These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain opposite Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. (Deuteronomy 1:1)
In the Jewish world, the book we call Deuteronomy is known officially as Devarim – “words.” In ancient times this book was also known as mishneh torah, a phrase commonly translated as “a repetition (review) of the Torah.” That concept connects us to what Greek speaking Jews called the book — deuteronomion or “second law.”
As Israel prepared to enter Canaan, the people Moses spoke to were the descendants of those who left Egypt and, thus, there was a need to review the Torah. However, as one reads the book, you can see that Moses speaks to the congregation as if they are the ones who left Egypt and experienced all of what is discussed. In other words, they needed to hear it as their parents heard it — from the one who wrote it all down.
“Second law” is not to suggest that it was a different law but simply a firsthand retelling of God’s instructions. Moses had led the people from the border of Egypt to the border of Canaan but his time with them was running short. Once they crossed the Jordan River, the people would no longer have Moses or God’s constant Presence among them as in the wilderness. And so, his parting words covered everything they had learned, including the lessons gleaned from the awful mistakes they had made in times past. Furthermore, he warned them about future temptations they would encounter in Canaan. But why is this important for us to consider? I’ll refer to the words of the rabbinic sage, Vilna Gaon who said:
“The first four books were heard directly from the mouth of the Holy One, through the throat of Moses. Not so Deuteronomy; Israel heard the words of the Book the same way they heard the words of the prophets who came after Moses.”
In other words, the people of God would have to grow accustomed to NOT hearing directly from Moses, but to recognize his words through the voice of others who “reviewed” the Torah for future generations. Just as the Israelites of old needed the guidance provided by God’s Word to avoid the snares and temptations posed by their neighbors, future generations would need to hear “the words” spoken to them, as well. In fact, this concept is the underlying purpose for these daily devotions — to review what God has said on a continual basis that we might better internalize the Word. It seems appropriate to conclude with the words of Yeshua who said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
Blessings and Shalom,