Well, it is typically viewed as the fifth book of Moses, and in Hebrews 10.28 the words of Deuteronomy 17.6 are quoted as “the law of Moses.” When Satan tempted Jesus during his desert fast, Jesus’ response to his lures were all from Deuteronomy (8.3; 6.16; 6.13). When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he quoted Deuteronomy 6.4-5: ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’ When quizzed by the Pharisees so as to entrap him on the topic of divorce, Jesus appeals to Deuteronomy 24.1. Jesus’ frequent use of Deuteronomy heightens its importance to us, as if we required any extra motivation for lesser known parts of scripture. In fact there are 30 direct Deuteronomic quotes in the New Testament plus 80 allusions to its teachings.
There are 3 phases or discourses that make up Deuteronomy and so give it its structure. It will be helpful to note the distinct tone changes and textures in the following as you read and study:
1. This phase is mainly an historical review of all that has taken place in the life of Israel from Mount Horeb or Sinai to their arrival in the land of Moab (1.6 – 4.43)
2. The second phase is the main phase of the book (chapters 5-28). This discourse begins by revisiting the Ten Commandments and it develops the first commandment with loads more detail, which is of great importance (chapters 5-11). Ceremonial (12.1–16.17), civil (16.18–18.22), criminal (19.1-21.9) and miscellaneous (21.10-25.19) laws are then unpacked at great length. This is all really important stuff. God spares no detail in helping them to consider what sort of people they should be. Each request by God is given so that Israel should live distinctively and uniquely amidst the nations they’ll encounter, so don’t dismiss these seemingly bizarre laws out of hand. (If you’re a keen bean, a good commentary on Deuteronomy will help you see the relevance of each of these bizarre commands – i.e. not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk [14.21] is something the Canaanites did to increase the fertility of their goat flocks in accordance with their religion. This is why Israel was not to do this. Israel was to trust the one true God for good flocks by following his covenant). Chapters 26-27 provide the practical application of all these laws. Chapter 28 then outlines the blessings and curses that will come Israel’s way depending on the decisions they make regarding them. If they obey and follow God, things will go well with them. If they do not follow God’s pattern for them, things will definitely go against them.
3. The third and final phase (chapters 29-30) is a plug to the Israelites to take this covenant with God on-board. It’s like a final rallying call to convince Israel of following God’s way of the covenant. Like with the main phase, this admonition seeks to make crystal clear that things will go very badly for Israel if they choose not to go God’s way. Conversely, life will be full and meaningful if they do. Choose life!