Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Sunday Sermonette: Yahweh's Greatest Hits

Deuteronomy 6 is extremely important -- in fact central -- to Jewish religious observance, and contains some of the most quoted lines in the Bible, including one that is quoted by Jesus in two of the gospels. At the same time, it contains its fair share of depravity. This is still the RSV. Here goes.


“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the ordinances which 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; 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 prolonged. 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.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord;[a]

This begins "Shema Yisrael" in Hebrew, which is the title of a prayer that is the centerpiece of daily prayer services and begins with this line. Children are taught to say it when they go to bed at night, and it is often people's last words. "The Lord" here translates YHWH. Because Rabbinic Judaism teaches that the actual name of God should not be pronounced,  "Adonai" is substituted when the Shema is recited.  "Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai EḼad."

and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Jesus is said to have quoted this in Matthew 22, and Mark 12, and to have said it is the foremost commandment.

And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and 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. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

Hence when observant Jews pray they do indeed tie small leather boxes containing fragments of the Torah on their arms and foreheads.

And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

And so observant Jews attach a small box called a mezuzah, containing the Shema, to the doorposts of their houses.

10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, with great and goodly cities, which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, 12 then take heed lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

This is the depraved part. You're going to murder the people who live there, and steal all of this stuff from them. Of course, the English settlers took this idea to heart when they came to North America. I would also ask you to think about this with respect to the modern state of Israel. 

13 You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve him, and swear by his name. 14 You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples who are round about you; 15 for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.

20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; 22 and the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes; 23 and he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land which he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as at this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’


  1. Deuteronomy 6:4 Or the Lord our God, the Lord is one Or the Lord is our God, the Lord is one Or the Lord is our God, the Lord alone


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