“Lesson 71: Deuteronomy 27–34,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 71,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Before the Israelites entered the promised land, Moses explained to them the consequences of obedience and disobedience to God’s laws. Moses counseled the Israelites to be strong and courageous, and he left a blessing upon each of the tribes of Israel.
Place two paper bags on a table at the front of the classroom, and invite a student to come to the table. Explain that one bag contains a treat or prize and the other bag contains a rock. Ask the student which bag they think has the treat in it. Explain that you really want him or her to have the treat and ask:
What could I do to help you choose the bag with the treat in it? (If the student does not suggest letting him or her look in the bags, offer him or her the opportunity to look in both bags.)
After the student looks in both bags and selects what he or she wants, ask:
How did knowing what was in both bags influence your ability to choose?
Draw the following diagram on the board:
Explain that as Moses was nearing the end of his mortal life, he wanted the Israelites to be able to choose to be blessed instead of cursed, just as the student was able to choose the treat instead of the rock. To help the Israelites choose to be blessed, he instructed Joshua to set up a learning experience for Israel.
Summarize Deuteronomy 27 by explaining that the Lord gave instructions about what was to happen once the children of Israel entered the promised land. They were to go to Shechem, which was located in a valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Moses instructed that half of the tribes of Israel should stand on Mount Gerizim and the other half should stand on Mount Ebal. The Levites were to stand in the valley between the two mountains and recite the actions that would result in blessings and those that would result in curses as designated by God. When actions resulting in curses were recited, as described in Deuteronomy 27:14–26, the tribes on Mount Ebal were to say “amen.” (See Joshua 8:33–35.) Although not specifically stated in the scriptures, it may have been that when the actions resulting in blessings were recited, the tribes on Mount Gerizim responded with “amen” as well.
Explain that Deuteronomy 28 further clarifies what the Lord wanted the Israelites to learn from this experience. Invite one student to read Deuteronomy 28:1 aloud and another student to read Deuteronomy 28:15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said would bring either blessings or curses upon the people.
What did the Lord command the people to do to obtain the blessings and avoid the curses? (As students respond, emphasize that the Lord said to keep all of His commandments.)
Write the word If between the words Disobey and Obey on the diagram on the board. Divide the class in half. Assign one half to read Deuteronomy 28:2–14 silently, looking for the blessings the Israelites would receive if they obeyed God’s commandments. Ask the other half to read Deuteronomy 28:15–25 silently, looking for the consequences the Israelites would experience if they disobeyed God’s commandments. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find. After two to three minutes, invite students to come to the board and write under Mount Gerizim the consequences for obeying God’s commandments and under Mount Ebal the consequences for disobeying them.
How would you summarize what we can learn from the Israelites’ experience about obeying the Lord’s commandments? (Students may identify a variety of principles, including the following: If we choose to obey all of God’s commandments, He will bless us in all areas of our lives. If we choose not to obey all of God’s commandments, we lose the blessings He desires to give us. Consider writing these principles on the board.)
To help students understand the importance of obeying all of God’s commandments, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (You may want to provide a copy for each student.)
“[Have] faith to keep all the commandments of God, knowing that they are given to bless His children and bring them joy [see 2 Nephi 2:25]. [You] will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments” (“Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 34).
Why do you think that in order to be prepared to meet God, we need to keep all of His commandments?
Explain that although keeping all of God’s commandments may seem overwhelming, President Harold B. Lee offered counsel that can help. Invite a student to read the following statement aloud:
“The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you are having the most difficulty keeping today. If it is one of dishonesty, if it is one of unchastity, if it is one of falsifying, not telling the truth, today is the day for you to work on that until you have been able to conquer that weakness. … Then you start on the next one that is most difficult for you to keep” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee , 30).
Invite students to ponder which commandment they are struggling with the most and how they can work on more fully keeping that commandment.
Summarize Deuteronomy 28:26–68 by explaining that these verses further detail the negative consequences the Israelites would experience if they failed to keep all of God’s commandments.
Display the picture Jesus Carrying a Lost Lamb (Gospel Art Book , no. 64; see also LDS.org), and ask students what this painting depicts the Savior doing.
How can the lost lamb in this painting represent each of us?
What qualities or attributes of the Savior come to mind as you contemplate this picture?
After a brief discussion, explain that Moses prophesied that Israel would become lost if the people sinned. Invite students to look as they study Deuteronomy 29–30 for what this prophecy teaches about the Savior and what we must do when we are spiritually lost because of sin.
Summarize Deuteronomy 29:1–24 by explaining that the Israelites covenanted with God to keep His commandments. Moses promised that if they kept this covenant they would be blessed and prospered (see Deuteronomy 29:9–13).
Invite a student to read Deuteronomy 29:25–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Moses warned would happen if the Israelites broke their covenant with the Lord.
According to verse 28, what would happen if the Israelites broke their covenant?
Explain that as students continue to study the Old Testament, they will discover that the Israelites did break this covenant and then were scattered throughout the world (see also Deuteronomy 28:64–65; 31:16–17, 27–29).
Explain that the scattering and captivity of the ancient Israelites resulted from their disobedience. Similarly, if we disobey God’s commandments, we become further separated from God and are captive to sin.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Deuteronomy 30:1–6. Invite the class to follow along, with half of the class looking for what the Lord promised He would do for scattered Israel and the other half looking for what Israel needed to do for these promises to be fulfilled.
What can these verses teach us about deliverance from the captivity of sin? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: As we return to the Lord with all our hearts and souls, He will deliver us from the captivity of sin. Write this principle on the board and suggest that students write it in their scriptures.)
What does it mean to return to the Lord with all our hearts and souls?
Invite students to silently scan Deuteronomy 30:6–8, 15–16, 19–20, looking for additional words and phrases that help them understand this principle. Invite a few students to read aloud a phrase that is meaningful to them and explain why.
Invite students to testify of the blessings they have experienced as they have turned their hearts to the Lord.
Summarize Deuteronomy 31–34 by explaining that Moses gave his final counsel to the Israelites and blessed each tribe. He counseled them to be strong and courageous as they entered the land of Canaan. The Lord told Moses that Israel would eventually turn away from God and worship other gods (see Deuteronomy 31:16–18).
Explain that Deuteronomy is the last of the books of Moses. Invite students to read Deuteronomy 34:5–6 silently and look for what this account says happened to Moses.
What do these verses say happened to Moses?
To help students understand what happened to Moses and why verse 6 declares that “no man knoweth of his [grave],” invite a student to read aloud the following explanation by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“Moses was likewise taken up [like Elijah], though the scriptures say that the Lord buried him upon the mountain. Of course, the writer of that wrote according to his understanding; but Moses, like Elijah, was taken up without tasting death, because he had a mission to perform” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:107).
Explain that one reason why Moses was translated was so he could bestow priesthood keys upon Peter, James, and John during the Savior’s earthly ministry. In order to do so, he needed a body and was therefore taken up to God without experiencing physical death (see Bible Dictionary, “Moses”). Conclude by inviting a student to read Deuteronomy 34:9–12 aloud. Ask students to follow along and find phrases that describe why Moses is held in such high esteem. Share your testimony and invite students to act on impressions they have received.