Last night my wife and I had a realization that we need to be being more serious and intentional in learning how to be parents since, well, even though nobody likes to admit the fact no parents start off having a clue what they’re doing and fall into lazy and sinful habits without any effort. So, I’ve changed around the contents of my “to listen to at work” stuff on my phone (like some good preaching on passages of scripture relevant to parenting – i.e. Eph. 6:1-4 or Deut. 6:4-9) and have changed around my current reading list to shift gears for the next while. I’ve been thinking about Deuteronomy 6:7 this morning:
You shall teach them 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.
I’ve been realizing that, lo and behold, this is something I haven’t been doing nearly as much as I should (anyone else ever had that experience reading the scriptures? No? I’m alone on this? Really?). Also, I spent the morning wondering more about the meaning of “teach them diligently”, so on my lunch break I made a bee-line for my laptop to do a little word study and help me understand a little more what that entails. So what does it mean?
Well, the Hebrew word is shanan, and it’s a rare term in the OT: it first appears in Deut. 6:7 and then only in Deut. 32:41; Psalm 45:5, 64:3, 73:21, 120:4, 140:3; Prov. 25:18; Is.5:28.
All the passages except Deut. 6:7 and Psalm 73:21 refer to either a sword/arrow being sharpened, or being sharp. Psalm 73:21 says “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart“, but I’d possibly suggest another good translation would be “cut” (obviously related to “sharpness”). So the idea of “teach them diligently” is actually the idea of sharpening, as one sharpens a sword/arrow/spear. Let’s look at the expanded passage with that word picture in our mind:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:4-9)
So the idea is that Israel was to love the Lord with their entire being, both inner and outer selves. They needed to have the word of God living in their hearts, and they needed to sharpen their children in the art of obedience to Yahweh (vs. 4-7a) This is done with repetition and constant exposure (vs. 7b-9). So the idea is that the parent takes the child, who is a dull blade and in the same manner that one brings a dull blade repeatedly up against a whetstone to sharpen the blade to a point, the parent repeatedly brings the child up against the word of God to bring the child into obedience and submission to the Lord.
Knives don’t get sharp after one pass over a whetstone, and children don’t become godly after a few prayers or bible stories. The idea in Deut. 6:4-9 is one of repetition and precision (you don’t smack a blade against a whetstone as well; anyone who’s ever manually sharpened a blade knows that it’s a precise work or the blade becomes mangled). And that’s my lunch break.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Shananigans prevent Shenanigans” Unger
P.S. – I was fighting off a “shanan” pun. Honestly I was. I’m a weak and sleepy man…