The English title of this book is borrowed directly from its title in the Greek Septuagint Bible, Deuteronomion, meaning “Second Law” or “Second Torah.” Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book in the first section of the Hebrew Bible known as the Torah, Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses. Deuteronomy is organized as a series of speeches by Moses to the Israelites, in which he reminds them of their history as God's people and restates all the instructions, teachings, and regulations given to them by God (as recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers). With this “second Torah,” Moses reminds the people, just as they are poised to cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Canaan, of their amazing rescue from slavery by the grace of God and the providence that has brought them to this point. Moses stresses to them the crucial importance of gratitude to God for all that God has done since the Exodus and he warns them not to become prideful and “forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness” (8.15).
Moses reviews the Ten Commandments (5.1-21) and underlines for the people the supreme importance of the first commandment—to avoid the gods of Canaan, however potent they may seem, and to worship and serve the Lord God alone. He also reviews God's instructions for making the transition out of their desert wandering into a new settled life in Canaan where they will not be slaves. He rehearses what the covenant means for their lives and stresses faithfulness to it and to God who promises loyalty. This is the overriding theme of Deuteronomy—that God has graciously rescued and saved the chosen people and blessed them with the covenant and the commandments to help them order their daily living as a grateful response to God's grace. The most widely known and treasured passage in this book is Deuteronomy 6.4,5, known in Hebrew as the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” These are the words that, centuries later, Jesus would call the greatest of all commandments (Matt 22.37; Mark 12.29,30).
Setting the Scene (1.1-5a)
The First Speech: Moses Reviews the Israelites' History (1.5b—4.49)
The Second Speech: The Ten Commandments, Other Commandments, and Warnings(5.1—29.1)
The Third Speech: Renewing and Keeping the Covenant with God (29.2—30.20)
Moses' Final Words and Blessings, and the Death of Moses (31.1—34.12)