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(Deut 26:1 - 29:8(9))

D'varim/Deuteronomy 26:17-18   You have caused the L-rd to say this day to be for you ... and the L-rd has caused you to say this day to be for Him ...

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View whole verse and interlinear translation ...

These two verses are the only use of the root , to say, in the Hif'il stem in the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures. The first one (starting verse 17) is a straightforward Hif'il affix 2ms, "you caused to say", with its object - the L-rd - preceding it. The second one (starting verse 18) is a Hif'il affix 3ms with a 2ms object suffix, "he caused you to say", with its subject - the L-rd preceding it. Otherwise, both verses start in an identical way, simply repeating or mirroring the same words: , today or this day, - the Qal infinitive of - to be, /, to or for you/Him.

The reciprocal nature of these two statements attracts the attention of the commentators. Gunter Plaut says that, "Moshe notes the covenantal affirmations made by Israel and by G-d. He expresses their mutuality via the causal form. That is, G-d causes Israel's affirmation and Israel's acceptance causes G-d's". Reflecting on the original covenant ceremony at Sinai (Shemot 19:5-6,8):

G-d: Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Israel: All that the L-RD has spoken we will do

Jeffrey Tigay adds, "G-d and Israel have each proclaimed their acceptance of the other as parties to the covenant, and have proclaimed specific commitments to each other. The fact that the declarations of both Israel and G-d are described here with the same verb highlights what was implicit at Sinai: the present covenant, like that at Sinai, was agreed to mutually and involved commitments on both sides; it was not an act of G-d alone. Israel became G-d's people only when it agreed to follow His laws."

Not all the commentators are happy with the degree of mutuality that the text appears to suggest. The What Is ...

Septuagint: Also known simply as LXX, the Septuagint is a translation of the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, probably done during the 1st century BCE by the Jewish community in Alexandria to have the Scriptures in their "first" tongue; the quality is mixed - some parts, such as the Torah, were in frequent use and are quite well rendered, in other less used parts the translation is rather patchy and shows signs of haste; it was widely deprecated by the early rabbis
Septuagint switches both verbs to forms of , to choose or prefer. Onkelos uses the verb , to split or separate, which is then followed in the Talmud (b. Berachot 6a and b. Chagiga 3a) by , one, to give the idea of "making unique". Drazin and Wagner suggest that the use of is this context may be "a technical term for parties contracting a covenant, so Onkelos - realising that the technical term would not be understood by the masses - uses a word referring to the goal of the covenant."

Why should the use of Hif'il be so significant at this point? Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch puts his finger on it by saying, "It means: You have brought it about, you have caused it to be said that He must be your G-d; and G-d has caused it to be said that you must be a treasured people to Him." In other words, human action has caused G-d to be obligated. Hirsch goes onto explain the consequences: "That is to say Israel's solemn promise to G-d and G-d's pledged Word to Israel has not remained, so to say, a private matter, it has become internationally known, a fact engraved in the mind of the world. Henceforth one designates G-d as 'the G-d of the Jews' and Israel as 'the People of G-d'".

The idea that any human action is required in order to conclude or complete anything that G-d does is just as difficult to some Christians as to some of the Jewish commentators. Shane Lems asks1: "Is faith, strictly speaking, a condition of salvation? In other words, did Jesus die on the cross, doing 99%, and now leaves it up to us to believe, doing the last 1%? In still other words, did Jesus' death make salvation possible, or did he actually accomplish redemption?" Lems cites the puritan stalwart John Owen: "Christ did not die for any upon condition, 'if they do believe'; but he died for all God's elect, 'that they should believe,' and believing have eternal life."2

The Scriptures paint a rich and nuanced picture of the relationship between the L-rd and believers. Without in any way detracting from the absolute sovereignty of G-d, the Bible also shows a working partnership that requires man's active participation to bring to completion. Yeshua told the disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15, ESV). We are not simply servants, acting in mute obedience, unaware of what we do or how it contributes to the whole, but friends of Yeshua, privileged to know His heart and share His concerns. Yet, Yeshua's next words are: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you" (v. 16, ESV), clearly putting the initiative in Yeshua's hands.

Rav Sha'ul picks up the story: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of G-d, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV) - we are saved by G-d's grace alone, by believing in Yeshua. And Yeshua's work is a gift, we cannot earn it by anything that we do. Yet in his next breath, Sha'ul adds: "For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (v. 10, ESV); we have been created - and saved - to do the things that G-d has prepared and designed for us to do. Sha'ul explains that "We are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building" (1 Corinthians 3:9, ESV); we work together with, alongside, G-d to accomplish His purposes which are also our purposes. Sha'ul goes further and says that, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Colossians 1:24, ESV) and tells the Corinthians, "you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer" (2 Corinthians 1:6, ESV) - we are in some way completing the work of Messiah.

For today, this is our calling as well. We are called to work alongside G-d, knowing enough of His heart to understand the injustices and hurts that He wants to correct, guided particularly by the Ruach as to precisely where we work, what we say and what we do. We too echo Israel's affirmation of relationship - "You are our G-d" - and so draw G-d down into what we are doing. We proclaim Him and He is there, touching people as we touch them, healing when we pray, binding up broken hearts as we listen and comfort. We hear G-d's voice confirming that we are His people as we read His word and obey His commands.

1. -

2. - John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999, page 123

Further Study: Isaiah 41:1-5; 2 Corinthians 6:1

Application: Are you walking in your calling and hearing G-d's affirmation of you? Perhaps it is time to speak out the truth that He is your G-d and so invite Him back into your life anew.

© Jonathan Allen, 2013

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