Parashat Eikev – Erev Shabbat
Week 24-30 August 2019
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14-51:3

Parashat Eikev consists of three speeches given by Moses as a farewell to the people of Israel, reminding them of God’s Covenant with their ancestors to bring them to “a land flowing with milk and honey”. Their side of the Covenant was to obey and observe all the rules and precepts laid down for them. The three speeches are headed as follows in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. The first speech concerns the faithfulness of God and Israel to the covenant (7:12-8:20). In the second speech Moses addresses the principles of reverence: What does God demand of Israel? (9:1-10:22). The third speech concerns the entrance and eventual occupation of the land promised by the Lord, as a reward for obedience and observance. Moses also spells out what will happen if the people do not keep their side of the Covenant by disobedience and non-observance of rules (11:1-25). “Gottwald summarizes the message of the Book of Deuteronomy in these words: ‘the indivisible unity of one God for one people in one land observing one cult’” (Fox, 845).

The problem arising from Gottwald’s statement is that the ‘indivisible unity’ of the three areas depends on the unity between one God and the one people which throughout the history of the Israelites is precarious from their side. How does the first speech point to this precariousness? “If you heed these ordinances, by diligently observing them, the LORD your God will maintain with you the covenant loyalty that he swore to your ancestors; he will love you, bless you, and multiply you” (7:12-13a). Similarly, “If you do forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God” (8:19-20).

In the second speech Moses calls to the people: “Hear, O Israel!” (9:1) and reminds them of why God is faithful to them: “It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfill the promise that the LORD made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (9:5). God’s continued faithfulness is demonstrated: “Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven” (10:22).

In the third speech Moses shows the people how to keep the covenant with the Lord God: “You shall love the LORD your God, therefore, and keep his charge, his decrees, his ordinances, and his commandments always” (11:1). The Lord promises to give to the people, “land that the LORD your God looks after. The eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” (11:12). Moses
assures the people of God’s faithfulness and protection: “No one will be able to stand against you; the LORD your God will put the fear and dread of you on all the land on which you set foot, as he promised you” (11:25).

Reflection: The Haftarah from Isaiah 49:14-51:3 shows the cycle of the relationship of Israel with the Lord: they/we say: “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me;” (49:14) while the Lord keeps telling them/ us: “Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (49:15b). What is your experience of this in your relationship with God?

Bibliography: Eskenazi, T. C. Weiss, A.L. A Women’s Commentary (New York: 2008); Fox, E. The Five Books of Moses (New York: 1997); NRSV translation of the Bible.

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