Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 6

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Deuteronomy 6

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God Is One? 

For many centuries Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [4] Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: [5] And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. [6] And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: [7] 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. [8] And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] And you shall write them on the posts of your house, and on your gates.
American King James Version×
has been known among the Jews as the Shema. This Hebrew word, which means “hear,” is the first word of verse 4. Continuing in verse 4, we read in the earlier and New King James Versions that God is “one.” And, indeed, many, including the Jews, have traditionally understood the verse this way. Furthermore, they have concluded from it that God consists of only one Being. We know, however, that God consists of two Beings at present, God and the Word (John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
American King James Version×
), later called the Father and Jesus Christ (compare verse 14). God said in Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
, “Let Us make man in Our Image,” showing that God consists of more than one personage. The Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is plural, and denotes the God family. Ephesians 3:14-15 Ephesians 3:14-15 [14] For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
American King James Version×
not only confirms that God is a family, but also that He is in the process of enlarging His family through converted Christians—His begotten children awaiting glorification into divine spirit beings like Him (1 John 3:1-2 1 John 3:1-2 [1] Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. [2] Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
American King James Version×
). It is interesting how the New International Version translates Hebrews 2:11 Hebrews 2:11For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
American King James Version×
: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.”

So what is Deuteronomy 6:4 Deuteronomy 6:4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
American King James Version×
saying? First of all, it should be stated that the word “one” in the sense of singularity is probably not what the original Hebrew here is intending to convey. Indeed, it could be understood as one in priority—meaning God is to be first, the highest priority, in our lives. And some Bible versions render the phrase in question as, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” In this sense, the prohibition is against worshiping other gods. Though the Lord normally denoted the One who became Jesus Christ, since He is the one who dealt with Israel (compare 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×
), this passage does not deny the existence of the Father. For the name Yahweh,having the sense of “Eternal One,” which is rendered “Lord” in the New King James Version, could also refer to God the Father (compare Psalms 110:1 Psalms 110:1The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.
American King James Version×
). Of course, Israel did not know about the Father. Rather, Christ came to reveal Him (Matthew 11:27 Matthew 11:27All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
American King James Version×
; John 1:18 John 1:18No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
American King James Version×
; John 17:25-26 John 17:25-26 [25] O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. [26] And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
American King James Version×
).

But Deuteronomy 6:4 Deuteronomy 6:4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
American King James Version×
;could be translated as “the Lord is one.” And if that’s what is meant, then we must ask how is God one? The answer can be found in John 17, where Christ prayed to the Father about His disciples, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (verse 22). So God truly is one—in the unity of mindset and purpose shared by the Father and Christ, which They want us to share with Them. But They obviously do not constitute one being—just as God’s people are not to become one being.

Incidentally, Deuteronomy 6:8 Deuteronomy 6:8And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
American King James Version×
should be understood metaphorically—sealing God’s instructions on our hands (i.e., in our actions) and between our eyes (i.e., in our minds). But later Jews attempted to obey this scripture in a literal way by writing down four passages (verses Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [4] Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: [5] And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. [6] And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: [7] 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. [8] And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] And you shall write them on the posts of your house, and on your gates.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 11:13-21 Deuteronomy 11:13-21 [13] And it shall come to pass, if you shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, [14] That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your corn, and your wine, and your oil. [15] And I will send grass in your fields for your cattle, that you may eat and be full. [16] Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; [17] And then the LORD’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest you perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD gives you. [18] Therefore shall you lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. [19] And you shall teach them your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. [20] And you shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates: [21] That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven on the earth.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 13:1-10 Exodus 13:1-10 [1] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [2] Sanctify to me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine. [3] And Moses said to the people, Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. [4] This day came you out in the month Abib. [5] And it shall be when the LORD shall bring you into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. [6] Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. [7] Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven seen with you in all your quarters. [8] And you shall show your son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did to me when I came forth out of Egypt. [9] And it shall be for a sign to you on your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in your mouth: for with a strong hand has the LORD brought you out of Egypt. [10] You shall therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 13:11-16 Exodus 13:11-16 [11] And it shall be when the LORD shall bring you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and to your fathers, and shall give it you, [12] That you shall set apart to the LORD all that opens the matrix, and every firstling that comes of a beast which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s. [13] And every firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among your children shall you redeem. [14] And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, What is this? that you shall say to him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: [15] And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that opens the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. [16] And it shall be for a token on your hand, and for frontlets between your eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.
American King James Version×
) on tiny scrolls—then placing the scrolls in leather pouches and attaching these to their foreheads and left arms while reciting the Shema. This is the origin of phylacteries (referred to in Matthew 23:5 Matthew 23:5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
American King James Version×
).

Obeying God’s Commandments 

We are then introduced to one of the two great commandments in the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
American King James Version×
; compare Matthew 22:36-38 Matthew 22:36-38 [36] Master, which is the great commandment in the law? [37] Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [38] This is the first and great commandment.
American King James Version×
). Christ made clear that this is “the first and great commandment,” but that the second (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”) is “like” it (verse 39, quoting from Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
). He explained that God’s entire law is summarized by these two commandments (see Matthew 22:40 Matthew 22:40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
American King James Version×
). This is understandable, as the first four of the Ten Commandments explain how to love God, while the last six tell us how to love our neighbor. The statutes and judgments, in turn (compare Deuteronomy 4:13-14 Deuteronomy 4:13-14 [13] And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them on two tables of stone. [14] And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might do them in the land where you go over to possess it.
American King James Version×
), expand on and set forth in more detail the practical application of the Ten Commandments in our daily lives. And Christ’s teachings in the New Testament—a magnification of the law (see Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
American King James Version×
)—expand on the Ten Commandments, statutes and judgments even further, by showing us how to live according to their spiritual intent. (For instance, in Matthew 5:21-22 Matthew 5:21-22 [21] You have heard that it was said of them of old time, You shall not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: [22] But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
American King James Version×
Jesus stated it is not only wrong to actually murder someone, but it is wrong to even hate someone, as uncontrolled hatred can ultimately lead to the physical act of murder.)

Verses 6-9 emphasize the urgent necessity of teaching children the truths of God, giving parents the primary responsibility here. Too often, parents are negligent in this responsibility and children grow up uncertain about what they know. Conveying confidence and certainty in the Word of God is a vital role parents are commanded to fulfill. The laws and ways of God should be taught daily. Regarding “Thou shalt teach them diligently” in verse 7Adam Clarke’s Commentary notes that the Hebrew means “ ‘to repeat, iterate, or do a thing again and again’;hence to whet or sharpen any instrument, which is done by reiterated friction or grinding” (emphasis added). This points to the great value of family Bible study and prayer. And biblical principles should be talked about informally as often as opportunities present themselves—whenever there is a way to connect daily living and attitudes with the teachings of the Bible. An opportunity is whenever you are together—sitting, walking, riding in a car, eating together, etc. An opportunity is when a question or problem arises and the parent can point to the Bible for understanding and solutions. And it’s valuable for families to start and end each day talking about and praying to God.

Since Israel was a carnal nation, God commanded that they write the commandments on the doorposts of their houses (Deuteronomy 6:9 Deuteronomy 6:9And you shall write them on the posts of your house, and on your gates.
American King James Version×
). Although it would not be wrong for a Christian to do so today, it is not obligatory, as the law of God should be inscribed in a far more important place—on our hearts. God desired this for ancient Israel, too (verse 6), but He knew that this would not be the case without His Spirit within them (compare Deuteronomy 31:21 Deuteronomy 31:21And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.
American King James Version×
, Deuteronomy 29:4 Deuteronomy 29:4Yet the LORD has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, to this day.
American King James Version×
). Of course, while adults may feel no need for physical reminders and visual aids, as illustrated by verses 8-9, they are often helpful for children.

In verse 15, God describes Himself as a “jealous God,” as in Exodus 34:14 Exodus 34:14For you shall worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
American King James Version×
. He demands our absolute loyalty and fidelity to Him. But this is not for Himself—because He just soaks up our adoration. Putting other things before the true God in our lives is harmful and destructive to ourselves and others. God knows that all too well. If everyone instead set their affections on Him—the God of love—above all others, there would be perfect peace and happiness throughout the world. So God is jealous not for His own sake—but for ours.

Some today say that all we need is the “righteousness of faith”—that is, as long as we believe in Christ, we are justified or “made right,” regardless of how we live. But Moses told Israel something different. In Deuteronomy 6:25 Deuteronomy 6:25And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.
American King James Version×
, we read, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.” Psalm 119, an ode to keeping God’s law, which is traditionally attributed to King David, defines all of God’s commandments as righteousness (Psalms 119:172 Psalms 119:172My tongue shall speak of your word: for all your commandments are righteousness.
American King James Version×
). After all, faith without works is dead (James 2:14 James 2:14What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
American King James Version×
; James 2:20 James 2:20But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
American King James Version×
). We will be rewarded in accordance with our works, and we are to practice “obedience to the faith” (Romans 1:5 Romans 1:5By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
American King James Version×
; Romans 16:26 Romans 16:26But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
American King James Version×
). When we sin, Christ forgives us upon repentance and justifies us or makes us righteous (1 John 1:7-9 1 John 1:7-9 [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin. [8] If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×
). But we are told not to sin—this must be our foremost goal (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×
; Romans 6:15 Romans 6:15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
American King James Version×
; 1 John 2:1 1 John 2:1My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
American King James Version×
). Since “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×
, KJV), we remain righteous unless and until we sin. But no one can keep God’s law on his own—we need the help of the living Christ in us to conquer sin. That is why we read, “He condemned sin in the flesh that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit… Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His… For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:3-4 Romans 8:3-4 [3] For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: [4] That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
American King James Version×
Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×
; Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version×
).


Supplementary Reading: The Lord Our God Is One,” Who Is God?, 2001, pp. 18-19.

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