This book continues the story of the Jews. Moses reminded the people about their covenant. It was a covenant with God. They made it before they entered the Promised Land.

[This means the land that God promised to give to them.]

The title of the book means ‘second law’. It is a very important book. (There are 27 books in the New Testament. And there is something from Deuteronomy in 17 of them.) The book has many subjects. There is a close connection in meaning between the main ones. So, it is not easy to suggest clear divisions. But it may help us to notice the main ideas.

Look Back with Grateful Thanks (Chapters 1-11)

This first section examines God's ways. God dealt with his people. The period began at Horeb (1:6). It ended with their arrival at Beth Peor (3:29). God spoke to them during their journey. And we learn some of the vital things that he said. It is easy to forget God's goodness. And this book has a constant demand. It is this. We must look back with grateful thanks. ‘Remember’ is an important word. The writer repeats it often.

We learn wonderful things about God. He is:

The eager lover (7:6-8; 10:15). A lover is someone who loves. God's love for us demands two things from us. First, it demands a reply. Second, it demands our love (6:5; 7:9; 11:13).

The Jews should love God very much. So, this book urged them to leave other gods. It said much about a danger. It was a very serious one. The danger was the worship of idols. If they worshipped idols, they would not be loyal to God. This would be because they would stop loving God. (Compare 4:25; 6:14; 7:25; 11:16.) The same idea was the reason for another rule. They must not marry anyone from a foreign nation. This could also cause them to stop loving God (7:3-6).

The certain helper (9:3). The Jews’ history has always been very important to them. They chose to remember God's goodness. They remembered his goodness to them in the past (8:2). And that past rescue should encourage them. It should help them to trust God in the present. This is the reason for some important words. Deuteronomy repeats them many times. The words are: ‘Do not be afraid’ (1:21, 29; 3:2, 22; 7:18.)

The patient teacher. ‘Consider the discipline (teaching) of the Lord’ (11:2). God showed them his love and power in the past. He did this for a reason. He wanted them to learn about his ways (4:32-35; 6:20-23; 8:2). Then he wanted them to share their knowledge with other people. And God wanted them to listen to his word. There is another main idea in this book. It is the words ‘to obey’. (Read 15:27; 15:31-32; 6:1-3,17-18,25; 7:11; 8:1,6,11,20; 9:24; 11:8.):

  • God never changes. He is always reliable (4:31).
  • The people failed to obey God's word. But God was always faithful (loyal).
  • The nation forgot God's goodness. But God never forgot his promises.

Look Upwards, and Expect to Obey (Chapters 12-16)

‘Obey’ is an important word. We already know this. Look at the way that this section begins. It says, ‘These are the laws and the rules’. Then there are instructions. They all demand the same thing. The people must obey them. They had a covenant. They should be loyal to it. This agreement was towards God. It was also towards man. (Here, ‘man’ referred to God's people.)

This section has one main subject. It is the right attitude to God. The next section is different. It is about responsibilities. The covenant is the reason for them. The people would enter the land. And they must remember four things. They are things that God teaches about:

Offerings (12; 16:21-22). They must never give offerings to idols (12:2-3).

Prophets (13). This included anyone that tried to lead other people.

Food (14). God forbade some foods (14:1-21 gives laws about diet.). And people could give other foods to God. (14:22-29 explains this. A ‘tithe’ means one-tenth.)

Festivals or Special Occasions (15-16). There were instructions. They were about special occasions. There was the Year of Freedom. The Jews must cancel debts. They must free slaves. There was the Passover too (16:1-8). And there was the Festival of Weeks, also called Pentecost (16:9-12). There was also the Festival of Tabernacles (16:13-15). These times meant that there was a special journey to meet with God. And it must be at the places that God chose (16:16-17).

[Note: Read the chapters in the Bible. You will then discover the meanings of the Festivals.]

Chapter 16:18-20 is very important. It contains spiritual ideas. There is a right attitude to God. And there is a right attitude to man. The sacrifices in the Temple were important. (16:16). And the judges must always be fair (16:18). That was important too. There is a connection between these things. First, come to God in the right way. Then, there will be a fair attitude to other people. The next section discusses these things. But it gives more details.

Look Around with Sympathy (Chapters 17-25)

The Jews had to obey God. But they also had to have sympathy for other people. These rules were guides for the people. The rules would guide them in their social life.

There were instructions about:

  • Judges (16:18-17:13).
  • Kings (17:14-20).
  • Priests (18:1-8).
  • Leaders of religion (18:9-22).
  • Criminals of any sort (19). This included witnesses who did not tell the truth. It also included people who murdered. There were cities of safety for anyone who killed.
  • Soldiers (20). There were rules that affected soldiers. (One example of this is in 20:8.) There were rules about the land that they defeated. (An example of this is in 20:19-20.) They might surround a city for a long time. They might want to use trees in the battle. But they must not cut down fruit trees. ‘These trees are not the enemy. So do not make war against them!’ (20:19).
  • Families (21-22). These chapters give advice. They dealt with various situations. Here are some examples. Perhaps there had been a murder. But nobody knew who was the guilty person. A son might have been a problem. Perhaps he refused to obey. There was the care of children (22:8). There were unhappy relationships. There are bad ones too (22:13-21). There was even a rule about a bird's family (22:6-7).
  • Worshippers (23). People had to be holy when they went to the Temple. But they also had to be holy when they were in the camp (23:10-14).

Chapters 24-25 deal with a variety of things. These include divorce, loans and the hire of servants. There were rules about harvest time. Farmers should leave some grain and fruit for poor people. They should care for poor people.

Look Ahead in Confidence (Chapters 26-34)

This is the last section of the book. It deals with the future. A different time will come. God's people will stop wandering. They will enjoy working on their farms.

Chapter 26:1-4 records the offering of the first harvest each year. The Jews would speak some words at that time. These words showed something. It was this. The Jews’ history was very important to them. Their land was from God. So, they should give the fruit of that soil to him. Are we like them? God has given us our lives. Do we give them back to him?

Chapter 26:12-15 records more words for people to say. They would speak these words to God. This was when they brought their tithes (one-tenth) to God. These gifts brought benefits to the priests. But there were also benefits for poor people in the land of Israel.

Chapters 27-31 warn about bad things. There are things that God does not permit. Bad things would happen if God's people did not obey (27-28). However, there are promises too (29-31).

Chapter 32 records the Song of Moses. This is a wonderful song of thanks. The leader of God's people was full of joy. This was because of God's good care. God would continue to be their guide.

Chapter 33 changes from joy before God. It speaks about good things for the people. Moses blessed the people. There were promises for the 12 tribes of Israel (the Jews).

Chapter 34 tells the story of Moses’ death. The book then has a final challenge. The people had to be loyal to God in their worship. They should obey God as they served him.

We should consider two things:

God might choose to hide himself from us as a punishment (32:19-20).

God might choose to show himself to us in friendship (34:10).