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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 6

Introductory.

Part 1 of the commentary contained the first speech of Moses which proclaimed the recent history of Israel under the hand of Yahweh, demonstrating why they had reason to be grateful to Him, and finishing with a reminder of how gloriously and fearsomely the covenant had been given and an exhortation to keep the covenant requirements and remember Who had given them. From Deuteronomy 4:44 to Deuteronomy 29:1 this is followed by the central renewal of the covenant in Moses’ second speech, commencing with a renewed description of the giving of the covenant (Deuteronomy 5:0), followed by the basic principles lying behind the covenant (chapters 5-11), more detailed regulations (chapters 12-26), the requirement that the covenant be recorded in writing at Shechem (where Abraham first built an altar when entering the land and received his first theophany in the land) as confirmed by all the elders (Deuteronomy 27:1-8), the acknowledgement of it by the priesthood along with Moses as witnesses to it (Deuteronomy 27:9-10), and the applying to it of curses and blessings (chapters Deuteronomy 27:11 to Deuteronomy 29:1).

This section of the commentary will cover chapters 5-11, but these chapters must be seen as part of the greater whole to Deuteronomy 29:1, as incorporated in the whole book.

The Covenant Stipulations - the Basic Underlying Principles (chapters Deuteronomy 4:45 to Deuteronomy 11:32 ).

This introductory section begins the second section of the book which consists mainly of a proclamation of general basic principles related to the fulfilment of the covenant (chapters 5-11). This is then followed by a detailed review of the statutes and ordinances which have been spoken of previously, but with special reference to their applicability to the people and mainly ignoring priestly activity (chapters 12-26). It is ‘popular’ Law. In this second section Moses once again makes clear the demands that Yahweh is making on His people as a response to what He has done for them. But he will begin it by repeating, with minor alterations, the covenant made at Horeb, at Mount Sinai. Thus he declares that covenant in chapter 5 almost word for word, although slightly revised in order to bring out new emphases. This is then followed chapter by chapter by the requirements that Yahweh is laying on them as a response to His covenant love. In 6-11 he first deals with the basic principles involved, and then in chapters 12-26 moves on to the specific detailed requirements. This is a pattern typical of ancient treaty covenants.

Central to all the chapters are the ideas of how they must obey His commandment, His statutes and His ordinances that He might bless them in all they do (Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 5:31-33; Deuteronomy 6:1-3; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Deuteronomy 6:17-18; Deuteronomy 6:24-25; Deuteronomy 7:11-12; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 11:27; Deuteronomy 11:32); of how the reason that they are being blessed is not for their own sakes, but because of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 11:9); of how they must remember Yahweh their God Who has mightily delivered them from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 6:21-23; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 9:26); of how He is bringing them into a good and prosperous land where they will enjoy great blessings (Deuteronomy 6:10-11; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:13-16; Deuteronomy 8:7-10; Deuteronomy 8:12-13; Deuteronomy 11:10-12; Deuteronomy 11:14-15), and of how they must then beware of turning to false gods and false religion once they enter the land, and must rather totally destroy them (Deuteronomy 5:8-9; Deuteronomy 6:14-15; Deuteronomy 7:4-5; Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 9:16; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 11:28).

These are the general emphases, but each chapter also has a particular emphasis.

· Deuteronomy 6:0 stresses their need to love Yahweh, their covenant Overlord, with all their beings (Deuteronomy 6:5), to fear Him (Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:24), and to teach their children His instruction, and warns them that when they are prospering in the land they must not forget what He has done for them. Their Overlord is calling His subjects to love and obedience.

· Deuteronomy 7:0 confirms Yahweh’s elective covenant love for them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Deuteronomy 7:13) as His holy people, chosen and treasured (Deuteronomy 7:6), and promises them that because of that love He will bless them wonderfully, delivering the promised land into their hands. Here He reveals why they should love Him and respond to Him, because He has first loved them, and chosen them to be the recipients of His love with all its great benefits.

· Deuteronomy 8:0 reminds them of how they must remember and not forget the past (Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 8:18), especially how He has looked after them in the wilderness, with the promise that He is bringing them to a good and prosperous land, and that once He has done so they must beware of self-glorification. Here the details of His watch over them are laid out demonstrating the practicality of His love.

· Deuteronomy 9:0 exhorts them on this basis to go forward and cross the Jordan knowing that Yahweh goes before them, while reminding them that their success will not be because of their own righteousness, a fact which he then demonstrates from their past history, reminding them how right from the very beginning they had broken God’s covenant that He had made with them. Here He emphasises how gracious He has been to them even though they had not been fully faithful to His covenant. While they do not deserve His goodness, He is pouring it on them anyway.

· Deuteronomy 10:0 stresses that God then graciously renewed that covenant which they had broken so quickly, and goes on to describe the greatness and uniqueness of Yahweh their covenant God and Overlord. They must recognise how good He has been to His erring subjects and take note of the fullness of His glory, lest they again break His covenant with them.

· Deuteronomy 11:0 urges them to learn from the past and go forward on the basis of it, repeats the promises and warnings of the previous chapters, constrains them to remember His words, and bear them about with them and teach them to their children, and promises the good things to come, and the certainty of their possession of the land because Yahweh is with them. It finally concludes the section with the reminder of the blessings and cursings, which will be solemnly applied on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, which are by the oaks of Moreh, that is, at Shechem, and says that which of these will come on them will depend on whether they faithfully respond to His covenant or not. This conclusion prepares the way for Deuteronomy 27:0, although meanwhile being first of all preceded by the detailed stipulations of chapters 12-26.

So throughout these chapters the covenant is constantly stressed, a covenant which is the result of His love for their fathers and for them and is their guarantee of the future as long as their response to it is full and complete.

Chapter 6 The Essence of the Covenant Is That Israel Shall Love Yahweh With All Their Beings And Reveal It In Their Obedience, Keeping Solely To Him As Long As They Lived.

Having reminded them of the awesome experience of the giving of the covenant, and of what it basically contained, Moses now seeks to urge on the people the need for total response and obedience to it. But note that he does it, not in terms of their listing the rules and keeping them, but in terms of a personal response of love, a love that responds to what Yahweh has already done for them. The covenant is not one of bargain, but of grace. Yahweh had graciously delivered them from the suzerainty of Egypt, from slavery and bondage. Now He calls on them to respond to Him in love, trust and obedience. There could be no enjoyment of blessing without that.

This chapter will then be followed by a stern warning of the need to deal severely with idolatry in Deuteronomy 7:0, the need to ensure that they remember and never forget what He has done for them in Deuteronomy 8:0, and a need to recognise the obstinacy of their own hearts in Deuteronomy 9:0. These are the three great enemies of man; things that turn us away from God as He is; unfaithfulness and forgetfulness; and obstinacy. It is these things that prevent us fulfilling His will.

Deuteronomy 10-11 then speak of Yahweh’s positive preparations for His people, and recapitulate all that has already been said, preparatory to the giving of the detailed regulation.

In this we are drawing attention to the particular emphases of the chapters. There is of course much more. But the need to reject idolatry and the need to remember and not forget are constantly mentioned. These are one of the main emphases of these particular chapters.

Verses 1-3

Chapter 6 The Essence of the Covenant Is That Israel Shall Love Yahweh With All Their Beings And Reveal It In Their Obedience, Keeping Solely To Him As Long As They Lived.

Having reminded them of the awesome experience of the giving of the covenant, and of what it basically contained, Moses now seeks to urge on the people the need for total response and obedience to it. But note that he does it, not in terms of their listing the rules and keeping them, but in terms of a personal response of love, a love that responds to what Yahweh has already done for them. The covenant is not one of bargain, but of grace. Yahweh had graciously delivered them from the suzerainty of Egypt, from slavery and bondage. Now He calls on them to respond to Him in love, trust and obedience. There could be no enjoyment of blessing without that.

This chapter will then be followed by a stern warning of the need to deal severely with idolatry in Deuteronomy 7:0, the need to ensure that they remember and never forget what He has done for them in Deuteronomy 8:0, and a need to recognise the obstinacy of their own hearts in Deuteronomy 9:0. These are the three great enemies of man; things that turn us away from God as He is; unfaithfulness and forgetfulness; and obstinacy. It is these things that prevent us fulfilling His will.

Deuteronomy 10-11 then speak of Yahweh’s positive preparations for His people, and recapitulate all that has already been said, preparatory to the giving of the detailed regulation.

In this we are drawing attention to the particular emphases of the chapters. There is of course much more. But the need to reject idolatry and the need to remember and not forget are constantly mentioned. These are one of the main emphases of these particular chapters.

Yahweh’s Covenant Requirements Are Now To Be Spelled Out (Deuteronomy 6:1-3 ).

This opening introduction to Yahweh’s Covenant requirements describes (1) what he is bringing them, Yahweh’s commandment with its statutes and ordinances, (2) what he hopes they will do for them, make them have a reverential fear of Him, and (3) the final aim behind them, the keeping of those statutes and commandments resulting in long life. They are then exhorted (4) to listen well and observe to do them so that it might be well with them and so that they might become numerous, as Yahweh had promised, in the land flowing with milk and honey.

Analysis (expressed in Moses words).

a This is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which Yahweh your God commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land to which you go over to possess it (Deuteronomy 6:1).

b (These are given that) ‘you might do them in the land to which you go over to possess it, that you might fear Yahweh your God’ (Deuteronomy 6:2 a).

c To keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you (Deuteronomy 6:2 b)

c You, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged (Deuteronomy 6:2 b).

b And that you might hear and observe to do His covenant (Deuteronomy 6:3 a)

a That it may be well with you and that you may increase mightily, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised to you, in the land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 6:3 b).

Deuteronomy 6:1-2

Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which Yahweh your God commanded to teach you, that you (ye) might do them in the land to which you (ye) go over to possess it, that you (thou) might fear Yahweh your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you (thee), you, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your (thy) life, and that your (thy) days may be prolonged.’

We must beware of seeing this as a new introduction. It rather combines with Deuteronomy 5:32-33 to form a connecting link. Both this and Deuteronomy 5:31-33 refer to ‘the commandment, the statutes and the judgments (ordinances)’, and both refer to long lives in the land which they will possess. Thus this is to be seen as the carrying forward of the process described in Deuteronomy 5:0. It is entering the heart of the covenant. See also Deuteronomy 11:32 which finishes off this section and Deuteronomy 12:1 which connects this section to the next. See also Deuteronomy 26:16; Deuteronomy 30:16 (which also has a prosperous life in mind). It is a theme of Deuteronomy. Note the change from ‘ye’ to ‘thou’. This indicates a heightening of the sense of command and a personalisation to each hearer, especially in view of the singular ‘son’.

“The statutes and the ordinances” were mentioned five times in Deuteronomy 4:0 where they were a summary of the covenant stipulations. In Deuteronomy 5:33 ‘the commandments, and the statutes and the judgments’ were urged on Israel by Moses as something to be obeyed. Now he will declare them. This is so that they might do them in the land that they are going over to possess. God had given these statutes and judgments (ordinances) so that they and each of their sons and each of their son’s sons might fear Him and keep them. They were not just to be known but to be observed. They laid out the manner of life that was expected of them as His redeemed people.

But note the stress in Deuteronomy 6:5 that they were to keep them, not in order to gain merit, but because they loved Yahweh with heart, and soul, and might. He wanted not a servile obedience, but the loving response of a firstborn son to his Father (Exodus 4:22). For this relationship in Deuteronomy see Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 14:1.

Deuteronomy 6:3

Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it, that it may be well with you (thee), and that you (ye) may increase mightily, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised to you, (enjoying) a land flowing with milk and honey.’

So he urges them as one nation, and as individual people, to hear and observe Yahweh’s commandment through these statutes and ordinances, so that it might be well with all of them, and so that they may grow and expand, (as Yahweh had promised to their fathers, and to them), in the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey, the good land, where all was God’s provision and good to partake of. That is what they had promised in Deuteronomy 5:27. Now he calls on them to do it.

“Enjoying” is included in the English translation in order to indicate the sense.

For us there is no land to enter. But we have a better land, the Jerusalem that is above and all that goes with it (Galatians 4:26). For the land offered by God through Moses was an earthly ‘Kingdom of God’, which was why it failed, but what He was more importantly really offering was life under God’s Kingly Rule. Thus we now enter into the heavenly kingdom of God by coming under ‘the Kingly Rule of God’. And having come under His rule by responding to Christ the King we are to fully keep all His commandments, and especially this commandment, that we love one another.

Verses 4-15

The Essence Of The Covenant Is Love For Yahweh And They Must Look To No One Else (Deuteronomy 6:4-15 ).

For in this is the essence of the covenant, that they might recognise Yahweh as their one God and their one Lord, their only one, so that their worshipping love might be centred totally on Him, and on no one else.

Analysis:

a ‘Hear, O Israel. Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one (Deuteronomy 6:4).

b And you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5).

c These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

d And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes (Deuteronomy 6:8).

d And you shall write them on the doorposts of your residence, and on your gates (entry points)’ (Deuteronomy 6:9).

c And it shall be, when Yahweh your God shall bring you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, great and goodly cities, which you did not build, and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive-trees, which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be full then beware lest you forget Yahweh, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).

b You shall fear Yahweh your God, and him shall you serve, and shall swear by his name (Deuteronomy 6:13).

a You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you, for Yahweh your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; lest the anger of Yahweh your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth’ (Deuteronomy 6:14-15).

Note than in ‘a’ Yahweh is to be seen as one and in the parallel they are not to seek after other Gods because He is jealous of His oneness. In ‘b’ He is to be loved and honoured, and in the parallel He is to be reverentially feared, and served, and His Name alone acknowledged. In ‘c’ they are to carry Yahweh’s words in their heart and teach them diligently to their children and in the parallel they are not to forget Yahweh Who had delivered them and given them such good things. In ‘d’ and parallel His commands were to mark both themselves and their residences.

Deuteronomy 6:4

Hear, O Israel. Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one,’

Note first the use of the covenant name, ‘Yahweh our God’. He is the One Whose covenant this is. It designates Yahweh in His uniqueness and distinctiveness, the God Who has a special relationship with Israel, the One to Whom they look, the God to Whom they have a special responsibility. Compare its use in Exodus (Exodus 3:18; Exodus 5:3; Exodus 8:10 etc.) where it is used only in solemn declarations to Pharaoh.

As the covenant title it occurs eleven times in Moses’ first speech, where after its emphatic use as the opening words of Moses, having reference to His speaking to them in Horeb (Deuteronomy 1:6, compare Deuteronomy 5:2), it connects with Yahweh’s personal commands to them (Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 1:41; Deuteronomy 2:37), Yahweh’s giving of the land to them (Deuteronomy 1:20; Deuteronomy 1:25; Deuteronomy 2:29), and Yahweh’s power to deliver their enemies into their hands (Deuteronomy 2:33; Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:3), being finally used to emphasise His special nearness to them (Deuteronomy 4:7). It occurs nine times in Deuteronomy 5-6 at the commencement of his second great speech, again to emphasise His making of a covenant with them (Deuteronomy 5:2, compare Deuteronomy 1:6), His oneness as their God (Deuteronomy 6:4), the hearing of His voice at Horeb (Deuteronomy 5:24-25; Deuteronomy 5:27 (twice)), His direct commands given to them (Deuteronomy 6:20) and with the need to fear Him and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:24-25) and then not until Deuteronomy 29:15; Deuteronomy 29:18; Deuteronomy 29:29 in Moses’ third covenant speech where reference is to their standing before Him in making the covenant, a warning against turning away from Him, and to His being the One to Whom secret things are known. It stresses His mightiness and uniqueness and sovereignty as their covenant God.

Compare its use in Joshua (only in Joshua 18:8; Joshua 22:19; Joshua 22:29; Joshua 24:17; Joshua 24:24) in solemn declarations when the covenant is being emphasised, and its only use in Judges in Judges 11:24; and in 1 Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:8 where the same applies. Compare also 1 Kings 8:57; 1 Kings 8:59; 1 Kings 8:61. These are all the uses in the former prophets (the historical writings up to Kings), save that it is exceptionally used outside of speech in 1 Kings 8:65, but that simply stresses its significance, for there the covenant emphasis is central and it is actually in the nature of a declaration. It is thus used for a distinct purpose and is not simply ‘a mark of style’. It also occurs nine times in the Psalms, and it occurs fifteen times in Jeremiah where it probably indicates the influence that Deuteronomy has had on him.

And He is different from all others. Other gods were spread around the known world, with differing gods in different countries. Their symbols could be found everywhere. They were of all varieties and viewed in all kinds of ways. They were of various levels, intermingled, synthesised, and localised. They fought, they bickered, they rose, they fell, they behaved both well and badly. They had all the good points and bad points of men, only in an exaggerated way. They were a confusing array, with a few the most prominent, and people could pick and choose among them. But men knew that while they might attain what they saw as a satisfactory arrangement with one, they could never be sure of that one, nor of what some other god might do in order to upset life, so some way had to be found of keeping all sweet. For one never knew what they would do next. They were many. But this was not to be so with Israel. Yahweh their God was not like that (compare Exodus 15:11). Yahweh was one, consistent and undivided, and totally reliable.

Let them hear now what he is saying. Yahweh is one, one in behaviour, one in action, one in being. He is not to be found in every nook and corner. He is not divided. He is not to be synthesised. He does not act contrary to Himself. He does not vary from place to place. He is not inconsistent. And while He is the Creator of all things, rules the heavens, and can act anywhere He pleases, as He has demonstrated, and can respond to prayers made anywhere by His own, and can manifest Himself in various ways, He is to be approached for atonement at the one Central Sanctuary and no other (Deuteronomy 12:0 - see the treatment of this subject in the introduction). He is perfect oneness, undivided, perfect and complete, and totally reliable. This is the recognition of Yahweh that flows from the first two commandments. Yahweh is one and alone.

Yet throughout the Old Testament a threeness is revealed. For He manifests Himself as the Almighty God, as the Angel of Yahweh and as the Spirit of God. And yet all three act as one in essential unity. The interpersonality within God comes out most clearly in Zechariah 1:12, but underneath it is always there. And it was always necessary. God is love and love demands reciprocation. God must have in Himself all that is required for perfect expression of Himself, and that is expressed in this threeness.

Deuteronomy 6:5

And you (thou) shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’

For these words compare Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:18-22. The same thoughts begin the section here and end the section in Deuteronomy 11:0, demonstrating their centrality. As Yahweh is one so they are to be one in their love (‘thou’) for Him. And in that oneness they are to respond totally to Him, so being one with Him in the covenant. They are to love Him with their whole being, and respond by keeping His commandments.

(From here to Deuteronomy 6:13 ‘you’ is ‘thou’ It is in the singular. Again this heightens and individualises the idea of command. Each one is to respond, and all are to respond as one nation).

Love was a covenant word. A similar word was used in treaties of the attitude a subject should have towards his suzerain, for men like to be loved as well as feared. Thus it involved covenant response. (‘Hated’ indicated the opposite). And such love and loyalty were always rewarded. Compare 1 Kings 5:1 which has in mind covenant loyalty. But love is also a relationship word. Israel were His son, His firstborn (Exodus 4:22 compare Deuteronomy 14:1) the closest of covenant situations. As sons He had borne them in the wilderness and had chastened them (Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 8:5; compare Deuteronomy 14:1). He looked therefore for the loyalty of a firstborn son to his Father, as well as the loyalty of a subject to his Suzerain.

And their response to Him must be total. They must love Him in the covenant relationship with their whole being, and no other. They must love Him with heart, and with soul and with might, both in inward thought and life and will, and in outward action. As far as the ultimate in life was concerned He must be their all. There was and must be no room for any other (compare Deuteronomy 10:12).

Jesus pointed out that this was the first and great commandment required of all of us, for it was the commandment that by being obeyed would result in the keeping of all other commandments (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).

So Yahweh could not be treated as one among many. Such a Yahweh would not be the true Yahweh. Once men did that they would have lost what He essentially was. He could only be known as He really was by those who responded to Him fully. His love reached out to them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8) and required love in return. Even the thought of all other gods must be excluded. None other must even be acknowledged.

Both Moses and the prophets make clear that it is not a question of Him just being Israel’s God, the reality is that no other can even be compared with Him. There are none like Him (Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 10:14; Deuteronomy 10:17; Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2). They are nonentities, they are powerless, they are a mockery. They can be swept aside with Yahweh’s powerful arm. His activity is universal. Both history and the future are totally controlled by Him. He can give lands as He will (compare Deuteronomy 2:5; Deuteronomy 2:9; Deuteronomy 2:19). He sets the bounds of the nations (Deuteronomy 32:8). The heaven of heavens is His and the world is at His disposal (Deuteronomy 10:14). Yahweh is supreme. He is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). Whether in Egypt or in Mesopotamia He brought about His will, and none could say Him nay. None could oppose Him. History moved at His will. The future was in His hands. Moses and the prophets were essentially, if not always philosophically (they probably never philosophised about the question), monotheistic, as were all those who loved Him fully. It was not so much a question of definition, as of reality. He alone was God. None other counted or came into the reckoning.

Jesus made this verse central to His teaching. He spoke of it as the first and great commandment (Matthew 22:38), and He spoke of the man as not far from the Kingly Rule of God who in response to Him said, ‘to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices’ (Mark 12:33).

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words, which I command you (thee) this day, shall be on your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.’

And because they loved Him each of them was to take His words to their hearts in such a way that they would also teach them diligently to their children (compare Deuteronomy 4:9 b; Deuteronomy 11:18-22; Deuteronomy 32:46). Note how both passages which deal with this in detail also emphasise the need to love Him (Deuteronomy 6:5-7; Deuteronomy 11:18-22), and both commence and end this section. They embrace all that is said in it. For this was not to be a series of dull lessons given to unwilling children, but a glowing testimony from a heart filled with love.

The need to pass His words on to their children is a constant Biblical theme (compare Deuteronomy 4:9 b; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Deuteronomy 6:20-24; Deuteronomy 11:18-22; Deuteronomy 32:7; Deuteronomy 32:46; Exodus 12:26-27; Exodus 13:8-9; Exodus 13:14; Joshua 4:6; Joshua 4:21). They were also to talk of them when they were sat in their houses, and when they walked in the way, and when they lay down and when they arose. In other words His words were to pervade every part of their lives. In a day when books were not freely available, this was the only way in which such teaching could be passed on. What was remembered from the reading aloud of God’s instruction at the feasts was to be conveyed at the breakfast table, and at every opportunity (Malachi 3:16), and used as a direction in their lives, until all knew it by heart and understood it and lived by it.

Deuteronomy 6:8-9

And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your residence, and on your gates (entry points).’

It is questionable whether this was intended to be taken literally (compare Exodus 13:16), although it was later so taken by the Pharisees and many others. They would wear small pouches containing Scripture on their persons during the time of morning prayer and fasten them to their doors. Such pouches containing small scrolls have been discovered in the Dead Sea area. That was good when it meant something genuine, but the danger came when it became a formality, a show, producing self-righteousness and vanity.

The verses are really simply emphasising that God’s instruction was to be kept available in their minds and constantly thought of, and was to control the use of the hand, being considered when they entered and left their tents and later their houses, and when they entered and left their tent-encampments and cities. It was not to be left behind and forgotten. It was always to be in mind. However, no doubt many did leave signs and notes around, and even carry them or fasten them to their tents, and later their houses, which would remind them of their covenant responsibilities, as we might leave notes today or carry portions of His word. And while that was their true purpose it could only be encouraged.

While they were living in an encampment, that was their ‘city’ (a word actually used of tent encampments in Numbers 13:19), their tents were their ‘residences’ and their ‘gates’ were the entry points of the camp (Exodus 32:26). ‘Doorposts’ were their tent posts. The Hebrew words expanded their meaning when they arrived in built up cities.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

‘And it shall be, when Yahweh your God shall bring you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you,

great and goodly cities, which you did not build,

and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill,

and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew,

vineyards and olive-trees, which you did not plant,

and you shall eat and be full,

then beware lest you forget Yahweh, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’

Even greater reminders of God’s goodness to them would be the cities which they would capture (and had already captured in Transjordan) which they did not have to build, and the houses full of spoils for them to enjoy, and the cysterns which were already there and full of water, and the vineyards and olive trees which they would take over, and the fruit that came from it which they would eat. They would enjoy the good things of the land for which they had not laboured.

Let them not then be lulled into forgetting that it was Yahweh Who had brought them into this land of freedom and plenty in accordance with the promise sworn to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that it was He Who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, a land for them of non-freedom and non-plenty, and out of the house of bondage, and had brought them under His watchful care so that they could be free and live under His Lordship.

This verse possibly contains a brief extract from a poem written by someone as they looked forward in hope to the coming land, possibly one regularly recited in the camp in order to encourage each other (possibly written by Moses or by Miriam - compare Exodus 15:21). Well and good, says Moses, but make sure that prosperity acts as a reminder of Yahweh’s goodness, and does not lead to forgetfulness. The general lack of such poetic prophecy is a sign of the early date of Deuteronomy, for from Hosea onwards it was common for prophets to prophesy in poetic metre.

For us too it is important that we do not forget the Lord’s mercies. Then we will not forget Him. And we have so much to give thanks for, especially for His unspeakable gift of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Deuteronomy 6:13

You (thou) shall fear Yahweh your God, and him shall you (thou) serve, and shall swear by his name.’

Thus they must each (thou) be sure that they reverentially fear Yahweh their God, and serve Him and swear by His name. Men swore by the name of those who ruled over them and whom they feared, by the name of those who were most important to them as in authority over them. This was the place that Yahweh should take in each of their lives, but in their case not with a slavish fear of what He might decide to do on a whim, but with a godly fear of One whom they knew would deal justly. It was in itself a kind of reverential love. The reference to ‘swear by His name’ may be to an oath of allegiance.

The fact that they were to ‘swear by His Name’ indicated that as far as they were to be concerned He alone was God and there was no other.

Note the play on words. They had been delivered from the house of bondage (‘abadim) that they might serve (ta‘abod) Yahweh.

Deuteronomy 6:14

You (ye) shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you,’

Thus none of them were to go after other gods which are like those of the peoples round about them. This would always be the temptation and the danger, especially when they were assured (by the Canaanites who should not have been there) that it was the only way to ensure rain and the fruitfulness of the land. In times of testing the words of such people would be traps and snares. It would be so easy to take their eyes off Yahweh. But this would be the opposite of loving Yahweh. It would be to forsake and despise Him. Thus the exhortation to love is followed by the warning of other lovers who will clamour for their attention.

Deuteronomy 6:15

For Yahweh your (thy) God in the midst of you (thee) is a jealous God; lest the anger of Yahweh your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.’

But none of them (thou) were to yield to them because Yahweh their God, the One who had delivered them and brought them to the land, and Who owned it, was there among them, and He is a jealous God, that is a God Who could not allow unworthy ‘rivals’, not so much for His sake as for theirs. (It would destroy their recognition of His uniqueness). Otherwise His anger would be kindled against them like a flame, and He would destroy them off the face of the earth (adamah).

Verses 16-19

They Must Not Put Yahweh To The Test For He Requires A Loving and Righteous Response (Deuteronomy 6:16-19 ).

Analysis.

a They are not to put Yahweh to the test as they did at Massah (Deuteronomy 6:16).

b They must diligently keep the commandments of Yahweh their God, and His testimonies, and His statutes, which he has commanded them (Deuteronomy 6:17).

b They must do what is right and good in the sight of Yahweh, that it may be well with them, and that they may go in and possess the good land which Yahweh swore to their fathers (Deuteronomy 6:18).

a They must thrust out all their enemies from before them, as Yahweh has spoken (Deuteronomy 6:19).

Note that in ‘a’ they are not to test out Yahweh and in the parallel they are therefore to thrust out their enemies from the land (so that they will not be a test to them and cause them to test Yahweh). In ‘b’ they must keep all His covenant stipulations, and in the parallel do what He requires.

Deuteronomy 6:16

You (ye) shall not test out Yahweh your God, as you tested him out in Massah.’

Let them remember the lesson of Massah (‘place of testing’). There as a group they had tested out Yahweh when there was a shortage of water and they had been ready to kill Moses because of their deep anger, for they had blamed him for their predicament. But then Yahweh had provided them with water from a rock (Exodus 17:1-7). Thus should they recognise that He can and will always provide water, and indeed, anything that they really need, if they but trust Him and obey Him. They must therefore look to Him in faith and not test Him out. They do not need to turn to anyone else for their sustenance.

In Deuteronomy 6:19 he will point out that that is why the Canaanites must be driven out. Otherwise they will be a snare and a trap to them causing them to ‘test Yahweh’.

These words were utilised by Jesus when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. They speak to us all. ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’. To do that is to lack true faith.

Deuteronomy 6:17-18

You (ye) shall diligently keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he has commanded you (thee), and you (thou) shall do that which is right and good in the sight of Yahweh, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land which Yahweh swore to your fathers.’

What they must each (thou) and all of them (ye) rather do is diligently keep Yahweh’s covenant stipulations, the commandments of Yahweh their God, and His testimonies and statutes which He has commanded each of them (or has commanded Israel as a nation), and do what is right and good in His sight. Then it will be well with them, and then they will be able to go in and possess the good land that Yahweh swore to their fathers. Such possession of the land constantly demanded righteousness (see Deuteronomy 6:25), because the land belonged to the Righteous One. Indeed Yahweh had promised it to their fathers so that He might establish a righteous land. While they would receive it because of the faith and faithfulness of others, they must fit into what it was, His land, the land of the Righteous One, and demonstrate that they deserved it by doing what was right and good in His sight (as we also must).

“Thou” is used from here to the end of the chapter.

Deuteronomy 6:19

To thrust out all your enemies from before you (thee), as Yahweh has spoken.’

And one of the ways in which they would do this was by thrusting out all their enemies from before them, as Yahweh has commanded. In order that the land may be righteous it was essential that the evil inhabitants were driven out. Otherwise they would only test out Israel and cause them harm and would continue to defile the land with their idolatries and perversions, and would in the end make them test Yahweh. If the kingdom of Yahweh was ever to be set up the land must be cleared of those who would do evil and would not respond to the covenant. In the same way can none enter Heaven who have not been prepared for it by God. ‘Thee’ here clearly means the whole nation as one.

The lesson for us of this constant repetition of the need to clear the land of Canaanites is that we too must clear our lives of all that could lead us astray. Whatever might lead us to lessen our devotion and dedication to Jesus Christ must be thrust from us. We must show it no mercy. We must not put the Lord to the test. We should also take heed that our hearts are set, not on the land, but on the Kingly Rule of God. We have a greater land on which to set our hearts.

Verses 20-25

And What They Know For Themselves They Must Explain To Their Children So That Righteousness Might Prevail In The Land (Deuteronomy 6:20-25 ).

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a When your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What do the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which Yahweh our God has commanded you, mean?” (Deuteronomy 6:20).

b Then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt, and Yahweh brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand (Deuteronomy 6:21).

c And Yahweh showed signs and wonders, great and sore, on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his house, before our eyes (Deuteronomy 6:22 a)

c And He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He swore to our fathers (Deuteronomy 6:23).

b And Yahweh commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Yahweh our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as at this day (Deuteronomy 6:24).

a And it shall be righteousness to us, if we observe to do all this commandment before Yahweh our God, as he has commanded us (Deuteronomy 6:25).

Note that in ‘a’ the children question what the statutes and judgments are telling them, and in the parallel they learn that they are telling them of the righteousness that must be theirs if they are to dwell in the land that belongs to their covenant Overlord. In ‘b they are to tell them that they had been Pharaoh’s bondmen, and in the parallel that they are now Yahweh’s freemen. In ‘c’ we have described how Yahweh did His great wonders against Pharaoh and Egypt, and in the parallel how He brought them out from Egypt in order to give them His land which He had promised to their fathers.

Deuteronomy 6:20

When your (thy) son asks you in time to come, saying, “What do the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which Yahweh our God has commanded you, mean?” ’

So when their children in the future asked each of them concerning the testimonies, and the statutes and the ordinances, which ‘Yahweh our God’ (their covenant God) had commanded them, and what they meant, they would be able to point to the faithfulness and goodness of the God of the covenant, and stress that they were His commands which he had a right to require of them because He was their overlord and Deliverer.

“Thy” clearly mainly has in mind here each individual to whom he is speaking.

Deuteronomy 6:21-24

Then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt, and Yahweh brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and Yahweh showed signs and wonders, great and sore, on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his house, before our eyes, and he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he swore to our fathers. And Yahweh commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Yahweh our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as at this day.’

They will then be able to explain to their children that they had been Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt, and how they had been bound to him by a kind of covenant, a slave covenant, and had suffered sore. And how Yahweh had delivered them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. How He had freed them from their bondage and from the covenant that bound them. And how He had shown signs and wonders, which had proved great and sore for Egypt, and these had come on Pharaoh and all his house in front of their very eyes, so that he had released them. And God had then brought them out from there so that He might bring them to the land which He had sworn to their fathers. And it was He Who had commanded them to do all these statutes, and to fear Yahweh their covenant God, and it was for their permanent good so that He might preserve them alive to that day and bless them.

Here once again we have repeated the important theological lessons on which the covenant was based. It is a partial covenant in brief.

· Firstly they were bound to Pharaoh, and under his rule and in bondage, enslaved and enchained, and in his kingdom.

· Then they were delivered with a mighty hand, the hand of Yahweh, Who had come against Egypt with signs and wonders and stricken it. Yahweh as their redeemer brought them out of Egypt.

· This was then followed by Him bringing them to the good land promised to their fathers, and establishing them there. Yahweh as their sovereign was constant, faithful and gracious, revealing further His mighty power, and bringing them into the promised land.

· And then finally He established Himself as their Lord so that they might obey His laws. Yahweh became their righteous ruler and sovereign, and they under His kingly rule, free and unchained, were in His kingdom.

This last was always how it was always intended to be.

For us there is an even greater reason for our worship. For we know that we were bound by sin and in bondage to our selfishness, but have been delivered from both by the mighty hand of God through the offering of His Son, Jesus Christ, on our behalf, once for all, revealed through greater wonders than those of Egypt. By this we have therefore come under the Kingly Rule of God, and He has been established as our Lord so that we might obey His will, awaiting our entry into His heavenly kingdom.

And the statutes were always an important part of this, for they alone could ensure that His people in the land remained just, and right, and prosperous. Only by a people obedient to these could the kingdom of God be established, with themselves as priests to the nations and a holy nation (Deuteronomy 7:6; Exodus 19:6). Without them they would simply sink once more to the level of other nations (as in fact they did).

“And Yahweh commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Yahweh our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as at this day.” The principle here is that life and death are in His hands. Their fathers had died in the wilderness because, as a result of their disobedience, that had been their sentence. But God did not seek men’s deaths, He sought that they might live. Thus all who were now alive at this time could give thanks for life and credit it to the goodness of Yahweh. But continuing to live was based for Israel on fearing God and living according to His will. That was the only guarantee of life. And it was on that that they should set their hearts. It is the nation as a whole that is in view, not the individual, although the individuals make up the nation.

Of course men would die. It was happening constantly, and sometimes the good died young and the wicked lived long. This problem is dealt with elsewhere by looking at God’s further purposes (see Psalms 73:0). But here the principle is being established that on the whole fearing God will result in continuing life, blatantly disobeying God will tend towards death. They had already learned this from what had happened to their fathers. Thus the statutes which encouraged them to fear God are seen as for man’s good always.

Deuteronomy 6:25

And it shall be righteousness to us, if we observe to do all this commandment before Yahweh our God, as he has commanded us.’

For if they observed to do all this commandment before Yahweh their covenant God it would be righteousness for them. By it they would be acceptable to Him and vindicated before Him, because it would reveal that they truly loved Him. The thought was not of what they would earn by it, but that being seen as righteous would be the consequence of their vindication as a result of being delivered and made a righteous people. And it would result in God’s continual blessing.

Elsewhere ‘before Yahweh’ signifies the court of the tabernacle and its surrounds, but here it possibly refers to the whole country, stressing the holiness of the whole land.

“It shall be righteousness to us.” This may mean it would be counted as righteousness to them so that they would retain possession of the land, or it may mean that it would be a vindication for them with the same result. Compare Deuteronomy 24:13 where ‘it will be righteousness to you’ means that a man will be pleasing to God and seen as having done the right. In Genesis 15:6 we are told of Abraham, ‘he believed in Yahweh and He counted it to him for righteousness’, that is, He accepted him as fully righteous before Him in spite of his failings. Thus the principle idea is of being acceptable to God as a result of a response of faith to His activity.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 6". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/deuteronomy-6.html. 2013.