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Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Context
The Essence of the Covenant Principles

6:4 Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 1  6:5 You must love 2  the Lord your God with your whole mind, 3  your whole being, 4  and all your strength. 5 

Exhortation to Teach the Covenant Principles

6:6 These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, 6:7 and you must teach 6  them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, 7  as you lie down, and as you get up. 6:8 You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm 8  and fasten them as symbols 9  on your forehead. 6:9 Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates. 10 

1 tn 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.

sn Verses 4-5 constitute the so-called Shema (after the first word שְׁמַע, shÿma’, “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).

2 tn 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.

3 tn 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.

4 tn 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.

5 sn For NT variations on the Shema see Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27.

6 tn 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.

7 tn Or “as you are away on a journey” (cf. NRSV, TEV, NLT); NAB “at home and abroad.”

8 sn 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.

9 sn 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).

10 sn The Hebrew term מְזוּזֹת (mÿzuzot) 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.



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