The book of Deuteronomy as a whole is structured on the model of a covenant, and represents Moses’ renewal of the Sinai covenant with the next generation, who would enter the Promised Land and there create a covenant-based society. Accordingly, the parsha of Devarim opens with the first two elements of a covenant document: a preamble identifying the speaker and context (Deut. 1:1–5) and a historical prologue recalling the events that led to the covenant and its renewal (beginning at Deut. 1:6).
The preamble identifies time and place: the last weeks of Moses’ life, with the people encamped by the banks of the Jordan. Moses recalls his appointment of leaders, the sending of the spies, and the people’s failure of nerve that led to the forty-year stay in the wilderness. Moving to more recent episodes, he reminds the people of their victories over Moab and Ammon and the settlement of their land by the tribes of Reuben and Gad and part of Menashe. The parsha ends with Moses’ description of his appointment of, and encouragement to, Joshua as his successor.