Saturday, March 01, 2014

Deuteronomy 5-7 The Jewish Shema

From Deuteronomy 5-7

What is the greatest commandment according to Jesus our king?


Dt 5.1-5 Story; Moses gives an introduction to the Ten Commandments. The LORD speaks with later generations.

Dt 5.6-21 Law; The Ten Commandments
1) You shall have no other gods before me
2) You shall not make carved images or likeness of any god and serve them
3) You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
4) Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (Salvation from Egypt)
5) Honor your father and mother, promise that your days may long in the land God is giving
6) You shall not murder
7) You shall not commit adultery
8) You shall not steal
9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
10) You shall not covet what your neighbour has

Dt 5.22-27 Story; Moses recounts the events at Mount Sinai and the people’s fearful response to hearing the LORD
Dt 5.28-6.3 Story; Moses continues hearing the LORD and later instructs Israel to do all the LORD has commanded
Dt 6.4-5 Law; Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and might
Dt 6.6-9 Law; Misc, Reminders for keeping the LORD’s ways. Teach children, talk of them anytime, signs on hands and foreheads, on house doorposts and gates.
Dt 6.10-15 Story; Reminder not to sin as they did before with idolatry, but observe all the commands
Dt 6.16-19 Story; Reminder not to sin as they did at Massah, but observe all the commands. The LORD will honour his promise.
Dt 6.20-25 Story; Moses instructs Israel to pass on the LORD’s saving actions to later generations. Obedience to these covenant laws is considered righteousness for the Jews.
Dt 7.1-5 Story; Instructions on entering the promised land. They should completely destroy. Warnings against intermarriage and idolatry.
Dt 7.6-11 Story; Israel is the elect and chosen of God. Through no quality of their own, but God’s covenant love.
Dt 7.12-26 Story; The LORD tells them to trust and obey him, he will bring them into the promised land.

Passage and Comments

In Deuteronomy 5 Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments. The introduction describes how important it is for Israel to obey them and adds some interesting descriptions.

5 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, 5 while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. (Dt 5.1-5)

Two observations. Firstly, note again Moses refers to the instructions the LORD gives him and Israel as a covenant. Secondly, as I observed one or two days earlier, the generation that was present died of old age in the wilderness. Moses is speaking to later generations of Israel as if they were also present at Mount Sinai saying, ‘Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.’ (Dt 5.3) Throughout Israel’s generations they are meant to think that they too were present at the mountain, hearing the law.

At the end of the Ten Commandments Moses says.

22 “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. (Dt 5.22)

It is significant that Moses says ‘he added no more’. Essentially he is making a distinction between the Ten Commandments as all the other laws in the Torah. If we skip forward a bit more.

6 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. (Dt 6:1–3)

Moses is referring to the Ten Commandments again. Note the language he uses. The are commands that they must ‘do’ and ‘keep’. They should obey them all their lives that they may live, things will go well with them and they will multiply as the LORD has promised. The commands are part of the covenant agreement. This is Israel’s obligation. Provided they meet their obligations the LORD will honour his covenant promises.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Dt 6:4–5)

The above text is what the Jews called the ‘Shema’. It was perhaps the most important prayer of the Jews and command they were to obey. “It sustained and rejuvenated the Jewish self-consciousness, reinforced the worldview and the hope. There was one god, Israel was his people, and he would deliver them soon. In the meantime they must remain faithful.” (p233, NT Wright, NTPG) “To hear,” in Hebrew lexicography, is tantamount to “to obey,” especially in covenant contexts such as this. That is, to hear God without putting into effect the command is not to hear him at all. (Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, p. 162). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.) The command speaks to the heart. The centre of a persons being. It captures the concepts of mind, will, and emotion together. Its with the heart people believe (Rom 10.9-10).

6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Dt 6:6–9)

Moses reiterates the importance of the Ten Commandments and the Shema. They are to remember them by teaching them to their children (good verse for sunday schools), speak of them to one another and write them on bits of papyrus and bind them to their foreheads (yes literally).

Story of Jesus

Jesus refers to the Shema as the greatest commandment in the gospel. He says;

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mk 12.28-34)

And for us who believe Jesus is the Christ and follow him as our king, these commands of his are still important and we will be held accountable to them.