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DEUTERONOMY 6

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Greatest Commandment The Meaning of the First Commandment The Great Commandment To Love Yahweh is the Essence of the Law
 (5:32-6:13)
      5:32-6:3
6:1-3 6:1-3 6:1-3  
6:4-5 6:4-9 6:4-9 6:4-9
6:6-9      
Caution Against Disobedience   Warning Against Disobedience  
6:10-15 6:10-15 6:10-15 6:10-13
      An Appeal for Loyalty
      6:14-15
6:16-19 6:16-19 6:16-19 6:16-19
6:20-25 6:20-25 6:20-25 6:20-25

READING CYCLE THREE(see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


BACKGROUND

There has been some discussion among commentators as to whether chapter 6 forms a conclusion to the Ten Commandments or the introduction to a section on expansion of the concepts presented in the Ten Commandments. Because of Deut. 5:28-33 it seems obvious to me that we are beginning a new section which emphasizes obedience.

A. Many have assumed that chapter 6 is an expansion of the first commandment which asserts the priority of YHWH in our lives.

 

B. There is a continuing emphasis in this chapter on YHWH's original promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 and their fulfillment (cf. Deut. 6:1, 3, 10, 18, and 23).


WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: DEUTERONOMY 6:1-3
  1"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, 2so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

6:1 "the commandment, the statutes and the judgments" See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation.

▣ "the Lord your God" See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

▣ "teach. . .do" Chapter 6, along with the conclusion of chapter 5, could be characterized as a strenuous emphasis on the need for obedience (cf. Deut. 5:29,31,32,33; 6:1,2,3,4,17,24, and 25). This same emphasis on the need for obedience is repeated in the NT (cf. Luke 6:46; John 14:21; James 2:14-26; 1 John 5:2). One way that we show Him that we really love Him is that we do what He has told us to do. The focus of this obedience is directed first toward God and then toward our covenant brother/sister. God always takes the initiative in grace (covenant benefits), yet He expects us to obey His covenant requirements!

▣ "in the land where you are going to possess it" This of course, refers to Gen. 12:1-3. In the OT the "land" aspect of the Abrahamic promise is emphasized while in the NT the "seed" aspect of the Abrahamic promise is emphasized (tribe of Judah, family of Jesse, line of David).

6:2 "so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God" This concept of family reverence and worship is emphasized in Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. 4:9-10; 5:29; 6:13; 11:19; 32:46). It is the theological opposite of Deut. 5:9!

▣ "fear. . .keep" The reverence (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect) is demonstrated in "keeping" (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal infinitive construct) all His covenant requirements!

▣ "keep" See note at Deut. 5:1.

▣ "all the days of your life" Notice that this is an emphasis on lifestyle-daily obedience, not just particular worship periods or annual feasts. Biblical faith is initial faith and repentance followed by lifestyle faith and repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21).

"that your days may be prolonged" This phrase has often been interpreted in connection with Deut. 5:16 as a promise of individual longevity to those who honor their parents. However, because of the repeated use of this phrase in Deut. 4:40; 5:16,33; 6:2; 11:9, it is obviously an idiom for the promise of a stable society, not individual longevity. God's covenant is designed to promote a godly, stable, healthy, productive society (cf. Deut. 6:3; and full note at Deut. 4:40).

6:3 Notice how the verbs and concepts are repeated again and again.

▣ "that it may be well with you" This parallels the phrase, "that your days may be prolonged," of Deut. 6:2

Notice the phrase is also found in Deut. 5:33; 15:16; 19:13

▣ "that you may multiply greatly. . .in a land flowing with milk and honey" It needs to be stated that YHWH's basic method of attracting the nations to Himself was to bless Israel in a unique way. However, Israel's disobedience never allowed this scenario to become effective. The cursing and blessing section of Deuteronomy 27-29 is pivotal in understanding the history of the children of Abraham. They were told specifically of the abundance that would accrue to them if they would follow God and the cursing that would accrue to them if they disobeyed. The history of Israel is one of disobedience.

The phrase, "land flowing with milk and honey," is a technical phrase in both Ugaritic and Egyptian documents to denote Palestine. It is used often (cf. Exod. 3:8,17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev. 20:24; Num. 13:27; 14:8; 16:13; Deut. 6:3; 11:9; 26:9; 27:3; 31:20).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: DEUTERONOMY 6:4-9
  4"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; 7and you shall teach them diligently to your sons 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. 8And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

6:4 "Hear" This is the Hebrew verb shema (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative). See full note at Deut. 4:1. It means "to hear so as to do." This is the focus of biblical covenant. The usage of this verb in Deuteronomy implies that it was used liturgically at set worship times (e.g., Deut. 4:1; 5:1; 9:1; 20:3; 27:9-10). This prayer in Deut. 6:4-6 , since the days of the second temple (516 b.c.), is repeated even to this day by Jewish people in both the morning and evening and at every worship occasion. It is their central confession of faith.

NASB, NKJV,
NET, NIV"the Lord is one"
NRSV, TEV "the Lord alone"
NJB "the only Yahweh"
LXX "the Lord is one"
JPSOA "the Lord alone"
REB "the Lord our one God"

There is no verb. This is the central pillar of the Jewish affirmation of monotheism (although it must be admitted that this central theological truth is not contextually highlighted). Israel was very distinct from the polytheism of her neighbors and especially the Canaanites' emphasis on the many local Ba'als.

SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM

6:5 "and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" This is a strong emphasis which asserts that our response to God is to involve our entire person. Jesus used this same verse in combination with Lev. 19:18 to affirm the entire essence of the law (cf. Matt. 22:36-38; Mark 12:29-34; Luke 10:27-38).

Believers' "love" (BDB 12, KB 17 Qal perfect) is assumed. It is characteristic of Deuteronomy to link obedience to YHWH's covenant as evidence of one's love for Him (cf. Deut. 5:10; 6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1,13; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6,16,20). See full note at Deut. 5:10.

The terms "heart" and "soul" are often used together to show the complete person (cf. Deut. 4:29; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2,6,10).

The term "soul" (BDB 659) describes the life-force (i.e., breath) in both humans and animals (e.g., Gen. 1:20-30; 2:7,19; 7:22; Job 34:14-15; Ps. 104:29,30; 146:4; Eccl. 3:19-21). Here it refers to passionate desire.

"Might" (BDB 547) means "abundance" or "strength" (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:25). These three terms "heart," "soul," "might," represent the complete person and is, therefore, parallel to the phrase, "with a whole heart." Notice the term "all" (BDB 481) is repeated three times for emphasis.

This commandment is highlighted by Jesus as the greatest of the commandments (cf. Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:25-37). Each of these is addressed to different types of Jewish leaders. However, it must be understood that the life of Jesus and the Apostles was a transition period from the OT to the NT. These two laws, love God (Deut. 6:5) and love your brother (Lev. 19:18) are surely also summaries of the new covenant!

For the question, "how should NT believers respond?" to OT laws see:

1. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Douglas Stuart, pp. 165-169

2. Cracking Old Testament Codes, D. Brent Sandy and Ronald L. Giese, pp. 123-125.

 

6:6 "these words" "These words" refer to YHWH's covenant, which was given through Moses.

▣ "shall be on your heart" The heart (BDB 523, see Special Topic: Heart), in Hebrew, signifies the directing focus of an individual's life. The emphasis in the OT was also meant to be internal faithfulness, as in the NT (cf. Deut. 4:29; 6:5, 6; 10:12; 11:13,18; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10; NT, "with all your mind," Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). We sometimes make a false distinction between the Old Covenant being an external law and the New Covenant being internal faith. We probably get this fallacy from Jer. 31:31-34, which emphasizes "a new heart." However, even in the OT, the individual believer was expected to direct his entire person, actions and motives toward the Lord his God.

6:7 "you shall teach them diligently to your sons" The verb (BDB 1041, KB 1606, Piel perfect) means "to sharpen" and in Piel this is the only usage. The term in Ugaritic means "to repeat." That seems to be the basic emphasis of this verse. The rabbis use this verse to assert that the Shema should be "repeated" morning and evening. We are to talk about God's will for our lives during the entire scope of daily activities. It is the responsibility of parents to pass on lifestyle faith (cf. Deut. 4:9; 6:20-25; 11:19; 32:46, see full note at Deut. 4:9). It is interesting that the flow of these different times for teaching falls into the same literary pattern as Ps. 139:2-6 and Prov. 6:20-22. This emphasis on parental responsibility is repeated in Prov. 22:6. Our modern day church school cannot take the place of parental training but it surely can supplement it!

6:8 "you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead" Originally this phrase seems to be used as a metaphor (cf. LXX). The context is lifestyle teaching opportunities for God's word. However, the rabbis took this verse very literally and they began to wrap a leather strap around their left hand with a small box (tefillin) attached which contained selected Scriptures from the Torah. The same kind of box was also strapped to their forehead. These "phylacteries" or "frontals" (BDB 377) are also mentioned in Deut. 11:18 and Matt. 23:5.

6:9 "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" This again is a symbolic gesture that God is to have a part, not only in our home life, but in our social life (i.e., gate, cf. Deut. 21:19; 22:15,24). As the threshold (BDB 265) of the home was often seen as the place of the demonic in the Greek and Roman worlds, in the Jewish world it represented the presence of God (i.e., the place where the blood of the Passover was placed, cf. Exod. 12:7,22,23).

"Your gates" (BDB 1044) may refer to the place of social meeting and justice (i.e., like the city gates). Usually, these small boxes and door markers (mezuza) contained several set passages of Scripture: Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21 and Exod. 13:1-10,11-16.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: DEUTERONOMY 6:10-15
  10"Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied, 12then watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him, and swear by His name. 14You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, 15for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth."

6:10-11 This shows that Israel was going to possess the land of the Canaanites (cf. Gen. 15:16). She would take over their homes, fields and vineyards. Yet, Deut. 6:12 emphasizes that she was not to forget that it was the Lord who provided these and not her own resources (cf. Deut. 4:9; 8:11-20; Ps. 103:2). If they forgot YHWH the reverse would occur. They would lose their homes, fields, and vineyards (cf. Deut. 28:27-48). Divine love started the covenant relationship, but human obedience maintained it.

6:12 "watch yourself" The verb (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Niphal imperative) is used often in Deuteronomy, but usually in the Qal stem. The Niphal is found in Deut. 2:4; 4:9,15,23; 6:12; 8:6,11; 11:16; 12:13,19,30; 15:9; 23:9; 24:8 and usually with the sense of "be careful"!

▣ "lest you forget" The verb (BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect) is a recurrent warning in Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. 4:9,23,31; 6:12; 8:11,14,19[twice]; 9:7; 25:19).

▣ "the Lord who brought you from this land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" This is the continuing emphasis of the book of Deuteronomy that God's grace came to Israel first (cf. Deut. 4:10; 5:29; 6:2). It is unfortunate to characterize the OT as law and the NT as grace (Martin Luther).

6:13 This verse gives several things that Israel should do towards YHWH when they victoriously enter the Promised Land:

1. "fear only the Lord your God" - BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect

2. "worship Him" - BDB 712, "serve" KB 773, Qal imperfect

3. "swear by His name" - BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal imperfect. See full note at Deut. 5:11.

All of these involve worship and are used often in Moses' writings.

Part of the cultic worship of Israel was to make statements in the name of YHWH. Jesus seems to quote this verse in Matt. 4:10 in His confrontation with the Evil One. He changes the word "fear" in Deut. 6:13 to the word "worship," which shows us that these two terms are basically synonymous. The name of God reflected His character and person.

6:14 This verse adds another requirement to the list of Deut. 6:13:

4. "shall not follow other gods" - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperfect

Here the worship of Canaanite fertility gods is strictly forbidden.

▣ "gods. . .gods" These are the terms Elohim (BDB 43) and El (BDB 43). Here, these terms are used of pagan gods.

6:15 "for the Lord your God in the midst of you" This was the purpose of creation. God wants to dwell with those made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). This is the Messianic concept of Immanuel, which means "God with us" (cf. Isa. 7:14 and Matt. 28:20).

▣ "jealous God" This Hebrew term can mean "zealous" or "jealous" (BDB 888, cf. Deut. 4:24; 5:9; see note at Deut. 4:24). Jealousy is a love word. We are only jealous of those for whom we have a deep, abiding love. This is another affirmation of the love of God anthropomorphically stated in human, family terms. See Special Topic: God Described As Human (anthropomorphism).

▣ "the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you and He will wipe you off the face of the earth" As revelatory as the love of God is, the same book reveals the wrath of God. The same book that overwhelms us with His love shocks us with His anger ("kindled" BDB 354, KB 351, Qal imperfect, cf. Deut. 11:16-17; 31:16-17; Jdg. 2:14; 6:13, and "wipe off" or "exterminate" BDB 1029, KB 1552, Hiphil perfect, cf. Deut. 1:27; 2:22; 9:20; Jos. 9:24). A good way to understand the relationship between God's love and His wrath is to compare Deut. 5:9 with 7:9. As God does visit lifestyle, priority sins from father to son to the third and fourth generations, He visits the blessing of faith to the thousandth generations of those who love Him. God's love spurned is God's wrath. Isaiah calls God's wrath "His strange work" (cf. Isa. 28:21).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: DEUTERONOMY 6:16-19
  16"You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. 17You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. 18And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the Lord swore to give your fathers, 19by driving out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has spoken."

6:16 "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah" The place was named "test," massah (BDB 650). This is a reference to an event that happened in Exod. 17:1-7 ("tested" BDB 650, KB 702, Piel perfect), where the people grumbled against God's provision and presence (cf. Deut. 9:22; 33:8). They showed lack of faith (cf. Ps. 95:8; Hebrews 3-4). Do not do it again ("test" Piel imperfect)! This verse is also used by Jesus in His temptation experience with Satan (cf. Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12).

6:17 "You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God" See note at Deut. 6:3. This continual emphasis on obedience (see note at Deut. 5:1) is overwhelming and sets the stage for the covenant relationship. All of God's covenants with mankind are initiated by Him unconditionally, but they must respond conditionally (cf. Deut. 5:32, 33; 6:1, 2, 3, 17, 24, 25).

▣ "the commandments. . .His testimonies and His statutes" See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation.

6:18 There are three terms that qualify Israel experiences: 

1. "you shall do what is right"  - verb, BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal perfect, "do"

a. "right" - BDB 449 means "right" or "pleasing," cf. Exod. 15:26; Deut. 6:18; 12:25,28; 13:18; 21:9

b. "good" - BDB 373 II, used twice, "what is pleasing," cf. Gen. 16:6; Deut. 12:28 (BDB 375 III, Deut. 6:24)

2. "that it may be well with you" - BDB 405, KB 408, Qal imperfect, "be good," cf. Deut. 4:40; 5:16,29,33; 6:3,18; 12:25,28; 22:7

Notice that all three are found in Deut. 12:25,28. If Israel keeps the covenant requirements, YHWH will bring prosperity and longevity!

6:19 "by driving out all your enemies from before you" God gave them the Promised Land ("by driving out," BDB 213, KB 239, Qal infinitive construct, cf. Gen. 15:16-21). He gave them military victory, but Israel still had to prepare for battle and go out and fight. This is probably a good combination to show the provision of God and the necessary faithful covenantal response (cf. Jos. 1-12).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: DEUTERONOMY 6:20-25
  20"When your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the Lord our God commanded you?' 21then you shall say to your son, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt; and the Lord brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22Moreover, the Lord showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23and He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.' 24So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded us."

6:20 This is the continuing emphasis on the spiritual, covenantal training of the children (see full note at Deut. 4:10).

The unusual aspect of this context (i.e., Deut. 6:20-33) is that the eyewitnesses were dead and their descendants were telling the story. Therefore, this may have become a liturgical formula (i.e., "when your children ask. . .you shall say. . .," Exod. 12:26,27; 13:14-15; Deut. 6:20-25; Jos. 4:6-7,21-24).

It is possible that Deut. 6:20-24 is one of several passages that recite Israel's faith journey with YHWH, from the call of Abraham to the Exodus-Conquest (cf. Deut. 26:5-9; Jos. 24:2-13; Psalm 77; 78; 105; 136).

6:21 "with a mighty hand" See note at Deut. 4:34.

6:22 This is referring to the ten plagues of Egypt. Each one of the plagues was a judgment against one of the Egyptian gods. Apparently these plagues spanned a period of about eighteen months, if one assumes there was some degree of natural phenomena involved. God could have delivered them much faster but it is my personal belief that He was working with the Egyptians' faith as well as that of the Hebrews. The mixed multitude which left Egypt contained some believing Egyptians.

6:24 This verse expresses the benefits to Israel for obedience to God's commandments (1) for their good (BDB 375 III, cf. Deut. 6:18) always and (2) for their survival (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel infinitive construct) as a people (e.g., Deut. 4:1; 8:1; 30:16,19).

NASB, NKJV,
TEV"always"
NRSV "lasting"
NJB "for ever"

This is literally a construct "all" (BDB 481) and "days" (BDB 398) used as a metaphor for permanence (cf. Deut. 5:29; 28:33; Gen. 6:5; Ps. 52:1, see Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 316).

6:25 "And it will be righteousness for us" As Abraham's initial faith/belief and subsequent obedience was accepted by YHWH (cf. Gen. 15:6) as "righteousness," so too, covenant obedience on the part of israel (cf. Deut. 24:13). See Special Topic: RIGHTEOUSNESS.

▣ "if we are careful to observe all of this commandment" Notice the repeated conditional nature of these promises:

1. "if we are careful" - BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperfect, cf. Deut. 4:6,9,40; 5:1,10,12,29,32; 6:2,3,17(twice)

2. "to observe" - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal infinitive, cf. Deut. 4:6; 5:1,15,27,32; 6:1,3,18,24,25. See note at Deut. 5:1.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is chapter 6 related to the Ten Commandments?

2. Why is there such an emphasis on obedience to the covenant?

3. What is the significance of Deut. 6:4-6 and how does it relate to polytheism, henotheism and monotheism?

4. What is the responsibility of believing parents toward their children?

5. Explain the etymology and the Biblical use of the term "righteousness" in both its OT and NT focus.

 

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