Book of Deuteronomy Introduction
In A Nutshell
If you've never seen Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, go watch it. Now. We'll wait.
[121 minutes of thumb twiddling]
You back? Great. Now go watch The Empire Strikes Back.
[124 more minutes of thumb twiddling]
Okay, ready? You just watched the Deuteronomy of Star Wars. It's got the same characters as the original, but this time, we learn more about their history and their place in the galactic universe. Same deal with Deuteronomy, just minus the galactic part. And minus being the best thing ever written.
Deuteronomy is narrated, for the most part, by Moses. Yep, that Moses. Some people actually say Moses wrote the book, but most scholars think that the writer(s) were just using Moses the character as a means to get their message across. Attributing the text to a hugely important cultural figure would give it more power, right? Think about if someone today came out with "George Washington's Lost Will." There'd be controversy, but you can bet that book would sell.
Once you sift through all the nitty-gritty laws and rules, the main message is that the Israelites should worship one god (6:4) in one place (14:25). That god is God, and—even though it's never named in the book—that place is Jerusalem. This message comes along with a retelling of the Exodus story, the tales of the Israelites in the book of Numbers, and the rules and regulations that will help the Israelites recapture their culture's essence.
Moses conveys all this through some pretty rousing and finger-pointing pep talks. Basically, the previous generation of Israelites failed big time, refusing to fight for the Promised Land. But after forty years of desert-wandering, a new generation brings new hope. And if these Israelites obey God, then they'll conquer the Promised Land. The whole book takes place at the Jordan River, while Moses motivates and warns them. Obey and win; disobey and lose—big time.
Why Should I Care?
Um, we've already heard all this stuff. Can't we just skip it?
Nope. Sorry. No skipping allowed.
Deuteronomy is the key to the entire Hebrew Bible. It's the bridge between the stories in Exodus and Numbers, the laws in Leviticus, and the narratives in Joshua, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. All of the Bible before Deuteronomy has been, in a narrative sense, leading up to the Israelites entering the Promised Land. They've fought, been enslaved, seen God's fire, messed up, died, and been given the law.
Now, in Deuteronomy, they're on the edge of the Promised Land, so close to their goal. But don't get too excited—Moses, their leader, makes them take a really long pause. He wants them to take a deep breath to reflect on where they've been (and think about what's to come). What better way to do that than by retelling the story?
And hey, if nothing else, Deuteronomy gives you a really good cram tool if you somehow missed the first four books of the Bible.