From the Editor’s Notebook: Pointers on the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Pointers on the Pentateuch

Deuteronomy: The Book of Review

Key Words: Remember (18 times), Obey (10 times), Love (22 times).

Message: The motive for and absolute necessity of obedience.

Key Verses: 11:26-28 — “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.”


The title “Deuteronomy,” derived from the Greek, means “the second law,” being suggested by the statement in 17:18, that the coming king shall “write him a copy of this law in a book,” “Deuteronomy” simply being the words copy and law together. Historically, the book has its setting in the Plains of Moab, though the book itself is didactic, not historical. However, Deuteronomy must not be thought of solely as a repetition of the law. It is that, but it is a repetition with a new tone and emphasis after almost forty years in the wilderness.

Of Deuteronomy, W. Graham Scroggie has said: “The book stands in relation to the four preceding books much as John’s Gospel does to the Synoptic Records, in that each gives the spiritual significance of the afore-related historical facts. The dominating notes of the preceding Books are all here; the choice of GENESIS, the deliverance of EXODUS, the holiness of LEVITICUS, and the guidance of NUMBERS.”1

In a sense, the entire book is a divine treatment on obedience, and some Bible students consider it the most spiritual of all the Old Testament books. It is recommended that Deuteronomy be read in one sitting.

Deuteronomy contains Moses’ final words to Israel, G. Campbell Morgan having listed the great leader’s discourses in three groups of two: two “retrospective,” two “introspective,” and two “prospective.” In these three aspects the goodness, patience, righteousness, love and sovereignty of God are considered.2

After more than thirty-eight years’ experience in the wilderness, and in the light of a new generation (apart from Joshua and Caleb), it was necessary for Moses, the great Lawgiver, to review and comment on the laws given at Sinai, and this he did just one month before the nation crossed over Jordan to go in and possess the land of Canaan. The addresses were first delivered orally, and then written down (cf. 1:3; 31:24-26). Among many other things, this great book shows what God can do with the yielded tongue of a man who some forty years before had complained to the Lord: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Moses’ discourses are among the most eloquent ever recorded in all literature.

Though Deuteronomy shows touches of a later writer, and contains an appendix (34), competent scholarship has shown that it has all the peculiarities of Moses’ style, and any differences may be accounted for by the mellowing effect of age.


There are several ways in which Deuteronomy may be outlined, as indicated by the following examples:

1. The First Discourse (1-4)

2. The Second Discourse (5-28)

3. The Third Discourse (29-30)

4. The Fourth Discourse (31)

5. The Fifth Discourse (32)

6. The Sixth Discourse (33)

Appendix (34)

1. Retrospect (1:1-4:43)

2. Resume of Laws (4:44-27:10)

3. Warnings (27:11-28:68)

4. The Covenant (29:1-31:13)

5. The Song (31:14-32:47)

6. The Blessing (32:48-33:39)

—G. Campbell Morgan3

1. The History of Israel —The Backward Look (1-3)

2. The Holiness of Israel —The Inward Look (4-11)

3. The Heritage of Israel —The Forward Look (12-30)

4. The Hero of Israel —The Upward Look (31-34)

—John Phillips4

1. God’s Love in the Past (1-4)

2. God’s Love in the Present (5-26)

3. God’s Love in the Future (27-34)

—W. Graham Scroggie5

Notable Notes

Scroggie has summarily said: “The first part of DEUTERONOMY is Historical; the second part is Legislative; and the third part is Prophetical. Moses, at the close of his life, looked upon a new generation, a new land, a new life, new duties, and a new leader, and so there was the need for this new revelation of the Divine ‘love,’ nowhere mentioned until now, though much illustrated.”6

Deuteronomy was the only book quoted by Christ in His conflict with the Tempter (cf. Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13 with Deut. 8:3; 6:16, 13; 10:20). Little wonder, then, that Satan has fiercely attacked it through the so-called “Higher Critics” of the past. The book is frequently quoted by the prophets.

Deuteronomy contains the first reference in the Bible to the “children of Belial” (13:13), the first mention of death by hanging on a tree (21:22-23), the only reference in the Old Testament to the burning bush which led to Moses’ call and Israel’s deliverance (33:16), and the great prediction about a coming Prophet like unto Moses (18:15-19).

The central chapter of Deuteronomy is the 29th, where Moses, dealing with God’s covenant, condenses the argument of the entire book.

Deuteronomy has been called the “Book of Experience and Obedience” (6:4-5), not only insisting on the full obedience of God’s people, but stoutly condemning “spiritism” (18:9-14), asserting the overthrow of Satan’s power (34:2 with Matt. 17:3; Heb. 2:14; Jude 9), and it may be used effectively in Satan’s defeat (Matt. 4:1-11).

As literature, Deuteronomy ranks with Genesis, The Book of Psalms, and Isaiah.

The book deals with the moral, civil and ceremonial law. The law itself did not fail, but it was “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Love and law meet and are fulfilled in Christ. God’s motive for His government and giving of laws is His love for man; man’s motive for his obedience in the truest and highest sense is his love for God (Deut. 6:4-5). There is love in the Old Testament, and there is law in the New Testament (cf. John 14:15).

In Deuteronomy the LORD JESUS CHRIST is seen as the PROPHET LIKE UNTO MOSES.

1 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, 1, p. 39.

2 G. Campbell Morgan, The Analyzed Bible, p. 53.

3 Ibid.

4 John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures, pp. 45-46.

5 Scroggie, op. cit., p. 40.

6 Ibid.