The first commandment (Mk 12:29-12:30)

“Jesus answered.

‘The first commandment is.

‘Hear this!

O Israel!

The Lord Our God!

The Lord is one!

You shall love

The Lord

Your God

With all your heart,

With all your soul,

With all your mind,

And with all your strength.’”

 

ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Πρώτη ἐστίν Ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν Κύριος εἷς ἐστιν

καὶ ἀγαπήσεις Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου.

 

This response of Jesus can be found also in Matthew, chapter 22:37-38, without the Shema cry for Israel to listen.  In Luke, chapter 10:27-28, Jesus responded that he had given the right answer to the question.  Here, in Mark it is separate from the love of neighbor, which is the 2nd commandment.  This Shema can be found in Deuteronomy, chapter 6:4-5.  These verses have had a great influence on the Israelites as the great commandment that is recited often and written all over the place on their hands, forehead, and door posts.  It is both a morning and an evening prayer, something you say at home and when you are away from home.  The Israelites taught their children this simple prayer.  Jesus and the early Christian followers will repeat this prayer in the gospel stories of the New Testament as the great commandment of love of God.  This “Shema” became the basis of the Abrahamic religions, the great commandment of monotheism and love that must always be remembered.  Mark said that Jesus answered this Scribe (ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς) that the first commandment was (ὅτι Πρώτη ἐστίν) “Hear this (Ἄκουε,)!  O Israel (Ἰσραήλ,)! The Lord our God (Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς), the Lord is one (Κύριος εἷς ἐστιν)!”  He should love the Lord (καὶ ἀγαπήσεις Κύριον), his God (τὸν Θεόν σου) with his whole heart (ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίᾳ σου), his whole soul (καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου), his whole mind (καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου), and with all his strength (καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου).  This was the greatest and the first commandment, love God above all else with your whole powerful being, heart, soul, and mind.

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Love of Yahweh is the essence of the law (Deut 5:32-6:13)

“You must therefore be careful to do as Yahweh your God has commanded you. You shall not turn to the right or to the left. You must follow exactly the path that Yahweh your God has commanded you, so that you may live. Thus it may go well with you so that you may live long in the land that you are to occupy.”

The commandments must be following exactly with no variances to the right or left. If you follow the path of Yahweh, you will live long and things will go well with you.

“Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances that Yahweh your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land to that you are about to cross into and occupy. Thus you and your children may fear Yahweh your God, all the days of your life. Keep all his decrees and commandments that I am commanding, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently. Thus it may go well with you. You may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.”

There are 2 things to notice here. First the call to ‘hear O Israel,’ is an indication of an oral presentation. This ‘shema’ or prayer is based on the Hebrew word to hear. This will be repeated in the next paragraph. Second, we return to the great phrase, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ People must have liked honey and milk as perhaps it was rare in their community.

“Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone. You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home, when you are away, when you lie down, and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand. Fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

These verses have had a great influence on the Israelites as the great commandment that is recited often and written all over the place on the hands, forehead, and door posts. It is both a morning and an evening prayer, something you say at home and when you are away from home. The Israelites were to teach their children this simple prayer. Jesus and the early Christian followers will repeat this in the gospel stories of the New Testament as the great commandment of love of God. This was also very influential on Islam. ‘There is no Allah, but Allah, and Mohamed is his messenger,’ a prayer that is repeated often is much like ‘Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone is God.’ Both are very strong monotheistic statements. This ‘shema’ becomes the basis of the Abrahamic religions, the great commandment of monotheism and love that must always be remembered.   We must all love Yahweh God will all our heart, all our souls, and all our might, a total unconditional love of God.

“When Yahweh your God brings you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, there will be a land with fine large cities that you did not build. There will be houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, as well as vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget Yahweh, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Yahweh your God, you shall fear. Him you shall serve. By his name alone you shall swear.”

Here there is a direct connection between the patriarchs, the Exodus and this land of ‘milk and honey’ that has everything for you, towns, cisterns, houses, and vineyards. You just have to remember Yahweh, who took you out of Egyptian slavery.