Deuteronomy 6:5 states, “You shall love (אהבת; ahavta) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your life and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5). But what does it mean to “love” God according to ancient Israelite thought? For the biblical authors, love isn’t just an intense form of “liking” or some kind of “warm feeling” for another; rather, the most common Hebrew word for “love” (אהבה; ahavah) expresses loyalty.

To understand love as “loyalty” in Deut 6:5, we need to read the verse in the context of what comes right before it: the Shema. Most English translations of Deut 6:4 read, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (אחד; echad).” While the Hebrew אחד can mean “one”—as in, “and there was evening, and there was morning: day one (אחד)” (Gen 1:5)—echad can also mean “alone.” Here’s a stronger translation of Deut 6:4: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” That is, the Lord is Israel’s God, and the people of Israel must “not go after other gods” (Deut 6:14); they must “love,” or be “loyal” to, the Lord alone.

The loyalty we have for the God of Israel—to the exclusion of all other gods—extends to our fellow human beings, particularly those who are less familiar to us. Leviticus uses the exact same word for our “loyalty” to God in the command to love the stranger: “You shall treat the stranger who dwells with you as the native among you, and you shall love (אהבת; ahavta) him as yourself” (Lev 19:34). When it comes to the heavenly realm, we are to be loyal to God alone, but here on earth, God commands us to pledge that same loyalty to those around us.

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31 COMMENTS

    • Loyalty to The One God can now only be seen as allowing a proliferating instincts, to totally entrain us. Musicians, dancers, athletes, & other “artists” know how it feels to be entrained in the moment. This instinct of music, in which God has endowed upon all of our species, has a purpose!! (as does all evolved biology) Technology has finally evolved as well, in order to educate & be able to contact the global community. Groovists believe that Internet knowledge will coalesce perfectly with musical instincts!! Billions with The One will prove miraculoua!!

  1. I love all the Israeli people but one Rabbi was calling me a low life and all sorts of name. I’m not angry to him but I don’t blame him, because he doesn’t know the new Testament, we Christian didn’t write it; all who write the New Testament are all the Jewish and we Christians read it and believe it; and not only the New one but the Old Testament we read and believe it, because it’s the Word of God. I pray for all the Israeli and it’s my duty to do so.

    • Sheila, some Rabbi call secular Jews also low life, unless they have God and Torah they are not more than the behemoth, a beast, animal, cattle. Original Word: בְּהֵמָה. So this is their view, is more of the Christianity that is like Idol worship of statues etc, Its what some of it evolved in to and also stories of persecution of Jews by the Christians. But new generations of Rabbis acknowledge the evangelical Christians, not in open yet they don’t see massive images and statues, they see love and support instead of persecutions. Josephus called Christians a Tribe, (of Israel).

      • Thank you, Mike for the insight; Christians do have the Torah, however if they do study the NT in the light of the OT. While we Christians do the love “all” the commands & instructions of the grace in Christ in the strength of our Lord, we are doing the righteousness of the laws not just outwardly but from our hearts. If we failed at doing even one thing out of the laws 613 of them (except sacrifices), we have actually fall through the foundation of our moral righteousness, not just God’s grace. This is how I see it. Thanks

  2. The same can be said about Hesed. What is translated in English as mercy if one reads in content one can see that Hesed is Loyalty. Hasid a pious one is also a loyal one. As to the Shema, it states that love with all your Heart’s. Multiple hearts, not one heart. Levaveha – In the distant past heart was not just a muscle pump but actually more of what we call today brain. We don’t think in our heart we think in our brain. So it used to refer to the Brain. The left and the right sides :-/)

  3. Excellent point you make. Repeated in the eschatological Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:12,39. Yahweh ba-dad yanken-nu, weh-ain im-mo ail naikar… Re-u atah ki anee, anee hu; weh-ain elohim im-madi… He alone led Israel; he alone is the true elohim, and worthy of all loyalty. Baruk shemo leh-olam – shemo Yahweh! Zikro leh-dor wa-dor! Exodus 3:15.

  4. If I understand the word loyalty correctly the Levities both sinned in Exodus 32:26 (golden calf) yet were loyal (for the LORD). This is what the death of Christ (Justice) looked like to me. “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

  5. I would like to learn more about the source documents and be able to review them. I am interested in the Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, and other documents as reference and comparison. I know, I ask too much..

  6. I think that God’s Word is really simple. We complicate it ourselves. Getting insight from the Hebrew language makes it even more exciting. I am going to make time to study Hebrew soon. So much wisdom and insight locked up in the language. God knows our hearts and our needs. Before I started these emails, God would often wake me with a word that made no sense and I would reseach and invariably it would be a Hebrew word that stirred my spirit in a way nothing else could. The Holy Spirit is indeed our teacher

  7. The resources here are very good and illuminating, but do they contradict the New Testament text of the Bible in any way or the fact that Jesus Christ has come to the World as prophesied by the old testament Prophet Isaiah and that He is the true Messiah of the World including the Jews?

    • Dear Olufemi, we have many lecturers and scholars that take part in our research center. We find strength in diversity of religious opinions. That said to the best of my knowledge the author of this post (and I am too :-)) are dedicated followers of the Jewish Christ Jesus.

  8. Dear Dr. Eli, the thought that “to love” is related to, or synonymous to “being loyal” is truly interesting. It might even fit many instances in the TANAKH. But you haven’t proved it. Why should I believe this suggestion that you make about “ohavah” being equal to being loyal? Kind regards JFK Mulder.

    • I don’t want accuse of not paying attention but it was Dr. Schaser’s article, not mine :-).

    • Hi JFK, thanks for your comment. It would be tough to “prove” that every instance of ahavah conveys loyalty, but it is a basic meaning of the word, particularly in Deuteronomy. You can check to see if “loyalty” is the most appropriate meaning of a given appearance of ahavah by reading the verse in its narrative context, and then deciding whether or not “loyalty” works best. If you’re interested in a fuller scholarly study of “love” in the Hebrew Bible, you might read Jon Levenson’s book, “The Love of God.”

  9. The love of God is simply the love of self!! Also being in touch with our own inner instincts & needs, allows us to be aware of a true purpose we can all share! The state of being entrained in music, is faith in being free & safe to become fully entrained! Loyalty to this instinct of entrainment, insures the desire is known & will be pursued by all creative craving humans. Enticed through our creative instinct, makes Grooving, an agreed upon belief to be practiced!! Billions Being WITH The One has been foreseen & will prove miraculous!!!

  10. This is all so exciting. Brilliant teachings. I’d love to go into deeper study of these teachings, but I’m a widow with heavy financial backlog from my late husband. I can’t afford these studies now.

  11. The Love of Hashem as in “Oneness”, the Ehad.

    Just as we are all “One in Y’Shua, One in Messiah”.

    Y’Shua said “I and the Father are One (Ehad and Ahavad).

    Emunah

  12. Thank you Dr Schaser for this thoughtful message. There are two kinds of love Passive, to love in emotion and there is active a love which does things as Our God showed his great love in the giving of His only begotten Son to be our saviour. Again thank so much for bringing our attention to love to and for God.

    • Randy, the OT reflects the ideal of loving acts toward one’s enemies (cf. 1 Sam 24:17-19; Prov 24:17; 25:21), but Jesus explicates this ideal even more directly in Matt 5:44.

  13. Matthew Bates recently wrote a book arguing the word translated “faith” in the new testament can mean “fidelity or faithfulness” and argues in many key passages this meaning is the best. Similarly, N T Wright has argued that the word “righteousness” has a strong sense of fidelity to convenant.

    If love has the idea of “loyal” and also “hesed” means steadfast love, in the sense of loyalty, then it would be interesting to see how these concepts relate to each other. Are faith, love, righteousness and so on overlapping concepts or synonyms, and are these any differences between them?

    • Thanks, Matthew! Great points and and question. Bates is absolutely right (and his is a very good book). In Hebraic/Judaic thinking faith/belief (Hb: emunah; Gk: pistis) really means “trust” that is established through fidelity (cf. Gen 15:6; Exod 4:31 for examples of “trusting” God based on God’s fidelity). Wright is similarly correct that “righteousness” (tsedakah) actually means being “right” with regard to covenant fidelity. Hesed (though translated as “steadfast love”) is less about “love” than it is about “contractual loyalty” to the stipulations of the covenant. Each of these words is interrelated. One difference is that “love” (ahavah) can be a general “favor” or “preference” towards anything (whether covenantal or not), but ideas like Hesed and Tsedekah are (usually) more closely tied to the notion of “Covenant.”

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  14. Woow, what an interesting revelation I see on this topic! May The Lord bless you. I am always impressed whenever I read your daily articles. It opens my understanding on scriptures, I get to see clearer and understand more the Bible.

    Thank you very much.

    • Hi, Jon. No, the two words don’t share a root. The root for “love” is אהב (ahav), and Havilah (חוילה) likely comes from חול (hul), which means to “spin” or “turn around.”

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