Deuteronomy consists of a series of farewell messages by Israel's 120-year-old leader, Moses. It is addressed to the new generation destined to possess the Land of Promise. Like Leviticus, Deuteronomy contains a vast amount of legal detail, but its emphasis is on laypersons rather than the priests. Moses reminds the new generation of the importance of obedience if they are to learn from the sad example of their parents.

The name of the book comes from the Greek word Deuteronomion, meaning "second law," which was incorrectly used in the Septuagint to translate Deut 17:18LEB) (the NKJV correctly renders it "a copy of this law"). Deuteronomy, however, is not a second law but an adaptation and expansion of much of the original law given on Mt. Sinai.

Author: The Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy has been vigorously attacked by critics who claim that Moses is only the originator of the traditions upon which these laws are based. The usual argument is that the book was anonymously written not long before 621 B.C. and used by King Josiah to bring about his religious reform.

Both the internal and external evidence for Mosaic authorship is strong, however. Deuteronomy itself includes about forty claims that Moses wrote it. The book appears to fit the time of Moses, not that of Josiah, and geographical and historical details indicate a firsthand knowledge of the period between the Exodus and the Conquest. Furthermore, the remainder of the Old Testament attributes Deuteronomy and the rest of the Pentateuch to Moses (Jos 1:7LEB; Judg 3:4LEB; 1Ki 2:3LEB; Ezr 3:2LEB; Psa 103:7LEB; Mal 4:4LEB. Yashua himself directly attributes it to Moses (Mat 19:7-9LEB; John 5:45-47LEB). Finally, recent studies have shown that Deuteronomy appears to follow the treaty form used in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C., a form appropriate for this covenant renewal document.

Date: Like Leviticus, Deuteronomy does not progress historically. It takes place entirely on the plains of Moab due east of Jericho and the Jordan River and covers about one month. The book was written at the end of the forty-year period in the wilderness (c. 1405 B.C.) when the new generation was on the verge of entering Canaan.

Themes and Literary Structure: Deuteronomy, in its broadest outline, is the record of the renewal of the covenant given at Mt. Sinai. This covenant is reviewed, expanded, enlarged, and finally ratified in the plains of Moab. Moses accomplishes this primarily through three sermons that move from a retrospective, to an introspective, and finally to a prospective look at Yahweh's dealings with Israel.

Moses first sermon (Deut. 1:1-4LEB) provides the background of the covenant by stressing what Yahweh has done for Israel since the Exodus from Egypt. The theme of Yahweh's provision for and protection of His people is highlighted, together with the divine punishment which follows disobedience.

The second discourse covers the specific requirements of the covenant, adapting the laws of Exodus to the new situation which would prevail after they had entered the Promised Land. Thus special attention is given to prohibitions of idolatry and other pagan practices, the establishment of a central sanctuary, and preparation for a kingdom.

In the third discourse Moses writes history in advance. He predicts what will befall Israel in the near future (blessings and cursings) and in the distant future (dispersion among the nations and eventual return). Moses lists the terms of the covenant soon to be ratified by the people. Finally, because Moses will not be allowed to enter the land, he appoints Joshua as his successor and delivers a farewell address to the nation. Chapter 34 contains an obituary for Moses, perhaps written by his successor Joshua.