This commentary deals with the key theological themes and motifs of Deuteronomy. For background information about the cities and geographical locations mentioned in these verses, see the standard introductions, dictionaries, and encyclopedias (e.g., IOT, NBC, HBD, NLBC). Key Hebrew words and phrases in the Hebrew text will be discussed only when they help our understanding of the theological message.
Much of Deuteronomy was first delivered orally and then put into writing. Its skillful poetics and documentary structure indicate this dual origin. Its admonitory and sermonic material is especially geared to encourage and persuade its readers to complete commitment to the Lord and his proffered covenant.
In the book's brief introduction the words “all that the Lord had commanded [Moses]” indicate that this is the major theme. In about eighty words the author sets the scene for Moses' speeches of all that the Lord [Yahweh] had commanded him concerning Israel.
There is no more powerful concept in the OT than Yahweh's word. In Genesis his word calls forth the creation. In both Ex 20:1-17 and Dt 5:6-21 the Ten Commandments of Yahweh outline the ethical-religious order for Israel in which she was to live. The words of Yahweh are literally Israel's life (32:47): not merely her physical, material life; but above all, her ethical-religious life (6:25).
The words Moses delivers are the words spoken to all Israel in Moab. Priests, Levites, kings, judges, elders, and leaders are all considered to be brothers of the one nation, the people of God. The writer stresses that these words were delivered in the region east of the Jordan. Israel, therefore, knew them and committed herself to them before crossing the Jordan. She bound herself ethically-religiously to do them.
As Moses delivers and explains the words of God, he includes a historical review so that Israel might learn from the theological and historical lessons of the past. His words about the past enlighten Israel's present and also her future.