“Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar,” by James Tissot
The word “deuteronomy” comes from the Greek words deuteros (δεύτερος), which means “second,” and nomos (νόμος), which means “law.” At the end of Moses’ life, after wandering in the wilderness for forty years, he gave the children of Israel his final words of instruction to help them as they entered the promised land. He repeated and elaborated on the law he had delivered at the beginning of their journey. Thus, these final words are called the book of Deuteronomy: the second law, or the repetition of the law.
The book contains three discourses followed by the recounting of a few final events in Moses’ life:
- First Discourse (Deuteronomy 1-4): Moses reminds the people of their experiences in the wilderness and urges them to keep the commandments they have received.
- Second Discourse (Deuteronomy 5-26), in two parts:
- A recitation and discussion of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5-11)
- A new set of laws to follow in the promised land (Deuteronomy 12-26)
- Third Discourse (Deuteronomy 27-30): Moses explains the blessings the people will receive if they obey God’s law and the cursings they will receive if they disobey. The people covenant to obey the law of God.
- Final Events (Deuteronomy 31-34): Moses delivers the law to the Levites and calls Joshua to lead the people. He writes a song and shares it with the people, blesses each of the tribes, and then departs.
Here are some of the major themes in Deuteronomy, with relevant blog posts:
1. “These words…shall be in thine heart”
At the beginning of the second discourse, Moses recites the Ten Commandments, telling the people that God wants them to internalize these commandments. He wants His law to be in their hearts. (See Deuteronomy 5:28-29, 6:6.) God’s commandments don’t merely specify a minimum standard for behavior. Rather, they teach principles which help us become more like Him
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi alludes to this principle when he reads the Ten Commandments to the priests of King Noah. “I perceive that they are not written in your hearts,” he says (Mosiah 13:11).
2. “Man shall not live by bread alone”
Moses told the children of Israel that God gave them manna to teach them how He can nourish them (Deuteronomy 8:3). We can trust that His words are accurate, uplifting, and beneficial. And we should not be picky consumers of spiritual nourishment.
Jesus later referenced this teaching when the devil tempted Him to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger. (See Matthew 4:1-4.)
3. “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet…like unto me”
Moses prophesied of the coming of Jesus Christ and explained that we are accountable for our response to His words, just as we are always responsible to hearken to the words of God’s messengers (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
Nephi referenced this prophecy at the end of his first book, indicating that the Prophet Moses referenced was the Holy One of Israel (1 Nephi 22:20-21). When the Savior visited the American continent, He also referenced this passage, testifying that He was the Prophet Moses spoke of (3 Nephi 20:23). And Moroni quoted it to Joseph Smith when he charged Joseph with translating the Book of Mormon, saying that part of this prophecy had yet to be fulfilled (Joseph Smith—History 1:40).
- Who Is the “Prophet” that Moses Promised Would Come?
- I Am He of Whom Moses Spake – 3 Nephi 20:23-24
- “Cut Off from Among the People”
Here are some other principles I’ve learned from the book of Deuteronomy:
- God has promised that we will find Him if we seek Him with all our hearts (Deuteronomy 4:29) – Seeking the Lord Diligently – 1 Nephi 10:17-19.
- Correction from God is evidence that He loves us (Deuteronomy 8:5) – Chastened.
- Your attitude in giving is as important as the action of giving (Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10) – Not Grudgingly.
- The Lord cares about the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 24:19) – Widows and Orphans.
- We have all received signs, but we may not have perceived them (Deuteronomy 29:4) – Signs.
- If we trust the Lord to set everything right, then we can leave our bitterness and anger behind (Deuteronomy 32:35, Deuteronomy 32:43) – What Is the Meaning of the Phrase “Vengeance Is Mine?”
- At the end of Moses’ life, the people recognized what a blessing he had been to them. We should not take living prophets for granted (Deuteronomy 34:10-12): A Prophet