What Is the Structure of the Book of Deuteronomy?

James Coakley
header for What Is the Structure of the Book of Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy has three overlapping structures:

First it mirrors the form of ancient Near Eastern treaties, which highlights the book’s covenantal emphasis:

  • Preamble (1:1-5)
  • Historical Prologue: Covenant History (1:6–4:49)
  • Stipulations (5–26)
  • Blessings and Cursings (27–30)
  • Witnesses (30:19; 31:19; 32:1-43)

Second, Deuteronomy is also organized in a chiastic structure, which pivots on the central body of legislation in chaps. 12–26.

  • Historical Look Backward (chaps. 1–3)
    1. Exhortation to Keep the Covenant (chaps. 4–11)
      1. The Center: The Stipulations of the Covenant (chaps. 12–26)
    2. Ceremony to Memorialize the Covenant (chaps. 27–30)
  • Prophetic Look Forward (chaps. 31–34)

Third, various superscriptions are used to introduce the different portions of the book, which serves the book’s internal organization as a teaching book:

  • 1:1. “These are the words”— The Past (chaps. 1–4)
  • 4:44. “This is the law”—The Ten Commandments (chap. 5)
  • 6:1. “This is the commandment, the statues and the judgments”—Laws for the Present (chaps. 6–28)
  • 29:1. “These are the words of the covenant”— The Future Covenant Renewal (chaps. 29–32)
  • 33:1. “This is the blessing”—Blessing for the Future (chaps. 33–34)
For Further Reading:

The Moody Bible Commentary

by Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham

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