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Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Context
The Essence of the Covenant Principles

6:4 Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 1  6:5 You must love 2  the Lord your God with your whole mind, 3  your whole being, 4  and all your strength. 5 

1 tn Heb “the Lord, our God, the Lord, one.” (1) One option is to translate: “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (cf. NAB, NRSV, NLT). This would be an affirmation that the Lord was the sole object of their devotion. This interpretation finds support from the appeals to loyalty that follow (vv. 5, 14). (2) Another option is to translate: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is unique.” In this case the text would be affirming the people’s allegiance to the Lord, as well as the Lord’s superiority to all other gods. It would also imply that he is the only one worthy of their worship. Support for this view comes from parallel texts such as Deut 7:9 and 10:17, as well as the use of “one” in Song 6:8-9, where the starstruck lover declares that his beloved is unique (literally, “one,” that is, “one of a kind”) when compared to all other women.

sn Verses 4-5 constitute the so-called Shema (after the first word שְׁמַע, shÿma’, “hear”), widely regarded as the very heart of Jewish confession and faith. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of all, he quoted this text (Matt 22:37-38).

2 tn The verb אָהַב (’ahav, “to love”) in this setting communicates not so much an emotional idea as one of covenant commitment. To love the Lord is to be absolutely loyal and obedient to him in every respect, a truth Jesus himself taught (cf. John 14:15). See also the note on the word “loved” in Deut 4:37.

3 tn Heb “heart.” In OT physiology the heart (לֵב, לֵבָב; levav, lev) was considered the seat of the mind or intellect, so that one could think with one’s heart. See A. Luc, NIDOTTE 2:749-54.

4 tn Heb “soul”; “being.” Contrary to Hellenistic ideas of a soul that is discrete and separate from the body and spirit, OT anthropology equated the “soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) with the person himself. It is therefore best in most cases to translate נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) as “being” or the like. See H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 10-25; D. Fredericks, NIDOTTE 3:133-34.

5 sn For NT variations on the Shema see Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27.



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