Deuteronomy 6

Exhortation to Keep the Covenant Principles

1Now these are the commandments,
Heb “commandment.” The word מִצְוָה (mitsvah) again is in the singular, serving as a comprehensive term for the whole stipulation section of the book. See note on the word “commandments” in 5:31.
statutes, and ordinances that the Lord your God instructed me to teach you so that you may carry them out in the land where you are headed
Heb “where you are going over to possess it” (so NASB); NRSV “that you are about to cross into and occupy.”
2and that you may so revere the Lord your God that you will keep all his statutes and commandments
Here the terms are not the usual חֻקִּים (khuqqim) and מִשְׁפָּטִים (mishpatim; as in v. 1) but חֻקֹּת (khuqqot, “statutes”) and מִצְוֹת (mitsot, “commandments”). It is clear that these terms are used interchangeably and that their technical precision ought not be overly stressed.
that I am giving
Heb “commanding.” For stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy, “giving” has been used in the translation.
you – you, your children, and your grandchildren – all your lives, to prolong your days.
3Pay attention, Israel, and be careful to do this so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in number
Heb “may multiply greatly” (so NASB, NRSV); the words “in number” have been supplied in the translation for clarity.
– as the Lord, God of your ancestors,
Heb “fathers” (also in vv. 10, 18, 23).
said to you, you will have a land flowing with milk and honey.

The Essence of the Covenant Principles

4 Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
Heb “the Lord, our God, the Lord, one.” (1) One option is to translate: “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (cf. NAB, NRSV, NLT). This would be an affirmation that the Lord was the sole object of their devotion. This interpretation finds support from the appeals to loyalty that follow (vv. 5, 14). (2) Another option is to translate: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is unique.” In this case the text would be affirming the people’s allegiance to the Lord, as well as the Lord’s superiority to all other gods. It would also imply that he is the only one worthy of their worship. Support for this view comes from parallel texts such as Deut 7:9 and 10:17, as well as the use of “one” in Song 6:8–9, where the starstruck lover declares that his beloved is unique (literally, “one,” that is, “one of a kind”) when compared to all other women.
Verses 4–5 constitute the so-called Shema (after the first word שְׁמַע, shema’, “hear”), widely regarded as the very heart of Jewish confession and faith. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of all, he quoted this text (Matt 22:37–38).
5You must love
The verb אָהַב (’ahav, “to love”) in this setting communicates not so much an emotional idea as one of covenant commitment. To love the Lord is to be absolutely loyal and obedient to him in every respect, a truth Jesus himself taught (cf. John 14:15). See also the note on the word “loved” in Deut 4:37.
the Lord your God with your whole mind,
Heb “heart.” In OT physiology the heart (לֵב, לֵבָב; levav, lev) was considered the seat of the mind or intellect, so that one could think with one’s heart. See A. Luc, NIDOTTE 2:749–54.
your whole being,
Heb “soul”; “being.” Contrary to Hellenistic ideas of a soul that is discrete and separate from the body and spirit, OT anthropology equated the “soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) with the person himself. It is therefore best in most cases to translate נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) as “being” or the like. See H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 10–25; D. Fredericks, NIDOTTE 3:133–34.
and all your strength.
For NT variations on the Shema see Matt 22:37–39; Mark 12:29–30; Luke 10:27.

Exhortation to Teach the Covenant Principles

6 These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, 7and you must teach
Heb “repeat” (so NLT). If from the root I שָׁנַן (shanan), the verb means essentially to “engrave,” that is, “to teach incisively” (Piel); note NAB “Drill them into your children.” Cf. BDB 1041-42 s.v.
them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road,
Or “as you are away on a journey” (cf. NRSV, TEV, NLT); NAB “at home and abroad.”
as you lie down, and as you get up.
8You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm
Tie them as a sign on your forearm. Later Jewish tradition referred to the little leather containers tied to the forearms and foreheads as tefillin. They were to contain the following passages from the Torah: Exod 13:1–10, 11–16; Deut 6:5–9; 11:13–21. The purpose was to serve as a “sign” of covenant relationship and obedience.
and fasten them as symbols
Fasten them as symbols on your forehead. These were also known later as tefillin (see previous note) or phylacteries (from the Greek term). These box-like containers, like those on the forearms, held the same scraps of the Torah. It was the hypocritical practice of wearing these without heartfelt sincerity that caused Jesus to speak scathingly about them (cf. Matt 23:5).
on your forehead.
9Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.
The Hebrew term מְזוּזֹת (mezuzot) refers both to the door frames and to small cases attached on them containing scripture texts (always Deut 6:4–9 and 11:13–21; and sometimes the decalogue; Exod 13:1–10, 11–16; and Num 10:35–36). See J. H. Tigay, Deuteronomy (JPSTC), 443–44.

Exhortation to Worship the Lord Exclusively

10 Then when the Lord your God brings you to the land he promised your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you – a land with large, fine cities you did not build, 11houses filled with choice things you did not accumulate, hewn out cisterns you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – and you eat your fill, 12be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, that place of slavery.
Heb “out of the house of slavery” (so NASB, NRSV).
13You must revere the Lord your God, serve him, and take oaths using only his name. 14You must not go after other gods, those
Heb “from the gods.” The demonstrative pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.
of the surrounding peoples,
15for the Lord your God, who is present among you, is a jealous God and his anger will erupt against you and remove you from the land.
Heb “lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you and destroy you from upon the surface of the ground.” Cf. KJV, ASV “from off the face of the earth.”

Exhortation to Obey the Lord Exclusively

16 You must not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.
The place name Massah (מַסָּה, massah) derives from a root (נָסָה, nasah) meaning “to test; to try.” The reference here is to the experience in the Sinai desert when Moses struck the rock to obtain water (Exod 17:1–2). The complaining Israelites had, thus, “tested” the Lord, a wickedness that gave rise to the naming of the place (Exod 17:7; cf. Deut 9:22; 33:8).
17Keep his
Heb “the commandments of the Lord your God.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.
commandments very carefully,
The Hebrew text uses the infinitive absolute before the finite verb to emphasize the statement. The imperfect verbal form is used here with an obligatory nuance that can be captured in English through the imperative. Cf. NASB, NRSV “diligently keep (obey NLT).”
as well as the stipulations and statutes he commanded you to observe.
18Do whatever is proper
Heb “upright.”
and good before the Lord so that it may go well with you and that you may enter and occupy the good land that he
Heb “the Lord.” See note on the word “his” in v. 17.
promised your ancestors,
19and that you may drive out all your enemies just as the Lord said.

Exhortation to Remember the Past

20 When your children
Heb “your son.”
ask you later on, “What are the stipulations, statutes, and ordinances that the Lord our God commanded you?”
21you must say to them,
Heb “to your son.”
“We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt in a powerful way.
Heb “by a strong hand.” The image is that of a warrior who, with weapon in hand, overcomes his enemies. The Lord is commonly depicted as a divine warrior in the Book of Deuteronomy (cf. 5:15; 7:8; 9:26; 26:8).
22And he
Heb “the Lord.” See note on the word “his” in v. 17.
brought signs and great, devastating wonders on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on his whole family
Heb “house,” referring to the entire household.
before our very eyes.
23He delivered us from there so that he could give us the land he had promised our ancestors. 24The Lord commanded us to obey all these statutes and to revere him
Heb “the Lord our God.” See note on the word “his” in v. 17.
so that it may always go well for us and he may preserve us, as he has to this day.
25We will be innocent if we carefully keep all these commandments
The term “commandment” (מִצְוָה, mitsvah), here in the singular, refers to the entire body of covenant stipulations.
before the Lord our God, just as he demands.”
Heb “as he has commanded us” (so NIV, NRSV).

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