James Hamilton on the significance of the words that come after the Shema: “It doesn’t take a village; it takes a father.”

After discussing the “Shema” of Deut. 6:4-6 and explaining its content, Hamilton says:

Pause here and consider the profound significance of what Moses announces in Deuteronomy 6:4-6: Yahweh alone is God; Israel is to love him; his commands are to be on the heart. What comes next in this text was intended to be of great significance. The hearer might wonder, “What will Moses say next? Something about kings or armies or economics? Or is there something more fundamental than those things? Something that will produce righteous kings? Something that will teach soldiers that there are things worth more than peace, more than life? Something that will ensure economic stability? But what could possibly be significant enough to accomplish all of that?”

And indeed, the high and beautiful truth that the Lord is the only true and living God who is to be loved and obeyed is followed by something very significant! What follows this text is an explanation of the means for passing on the knowledge of this one God to generations yet to come. If Yahweh alone is God, he deserves to be worshiped, loved, and obeyed even after the current generation dies. To ensure the ongoing worship of the Lord, Moses declared, “You shall teach [these words] 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” (Deut. 6:7).

The first phrase of Deuteronomy 6:7 could be translated very directly as follows: “And you shall repeat them to your sons and you shall talk about them”… [As] Moses addressed the nation of Israel, he directed the responsibility to the teach the “sons” toward the fathers. The fact that the form is singular urges the conclusion that Moses did not give this responsibility to some abstract group of fathers in the community but to each individual father. It doesn’t take a village; it takes a father.

James M. Hamilton, Jr. Trained in the Fear of God, p. 36-37


About cteldridge

A beggar trying to tell other beggars were the Bread is.
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