Commentary on Deuteronomy 6:4-9

According to Tyndale’s Concise Bible Commentary, the entire book of Deuteronomy only spans about sixty days (TOTC, 67). Deuteronomy covers the “first of Shebat,” a month corresponding to a time period in January and February, and also thirty days after the death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:8). There is considerable evidence to support Moses’ authorship of the book of Deuteronomy, except chapter 34, the last chapter of the book, which records the death of Moses (TOTC, 67). The purpose of Deuteronomy, says the Tyndale Commentary, is to provide a link between the Israel of Egypt and the Israel of the promised land. “It is a series of three sermons by Moses designed to remind the nations of the past and prepare them for the problems of the future” (68).

Deuteronomy 1:5 explains that the book is meant to be an exposition of God’s covenant with His chosen nation of Israel. A predominant theme of the book is the emphasis of relationship between God and His people. The motive and goal for following God was the promise of of God’s blessing. The author of Deuteronomy calls on Israel to fear God, to walk in His ways, to love Him, to serve Him, and to keep His commandments (10:12-13). “Above all, God desired that Israel would return his love from the heart as a genuine expression of gratitude and obedience” (TOTC, 69). The covenant is one of love rather than legalism (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Deuteronomy 6 takes place just after Moses recounts the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 5:1-21. The commandments of love to follow are founded on the uniqueness of God: that “the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4), implying that God alone is their Lord. The next few verses literally go to the heart of what God desires for Israel in the Mosaic covenant: love from the heart. God asks Israel to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). What God wants is not a legalistic, external, cold obedience to His commands, He wants His commands to be on the hearts of His people always (Deuteronomy 6:6). God is referred to here by His first name, YHWH, or Yahweh, making it even more personal to God’s own heart.

Moreover, God commands that the Israelites should teach God’s instructions “diligently to [their] children, and shall talk of them when [they] sit in [their] house, and when [they] walk by the way, and when [they] lie down, and when [they] rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Their love for the Lord’s instructions should be ever present in their lives; it should be the food of their thoughts and meditations all day long. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:8). According to Dr. Paul Barker’s ESV Bible Commentary, the “frontlets” (also called “phylacteries” and “mezuzot”) are small boxes or blocks tied to one’s arm or forehead, or attached to one’s doorpost, which contain Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and other Scripture verses. Verse 9 further reinforces the command to keep them at one’s forefront, commanding to have these words written on one’s doorpost and gates (Deuteronomy 6:9). But again, this is not meant to be legalistic in nature, but rather as something the Israelites do willingly to remind themselves of their relationship with the God of love.

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