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Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [1]

Deuteronomy 6:4–9

Jesus understood what He was here to do. Jesus, the Messiah, reminded us of the new plan as He lived it out. It is about loving God with all we’ve got. Moses got it directly from God. Jesus got it directly from God, his Father, as well.

To love God with our whole heart is our mission. It is written on our heart and in the very fabric of our soul.

  • It is all we should want to think about.
  • It is all we should want to talk about.
  • It is all we should want to act on in our relationships.

Deuteronomy 6:4 is called the Shema, from the Hebrew word for “hear.” Today many people of the Jewish faith fulfill the commands of 6:8–9 literally: They write Bible verses on pieces of paper, place them in small boxes, and then they either tie the boxes to their arm or their forehead, or attach them to the doorposts of their home.

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Yahweh our God, Yahweh is unique The four Hebrew words used here represent the core confession of belief in Yahweh as the one true God. However, the syntactic relationship of these four Hebrew words—yhwh elohenu yhwh echad—presents a complicated translation issue. These four words can be understood as a single clause or as two separate clauses.

  • 6:5 you shall love The command is not a demand to manufacture false emotion but to cultivate a disposition.
  • with all of your heart and with all of your soul The Hebrew terms levav (often translated “heart”) and nephesh (often translated “soul”) do not refer to separate components of the human person. Rather, the terms overlap in meaning, conveying the internal life, dispositions, emotions, and intellect.
  • might The Hebrew word here is not a noun but an adverb meaning “exceedingly.” This description of love of Yahweh thus implies totality: as Yahweh is undivided unity and alone worthy of worship, so the Israelites must have undivided loyalty to Him.
  • 6:6 these words The Ten Commandments, which are literally known in the Hebrew as the “ten words” (Exod 34:28). The phrase “these words” and similar ones refer to the entirety of the law.
  • on your heart Israelites must take them to heart—commit them to memory and make them an integral part of their life.
  • 6:7 you shall recite them to your children The Hebrew phrase here literally means “repeat.” Parents are to rehearse the laws of God to their children. This command presumes that teachers know their content, which in turn presumes concentrated effort and study.
  • you shall talk about them The practice of constantly repeating and reciting God’s commands also involves committing them to memory so they become applied knowledge for life.
  • living in your house and at the time of your going These paired, contrasting phrases (and the following ones) are figures of speech showing totality (merism). In this instance, all of life is the whole. In other words, Israelites are to make the laws of God the focal point of.
  • 6:8–9 Not only must the people of Israel memorize and rehearse Yahweh’s commands in order to internalize them, they must also wear them on the body and attach the words to their homes. The Israelites practiced these commands by placing written commandments in leather pouches and then literally binding them on their arms and forehead with leather straps. The command to put the laws of Yahweh on doorposts (mezuzoth in Hebrew) likewise resulted in the Jewish practice of writing passages of Scripture on a small piece of parchment that was rolled and inserted in a case affixed to the doors, lintels, and doorposts of private houses. The verses written on those small parchments typically included this passage (vv. 4–9) and 11:13–21.[2]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Dt 6:4–9.

[2] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Dt 6:4–9.