Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 7, 2009

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

• The Shema | Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is called the “Shema,” the most important passage of the Old Testament for the Jews. It is the great confession of faith of Judaism. The designation “shema” comes from the Hebrew word “hear” in verse 4. This passage of Scripture is the first that every Jewish child must commit to memory. It is used to open every Jewish service. It is recited twice daily by the faithful in accordance with Jewish rabbinical law. Read also Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41.

6:4 | This great confession of faith begins with the declaration that God is one. This was important to the Israelites who found themselves between Egypt and Canaan. The Israelites were not unfamiliar with polytheism. The Egyptians acknowledged and worshiped innumerable gods, the names of at least two thousand of which are known. The future of the Israelites would be filled with the temptation to experiment with and incorporate the practices of their pagan neighbors into the worship of God. This confession prohibited both polytheism and syncretism. Thus this was an important confession for a people at the intersection of a past in which they were exposed to polytheism and a future that would tempt them with syncretism.

6:5 | The Israelites were to wholeheartedly love God. They were to love God with all their “heart … soul … [and] might,” terms that indicate the comprehensive kind of love man should have for God.

• They were to love God affectionately, with “all your heart.” The word “all” precludes a half-hearted kind of love. They were to love God entirely, “with all your soul.”

• They were to love God energetically, “with all your might.” In repeating this commandment, Jesus added the word “mind” (see Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27).

• They were to love God intelligently, “with all your mind.” There is nothing unreasonable about loving God. Our love for God is best demonstrated by our obedience to His commands (see John 14:15 and 1 John 5:3).

Father and son at the Wailing Wall.

Father and son at the Wailing Wall.

6:6-9 | Verse 6 declares that God’s word was to be passed on from generation to generation. Parents were charged with the responsibility of passing the faith on to their children. Note however, the phrase, “these words [that is, the entire law] … shall be on your heart.” Parents cannot teach their children about the love of God if they themselves have not experienced that love. Parents were to instruct their children in a comprehensive way in the course of daily living. What the parents had personally experienced (6:6) they were to communicate through a variety of methods, including verbal communication (6:7), exhibiting (6:8), and writing (6:9). In later times, the Jews interpreted literally the words of verses 8 and 9 and placed the words of the shema in small containers worn on the person (phylacteries) and attached to the doorposts of their homes (mezuzahs).

You cannot give what you do not possess. | Parents cannot impart to the next generation what they themselves do not possess. They cannot teach their children the importance of observing God’s commands if doing so is not a priority in their own hearts. The faith of the parents must be a personal, heartfelt faith. Children know whether or not the things of God are dear to their parents’ hearts.

Youth ministry begins in the home. | Youth ministry begins in the home for three reasons. First, because the Bible declares it. The Bible exhorts parents to teach their children the things of God. Second, because the family demands it. The home provides the proper atmosphere for youth ministry. In the home, youth are under the influence and authority of their parents from day to day. Third, because youth desire it. Youth want guidance from their parents. They want a consistent spiritual example from their parents. Socrates asked, “Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children to whom one day you must relinquish it all?”

Religious practices can mask a wrong heart. | The Israelites used phylacteries and mezuzahs as outward and visible reminders of the importance of loving and serving God. In time, these outward trappings became more important to them that what they symbolized. In Jesus day, the Pharisees ostentatiously displayed their phylacteries, prayers, fasting, and tithing. It is easy to allow our worship and Bible study attendance, praying, tithing, and other practices to be done without consideration of the condition of our hearts. We must be careful lest good habits become a mask for a wrong heart.

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Photo Credit | Doyle Lowry, Jerusalem 2007


  1. Thanks for the posts!

    Also, thanks Doyle Lowry, for the photo!


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