The Book of Deuteronomy: Summary

Updated May 23, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
The Book of Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy was written during the Israelites' wanderings in the wilderness, just before they entered the Promised Land. The name "Deuteronomy" comes from the Greek word "Deuteronómion," which means "second law," reflecting the book's focus on the repetition and reiteration of divine law.[1] It is believed to have been written around the 7th century B.C., during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. The book is set in the plains of Moab, near the Jordan River, where Moses gives his farewell address to the Israelites before his death.

But what else can the Book of Deuteronomy tell us? Read on for the context, history, and importance of this book of the Bible.

Overview of Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy is structured as a series of speeches by Moses. In these speeches, Moses reviews the history of Israel and its people, the laws and commandments God gave them, and the covenant between God and the Israelites. Deuteronomy emphasizes the importance of obedience to these laws and the consequences of disobeying them — including the Ten Commandments.

The book begins with the Israelites' arrival at the plains of Moab, and Moses' recollection of their journey from Egypt in Deuteronomy 1. He then proceeds to deliver a series of speeches on God’s law. Deuteronomy 30 is a key portion of the text, as Moses emphasizes the importance of choosing life by obeying the God of Israel’s commands, which leads to blessings and prosperity. He also warns of the consequences of disobedience, which include curses and destruction.

Finally, the book ends with the death of Moses and the appointment of Joshua as his successor, who will be focussed on in the following books of Joshua.

Deuteronomy and the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch, also known as the Torah, refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. These books include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book of the Pentateuch, and it serves as an essential conclusion to the story of the Israelites.

Further, the Book of Deuteronomy also provides a literary bridge between the Pentateuch and the rest of the Hebrew Bible. It serves as a transition from the saga of the Israelites in the wilderness to their entrance into the Promised Land. The book also contains a restatement and clarification of many of the laws and commandments given in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

Themes Found in Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy contains many themes and motifs that are central to the Hebrew Bible and Judaism. One of the most important themes is the idea of a covenant between God and the Israelites. The covenant, which was established at Mount Sinai in the Book of Exodus, is renewed in Deuteronomy, as Moses reminds the Israelites of their obligations to God and the consequences of disobedience.

Another important theme in Deuteronomy is the idea of the Promised Land.[2] Moses reminds the Israelites of God's promise to give them the land of Canaan, but also warns them that they must follow God's law in order to inherit the land. The book also contains detailed instructions for the Israelites on how to live in the Promised Land, including laws on worship, justice, and social ethics.

Deuteronomy also contains the Ten Commandments, which are repeated from the Book of Exodus. In addition, it contains the Shema, a central prayer in Judaism that begins with the words from Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

Importance of Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy is an important part of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. It provides historical context for the Israelites' journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, and contains important themes and motifs that are central to the Bible as a whole. It is also significant for understanding the development of Judaism, as it contains many of the core beliefs and practices of the religion.

Moreover, the Book of Deuteronomy contains many Jewish ideas and teachings, such as the importance of God's law, the covenant, and the Promised Land. It also includes accounts of important Jewish figures, such as Moses and Abraham, as well as the death of Moses.

Out of the books of the Bible, Deuteronomy also plays a significant role in the Jewish tradition, as it is one of the five books of Moses, known as the Torah. The Torah is considered the most sacred text in Judaism and is read in synagogues around the world.

The Significance of Jerusalem

The city of Jerusalem is mentioned several times in the Book of Deuteronomy, and is considered to be a holy city in Judaism. It was the site of the Temple, which was the center of Jewish worship and sacrifice. Jerusalem is also important in Christianity and Islam, and is seen as a sacred city in both religions.

Mosaic Tradition and the New Generation

The Book of Deuteronomy is part of the Mosaic tradition, which is named after Moses, the central figure in the book. Moses is revered in Judaism as a prophet and leader, and his teachings and actions are considered to be divinely inspired.

The new generation of Jews who were about to enter the Promised Land was different from the previous generation that had left Egypt. They were born in the wilderness, and had not experienced the miracles and wonders that their parents had seen. Moses' speeches in Deuteronomy were aimed at reminding them of their history and their obligations to God.

The Ten Commandments
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Mosaic Law and the Book of the Law

The Book of Deuteronomy is also known as Debarim, which means "words" in Hebrew. It is considered to be a retelling of the Mosaic law, which was first given to the Israelites in the Book of Exodus. The Mosaic law is also known as the Book of the Law, and contains the instructions and commandments from Exodus, often focussed on in Bible studies.

The Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy

The Ten Commandments are a set of principles given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. They appear twice in scripture in full, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Ten Commandments are presented in a slightly different form than in Exodus. Here are the commandments as they appear in Deuteronomy 5:6-21:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

These commandments serve as the foundation for the moral code of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and continue to be relevant today for many as a guide for ethical behavior and worship.

Deuteronomy: The Book of Laws

The Book of Deuteronomy is a rich and complex text that contains many important themes and motifs. It provides historical context for the Israelites' journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, and contains detailed instructions for how to live in the land. It is also an important part of Jewish tradition and Christian theology, and continues to be studied and interpreted by scholars and theologians today.

If you are interested in more Bible books, you can quiz your Creatures from the Bible knowledge or explore the summaries of Genesis and Ecclesiastes. Additionally, discover the order of Old Testament books and New Testament books!

People Also Ask...

Do you have any burning biblical questions? You're not alone, so we've collected some common queries from other readers below.

What Does "Deuteronomy" Mean?

The word "Deuteronomy" is derived from the Greek phrase "Deuteronómion," which means "second law." This name refers to the book's repetition of many of the laws found in the previous books of the Torah.

What Is the Main Theme of Deuteronomy?

The main theme of Deuteronomy is the renewal of the covenant between God and the Israelites. Moses reminds the people of their history and the laws given to them by God. He focusses on obeying these guidances and warns of the consequences of disobedience.

What Are Some of the Key Laws Found in Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy contains many laws, including those related to worship, social justice, and morality. Some of the key laws include the Ten Commandments, the Shema prayer, the laws of the Sabbath and festivals, and the laws related to the treatment of foreigners and the poor.

Why Is Deuteronomy Important?

Deuteronomy is important because it contains many of the foundational laws and beliefs of Judaism and Christianity. It emphasizes the importance of following God's laws and living a moral and just life. Additionally, Deuteronomy is often quoted in the New Testament, particularly by Jesus and the apostles.

What Happens at the End of the Book of Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy concludes with the death of Moses. The final chapter describes how Moses climbed to the top of Mount Nebo, overlooking the Promised Land, before he died. The book ends with a tribute to Moses.

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Sources +

[1] What Does Deuteronomy Mean? Retrieved May 23, 2023 from

[2] Promised Land: Covenant with Abraham. Retrieved May 23, 2023 from