Israeli Education for the Church: Biblical & Theological Context

Peter writes in his second letter that God has given his people all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). As a result, God’s people have his Word that they can know him through. While God’s Word is a collection of 66 books, it is also a coherent whole that continually interprets itself (WCF 1.7, 1.9). The next step of the exegetical process is to examine OT and NT connections to explore how 6:4-9 contributes to God’s overall work of redemption. 

Within Deut. itself, the command to store God’s Word in their heart and to write it on their door posts is reiterated (11:18, 20). Typically, when commands are repeated, it is to emphasize their importance. With the spatial distance in the text, Moses is continually drawing Israel’s attention back to the primary command: they are to love God and he is to be central to their life together. In Prov. 3:3, 6:21, and 7:3, the language of “binding” God’s Word is present. However, rather than on their hand and on their forehand, Qoheleth guides them to hang it around their neck or around their finger.[1]However, in Scripture, the allusion to writing on the “door posts” is couched in the negative. Isa. 57:8 says: “Behind the door and the door post you have set up your memorial; for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, you have gone up to it, you have made it wide; and you have made a covenant for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on nakedness.” Israel had abandoned their proper love of God and have pursued other gods; they committed adultery and disloyalty. 

The result of having God’s Word saturating the community is that their whole being—their whole country—would be completely consumed by their love for God (32:46, Ps. 37:31), resulting in righteousness (Isa. 51:7). Whereas Israel whored themselves after other gods, King Josiah served as a positive example of what it meant to pursue God with his entire being: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him” (2 Kings 23:25). Yahweh is a jealous God who will not have any other gods before him (Exod. 20:3-6; Isa. 42:8).[2] In fact, because Yahweh is one, he will one day reign over all of creation unchallenged by anything that attempts to claim sovereignty (Zech. 14:9). While Israel is to try to follow God and his Word, Yahweh knows that they cannot do it on their own. As Jeremiah prophecies on behalf of God, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (31:33). God is in a covenant relationship with his people and one day, it will be untainted by sin.

In Matt. 22:37-38, Mark 12:29-30, and Luke 10:27 Jesus directly quotes the Shema, and he offers the same command as Moses preached in Deut. Just as Israel loved the Lord their God with their entire being, so Jesus’ audience and the church was to do the same. However, Jesus expands the scope of this law and connects the vertical love (i.e., person to God) with the horizontal love (i.e., person to person): their neighbor. Indeed, the Israeli people did sin against each other by not remaining loyal to God, thus no one in the exodus generation would receive their inheritance. However, the focus of Moses was Israel’s infractions against God—whom is the desire of their ultimate love. As mentioned before, Israel spent generation after generation in subjection to Egypt. Understandably, their worldview would be slowly morphed and changed. In curriculum design, there are three types of curricula when a lesson is taught: the explicit, the hidden, and the null. The explicit curriculum is what is taught, the hidden curriculum is what is taught through implication, and the null curriculum is what is taught through what is not taught.[3] The explicit curriculum in the Shema is that God is one and should be the whole devotion. The hidden curriculum is that Israel should love their neighbors, too. However, Israel did not catch the implications (even though there are mountains of laws regulating their relationships with each other). Therefore, what Israel learned was to love God, but neighbors were second-class. Jesus breaks into their worldview and makes the hidden curriculum explicit—they are to love their neighbors, too. 

  1. Tigay, Deut (JPS), 78–9. See also Exo. 13:9.
  2. Tigay, Deut (JPS), 75.
  3. Perry Shaw, Transforming Theological Education: A Practical Handbook for Integrative Learning, 2014, 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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