Deuteronomy 6


The great design of God in giving his laws is, that the people

may fear and obey him, that they may continue in peace and

prosperity, and be mightily increased, 1-3.

The great commandment of the law, 4, 5,

which shall be laid up in their hearts, 6;

taught to their children, 7;

and affixed as a sign to their hands, heads, doors, and gates,

8, 9.

How they are to act when they shall come into the promised land,


How they shall instruct their children, and relate the history

to them of God's wonderful acts, 29-25.


Verse 1. Now these are the commandments, &c.] See the

difference between commandments, statutes, judgments, &c., pointed

out, See Clarke on Le 26:15.

Do them] That is, live in the continual practice of them; for

by this they were to be distinguished from all the nations of the

world, and all these were to be in force till the Son of God

should come. Whither ye go. oberim, whither ye pass

over, referring to the river Jordan, across which they must pass to

get into Canaan.

Verse 2. That thou mightest fear the Lord] Respect his

sovereign authority as a lawgiver, and ever feel thyself bound to

obey him. No man can walk either conscientiously or safely who

has not the fear of God continually before his eyes. When this is

gone, more than a guardian angel is fled.

Thou, and thy son, and thy son's son] Through all thy

successive generations. Whoever fears God will endeavour to bring

up his children in the way of righteousness, that they also may

fear God, and that pure and undefiled religion may be preserved in

his family through all its generations, not only in word, but in

practice also.

Verse 3. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it]

Literally, Ye shall hear, O Israel, and thou shalt keep to do

them. 1. God is to be heard; no obligation without law to found

it on, and no law in religion but from God. 2. The commandment

must be understood in order to be obeyed. 3. It must be

observed-attentively considered, in order to be understood. And,

4. It must be performed, that the end for which it was given may

be accomplished, viz., that GOD may be glorified, and that it may

be well with the people. What is here spoken applies powerfully

to every part of the moral law; God has given IT as a rule of

life, therefore obedience to it is indispensably necessary, not to

the purchase of salvation, for no human merit can ever extend to

that, but it is the way by which both the justice and mercy of God

choose to conduct men to heaven. But let it be fully understood

that no man can walk in the way of obedience but by and under the

influence of the grace of God.

Verse 4. Hear, O Israel] shemA

Yisrael, Yehovah Eloheinu, Yehovah achaD. These words may

be variously rendered into English; but almost all possible verbal

varieties in the translation (and there can be none other) amount

to the same sense: "Israel, hear! Jehovah, our God, is one

Jehovah;" or, "Jehovah is our God, Jehovah is one;" or, "Jehovah

is our God, Jehovah alone;" or, "Jehovah is our God, Jehovah who

is one;" or, "Jehovah, who is our God, is the one Being." On this

verse the Jews lay great stress; it is one of the four passages

which they write on their phylacteries, and they write the last

letter in the first and last words very large, for the purpose of

exciting attention to the weighty truth it contains. It is

perhaps in reference to this custom of the Jews that our blessed

Lord alludes, Mt 22:38; Mr 12:29, 30, where he says,

This is the first and great commandment; and this is nearly the

comment that Maimonides gives on this place: "Hear, O Israel;

because in these words the property, the love, and the doctrine

of God are contained."

Many think that Moses teaches in these words the doctrine of the

Trinity in Unity. It may be so; but if so, it is not more clearly

done than in the first verse of Genesis, to which the reader is

referred. When this passage occurs in the Sabbath readings in the

synagogue, the whole congregation repeat the last word achad

for several minutes together with the loudest vociferations: this

I suppose they do to vent a little of their spleen against the

Christians, for they suppose the latter hold three Gods, because

of their doctrine of the Trinity; but all their skill and cunning

can never prove that there is not a plurality expressed in the

word Eloheinu, which is translated our God; and were the

Christians, when reading this verse, to vociferate Eloheinu for

several minutes as the Jews do achad, it would apply more forcibly

in the way of conviction to the Jews of the plurality of persons

in the Godhead, than the word achad, of one, against any

pretended false tenet of Christianity, as every Christian receives

the doctrine of the unity of God in the most conscientious manner.

It is because of their rejection of this doctrine that the wrath of

God continues to rest on them; for the doctrine of the atonement

cannot be received, unless the doctrine of the Godhead of Christ

is received too. Some Christians have joined the Jews against

this doctrine, and some have even outdone them, and have put

themselves to extraordinary pains to prove that Elohim is a

noun of the singular number! This has not yet been proved. It

would be as easy to prove that there is no plural in language.

Verse 5. Thou shalt love the Lord, &c.] Here we see the truth

of that word of the apostle, 1Ti 1:5:

Now the END of the COMMANDMENT is LOVE out of a pure heart,

&c. See the whole of the doctrine contained in this verse

explained on Mt 22:36-40.

Verse 6. Shall be in thine heart] For where else can love be?

If it be not in the heart, it exists not. And if these words be

not in the heart-if they are not esteemed, prized, and received as

a high and most glorious privilege, what hope is there that this

love shall ever reign there?

Verse 7. Thou shalt teach them diligently]

shinnantam, from shanan, to repeat, iterate, or do a

thing again and again; hence to whet or sharpen any

instrument, which is done by reiterated friction or grinding. We

see here the spirit of this Divine injunction. God's testimonies

must be taught to our children, and the utmost diligence must be

used to make them understand them. This is a most difficult task;

and it requires much patience, much prudence, much judgment, and

much piety in the parents, to enable them to do this good, this

most important work, in the best and most effectual manner. See at

the end of this chapter.

And shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house] Thou

shalt have religion at home, as well as in the temple and


And when thou walkest by the way] Thou shalt be religious abroad

as well as at home, and not be ashamed to own God wheresoever thou


When thou liest down, and when thou risest up.] Thou shalt

begin and end the day with God, and thus religion will be the

great business of thy life. O how good are these sayings, but how

little regarded!

Verse 8. Thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thins hand] Is

not this an allusion to an ancient and general custom observed in

almost every part of the world? When a person wishes to remember

a thing of importance, and is afraid to trust to the common

operations of memory, he ties a knot on some part of his clothes,

or a cord on his hand or finger, or places something out of its

usual order, and in view, that his memory may be whetted to

recollection, and his eye affect his heart. God, who knows how

slow of heart we are to understand, graciously orders us to make

use of every help, and through the means of things sensible, to

rise to things spiritual.

And they shall be as frontlets] totaphoth seems to have

the same meaning as phylacteries has in the New Testament; and for

the meaning and description of these appendages to a Jew's dress

and to his religion, see the notes on "Ex 13:9",

and See "Mt 23:5",

where a phylactery is particularly described.

Verse 9. Write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy

gates.] The Jews, forgetting the spirit and design of this

precept, used these things as superstitious people do amulets and

charms, and supposed, if they had these passages of Scripture

written upon slips of pure parchment, wrapped round their

foreheads, tied to their arm, or nailed to their door-posts, that

they should then be delivered from every evil! And how much

better are many Christians, who keep a Bible in their house merely

that it may keep the devil out; and will have it in their rooms,

or under their pillows, to ward off spirits and ghosts in the

night? How ingenious is the heart of man to find out every wrong

way, and to miss the right!

Verse 12. Beware lest thou forget the Lord] In earthly

prosperity men are apt to forget heavenly things. While the

animal senses have every thing they can wish, it is difficult for

the soul to urge its way to heaven; the animal man is happy, and

the desires of the soul are absorbed in those of the flesh. God

knows this well; and therefore, in his love to man, makes

comparative poverty and frequent affliction his general lot.

Should not every soul therefore magnify God for this lot in life?

"Before I was afflicted," says David, "I went astray;" and had it

not been for poverty and affliction, as instruments in the hands

of God's grace, multitudes of souls now happy in heaven would have

been wretched in hell. It is not too much to speak thus far;

because we ever see that the rich and the affluent are generally

negligent of God and the interests of their souls. It must

however be granted that extreme poverty is as injurious to

religion as excessive affluence. Hence the wisdom as well as

piety of Agur's prayer, Pr 30:7-9:

"Give me neither poverty nor riches, lest I be full and deny

thee, or lest I be poor and steal," &c.

Verse 13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God] Thou shalt respect

and reverence him as thy Lawgiver and Judge; as thy Creator,

Preserver, and the sole object of thy religious adoration.

And serve him] Our blessed Lord, in Mt 4:10; Lu 4:8,

quotes these words thus: And him ONLY (αυτωμονω) shalt thou

serve. It appears, therefore, that lebaddo was anciently in

the Hebrew text, as it was and is in the SEPTUAGINT, (αυτωμονω,)

from which our Lord quoted it. The COPTIC preserves the same

reading; so do also the VULGATE, (illi soli,) and the ANGLO-SAXON,

([Anglo-Saxon]) Dr. Kennicott argues, that without the word only

the text would not have been conclusive for the purpose for which

our Lord advanced it; for as we learn from Scripture that some men

worshipped false gods in conjunction with the true, the quotation

here would not have been full to the point without this exclusive

word. It may be proper to observe that the omitted word

lebaddo, retained in the above versions, does not exist in the

Hebrew printed text, nor in any MS. hitherto discovered.

Shalt swear by his name.] tishshabea, from

shaba, he was full, satisfied, or gave that which was full or

satisfactory. Hence an oath and swearing, because appealing to

God, and taking him for witness in any case of promise, &c., gave

full and sufficient security for the performance; and if done in

evidence, or to the truth of any particular fact, it gave full

security for the truth of that evidence. An oath, therefore, is

an appeal to God, who knows all things, of the truth of the matter

in question: and when a religious man takes such an oath, he gives

full and reasonable satisfaction that the thing is so, as stated;

for it is ever to be presumed that no man, unless in a state of

the deepest degradation, would make such an appeal falsely, for

this would imply an attempt to make God a party in the deception.

Verse 14. Ye shall not go after other gods] The object of

religious worship among every people, whether that object be true

or false, is ever considered as the pattern or exemplar to his

worshippers. Christians are termed the followers of God; they

take God for their pattern, and walk-act, as he does. Hence we

see the meaning of the terms in this verse: Ye shall not go

after-ye shall not take false gods for your patterns. The

Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, &c., were a most impure people,

because the objects of their worship were impure, and they went

after them, i. e., were like their gods. This serves to show us

that such as our Redeemer is, such should we be; and indeed this

is the uniform language of God to man: Be ye holy, for I am holy,

Le 21:8;

Be ye perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect,

Mt 5:48.

Verse 15. A jealous God] Jehovah has betrothed you to himself

as a bride is to her husband. Do not be unfaithful, else that

love wherewith he has now distinguished you shall assume the form

of jealousy, and so divorce and consume you.

Verse 16. Ye shall not tempt the Lord] Ye shall not provoke

him by entertaining doubts of his mercy, goodness, providence, and


As ye tempted him in Massah.] How did they tempt him in Massah?

They said, Is the Lord among us or not? Ex 17:1-7. After such

proofs as they had of his presence and his kindness, this was

exceedingly provoking. Doubting God's kindness where there are so

many evidences of it, is highly insulting to God Almighty.

Verse 17. Ye shall diligently keep, &c.] On this and the

following verse See Clarke on De 6:3.

Verse 20. And when thy son asketh thee, &c.] "Here," as Mr.

Ainsworth justly remarks, "followeth a brief catechism, containing

the grounds of religion."

What mean the testimonies, &c.] The Hebrew language has no word

to express to mean or signify, and therefore uses simply the

substantive verb what is, i. e., what mean or signify, &c. The

seven thin ears ARE, i. e., signify, seven years of famine. This

form of speech frequently occurs.

Verse 25. It shall be our righteousness] The evidence that we

are under the influence of the fear and love of God. Moses does

not say that this righteousness could be wrought without the

influence of God's mercy, nor does he say that they should

purchase heaven by it: but, God required them to be conformed to

his will in all things, that they might be holy in heart, and

righteous in every part of their moral conduct.

1. ON a very important subject in this chapter, it may be

necessary to make some farther observations.

A most injurious and destructive maxim has lately been advanced

by a few individuals, which it is to be hoped is disowned by the

class of Christians to which they belong, though the authors

affect to be thought Christians, and rational ones, too; the sum

of the maxim is this: "Children ought not to be taught religion

for fear of having their minds biased to some particular creed,

but they should be left to themselves till they are capable of

making a choice, and choose to make one." This maxim is in flat

opposition to the command of God, and those who teach it show how

little they are affected by the religion they profess. If they

felt it to be good for any thing, they would certainly wish their

children to possess it; but they do not teach religion to their

children, because they feel it to be of no use to themselves. Now

the Christian religion properly applied saves the soul, and fills

the heart with love to God and man; for the love of God is shed

abroad in the heart of a genuine believer, by the Holy Ghost given

to him. These persons have no such love, because they have not

the religion that inspires it; and the spurious religion which

admits of the maxim above mentioned, is not the religion of God,

and consequently better untaught than taught. But what can be

said to those parents who, possessing a better faith, equally

neglect the instruction of their children in the things of God!

They are highly criminal; and if their children perish through

neglect, which is very probable, what a dreadful account must they

give in the great day! PARENTS! hear what the Lord saith unto

you: Ye shall diligently teach your children that there is one

Lord, Jehovah, Elohim; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost:

and that they must love him with all their heart, with all their

soul, and with all their might. And as children are heedless, apt

to forget, liable to be carried away by sensible things, repeat

and re-repeat the instruction, and add line upon line, precept

upon precept, here a little and there a little, carefully studying

time, place, and circumstances, that your labour be not in vain:

show it in its amiableness, excite attention by exciting interest;

show how good, how useful, how blessed, how ennobling, how

glorious it is. Whet these things on their hearts till the

keenest edge is raised on the strongest desire, till they can say,

"Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I

desire besides thee!"

See Clarke on De 4:9, and "Ge 18:32", and

See Clarke on Ge 19:38 at the end.

2. Without offence to any, I hope, a few words more may be said

on the nature of an oath, in addition to the note,

See Clarke on De 6:13.

The matter is important, and perhaps not well understood by many.

The making an appeal to the Supreme Being, and calling him to

witness and record, constitutes the spirit and essence of an oath.

It is no matter in what form this appeal is made, whether by

putting the hand under the thigh, as among the patriarchs; by the

water of the Ganges, as among the Hindoos; on a surat or

chapter of the Koran, as among the Mohammedans; on a Hebrew

Pentateuch, as among the Jews; on the form of the cross, as

among the Roman Catholics; kissing the New Testament, as among

Protestants in general; or holding up the hand, and making

affirmation, as among the people called Quakers; still the oath

is the same, for the appeal is made to God. On this ground (and

this is the true ground), the holding up of the hand in a court of

justice, is as perfect, as substantial, and as formal an oath, as

kissing the New Testament. Why then so many objections against

taking an oath in a court of justice by any one particular form,

when the same thing is done in spirit, essence, and substance, when

God is called to witness and record, though the form be different?

When God says, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt swear by

his name, he says, in effect, Thou shalt have no god besides me;

thou shalt consider me the fountain of truth, the rewarder of

righteousness, and the punisher of perfidy and wickedness. Swear

by my name-bind thyself to me; take me for witness to all thy

actions; and act in all things as having me continually before

thine eyes, and knowing that for every act and word thou shalt

give account to me in the day of judgment. Our Lord's command,

Swear not at all, can never relate to an oath in a civil cause,

taken according to the definition above given: profane and common

swearing, with all light, irreverent oaths and imprecations, and

all such oaths as are not required by the civil magistrate, in

cases where the Lord is supposed to be witness, are certainly

intended in our blessed Lord's prohibition. See Clarke on De 4:26.

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