Parsha: Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25)
Eikev עֵקֶב (“Consequence”) Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25
The Torah portion for this Shabbat is called Eikev meaning “consequence”. Israel is told that if they would be faithful to observe the commandments of the Lord, the ‘consequences’ would be blessing, health, prosperity, and protection. But that’s a big ‘if’. God promised that He would go before them to drive out the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, who had spurned 400 years of opportunity and warning from God to turn from their wickedness. It is a mistake to suppose that the Canaanites, and later the Philistines, were innocent victims of an ‘occupying force’ otherwise known as Israel. It is a mistake to suppose that they were unaware they were sinning grievously against God.
I would remind us that four centuries earlier, Abraham had broken bread with Malki-tzedek (Melchizedek), a fellow worshiper of the one true God of heaven and earth. There had, for centuries, been an awareness of the belief in a single Creator, one of infinite power and infinite holiness, and who demanded moral uprightness. The Canaanites were not to be driven out because of their ethnicity (as were the Jews who were evicted once Gaza came under Palestinian jurisdiction – “No Jews Allowed”). Rather, they were to be driven out on account of their wickedness, their despicable religious and sexual practices. Israel was to have nothing to do with such abominations, and to allow the Canaanites to remain would inevitably lead to flirting with Canaanite ways, leading to breaking Covenant with God.
So strict was the ban, that even the silver and the gold with which the Canaanites adorned their idols was to be burned. It was not to be kept as spoils of war. It was not to be put into the Tabernacle treasury. This parallels the prohibition found in Deut.23:18 paraphrased: You shall not bring the monies earned by either male or female prostitution into the house of the Lord your God as an offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God” . This principle could be applied today in offerings received in churches. No matter how difficult a church’s financial situation might be, it should be unthinkable to accept monies earned through objectionable practices. This isn’t just about drug dealing, prostitution or gambling. It might be the respected doctor, an ob/gyn who supplements his or her income by performing abortions. To receive their contributions would be to take blood money! God says, “Not in My house!”.
In chapter eight, God announces they are about to enter a lovely and fertile land, and would soon eat and enjoy of its bounty. We are warned not to take our prosperity for granted, or worse – begin taking credit for it! We are reminded that it is the Lord our God who gives us the ability to make wealth, and that due appreciation and glory be given Him. I imagine some people saying, “Hey, I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at! Why should I thank anyone else?” You should be thankful because there are plenty of others who have worked just as hard, some harder, and didn’t get the ‘breaks’ you got. So give credit where credit is due… or face the consequences.
Lest we become arrogant and think we were given the land on account of our moral superiority, God reminds us in chapter nine that it had nothing to do with any righteousness on our part, but rather the wickedness of the Canaanites. We’re reminded that we had repeatedly provoked God in the wilderness. We’re reminded of our sin in the golden-calf debacle. We’re reminded of our many rebellions, and that Moses had to repeatedly intercede with God for us.
In chapter 10 Moses recalls going back up Mt. Sinai for another 40 days to receive the second set of tablets, the first set having been smashed by him at the time of the golden-calf debacle. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s grace. It shows us what second chances look like. It also testifies to God’s unconditional commitment to Israel’s future and well-being. God, who is the Sovereign over all the earth, chose Israel for Himself – a decidedly imperfect people. He did not, nor ever will, reject Israel or “replace” her. Rabbi Paul emphasizes this truth in Romans chapters 9–11. Unfortunately, many modern theologians do not seem to understand this.
But there is an unexpected human response to God’s love and forgiveness. Thus Moses writes, “Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more!” (10:16). We are told that we should be characterized by our love and support of orphans, widows and resident aliens, for we ourselves had been resident aliens (see I Peter 2:11). We learned first-hand what it meant to be oppressed, courtesy of the Egyptians. How dare we ever turn around and be oppressors!
In this regard, I find it sadly ironic that Natan Sharansky, former Minister of the Interior in Israel, and a Soviet dissident and refusenik, who himself suffered such intolerance and hatred, has for several years now been directing his own brand of intolerance and hostility toward Messianic Jews. There has been a systematic witch-hunt of sorts, an attempt to expel (if possible) all Messianic Jews from Israel. In spite of the promise in Israel’s Declaration of Independence to “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race creed or sex,” guaranteeing “full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture…,” there seems to be selective enforcement of the law. Jewish followers of Yeshua have for years been singled out through legislative maneuvers, aided in large part through the efforts of Sharansky. I guess the intolerance he suffered in the gulag didn’t teach him to be tolerant of others – at least others of differing convictions.
Finally, in chapter 11, we are enjoined to impress these words of God upon our hearts and minds, and to teach them diligently to our children, and that God would bless us abundantly if we would walk in His ways. All the territory from the Arabah (wilderness) to Lebanon and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates River was to be ours, compliments of God, to whom all the earth belongs. And, yes, that would include Gaza.
Note: Each Torah portion is named from the first word or first few words of the portion of scripture. This portion is called Ekev עֵקֶב. Other transliterations: Eikev, Ekeb, Aikev, or Eqeb