THE PENTATEUCH PART V: DEUTERONOMY
Lesson 5: Chapters 6-7
Moses' Second Homily: The Ethical Stipulations Continued

Lord God,
In Your infinite wisdom, You made the covenant with Israel at Sinai a renewable resource for future generations. The New Covenant that Jesus announced to His disciples in the Upper Room during the Last Supper with the words: "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, poured out for you" (Lk 22:20), is also a renewable resource for all generations of New Covenant believers. Lord, we are thankful for the gift of our sacred covenant established in the blood of our Savior. It is a covenant renewed in every sacred meal of the Eucharist and in the other sacraments of our faith. In love and gratitude, we pledge our loyalty to our covenant bond and our obedience to Your commands and obligations taught to us by Mother Church. We pledge to teach these obligations of love and obedience to our children so that Your covenant will continue with each generation of the New Covenant faithful until the return of our Savior and King. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

+ + +

Jesus said to him, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.'
Matthew 22:37-40

The New Covenant in Christ Jesus is not the covenant God cut with sacrifices with the Patriarchs, nor is it the same covenant God cut with Israel in sacrifice and a sacred meal at Sinai. It is a new and eternal covenant, sealed in the blood of Christ Jesus in the sacred meal of the Last Supper (Heb 13:20). However, like the Sinai covenant, it is a covenant that is intended to continue to be made contemporary to every generation of New Covenant believers who share in the sacred cup of the blood of the eternal covenant mediator, King of the earthly kingdom of the Church and High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary-the resurrected Jesus Christ. For New Covenant Christians the link to the events of the Last Supper is not part of the distant past. The events of Christ's death and resurrection are real and present for each new generation who is a member of the corporate covenant we call the Body of Christ when they witness Jesus' sacrifice of 30 AD made present on the altar in the sacrifice of the Mass and when they receive the same Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that the disciples received in the Upper Room two thousand years ago.

The present reality of the Sinai Covenant was the focus of all three of Moses' homilies to the children of Israel on the Plains of Moab. There was the every present danger that as time pasted future generations would not think of themselves as linked to the events of Israel's covenant formation at Mt. Sinai. In the first part of his second homily, Moses emphasized that it was not God's intention that the Israelites should come to think of themselves as distantly linked to the covenant of their ancestors at Sinai but that every new generation should view themselves as direct partners in covenant with Yahweh (Levenson, Sinai and Zion, page 81). Some scholars believe that Moses' second homily is the heart of a covenant renewal ceremony, which began with the opening lines of Israel's first profession of faith known as the Jewish prayer of the Shema.

Question: In Moses' introduction to his teaching on the Decalogue at the beginning of his second homily, what words and phrases did he use to emphasize the relevance of the covenant to the present generation in Deuteronomy 5:2-5?
Answer: The relevance to the present generation is emphasized by these eight words and phrases:

  1. Yahweh our God made a covenant with us at Horeb
  2. Yahweh made this covenant not with our ancestors
  3. but with us
  4. with all of us alive here today
  5. Yahweh spoke to you face to face
  6. I stood between you and Yahweh
  7. to let you know what Yahweh was saying
  8. since you were afraid of the fire....

Moses' point was that the Sinai Covenant was contemporary to and relevant for every Israelite of every generation. Each generation must actualize the past at Sinai in their present to become direct partners in covenant with Yahweh. Jewish scholar Jon Levenson writes: Thus, life in covenant is not something merely granted, but something won anew, rekindled and reconsecrated in the heart of each Israelite in every generation. Covenant is not only imposed, but also accepted. It calls with both the stern voice of duty and the tender accents of the lover, with both stick (curse, death) and carrot (blessing, life) in hand. But it biases the choice in favor of life (Levenson, Sinai & Zion, page 81).

Deuteronomy 6:1-3
Promised Blessings for Obedience to the Law

1 'Such, then, are the commandments [mitsvot], the laws [mishpatim] and customs [hukkim] which Yahweh your God has instructed me to teach you, for you to observe [do them] in the country [land] which you are on your way to possess. 2 And hence, if, throughout your lives, you fear Yahweh your God and keep all his laws [hukkim] and commandments [mitsvot], which I am laying down for your today, you will live long, you and your child and your grandchild. 3 Listen [Shema = hear] then, Israel, keep [samar] and observe [do] what will make you prosperous and numerous, as Yahweh, God of your ancestors, has promised you, in giving you a country flowing with milk and honey. [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page).

Verses 1-3 are a general preface to what follows. In this section of Moses' second homily from chapters 6-11, his focus is on developing the central ideas of his teaching from the first section of the Ten Commandments (5:7-10)-loyalty to Yahweh the one true God demonstrated by faithfulness in rejecting pagan idols and continuing the covenant in future generations. In the introduction to this section, Moses speaks of God's promised blessings for Israel's obedience in putting God's laws into practice in the Promised Land; it is one of the central themes of Moses' homilies. Moses urges the Israelites to "hear" his teaching on the Law and to "keep/protect" what they have learned. Moses repeats what he taught at the end of his Ten Commandment commentary in Dt 5:29 that the Israelites are commanded to pass on Moses' teaching and their fear of God (the deeply felt respect for God) to future generations as the basis for covenant continuation in applying God's commands and prohibitions to their daily lives as examples of righteousness living for their children (Dt 6:20-25).

Deuteronomy 6:2 And hence, if, throughout your lives, you fear Yahweh your God and keep all his laws [hukkim] and commandments [mitsvot]...

Moses will urge the Israelites to "fear the Lord" and be obedient to His commandments numerous times in his three homilies.(1) However, Moses is not speaking of the kind of fear that drives the people away-the fear the people felt after witnessing the Theophany at Mt. Sinai. At the end of the first homily in Deuteronomy 4:34-40 and in 6:2-5, Moses is actually juxtaposing the "fear of God" and the call to obey His commandments (verse 2) with his call for the people to "love God" (verse 5). Moses is using "fear" as an expression typifying a deep reverence for God that inspires fear of offending God and therefore faithfulness to God and loyalty His covenant. Israel's response to God's love in giving them the Law of the covenant must be the people's obedience to God's commands and loyalty to the covenant as the expression of Israel's love (see Dt 4:37; 6:2-5, 13; 10:12-15).

Question: If they will put what Moses urges into practice, what is the promise? See verse 3.
Answer: God will reward their obedience with prosperity and fertility in a land that has an abundance of everything that makes life good-a land "flowing with milk and honey."

Question: What are the promised blessings in verse 3 reminiscent of from blessings promised in the Creation event that were repeated to Noah and his family after the Great Flood? See Gen 1:28 and 9:1. What do Israel's promised blessings and the events associated with the blessings have in common with the earlier blessings in Genesis?
Answer: Israel's promised blessings of fertility and the gift of good land are reminiscent of God's first promised blessings of fertility and dominion over the land made to mankind at Creation. "A land flowing with milk and honey" is a metaphor that recalls the abundance of Eden when man lived in perfect harmony with God. It also recalls the promises made to Noah and his family after the Great Flood. In each case, the blessings of fertility and prosperity in the land were made in association with a new creation:

The children of Israel were to reap these blessings if they both feared (loyalty born of reverent respect) and loved Yahweh (Ex 20:20; Lev 25:17, 36, 43; Dt 4:10 5:29; 6:2, 13, 24, and Dt 5:10; 6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; etc.).

Question: How did the Patriarch Abraham express his fear and love for God in a test of faith that sealed his covenant with Yahweh? See Gen 17:15-16, 21; 22:1-2, 12-18; Heb 11:17-19.
Answer: In obedience to God's command, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved son because of his faith and love for God, believing that God could raise his son from death to fulfill His promise that Isaac would have numerous descendants.

Question: What is the revelation of God's love for mankind in the New Covenant? What link does this revelation have to the Old Testament? See 1 Jn 4:9-17.
Answer: For love of us, God willing sent His only beloved Son into the world to die for the sins of mankind that those who accept God's gift of salvation through the New Covenant of Christ Jesus might have life. One of the central points of God's revelation to man, in the Old Testament and in the New, is that "God is love."

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
To Love Yahweh is the Essence of His Law

4 Listen [Shema], Israel: Yahweh our God is the one [echad], the only Yahweh. 5 You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. 6 Let the words I enjoin on you today stay in your heart. 7 You shall tell them to your children, and keep on telling them, when you are sitting at home, when you are out and about, when your are laying down and when your are standing up; 8 you must fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a headband [frontlets between your eyes]; 9 you must write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.
[..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, pages 476).

Moses has defined the essence of Yahweh by stating the central message of monotheism in his first homily in 4:35 and 39:

In these verses Moses stated the oneness and omnificence of God. However, here in 6:4 he states: Hear [Shema] Israel, Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh ...

Question: How does the statement of faith in 6:4 go beyond the earlier statements of monotheism?
Answer: Moses is describing Israel's proper relationship with God-not only is He alone God, but He alone is Israel's God.

Shema, the first Hebrew word in verse 4 has become the name of the profession of faith that the Israelites have recited over the centuries: Keri'at Shema, "Recitation of the Shema" (JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy, page 76). Verses 4-5 constitute the opening lines of Israel's profession of faith in the unity of the Godhead as the basis of unity of purpose for the Old Covenant Church. Observant Jews recite this prayer morning and evening. It is composed of Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41. During the late Second Temple Period, these combined verses became the prayer of that took the first word of the profession of faith as its title, "hear", the Shema. The Shema took on a special prominence in both the Synagogue liturgy and in individual prayer time (The Jewish Study Bible, pages 379 and 1942). In the Catholic Church, the verses of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 are said at Compline (the concluding hour of the Divine Office) after first vespers on Sundays and solemnities in the Liturgy of Hours.(3)

Not only are verses 4-6 a statement of Israel's unique relationship with Yahweh, but it is a statement that is an echo of ancient covenant treaties in which the vassal swears allegiance to only one Suzerain-in this case, Israel's only king is Yahweh (Levenson, Sinai & Zion, pages 82-83). Levenson writes that proof of this intent is evident in the formula recitation of the prayer of the Shema; between Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5 the faithful Jew whispers "Blessed be the name of his glorious kingship forever and ever" (Levenson, Sinai & Zion, pages 82, note 84). The Shema was recited twice daily during the liturgy of public worship in the sacrifice of the morning and afternoon Tamid lamb in the Jerusalem Temple in the Second Temple Period. The Ten Commandments and the Shema were recited by the priests who gathered in the Chamber of Hewn Stone just prior to the drawing of lots for the honor of burning the incense in the Holy Place of the Temple (Mishnah: Tamid 5:1).

In the literal Hebrew verse 4 is rendered: YHWH 'eloheinu YHWH 'ehad or "YHWH our God YHWH is one." The statement is a three times repetition of the existence of God as One (Yahweh, God, Yahweh). Some Fathers of the Church saw this verse as a hidden declaration of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, naming the two Persons of the Godhead who bear names twice and the Holy Spirit who has no name: That Trinity is one God. Not that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are identically the same. But the Father is Father, the Son is Son, and the Holy Spirit is Holy Spirit, and this Trinity is one God, as it is written (Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 9.16).(2)

Ironically, in this passage Moses again speaks of both "fear" and "love" as he did earlier in 4:34-40, identifying the fear of God that produces reverence and obedience as "love" (Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 439). Clearly Moses is not speaking of the kind of fear that drives someone to flee from Yahweh's presence, but a fear that produces the desire to be obedient, to do worship God and demonstrate one's love for God by doing His will.

Deuteronomy 6:5 You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. The faithful are commanded to love God without holding back any part of their beings. The main theme of Deuteronomy is addressed in verses 4-5: The Israelites must love God and must give Him their wholehearted loyalty. The bond between Yahweh and Israel isn't just the legal document of the covenant treaty, but it is also spiritual and emotional. It is such an intense relationship that it can be described in terms of romantic love, hence Yahweh's warning of "jealousy" if Israel strays in her affection.

Question: Is the love God commands from His people only an emotional commitment in the Old Covenant and in the New? See Lev 19:18; Dt 4:37; 7:8; 10:12-18; 11:1; Mt 22:36-37; 25:44-46; Jm 2:14-17, 24-26; 1 Jn 4:17-21.
Answer: That love of God must be expressed in action is a consistent teaching in both the Old and New Testaments. This love echoes God's love for His people, embraces the reverent fear of offending God, and the duty of service in observance of the precepts of the Law. Jesus quoted Dt 6:5 as the greatest of the commandments and St. John wrote that with that love goes the proper fear/reverence of a son and heir who is promised his eternal inheritance.

Question: According to 6:6-9, when were the Israelites to teach their children about their covenant duties and obligations?
Answer: They were to continually teach their children at every opportunity about God's Law, about God's love for Israel and about His command for His people to love Him.

Question: What daily reminders were they to use to encourage this teaching?
Answer: They were to fasten the commands on their right arms and foreheads and on their doorposts.

Of the ritual items associated with Jewish life, none are more important than

The command to wear the prayer shawl was given in Numbers 15:37-41 when God told Moses to speak to the children of Israel and to command them to affix fringes or tassels (tzitziot) to the corners of their outer garments so that whenever they were seen, they served as reminders of God's commandments. The talit was the garment that held the tzitziot. It was probably the tzitziot of Jesus' talit that the woman with the hemorrhage of blood touched and was healed in Matthew 9:20. The command will be repeated in Deuteronomy 22:12. Originally the word talit meant "cloak." In Biblical times this garment looked like a blanket and was worn by men, resembling the abbayah still worn by Bedouins today as protection against the elements (The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 100).(4)

The command to wear devices as a sign of faith and loyalty to the covenant is first mentioned in Exodus 13:9 and 16. This is the third time the command is give and it will be repeated a fourth time in Deuteronomy 11:18. In these verses the Old Covenant people are commanded to wear a "sign" wrapped on the hand and between the eyes as a reminder of God's commandments. In Aramaic the word for these devices is tefillin/tepilin and in the singular, tefilla. The word tefilla/tepila is identical to the Hebrew word for "prayer," but the word for the devices might also be a homonym derived not from the Hebrew root pll "to intercede" but from plh, meaning "to separate, to distinguish," and therefore referring to the devices' propose as a sign which distinguishes the covenant believer from the non-believer (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, "Phylacteries," page 368-69).

Tefillin are two cube shaped black leather boxes containing pieces of parchment on which Scripture verses from Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8 and 11:18 are written. Black leather straps called retzuot, two to three feet long, are attached to the boxes. The tefillin are a sign of faith in God, devotion to the Law and loyalty to the covenant. The head tefillah/tefila (singular) is symbolic of intellectual loyalty and the hand tefillah reminds the wearer that he must serve God his Great King with all his "might and strength." They are always worn as a pair, never worn separately and both cubes contain the same passages from Scripture. The hand tefillah is worn on the left hand of a right-handed person and on the right hand of a left-handed person with the straps wound around the arm seven times and around the fingers three times. The head tefillah has four compartments, one for each of the four verses, while the hand tefillah has one compartment containing all four passages on one piece of parchment. Jewish males thirteen years and older to wear tefillin each day during prayer time except on the Sabbath and holy days. Women are explicitly exempt from this obligation (The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 108-113; The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, "Phylacteries," page 370).(5)

In New Testament Greek these devices are called phylakierion, meaning "safeguard" or "that which protects" (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, "Phylacteries," page 370). The Greek word passed to the Latin Vulgate and entered English Bibles as "phylacteries."

Question: In Jesus' condemnation of the arrogance of the Scribes and Pharisees, what did He say about their obedience in wearing the "signs" of the tefillin/phylacteries and the talit with its tassels/fringes? See Mt 23:5.
Answer: He accused them of wearing broader headbands and longer tassels not as signs of their faith and covenant loyalty but as arrogant signs of their own claim to piety.

 

Deuteronomy 6:9 ... you must write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

The Hebrew word mezuza(h) means "doorpost." The mezuzah (plural mezuzot) also served as a sign to the covenant people of the need for God's Law and as a reminder of their loyalty to the covenant. It is receptacle that contains a small parchment (from the skin of a "clean" animal) inscribed with the 22 lines of Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 on one side and the word "Shaddai" on the reverse. The parchment is rolled up and inserted in a case that is attached to the doorpost of houses, rooms and gates. The mounting of mezuzah on doorways has been a continuous practice for Old Covenant believers. Flavius Josephus, a Jewish priest/historian in the first century AD, wrote: The greatest benefits of God are to be written on the doors ... in order that His benevolent providence may be made known everywhere (Antiquities of the Jews). Maimonides, the great rabbi of the 12th century wrote: By the commandment of the mezuzah, man is reminded of the unity of God, and is aroused to love of Him ... (Yad Ha-chazaka, as quoted in The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, pages 113-114).(6)

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 are the witness of the truth presented to future generations to teach the Law, recite Israel's history and provide signs of faith by wearing the frontlets and writing the profession of faith on doorposts of their dwelling places. These "signs" also serve to further separate the Israelites from their pagan neighbors.

Deuteronomy 6:10-19
An Appeal for Loyalty to Yahweh
10 When Yahweh has brought you into the country which he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would give you, with great and prosperous cities you have not built, 11 with houses full of good things, you have not provided, with wells you have not dug, which vineyards and olive trees you have not planted, and the, when you have eaten as much as your want, 12 be careful you do not forget Yahweh who had brought you out of Egypt, out of the place of slave-labor. 13 Yahweh your God is the one you must fear, him alone you must serve, his is the name by which you must swear. 14 'Do not follow other gods, gods of the peoples round you, 15 for Yahweh your God among you is a jealous God; the wrath of Yahweh your God would blaze out against you, and he would wipe you off the face of the earth. 16 Do not put Yahweh your God to the test as you tested him at Massah. 17 Keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, and his instructions and laws which he has laid down for you, 18 and do what Yahweh regards as right and good, so that you may prosper and take possession of the fine country [good land] which Yahweh swore to give your ancestors , 19 driving out your enemies before you; such was Yahweh's promise.
[..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, pages 476-77).

Question: What is included in God's gift of the land of Canaan? How is that gift compared to the life in Egypt?
Answer: The Israelites will take possession of cities that have already been built, houses, wells, vineyards and olive groves established by the former residents. The Israelites had to labor as slaves for Pharaoh, but God the Great King will provide them with everything they need to become an established nation.

Question: In verses 10-16 Moses gives what three warnings/perils the Israelites will face when the live in the land of Canaan?
Answer: The Israelites will be in danger of loosing the blessings God promised their Patriarchs and will be driven from the land if:

  1. They fail to remember God's intervention in their history and their obedience to God and the covenant treaty.
  2. They follow other gods.
  3. They test God's faithfulness

Question: How will they avoid these perils and what are the three promises God will make to them if they are successful?
Answer: By keeping the commandments, instructions and laws, by dong what is righteous, and by worshiping and remaining loyal only to Yahweh they will avoid these perils and

  1. God will drive out their enemies.
  2. He will give them the land He promised to the Patriarchs.
  3. He will make them prosperous in the land.

Deuteronomy 6:13 Yahweh your God is the one you must fear, him alone you must serve, his is the name by which you must swear. Serving Yahweh is in contrast to the reminder that they had once served the Egyptian Pharaoh (worshiped as a god) as vassals in verse 12. The statement "his is the name by which you must swear" suggests a loyalty oath of allegiance to the Israel's new Suzerain who is also Israel's God. Significantly, Jesus will quote this passage to Satan in His ordeal of the Temptation (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8).

Deuteronomy 6:16 Do not put Yahweh your God to the test as you tested him at Massah. Jesus will quote this verse in His confrontation with Satan in Matthew 4:7 and Luke 4:12.

Question: What was Israel's sin at Massah (means "testing")? See Ex 17:1-17 and Dt 9:22-23.
Answer: The Israelites challenged God to provide them with water, behaving rebelliously instead of with faith and trust.

Question: Verses 18-19 give what additional warning?
Answer: Rather than testing God, Israel was to be loyal, diligent and obedient. Yahweh's promised blessings in the Promised Land were conditional upon Israel's obedience.

Deuteronomy 6:20-25
The Command to Teach Future Generations
20 'In times to come, when your child asks you, "What is the meaning of these instructions [testimonies = 'edot], laws [mishpatim] and customs [hukkim ] which Yahweh our God has laid down for you?" 21 you are to tell your child, "Once we were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, and Yahweh brought us out of Egypt by his mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes, Yahweh worked great and terrible signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and his entire household. 23 And he brought us out of there, to lead us into the country which he had sworn to our ancestors that he would give us. 24 And Yahweh has commanded us to observe [do] all these laws and to fear Yahweh our God, so as to be happy for ever and to survive [live], as we do to this day. 25 For us, right living will mean this [it will therefore be to our merit]: to keep [samar] and observe [do] all these commandments in obedience to Yahweh our God, as he has commanded us."' [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 478).

Moses resumes the theme he began in verse 7 in which the people are told to teach their children about these instructions, laws and customs. He gives an example of good parenting in the son's respectful question and the father's patient response. The father's answer condenses the essential elements of the Israelite's faith in God:

  1. A statement of Israel's historical enslavement by Pharaoh (verse 21)
  2. The revelation of God to Israel
    1. the Exodus liberation (verse 21b)
    2. the mighty works of Yahweh's judgment on Egypt (verse 22)
    3. God's purpose in Israel's redemption (verse 23)
  3. The revelation of the Law
    1. command to live the Law and fear God (verse 24)
    2. obedience to the Law is the path of live (verses 24b-25)

(Amended from Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, page 175).

Verses 20 and 21 are repeated in the ceremony of the Passover Haggadah and are followed by questions the youngest boy asks the host/father.

Israel owes her very existence to God who redeemed her and created her out of an Egyptian slave population. He guided her safely through the wilderness and intends to give her the land He swore on oath to give to Israel's forefathers. In verses 24-25 Moses teaches that living the law is in itself a meritorious act of reverence for God.

Question: Verses 1-3 and 24-25 gives what principle of life for the covenant people?
Answer: Love of God is the basis of covenant loyalty.

Chapter 7
The Uniqueness of Israel's Divine Election, Israel's War Policy and the Hazards Associated with Occupying the Land of Canaan

In this part of his homily, Moses turns to the dangers to faith and obedience the Israelites will face during and after the conquest of Canaan. Dangers include fear of a more powerful enemy, the seduction of the Canaanite's idolatry (chapter 7), the sense of self-sufficiency that might arise from the prosperity they will experience in possessing the land that might cause Israel to forget her dependency on God (chapter 8), and a mistaken belief that the success of the conquest is proof of Israel's righteousness (chapters 9-10).

Deuteronomy 7:1-6
Israel's Divine Election and Her Obligations after her Victories over her Enemies
1 'When Yahweh your God has brought you into the country which you are going to make your own, many nations will fall before you: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than yourselves. 2 Yahweh your God will put them at your mercy and you will conquer them. You must put them under the curse of destruction [herem]. You must not make any treaty with them or show them any pity. 3 You must not intermarry with them; you must not give a daughter of yours to a son of theirs, or take a daughter of theirs for a son of yours, for your son would be seduced from following me into serving other gods; the wrath of Yahweh would blaze out against you and he would instantly destroy you. 5 Instead, treat them like this: tear down their altars, smash their standing-stones, cut down their sacred poles and burn their idols. 6 For you are a people consecrated to Yahweh your God; of all the peoples on earth, you have been chosen by Yahweh your God to be his own people.

In Genesis 15:19-20, God named ten nations that inhabit Canaan, but in this passage Moses only names seven. Seven is one of the "perfect" numbers; therefore, the seven nations listed represent the total of the nations/city-states who will be dispossessed of the Promised Land according to the will of God.

Question: How is Israel commanded to treat the nations living in Canaan?
Answer: Israel must:

The restriction to intermarriage did not apply to converts, as in the case of Rahab the Canaanite heroine of Jericho and Ruth the Moabitess, both of whom were ancestors of King David and Jesus.

Question: Why must the Israelites avoid becoming contaminated by the sins of the inhabitants of the land they are going to conquer? See Ex 19:6; Lev 11:43-45; 19:2; 20:7; Num 15:40; Dt 7:6; 14:2, 21; 26:19; 28:9.
Answer: The Israelites must not be contaminated by the sinful inhabitants of the land because they have been sanctified and divinely elected to be Yahweh's possession-the holy people of a holy God.

Deuteronomy 7:6 For you are a people consecrated to Yahweh your God; of all the peoples on earth, you have been chosen by Yahweh your God to be his own people.

Moses declares Israel's divine election to be dedicated as a people who belong to God. It was a divine election Yahweh Himself announced to Moses in Exodus 19:4-6 and Moses which will repeat again in 14:2. Israel's divine election will also be repeated by the prophets (i.e., Is 62:12; Am 3:2 and Jer 2:3), and in St. Paul's letter to the Romans, he will list Israel's eight privileges of divine election, including identifying the Israelites as the people from whom the Messiah came to redeem mankind (see Rom 9: 4-5 and the list of "Israel's Divine Prerogatives" in the Charts/New Testament/Epistles of St. Paul section).

Question: Are Christians also divinely election to be dedicated to Christ? See Rom 8:14-16.
Answer: Yes, through the Sacrament of Christian baptism Christians die to sin and are resurrection with Christ, becoming sanctified and re-born into the family of God as adopted children of the divine Father. In our divine election, we become joint-heirs with Christ and willing partners in His mission-sharing His suffering in the conquest against sin so that we may also share in His glory in receiving the eternal blessings of heaven.

Deuteronomy 7:7-11
The Reason for Israel's Divine Election
7 'Yahweh set his heart on you and chose you not because you were the most numerous of all peoples-for indeed you were the smallest of all-8 but because he loved you and meant to keep the oath which he swore to your ancestors: that was why Yahweh brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the place of slave-labor, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 From this you can see that Yahweh your God is the true God, the faithful God who, though he is true to his covenant and his faithful love for a thousand generations as regards those who love him and keep his commandments, 10 punishes in their own persons those who hate him. He destroys anyone who hates him, without delay; and it is in their own persons that he punishes them. 11 Hence, you must keep and observe the commandments [mitsvot], laws [mishpatim] and customs [hukkim] which I am laying down for you today. [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 479).

Question: What was Yahweh's one reason for reveling Himself to Israel? See Dt 4:37; 7:8; 10:15 and CCC 218.
Answer: God's one reason for reveling Himself to Israel and choosing them to be His holy people was because of love. Despite their many failures in the course of their history, God never abandoned them nor did He abandon His plan that the promised Redeemer-Messiah and His mother should come from the people of Israel.

Once again Moses emphasizes that God did not choose Israel out of all the other nations of the earth for political reasons (Dt 4:37). The bond that ties Israel to God is a covenant that is based upon God's faithful covenant love-greater than a father's love for his child or a husband's love for his wife (Dt 10:12-15; CCC 219-220). It is a love that began with the oath God swore to Abraham (Gen 22:16). Israel is the fruit of that passionate love, but this is to be a reciprocal love affair; it is Israel's obligation to return God's love by living in obedience to His commandments (Levenson, Sinai & Zion, pages 76,-77).

Deuteronomy 7:9 From this you can see that Yahweh your God is the true God, the faithful God who, though he is true to his covenant and his faithful love for a thousand generations as regards those who love him and keep his commandments,

Question: What evidence could the Israelites look to as proof of Yahweh's power and His trustworthiness to keep His promises? See Dt 4:20, 34, and CCC 215
Answer: In the Exodus liberation Yahweh worked wonders on Israel's behalf, defeating the most powerful king in the region, a man worshiped as a god, and that king's pantheon of gods who had no power to stop God's might works. God also spoke truthfully to the Israelites and kept His promises to Israel despite their continuous rebellions. He brought the twelve tribes of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and was in the process of fulfilling the promises He made to the Patriarchs to make them a mighty nation in possession of the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 7:10 ... punishes in their own persons those who hate him. He destroys anyone who hates him, without delay; and it is in their own persons that he punishes them. Covenant obligations are corporate and individual. Every member of the community is responsible for obedience to the covenant. This verse and Dt. 24:16 emphasize one's individual responsibility to love and serve/worship Yahweh (also see Jer 31:29-30 and Ez 14:12-20; 18:10-20). Disloyalty to the covenant is treason.

Deuteronomy 7:12-16
An Exhortation to Remain Faithful and Promised Blessings for Obedience
12 Listen to these ordinances, be true to them and observe them, and in return Yahweh your God will be true to the covenant and love which he promised on oath to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers; he will bless the fruit of your body and the produce of your soil, your corn [grain] your new wine, your oil, the issue of your cattle, the young of your flock, in the country which he swore to your ancestors that he would give you. 14 You will be the most blessed of all peoples. None of you, man or woman, will be sterile, no male or female of your bests infertile. 15 Yahweh will deflect all illness from you; he will not afflict you with those evil plagues of Egypt which you have known, but will inflict them on all who hate you. 16 So, devour all the peoples whom Yahweh your God puts at your mercy, show them no pity, do not serve their gods: or you will be ensnared. [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 480). "Corn" is an English word for multi-grain cereal like wheat and barley; it does not mean "maise," the Indian ears of grain we call "corn."

All other gods are rivals for Yahweh's affection and potential challengers to His role as Israel's divine Suzerain. Yahweh's jealousy is both the jealousy of a husband who demands His covenant bride's affection is only for Him and the King who demands that His vassal gives his allegiance to no other ruler. In Hittite covenant treaties the vassal was require to report any member of the community who offered his service to another lord (Levenson, Sinai & Zion, page 66). Such an action was not only a covenant breach but a traitorous act and possibly the beginnings of an insurrection. In Deuteronomy 13:7/6-19/18, Israelites will also be held accountable for reporting such actions in the community or in their own families.

Question: What blessings does Moses tell the people are theirs if they are loyal to Yahweh's covenant and His commands concerning the Promised Land?
Answer:

Question: How would you classify all the promised blessings for obedience that the Israelites will experience in the Promised Land? Are they temporal or eternal?
Answer: All Israel's promised blessings are temporal.

Under the covenants before the advent of the Redeemer-Messiah, all blessings from God were temporal but so were the punishments/judgments (Gen 12:1-3; Lev 26:3-13). Man's destination after death, for both the righteous and the wicked, was the grave/Shoel/Hades, a temporary place of purification for the righteous and a place of torment and purification for the wicked until the coming of the Messiah (Wis 3:1-12; Lk 16:19-31; 1 Pt 3:18-22; 4:6; CCC 633). God the Son brought blessings that were eternal for the righteous. However, for those who reject the Messiah's blessing of eternal life, their free-will choice is a punishment that is also eternal (see Mt 25:31-46; Rev 20:11-15).

Deuteronomy 7:17-26
Israel's Power is in Yahweh
17 'You may say in your heart, "These nations outnumber me; how shall I be able to dispossess them?" 18 Do not be afraid of them: remember how Yahweh your God treated Pharaoh and all Egypt, 19 the great ordeals that you yourselves have seen, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm with which Yahweh your God brought you out. This is how Yahweh your God will treat all the peoples whom you fear to face. 20 And what is more, Yahweh your God will send hornets to destroy those who are left and who hide from you. 21 Do not be afraid of them, for Yahweh your God is among you, a great and terrible God. 22 Little by little, Yahweh your God will clear away these nations before you; you cannot destroy them all at once, or wild animals will breed and be disastrous for you. 23 But Yahweh your God will put them at your mercy, and disaster after disaster will overtake them until they are finally destroyed. 24 He will put their kings at your mercy and you will blot out their names under heaven; no one will be able to resist you-until you have destroyed them all. 25 You must burn the statues of their gods, not coveting the gold and silver that covers them; take it and you will be caught in a snare: it is detestable to Yahweh your God. 26 You must not bring any detestable thing into your house: or you, like it, will come under the curse of destruction. You must regard them as unclean and loathsome, for they are under the curse of destruction.'

Twice Moses urges the people "do not be afraid" (verses 18 and 21). The reasons they might be afraid are the same reasons their father's gave when they refused to invade Canaan thirty-eight years earlier at Kadesh-Barnea (Num 13:27-29, 31-33).

Question: Why doesn't it matter that the nations that inhabit Canaan are more powerful than the Israelites?
Answer: God will be fighting for them.

Question: Is the victory to be accomplished quickly? Why?
Answer: No, the victory will be a process. If too many of the inhabitants and their cities are destroyed at once, the wild animal population will increase at a significant rate and become a problem for the Israelites.

After the Assyrians depopulated the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC they brought in five other groups of peoples from their eastern provinces to inhabit the land of Israel. These people became the Samaritans. The first problem the newly settled populations faced was that they were being ravaged by wild animals (2 Kng 17:5-6, 24-26).

Deuteronomy 7:26: You must not bring any detestable thing into your house: or you, like it, will come under the curse of destruction. You must regard them as unclean and loathsome, for they are under the curse of destruction.'

Question: Why did God command that nothing associated with the sinful pagan peoples of Canaan be brought into Israelite houses? See Lev 27:28.
Answer: Everything associated with the pagan peoples was to be put under the curse of destruction and belonged to Yahweh. To possess any object belonging to the pagans could become a trap for the Israelites to follow their pagan practices. The Israelites were to completely destroy the people of Canaan and their religion.

Questions for group discussion:

In the temptation of Christ, Satan challenged Jesus three times. In each challenge, Jesus quoted from Scripture. To the first challenge Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3, in the second challenge He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16, and in the third challenge Jesus quoted from 6:13.

Question: Why did Jesus quote from the passages from Deuteronomy in response to Satan's challenge to Jesus' divinity in Matthew 4:3-4 and 4:5-7 and in his offer to give Jesus dominion over all the earth in 4:8-10? What did Jesus' response have to do with covenant loyalty?
Answer: Satan's offers of dominion and power were not his to give. God is the Creator and the Great King. He has formed a covenant with the earth (Noahide Covenant) and with the Israelites, Jesus' ancestors. For Jesus in any way to acknowledge Satan would be treason to the covenant of Sinai for an Israelite and treason to the New Covenant over which Jesus' Himself is the Great King and Lord-which Jesus sums up in His final rebuke of Satan when He said: The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8). Jesus is quoting from the renewed covenant treaty in Deuteronomy 6:13. Jesus' statement recalls Satan's sin against God which was an act of treason in his refusal to serve God (see Is 14:12-15 where the Church Fathers identified the fall of the king of Babylon and Ez 28:11-19 in the description of the fall of the king of Tyre with Satan's treason and fall; also see Rev 12:3, 7-9).

Question: In Deuteronomy 7:8, Moses reveled that God chose Israel out of love. The prophet Isaiah wrote that God's love is everlasting (Is 54:8), and through the prophet Jeremiah, God told His people "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jer 31:3). How did St. John the Apostle define God's love for us and how is His love reveled to us in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity? See 1 Jn 4:8, 16; 1 Cor 2:7-16; Eph 3:9-12; CCC 221.
Answer: St. John wrote that God is love. His very Being is Love, and by sending Jesus Christ His only begotten Son to redeem mankind in the Spirit of Love, God has revealed the innermost secret of His eternal Being. "God Himself is an eternal exchange of love" (CCC 221). God the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the love that binds the Father to the Son. This exchange of love within the life of the Most Holy Trinity is the love God has destined us to share when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and gratefully receive His gift of eternal salvation.

In Leviticus 19:18 God commanded His covenant people to... love your neighbor as yourself, and in Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses taught: You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. In Matthew 22:35 a Pharisee tested Jesus by asking, Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law? Jesus answered them by referring to these two passages from the Pentateuch: Jesus said to him, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too' (Mt 22:37-40). In His reply, Jesus summarized the entire Ten Commandments and the whole teaching of Sacred Scripture from the "Law" (in the Pentateuch) to the Prophets (to the rest of Sacred Scripture). However, Jesus also gave His disciples a new commandment as the hallmark of Christian living during His Last Supper discourse.

Question: What was that new commandment and how are you living that commandment in your faith journey? See Jn 15:12-17.

Endnotes:

1. See Dt 4:10; 5:29; 6:2, 13, 24; 8:6; 10:12, 20; 11:25; 13:4, 11; 14:23; 17:13, 19; 19:20; 21:21; 28:58; 31:11, 13.

2. Some Fathers of the Church also saw the three times declaration of God as "holy" in the hymn of the Seraphim in Is 6:3 and Rev 4:8 as a reference to the mystery of the Triune nature of the Godhead.

3. Compline is the concluding hour of the Divine Office. Its origins are ascribed to St. Benedict (480-547) in the West. Initially, Compline (etymology = Latin completorium, compliment) was recited after the evening meal or before retiring for the night. In the Church today, it follows Vespers (Evening Prayers). As Night Prayer it consists of a hymn, one or two psalms, a short reading from the Bible, a versicle (short verse) and response, the Nunc Dimittis of St. Simeon (Lk 2:29-32), and a concluding prayer.

4. Today the talit is worn by male worshipers at all weekday Synagogue morning services, on the Sabbath, and on all holy feast days. The exception is on the day commemoration the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587/6 BC and in 70 AD. On this day of mourning (Tisha B'Av), the talit and tefilin are worn during the afternoon service (Mincha) only. The talit (plural talitot) are only worn during daylight hours when the tassels can be seen and only by males. Originally the tassels of the talitot were blue (Num 15:38), but after the Temple was destroyed, the recipe for the blue dye was lost and since that time the tassels have usually been white (The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 100).

5. The Jewish Masoretic text calls these devices totapot in Ex 13:16, meaning "symbols." The word is possibly from the Hebrew root tpp, meaning "to tap or strike," "make an incision," which may be a reference to the actual mark made in the flesh from the impression of the boxes. However, other scholars suggest the word is from the root tup, meaning "to encircle," "surround" (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, "Phylacteries," page 370).

6. Other objects like the kipa or yarmulke (skullcap), the Star of David and chai charms worn around the neck or as ornaments on various other objects were introduced in much later periods and have lesser status because they are not commanded as an obligation in Scripture. These other objects serve as reminders to the Jew of his Jewishness in the age of Rabbinic Judaism.

Michal Hunt, Copyright 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson (* indicated Scripture quoted or paraphrased in the citation:

Dt 6:4-5

CCC 201, 459*, 2093*

Dt 6:4

CCC 228, 2083

Dt 6:5

CCC 368*, 2055*, 2133

Dt 6:13-14

CCC 2084

Dt 6:13

CCC 2096, 2150

Dt 6:16

CCC 2119

Dt 7:6

762*

Dt 7:8

218*

Dt 7:9

215*