Deut 11:1 starts off "Therefore you shall love the Lord your God". Verse 13 says: "And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God ...". And verse 22: "For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love the Lord your God ..."

My Strong's shows "love" as #157: 'âhaḇ or 'aheb, meaning "love"; "lover"; "friends" - in the context of an appetite or desire.

Is there anything in the word or the original context that gives that word the force of a command? Or is there a thought in the original ancient Hebrew culture that does not come through the printed page to a 21st century American mind?

Note: I am not disputing the command to love God, and I fully understand that He is due and worthy of my love. The joining of "command" and "love" just struck me as odd. If I have no desire or feelings toward God, how can I "turn that on" by command?

  • Are you willing to accept an answer that brings in the Greek scriptures as well or do you wish to limit your question (and answers) to the Hebrew scriptures ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 15:47
  • My initial curiosity was with the Hebrew language. If the Greek can shed light, I think that's a good thing.
    – EdNerd
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 16:21
  • Care of what Was those feeling they're turned on. Remembering that Japan dropping bombs on Pearl Harbor resulted in Nuclear Bombs dropping on Japan, should make everyone remember that dropping bomb first comes with major punishment therefore whoever cares for what Was uses the alternate actions like treaties, grace, and forgiveness.
    – Decrypted
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 19:15
  • I don't know anything about Hebrew but there is something called "jussive" that might be worth looking at: uhg.readthedocs.io/en/latest/verb_jussive.html
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 20:09
  • Also, you might want to look at Hosea chapter 1 where love is or appears to be a covenant term for someone included in the covenant. Again, I am definitely out of my wheelhouse when it comes to Hebrew so you'll need to do your own research to confirm any of that that I mentioned. It will be interesting to find out the answer as this isn't bit confusing in English.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 20:12

4 Answers 4


I am answering the astute question at the end of the OP, namely :

If I have no desire or feelings toward God, how can I "turn that on" by command?.


Jesus states the 'first and great commandment' as follows :

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [Matthew 22:37 KJV.]

And he also states the second :

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [Matthew 22:39 KJV.]

The law commands love. It is right to love God and it is right to love one's fellow men. Why should one not do so ? It would be illogical not to love God who gave one's existence to oneself. Who presented to oneself such immense possibilities, now and hereafter. Who gives not only a momentary existence, but an immortal soul. Why should one not love him in response ?

And this is the work of the law that if 'I have no desire or feelings towards God' the law, by its command highlights the discrepancy and condemns oneself for the lack of what ought to be there and what should be there.

This is the work of the law in the heart of which Paul speaks in Romans 7, I was alive without the law once but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died (verse 9). Paul found that the requirements of the law, its rightful and proper commandments, resulted in this condemnation of himself :

In me (that is, in my flesh) there dwelleth no good thing. [Romans 7:18 KJV.]

Paul tried to 'turn on' his flesh by means of law. And Paul documents the experiment (a failed experiment) in Romans chapter seven.

Paul's conclusion and remedy to the situation is documented throughout the rest of his epistle to the Romans and his other epistles to those Christians in various places who voluntarily chose to follow Paul's teaching.


Love is of God [I John 4:7 KJV.]

says John the apostle. And he further adds, in the same verse :

... and every one that loveth is born of God.

And Jesus tells us :

Ye must be born again. [John 3:7 KJV.]

Else, we will not be born of God and else we will not love God, for love is of God and in me (that is, in my flesh, overseen by law) there dwells no good thing, such as the love of God. It is just not there, in flesh and blood.

Nor can it be 'turned on' or 'worked up' or 'prompted' for it is just not there. One can, of course, pretend it is there and one can squeeze out a tear or exert an emotion or cobble together appropriate words. But it is just an act, if the love is really not there in an abundant fountain (as it should be and as the law demands that it ought to be)...

... to fear the Lord thy God and to walk in all his ways and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, [Deuteronomy 10:12 KJV.]

But to those who are 'justified by faith' and have 'peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1) Paul gives various exhortations ... for they are able to respond to his exhortations ...

...because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. [Romans 5:5 KJV.]

Freely, to the justified (by faith) is given the Divine Person of the Holy Spirit who, in turn, sheds abroad abundantly the love of God within their hearts . . .

. . . for love is of God.


Love is indeed a choice

I don't think you're going to find the answer to this one in the dictionaries. You'll have to look at the Bible interpreting itself: the hermeneutic of cross-reference.

Jesus clarifies a "system" (interpretation framework) for understanding the entire collection of Law and the Prophets—which includes Deuteronomy 11.

God does indeed view "love" as something that can be commanded. Our difficulty in loving people is chalked up to our own limited and/or sinful state of humanity. I, admittedly and truly, believe that even if we were sinless, there would be some need for us to "grow" in our ability and capacity to love, though sin certainly makes that much more difficult and we have no idea what "sinlessly growing in love" would look like because we aren't sinless.

Here's what Jesus says about "love" as a "command". He commands us to love in two separate commands...

Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

...Hermetically, that's one cross-reference to interpret your passage in question. Here's another, Paul instructing husbands to "love" their wives, again as if love is a volitional choice...

Ephesians 5:25 (NASB)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

As for how to "just turn it on"... We can't, just like we can't "just walk" without learning and trying again and again. We can learn to love—we indeed can learn to do it! But, it takes time and trying before our capacity to love is big enough that it matures from being a struggle to being a choice.

Even then, choosing to love will never become always-easy. If it were easy, it wouldn't be love, just because something isn't easy doesn't mean it's not a choice. All the more, "difficult" things are the most likely to come only by choice. Even Jesus knew that in his love that held him through the difficulty of the Cross.


I have been pondering the same thing many times, and I think that although to the modern mind it looks as though God is commanding his people to love him, it is conceivable that to the ancient mind this command would merely be interpreted into "act in a way that shows your love for God". That is, the bible is not concerned with your emotions and feelings as much he is concerned with your actions and that you do your duties and follow his commands. When someone does what God expects him to do then that may be considered an act of love towards God, and ultimately a fulfillment of this command.

However, traditionally it has been understood in a very literal way, that God is indeed commanding us to love him. Maimonides, a distinguished Jewish philosopher and scholar, understood it this way and he does seem to address your problem in his work Mishneh Torah (Foundations of the Torah 2:2) and here:

But how may one discover the way to love and fear Him? When man will reflect concerning His works, and His great and wonderful creatures, and will behold through them His wonderful, matchless and infinite wisdom, he will spontaneously be filled with love, praise and exaltation and become possessed of a great longing to know the Great Name, even as David said: "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God," (Ps. 42,2); and when he will think of all these matters, he will be taken aback in a moment and stricken with awe, and realize that he is an infinitesimal creature, humble and dark, standing with an insignificant and slight knowledge in the presence of the All Wise, as David said: "For when I see Thy heavens, the wonderful works of Thy fingers, of what use is man that Thou mayest remember him?" (Ibid. 8,4).

The problem is actually much older than Maimonides and the Jewish sages have already addressed this in the work Sifri. This approach may or may not work for you, but it does indicate that the problem is a very old one indeed, one with which philosophers and scholars have grappled over the ages.

It should be noted that a similar problem exists on the commandment "You shalt not covet". See the Ibn Ezra which offers a solution.


Perhaps love isn't a direct command, but a consequence and cause of obeying.

Notice that Deuteronomy 11:1 begins with "Therefore ...". It's impossible to understand this verse or chapter without knowing the preceding context that "therefore" refers to:

He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.

Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.

Because God demonstrated so much power and did so much for them it is natural that his people should want to love and obey him. "Thou shalt" isn't necessarily an order, but a prediction of cause and effect.

Consider what "you shall" means in "If you hit yourself with a hammer you shall feel pain.". It isn't an order to feel pain; it isn't a threat of punishment; it is a simple prediction of what will result.

Similarly, in Deuteronomy 11:22-23:

For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do — to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him — then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves.

The NLT translates it as:

Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. ...

This more clearly separates the two parts: the commandment "obey", and the cause or result "show love".

This same idea of love arising from or being demonstrated by obeying God is echoed in the Christian scriptures:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. — 1 John 5:3.

  • Interesting point. There is also the other side of the obedience/love connection - if one loves, they would obey. Obedience is the way love is shown but obedience does not necessarily mean love as one can obey out of fear, respect, duty, etc, Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 14:27

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