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Deuteronomy 1, Part 1, Two Laws and Two Covenants

Jun 08, 2012

The Hebrew title for Deuteronomy is taken from the first phrase of the book:

These are the Words

It is "the second law," as the Greek term Deuteronomy indicates. The first law was given at Mount Horeb about seven weeks after Israel departed from Egypt. That first law is recorded in the book of Exodus.

However, the second law was given 40 years later just before Moses died. There was not only a second law, but also a second covenant, which Moses revealed in Deut. 29:1,

(1) These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb.

These two covenants, given 40 years apart, reveal the two works of Christ. The Exodus covenant was fulfilled at the time of Christ's death on the cross, while the Deuteronomy covenant has awaited our own time at the end of 40 Jubilee cycles. In a sense, the two covenants also represent the Old and New Covenant. Deuteronomy thus prophesies of the law that is written on our hearts as the result of the New Covenant (Heb. 8:10).

In the same manner, we see that Moses received the Ten Commandments twice. The first time was in Exodus 32:15 and 16, but those tablets were broken almost immediately in verse 19. The second set of tablets was given in Exodus 34:1,

(1) Now the Lord said to Moses, "Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered."

In other words, the law remained the same, but it was written upon new tablets which Moses himself was instructed to make. The first time, God Himself gave Moses the tablets as well as the words (Ex. 31:18). This distinction shows us that the second law was to be written upon man's tablets of the heart. The result was that the glory of God was transferred to Moses' face. Exodus 34:29 says,

(29) And it came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses' hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with them.

Nonetheless, that glory faded in time (2 Cor. 3:11), because this glorification of the body could not be obtained permanently apart from the rest of the body of overcomers. Because Israel had broken the first covenant as a body, and had refused to hear the words of God in Ex. 20:18-21, the promises of God were put off to another time.

The time, then, between the two covenants was part of their lawful sentence. This is a good example of how God uses time and how time is a necessity in the divine plan. Even Moses could not reverse that sentence, though he was able to get a foretaste of God's glory. Likewise, the overcomers, Caleb and Joshua, were unable to enter the Promised Land apart from the rest of Israel--even though they had the faith to do so when the others did not (Num. 14).

Not only do we have a personal relationship with God, but we are also part of a body. This body relationship is subject to God's sentence of time, caused by decisions of the body in the distant past. Caleb and Joshua were subjected to 40 years in the wilderness with their brethren, and likewise, the New Testament apostles and all overcomers of the NT era were subjected to 40 Jubilee cycles in the wilderness. It is only now that we are receiving this Deuteronomy Covenant with the opportunity to enter the Promised Land as a body.

Deuteronomy is the Book of Kings

The kings of Israel were instructed to make a copy of this book of Deuteronomy and study it all the days of their lives. Deut. 17:18 says,

(18) Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.

In writing it himself, he was sure to ponder every letter and every word. The priests were also there to instruct him in its meaning and application, as well as to check his work to be sure that it was "letter perfect."

Certainly, David followed this instruction, because his praise of the law is seen everywhere in the psalms--particularly Psalm 19. Unfortunately, Deuteronomy appears to have been lost at some point afterward, because many years later a copy was found by Hilkiah the priest when they were cleaning out the neglected temple. Hilkiah gave the copy of Shaphan the scribe, who took it to King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8).

Josiah was shocked, because reading the law told him why God's judgment was upon the nation. He called for national repentance and reformation, but it was too late to avert judgment. All he could do was postpone it until after his own death (2 Kings 22:14-20).

The Introduction to Deuteronomy

The introduction to the book is given in the first few verses:

(1) These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wildernessin the Arabah opposite 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.

The Arabah was the valley from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It marks part of the fault line extending from Turkey through the Jordan Valley to the Gulf and on down to Eastern Africa. The Israelites were at Mount Horeb, located on the east side of Aqaba in the land of Midian. It was an eleven-day journey from there to Kadesh-barnea in Southern Canaan. Kadesh-barnea was the place where Israel had gathered to await the report from the 12 spies.

If the 12 spies had given a unanimous good report, Israel would have entered Canaan from the south without crossing the Jordan River. However, ten spies gave an evil report, and the people believed them rather than the good report of Caleb and Joshua (Num. 14). For this reason, Israel had to remain 40 years in the wilderness (Num. 14:34). When they finally entered the Promised Land under Joshua, they were required to travel around Edom and come in from the East. This then required them to cross the Jordan.

This provides us with some important lessons. First, if they had entered Canaan from Kadesh-barnea, it would have been at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Num. 13:20; Deut. 16:13). But 40 years later, they crossed the Jordan at the time of Passover (on the 10th day of the first month--Joshua 4:19).

This shows us that Israel was not yet ready to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. Passover was the extent of their faith, for they had also rejected hearing the word of God at Pentecost when God gave them the law (Ex. 20:18-20). For this reason, the people as a whole were stuck in a Passover Age that continued until their 1480th Passover, when Jesus died on the cross.

Only after the cross was the body of people able to proceed further into Pentecost (Acts 3). Those who manifested faith in Christ were able to move into a higher level in their relationship with God and establish a Pentecostal-level of the Kingdom of God.

The second lesson is that those entering the Promised Land at Tabernacles will not see death (typified by the Jordan crossing), but will simply be "changed" as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:51. There are two paths into Canaan, but only a few will avoid the path of death and resurrection.

To be continued...

This is the first part of a series titled "Deuteronomy 1." To view all parts, click the link below.

Deuteronomy 1

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Category: God's Law
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones