“Unit 14: Day 4, Deuteronomy 20–26,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 14: Day 4,” Old Testament Study Guide
Deuteronomy 20–26 concludes Moses’s second sermon to the Israelites and addresses rules governing many aspects of their daily life, including regulations governing war, aspects of marriage and family, slavery, usury (charging interest on loans), and punishments for violations of law.
Visualize some delicious food, and imagine preparing to eat it. Then picture someone who has a serious, contagious disease coughing all over the food. Ponder about how you would then feel about eating the food. What might happen if you chose to eat the food?
What are some ways to keep infectious diseases from spreading?
As the Israelites prepared to enter the promised land, God wanted to prevent a kind of spiritual sickness from spreading among them. This spiritual sickness would have had eternal consequences.
The Lord had designated the promised land as holy, but it had been occupied for hundreds of years by people who refused to obey God’s commandments. The Lord did not want wickedness to infect the Israelites and spread among them. Read Deuteronomy 20:1–4, looking for the counsel the Lord gave to the Israelites for the times when they would need to go to battle against these people. (You may want to mark this counsel.)
Deuteronomy 20:5–8 describes situations in which Israelite men were excused from going into battle.
Read Deuteronomy 20:10–11, looking for what the Lord wanted the army of Israel to do when they came to the cities surrounding the promised land.
Read Deuteronomy 20:12–15, looking for what the Israelites were commanded to do if the cities rejected their offer of peace.
The Lord permitted the Israelites to spare the women and children of those cities because they did not live in the promised land, where the Israelites would live and practice their religion. Therefore, they would not have the corrupting influence on the Israelites like those people who dwelt in the promised land would (see 1 Nephi 17:32–38).
Read Deuteronomy 20:16–18, looking for what God commanded the Israelite armies to do with the people who occupied cities in the heart of the promised land.
Did you notice the word abominations in verse 18? This helps describe behavior that could be seen as a spiritual disease that God did not want to spread among the Israelites.
To help you understand the reason for the Lord’s instruction recorded in Deuteronomy 20:16–18, read 1 Nephi 17:33–35. (You may want to write this cross-reference near Deuteronomy 20:16.) As you read, look for phrases that describe the condition of the people who lived in the promised land.
What do you think it means that the people inhabiting the promised land were “ripe in iniquity” (1 Nephi 17:35)? What does the phrase “this people had rejected every word of God” (1 Nephi 17:35) suggest?
The people who inhabited the promised land had become spiritually and morally corrupt—like the people in the days of Noah. They refused to repent, and they participated in acts of perversion, immorality, and even human sacrifice as part of their social and religious practices.
- Imagine that someone asked you why God would command the Israelites to destroy all the inhabitants of these cities. How would you respond? Write your answer in your scripture study journal.
One truth we can learn from this account is that God may destroy the wicked to prevent their sins from spreading to others.
Remember that the Lord had warned that if the Israelites associated with the people in the promised land and adopted their wicked practices, the Israelites would be destroyed (see Deuteronomy 7:1–4).
How did the Lord’s instructions to utterly destroy the wicked nations inhabiting the promised land show His love and concern for the Israelites?
Ponder some of your motivations to be obedient. Think about why you might choose to obey a policeman, a parent, or a priesthood leader. In the space provided, give a few reasons why you obey someone. (For example, sometimes we might obey out of fear.)
Ponder which of the motivations you listed is most often the reason you obey the commandments. In what ways might your motivation for obeying the Lord affect the blessings that come from your obedience?
As you study Deuteronomy 21–25, look for principles that can help you improve your motivation for being obedient.
Remember that when the Israelites were preparing to enter the promised land, Moses reminded them that living God’s laws would help them stay clean and separate from practices that could be spiritually damaging or have severe eternal consequences.
- Read three or more of the following passages, looking for some of the laws Moses reminded Israel to obey. In your scripture study journal, write the scripture reference and a short description of the law.
These are only a few of the laws Moses reviewed with the Israelites. Read Deuteronomy 26:16–19, looking for how the Israelites were to keep the Lord’s commandments. (You may want to use the footnotes to help you understand words that may be difficult. For example, the word judgments in verse 16 means ordinances, avouched in verse 17 means declared or testified, and peculiar in verse 18 means treasured.)
According to Deuteronomy 26:16, what phrases describe how Israel was to keep God’s commandments? (You may want to mark these phrases.)
According to Deuteronomy 26:18–19, what blessings did the Lord declare Israel would receive if they obeyed in this way? (You may want to mark them.)
From what you have learned from Deuteronomy 20:16–19, complete the following principle: We can be the Lord’s peculiar and holy people if we obey His commandments with all our .
What does it mean to obey the Lord’s commandments with all our heart and soul? Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).
Ponder how keeping the commandments with all of our heart and soul (rather than merely going through the motions) helps us to become a peculiar and holy people unto the Lord.
- Choose three of the following commandments: fasting, paying tithing, serving others, studying the scriptures, honoring parents, being honest, being morally clean. In your scripture study journal, do the following for each of the commandments you chose:
Describe how you could keep the commandment with all of your heart and soul.
Write how you have felt blessed when you have kept the commandment with all your heart and soul.
Take a few minutes to ponder and pray about how you can better keep God’s commandments with all your heart and soul. You may want to record the impressions you receive in your personal journal.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Deuteronomy 20–26 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: