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Blessing & Curses: Why Study the Book of Deuteronomy?


It was a sobering scene.

Location: The plain of Moab, near the Jordan River, at the back door of the ‘Promised Land,’ near the city of Jericho.

Main character: Moses, the aged and faithful servant of God, was about to give his valedictory speech.

The audience: A large group of Israelites: the younger generation, who were born in the wilderness (‘the wilderness generation’).

The challenge: Moses would need all the God-given communications skills he could muster to reach this younger group of people who knew no other leader but him. After all, if Ronald Reagan, John Paul II and Bernie Sanders, all in their 70s, could connect with younger people, why not God’s anointed prophet? He apparently succeeded.

The setting: It had been 40 years since he led the children of Israel out of Egypt by the power of God. The journey should have taken more or less 40 days. Yet, due to tempting God 10 times (Numbers 14:22, 24-34), the days turned to years. During these forty years the generation that left Egypt with Moses (‘the exodus generation’) had perished in the wilderness; the audience he now faced were their children.

The message; Forty years earlier, Moses received the Law (Ten Commandments) on Mount Sinai. He shared God’s standard with the ‘exodus generation. They disobeyed and perished. Now that they were gone, on the eve of entering the promised land, it was time to share the Law again with the younger ‘wilderness’ generation.

This sharing of the Moses’ law a second time is called Deuteronomy. In addition, the events of Exodus through Numbers are retold. The 10 Commandments are recited and Moses gives his final address to the nation. Moses reminds Israel of God’s love and faithfulness and strongly exhorts them to keep God’s law. If they do, manifold blessings will come and overtake them; if they refuse, then an avalanche of curses will tumble upon them.

As the book ends, Moses gets to view the promised land from Mount Nebo, and then dies and is buried by the LORD. Deuteronomy predicts the rebellion, dispersion, and ingathering of Israel and speaks of a future prophet like Moses, which, of course, is Christ.

During the days of Judean king Josiah, the ‘book of the law’ was discovered in the temple (II Kings 22:8-10; II Chronicles 34:15-19). This book was Deuteronomy, which spawned a nation-wide reformation. Centuries later, Jesus Christ successfully quoted from this book when overcoming the devil in the wilderness  (Matthew 4:1-11; Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; 6:13; 10:20). In all this, the goal is to receive the blessings, and avoid the curses, by obeying the Word of the Lord.

Details of Deuteronomy

Name: ‘Haddebharim "The words’ or 1:1 ‘These are the words" also known Mishneh Hattorah ‘or repeating’ of the law. We get our English name Deuteronomy from the Septuagint, where it was known as To Deuteronomian Touto.

Author: Moses is the universally recognised author, including by Christ, the apostles, and the New Testament. Some later scholars have questioned Mosaic authorship, especially Chapter 34; could Moses have written about his own death and burial? Yet throughout the Torah / Pentateuch, it has been estimated that the phrases ‘The Lord says’ or ‘God says’ is used over 500 times. This first part of Scripture has an unmistakable ring of divine authority.

Portrait of Christ: He is the prophet like unto Moses (18:5). He is also known as the Rock of Salvation (32:15). As mentioned earlier, Jesus resisted Satan in the wilderness by quoting from Deuteronomy three times.

 Theme: Blessing and Cursing (Deuternomy 28).

 Key verses:  Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (KJV)

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 20That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Time Period: Two months. The first month is Moses and his three sermons. The second month was the 30 days of mourning for Moses.

Outline of Deuteronomy

Sermon One (History): Moses Looks Back  1:1-4:43

12 Spies & their evil report (1)
Edom, Moab, Ammon, and the wars against Amorites (2)
War Against Og; Reuben, Gad, and half-tribe Manasseh settles in Transjordan (3)
Commands of Obedience & Warning against Disobedience (4)

Sermon Two (Legal): Moses Gives the Law Again (4:44-26:19)

Ten Commandments (5)
Israel’s National Creed (6:4)
Call to Obedience & Faith (7-11)
Place of worship & Destruction of Idols (12-13)
Kosher and un-kosher animals & tithing (14)
Debts cancelled in jubilee year (15)
High holidays: Passover, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Tabernacles (16)
Call to Justice (17)
Priests and Levites (18)
Sundry laws on cities of refuge, warfare, murder, firstborn, sexual morality, divorce, levirate marriage, Amalekites, first-fruits (19-26)

Sermon Three (Prophesy): Moses Speaks of the Future

Law on Tablets of Stone - Gerizim is Mount of Blessing and Ebal Mount of Cursing (27)
Blessing and curses: Obedience brings 14 verses of blessing and disobedience 54 verses of curses (28)
Covenant renewed in Moab (29)
The choice: life and death, blessing and cursing (30)
Joshua succeeds Moses; Israel will rebel in the future (31)
The Song of Moses (32)
Moses Blesses Israel One More Time: The Tribes Mentioned (33)
Moses views the Promised Land and Dies (34)


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