One of the books of the Bible we’ve been reading through as a family is Deuteronomy. For a long time it was one of those mysterious Old Testament books I didn’t know how to process in light of my present-day life as a believer. But as I’ve come to study and understand more lately, it’s taken on new beauty and meaning. Now, it’s one of my favorite books in the Bible!
The other day as I was looking around online for something else, I ran into this video that does a five-minute overview of Deuteronomy. I appreciate the simplicity of his overview. I also appreciate how he captured much of the heart of this book – the words “love” and “remember” are two major themes.
For the record, I know nothing about Blackhawk Church. I simply came across this one video and found it helpful.
Also for the record, I disagree with the presenter’s distinction between the people of ancient Israel and the laws that applied only to them. I think believers are far too quick to discard many of the laws given in the Torah. Sure, many of the laws dealt with life in an agricultural society, but there are wise principles that are transferable to us even if we’ve never owned a literal field or cattle. (For more about my take on how we, as believers, relate to Israel and to the instructions given to Israel, you can check out this post or this one.)
A few of the specific reasons I love Deuteronomy
- Our Savior quoted from Deuteronomy more than He quoted from any other book in the Bible. Of particular interest (to me, anyway) were the many times he used Deuteronomy to fight against the temptation of the Enemy during His time in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13).
- The very words and heart of my God are shared in the book of Deuteronomy. If we want to love what He loves and hate what He hates, we must know these words. And if we want to be like King David who greatly desired to not sin against God, we must store up these words in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). The only Bible David had, after all, was the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Torah, along with the other Old Testament writings, are what Paul referred to as the “sacred writings able to make [us] wise for salvation” and for “training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:14-17). This stuff is important!
- The book of Deuteronomy expounds upon the Ten Commandments is a very unique way. This is actually what I want to focus on for this post, so I’ll leave it at this for now.
How the 10 Commandments and the Rest of the Laws are Related
When God began speaking the commandments to His people at Mt. Sinai, He only spoke the Ten Commandments when the people begged Him to stop. They saw the thunder and the flashes of lightening and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, and were afraid. They asked Moses to be their intermediary (Exodus 20:1-21). So, God told Moses to tell the people to return to their tents. Then God said to Moses, “But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them…” (Deuteronomy 5:22-33)
Moses reviewed much of this whole commandment He received on their behalf before sending them into the Promised Land.
One of my favorite Messianic Torah teachers pointed out a remarkable thing about Deuteronomy in one of his teachings (starting at page nine): Chapters 6 through 25, actually connect with the Ten Commandments, expounding on each commandment in order with one exception!
No, it’s not perfectly tidy. There are things here and there that seem like they should be in another place, and there is definitely some overlap in themes. But it is remarkable how the major themes of these chapters do follow the themes of the commandments. And in order, too!
So, for those of us who love the wisdom we see in the Ten Commandments, the book of Deuteronomy is an even greater treasure.
Here’s the breakdown. (As another disclaimer, the themes and scripture divisions are mostly from the above quoted teaching. As I looked into his teaching more closely for myself, I noted the examples.)
Commandments 1 and 2 are fleshed out in Deuteronomy 6-11
I am Yahweh your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
Theme = Know the Lord, believe in Him, and remember what He has done
You shall not make for yourself a carved image,
or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or serve them,
for I Yahweh your Elohim am a jealous El,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children
to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
but showing steadfast love
to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Theme = Idolatry is forbidden
These chapters are loaded with the themes of knowing, believing and remembering God’s love and avoiding idolatry. I have pulled only a small sampling.
- Fear Yahweh your Elohim, serve Him, and swear only by His name. Don’t go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for Yahweh is a jealous Elohim (6:13-15).
- Take care lest you forget Yahweh your Elohim by not keeping His commandments and His rules and His statutes, which I command you today. Beware lest you forget who brought you out of Egypt, out of slavery, who led you and fed you. And if you forget, and go after other gods, you shall surely perish (8:11-20).
- Remember the Golden Calf incident (9:13-29).
- Remember that what Yahweh requires of you is to fear Him, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes I am commanding you today for your good (10:12-22. By the way, this is one of my favorite passages in this book!)
Commandment 3 is fleshed out in Deuteronomy 12-14
You shall not take the name of Yahweh your Elohim in vain,
for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Theme = Sanctification of Yahweh’s name
Though the themes of commandments 1 and 2 continue in these chapters, and though there is focus on Yahweh’s name in the previous chapters, this section has a strong focus on entering the land and destroying the name of the other gods so that Yahweh can place His name there.
- The name of other gods is to be destroyed out of the land (12:3) so that Yahweh can place His name there (12:5, 11).
Commandment 4 is fleshed out in Deuteronomy 15-16
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your Elohim.
On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter,
your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock,
or the sojourner who is within your gates.
For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them,
and rested on the seventh day.
Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Theme = The number 7 and a time for rest
- Every seventh year is to be a Sabbatical year, a year of release from debts (15:1-18).
- Firstborn males of the herd and flock should do no work but shall be dedicated to Yahweh (15:19-23).
- And every year, special Sabbath rests are to be observed during the pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles (16:1-17). Though Moses doesn’t recount all of the specific Sabbath instructions here, they are laid out plainly in Leviticus 23: the first and last days of Unleavened Bread are special rest days (Lev 23:7-8), the day of Pentecost (aka Feast of Weeks) is a special day of rest (Lev 23:21), and the first and eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles are special days of rest (Lev 23:34-36).
Commandment 5 is fleshed out in Deuteronomy 16:18-18:22
Honor your father and your mother,
that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Theme = Respect for authority
- Respectable judges are to be appointed (16:18-20).
- If there are cases too hard for these judges to decide, they are to be brought to the Levitical priests and judge. The decision reached by these men should be respected and carried out (17:8-13).
- Instructions about what will be required of any future king of Israel are given (17:14-20).
- The section ends with instructions to listen to the future Moses-like prophet, whom we know to be Yeshua, our Savior (18:15-22).
Commandment 6 is fleshed out in Deuteronomy 19-21
You shall not murder.
Theme = Sanctification of life
- Cities of refuge are to be established so that a manslayer who has killed someone unintentionally may save his life and thus protect innocent blood (19:1-13).
- Instructions about warfare are given, including how terms of peace are to be offered first, and how to respond if the offer of peace is not accepted (20:1-18).
- Even the lives of trees in cities being besieged are given protection. They are not to be destroyed, unless they do not produce food and can be used to build siegeworks (20:19-20).
- Instructions are given for how to atone for unsolved murders so that the guilt of innocent blood is purged from their midst (21:1-9).
- The sanctity of life is also recognized for female captives taken in war. They are given the right to mourn for the lives of their mothers and fathers before taking on the role of a wife (21:10-14).
- The firstborn son is to receive the proper inheritance even if he is not the most loved son. His life is set-apart because he was born first, and his rights must be protected (21:15-17).
Commandment 7 is fleshed out in Deuteronomy 22:13 – 23:18
You shall not commit adultery.
Theme = Sanctification of sexual intimacy
- Accusing a woman of sexual misconduct where there is none brings discipline (22:13-19).
- A woman who has whored outside of marriage is to be put to death (22:20-21).
- If a man if found lying with the wife of another man or a woman betrothed to another man, both are to be put to death (22:22-24) [It is interesting to note that when the Pharisees brought the woman "caught in the act of adultery" in John 8, they didn't bring the man. They were breaking the law by only bringing the woman. Both were to be put to death, and this penalty could only be enforced IF and only IF there were two or three witnesses to confirm the charge. These witnesses were to be the first to throw the stones (Deut 17:6-7). But no one was willing to stand as a legitimate witness and cast the first stone. So, Yeshua was not offering a new form of grace or mercy. He was simply appropriately applying the scriptures to this case.]
- Marriage relationships are to be protected in various other situations as well (22:25-30)
- Cult prostitution is forbidden (23:17-18).
Commandment 8 is fleshed out in Deuteronomy 23:19-25
You shall not steal.
Theme = Sanctification of property
- Interest shouldn’t be charged on loans to brothers (23:19-20).
- Vows must be fulfilled without delay (23:21-23).
- A neighbor’s grapes and grain may be eaten to satisfy hunger, but no more than that may be taken (23:24-25).
Commandment 9 fleshed out in Deuteronomy 19:15-21
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Theme = Sanctification of truth
- Only evidence based on two or three witnesses is acceptable (19:15).
- If, after diligent inquiry has been made, a witness is found to be false, that witness should bear the punishment he was seeking against his brother (19:16-21).
Commandment 10 fleshed out in Deuteronomy 24
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant,
or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
Theme = Contentment
- If a man divorces a wife, he can’t later remarry her if she married another after (24:1-4).
- Greed regarding pledges (24:10-13, 17-18), the giving of wages (24:14-15), or reaping harvests (24:19-22), is forbidden.
Pretty cool, huh?!