Restoration Quarterly 20 (1977) 73-87.
Copyright © 1977 by Restoration Quarterly, cited with permission;
digitally prepared for use at
A Heartfelt Love: An Exegesis
of Deuteronomy 6:4-19
BRUCE E. WILLOUGHBY
A very important concept in New Testament theology is man's
response to God's love. John states, "We love because He first loved
us" (1 Jno. ). God manifested His love by working in history for
our benefit, and he calls us to love Him through the life, death,
burial and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus the Christ. Yet, to
understand and to perform our responsibilities are two very difficult
tasks. They become clearer when we consider previous situations
wherein God called His people to love him. Since God has not changed
the basic foundation for covenant relationships, the demands he makes
upon us are similar to the commands he gave to
they might remain faithful to him.
The prosperity of the nation
faithfulness to the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances of
God. It was important that
so that her days would be prolonged, that she would multiply, that it
would go well with her, and that she could possess the land of
milk and honey (Deut. 6:1-3).
Deuteronomy recounts the historical setting of the covenant and its
meaning (). This parenetic material (containing exhortation
and admonition) comprises two speeches ( and 5:1-11:32).
The second speech contains a narrative of the giving of the law at
Horeb (5:1-33) and a commentary on that decalogue (6:1-11:32). The
commentary forms a bridge which connects the Decalogue with the
legal enactments which follow chapter 11. Furthermore, this second
part begins with a description of love and obedience as the motivations
74 Restoration Quarterly
for keeping the laws and maintaining a correct relationship with
The author of Deuteronomy desires that the people never forget the
gracious God who gave them the land nor their responsibilities to
worship him with the correct attitude.
on the character of the God whom they worshiped.
of the land depended on the character of her people. Thus the speaker
encourages his kinsmen to exhort and educate one another in the
significance of their relationship to Yahweh, the God of their
The date of this recorded exhortation is difficult to determine but
essential to understand the events which prompted its creation. There
are three main theories. First, it is traditionally stated that Moses is
the author of the Pentateuch and thus the setting for the speech is
during the life of Moses, shortly before the Israelites entered the land
exhibited in the book is too well developed for the early period of
Moses. In addition, the death of Moses is recorded in chapter 34,
presenting a problem if Moses is the author. Yet, it seems quite possible
that much of the material could be Mosaic, although the final form
of the book appears later. Monotheism, at least in the sense that
Yahweh is the only God of Israel--He works in her history and
demands her obedience--is prevalent in the early history of the founders
of the Israelite nation. And the indication in
6:1-3 is that
not yet possessed the land or even crossed over the
although this book was compiled later, certainly its foundation is
composed of ancient tradition passed down from generation to
Second, the interest in old cultic material, the language of the Holy
War, and the hortatory purpose lead one to consider the period of the
Judges, Samuel, or the early monarchy as the time during which the
Deuteronomic exhortations were proclaimed. The Deuteronomic
proclamations of cultic purity and rejections of polytheism would
easily suit this period of Israelite history.1
The final theory is that Deuteronomy originated during the Josiah
reform, about 621 B.C. The evidence for such a theory lies in the
1 In this argument Deuternomy is often linked to the Covenant Festival of Yahweh
amphictyony (tribal league) at Shechem in the period of the Judges.
closeness between the Deuteronomic language and the theology of the
prophets of the later monarchy, the finding of the law, and the
interpretation that 12:1-14 refers to the centralization and unification
of the cult of Yahweh (2 Kings 22, 23).
In conclusion, whether 6:4-19 was proclaimed by Moses to remind
the Israelites that their possession of the land lies in Yahweh and their
keeping of the Horeb covenant, by a zealous Levite who desired to
take strong measures against existing pagan cults or Yahwehized pagan
cults, or by a man of God who desired to unify the cult because God
is one, "the Deuteronomist called for right worship at the right time in
the right place."2 This is the message of Deuteronomy 6:4-19.
The literary form of this passage is also disputed. Mendenhall
proposed that the covenant form of 6:4-19 and similar passages
parallels the Hittite suzerainty treaties (treaties between the Hittite
king, "Suzerain," and his subject, "vassal") of 1450-1200 B.C.3
Suzerainty treaties are international covenants wherein the vassal is
bound to the king. These treaties contain six elements commonly
found in the Deuteronomic covenant material: 1. Preamble (begins
with the formula, "thus says. ..") 2. Historical prologue (-12,
20-25) 3. Stipulations (-18) 4. Provision for the deposit in the
temple and public reading (-16) 5. List of the gods as witnesses
(chapter 32) 6. Curses and blessings (, 28).4
The similarities between the Hittite treaties and Deuteronomy
indicates that the relationship between
covenant language. Love is manifested in reverential fear, loyalty, and
obedience, as a vassal to his king. Love is commanded by God.5
Similarly, this type of love is also present in the father-son
relationship. Yahweh demands of
loyalty, and obedience as a father (; 8:5). This relationship even
occurs in treaty passages of the Old Testament (14:1; Jer. 31:9;
Isa. 30; 2 Kings 16:7). The father is tender, a merciful king, but the
focus is on the attitude of the son. Although the father-son relationship
2 Jacob M. Myers, "The Requisites for Response," Interpretation, 15 (1961), 21.
3 George E. Mendenhall, "Covenant Forms in Israelite Religion," Biblical Archaeologist,
17 (1954), 55.
4 Ibid., 58-60.
5 Others find similarities to Assyrian treaties. See William L. Moran, "The Ancient
Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in Deuteronomy," Catholic Biblical
Quarterly, 25 (1963), 77-87.
76 Restoration Quarterly
is not often mentioned in Deuteronomy and is not connected with
ahebh, it is still an old tradition that certainly influences the
interpretation of chapter 6.6
In addition to these two bases of interpretation, Buss argues that
the literary form of chapter 6 is not treaty but covenant and moral
wisdom.7 He looks to Proverbs for help in understanding these
In conclusion, an understanding of all these literary forms can aid in
interpreting chapter 6. In all probability, the author had a variety
of motifs to express the relationships of God to
vassal, father to son, teacher to pupil--and he employs them all to
illustrate the requisites for
Election was not an automatic guarantee of the continued
a loyalty to his covenant offer (6:1-3). After promulgating the
commandments to be obeyed (ch. 5) and explaining to the people the
conditional nature of God's gift of the land of
begins a series of citations and allusions to the Decalogue (6:4-19). The
author begins to record the speech with the phrase in verse 4,
This phrase is a stereotyped formula which occurs regularly in
Deuteronomy (4:1; 5:1; 9:1; 20:3; 27:9; 33:7). In earlier Israelite
history it was used as a means of summoning the gahal of the tribes
for worship.8 The verb, shama', denotes a strong intention and sense
of urgency in the speaker's attitude and not only represents the
physical act of hearing but also a special plea to obedience. It is
used in the direct pronouncements from the heavenly court of Yahweh
(1 Kings ; Jer. 34:4; Amos ), and also as a rhetorical
device in the wisdom literature for beginning a practical unit (Prov.
1:8; 4:1; ).9 It was likewise a key word in the Egyptian instructional
6 Dennis J. McCarthy, "Notes on the Love of God in Deuteronomy and the Father-Son
Between Yahweh and
7 Martin J. Buss, "The Covenant Theme in Historical Perspective," Vetus Testamentum,
16 (1966), 502-504.
8 Gerhard Yon Rad, Deuteronomy. The Old Testament Library (
9 Dean S. McBride, Jr., "The Yoke of the Kingdom; An Exposition of Deuteronomy
6:4-5," Interpretation, 27 (1973), 290.
literature.10 God, the king and teacher, calls his subjects to hear his
word and introduces verses 4 and 5 which are a syntactical and
semantical whole ("hear. . . and love"). These verses introduce the
theme of heartfelt obedience to Yahweh, the God of Israel, and have
become the basis for one of the most important rituals in Judaism, the
reading of the Shema.
To the Jews, verses 4-9 were the primary confession of faith,
supplemented by Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41. It was
recited twice daily at morning and at night (6:7), and was the crux
of the Israelite faith (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-34; Luke 10:27, 28).
The absolute and incomparable unity of God is derived from the
Shema, which forms the center of the Jewish faith.
In verse 4, according to Synagogue tradition, the last letters of
shama' and 'echadh are written larger than the others to prohibit
confusing' for a ' and dh for a r, which would make it read,
"perhaps is Yahweh, our God, another Yahweh."11
Rabbinic tradition based on a radical monotheism, the interpretation
of Maimonides (12th century), and the Jewish response to the Christian
theology of the Trinity, translate Yhwh 'Elohenu Yhwh 'echadh, "The
Lord our God, the Lord is One." It is a statement of the oneness
and unity of God.
Although the rabbinic tradition consistently proposes that the
passage affirms the universal oneness of God, there are grammatical
and theological complications. The grammatical problems are threefold.
First, are the four words a series of two nominal clauses or a single
nominal clause? The phrase can read either "Yahweh is Our God,
Yahweh is one" or "Yahweh, our God, Yahweh is one." The
Septuagint and the Nash Papyrus support the former translation;
however, their reading is considered prosaic and secondary.12 The
phrase "Yahweh, our God" is used frequently in the Old Testament
as a stereotyped formula (Exo. ; Hosea ; 13:4; Isa. 26:13;
10 R. N. Whybray,
The Book of Proverbs. The
(Cambridge: The University Press, 1972), p. 17.
11 Jacob Jocz, A Theology of
MacMillan Company, 1958), p. 40. The large letters also form the word 'edh, "witness,"
so when it is spoken, the speaker witnesses to God's unity.
12 McBride, op. cit., p. 291, n. 37.
78 Restoration Quarterly
Jer. ).13 The constant use of such a formula would favor the
latter reading except for the position of 'echadh after the formula.
This makes the phraseology difficult if it is taken as one clause.
Von Rad suggests that this is a single nominal clause in which
'Elohenu and 'echadh are in apposition. He indicates that 'the
formula "Yahweh is one" is unique in the Old Testament but has
parallels in Egyptian literature. A papyrus of the twenty-first dynasty
(1090-945 B.C.) designates Amon as "the one god, the only god.”14
However, because of the lack of concrete evidence, no definitive
Second, which word functions as the subject and which as the
predicate? Is this declaration an answer to the question "Who is
Yahweh?" or "Who is our God?" Yhwh 'echadh may be in apposition
to the predicate Yhwh, whereby the phrase then translates "Our God is
Yahweh, one Yahweh."
Another possibility is that 'Elohenu is in apposition to Yhwh.
Whenever 'Elohim is used as a predicate after Yhwh in the
Deuteronomic material, it is always preceded by hu' (; 7:9;
Josh. 24:18; 1 Kings 8:60).15 Both the Nash papyrus, which adds
hu', and the Septuagint have interpreted 'Elohenu as predicative.16
Again, although the evidence supports the contention that 'Elohenu
is appositional, no definitive answer exists.
Finally, what is the semantic force of the final element, 'echadh?
The primary meaning for 'echadh is "one." However, as a numerical
adjective, it can mean "only" and "solitary," and it is interchangeable
with lebhadh, "alone."17 If 'echadh means "alone" in this passage,
the phrase would then read "Yahweh, our God, is Yahweh alone."
that lebhadh, which is also used in Deuteronomy, would be more
appropriate. However, McBride counters by stating that lebhado
13 Helmer Ringgren, "'Elohim," Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. I,
trans. John T. Willis (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974),
14 Gerhard Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, vol. I, trans. D. M. G. Stalker
(Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd 1957), p. 227, n. 87.
15 Norbert Lohfink and Jan Bergman, "'echadh" TDOT, Vol. 1, pp. 196, 197.
16 Ibid., p. 197.
17 Ibid., p. 194.
(a preposition plus a substantive plus a pronominal suffix) functions
as an adverbial accusative of specification with an objectifying force
(2 Kings , 19; Isa. 37:16, 20; Psa. , 86:10; Neh. 9:6), while
the author needs the subjective classification which 'echadh can
supply.18 In conclusion, 'echadh may mean "alone" or "one." If it
means "one," it may indicate "the only one in the universe" or
"the only one for
Since all the grammatical evidence is inconclusive, one turns to the
realm of theology for the solution to the interpretation of verse 4. The
phrase Yhwh 'Elohenu Yhwh 'echadh is either a declaration of
monotheism, a statement of God's unity, an oath of allegiance to
Yahweh alone, or a combination of the three.
Rabbinic tradition, the Nash Papyrus, and the Septuagint consider
the phrase as a declaration of monotheism. However, since rabbinic
tradition arises much later as a result of Jewish martyrdom and a
conflict with the theology of the Trinity, it can be disregarded as a
reliable source of interpretation. Because the Nash Papyrus and the
Septuagint are secondary readings, they are also unreliable. The only
favorable evidence is the apparently monotheistic statements about
God in Deuteronomy (; 4:7, 34f., 39), and the later statements in
Zechariah 14:9 and Jeremiah 10:1-16.
Second, if 12:1-14 refers to the centralization and unification of
the cult of Yahweh and if a historical setting during the time of
Josiah is accurate, verse 4 depicts God's unity and oneness in the face
of many divergent traditions and sanctuaries of Yahweh. However,
monotheism is also conceptualized in the time of Josiah (Jer. 10:1-16).
Third, a historical setting of Judges or the early monarchy, when
there was a temptation to worship the Canaanite Baals, pushes for
the interpretation of verse 4 as an oath of allegiance to Yahweh alone.
The suzerain motif would also lend weight to this understanding.
God alone. Furthermore, if 6:4 is a commentary on 5:7, then 6:4
declares the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the God of Israel's history
18 McBride, op. cit., P. 293, n. 45.
19 'echadh may also mean that his name is "One." Plotinus, Enneads , refers to a
discussion "Concerning 'The Good' or 'The
One.' " Xenophanes of
also identified god with "The One" (Aristotle, Metaphysics 1:5:12-13). See Cyrus
H. Gordon "His Name Is 'One'," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 29 (1970), 198.
80 Restoration Quarterly
and the giver of her blessings. There is no denial of other gods, but
only a statement that Yahweh is the one and only God
Although the third possibility is most appealing and most consistent
with the thrust of Deuteronomy, the answer probably lies in a
combination of the first and third theories. Yahweh is the sole God
love, and loyalty. And yet, even as the exodus from
manifested not only the God of the Israelite people, but also the God
of all peoples, so here, under the declaration of God's unique and
exclusive covenant with
not only for
one Yahweh for
Yahweh is her God alone. In truth, Yahweh is the God of the universe.
The Shema continues in verse 5 as the author proclaims the intended
result of God's loving kindness to
chosen her for a holy people (; 7:6, 7; ; 14:2, 21; 26:19; 28:9).
He has set her apart and extended His mercy to her. Because of his
blessings, which enable her to possess the land and live prosperously
in it, she is to reciprocate his love.
‘ahebh, in Deuteronomy, implies duty and obligation when describing
man's relationship to God.20 In all of the Old Testament, only thirteen
passages occur outside Deuteronomy wherein the love of men to God
is proclaimed (Exo. 20:6; Josh. 22:5, ; Judges ; 1 Kings 3:3;
Neh. 1:5; Psa. 18:2; 31:24; 91:14; 97:10; 116:1; 145:20; Dan. 9:4). It
occurs in Deuteronomy alone eleven times (6:5; 7:9; ; 11:1, 13,
22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6,16, 20). Since many of the passages which appear
outside Deuteronomy are in Deuteronomic material, it is evident that
the love of men for God is a characteristic principle of the
Deuteronomist. Whereas individual security once rested in Jewish
citizenship, now the national security is contingent upon the personal
love of its people for God.21
'ahebh is a more domestic and intense term than chesedh and
illustrates the close family bond between God and man.22 God is the
20 J. W. McKay, "Man's Love for God in Deuteronomy and the Father/Teacher-
Son/Pupil Relationship," Vetus Testamentum, 22 (1972), 426.
21 Andrew Harper, The Book of Deuteronomy. The Expositor's Bible (
Hodder & Stoughton), p. 140.
22 Laurence E. Toombs, "Love and Justice in Deuteronomy," Interpretation, 19 (1965),
The Amarna letters state that love is the correct response of a subject
to his king or a vassal to his suzerain.23 This type of love comprises
loyalty and obedience.
This love is not mere lip-service. The Deuteronomist clearly states
the implications of this love.
8:6; ; ; ; 28:58; 31:13), to cleave to him (; ;
13:4; 30:20), to serve him (; ), to obey his voice (30:20), to
walk in his ways (; ; 19:9; 30:16) and to keep his
commandments (; 7:9). Such fidelity is
gratitude for what Yahweh did and by a desire for her own
well-being (; , 29; 6:3,18; , 28; 22:7).
In verse 5 this love is further intensified by the phrase "with all your
heart and with all your life and with all your might." There are
three possible interpretations of this expression. First, the terms are
distinct but complementary. The author may be exhorting the Israelites
to love God “with your undivided loyalty, your commitment to God,
and your substance."
Second, Christian exegesis, derived from the Septuagint and
manifested in the New Testament quotations of the verse (Matt. ;
Mark ; Luke ), considers the terms to be complementary
attributes of the inner man--the mind, the soul, the spiritual and moral
Third, the words may be syntactically coordinate but semantically
concentric.24 The phrase is probably a stereotyped expression to be
interpreted "with your whole self." An analysis of the expression
throughout Deuteronomy confirms this idea. This formula, which
occurs frequently in the book (; 6:5; ; ; 13:3; 26:16;
30:2, 6, 10), states an all-encompassing sense of personal devotion to
Eichrodt beautifully expounds the Deuteronomic concept of love
when he writes:
Here love the miracle of free affection, is seen to be the basis of the whole
relationship of God to man, and it calls for personal surrender as the living
23 A. O. Haldar, "'ahebh," TDOT, vol. 1., p. 101.
24 McBride, op. cit., pp. 303, 304.
25 In many of these instances "might" is" not included in the formula. This short
version occurs seventeen times in the Old Testament in Deuteronomic material.
82 Restoration Quarterly
any obedience to law. . . . Love is the effective power in the saving stipulations of
the covenant; it ensures their success, and bestows itself in blessing on all who
keep its "commandments" and "walk in its ways" ...To realize this love, which
constitutes as it were the available capital, requires simply the positive act of
obedience to the law; and by this means it is possible to establish, within the
framework of this world, a holy people of God, separated from the nations.
Love is here understood as the power which upholds the present order, and which
maintains the covenant in the character of a restauratio, not a renovatio
omnium, though men may admittedly violate its terms and thus lose the right to
participate in it.26
The traditional rabbinic Shema continues in verses 6-9 with an
exhortation to personal sincerity and commitment. “These words"
should have their dwelling in the "heart" of the individual. Whether
these words" refers to the things that have been or will be discussed
is questionable. However, since the preceding chapter iterates the
Decalogue and the following chapters explain its practical application,
the verse is probably a reference to everything which was spoken to
the Israelites on the occasion. Again, obedience is prominent. The
formula "which I am commanding today" frequently appears in the
book (; 6:6; ; , and elsewhere). These laws are not
suggestions but are stipulations of the covenant relationship. Also these
laws reside in the heart (; 30:5). According to Egyptian literature,
the heart as the seat of motivation for personal commitment is the
sanctuary for love.27 This indicates the close connection between love
and law. Law is the manifested fulfillment of genuine love.
Yet the laws are not only to be kept in the heart, they are to be
taught to succeeding generations. Shanan generally means "to whet”
or "to sharpen." But because of this context and the intensive force
of the Piel, Shanan means “to teach incisively."28 In addition, the
Arabic word sunna, "life rule," may be related to Shanan. If it is
shanan may mean "teach them as a life rule."29
narratives were rehearsed in festivals and absorbed by the people. The
26 Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament. The Old Testament Library, vol.
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1961), p. 256.
27 Jan Bergman, "'ahebh," TDOT, vol. 1., p. 99.
28 William Gesenius, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans.
Robinson, ed., Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Biggs (
Clarendon Press, 1907), p. 1042.
29 Joseph Reider,
Deuteronomy. The Holy Scriptures with
Jewish Publication Society of
people learned the laws of the covenant by the yearly repetition of the
three major festivals: the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the
Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).30 Although teaching took place at the
gatherings, this is not the methodology expressed in 6:7. Here the
author commands a daily instruction.
The father was the family religious leader (6:7; ; ; ).
He was expected to fulfill the need for daily worship by stressing
family religion in the home (4:9, 10; 5:30f.; ; Prov. -22). His
responsibility to teach God's
salvation narratives (-25) and
necessary response was an essential component of community life.
The book of Proverbs sheds some light on the methodology used,
but the date may be quite later than the ancient tradition in
Deuteronomy. Both the father and the mother shared the teaching
responsibilities (1:8), but the father was the authoritative guide (4:1-4).
Organized schools, which couched their instruction in figures, parables,
and allegories, were rare and for the rich (1:6). Instruction was
usually oral; books were rare. Corporal punishment was an essential
element in children's education (). This is depicted best by
quotations from Egyptian texts which state that the pupils were required
to learn: "Boys have their ears on their backsides; they listen when
they are beaten," and "You caned me, and so your teaching entered
by ear."31 The severe extremes to which the Israelites practiced corporal
punishment is clearly portrayed in Deuteronomy 21:18-22.
In conclusion, although
both elementary and secondary education, there is no evidence that
he is commanded to teach his children the stipulations of the covenant
with Yahweh, just as one of the treaties of Esarhaddon, king of
on the duties of vassal relationships.33
The author's admonitions in verses 8 and 9 complete the Shema.
‘oth and totaphoth are metaphorically employed by the author to
30 John D. W. Watts, "The People of God: A Study of the Doctrine in the Pentateuch,"
The Expository Times, 67 (1956), 234-237.
31 Whybray, op. cit., p. 80.
32 Ibid., p. 4
33 It is possible, but doubtful, that “sons" in 6:7 refers to Israelites pupils) and not
to literal children. Such an Interpretation would require a wisdom motif similar to the use
of "son" in Proverbs (2:1; 3:1; 4:1, 10, 20; 5:1 and elsewhere).
84 Restoration Quarterly
intensify his exhortation that the people must live for Yahweh daily.
Their religion is to travel with them wherever they go. They are always
to radiate their love for Yahweh. totaphoth, "bands" or "frontlets,"
occurs only four times in the Old Testament (Exo. 13:9, 16; Deut. 6:8;
). The injunction to bind qashar the bands upon the forehead was
originally figurative for “perpetual remembrance," but later the Jews
developed from this figure the custom of wearing phylacteries.34
However, despite this late innovation, the essence of this scripture
still shines forth. The passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy show
traces of a wisdom literature formula and influence. If Exodus 13 is
pre-Deuteronomic, then Deuteronomy modified it by the influence of
the wisdom literature. If the passages in Exodus are not pre-
Deuteronomic, Deuteronomy still used wisdom literature. In both
cases, the author writes with a wisdom-literature motif and formula
(Prov. 1:9; 3:3; ; 7:3).
Although it was the custom of the Egyptians to inscribe good
sentences on their doorposts, the Deuteronomist's injunction in verse 9
is still figurative.35 But again, rabbinic tradition converted a beautiful
exhortation to live a heartfelt religion into a ritualistic and legalistion
program concerning the mezuzah. mezuzah, "doorpost," evolved to
represent a small cylindrical container which housed a parchment copy
of the Shema. It was attached to the frame of the door on the outside
of the house and acknowledged with a gesture as a person entered or
left the house. Unfortunately, a literal interpretation of 6:8, 9 created
a nation which knew where its law was, but seldom what it was
The next section of scripture is a stereotyped list of the "real estate”
God has acquired for His people (-12), a list possibly patterned
after Hittite treaties with vassals.36 Statements that Yahweh gives or
has given (nathan) the land ('adhamah, 'erets) are frequent in a
parts of Deuteronomy 4:40; ; 15:7; and elsewhere). The author
intends to humble the people by demonstrating to them the mercy
lovingkindness, and goodness of Yahweh. The passage warns of the
danger of sudden success. If
who built, filled, digged, and planted, she has a basis for remaining
34 William Gesenius, op. cit., p.378.
35 George Adam Smith, The Book of Deuteronomy. The
Colleges, (Cambridge: The University Press, 1950), p. 100.
36 Von Rad, Deuteronomy, p. 64.
faithful to the stipulations of the covenant.
commandments is the condition for a happy and prosperous life in
the land. If they push God into the background and boast in their
accomplishments, God will bring
the Canaanites for possession of the land, even then God led them to
The covenant rests on a two-dimensional love. First, love moves
in the crucial instance from God to
love, as a consequence, flows from
keeps the covenant in effect.37 It is God's initiating love, expressed
in his gift of the land and of freedom from slavery, which is examined
in these verses.
Following his sounding the dangers of sudden success, the author
God's divine anger. They can accomplish this if they fear God, serve
him, and swear by his name. To fear God is a popular concept in
Deuteronomy (4:10; 5:29; 6:24; 8:6; 10:12; 14:23; 17:19; 28:58; 31:13).
God's initiating love, the reverence and awe of God's powerful justice
and vengeance also help the Israelites to be loyal and obedient.
'abhadh, "to serve," with reference to God, represents an act of
worship (Exo. ; 13:5), and 'abhodhah is often a technical rerm for
the religious rites of the priests and Levites.38 After God has done so
the Lord. Because of his bountiful gifts of grace, God should be and
expects to be worshipped and praised. The author does not deny the
existence of other gods (vs. 14), but he emphatically states that Yahweh
is the only God active in the life of the nation
must pledge their allegiance and loyalty as a vassal to his suzerain.
Further, it was a standard practice for people to swear by their god in
a business transaction. Indeed Yahweh was to be a part of their daily
affairs. bhishemo, as well as 'otho and Yhwh, is in an emphatic
position, which indicates that the fearing, worshipping, and swearing
37 Toombs, op cit., p. 407.
38 Reider, op. cit., p. 64.
86 Restoration Quarterly
are not as important as the deity to whom they are directed. Yahweh
is the God of Israel; Yahweh has delivered
For this reason, verse 14 announces God's abhorrence of the worship
of other gods.39 The phrase "other gods" is used seventeen times in
Deuteronomy, and it always occurs with "to serve" 'abhadh or
"to go after" (halakh 'acharey), except in four places (5:7; ;
31:18, 20). Yahweh will not tolerate the worship of other gods by a
people for whom he has done so much. God is a jealous God
(; 5:9; ; 27:15-26; 32:16, 21). Jealousy and wrath are just as
much functions of his lordship as his love and grace. They are
anthropopathic attributes given to God on the basis of his action. God
actively works against that which he dislikes and his power can destroy.
Even as the king will crush a rebellion or a teacher discipline a pupil,
so Yahweh will crush those who act like rebellious sons and break his
covenant. It can be broken by the worship of other gods and by social
injustices. Even as love cements the bond of the covenantal relationship,
so also justice is important to love. Justice localizes and charts love's
course. Therefore Deuteronomy speaks of social justice as a
requirement for covenant purity (; 15:1, 9, 15; -21; -29;
24:10-18; 27:16). If the stipulations are not met, the punishment will
come. A break in the covenant relationship is the
Yahweh is never unfaithful.
The author continues analyzing the maintenance of the covenant and
employs the incident at Massah as an example of a breakdown
(cf. Exo. 17:1-7).40 At Massah, the thirsty people cried out against
Moses and God. They doubted the sovereignty of God, and so they
wavered. If the Israelites had had faith and trust, they would not have
39 Verses 14, 16, and 17 are often considered editorial editions because the author
switches from the singular to the plural of the second person. Smith counters that Moses
here and in the Decalogue uses the plural for his own words but quotes what God gave
him at Horeb in the singular. Another argument for the deletion of vs. 14 is that
although vs. 14 is a continuation and conclusion of vs. 13, it limits the scope of the
preceding verse. But it appears to focus negatively upon the opposites of Yahweh, who is
positively and emphatically the center of attention in vs. 13. See Smith, op. cit.,
pp. 98, 102.
40 Verse 16 is also considered an addition because of its apparent appropriate reference.
That the author, in a time of prosperity, would use Massah, which happened in a time
emphasis was "do not test God." The subordinate clause begun by ''as'' could still
represent a general reference to a time of tempting, rather than a specific reference to
a particular type of tempting.
tempted the Lord. However, they lacked faith and thought that God
would not deliver the water. As a result they tempted God and strained
the covenant relationship (; 33:8).
God will not break his covenant. His faithfulness is steadfast; his
love endures. If problems occur, the Israelites, not God, will be
responsible. Conversely, all will be well with
keep the commandments and do what is right and good (vss. 17, 18).
To do what is right is to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord,
to obey the covenant law. To do what is good is to obtain the abundant
life as described before (cf. 6:3, 10, 11). The author indicates that
relationship. When the covenant is
valid, the combination of
obedience and God's faithful promises allows
when they push out all their enemies (vs. 19). In fact, regardless of
who the enemy may be,
teacher, father, and suzerain, Yahweh. Yet she must always remember
to do what is right (; ; 21:9) and what is good (; )
in the eyes of God.
In conclusion, the author knows that the success
or failure of
venture across the
her ability to keep the commandments, statutes, and ordinances of
God. Simply stated,
the right time--daily, in the right place--the heart. To maintain her
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