COVENANT COMMITMENT MUST BE WHOLEHEARTEDLY LIVED OUT AND PROPAGATED TO FUTURE GENERATIONS
Duane Christensen: The continuity of faith within the context of a religious community depends on the observance of that faith within the context of individual families. Though it is probable that parents carried a greater responsibility in general for the education of their children in ancient Israel than is the case today, the principle remains true. If parents cannot embody that faith and inculcate it responsibly to their children, the very existence of that faith community is in jeopardy.
Peter Craigie: Verses 4–9, known in the Jewish tradition as the Shema, contain what have been called “the fundamental truth of Israel’s religion” and “the fundamental duty founded upon it.” The fundamental truth has to do with the nature of God as one (v. 4); the fundamental duty is the response of love which God requires of man (v. 5). Both themes are taken up in the teaching of Jesus (Mark 12:29–30; see also Matt. 22:37 and Luke 10:27). The relationship of the two themes to the law and their importance to the Israelite are examined in vv. 6–9.
David Whitcomb: Moses expressed the important conclusion that obedience by the LORD’S people results in the LORD fulfilling His promise to them. God’s plan was for the people to hear and do His commands so that it would go well with them . . . as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey (v.3b). The LORD had promised from the outset that He was delivering His people from the bondage of Egypt to deliver them to this special land of blessings. The first generation did not believe God, did not obey Him, and forfeited the blessings. The same principle still applies as God blesses His people with love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, etc. as we know His truth and live accordingly.
MacArthur: Moses’ concern is that successive generations maintain the obedience to God’s laws that insures life and prosperity.
J. Sidlow Baxter: Israel’s God, the alone true God, is one, indivisible, and incommunicable, the absolute and infinite One, on whom all depend, whom all must ultimately obey, and who alone is the true Object of the creature’s worship. To Jehovah, therefore, Israel’s undivided devotion and love are due; so that the natural accompaniment of the basic affirmation is the “first and greatest commandment” – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Oh that Israel had hearkened! – for then would her peace have been as a river, and her prosperity as the immovable mountains. Oh that we ourselves, God’s people by a dearer covenant than that in Abraham, may truly love this glorious and gracious God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength!
(:1-3) PROLOGUE – THE INTENT OF THE COVENANT COMMITMENT
Duane Christensen: 6:1–3 — These three verses function as a bridge, to conclude the larger section on the “Ten Words” (4:44—6:3) and to introduce the next major section (6:4—7:11), which contains what Jesus called the “first and greatest commandment,” to love God (Matt 22:37–38).
A. (:1) Obedience Ensures Possession of the Land
“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,”
B. (:2) Fear of the Lord Ensures Prosperity and Long Life in the Land
“so 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.”
C. (:3) Obedience Ensures Multiplication in the Promised Land of Prosperity
“O 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.”
I. (:4) FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH OF THE COVENANT RELATIONSHIP
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
Gerald Gerbrandt: Judaism and Christianity agree in designating this passage, commonly called the Shema (on the basis of the Hebrew of the first word, Hear!), the most important text in the whole of the Old Testament. . . The significance of the Shema for Deuteronomy is clear from its location at the head of Moses’ teaching after the account of the covenant at Horeb, and by the regular references to it in other parts of Deuteronomy (e.g., 10:12; 11:1, 13, 18–22; 13:3; 30:6). In this passage we are at the center of Deuteronomy’s theology and at the heart of biblical faith.
Daniel Block: The shema is one of the most important symbols of Judaism. To this day, orthodox Jews recite verses 4–5 twice daily as part of their prayers (cf. v. 7). . .
Moses’ concern here is whether God’s people would remain devoted exclusively to Yahweh or be seduced by the gods of Canaan. His exposition of the Shema in the remainder of 6:5–19 confirms this interpretation. Answering to the Supreme Command, by uttering the Shema the Israelites were declaring their complete, undivided, and unqualified devotion to Yahweh. This is not strictly a monotheistic confession (cf. 4:35, 39) but a cry of allegiance, an affirmation of covenant commitment that defines the boundaries of the covenant community. It consists of those who claim this utterance as a verbal badge of identity and who demonstrate this identity with uncompromising covenant commitment, a subject to which Moses now turns.
Michael Grisanti: Scholars have often debated whether v.4 teaches the singularity (one as opposed to many) or unity (internal consistency) of Yahweh or his uniqueness (incomparability) or exclusivity (the only one for Israel). A key interpretive problem is the unparalleled nature of this line in Hebrew. After the summons, “Hear, O Israel,” four Hebrew words occur without any verbs. Although verbless clauses occur throughout the Hebrew Bible, the construction found here has no counterpart. . .
at least three truths arise from the divine names used in these verses.
(1) This God is Yahweh, the faithful, covenant-making, and covenant-keeping God. He is God, the sovereign Creator.
(2) He is also “our God,” the God who entered into an intimate and special covenantal relationship with his nation, Israel.
(3) Although the OT makes it clear that Israel’s God is singular, in stark contrast to the pagan gods, another idea seems prominent in this context (cf. 4:35, 39; 5:7) and in this verse. One of the realities that sets Israel apart from the world is the exclusive relationship they have with this remarkable God. He is Yahweh alone! Not only is he incomparable, but he is the only God for the Israelites and they are the people on whom he has set his love. Yahweh and only Yahweh is to be the object of Israel’s wholehearted and undivided loyalty. A potential translation of v.4 is, “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone!”
Eugene Merrill: It is possible to understand v. 4 in several ways, but the two most common renderings of the last clause are:
(1) “The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (so NIV) or
(2) “The LORD our God is one LORD.”
The former stresses the uniqueness or exclusivity of Yahweh as Israel’s God and so may be paraphrased, “Yahweh our God is the one and only Yahweh” or the like. This takes the noun (“one”) in the sense of “unique” or “solitary,” a meaning that is certainly well attested. The latter translation focuses on the unity or wholeness of the Lord. This is not in opposition to the later Christian doctrine of the Trinity but rather functions here as a witness to the self-consistency of the Lord, who is not ambivalent and who has a single purpose or objective for creation and history. The ideas clearly overlap to provide an unmistakable basis for monotheistic faith. The Lord is indeed a unity, but beyond that he is the only God. For this reason the exhortation of v. 5 has practical significance.
MacArthur: The intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of monotheism, that there is only one God. . . The word used for “one” in this passage does not mean “singleness,” but “unity.” The same word is used in Ge 2:24, where the husband and wife were said to be “one flesh.” Thus, while this verse was intended as a clear and concise statement of monotheism, it does not exclude the concept of the Trinity.
Jack Deere: The statement in this verse is the basic confession of faith in Judaism. The verse means that the Lord (Yahweh) is totally unique. He alone is God. The Israelites could therefore have a sense of security that was totally impossible for their polytheistic neighbors. The “gods” of the ancient Near East rarely were thought of as acting in harmony. Each god was unpredictable and morally capricious. So a pagan worshiper could never be sure that his loyalty to one god would serve to protect him from the capricious wrath of another. The monotheistic doctrine of the Israelites lifted them out of this insecurity since they had to deal with only one God, who dealt with them by a revealed consistent righteous standard.
II. (:5) FUNDAMENTAL EXPRESSON OF THE COVENANT RELATIONSHIP
“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Daniel Block: Few texts in the Old Testament are as pregnant with significance as this passage.
(1) The Shema functioned as Israel’s pledge of allegiance. Whenever Israelites recited this pledge, they acknowledged that the God who redeemed them was not some amorphous and unknowable deity. He is Yahweh, who intervenes in history on behalf of his chosen people and calls them to covenant relationship with himself. No other god, ancient or modern, has done this. . .
(2) Whereas elsewhere the Old Testament in general and Deuteronomy in particular spoke of commitment to Yahweh in terms of “fear” and “clinging to Yahweh,” here for the first time in the Pentateuch, Moses picks up on a notion expressed in the Decalogue and speaks of the proper response to God as “love” (ʾāhab). In the Decalogue Yahweh promised covenant faithfulness (ḥesed) to those who demonstrate love for him by keeping his commands (5:10; Ex. 20:6; cf. Deut. 7:9), but from this point in Deuteronomy, this word will become increasingly important as an expression of the human disposition toward God.
Patrick Miller: To love God is to be loyal to the Lord, to keep the Lord’s commandments (10:12–13; 11:1, 22), to walk in the way of the Lord (19:9: 30:16), to do or heed the commandments, statutes, and ordinances. It was never left unclear how Israel was to manifest love toward the Lord. In worship and in obedience to the requirements of the covenant, the love of the Lord was to be demonstrated.
Peter Craigie: The command to love is central because the whole book is concerned with the renewing of the covenant with God, and although the renewal demanded obedience, that obedience would be possible only when it was a response of love to the God who had brought the people out of Egypt and was leading them into the Promised Land. The language of love is reminiscent both of treaty language in the Near East and also of the analogy of the father/son relationship which has already been employed in Deuteronomy. The language of loving God, however, is not drawn directly from the treaty terminology; rather it is one of the features of the Hebrew relationship to God which made possible the use of the treaty terminology in the first place, and also the use of the father/son analogy.
Michael Grisanti: Moses piles up relatively synonymous terms to emphasize the totality of this allegiance. The task of expressing this love for Yahweh (in loyalty) encompasses one’s entire person. These three phrases do not express three precise modes of expressing love or refer to three distinct spheres of life. They combine together to serve as an intense affirmation of absolute commitment.
III. (:6-9) FAITHFUL PROPAGATION OF THE COVENANT COMMITMENT TO FUTURE GENERATIONS
A. (:6) Internal Appropriation
“And these words, which I am commanding you today,
shall be on your heart;”
Duane Christensen: The focus on teaching your children “these words” diligently within the context of the family—at all conceivable times and places—illustrates once again the pedagogical purpose of Deuteronomy. The content of this book was the primary curriculum in an ongoing program of religious education in ancient Israel. Phylacteries and mezuzot are essentially pedagogical tools, designed to keep the great summary statements of the “Words of YHWH” central in the experience of each individual member of the covenant community.
Michael Grisanti: Building on God’s incomparable identity and his demand for absolute loyalty from Israel, Moses addresses how to live out this divine expectation. How will a recognition of Yahweh’s exclusive relationship with Israel and Israel’s total allegiance manifest itself? Those who live in the light of these realities will have transformed lives and invest themselves in passing on those life-changing beliefs to the next generation. They will not be content with leading lives for God’s glory but will earnestly desire to help give to their children a life-changing awareness of their great and mighty God.
B. (:7) Family Indoctrination
“and 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.”
Eugene Merrill: The image is that of the engraver of a monument who takes hammer and chisel in hand and with painstaking care etches the text into the face of a solid slab of granite. The sheer labour of such a task is daunting indeed, but once done the message is there to stay. Thus it is that the generations of Israelites to come must receive and transmit the words of the Lord’s everlasting covenant revelation. . .
As noted already (4:9-10; 6:2), an important demand of the covenant relationship was that it be perpetuated beyond the immediate generation of those with whom the Lord made it, for its promises and provisions were for generations yet unborn (4:25, 40; 5:9-10, 29). In practical terms this necessitated a regular routine of instruction. Father must educate son and son the grandson so that the fact and features of the covenant might never be forgotten.
Maxwell: This commandment is not automatically transferred from one generation to another. Deuteronomy attaches the importance and responsibility of teaching to the family (Dt 4:9; 6:7, 20–25; 11:19). This educating must be done in a diligent manner. The home is to be the center for conserving and propagating truth. Home is where life makes up its mind. Moses understood that the greatness of the nation Israel depended upon the teaching of the commandments in the home. As a nation, we need desperately to apply this truth ourselves.
Kristopher Adams: Moses invites God’s people to find ways of ensuring that their children see and hear the Word of the Lord as often as possible so that the command and story of God become a part of their identity.
C. (:8) Public Representation
“And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand
and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.”
Peter Craigie: The frontlet, or phylactery, came into use as a small container enclosing a parchment on which a number of biblical verses were written.
D. (:9) Entranceway Representation
“And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Daniel Block: In so doing Israelites will remind themselves that their primary allegiance is to Yahweh whenever they leave from or return to their homes, and that love for Yahweh must govern all activities inside and outside the house. Furthermore, it will declare to guests and all who pass by that in this household Yahweh is not only the unseen guest but also the supreme head. The inscription on the gates extends this commitment to the entire community, reminding citizens and visitors alike of Yahweh’s rule over the town and the nation as a whole. Since city gates also functioned as courthouses, these inscriptions will also remind those participating in legal or administrative proceedings that all must be done in honor and on behalf of the divine ruler.
Peter Craigie: Whether taken literally or metaphorically, the signs described in vv. 8–9 indicate that the individual (v. 8), his home, and his community (v. 9) were to be distinguished in their character by obedience to the commandments as a response of love for God.
Chuck Musselwhite: How the Word can make us Holy:
– Internalize the Word (vs. 6)
– Teach the Word (vs. 7a)
– Discuss the Word (vs 7b)
– Keep It in Front of You (vs. 8)
– Mark Your Home with It (vs. 9)