Book of Deuteronomy

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Deuteronomy or Devarim (literally "things" or "words") is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fifth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch.

The book consists of three sermons or speeches delivered by Moses, a recounting of the law (thought to be the Book of the Covenant found in Josiah's time), and supplementary material, including an account of Moses' death.[]

Theologically the book constitutes the renewing of the covenant between YHWH, the God of Israel, and the "Children of Israel".

One of its most significant verses is considered to be Deuteronomy 6:4, which constitutes the Shema, a definitive statement of Jewish identity: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD (YHWH) (is) our God, the LORD is one."

Traditionally seen as recording the words of God given to Moses,[] some liberal modern biblical scholars see it as the work of many authors, probably originating during religious reforms carried out under king Josiah.[]



In Hebrew the book is called Devarim, דְּבָרִים, "[spoken] words",[] taken from the opening phrase Eleh ha-devarim, "These are the words...". The English title is derived from the Greek Deuteronomion (Δευτερονόμιον) and Latin Deuteronomium, both meaning "second law", from the Septuagint's mistranslation of the Hebrew phrase mishneh ha-torah ha-zot, "a copy of this law", in Deuteronomy 17:18, as to deuteronomion touto - "this second law".


See Also Books of the Old Testament

Deuteronomy consists of 34 chapters and is in the genre of a farewell address (in this case) of Moses to the Israelites in the plains of Moab before their entry into the Promised Land.[]

Second sermon or speech

See also:

*Va'etchanan, on Deuteronomy 3-7: Cities of refuge, Ten Commandments, exhortation, conquest instructions
*Eikev, on Deuteronomy 7-11: Obedience, taking the land, golden calf, Aaron’s death, Levites’ duties Deuteronomy 4:44-11:32forms a second introduction, expanding on the Ethical Decalogue given at Mount Sinai.

Reproclamation of the divine law

See also:
*Re'eh, on Deuteronomy 11-16: Centralized worship, diet, tithes, sabbatical year, pilgrim festivals
*Shoftim, on Deuteronomy 16-21: Basic societal structure for the Israelites
*Ki Teitzei, on Deuteronomy 21-25: Miscellaneous laws on civil and domestic life
*Ki Tavo, on Deuteronomy 26-29: First fruits, tithes, blessings and curses, exhortation

Deuteronomy 12-[[26is the Deuteronomic Code, a series of mitzvot (commands), forming extensive laws, admonitions, and injunctions to the Israelites regarding how they ought to conduct themselves in Canaan, the land promised by the God of Israel. The laws include (listed here in no particular order):

  • The worship of God must remain pure, uninfluenced by neighbouring cultures and their idolatrous religious practices. The death penalty is prescribed for conversion from Yahwism and for proselytisation.
  • The death penalty is also prescribed for males who are guilty of disobeying their parents, profligacy, or drunkenness.
  • Certain Dietary principles are enjoined.
  • The law of rape prescribes various conditions and penalties, depending on whether the girl is engaged to be married or not, and whether the rape occurs in a town or in the country. (Deuteronomy 22)
  • A Tithe for the Levites and charity for the poor.
  • A regular Jubilee Year during which all debts are cancelled.
  • Slavery can last no more than 6 years if the individual purchased is "thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman."
  • Yahwistic religious festivals—including Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot—are to be part of Israel's worship
  • The offices of Judge, King, Kohen (temple priest), and Prophet are instituted
  • A ban against worshipping Asherah next to altars dedicated to YHWH, and the erection of sacred stones
  • A ban against children either being immolated or passing through fire (the text is ambiguous as to which is meant), divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spellcasting, and necromancy
  • A ban forbidding blemished animals from becoming sacrifices at the Temple
  • Naming of three cities of refuge where those accused of manslaughter may flee from the avenger of blood.
  • Exemptions from military service for the newly betrothed, newly married, owners of new houses, planters of new vineyards, and anyone afraid of fighting.
  • The peace terms to be offered to non-Israelites before battle - the terms being that they are to become slaves
  • The Amalekites to be utterly destroyed
  • An order for parents to take a stubborn and rebellious son before the town elders to be stoned.
  • A ban on the destruction of fruit trees, the mothers of newly-born birds, and beasts of burden which have fallen over or are lost
  • Rules which regulate marriage, and Levirate Marriage, and allow divorce.
  • The procedure to be followed if a man suspects that his new wife is not a virgin: if the wife's parents are able to prove that she was indeed a virgin then the man is fined; otherwise the wife is stoned to death.[]
  • Purity laws which prohibit the mixing of fabrics, of crops, and of beasts of burden under the same yoke.
  • The use of Tzitzit (tassels on garments)
  • Prohibition against people who are of illegitimate birth, and even their descendants to the tenth generation, from entering the house of the lord; the same restriction upon those who are castrated (but not their descendants)
  • Regulations for ritual cleanliness, general hygiene, and the treatment of Tzaraath
  • A ban on religious prostitution
  • Regulations for slavery, servitude, vows, debt, usury, and permissible objects for securing loans
  • Prohibition against wives making a groin attack on their husband's adversary.
  • Regulations on the taking of wives from among beautiful female captives.[]
  • A ban on transvestism.[]
  • Regulations on military camps, including a cleanliness regime for soldiers who have had wet dreams and procedures for the burial of human excrement.[]

Instructions concerning the covenant renewal and Shechem

See also:
*Ki Tavo, on Deuteronomy 26-29: First fruits, tithes, blessings and curses, exhortation

Deuteronomy 27-28 sets out sanctions against breaking the law, blessings to the obedient, and curses on the rebellious. The Israelites are solemnly adjured to adhere faithfully to the covenant, and so secure for themselves, and for their posterity, the promised blessings.

Third sermon or speech

See also:
*Ki Tavo, on Deuteronomy 26-29: First fruits, tithes, blessings and curses, exhortation
*Nitzavim, on Deuteronomy 29-30: covenant, violation, choose blessing and curse

Deuteronomy 29-30 contains the renewal of the covenant between God and the Israelites, which is conditional upon the people remaining loyal to YHWH. By the direction of YHWH, Moses then appoints Joshua as his heir to lead the people into Canaan. He writes down the law and gives it to the Priests, commanding them to read it before all Israel at the end of every seven years, during the Feast of Booths.

Supplementary Material

See also:
*Vayelech, on Deuteronomy 31: Encouragement, reading and writing the law
*Haazinu, on Deuteronomy 32: Punishment, punishment restrained, parting words
*V'Zot HaBerachah, on Deuteronomy 33-34: Farewell blessing and death of Moses

Deuteronomy 31-34

Image:Tissot Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar.jpg
Moses depicted viewing the Promised Land, as in Deuteronomy 34:1-5.

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