December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The fifth and last book of the Pentateuch is called Deuteronomy, meaning "second law." In reality, what it contains is not a new law but a partial repetition, completion and explanation of the law proclaimed on Mount Sinai. The historical portions of the book are also a resume of what is related elsewhere in the Pentateuch. The chief characteristic of this book is its vigorous oratorical style. In a series of eloquent discourses Moses presents the theme of covenant renewal in a vital liturgical framework. He exhorts, corrects and threatens his people, appealing to their past glory, their historic mission, and the promise of future triumph. His aim is to enforce among the Israelites the Lord's claim to their obedience, loyalty and love. The events contained in the Book of Deuteronomy took place in the plains of Moab (Deut 1:5) between the end of the wanderings in the desert (Deut 1:3) and the crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:19), a period of no more than forty days. The Book of Deuteronomy, written after the Israelites had for centuries been resident in the Land of Promise, takes the form of a testament of Moses, the great leader and legislator, to his people on the eve of his death. At the time of our Lord's coming, it shared with the Psalms a preeminent religious influence among the Old Testament books. The Savior quoted passages of Deuteronomy in overcoming the threefold temptation of Satan in the desert (Mat 4; Deut 6:13, 16; 8:3; 10:20), and in explaining to the lawyer the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:35-39; Deut 6:4).
The book is divided as follows:
- Historical Review and Exhortation (Deut 1:1-4:43)
- God and His Covenant (Deut 4:44-11:32)
- Exposition of the Law (Deut 12:1-26, 19)
- Final Words of Moses (Deut 27:1-34:12)
Table of Contents Numbers: Chapter 36 Next Chapter
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