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Deuteronomy means that the law was given again, to the generation that would actually enter the Promised Land. It is quoted often in the New Testament, and it’s written as a formal suzerainty-vassal treaty between God and the nation of Israel. But rather than just repeating the law, it teaches as well and includes some changes to reflect the consequences of Israel’s past failures. The book ends with the death of Moses and his replacement by Joshua.

Deu. 1

We see in verse 3 that this is the 40th year since leaving Egypt, so it’s Moses’ last act of guidance for Israel. Constable argues that the name Yahweh appears first in this book and signifies that it is the name most expressive of God’s covenant role with Israel. But the Greek text simply renders it kurios ho theos (the Lord God, the existing one), and it seems reasonable to assume that if Yahweh were a formal name, they would have transliterated it as such.

As you continue reading through this chapter, you’ll recognize a summary of past events. But notice in verse 39 that it mentions children who were not old enough to know good from bad. This is commonly referred to as the age of accountability, though many deny that the Bible teaches it, usually out of a misuse of Psalm 51:5 where David laments that he was sinful at birth. But that Psalm is clearly using hyperbole to express deep repentance over sin, such as in Job 3:1 where Job curses the day he was born. In this chapter, Moses is reminding the people of the time when their parents failed to trust God and thought they and their children would die in the wilderness, so the children are being declared innocent.

Deu. 2

We see in verse 11 another mention of the Raphaim, from which the Emites were descended. So while we can’t dismiss all the commands of God to wipe out even women and children as because they weren’t fully human, there certainly were quite a few who fit the description. Verse 14 tells us that the 40 years’ delay was for the military-age men to die off, so the reason for keeping them out is because they, as the army of Israel, were relying on their own strength instead of God’s demonstrated power.

Then in verse 20 we see mention of the Raphaim again, who were displaced by the Ammonites. We need to remember that history is filled with ’indigenous populations’ being displaced, so using that as an excuse to punish the current citizens of a land is not only ignorant but also proves we are no better.

Deu. 3

Here we’re given a little more detail about King Og of Bashan. There is disagreement over whether verse 11 is talking about his bed or his sarcophagus, but it was over 13 feet long and 6 feet wide. Notice verse 26 where Moses has asked God one too many times if he could please enter the Promised Land, and God retorts, Enough of that! The phrase is sometimes rendered as something like Let it be sufficient for you— which should sound familiar to us, since God told Paul the same thing about the thorn in his flesh in 2 Cor. 12:9. It’s possible that God was not being as gentle with Paul as we’ve always assumed. The point is that even God’s patience is limted.

Deu. 4

Now in ch. 4 we again see the conditional nature of this covenant (”so that”). So Moses has to remind them of their history with God, the God who has no equal or rival, who proved that he doesn’t play favorites when it comes to sin, since he punished Moses for striking the rock instead of speaking to it, though the people provoked him.

But starting in verse 25 is a prediction as much as a warning: Should Israel stray to other gods in the future, they will be exiled from the land, but God will hear them if they sincerely repent and seek him out. The reason for this mercy is in verse 31: God keeps his promises no matter what. This is an over-arching principle forgotten and despised by replacement theologists of all kinds. The covenant God swore to keep can never be revoked, and it concerned physical descendants living on physical land. Some of those promises still remain to be fulfilled.

Starting in verse 32 is God’s own testimony of his unique relationship with this nation, proved by his actions over and over, and how this backs up his claim to be the one and only God— not one of millions as the false religions teach. According to Constable, verse 37 is the first formal declaration of Israel as God’s chosen people— a choice not made due to their exemplary character, but to God’s unilateral promises to Abraham.

National election does not guarantee individual salvation but physical blessings and the means by which the Saviour would come. The purpose of God’s statements is to reveal the character of this perfect and holy God, who in spite of the sins and faults of his people, will keep his promises even if only a fraction of them remain in the end. Israel is under contract as a nation or one entity, though it is made up of individuals. We cannot and must not confuse the two; what God says to a group is not necessarily said to the people as individuals. We see this also in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation; they had collective issues with individual exceptions. Otherwise, Jesus would only have addressed individuals.

Deu. 5

After verse 40, Moses gives the law to the people for the last time— the final form of the legal contract. Note especially verses 2-3, where Moses states point blank that this covenant is not the one with their ancestors, but with the nation as composed of the twelve tribes who were standing there at this time. This hardly means that we can ignore the character of God and his revelation of what he wants from us, namely our willing return of his love. But it does mean that we are not under this covenant. Certainly we all know that taking what does not belong to us is against the character of God, but we are not the nation of Israel with a conditional, two-party contract.

So the over-arching lesson for everyone is to teach us what God wants from us: gratitude, humility, compassion, holiness, and consistency. This what Jesus taughtas well; love God and people, treat others as you wish they’d treat you. And Paul, writing to the Romans, said that love fulfills the law, because love does no harm to a neighbor. Those are the universal laws, outside of any covenant. They are the underlying moral base for the national laws of Israel, but in no way does that make us Israel in any sense at all. They were charged with modeling God’s character to the other nations, to the smallest detail of their lives.

Now for some brief observations on the Ten Commandments in verse 15, since these have already been covered in the study of Exodus. Constable points out a difference between the fourth Commandment here and the one in Exodus 20:11. Before, the reason for observing the Sabbath was that God made the world in six days; here in verse 15 it’s to remind them of their trek out of Egypt as another act of creation: the nation of Israel.

Deu. 6

This is where we find what Jesus called the greatest commandment: to love God with more than mere outward conformity. The heart was believed to be where our thoughts originated, the soul was the invisible source of the will and personality, and of course strength was the physical, outwardly-visible person. So this means to love God with every part of our being, to act from relationship rather than legalistic obligation.

Again, this doesn’t mean either that outward performance was optional for Israel on the one hand, or that outward performance is mandatory for the church on the other. Rather, both have one thing in common: a relationship between Creator and creature, not some cold stimulus-response mechanism. Actions can be done without the heart, but they will always follow the heart. Or as Jesus put it, your heart will be where your treasure is. The difference between forced and voluntary compliance is like the difference between a teacher who is only there for a paycheck, and a teacher who genuinely cares about the students and wants to see them excel. God wants our hearts, not our completed checklists.

There are some good points in Constable’s notes about practicing what we preach, and living like we have this relationship in mind. But it raises the question of passing down more than rules and traditions to the next generation; how do we pass down our convictions? It isn’t just a simple matter of making rules and following them slavishly, but of explaining why we do what we do. Because I say so or It’s our tradition are not valid explanations. There are certainly times or situations where explanations will have to wait, but we should make the best of every opportunity to give good reasons for our beliefs and actions. If what we believe and do is right, our children will pick up on that— just as they will also pick up our faults.

Deu. 7

Chapters 7-11 give practical exampes of how Israel was to carry out the covenant. Sometimes this would include some pretty harsh actions, which is part of their being chosen. Being chosen doesn’t mean people can do whatever they want or that they won’t have to do any unpleasant tasks— which brings us to verse 7, where God explicitly states what it means: I didn’t choose you because of your superiority, but in spite of it. God has shown time and again that it’s only due to his patience and mercy that they exist at all. In the same way, we as Christians should not think that we enjoy God’s blessings because we deserve them, any more than we should point fingers at the suffering of others and say they deserve it.

Deu. 8

Chapter 8 verse 3 is where we see one of the scriptures Jesus used to resist the devil during his temptation in the wilderness: Man does not live by bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God. Here again we see the spirit of the law, and the physical blessings to Israel for willing obedience— or punishment for rebellion, as good parents discipline their wayward children. Blessings are not to be taken for granted, nor lessons of discipline forgotten.

Deu. 9

Here God gives the justification for Israel’s impending elimination of the nations in Canaan. Verses 4-6 state that it is only because those nations are so evil that God is having Israel wipe them out, not because Israel is so good. In fact, God calls them a stubborn people, hardly the kind of thing a Jewish writer would invent. This brutal honesty is one of the many pieces of evidence against the claim that the Bible is fiction. This point is driven home through the end of the chapter.

Deu. 10-11

These two chapters are a reminder that Israel had broken the original covenant, but that God graciously allowed it to be repaired, albeit with some glue this time. He could have legally divorced Israel but instead chose to give them another chance, mostly due to Moses’ intercession. All he ever wanted from them is to be kind and faithful, and they had no excuse for failing to meet that demand, especially since they had seen God’s great deeds with their own eyes.

Deu. 12-14

There’s a nice chart in Constable’s notes showing how each of the Ten Commandments is fleshed out in chapters 12 through 25, which is what we’d expect of a formal suzerain treaty of the time.

Near the end of ch. 12 is another lesson for us: The Israelites were never to study the religious practices of other nations, because of the danger of adopting their practices. Many Christians have been ensnared by a morbid curiosity of other religions under the pretense of knowing our enemy. Entire ministries are devoted to the detailed study of the occult, only to subconsciously weave it into their own interpretation of scripture. Others study religions claiming to be restorations of— or improvements on— the New Testament, but they aren’t anchored strongly enough on the truth, so they compromise because they want to accept everyone.

On an individual level, we also tend to do this with relationships; we think we can change someone or overlook serious issues, and as a result we tolerate or adopt many sins. Instead of putting on the full armor of God, we wear the skin of the chameleon, and we become like the bland salt Jesus warned about. Then, when the fake prophets come along as tests from God, we fall like the house built on sand in one of Jesus’ parables. Plants that spread quickly in shallow ground are easy to pull up, and so are Christians who spend their time running from one intriguing spiritual teaching to the next.

Deu. 15-18

Another lesson can be found in verse 11, where God says that there will always be poor people in the land. Critics jump to the conclusion that God is cold-hearted or powerless or imaginary, since otherwise there would never be poor, sick, or injured people. But as with false prophets, these were permitted in Israel to test the faithfulness of the better-off. Can we be like forgetful Israel and presume that God is not performing his duties properly, or that he won’t give fair compensation in the eternity?

But someone will object that verse 4 says there won’t be any poor in Israel. Yet there are always conditions, per the if in verse 5, in this case that all Israel is living in obedience to the laws. So verse 11 simply assumes that they will fail to some degree through the generations to come.

There is another gem in 17:3, where the Bible expressly forbids the worship of the sun, moon, or anything else in the sky. Critics claim that the Bible is all about sun worship since Jesus is the Son of God, which even on its face is an absurd and ignorant linguistic fallacy. They ignore explicit teachings like this in favor of their cherry-picked connect the dots game. But it’s even more tragic that so many Christians cannot point this out, because they don’t know the scriptures any better than the critics— and sometimes, less so.

A word about prejudice

I will follow the example of scripture by not overlooking the sins of Constable on the topic of women. I’ve sung his praises for the most part so far, but the time has come to get in his face about a terrible sin. In his notes he makes a statement about the need for credible witnesses so justice would be served at all times, then adds, without comment, a quote from Josephus that claims Moses said women and servants were never to be considered credible witnesses.

I would have expected Constable to at least cite Judge Deborah, who was the top official in Israel and a prophet who spoke for God as any male prophet did. We could also cite Esther, whose testimony and wisdom were proven very credible and accepted as such by a society that had even less regard for women. Or what of the ideal woman of Proverbs 31, who is known for her wisdom? Or Abigail, wife of a man whose name meant fool, whose wisdom and bravery saved her clan and eventually got her married to King David?

Both Josephus and Constable should be ashamed of themselves for their prejudice and sin of omission. Sadly, this sort of treachery against half the human race is promoted and enshrined to this day, by most of the Christian world. If you search on articles about women in the Bible, or the judges and prophets of Israel, you will be hard-pressed to find any honest and complete studies. The seminaries churn out Christian leaders with this doctrine of devils, and the bookstores are filled with their ungodly elevation of the flesh.

Especially egregious is the common claim that women like Deborah or Huldah were only chosen because no suitable men were available, so God was either scraping the bottom of the barrel or shaming the men. But scripture never even hints at such a thing; it is pure speculation, putting words in God’s mouth that he never uttered. All who do this will be put to shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Since God promised curses to Israel if they became like the nations around them, what will he do to Christians who bow to the cultural prejudices of the world?

Even so, there’s a nice chart in his notes about the functions of priests as compared to prophets, but it should serve as another indictment for the omission of Huldah as a teacher of scripture since she fits the Priest category. Even if merely a prophet, she delivered authoritative messages from God, which has been almost completely forbidden for Christian women.

Deu. 19-20

Verse 19 states that a false accuser was to be punished with the verdict they had hoped to bring against the accused. This would be an excellent deterrent to a common problem today. Then in 20:18 God gives the clear reason why not one living thing was to remain in the Canaanite cities: that Israel would learn the detestable worship practices of the survivors. But notice also in these war passages that not every enemy outside of Canaan was to be wiped out completely, because they were more distant and less of a threat of corruption.

Deu. 21

Verse 10 begins a section on wives, and again God shows that he is not bowing to culture by treating female captives of war as garbage. A captured woman is to be granted a month to mourn the family she left behind, either by death or separation, and the man who captured her is not to touch her until that time is completed. Even if the man chooses not to keep her, he can’t sell her. Both of these things kept society’s granting of male privilege from going too far. At least Constable’s comments on this passage are tolerable.

Since it’s quite unlikely that Israel would have learned any lessons from the favored wife problems of the patriarchs, God has to regulate polygamy, another cultural norm he never sanctioned. Then the topic is a rebellious son, but Constable has to presume that it would also apply to a rebellious daughter. And again, this is talking about a habitual problem, not an occasional lapse by the son, or a moment of rage on the part of the parents.

In the final section of ch. 21, it says that the body of a person who has been executed for a crime is to be hung on a tree but buried before sundown. This is where we read about a curse on anyone hung on a tree, and Constable points out that this hanging was the result— not the cause— of that curse. This is something to keep in mind when reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ execution.

Deu. 22

In ch. 22 we see a very brief but overly emphasized prohibition against men and women wearing each other’s clothes. At the time, such a practice was mostly for occult or magical reasons, not the modern concept of cross-dressing. Of course, the blurring of sexes is condemned in both Testaments, but it should also be known that both men and women wore long robes in those days and in that culture, such that dresses as we know them aren’t what Moses had in mind.

This seems to be part of the overarching theme of separation, which is the meaing of holiness. Critics love to pick out verses like this and wave them in the faces of Christians who wear cotton-polyester blends, or plant a garden with more than one type of seed. They don’t seem to understand context or covenants, much less the principle behind the separation, which is ultimately that Israel was to be distinct from all other nations.

Now back to women issues, and again the slanted playing field as defined by culture. At least God looks out for the woman falsely accused of being promiscuous. But in spite of the general law of making false accusers suffer the fate of the accused, in the case of a husband who has falsely accused his wife he is not to be put to death as she would have been if guilty. Instead, he has to pay a heavy fine to her father, and he can never divorce her. But remember that in that society it would have been a favorable outcome for her, since had the man been put to death, she would likely be impoverished.

The remainder of ch. 22 deals with various circumstances of rape, and verse 30 is the likely reference for the scathing rebuke in 1 Cor. 5 about a man sleeping with his stepmother. Though not identical situations, the principle seems the same, and in the case of the Corinthians, even the Gentiles were shocked that anyone would do this.

Before we go on, there’s an interesting statement in Constable’s notes, that passages concerning women and marriage require discernment as to whether the rules are cultural, temporary, bendable, or the opposite of all that. Only now, after having earlier disparaged all women of all cultures for all time as being unfit to serve as witnesses, does he consider the importance of context. The driving force of such an inconsistent approach to scripture is fear, since women as equals would mean men are not automatically entitled to privileges and power.

This is part of the larger issue of the plain reading method, where words are lifted off the page without regard to context, common sense, or consideration of the scriptures as a whole. Some live in the fear that if we need to rightly divide the Word of Truth instead of skimming it off the surface, then we’re opening the door to disrespect of scripture and all kinds of heresies. But in fact it’s the plain reading method (I call it the lazy reading method) that disrespects scripture, treating it as if it had been written in a cultural and linguistic vacuum. To wrongly divide the scripture is to divide the Body of Christ.

We should also mention the issue of polygamy, since many point to these ancient laws of Israel and note that God regulated it instead of forbidding it. But that would be severely regressive, since God via Israel was trying to lift up the human race, not keep it in bondage. Many, but not all, have come to realize the inherent injustice and inhumanity of slavery, yet refuse to let go of patriarchy, which is only different in degree rather than kind. There is simply no excuse anymore, especially among professing Christians, to claim entitlement on the basis of the flesh.

Deu. 23

Moving on to rules about personal hygiene, especially regarding when the army is camped somewhere, we see again that substances leaving the body are seen as unclean because they signify some kind of abnormality. But Constable decided to throw in a little Calvinism here and claim that it signifies total depravity. Who can say, as he does, that there is nothing good in man, when scripture speaks of righteous people like Abraham or Mary? Never let an aberrant ideology drive interpretation of scripture.

Verse 18 is the rule against giving money to the temple that would be considered ill-gotten gains, which was the likely command the Pharisees had in mind when they hypocritically wouldn’t put Judas’ betrayal fee into the treasury. Many try to rationalize vices such as gambling or profits from shady business deals by giving generously to charity. Some of the worst criminals in history were philanthropists, because public charity tends to get people to overlook hidden crimes. The end does not justify the means.

Deu. 24

On that happy note, we’re back to women’s issues again. Few teachings have ruined as many lives as that Jesus forbade any and all divorce except for unfaithfulness, as skimmed from the surface of Mat. 5:32 and 19:9. To his credit, Constable brings up the context of those passages, which was that two rabbis were at odds over the precise meaning of the law here. One claimed that Moses permitted no-fault divorce, which would allow a man to dump his wife for no reason, likely because he wanted someone younger and prettier. The other claimed that Moses’ intent was that some kind of sexual sin would be required to justify divorce.

Many still miss the big picture here about compassion. A couple already divorced in relationship should not be forced to stay together. But on the other extreme, women are not to be treated as dispensable toys. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to take sides in their legalistic debate, and Jesus simply stated the law as written, meaning he took the conservative, compassionate side. He was rebuking their heartlessness, not enforcing it.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing have been teaching that God demands women stay with even the most abusive husbands, even to the point of death, because this is somehow suffering for Jesus. Such twisted, cold-blooded misogyny! Jesus never taught that believers should expect persecution from other believers. The blood of murdered, maimed, or verbally abused wives is on the hands of those who have twisted Jesus’ words. God is no respecter of persons. At least Constable brings up Paul’s teachings on the matter for Christians, and that what God permits is not necessarily what God intended. If only he would apply that truth across the board.

Verse 16 says that children and parents are not to be executed for each other’s crimes. What does that do to the Calvinistic teaching that God holds us all guilty for the sins of Adam and Eve? How could God’s law be more compassionate and just than God? Guilt cannot be inherited, though consequences can spread to the innocent. We’ll see this principle again in Ezekiel 18.

Deu. 25-29

In this section we see the teaching about keeping inheritances intact by making sure there are male heirs. This is the law the Sadducees used to try and trap Jesus, by the hypothetical case of a woman who eventually went through seven brothers, so whose wife would she be in heaven? They didn’t believe in life after death, so they tried to use this law to prove their belief. But what the modern western mind objects to is the idea that anyone would be forced by law to marry someone they don’t love. Here again, culture differences need to be understood, or we misapply them as moral lessons.

From this point, the text goes into various civil remedies and the tithing system, and the repeated agreement of the people of Israel with the law. By ch. 28 we see the lists of blessings and curses, and we would remind Hebrew Roots believers that you can’t have one without the other. Who would want to trade salvation by faith under the light burden of the priesthood of Jesus, for the 613 laws of Moses with its curses for breaking them? History has shown that these curses were very literal and physical. Is this trading of the easy for the impossible not the same as Esau despising his birthright?

Deu. 30-34

Now in ch. 30 God expresses the final end to which even the most defeated and scattered Israelites could look in hope. The day has not yet been reached when all of these promises have been fulfilled, but we can rest assured they will be, literally and physically on this earth. Verse 19 is a final appeal to choose wisely, an impossible task for the Calvinist interpretation.

In 31:14 it’s time for Moses to hand over his job and authority to Joshua, and God tells them that Israel will quickly sink back into idolatry, in spite of everything. Then in verse 24 he has Moses write down the law on a scroll and put it beside the Ark of the Covenant as a written witness against the people when they rebel. On top of that, Moses calls heaven and earth as witnesses.

In 34:4 God has Moses ascend to the top of Mt. Nebo so he can see the Promised Land, and then he dies. He is buried in the land of Moab but no one knows precisely where, which implies that God buried him himself. But if we consider the laws of Moses his last will and testament, his death made it active and the people were legally bound at that point.


This brings us to the end of Deuteronomy, and the end of the Pentateuch or Torah. The Torah explains the origin of the world, the weakness of humans regarding sin and separation from our Creator, and the Creator’s merciful plan to restore it all without violating his character, which is not mere raw sovereignty but also compassion and patience regarding our free will to do stupid things. To only know the end of the story is to be ignorant of the story, so this beginning of the Bible should be familiar to Christians at least on the basic level.

From this point on, the scriptures describe the steps between the foundation and the pinnacle, and the journey is as important as the destination. So we can’t leave the theater at the end of the overture, nor enter the theater at the final act. The Bible is a unit, and a book many have died to preserve. Let’s at least treat those devout martyrs with some respect by holding the Bible in high esteem, not merely with words but with actions.

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