- A. Distrust in Yahweh—Failure to Take the Land (1:6–46)
- B. Israel Begins to Possess the Land (2:1–3:22)
- C. Yahweh Lets Moses See the Land (3:23–29)
- D. Moses Charges Israel to Take the Land (4:1–40)
- E. Moses Appoints Cities of Refuge East of the Jordan (4:41–43)
The passage 1:6-4:43 contains what some consider to be the first introduction to the laws that are to follow in chs. 12-26. According to this view, chs. 5-11 then serve as a second introduction to chs. 12-26. However, these two sections are better viewed as consecutive sections, the second one developing more fully certain key issues in the first. That is, in a crescendo of exhortation to all Israel, chs. 5-11 continue and develop certain issues briefly mentioned in 1:6-4:43.
The history of Israel that is narrated in 1:6-4:43 portrays Israel as a people of incorrigible unbelief in the face of Yahweh's persistent covenant faithfulness (2:7, 24-25, 29; 3:21; 4:29-31). Deuteronomy 1:6-46 is the classic example of Israel's pattern of failure. The Lord's discipline is recalled in 2:1, 14-15 and 8:5 as he tried to encourage and lead Israel to faith and action. On the other hand, 2:2-3:11 records Israel's success when the people followed Yahweh in faith. The result was the conquering and inheritance of the Transjordanian territory as Yahweh began (2:25) to give the land to Israel. Our author presents this narrative as a prelude to the anticipated possession of all the land west of the Jordan.
Ch. 4 sets forth the ethical-religious requirements for future possession of the land that Yahweh was giving to Israel (4:1-4). It begins to emphasize the necessity for Israelites to fulfill their divine vocational call, evidenced by the giving of God's unique Torah (4:5-8) and his historical interventions on their behalf (4:32-34). Their uniqueness and their righteousness depended on their faithfulness to the Lord (4:4, 9; 6:25), to their living wholly unto him. Without living according to his ethical-religious model, Israel could accomplish nothing. But Israel could find God even in a strange land if the people met the stated condition for this gracious restoration: “You will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (4:29).