In the Hebrew Bible, the five books of the Pentateuch are all named by the first word or phrase in the book. Genesis is named “In the Beginning.” Well, that’s the English translation of “Bereshit.” Exodus is named “These are the names” which translates “Aleh Shemot.” Leviticus is “The Lord called” which is English for “Yiqra Yahweh.” Numbers is “The Lord spoke,” or “yidabber Yahweh.” Some might argue that the Hebrew title comes from the second phrase of the book of Numbers which translates “in the wilderness.” That would be “Be Midbar.” Deuteronomy takes its English title from the Septuagint as well as the Latin Vulgate. This word translates in English to “the second law.” It is of course the reciting of the law with a few tweaks and explanations. The Hebrew title is “These are the words” or “elleh ha dibarim.” So the first verse of the book of Deuteronomy is, “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.”

When Moses speaks to the children of Israel, he is speaking for God. He is also speaking to every generation to follow. “As is made plain throughout, it is God’s word for the present generation as well as for all generations to come.”[1] The call is to “the children of Israel” but the Apostle Paul wants to include all those who come to faith in Israel’s Messiah as “grafted” in the children of Israel. Romans 9:25 and 26 say, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

There are some specific locations mentioned in the verse and some are identifiable today. This was a real event, happening at a real place, in a real-time in history. It was in the deserts of Moab, east of the Jordan River, and after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. In Numbers 14:34, we learn that the spies who were sent out to look over the land were gone for 40 days. They came back with a bad report and were charged by God to spend one year in the wilderness for each day they spied out the land. The wilderness was not only a physical place, it was a place of trials, hardships, hunger, thirst, and temptations. Since it was the result of 40 days of doubt, fear, and failure, Jesus reversed that experience by spending his own 40 days in the wilderness being hungry, thirsted, and directly tempted by God. But whereas the Israelites failed the temptation. Jesus passed it not only for himself but for all who would believe. Further, Jesus resisted all the temptations of Satan by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy. Just as Jesus understood the book of Deuteronomy as being relevant for him, thousands of years after it was written, so too is it relevant to us today.

[1] Hall, Gary Harlan. 2000. Deuteronomy. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.