Lesson 68

Deuteronomy 1–13

“Lesson 68: Deuteronomy 1–13,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

Moses prepared the Israelites to enter the promised land by teaching them the importance of remembering and obeying the Lord. He also repeated the instructions to remove the Canaanites from the promised land and to destroy all items associated with their worship of false gods.

Suggestions for Teaching

Deuteronomy 1–6

Moses teaches Israel about the importance of remembering and obeying the Lord

Before class, write each of the following statements on a separate slip of paper:

The Lord miraculously delivers the Israelites from Egypt (see Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:21–23; 7:17–19).

Israel hears the Lord declare the Ten Commandments from Mount Horeb (Sinai) (see Deuteronomy 4:10–13, 33; 5:4–22).

Israel is fed manna in the wilderness (see Deuteronomy 8:3, 16).

Israel rebels against the Lord by making and worshipping a golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:11–12, 16, 21).

Before class begins, give the four slips of paper to four different students. Inform these students that at the beginning of the lesson they will be asked to draw on the board a simple depiction of the experience described on their slip of paper.

To begin the lesson, invite the four students to come to the board one at a time and quickly draw the experience they were assigned. Ask the class to guess what scriptural account each drawing represents.

Following this activity, explain that although the events represented on the board were recorded in the books of Exodus or Numbers, they are also mentioned multiple times in the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy contains Moses’s teachings to the Israelites as they camped on the plains of Moab, just east of the Jordan River and the promised land. When Moses gave these teachings, it had been 40 years since the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt.

Explain that the word Deuteronomy means “repetition of the law.” Invite students to search Deuteronomy 6:12–15; 8:2–3, 11–18; 9:7–8 for reasons why Moses repeatedly mentioned the events represented on the board as he taught the Israelites. (You may want to assign each scripture passage to a different group of students.)

  • What reasons did you find for why Moses repeatedly mentioned the Israelites’ experiences in the wilderness?

Invite a student to read Deuteronomy 4:9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Israelites needed to do so they would not forget the Lord’s influence in their lives. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What do you think it means to “take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 4:9)? (Be careful and diligent in doing what the Lord asks so you do not forget what you have seen Him do for you.)

  • What principle can we learn from Moses’s instruction to the Israelites? (Students may use different words, but be sure they identify the following principle: If we are not diligent, then we may forget times when we have seen the Lord’s influence in our lives. Consider writing this principle on the board.)

To help students understand this principle and feel its truth and importance, ask them to answer the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

  • When have you seen the Lord’s influence in your life or in the life of someone you know?

  • How can always remembering this experience help you remain faithful to the Lord?

After sufficient time, invite a few students who are willing to share what they wrote to do so. Encourage students to always remember sacred experiences in which they have seen the Lord’s influence in their lives.

Erase the board. To prepare students to study Deuteronomy 5–6, invite students to silently ponder the following question:

  • Have you ever known someone who felt that the Lord’s commandments and standards limited their freedom or their ability to have fun?

Invite students to come to the board and list commandments or standards that some may claim limit their freedom or their ability to have fun. (Students might list the Word of Wisdom, law of chastity, wearing modest clothing, keeping the Sabbath day holy, or avoiding violent or immoral media and entertainment.)

Invite students, as they continue to study Deuteronomy, to look for reasons why God has given us commandments and standards.

Summarize Deuteronomy 5 by explaining that Moses repeated the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel. Invite a student to read Deuteronomy 6:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for another commandment Moses declared to the Israelites.

  • According to these verses, what commandment did Moses declare to the Israelites? (You may want to point out that Jesus Christ referred to this as “the first and great commandment” [Matthew 22:38]).

  • According to verse 3, what would be the result if the Israelites obeyed this commandment?

Invite a student to read Deuteronomy 6:6–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Moses taught the Israelites to do with God’s commandments.

  • What did Moses say the Israelites should do with God’s commandments?

man wearing tefillin

A man wearing the traditional tefillin (or a phylactery).

doorway with mezuzah

Hebrew scriptures from the Shema are written on parchment that is rolled up and placed inside a mezuzah.

Display a picture of a phylactery and a picture of a mezuzah or draw them on the board. (You might consider making some before class and displaying them). Explain that based on Moses’s instructions in verses 8–9, the Jews developed customs involving the Shema, the mezuzah, and tefillin (or phylacteries). The Shema refers to several scripture passages, including Deuteronomy 6:4–9, that are recited daily by devout Jews. Many Jews write these same passages on a small piece of parchment and place the parchment in a small container called a mezuzah (the Hebrew word for doorpost), which is then placed on the right side of the doorframe of their homes. Tefillin are small, square leather boxes worn over the forehead and on the inside of the biceps of the non-dominant arm. These boxes contain pieces of parchment with scriptures from the Shema.

Point out the phrase “these words … shall be in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6).

  • Why do you think this instruction in verse 6 is important?

  • While we do not wear tefillin or place mezuzahs on the doorframes of our homes, what can we do to remind ourselves of the Lord’s commandments and to have them in our hearts (see Deuteronomy 6:6)?

Ask students to read Deuteronomy 6:24 and 10:12–13 silently, looking for what Moses said about the purpose of God’s commandments.

  • Based on these verses, how would you summarize the purpose of God’s commandments? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board above the list students created earlier: The commandments God gives us are always for our good.)

Invite students to choose one of the commandments listed on the board and consider how that commandment is for our good. You may want to invite students to explain and share their testimonies of how the commandments they chose to consider are for our good.

Deuteronomy 7–13

Moses instructs Israel to remove the Canaanites and their items of worship from the land and to keep the Lord’s commandments

rope snare

Display a snare or draw one on the board. (A snare is created by making a noose out of rope or other line and positioning it so animals will be caught as they step into it.) Explain that a snare can include some form of bait to entice an animal to step into the trap.

  • What makes a snare an effective way to catch animals?

  • In what ways is the bait in a snare trap like temptations we experience?

Explain that in Deuteronomy 7, Moses taught the Israelites what they must do to overcome snares, or sources of temptation that could lead to being trapped in sin, that existed in the promised land. The people who were already living in the promised land participated in terrible wickedness and idolatry and even sacrificed their innocent children to their false gods (see Deuteronomy 12:30–31). Invite students to look for truths, as they study Deuteronomy 7, that can help them overcome the temptations they face.

Invite a few students to take turns reading Deuteronomy 7:1–6, 16, 25–26 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded the Israelites to do with the people in the land of Canaan and the items associated with their worship of false gods.

  • What did the Lord command the Israelites to do with the people in the land of Canaan and the items associated with their worship of false gods?

  • What did the Lord say would happen if the Israelites disobeyed this command? (They would turn away from the covenant they had made to serve only the Lord and would be destroyed.)

  • How might Moses’s words in verse 6 have helped the Israelites understand the importance of removing all the evil influences from the promised land?

You may want to remind students that one meaning of the word holy is to be set aside for sacred purposes. The term holy people refers to those who are set aside or chosen to serve God in accomplishing His purposes for the salvation of His children.

  • To be the Lord’s holy people, what must we do with influences that could lead us to sin? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: To be the Lord’s people, we must remove and avoid influences that can lead us to sin. You may want to suggest that students write this principle in the margin of their scriptures next to Deuteronomy 7:6).

Explain that although we may not be able to remove every source of temptation from our lives, the Lord will bless us as we seek to remove whatever evil we can from our immediate surroundings and develop self-discipline to avoid other influences that can lead us to sin.

Assign students to work in groups of two or three. Give each group a handout with the following questions. Ask students to discuss the questions and write down their answers.

  • What are three worldly snares that, if left in our lives, can lead us to being trapped in sin?

  • To be the Lord’s people, why is it important that we remove or avoid the influence of those snares?

  • What advice can you give on how to remove or avoid the influence of those snares? What can you do to protect yourself when those snares cannot be avoided?

After students have had sufficient time to discuss the questions, invite several to explain to the class what they learned.

Summarize Deuteronomy 8–13 by explaining that Moses continued to remind the Israelites about their experiences in the wilderness, repeated the importance of obeying God’s commandments, and warned the people again about the consequences they would experience if they did not completely drive out the other nations from the promised land and destroy the items associated with their worship of false gods.

Encourage students to remove from their lives any influences that can lead them to sin.

Commentary and Background Information

Deuteronomy 6:4–9. Shema, mezuzah, and tefillin

Based on Moses’s instruction in Deuteronomy 6:4–9, the Jews developed a custom or tradition involving the Shema, mezuzahs, and tefillin (or phylacteries). In the days of Jesus Christ, this tradition became a source of pride for many Jews, who would “make broad their phylacteries” (Matthew 23:5). The word Shema is taken from a Hebrew word meaning “hear,” which comes from the beginning of Moses’s instruction recorded in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel.” In its entirety, the Shema consists of Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21; and Numbers 15:37–41, in that order. It is recited daily by devout Jews as an evening and a morning prayer. When asked which was the greatest commandment in all the law, the Savior quoted from the Shema (see Matthew 22:36–38).

Many Jews write these same references on parchment and place them in a small container called a mezuzah (the Hebrew word for doorpost), which is then placed on the right side of the door frame of their homes. Some Jews may kiss the mezuzah when entering the home, others may kiss their fingers and then touch the mezuzah, and others may do neither. The mezuzah is a reminder to those entering of God’s divine presence in the home and to those leaving of their responsibility to abide by His laws.

doorway with mezuzah

Hebrew scriptures from the Shema are written on parchment that is rolled up and placed inside a mezuzah.

man wearing tefillin

A man wearing the traditional tefillin (or a phylactery).

Some Jews also inscribe the following scripture passages on individual pieces of parchment and put them into small leather boxes called tefillin, or phylacteries, that are about one and one half inches square: Exodus 13:1–10; Exodus 13:11–16; Deuteronomy 6:4–9; Deuteronomy 11:13–21 (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:616). These boxes are tied around the head to be over the forehead and tied around the inside of the biceps of the non-dominant arm, with the box pointed toward the heart.

Deuteronomy 6:13, 168:3; . Jesus Christ cited Deuteronomy to thwart temptation

President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency taught:

“[Jesus’s] thorough knowledge of the scriptures is evidenced by the fact that He repeatedly cited them. When the devil tempted Him to turn the stones into bread, He countered by quoting from Deuteronomy:

“‘… It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4; see Deuteronomy 8:3.)

“When the tempter challenged Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, He responded by quoting from the same book:

“‘It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ (Matthew 4:7; see Deuteronomy 6:16.)

“For the third time He quoted from Deuteronomy (6:13) when Satan offered Him the kingdoms of the world, saying:

“‘Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’ (Matthew 4:10.)” (“Jesus Christ, Man’s Great Exemplar” [address to Brigham Young University student body, May 9, 1967], 9).

Deuteronomy 8:7–20. Remembering the Lord in times of plenty

Moses taught the Israelites that Canaan was a land where they would “not lack any thing” (Deuteronomy 8:9) and where they would prosper. However, he warned that if the Israelites forgot the Lord in their prosperity, they would perish. He also warned against the temptation to attribute their success to themselves rather than to God.

Such warnings also apply in our lives. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of a test of prosperity that would challenge members of the Church in our day:

“The love of work is an attitude that members of the Church must develop. In some ways, we have gone through a period of great prosperity which may, when history is written, prove to be as devastating as the Great Depression in its effect upon the attitudes of the people. President Harold B. Lee said, ‘Today we are being tested and tried by another kind of test that I might call the “test of gold”—the test of plenty, affluence, ease—more than perhaps the youth of any generation have passed through, at least in this Church.’ (Sweet are the Uses of Adversity … , Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, Provo, 7 Feb. 1962, p. 3.)” (“Providing for Our Needs,” Ensign, May 1981, 86).