In the first movement of Deuteronomy, two words appear more frequently than any others—listen and love. Why did Moses emphasize these two words in his farewell speech to Israel? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore what it looks like to be loyal to Yahweh, the God unlike any other, who listens to humanity.
In every close relationship, one of the most simple but also difficult ways to show love is attentive listening—and responding and doing something because of what you hear … Moses warns Israel that they shouldn’t give their allegiance to other gods because they’re gods that do not shema (listen). So they are to shema, and if they shema, Yahweh will listen to them.
In part one (00:00-11:41), Tim and Jon review our last episode, where we started exploring the scroll of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy means “second law,” and the whole scroll is one long speech given by Moses in an attempt to explain the law to Israel’s new generation as they prepare to make the transition from a nomadic, wandering people group to a nation with a land of its own.
In Deuteronomy, Moses represents the archetypal prophet leading God’s people into the promised land. Every generation who reads Deuteronomy (even modern day readers) are meant to see themselves as awaiting the ultimate prophet who will lead them into the true Eden, where Heaven and Earth are one.
In part two (11:41-32:15), Tim and Jon discuss the theme we’re tracing in this movement, listen and love. Listen (shema) appears 91 times in Deuteronomy and 35 times in the first movement. When a word gets repeated, it’s a sign the biblical author wants you to pay attention to it. Love (ahav) appears 12 times in the first movement of Deuteronomy.
The main message of Deuteronomy is that Yahweh has provided a way for Israel to flourish in the Eden land––flourishing will come when the people show their love for Yahweh by listening to and obeying his commands.
[Do not] serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.
Yahweh is a God who listens to his people. Moses warns Israel not to give their allegiance to other gods because they will not listen. Idol statues can’t listen, and while Yahweh has delegated authority to other spiritual beings represented by those statues, they are merely created beings, and they are not all-powerful like Yahweh.
There is a reciprocal relationship between listening and loving. The main idea is this: If Israel loves Yahweh, they will listen to him. (Listen, in this case, means more than just hearing. It’s about responding in trust and obedience.) Similarly, because Yahweh loves Israel, he listens to them. He responds with compassion and mercy and delivers them when they need help.
In part three (32:15-51:10), the guys compare Israel’s entrance to Canaan with themes from Genesis 1-3.
The author of Deuteronomy employs many of the same literary elements that appear in Genesis 1-3, painting the promised land as a new Eden.
At the beginning of Deuteronomy, Israel stands outside a lush garden land, looking in from the desert (like the barren wasteland of Genesis 2). But to enter, they’ll have to cross the Jordan River. Crossing through waters symbolizes entering potential death—the people must trust Yahweh’s word that they will live. Israel will also have to pass a cherubim with a sword (Josh. 5:13).
Like Adam and Eve, Israel is given an opportunity for long life in the garden land if they listen to Yahweh’s commands. The choice before Israel is one piece of the larger mosaic visible to readers of the TaNaK—we are all waiting to re-enter Eden.
In part four (51:10-01:05:43), Tim and Jon explore how the authors of the New Testament echoed themes from Deuteronomy and the Torah to instruct early followers of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 10:1-6
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea … They were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased, for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
Writing to the largely Gentile church in Corinth, Paul calls them descendants of Israel and inheritors of the wisdom of the Torah—just like the Jewish people. Paul believes that Israel’s history reveals God’s plan for all of humanity.
The loving relationship between Israel and Yahweh described in Deuteronomy uses the same language used to describe the marriage union of husband and wife in the Eden story. Just like God provided a partner for man in Eden so the two could be fruitful and multiply and enjoy long life in the land, Israel is depicted as a covenant partner of Yahweh that is to love and cling to him as they would a spouse. This is still the inheritance of God’s people today, to partner with God and be united with him through Jesus.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz with Associate Producer Lindsey Ponder. Edited by Dan Gummel, Tyler Bailey, and Frank Garza. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by MacKenzie Buxman.
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