Deuteronomy 6
Pulpit Commentary
Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:
Verses 1-3. - Some connect this with what goes before, and take it as a sort of epilogue to the preceding discourse; but it is rather to be regarded as introductory to what follows. Being about to enjoin upon the people the commandments they were to obey in the land on which they were about to enter, Moses prefaces this with a general announcement of what he was about to deliver, and with a statement of the reason for such deliverance, and of the benefits that would flow from the observance of what should be enjoined. Verse 1. - These are the commandments. In the Hebrew it is, This is the commandment, i.e. the sum and substance of the Divine enactment; equivalent to "the Law" (Deuteronomy 4:44). "The statutes and judgments" (rights) are in apposition to "the commandment," and explain it.
That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
Verse 2. - The reason for this announcement of the Law was that the people might fear the Lord, so as to keep all that he enjoined, they and their children, from generation to generation, and that they might thereby continue long in life, and in the enjoyment of the advantages accruing from the land of which they were about to take possession.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.
Verse 3. - God had promised from the first to the patriarchs that he would make of their posterity a great nation (Genesis 12:1; Genesis 17:6; Genesis 18:18). But the fulfillment of this promise was conditioned by their continuing as a people in the fear of God, and in obedience to his Law. Everything, then, depended on their hearing what Moses had been commanded to teach them, and observing to do it (cf. Leviticus 26:9, etc.). In the land, etc. This is to be connected with the clause, "that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily;" the land was to be the scene and sphere of their prosperity and increase. Some would render thus: "As the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee a laud," etc., i.e. a place in which thou mayest prosper and increase; the other, however, is the more natural construction and rendering. There is, indeed, no preposition before "the land" in the Hebrew; but nothing is more common in that language than for the accusative of a noun to be used adverbially to describe the place where anything is done. Milk and honey; emblem of fruitfulness and sweetness (Song of Solomon 4:11); proverbially descriptive of Canaan, as rich in pasturage for flocks, and abounding in flowers whence the bees could extract honey (cf. Exodus 3:8, 17).
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
Verses 4-25. - THE FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT. "In the fear of Jehovah all true obedience is rooted (vers. 2, 3); for this is the first and most intimate fact in the relation of Israel and Jehovah (Deuteronomy 5:26). But where the supreme fear of Jehovah hinders men from allowing self to preponderate in opposition to God, there will be no stopping at this renunciation of self-will, though this comes first as the negative form of the ten commandments also shows, but there will come to be a coalescence of the human with the Divine will; and this is love, which is the proper condition of obedience, as the ten commandments also indicate (Deuteronomy 5:10)" (Baumgarten). Verse 4. - Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. This is an affirmation not so much of the moneity as of the unity and simplicity of Jehovah, the alone God. Though Elohim (plu.), he is one. The speaker does not say, "Jehovah is alone God," but "Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah" (comp. for the force of אֶחָד, Exodus 26:6, 11; Ezekiel 37:16-19). Among the heathen there were many Baals and many Jupiters; and it was believed that the deity might be divided and communicated to many. But the God of Israel, Jehovah, is one, indivisible and incommunicable. He is the Absolute and the Infinite One, who alone is to be worshipped, on whom all depend, and to whose command all must yield obedience (cf. Zechariah 14:9). Not only to polytheism, but to pantheism, and to the conception of a localized or national deity, is this declaration of the unity of Jehovah opposed. With these words the Jews begin their daily liturgy, morning and evening; the sentence expresses the essence of their religious belief; and so familiar is it to their thought and speech that, it is said, they were often, during the persecution in Spain, betrayed to their enemies by the involuntary utterance of it.
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Verse 5. - To the one indivisible Jehovah undivided devotion and love are due. Hence the injunction, Thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. The "heart" is the inner nature of the man, including his intellectual, emotional, and cognitive futurities; the "soul" is the personality, the entire self-consciousness; and the" might" is the sum of the energies, bodily and mental. Not by profession merely is Jehovah to be loved; the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, is to be yielded to him in holy and devout affection (cf. Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:33; Luke 10:27; Romans 12:1). The last letter Of the first word, and the last letter of the last word in this verse are larger than the ordinary size (majuscula), and as these two form the word for witness (עד), the Jews say that they are written thus "that every one may know, when he professes the unity of God, that his heart ought to be intent and devoid of every other thought, because God is a witness, and knoweth everything" (R. Bechai, fol. 195, quoted by Michaelis, 'Bib. Heb,' in loc.).
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
Verses 6, 7. - Where true love to God exists in the heart, it will manifest itself in a regard to his will, and in the diligent keeping of his commandments. Hence his words were to be not only in the memory of the people, but laid upon their heart (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18), that they might be ever present to the thought and will. They were also to be inculcated upon their children, and to be the subject of conversation on all fitting occasions between them, the members of their household, and even their casual associates. Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children; literally, Thou shalt sharpen them to thy children, impress them upon them, send them into them like a sharp weapon.
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
Verse 8. - The words of God were to be bound for a sign [a memorial or directory] upon thine hand, the instrument of acting, and to be as frontlets [fillets or bands] between thine eyes, the organs of direction in walking or moving, and so on the forehead, the chamber of thought and purpose; and they were to inscribe them on the posts of their houses, and on their gates. The purport of this is that they were constantly and everywhere to have these commandments of the Lord in view and in mind, so as to undeviatingly observe them. It seems, however, to have been a custom widely prevalent among the ancient Eastern peoples to carry about their persons slips of parchment or some other material, on which were written sentences of moral or religious import; and such sentences they were also wont to inscribe on conspicuous places of their dwellings; usages still to be found among the Moslems (see Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' 3:364; Lane, 'Modern Egypt,' 1:358; Russell, 'Nat. Hist. of Aleppo;' Thomson, 'Land and the Book,' 1:216), and the latter of which was not altogether unknown among Western nations (cf. Virgil, 'Georg.' lit. 26, etc.), of which traces may still be seen in Switzerland, Germany, and on old houses in both England and Scotland. This custom originated, probably, in a desire to have the sentiments inscribed always in mind; but for the most part these inscriptions came to be regarded as amulets or charms, the presence of which on the person or the house was a safeguard against evil influences, especially such as were supernatural. By the Jews this custom was followed; and they regarded it as authorized by the injunction of Moses in this passage. Taking his words literally, they had their tôtâphoth and their mezuzah, the former of which - the phylacteries of the New Testament - were strips of parchment, on which passages of the Law (Exodus 13:2-10, 11-17; Deuteronomy 6:4-10, 13-22) were written, and these, enclosed in a box, were bound on the forehead and left wrist, and worn at prayers by the worshippers; the latter a slip of parchment, on which were written certain passages of Scripture (vers. 4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21), and which, enclosed in a reed or cylinder, was fixed on the right-hand doorpost of every room in the house (see arts. 'Mezuzah' and 'Phylacteries' in Kitto's 'Biblical Cyclopedia,' 3rd edit.).
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
Verses 10-12. - As the Israelites were about to enter upon the possession of a rich and fertile land, where everything for their accommodation and comfort was already provided for them, there was a danger of their being so engrossed with their new possessions as to forget the Lord and his gracious dealings with them. They are, therefore, here warned against the danger to which they would be thus exposed. House of bondage (Exodus 13:3).
And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;
Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
Verses 13-18. - Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God. The fear of the Lord - that reverent awe which is akin to love - is the beginning of wisdom and the foundation of piety; where it is in the heart it will lead to serving of the Lord in holy obedience; and they in whom it dwells will swear by his Name, recognizing his presence and omniscience, and not daring to asseverate anything but what they know to be true. Thus, really believing in God and reverently worshipping him, the Israelites would be careful not to go after other gods, or to give to any object that homage which is due unto Jehovah alone, knowing that this he will not endure or suffer with impunity; for he is a jealous God, and them that thus dishonor him he will destroy (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24, etc.). Thus also they should be kept from murmuring against God, and thereby tempting him - putting him, as it were, to the proof, and calling in question his presence and his power, as they had done at Massah (Exodus 17:1-7). Without this genuine religious principle there will be no sincere worship, no true reverence, no real obedience, rendered unto God. But where this dwells in the heart it will influence the whole life, so that the commandments of God shall be diligently kept, and that which is good and right in his sight shall be done.
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.
Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.
And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,
To cast out all thine enemies from before thee, as the LORD hath spoken.
Verse 19. - To cast out, etc.; rather, to the castling out of, etc. The infin, here expresses the carrying out of the action intimated in the words," that it may be well with thee" (cf. Exodus 23:27, etc.; Exodus 34:11).
And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?
Verses 20-25. - The injunction to teach the words of the Lord to the children (ver. 7) is here more largely explained. When asked by their sons the meaning and reason of the commandments and institutes which they observed, they were to show them what the Lord had done for his people in bringing them out of Egypt and establishing them in Canaan, and how he had enjoined on them all these statutes that they might fear Jehovah their God for their good always, and for their preservation and safety.
Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand:
And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:
Verse 22. - Signs and wonders (cf. Deuteronomy 4:34).
And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.
And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.
And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.
Verse 25. - And it shall be our righteousness; literally, And righteousness shall be to us, i.e. we shall be held righteous by God if we observe to do all that he has enjoined (comp. Romans 10:5; Romans 6:16; Philippians 3:6). Before the Lord, i.e. not only in his sight, but according to his judgment, so as to be approved of him (cf. Psalm 56:13; Psalm 116:9).

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