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D'varim/Deuteronomy 4:35 You have been shown to know that the L-rd, He is G-d; there is none besides Him.
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I have to admit that biblical Hebrew is often a source of pleasure and amazement to me. Here in today's text we have a particularly inspiring piece of writing to share together. Today's verse makes a very important point that we will find being made again in the gospels. Understanding the first will help illuminate the second and lead us on in our walk and relationship with God.
Our text starts with : the second person singular pronoun, 'you', or in older English, 'thou'. It precedes a verb - , Hofal affix 2ms form of the root , to see - that has the same properties: 'you/thou'. The Hofal stem is unusual in the Hebrew Scriptures; it only occurs this once in the book D'varim.1Hofal is the passive form of Hifil, the causative stem, and we can build up the meaning of the verb by assembling the parts: you/thou - have been caused - to see; you have been shown. This is a mirror of the Hifil stem, which is often used ofHaShem to describe revelation: He caused us/them to see. The pronoun before the verb gives additional emphasis: you, you have been shown. The third word in the verse, , is also a verb: the Qal infinitive construct of the root , to know, translated as such. Next comes the particle , which is used as a joining word with a range of meanings such as 'because', 'for', 'that' and 'when' (Davidson); here it makes sense to use it as a relative pronoun, 'that'. The first half of the verse, then, tells us that "you have been shown to know that HaShem is G-d".
TheSforno starts our exploration of what this might mean by telling us that "All this God, the Blessed One, showed you, 'that you might know.' So that you might contemplate and know, without a doubt, 'that HaShem, he is G-d'; He is perforce the First cause." The Ramban adds, "You saw it with your own eyes. He is One and His Name is One." What did the people see? What were they shown? Ibn Ezra answers, "G-d showed you all of the things mentioned in verses 33-34 so that you would know that He alone is G-d." The modern commentator Jeffrey Tigay points out that "the events just described were witnessed by the entire nation and demonstrate that the L-rd alone is G-d. This demonstration goes beyond the practical concern of the second commandment, which prohibits worshiping other gods. Here Moshe states clearly that there are no others." Returning to the emphatic 'you' that starts the verse, Walter Brueggemann shows how significant that is: "'to you,' to Israel, only to Israel. Israel is to know what it has been shown. What it has seen in its own life is that there is no other G-d."2
Experience of revelation is a key factor, according to RabbiHirsch: "Your consciousness of G-d is no belief but a knowledge, and your knowledge rests on no report, nor on any conclusions which your mind comes to, you knowledge of G-d rests on the certainty of the actual experience of all of you together simultaneously having had the direct actual evidence of your own senses. Your own eyes were given enough to see for you to know that G-d, who was revealed to you under that Name is the one real G-d whom the rest of mankind seek and believe in under such manifold delusive images."
Richard Elliott Friedman uses another syntax observation from the text to elaborate on what Moshe is teaching at this point: "He is G-d". "The Hebrew is written with the definite article (literally, 'He is the G-d', not just 'He is G-d' or 'He is a God'). Grammatically, it excludes the possibility of saying the same thing about any other god as well. That is, it is a purely monotheistic statement. The sentence that follows it in the verse confirms this: 'There is no other outside Him.' These sentences were written by the 7th century BCE at the very latest. They weigh against the claim by some scholars that monotheism was a late concept in biblical Israel." Christopher Wright firmly asserts that, "the people of Israel can be confident in their knowledge of G-d because of the unique experience of G-d's revealing and redeeming power that was entrusted to them. Monotheism in Israel was not the conclusion of an evolution of religious speculation, but an assertion generated out of historical experience and grounded there."3
To you it was shown, that you might know that the L-RD is G-d; there is
no other besides Him.
To Him who alone does great wonders, for His steadfast love endures
There is none like You among the gods, O L-rd, nor are there any works
May the glory of the L-RD endure forever; may the L-RD rejoice in His
Blessed be the name of the L-RD from this time forth and forevermore!
The rejoicing on Simchat Torah, as the Torah scrolls are carried round and round, passed from person to person, while others sing and dance, is a physical expression of the joy that we share in knowing G-d, in having His word in our midst and in the revelation of Himself that He made to our people at Mt. Sinai.
How does this shed light on the writing in the gospels? Towards the end of his gospel, the apostle John wrote "Now Yeshua did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of G-d, and that by believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31, ESV). The centre part is really very similar. Compare "You have been shown to know that the L-rd He is G-d" with "these are written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah." Just as the experience of the Exodus - the Ten Plagues, Sinai, the Tabernacle, the pillars of cloud and fire, the manna and quails - is a set of revelations of who G-d is, so the whole of John's gospel - the these - is a set of revelations shown to the readers of the the gospel so that they may know who Yeshua is: the Messiah, the Son of G-d.
Looking back, Peter Craigie comments that "the question, 'Does G-d exist?' - though a legitimate question per se - was nevertheless an irrelevant question in the light of a knowledge of G-d, of which the source was revelation and in which the conviction was provided by experience." G-d revealed Himself to the Israelites and they knew that they had had that revelation: as the Ramban said above, with their own eyes. Their conviction was rock solid. We too can read the words of the Torah, recognise its divine inspiration and the events it narrates, and be sure of who G-d is. But, as Craigie goes on, there is more: "The incarnation, providing a new and intimate knowledge of the presence of G-d in human history, is the prerequisite for the death of Yeshua and the resurrection of Messiah. Thus for the Christian, while the Exodus and Sinai remain important, it is of the death and resurrection that it can be said, in the words of Moshe's address: you were shown this in order to know that the L-rd, He is G-d."4
Two critical questions arise. The first question we have to ask ourselves is, have we had that revelation; do we really know who Yeshua is and who He calls us to be in Him? The second question is whether our grasp of that knowledge is a rock-solid conviction, based on and drawn out of our experience with Him, or whether it is a second-hand experience based on what others have told us about Him or that we have read in books? To know the fullness of joy that is life in Messiah, we have to move from a shared second-hand report - however truthful and sincere - to a first-hand revelation in our own personal experience; from knowing what we know, to knowing who we know (and where and when)!
1. - Stephen Sherwood, Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry - Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002), page 250.
2. - Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001), page 58.
3. - Christopher J. H. Wright, Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), page 55.
4. - P. C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, NICOT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976), page 143.
Further Study: 2 Samuel 22:32-36; John 14:9-11; 1 John 5:13-15
Application: How can we make that transition from second to first-hand knowledge of G-d in Messiah? Actually, it's very simple: just by asking. Ask Yeshua today for a first or fresh revelation of who He is and your life will never be quite the same again! Then you too will know that you know that you know.
Comment - 11Aug19 09:12 Tim: I love this verse, and the unfolding of it both in the simple translation and explanation of the text itself, and also how it is the basis of what is built on it at Simchat Torah.
When I got to the gospel I wanted also to go on from there into 1 John 1 - the progression of that which we have seen and been caused to know and entered into a depth of that knowledge in the person we touched and whose life touched us we now go on the proclaim to you - and the confidence in that proclamation that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. And that He goes on to deal with our sin inside etc etc.
It then follows through into 1 John 2 that when that revelation touches us and we are properly dealt with on the cleansed inside we will in turn go on to keep Torah - walk in the way.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2019
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