In the fortieth year after Israel had been brought out of Egypt, in the fifth month, Aaron died on Mount Hor (Numbers 33:38-39). In the next few months they moved camp several times and eventually arrived and camped in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan river opposite the city of Jericho (verses 40-50). Here they received final instructions and commandments before entering the promised land from Yahweh through Moses:
Numbers 36:13 WEB
These are the commandments and the ordinances which Yahweh commanded by Moses to the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.
Notice this scripture in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy:
These are the words of the covenant which Yahweh commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.
So here Yahweh commands Moses to make another covenant with the people of Israel – ‘besides (in addition to, as well as) the covenant made at Horeb (Sinai)’ – here in Moab, 39 years later! Also take notice that these words of the book of Deuteronomy are ‘the words (terms) of this covenant’.
Deuteronomy 1:1-5 WEB
These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah over against Suph, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
2 It is eleven days’ [journey] from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.
3 It happened in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that Yahweh had given him in commandment to them;
4 after he had struck Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth, at Edrei.
5 Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,
Deuteronomy 31:9 WEB
Moses wrote this law, and delivered it to the priests the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, and to all the elders of Israel.
Deuteronomy 31:24-26 WEB
It happened, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, saying,
26 Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of Yahweh your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.
Deuteronomy 29:21 LEB
And Yahweh will single him out for calamity out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant written in the scroll of this law.
Here we see that when Moses had written all the words in a book, that this ‘book of the law’ was placed ‘by the side of the ark’ – not inside it! Inside the ark were the tablets of stone of the Sinai covenant, this was placed at the side – just as the covenant being made in Moab was ‘beside (as well as, in addition to)’ the one made at Sinai.
Notice the making of this covenant made between Yahweh and the people ‘this day’, prior to them crossing over into the promised land – this is how they were expected to conduct themselves in the promised land.
Deuteronomy 29:10-15 WEB
You stand this day all of you before Yahweh your God; your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel,
11 your little ones, your wives, and your foreigner who is in the midst of your camps, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water;
12 that you may enter into the covenant of Yahweh your God, and into his oath, which Yahweh your God makes with you this day;
13 that he may establish you this day to himself for a people, and that he may be to you a God, as he spoke to you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
14 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath,
15 but with him who stands here with us this day before Yahweh our God, and also with him who is not here with us this day
They were to be His people and He was to be their God just as He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
However, Yahweh had told both Moses and Aaron that they were not to be allowed to lead the people over into the promised land because of the incident of ‘striking the rock’:
Numbers 20:8-12 WEB
Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak you to the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water; and you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock; so you shall give the congregation and their cattle drink.
9 Moses took the rod from before Yahweh, as he commanded him.
10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?
11 Moses lifted up his hand, and struck the rock with his rod twice: and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle.
12 Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, Because you didn’t believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.
So Aaron had died and Moses was about to die also:
Numbers 33:38-39 WEB
Aaron the priest went up into Mount Hor at the commandment of Yahweh, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month.
39 Aaron was one hundred twenty-three years old when he died in Mount Hor.
Deuteronomy 34:5-7 WEB
So Moses the servant of Yahweh died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of Yahweh.
34:6 He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth Peor: but no man knows of his tomb to this day.
34:7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
Now before Moses died he put together what is generally termed ‘the law of Moses’, the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
As we will see the book of Deuteronomy was effectively a shortened summary of the whole ‘law of Moses’ – ‘the book of the law’ which was placed beside the ark of the covenant.
Moses instruction to the people before he died was:
Deuteronomy 29:9 WEB
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.
Deuteronomy 31:9-11 WEB
Moses wrote this law, and delivered it to the priests the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, and to all the elders of Israel.
10 Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of [every] seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tents,
11 when all Israel is come to appear before Yahweh your God in the place which he shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
Deuteronomy 32:46-47 WEB
He said to them, Set your heart to all the words which I testify to you this day, which you shall command your children to observe to do, [even] all the words of this law.
47 For it is no vain thing for you; because it is your life, and through this thing you shall prolong your days in the land, where you go over the Jordan to possess it.
We encourage the reader make a study of the book of Deuteronomy to get a fuller understanding of what was recorded there and placed along side the ark of the covenant.
Below we will set out a few of the major elements:
Deuteronomy 1 – Moses begins to explain ‘this law’, recounts the episode of the spies, they did not believe Yahweh, so He swore that generation would not enter the land. Wandering begins.
Deuteronomy 3 – Joshua told he was the one who would take the people into the promised land.
Deuteronomy 4-8 – Moses reminds them of Yahweh’s covenant at Sinai.
Deuteronomy 9 – Reiterates the golden calf event and the breaking of the first two tablets of stone.
Deuteronomy 10 – The second two tablets of stone, Yahweh was unwilling to destroy them:
Deuteronomy 10:10-16 WEB
I stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights: and Yahweh listened to me that time also; Yahweh would not destroy you.
11 Yahweh said to me, Arise, take your journey before the people; and they shall go in and possess the land, which I swore to their fathers to give to them.
12 Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
13 to keep the commandments of Yahweh, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good?
14 Behold, to Yahweh your God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is therein.
15 Only Yahweh had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all peoples, as at this day.
16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.
Deuteronomy 11 – Keep the statutes, ordinances and commandments. Blessing and curse choice.
Deuteronomy 12 – Warning against idolatry.
Deuteronomy 14 – Clean and unclean creatures food-wise. Tithing laws.
Deuteronomy 15 – Seventh year release.
Deuteronomy 16 – Yahweh’s appointed feasts.
Deuteronomy 17 – The administration of justice.
Deuteronomy 18 – The Levites portion. Warning against divination and other abominable practices. Yahweh’s prophets and the promise of Messiah:
Deuteronomy 18:15-19 WEB
Yahweh your God will raise up to you a prophet from the midst of you, of your brothers, like me; to him you shall listen;
16 according to all that you desired of Yahweh your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of Yahweh my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I not die.
17 Yahweh said to me, They have well said that which they have spoken.
18 I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.
19 It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
Deuteronomy 19 – Cities of refuge, landmarks and giving testimony.
Deuteronomy 20 – Destroying nations who may teach you abominable practices.
Deuteronomy 21-25 – Various laws.
Deuteronomy 26 – Offering the first fruit, and the declaration of the covenant agreement:
Deuteronomy 26:16-19 WEB
This day Yahweh your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances: you shall therefore keep and do them with all your heart, and with all your soul.
17 You have declared Yahweh this day to be your God, and that you would walk in his ways, and keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his ordinances, and listen to his voice:
18 and Yahweh has declared you this day to be a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you should keep all his commandments;
19 and to make you high above all nations that he has made, in praise, and in name, and in honor; and that you may be a holy people to Yahweh your God, as he has spoken.
All the words of this law were to be written upon large stones set up when they went over the Jordan into the land:
Deuteronomy 27:1-8 WEB
Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandment which I command you this day.
2 It shall be on the day when you shall pass over the Jordan to the land which Yahweh your God gives you, that you shall set yourself up great stones, and plaster them with plaster:
3 and you shall write on them all the words of this law, when you are passed over; that you may go in to the land which Yahweh your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised you.
4 It shall be, when you are passed over the Jordan, that you shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster.
5 There shall you build an altar to Yahweh your God, an altar of stones: you shall lift up no iron [tool] on them.
6 You shall build the altar of Yahweh your God of uncut stones; and you shall offer burnt offerings thereon to Yahweh your God:
7 and you shall sacrifice peace-offerings, and shall eat there; and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God.
8 You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.
Joshua 4:20 WEB
Those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, did Joshua set up in Gilgal.
‘This day you have become the people of Yahweh your God’:
Deuteronomy 27:9-10 WEB
Moses and the priests the Levites spoke to all Israel, saying, Keep silence, and listen, Israel: this day you are become the people of Yahweh your God.
10 You shall therefore obey the voice of Yahweh your God, and do his commandments and his statutes, which I command you this day.
Deuteronomy 27 also contains the declaration of the curses for disobedience in verses 15 to 26.
Deuteronomy 28 – Blessings for obedience and the results of disobedience.
Deuteronomy 29 – Another covenant beside the one made at Sinai, entered into ‘this day’, in accordance with all that is written in ‘the book of the law’.
Deuteronomy 30 – Another warning to obey Yahweh and keep His commandments. A choice set before them:
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 WEB
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your seed;
20 to love Yahweh your God, to obey his voice, and to cleave to him; for he is your life, and the length of your days; that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Deuteronomy 31 – This ‘law written by Moses’ to be read every seven years at the feast of booths (tabernacles) – so they learn and be careful to keep this law. Yahweh commissions Joshua to lead the people into the promised land. Moses instructed to write a song and teach it to the people as a witness against them (verse 19). The book of the law placed beside the ark.
Moses predicts their failure to obey:
Deuteronomy 31:29-30 WEB
For I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will happen to you in the latter days; because you will do that which is evil in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.
30 Moses spoke in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were finished.
Deuteronomy 32 – The song Moses wrote and taught them.
Deuteronomy 33 – Moses blesses the children of Israel before he dies.
Deuteronomy 34 – Moses dies and Joshua takes over the leadership.
The people of Israel now enter the promised land under the leadership of Joshua, as Yahweh’s people in covenant with Him, with a full understanding of what is required of them and how they are expected to behave in the land.
Why were they given ‘the law’?
Romans 7:7 NRSV
What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Galatians 3:24 TMB
Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The law defined sin for them and was there as a teacher.
We see now that the people of Israel entered the promised land with an additional covenant formalised in Moab, beside (as well as) the one ratified at Sinai. The ‘book of the law’ containing all the terms and instructions regarding this covenant was placed along side the ark of the covenant (of Sinai). They now had all the formalised ‘statutes, ordinances and commandments’ for their life as a nation (and individuals) in the promised land.
Deuteronomy is a summary of all these things which are more explicitly detailed throughout ‘the law of Moses’ – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.