the Book of Joshua, portions of Judges and under David and Solomon's rule). As they broke the covenant, so the covenant keeping God kept His promise and cursed them.

In the light of Israel's history this becomes a prophetic anticipation of their future. Furthermore, it shows the wickedness of mankind. Even with all the blessings of an intimate walk with God, people have a tendency to go their own way. This was the reason for the new covenant, which changed the law to be internal, with Jesus taking the curse instead of us (Jer 31:31ff; Gal 3:13ff).

6. Covenant Continuity (Deut 31:1 - 34:12)

This allowed for the covenant to continue after the death of the Suzerain. It also arranged for the covenant to be read to the people from time to time, and renewed with each generation.

In Deut 31:1ff Joshua is commissioned before the people, and in Deut 31:9-13 the people are instructed to read the law every seven years during the feast of booths (tabernacles).

Moses was preparing the people for the future without him, after his death. The Song of Moses is a reiteration of the blessings and cursings.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives How to interpret OT law
Covenants in the OT Names of God in the OT
Sacrifices and offerings Jewish feasts and festivals
Tithing Jewish calendar and religious festivals
Hittite Suzerainty Treaties Introduction to Deuteronomy
Highlights from Deuteronomy The Ten Commandments

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

New Testament History

Articles which give additional information about the history and culture of the first century, giving helpful background knowledge for the Gospels and Paul's travels.

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey.

More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Early Church Fathers

These are a series of pages giving biographical information about some of the more significant early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian, as well as some important groups and events in the first centuries of the church.

Artifacts in the British Museum relevant to Biblical studies

These are a series of pages describing artifacts in each gallery of the British Museum, which have a connection with the Bible.

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Historical documents

These are a series of pages containing historical documents which give helpful information for Biblical studies. These include Hittite suzerainty treaties with a similar structure to the Book of Deuteronomy, different lists of the New Testament books and quotations from Josephus and other ancient writers.

Life Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.