A Teaching on Deuteronomy

The following information is presented as a guide to those interested in teaching the book of Deuteronomy.

Background on Deuteronomy:

  • Importance of the Book of Deuteronomy to Judaism.
  • Parallels with the book of Matthew:  The Gospel according to Moses
  • The transition from slavery (1 generation), to barren, dependent freedom (Bedouin generation), to an autonomous people.
  • Moses is the only one (with the exception of Caleb) who has lived in a city (the rest have died in the desert, Approximately 1,000,000, an average of 70 deaths per day in the wilderness.)

Key Questions:

  • What is your Promised Land?
  • Will it take you 11 days or 40 years to get there?
  • Can Israel maintain the values of the wilderness in the city?

Structure of Deuteronomy:

  • Chapters 1-3:  Moses’ Angst
  • History of Grace:  Egyptian Deliverance
  • Chapter 5:  What does a response to Grace look like?  The 10 Commitments (as marriage vows to God).
  • Chapter 6:  Shema Israel
  • Chapter 7:  Driving out nations
  • Chapters 12 – 26 the Deuteronomic code “Strange Commands of Deuteronomy”

The point of the strange commands, which are framed as a “Life of Worship”

  • Everything in life is worship, there is no part of life outside of your relationship with God
  • Throughout the strange commands, one gest a sense of respect for life, and             that looking out for the welfare of your neighbor is important.
  • A mix of rules from every part of life
  • Chapter 28:1-2 “Obey your voice…”
  • Chapter 29 – Acknowledgement that there will be failures, grace, “The Fear of the Lord,” the curses will drive Israel back to God.
  • Chapter 30 – “The concluding appeal, God will call you back into relationship with Him.  30:1 “This law is not far from you, it is in your heart”  30:19-21 “Choose Life” discourse
  • Chapter 31 – End of Deuteronomy, Moses death, “I don’t get to go in” complaint.

Key Themes in Deuteronomy:

  • Three messages, one theme:  Appeal to be faithful to God
  • “Don’t do what they did 40 years ago, THE JOURNEY SHOULD HAVE TAKEN 11 DAYS!
  • The God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT
  • Egyptian Deliverance and Deliverance from sin in Jesus parallel
  • Deuteronomy, OT appeal with temporal consequences, NT appeal has ultimate consequences.
  • The entire Jewish Community eagerly entered into the Covenant with Yahweh.

Class Structure:  The following is the structure of the classes that were taught by Bettie Mitchell, Nick Fones, and myself on February 19th and 26th.

The class on the 19th can be seen here:


Teaching Notes for presentation:

General Plan for February 19th:  Matt to teach Deuteronomy 1 – 4, up to the 10 commandments, Nick to take it from there.


Start with verse:  “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (IN HEBREW, then English)

Hebrew:  “Shema Yisrael, Adonai eluhenu, Adonai ehad”

English:  “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”

– Deuteronomy 6:4

Video on Shema, if time:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7po2EZ4Y-KU

The Shema Yisrael: (or Sh’ma Yisrael or just Shema) (Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל‎; “Hear, [O] Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) that is a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. The first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one,” found in Deuteronomy 6:4

Bridge from Solomon:

We have just finished examining the rise of Israel from Samuel, through David and to its golden age with Solomon.  We have seen that great wisdom and peace came at a cost.

Over the next two weeks, we are going to visit Israel where it all began, Kadesh-Barnea.  They are poised to enter the land they have been promised for the second time, and they are a much different people than they were the first time they were there, 40 years earlier.  They are a much different people metaphorically because they have spent 40 years wandering in the desert in a meaningless quest, and they are much different people in a literal sense, as all but three of those who were there before had passed away.

The Book of Deuteronomy takes us to this critical moment in history, as they are

There are two thoughts on the authorship of Deuteronomy.  The first and most likely is that it was authored by Moses around 1405 BC and completed by Joshua.  The book itself refers to Moses as the author at least 40 times.  An alternative view is that it was first written in the 7th century BC by a historian who also composed Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings.  We hold to the former view.


Deuteronomy was the book of the Law found and presented to the young king Josiah around 700 BC, hence the alternate authorship hypothesis.  This hypothesis has largely been discredited.

Deuteronomy is the defining book of Judaism.

Deuteronomy is important to the book of Matthew

Why is Deuteronomy Important?

The Source by James A. Michener p. 158

 “…Now he spent his days digging physically into the earth of Makor and his night probing the spirit of the Judaism that had been responsible for building so much of the tell.

Whe he was satisfied that the last tourists had gone, he unlocked his door and wandered into Eliav’s office.  ‘Have you any new material that I could read about the Jews?’

‘You catch me off guard,’ Eliav replied.

‘You’ve read De Vaux, Kaufmann, Albright?.

Cullinane nodded.


‘He’s the best’

‘There’s one better’


‘Read Deuteronomy five times.’

‘Are you kidding?’

‘No.  Detueronomy.  Five times.’

‘What’s your thought?’

‘It’s the great central book of the Jews and if you master it you’ll understand us.’

‘But is it worth five readings?’

‘Yes, because most of the Gentiles think of the ancient Hebrews as curious relics who reached Israel ten thousand years ago in some kind of archaic mystery.’

‘How do you think it happened?’ Cullinane asked.

‘Deuteronomy is so real to me that I feel as if my immediate ancestors, say my great-grandfather with the desert dust still on his clothes, came down that valley with goats and donkeys and stumbled onto this spot.’

‘Will reading Deuteronomy give me such a feeling?’

‘Read it five times and see,’ Eliav countered.

On the first reading, Cullinane gathered that many of the themes central to the New Testament could be found there, and that there were even clear references to Jesus.

On the second reading, Cullinane gathered then enormous historicity of the book, and began to read the Ten Commandments as if he were among the tribes listening to Moses.

The third and fourth times, which Eliav insisted that he read from a modern English translation directly from the original Hebrew text, he is struck by the pleasure of contemporaneous language of the direct Hebrew translation:

“Hear, O Israel, the laws and norms that I proclaim to you this day!  Study and observe them faithfully!” 

“It is not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today”

When Moses returns with the Ten Commandments, the Jews urge Moses to return to the God for further instruction:

“You go closer and hear all that the Lord our God says; then you tell us everything that the Lord our God tells you, and we will willingly do it.”

Cullinane came to understand that Deuteronomy is a living book and to the living Jew it had contemporary force.

The fifth time, Eliav directed Cullinane to read it directly in Hebrew, the original language of Deuteronomy, a language that had been dead for over 1,000 years until recently.

There, he discovered the core essence of Jewish Identity:

“My father was a fugitive Aramaean.  He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation.”

And what the Jews, religious or not, believe about themselves:

“For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God:  of all the peoples on the earth the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured people.”


Put up slide of Map:


CLASS 2 – 2/26/14

{EDITOR’S NOTE:  The classes are held at GSM on Wednesdays.  Between the classes, we arranged a visit to a local synagogue, Congregation Neveh Shalom, to attend a Shabbat service on the Friday between the classes.  As such, the second class, realized on the 26th, opened with a discussion of what was learned}

Recap visit to Synagogue: 


  1.  All Synagogues throughout the world read the same section of the Torah each week throughout the year.
  2. The concept of “Kosher,” meaning whether or not something is appropriate or not, it goes beyond food.
  3. Service is largely in Hebrew (texts translated into English)
  4. Baby naming, “The foundations of the earth rest on the breath of children.”
  5. In the womb, you know the Torah and all the mysteries of the Universe.  Then, when you are born, the angel Gabriel comes and whacks you so hard underneath your nose, he leaves a permanent dimple and we forget everything, starting our journey in the world knowing nothing.
  6. The Sabbath (Shabbat) is an opportunity to connect with the eternal one and reveal a portion of the divine within each of us, if we would only let stop to rest.
  7. “Keep these words by your heart and mind,” Jews take this literally.  Its practical application being that you are to make decisions using both your intelligence and your emotions in equal balance.

The Joy of Shabbat

READ THE SOURCE P. 706, last paragraph through TOP OF P. 707

READ DEUTERONOMY 31-33 (IF time permits, begin in 29)


Tonight, the Word of God is Living, it is Living only as long as we allow it to stir up and agitate our soul to the point that we have no choice but to speak the Word anew, stirring up the soul of others.  In this way, the World of the Living God has come to us tonight through Moses and many others who kept it alive by maintaining it at the forefront of their thinking, and for daring to carry on a conversation with the Living God.  In hearing it, we too have a choice.  Will we allow ourselves to be stirred up and pass it on to others?  Will we carry on these conversations with God?  These are critically important questions.  For in our hearing and speaking, the Living Word carries on.


Returning to the Source, as Cullinane (the Catholic Archeologist) finishes describing his fifth reading of Deuteronomy, Eliav (the Jewish Archeologist) makes his final point regarding Jewish identity:


Re:  Moses’ death


‘The key to the Jew,” he said jokingly, ‘is my favorite passage in the Torah.  Moses is being eulogized as the greatest man who ever lived, knew God face to face and all that.  But what is the very last thing said of him as a man…as a living man?  It seems to me that this is a profound insight….It’s the very reason why I love Deuteronomy. 

From the King James Version first:  “And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.’  But in our Hebrew original this last eulogy on a great man ends, “His moisture was not fled.’  Eliav closed the book and placed his hands over it.  “A man who had known God, who had created a nation, who had laid down the law that all of us still follow.  And when he dies you say of him, ‘He could still function in bed.’  Ours is a very gutsy religion, Cullinane.”


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