Israeli Education for the Church: Introduction & Lexical Analysis

When it comes to Christian education—especially of young people—many questions run through peoples’ minds. “Do I send my son/daughter to a private Christian school? Do I homeschool them? Send them to a co-op? Is it a sin to send them to public school?” Often these questions are concerned with the purpose of education and how it should be done. As a child approaches the end of their time in high school, those educational questions are asked by them, “Where will I go to school? Public? Private? Will I go to school at all? What degree will I get? A practical degree in STE(A)M? A liberal arts degree?” These questions are all important in the life of a Christian because, as I will argue, education is more than obtaining a degree or meeting a list of curriculum criteria; education for Christians is about forming the whole person to love God and neighbor all the time.

Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one.[1] And you will love[2] Yahweh your God with[3] all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words which I am commanding[4] you today will be[5] on your heart. And you will repeat them to your sons,[6] and you will speak of[7] them, when[8] you sit in your house and when you walk on the way and when you lie down and when you stand up. And you will bind them[9] as a sign on your hand and you will appendage them between your eyes. And you will write[10] them on the door-posts of your house on your gate.


Lexical Analysis

To begin the exegesis of this passage, one must understand the significant vocabulary and how they contribute to the passage. In what follows, seven words—four verbs and three nouns—are significant to understanding the purpose of this passage.


אהב (‘ahav)

The first word in verse 5 is אהב with a waw conjunction in the beginning. It is a qal perfect second person masculine singular verb. Simply, this verb means “to love.”[11] However, it is used quite frequently throughout Deut., which helps nuance this understanding a bit more. Love in Deut. can refer to “human love to human object” such as 21:15.[12] An example of this love would be in 15:16 where a slave loves their master.[13] Not only that, but Israel is called to love their neighbors and strangers in 10:18, 19.[14] While love is used in Deut. on a horizontal plane (i.e., person to person), love is also used vertically in this book (i.e., person to God).[15] In fact, 6:5 is used as a proof text in BDB along with 5:10 and 7:9.[16] In the above usage, the love is directed from the ground up (i.e., from people to God). However, love is also directed from above to the ground (i.e., from God to people).[17] More specifically, Deut. provides examples of God loving “individual men” as in 4:37 and 10:15 as well as to Israel in 7:8, 13 and 23:6.[18] In short, in 6:5, Moses is calling the people of Israel to love the only God who is their God.


לֵבָב (levav)

After commanding Israel “to love the Lord your God,” Moses then lists the objects Israel is to use to love him. The first object is לֵבָב and it is singular, though in construct with “with all,” and contains a second person masculine singular suffix on the end.[19] Most simply, this term is translated “heart.”[20] Rarely is this noun used to describe the “heart of an object” though there is an instance in 4:11 when it comes to heaven.[21] Most likely, לֵבָב is used “of men.”[22] It is used in 30:14 in close connection with someone’s mouth (i.e., what they speak) and at times it is used in close connection with someone’s mind (i.e., knowledge [8:5], thinking [32:46], memory [4:9, 39; 6:6; 30:1]).[23] Not only that, but it can refer to one’s “determination[s] of the will” such as 29:17 and 30:17.[24] Additionally, it can refer to one’s morality such as in 9:5 (cf. “naughtiness” in 8:14, “circumcised” in 10:16 and 30:6; “hardened” in 2:30 and 15:7; speaking in 7:17, 8:17, 9:4, 18:21, and 29:18).[25] And finally, it can be used in place of נפשׁ (which also occurs in this passage) to refer to emotions like “gladness” (28:47), “weakness” (20:3), “grief” (15:10), “fear” (28:67), “astonishment” (28:28), and it “melteth” (1:28 and 20:8).[26] In this passage, לֵבָב is referring to one’s “mind, affections and will”—their entire being.[27] Moses calls Israel to love the only God with their entire being. This call repeats itself with the following nouns in this verse.


נֶפֶשׁ (nephesh)

The next thing Israel is to love the Lord their God with is their “soul.” While this translation seems simple, נֶפֶשׁ has quite a large range of meaning as it is versatile in its usage. In this text, נֶפֶשׁ is feminine singular noun and is in construct with “with all” and contains a second person masculine singular suffix. In its first use, it simply refers to “that which breaths, the breathing substance or being” as in 12:23.[28] Additionally, it can refer to “a living being whose life resides in the blood” as in 12:23 cited above and 12:24.[29] It includes animals (19:21) and taking someone else’s life (19:6, 11; 22:26).[30] It can be used in place of a personal pronoun or words identifying people (4:9, 15; 10:22; 24:7, 27:25).[31] Also, it is used for the location of one’s desires. (12:20, 15; 21:14, 15; 23:25).[32] In this verse, it is more than likely that נֶפֶשׁ is referring to the mind (cf. 4:29; 10:12; 11:13, 18; 13:4; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10).[33] It is possible that it refers to the will or character,[34] however since it follows so closely to the preceding noun, it is more than likely that it refers to one’s mind just like לֵבָב. 


מְאֹד (me’od)

The final thing in this list that Israel is to love the Lord their God with all their “might.” This noun is masculine and singular in construct with “with all” and contains a second person masculine singular suffix. BDB provides a simple translation of “force, might” without comment.[35] They do provide two more examples in another possible translation where מְאֹד can be used as an adverbial accusative (cf. 3:5, 30:14),[36] but neither of those instances work with the syntax of this passage as the verb is at the opposite end of מְאֹד. HALOT does provide more clarity with “strength, power.”[37] However, they do not provide any more examples from the rest of Deut. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that “might” is a sufficient translation that, like the prior nouns, intends to communicate that Israel is to love the Lord their God with their entire being. 


שׁנן (shanan)

Turning attention back to verbs, the next significant word is שׁנן. In the passage, a waw conjunction precedes the verb, and the verb is a piel perfect second person masculine singular with a third person masculine plural suffix. What makes this verb difficult to translate properly is that this is the only occurrence of it in the piel stem.[38] Plus, the context makes its usual definition difficult to fit. Some have argued that the basic definition of this verb is “sharpen” (32:41).[39] However, those who argue for sharpen mention that in the piel stem, it carries the understanding of precision or clarity with words or to instill the teachings.[40] Though, it has been argued that it is a homophone and that it indicates the words repeatedly spoken.[41] The latter interpretation should be preferred because this verb is never again used in the context of teaching—it is unique.[42] Additionally, 11:19 follows a similar construction as 6:7, and 11:19 uses למד which simply translates “to teach.”[43] In essence, the community’s way of life is to be devoted to the continual instruction of a clan’s own children and other’s children.


קשׁר (qashar)

While the community is to continually teach their children, they are also to “bind” the Lord’s precepts on their foreheads and hands. קשׁר has a waw conjunction and is a qal perfect second person masculine singular verb with a third person masculine plural suffix. BDB argues that this instance is figurative and also cites 11:18 as support.[44] The people are not literally binding these words onto their head, but they are keeping “all of [the] religious and moral precepts” in their heads and accessible at their hands.[45] The community, through their repetition of instruction (and when the children grow up) are to have the law of Yahweh so on their mind and ready, it is like carrying a box of words on their foreheads or as a sign on their hands.


כתב (kataV)

The final word to note in this passage is כתב. It also has a waw conjunction proceeding it and is a qal perfect second person masculine singular with a third person masculine plural suffix. It is used to write commandments (9:10, 10:4) and a book or certificate (24:1, 3).[46] More commonly, someone is writing on an object as it is in this case (cf. 11:20 17:18, 27:3).[47] Again, like the previous verse, Moses did not command Israel to literally write the Torah on these places.[48] Life happened at the gates of the city for the people—it is where they congregated.[49] As they congregated, they would be continually reminded of God’s Word through their interactions and conversation.. Like before, the community is to be so saturated with Yahweh’s words that whenever sojourners came into Israel, they would know their beliefs and ethics at the gates (and likewise, when clans and friends visited others).


Form

The form of this passage is didactic in nature. Throughout this passage, there are multiple qatal forms from a person in an authoritative position to a wider community. Additionally, Moses iterates throughout the passage how the people are to keep the commands. 


Endnotes

  1. This translation has opted to translate the implied copula between יְהוָ֥ה׀ אֶחָֽד as it seems there should be a verb predicating that Yahweh is one [God].
  2. This translation opted for the rhetorical future. The morphology of this verb, along with וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם , וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ , וּקְשַׁרְתָּ֥ם , וְהָי֥וּ , and וּכְתַבְתָּ֛ם are all qal perfects in varying stems. Based on the volitional nature of this passage, Moses is expecting that Israel will perform these actions. 
  3. This translation opted for the instrumental בְּ. The objects of heart, soul, and might are inanimate, but Israel is supposed to “use” them to love Yahweh.
  4. This translation opted for the present predicate participle as it fits with the normal function of its use and fits the linguistic context of Moses currently speaking. 
  5. This translation opted for the predicate nominative as the noun “your heart” is implicitly being equated with “these words.” 
  6. Paul Joüon and Takamitsu Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, Revised English. (Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2006), 165. Part Two: Morphology; Chapter II: Verb; §65b. “The form of the inf. cst. קְטֹל becomes קָטְל; a bgadkfat as the third radical is pronounced as a fricative … . The only suffixed example of the infinitive with a is found in שִׁכְבָהּ Gn 19.33, 35 side by side with שָׁכְבְּךָ.”
  7. This translation opted for the specification בְּ as it is clarifying for the audience what they will be speaking.
  8. Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 118. Temporal preposition. This translation opted for the temporal בְּ as each verb is describing when “these words” are supposed to be spoken.
  9. Arnold and Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 102. Volitional weqatal (irreal perfect) verb formation with prefixed waw.
  10. The sentence structure throughout this whole passage maintains the typical verb-subject-object (VSO) word order.
  11. Francis Brown, Samuel Driver, and Charles Briggs, The Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1977), 12; Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1994), 18.
  12. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 12.
  13. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 12.
  14. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 12.nota bene: God also loves the stranger, see 10:18; Koehler et al., HALOT, 18.
  15. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 12; Koehler et al., HALOT, 18.
  16. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 12; Koehler et al., HALOT, 18.
  17. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 12.
  18. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 12; Koehler et al., HALOT, 18.
  19. As with the rest of the nouns that follow, even though the command in verse 4 and the suffixes are all second person, masculine, singular nouns, it is referring to a singular, collective group. 
  20. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 516.
  21. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 523.
  22. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 523. Emphasis original.
  23. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 523.
  24. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 523. Emphasis original.
  25. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 523.
  26. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 523; Koehler et al., HALOT, 516.
  27. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 523. It is important to note that while English equivocates the heart with emotion, Hebrew does not bifurcate in that way: the heart is the seat of emotions and reason. Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, IVP Bible Background Commentary: OT, 177.
  28. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 659, emphasis original; Koehler et al., HALOT, 712.
  29. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 659.
  30. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 659; Koehler et al., HALOT, 713.
  31. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 659; Koehler et al., HALOT, 712.
  32. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 659; Koehler et al., HALOT, 712.
  33. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 659. Interestingly enough, HALOT does not list 6:5 as an example in any of their proposed definitions and categories.
  34. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 659.
  35. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 547.
  36. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 547.
  37. Koehler et al., HALOT, 538.
  38. James Robson, Deuteronomy 1-11: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text, ed. W. Dennis Tucker, Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016), 216.
  39. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 1041.
  40. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 1042.
  41. Koehler et al., HALOT, 1607.
  42. Robson, Deut 1-11 (BHHB), 216.
  43. Robson, Deut 1-11 (BHHB), 216; Jeffrey H. Tigay, The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy, The Jewish Publication Society Commentary (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 78.
  44. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 905.
  45. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 905.
  46. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 507; Koehler et al., HALOT, 504.
  47. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs, 507; Koehler et al., HALOT, 504.
  48. Chances are, the Israeli people were not literate. Tigay, Deut (JPS), 79.
  49. Tigay, Deut (JPS), 79.

This post was originally part of an academic paper submitted to Dr. Justin Young in Pentateuch at Covenant Theological Seminary. It has been modified from its original version.

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