Jehovah’s Word Is Alive

Highlights From the Book of Deuteronomy

THE year is 1473 B.C.E. Forty years have passed since Jehovah delivered the sons of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Having spent these years in the wilderness, the Israelites are still a nation without a land. At last, though, they stand at the threshold of the Promised Land. What awaits them as they take possession of it? What problems will they encounter, and how should they deal with them?

Before Israel crosses the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, Moses prepares the congregation for the great task ahead. How? By delivering a series of discourses that encourage and exhort, admonish and warn. He reminds the Israelites that Jehovah God deserves exclusive devotion and that they must not follow the ways of the surrounding nations. These speeches make up the main part of the Bible book of Deuteronomy. And the counsel given in them is just what we need today, for we too live in a world in which giving Jehovah our exclusive devotion is a challenge.​—Hebrews 4:12.

Written by Moses except for the last chapter, the book of Deuteronomy covers a period of a little over two months. * (Deuteronomy 1:3; Joshua 4:19) Let us see how what is stated there can help us to love Jehovah God with all our heart and serve him faithfully.


(Deuteronomy 1:1–4:49)

In the first discourse, Moses recounts some of the wilderness experiences​—particularly those that will be helpful to the Israelites as they prepare to take  possession of the Promised Land. The account of the appointment of judges must have reminded them that Jehovah organizes his people in a way that ensures loving care. Moses also relates that the bad report of the ten spies led to the failure of the preceding generation to enter the land of promise. Think of the impact this warning example must have had on Moses’ listeners as that land lay before their very eyes.

Recalling the victories that Jehovah had given the sons of Israel before they crossed the Jordan must have infused them with courage as they stood ready to begin their conquest on the other side of the river. The land they were about to occupy was rife with idolatry. How fitting that Moses gives a stern warning against idol worship!

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:4-6, 9, 19, 24, 31-35; 3:1-6—Why did the Israelites annihilate some of the people who lived east of the Jordan but not others? Jehovah commanded Israel not to engage in strife with the sons of Esau. Why? Because they were the offspring of Jacob’s brother. The Israelites were not to molest or war against the Moabites and the Ammonites, for they were descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot. However, the Amorite Kings Sihon and Og had no such claims to the land under their control. Hence, when Sihon refused to let the Israelites pass through and Og came to meet them in battle, Jehovah commanded the Israelites to demolish their cities, leaving no survivors.

4:15-20, 23, 24—Does the prohibition against making carved images mean that it is wrong to make representations of objects for artistic purposes? No. The prohibition here was against making images for worship​—against ‘bowing down to idols and serving them.’ The Scriptures do not forbid carving sculptures or making paintings of objects for artistic purposes.​—1 Kings 7:18, 25.

Lessons for Us:

1:2, 19The sons of Israel wandered through the wilderness for some 38 years, even though Kadesh-barnea was only “eleven days from Horeb [the mountainous region around Mount Sinai where the Ten Commandments were given] by the way of Mount Seir.” What a price to pay for disobeying Jehovah God!​—Numbers 14:26-34.

1:16, 17God’s standards of judging are the same today. Those entrusted with the responsibility to serve on a judicial committee must not allow favoritism or fear of man to distort their judgment.

4:9. ‘Not forgetting the things that their eyes had seen’ was essential for Israel’s success. As the promised new world nears, it is vital that we too keep in front of us Jehovah’s wonderful deeds by being diligent students of his Word.


(Deuteronomy 5:1–26:19)

In his second speech, Moses recounts the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai and restates the Ten Commandments. Seven nations are specified for complete destruction. The sons of Israel are reminded of an important lesson they learned in the wilderness: “Not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” In their new situation, they must “keep the whole commandment.”​—Deuteronomy 8:3; 11:8.

As they settle in the land of promise, the Israelites will need laws not only regarding worship but also respecting judgment, government, war, and everyday social and private life. Moses reviews these laws and  emphasizes the need to love Jehovah and obey his commandments.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

8:3, 4—In what way did the Israelites’ clothing not wear out and their feet not become swollen during the wilderness trek? This was a miraculous provision, as was the regular supply of manna. The Israelites used the same garments and footwear they started out with, likely passing them on to others as children grew up and adults died. Since the two censuses taken at the beginning and at the end of the wilderness trek revealed that the number of Israelites did not increase, the original supply of these items would have been sufficient.​—Numbers 2:32; 26:51.

14:21—Why could the Israelites give to an alien resident or sell to a foreigner an unbled dead animal that they themselves would not eat? In the Bible, the term “alien resident” could refer to a non-Israelite who became a proselyte or to a settler who lived by basic laws of the land but who did not become a worshiper of Jehovah. A foreigner and an alien resident who did not become proselytes were not under the Law and could use unbled dead animals in various ways. The Israelites were permitted to give or sell such animals to them. The proselyte, on the other hand, was bound by the Law covenant. As indicated at Leviticus 17:10, such a person was forbidden to eat the blood of an animal.

24:6—Why was seizing “a hand mill or its upper grindstone as a pledge” likened to seizing “a soul”? A hand mill and its upper grindstone represented a person’s “soul,” or his means of life. Seizing either of these would deprive the entire family of its daily supply of bread.

25:9—What is significant about drawing the sandal off and spitting in the face of a man who refused to perform brother-in-law marriage? According to “the custom of former times in Israel concerning the right of repurchase . . . , a man had to draw his sandal off and give it to his fellow.” (Ruth 4:7) Drawing the sandal off a man who refused to perform brother-in-law marriage therefore confirmed that he had renounced his position and right to produce an heir for his deceased brother. This was disgraceful. (Deuteronomy 25:10) Spitting in his face was an act of humiliation.​—Numbers 12:14.

Lessons for Us:

6:6-9Just as the Israelites were commanded with respect to the Law, we too must know God’s commands by heart, keep them in front of us at all times, and inculcate them in our children. We must ‘tie them as a sign upon our hand’ in that our actions​—represented by our hands—​must show that we are obedient to Jehovah. And like ‘a frontlet band between the eyes,’ our obedience must be visible to all.

 6:16. May we never put Jehovah to the test as the Israelites faithlessly did at Massah, where they murmured about the lack of water.​—Exodus 17:1-7.

8:11-18Materialism can make us forget Jehovah.

9:4-6We must guard against self-righteousness.

13:6. We must not allow anyone to draw us away from the worship of Jehovah.

14:1. Self-mutilation shows disrespect for the human body, may be connected with false religion, and must be avoided. (1 Kings 18:25-28) Our hope in the resurrection makes such an extreme expression of mourning for the dead inappropriate.

20:5-7; 24:5. Consideration should be shown to those with special circumstances, even when the task at hand is important.

22:23-27One of the most effective defenses a woman has when she is threatened with rape is to scream.


(Deuteronomy 27:1–34:12)

In his third speech, Moses states that after crossing the Jordan, the Israelites must write the Law on great stones and also pronounce cursings for disobedience and blessings for obedience. The fourth discourse opens with the renewal of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel. Moses again warns against disobedience and exhorts the people to “choose life.”​—Deuteronomy 30:19.

In addition to giving the four discourses, Moses discusses the change of leadership and teaches the Israelites a beautiful song that praises Jehovah and warns of the woes resulting from unfaithfulness. After blessing the tribes, Moses dies at the age of 120 and is buried. The mourning period lasts 30 days, taking up nearly half of the time covered by Deuteronomy.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

32:13, 14—Since the Israelites were forbidden to eat any fat, what is meant by their eating “the fat of rams”? The expression is here used figuratively and denotes the best of the flock. Such poetic usage is indicated by the fact that the same verse speaks of “the kidney fat of wheat” and “the blood of the grape.”

33:1-29—Why was Simeon not specifically mentioned in the blessing with which Moses blessed the sons of Israel? This was because Simeon as well as Levi had acted “harshly,” and their anger was “cruel.” (Genesis 34:13-31; 49:5-7) Their inheritance was not quite the same as that of the other tribes. Levi received 48 cities, and Simeon’s portion was within Judah’s territory. (Joshua 19:9; 21:41, 42) Hence, Moses did not specifically bless Simeon. However, Simeon’s blessing was included in the general blessing to Israel.

Lessons for Us:

31:12. Young ones should sit with the grown-ups at congregation meetings and endeavor to listen and to learn.

32:4. All of Jehovah’s activities are perfect in that he expresses his attributes of justice, wisdom, love, and power in perfect balance.

Of Great Value to Us

Deuteronomy presents Jehovah as “one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) It is a book about a people in a unique relationship with God. The book of Deuteronomy also warns against idolatry and emphasizes the need to give the true God exclusive devotion.

Surely Deuteronomy is of great value to us! Though we are not under the Law, we can learn much from it that will help us to ‘love Jehovah our God with all our heart, soul, and vital force.’​—Deuteronomy 6:5.


^ par. 3 The last chapter, containing the record of the death of Moses, may have been added by Joshua or by High Priest Eleazar.

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Mt. Sinai (Horeb)

Red Sea

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Based on maps copyrighted by Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est. and Survey of Israel

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Moses’ discourses make up the main part of Deuteronomy

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What lesson is taught by Jehovah’s provision of manna?

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Seizing a hand mill or its upper grindstone as a pledge was likened to seizing “a soul”