“Unit 15: Day 1, Deuteronomy 27–34,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 15: Day 1,” Old Testament Study Guide
Before the Israelites entered the promised land, Moses explained to them the consequences of obeying and disobeying God’s laws. Moses counseled the Israelites to be strong and courageous. He was then taken up into heaven without tasting death.
Imagine that you are given the choice between what lies behind two different doors. You are told that behind one of the doors is a feast consisting of your favorite foods and behind the other is a pile of rocks, but you don’t know what is behind which door. What could help you know which door to choose?
How would it help your decision if you were able to open each door and look in before making your decision?
Knowing what is behind each door would obviously make it easy to make the best choice, but it illustrates something Moses did near the end of his mortal life. He wanted the Israelites to be able to choose to be blessed instead of cursed. To help the Israelites choose to be blessed, he instructed Joshua to set up a learning experience for them.
In Deuteronomy 27 we read instructions for what was to happen once the Israelites entered the promised land. They were to go to Shechem, which was located in a valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Moses gave instructions for half of the tribes of Israel to stand on Mount Gerizim and the other half to 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 according to the laws of God (see also Joshua 8:33–35). When actions resulting in curses were recited, as described in Deuteronomy 27:14–26, the tribes on Mount Ebal were to say “amen.” Although it is not specifically stated here, it is likely that when the actions resulting in blessings were recited, those tribes on Mount Gerizim were to say “amen” as well.
Deuteronomy 28 further clarifies what the Lord wanted the Israelites to learn from this experience. Read Deuteronomy 28:1, 15, looking for what the Lord said would bring either blessings or curses upon the people. Consider circling the word if in these verses.
What did the Lord command the people to do to obtain the blessings and avoid the curses? (Consider marking the phrase “do all his commandments” in these verses.)
Write the word If between the words Disobey and Obey on the diagram at the beginning of this lesson. Read Deuteronomy 28:2–14, looking for the blessings the Israelites would receive if they obeyed God’s commandments. Write some of these blessings near Mount Gerizim on the diagram. Then read Deuteronomy 28:15–25, looking for the curses, or negative consequences, the Israelites would experience if they disobeyed God’s commandments. Write some of these curses near Mount Ebal on the diagram.
Complete the following principles stating what we can learn about obeying the Lord’s commandments from the Israelites’ experience:
If we choose to obey all of God’s commandments, .
If we choose not to obey all of God’s commandments, .
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the importance of obeying all of God’s commandments: “[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).
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why do you think we need to keep all of God’s commandments in order to be prepared to meet Him?
Although keeping all of God’s commandments may seem overwhelming, President Harold B. Lee offered counsel that can help: “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. That’s the way you sanctify yourself by keeping the commandments of God” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee , 30).
Ponder which commandment you may be struggling with the most, and decide how you can work on more fully keeping that commandment. Consider writing a goal to do so and putting the goal where you can see it and be reminded of it. Pray and seek the Lord’s help in keeping this commandment. You might also consider sharing this goal with a parent or leader who can support you in your efforts to accomplish it.
Deuteronomy 28:26–68 gives further details about the negative consequences the Israelites would experience if they failed to keep all of God’s commandments.
Before Israel entered the promised land, Moses prophesied that the people would become lost if they fell into sin and did not repent. As you study Deuteronomy 29–30, look for what this prophecy teaches about the Savior and what we must do when we are spiritually lost because of sin.
Deuteronomy 29:1–24 explains that the Israelites made a covenant 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).
Read Deuteronomy 29:25–29, 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?
As you continue to study the Old Testament, you will discover that the Israelites did break this covenant, and then they were scattered throughout the world (see also Deuteronomy 28:64–65; 31:16–17, 27–29).
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.
Ponder what the following picture depicts the Savior doing.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How can the lost lamb in this picture represent each of us?
What qualities or attributes of the Savior come to mind as you contemplate this picture?
Read Deuteronomy 30:1–6, looking for what the Lord promised He would do for the scattered Israelites.
According to verse 2, what do the scattered Israelites need to do in order to be gathered?
What are the promised results recorded in verse 3? (Consider marking the answer in your scriptures.)
- Ponder what these verses teach us about deliverance from the captivity of sin. Record your thoughts in your scripture study journal.
Write the following principle in your scriptures or in your scripture study journal: As we return to the Lord with all our hearts and souls, He will deliver us from the captivity of sin.
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What does it mean to return to the Lord with all our hearts and souls?
Deuteronomy 31–34 explains that Moses gave his final counsel to the Israelites and blessed each tribe. He counseled them to be strong and courageous before they entered the land of Canaan. The Lord also told Moses that Israel would eventually turn away from God and worship other gods (see Deuteronomy 31:16–18).
Deuteronomy is the last of the books of Moses. Read Deuteronomy 34:5–6 silently, looking for what this account says happened to Moses.
To understand what happened to Moses and why verse 6 declares that “no man knoweth of his sepulchre [grave],” read the following explanation: “As was the case with many of the ancient prophets, Moses’ ministry extended beyond the limits of his own mortal lifetime. In company with Elijah, he came to the Mount of Transfiguration and bestowed keys of the priesthood upon Peter, James, and John (Matt. 17:3–4; …). From this event, which occurred before the Resurrection of Jesus, we understand that Moses was a translated being and had not died as reported in Deut. 34 (Alma 45:19). It was necessary that he be translated, in order to have a body of flesh and bones at the time of the Transfiguration, since the Resurrection had not yet taken place. Had he been a spirit only, he could not have performed the work on the mount of giving the keys to the mortal Peter, James, and John (see D&C 129)” (Bible Dictionary, “Moses”). Those who are translated “are changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Translated Beings”; scriptures.lds.org).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “Elijah and Moses were preserved from death … because they had a mission to perform, and it had to be performed before the crucifixion of the Son of God, and it could not be done in the spirit. They had to have tangible bodies. Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection; therefore if any former prophets had a work to perform preparatory to the mission of the Son of God, or to the dispensation of the meridian of times, it was essential that they be preserved to fulfill that mission in the flesh. For that reason Moses disappeared from among the people and was taken up into the mountain, and the people thought he was buried by the Lord. The Lord preserved him, so that he could come at the proper time and restore his keys, on the heads of Peter, James, and John, who stood at the head of the dispensation of the meridian of time” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:110–11).
Read Deuteronomy 34:9–12, looking for phrases that describe why Moses is held in such high esteem.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Deuteronomy 27–34 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: