The Law to Be Read in the Year of Release
Here we read of the inauguration, commissioning or ordination of Joshua to take the place of Moses as the chief human judge over Israel. We also read God's wonderful words of encouragement: "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). God will repeat this to Joshua in Joshua 1:5. And the apostle Paul quotes part of this phrase as a message from God to Christians today (see Hebrews 13:5).
Moses instructs that the law be read "at the end of every seven years," that is, the "year of release" from slavery and debts. This reading was to be done "at the Feast of Tabernacles." All Israel was to listen, including the children "who have not known it" (verse 13), so that they all could learn to fear God and keep His commandments (verses 12-13; compare Ecclesiastes 12:13). At a time when there were no mass communications and when books, including personal copies of the Scriptures, were almost nonexistent among the common people, this practice would have been invaluable. Nehemiah 8 recounts the revival of the spirit of this command following the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.
Deuteronomy 31 ends with the placement of the Book of the Law beside the Ark of the Covenant and Moses teaching the people a special song, the words of which appear in the next chapter.