Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Fundamental Principles of the Law: God’s Nature and Israel’s Duty
Moses continues his discourse: After stating that he has now to give Israel the Charge (Miṣwah) given to him in Ḥoreb, and statutes and judgements for observance in the promised land (Deuteronomy 6:1); Moses explains the motives for these: the fear of God and the benefits to be derived from observing them (Deuteronomy 6:2 f.). Follows the solemn enunciation of the basal principle, the oneness of Jehovah, and Israel’s basal duty: undivided love to Him (Deuteronomy 6:4 f.). Therefore these words which he is about to give must ever be in the people’s heart and mind and be diligently taught, to their children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Especially must Israel not yield to that temptation to forget Jehovah, to which the people will be exposed among the material blessings of the land whither He brings it (Deuteronomy 6:10-12); nor go after the gods of that land; else He will destroy Israel (Deuteronomy 6:13-15). Israel must not try Him as at Massah, but diligently keep His laws, in order that it may be well with them, and entering the land they may possess it and see their enemies thrust out before them (Deuteronomy 6:16-19). When in future the children ask the meaning of these laws, their origin must be explained as the great deliverance from Egypt. Then was the nation born; by these laws it lives. Then Jehovah revealed His grace; these are to establish the fear of Him upon His people (Deuteronomy 6:20-25).
The construction of the ch. starts difficult questions as to its unity: for the same puzzling phenomena meet us here as elsewhere—the double forms of address Sg. and Pl., with the rapid transitions between them, and the accumulation of the usual deuteronomic formulas. Do the former indicate two sources? Or do both prove that editorial hands have expanded the discourse? On the possible answers see the notes.
Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:1. Not a fresh title, marking the beginning of a separate discourse, but the natural continuation of the discourse from the previous ch. and still couched in the Pl.
And this is] The conjunction not merely continues the discourse, but has an antithetic force, therefore not too strongly rendered now by A.V. and R.V. What at that time in Ḥoreb was delivered to Moses himself (as described in Deuteronomy 5:31) he now in Moab proceeds to present.
this is the commandment, the statutes, and the judgements] LXX these are the commandments, but Sam. confirms Heb., which is the more probable. Because this, not these, is used, and because the separate laws do not come till ch. 12, the words statutes and judgements are regarded by some as an editorial intrusion. But this is not certain: this with three objects following, and two of them in the plural, is grammatically possible in Heb., and Moses was now about to declare to the people in Moab not only the Charge or Miṣwah, but the statutes and judgements as well. The point is not important. What is clear is that Miṣwah or Charge (see Deuteronomy 5:31) is the enforcement of general principles underlying the Law, which proceeds till the end of ch. 11. For after this discourse is finished, the title in Deuteronomy 12:1, where the separate laws at last begin, drops the term Miṣwah and reads only these are the statutes and the judgements. Cp. Westphal, Sources du Pent. ii. 111.
whither ye go over to possess it] A formula distinctive of the Pl. passages occurring, besides here, Deuteronomy 4:14, Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 11:11; whereas when the Sg. passages use the verb go over they add the Jordan, Deuteronomy 9:1, Deuteronomy 30:18, but elsewhere prefer the equivalent phrase, the land whither thou art entering (or thou art entering the land), Deuteronomy 6:18, Deuteronomy 7:1, Deuteronomy 9:5, Deuteronomy 11:10; Deuteronomy 11:29, Deuteronomy 12:29, Deuteronomy 18:9, Deuteronomy 23:20, Deuteronomy 28:21; Deuteronomy 28:63, Deuteronomy 30:16. The only verse in which this phrase occurs with the Pl. Isaiah 4:5 b (q.v.); while Deuteronomy 4:1 (Pl.) gives a variation.
That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.2. fear Jehovah thy God] Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 10:20.
all his statutes and his commandments] Note the variation from Deuteronomy 6:1.
which I command thee] am about to command thee.
that thy days may be prolonged] See on Deuteronomy 5:33.
2, 3. Transition to the Sg. with a somewhat loose accumulation of common deuteronomic formulas; on these grounds regarded by some as an editorial addition. This is not certain, but very probable. Omit Deuteronomy 6:2-3, and Deuteronomy 6:4 follows naturally on Deuteronomy 6:1 as the beginning of the Miṣwah, but couched, like the Decalogue in ch. 5, in the Sg. At the same time all of Deuteronomy 6:2-3 need not be editorial. Note that the one Pl. clause they contain is not a common formula.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.3. observe to do] See on Deuteronomy 5:1.
that ye may increase mightily] A partial return to the Pl., and, with such a verb, logical and natural. The phrase is not found elsewhere. This therefore may not be a mere editorial echo. But the idea of the multiplication of the people as a Divine blessing is constant in Deut. as in other O.T. writings. In their world of war all Semitic tribes naturally prayed for large numbers. Cf. Doughty on the Arabs: ‘the soul of them is greedy first of their proper subsistence and then of their proper increase.’
the God of thy fathers] Deuteronomy 1:21, Deuteronomy 12:1, Deuteronomy 27:3; of your f., Deuteronomy 1:11, Deuteronomy 4:1, cp. Deuteronomy 29:25. So E, Exodus 3:15 and J, Exodus 3:16.
unto thee … a land, etc.] The construction is defective: in supplied by R.V. is not in the Heb. LXX adds to give thee, which affords a good connection and is probably original; as the eye of a Heb. scribe may easily have confused the first and second thee’s.
a land flowing with milk and honey] found in J and E and in both the Sg. and Pl. passages of Deut. For a list of the instances, and the meaning of the phrase, see on Exodus 3:8. ‘Only where rich wells or running water produce sufficient pasture for the whole year, is it possible always to get fresh milk; and therefore the desert-dweller dreams of such regions in which water and in consequence milk always flows.’ ‘On long marches mothers comfort their weeping children thus: I will give you milk and honey’ (Musil, Ethn. Ber. 154, 158).
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:4. Hear, O Israel] So Deuteronomy 9:1; Deuteronomy 20:3, and similarly Deuteronomy 4:1, Deuteronomy 6:3; and nowhere else in the Hexateuch. The Sg. is to be explained as in Deuteronomy 5:1; but the continuance of the Sg. through the rest of this section is (especially if it is to follow immediately on Deuteronomy 6:1, see above) analogous to the appearance of the Sg. of the Decalogue in a Pl. context. There, as here, Moses uses the Pl. address for his own words, but quotes what God gave him at Ḥoreb in the Sg.
the Lord our God is one Lord] As the R. V. marg. shows, this is one of four possible translations of the elliptic Hebrew: Jehovah our-God, Jehovah One. The other three are: Jehovah our God, Jehovah is One; Jehovah is our God, Jehovah is One; Jehovah is our God, Jehovah alone. But the four are resolvable into these two: First, Jehovah our God is One, an expression of His unity, appropriate at a time when we know from Jeremiah that by the multiplication of His shrines the people of Judah conceived Him, as Baal or Ashtoreth was conceived, not as One, but as many deities with different characteristics and powers over different localities, cp. Jeremiah 2:28. Second, Jehovah is our God alone: i.e. Israel’s only God, cp. Zechariah 14:9; Song of Solomon 6:9; 1 Chronicles 29:1. These passages are all post-exilic, and in the first two one may mean unique, but that here it means only (for Israel) is probable from the following verse. Some interpreters take the verse as ‘a great declaration of monotheism’ (so Driver). But had that been the intention of the writer the clause would have run ‘Jehovah is the God, Jehovah alone.’ The use of the term our-God shows that the meaning simply is Jehovah is Israel’s only God. Nothing is said as to the existence or non-existence of other gods, and the verse is therefore on an equality with Deuteronomy 5:7, the First Commandment, and with Deuteronomy 7:9, which implies no more than that Jehovah is a or the God indeed; cp. the curious Deuteronomy 4:19 b which seeks to reconcile His sovereignty with the fact that other gods are worshipped by other nations. Only in Deuteronomy 4:35; Deuteronomy 4:39 does an explicit declaration of monotheism appear in Deut.; it is to be remembered, however, that on other grounds the post-exilic date of these verses is possible1. At the same time the phrase used here lends itself readily to the expression of an absolute monotheism, which later ages of a wider faith read into it. It is interesting to compare with our verse St Paul’s statement 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; we know that no idol is anything in the world and that there is no God but one; for though there be that are called gods …; as there be gods many and lords many, yet to us there is One God, the Father, of whom are all things. Note even here yet to us!
 This is not meant to imply that some in Israel had not thrown off belief in the reality of other gods before the Exile. Jeremiah certainly had: e.g. Deuteronomy 2:11.
4–9. The Essential Creed and Duty of Israel, with enforcement of them. Known from its initial word as The Shĕma‘ (= Hear), this section (along with Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41) ‘has been for many ages the first bit of the Bible which Jewish children have learned to say and to read, just as it has for many ages formed the confession of faith among all members of the brotherhood of Judaism’ (C. G. Montefiore, The Bible for Home Reading, Pt i. 127). The later law required its recital by a Jew twice daily; for particulars see Schürer, Gesrh. des jüd. Volkes, § 27 and Appendix (3rd Germ. ed. ii. 459 f.; E.T. Div. ii. Vol. ii. pp. 77, 84). The LXX inserts before it a longish title1, which shows how late this editorial practice of inserting titles to important sections of Deut. continued, and explains some similar headings in the Heb. text.
 ‘And these are the statutes and the judgements which the Lord commanded to the children of Israel, when they were coming out of the land of Egypt.’
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.5. and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God] Love, mentioned in JE as an affection between human beings (father and son, husband and wife, slave and master) and in H as a duty both to neighbour-Israelites and to strangers (Leviticus 19:18; Leviticus 19:34), is never in the Hexateuch described as entering into the relation of man to God except in D and deuteronomic passages, where it is enforced with impressive frequency and fulness as the fundamental religious duty; in the deuteronomic expansion of the Decalogue Exodus 20:6 = Deuteronomy 5:10; cp. Deuteronomy 7:9, also Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 13:3; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 30:6; Deuteronomy 30:16; Deuteronomy 30:20 (of which only Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22 and Deuteronomy 13:3 are Pl.), and the deuteronomic passages Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:11. It must be noted that prophecy had already used the term ethically (Amos 5:15 love the good) and religiously, for Hosea, besides frequently emphasising God’s love to Israel (Deuteronomy 3:1, Deuteronomy 9:15, Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:4, Deuteronomy 14:4), and in terms so warm as to inevitably excite their love to God, describes also the relation of men to their gods as one of love and calls Jehovah the husband of Israel (Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 2:13, Deuteronomy 9:10). In this also, therefore, we may venture to see Hosea’s influence on D, but D has developed it with an originality and fulness that are very conspicuous and potential in the O.T. and in the N.T. still regarded as final. To D love to God is the distinctive mark of His true worshippers, Israel’s necessary response to His mercies especially in redeeming them from Egypt (cp. We love Him because He first loved us, 1 John 4:19), their central obligation, motive and power to keep His laws; in Christ’s words, the first of all the Commandments (Mark 12:29 f.). See further on Exodus 20:6.
with all thine heart, and with all thy soul] a favourite phrase in D. See on Deuteronomy 4:29 for meaning and list of instances. Here is added with all thy might, as in 2 Kings 23:25. ‘The One God demands the whole man’ (Smend, Rel. Gesch.2 286).
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:6. these words with which I am charging thee this day] Elsewhere the phrase in whole or part refers to the whole discourse of Moses (e.g. Deuteronomy 11:18), but here it must mean the two preceding verses as the essence of the law.
shall be upon thine heart] Deuteronomy 11:18, lay up in your heart and in your soul; Jeremiah 31:33, I put my law in their inward parts and write it upon their hearts. As the heart was the seat of the practical intellect, this means to commit them to memory; but with a conscience to do them.
6–9. Further enforcement of this greed and duty.
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.7. teach them diligently] lit. whet or sharpen, Deuteronomy 32:41; make incisive and impress them on thy children; rub them in, Germ. einschärfen. The Eng. metaphorical use of ‘sharpen’ or ‘whet’ (‘whet on,’ ‘whet forward’) has usually for object the mind, not the material employed on it. Yet cp. Shakespeare’s
‘Thou hid’st a thousand daggers in thy thoughts,
Which thou hast whetted on thy stony heart
To stab at half-an-hour of my frail life.’
unto thy children] So not only in D, Deuteronomy 6:20, Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 11:19, but also J, Exodus 13:8,etc.
talk of them, etc.] Deuteronomy 11:19. With LXX and Sam. read the for thine before house.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.8. thou shalt bind them for a sign … for frontlets, etc.] See for the exact meanings the notes on Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:16. As there, so here probably the injunction is to be taken metaphorically and not literally, as the later Jews understood it, though they carried it out not by tattooing, which seems the meaning here, but by writing these words as well as Deuteronomy 11:15-21 and Exodus 13:1-16 on small parchment rolls, enclosing them in metal covers, and wearing them, bound on the arm and brow, at morning prayer. They are called in late Hebrew tephillin and in the N.T. φυλακτἡρια. See E.B. ‘Frontlets.’
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.9. door posts] It was the custom of the ancient Egyptians to inscribe on lintels and door-posts sentences of good omen (Wilkinson-Birch, Anc. Egyptians2, i. 361 f.); but we are not to infer that it was thence derived by the Hebrews (Driver), for it was the custom too in the Semitic world (for two inscribed tablets from Assyria in Brit. Mus. see King, Z.A. 11:50) and prevails among modern Egyptians (Lane, Mod. Egypt. ed. 1896, 262 f.), and among the fellahin of Ḥauran, who in their belief in the magical efficacy of the written word will place the most inappropriate ancient Greek inscriptions (tombstones and the like) above or beside their doors, sometimes upside down! Later Jews have given the name mezuzah (= door-post) to the small metal box or skin-bag containing the above inscription and hung on the right-hand door-post inside. As he enters the pious Jew touches or salutes it (Driver, i. l.). It is not necessary to interpret even this verse in so literal a sense (Driver); even this the deuteronomist may have intended to be metaphorical (Marti in Kautzsch’s Heil. Schr. des A. T.).
And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,10. And it shall be, when Jehovah thy God shall bring thee into, etc.] A formula partly derived from J (Exodus 13:5; Exodus 13:11, the land of the Canaanite), but varied by D, which adds thy God and otherwise characteristically expands it. Similarly Deuteronomy 7:1, Deuteronomy 11:29. See also Deuteronomy 4:38; Deuteronomy 6:23; Deuteronomy 8:7; Deuteronomy 9:4; Deuteronomy 9:28; Deuteronomy 31:20-21.
which he sware] Deuteronomy 1:8. Thus in the forefront of the warning not to yield to the worship of the gods of their new land the fact is emphasised in solemn phrases that it is Jehovah who brings them into it.
10–15. The chief temptations to forget the duties just enforced will meet Israel when they enter upon the enjoyment of the civilisation of the land they are about to reach: a civilisation to which they have not contributed, and which they may be moved to impute to other gods than their own who is bringing them to it. The relevancy of this section to the preceding, and their close connection, are clear.
And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;11. and houses … and cisterns … vineyards and olive trees …] With Sam. and LXX omit and before houses and cisterns. Such things form the principal wealth of the cities, better towns, of Deuteronomy 6:10. That grain and flocks are not also mentioned (as in Deuteronomy 32:14) is not surprising. The description is a summary one; it is an agricultural civilisation to which Israel is succeeding, and in the agriculture of the W. Palestine hills fruit-trees were more valuable than either wheat or barley, and also their value was more dependent on the labour of previous generations.
and thou shall eat and be full] Deuteronomy 8:10; Deuteronomy 8:12, Deuteronomy 11:15, Deuteronomy 31:20; cp. Deuteronomy 14:29, Deuteronomy 26:12, Deuteronomy 32:15 (LXX).
Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.12. beware] give heed to thyself or be on guard with respect to thyself, apparently a common phrase from one person to another, Exodus 10:28 (J), etc.; addressed to Israel in the editorial passage, Exodus 34:12 and frequently in D: Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 8:11 (both followed, as here, by lest thou forget), Deuteronomy 12:13; Deuteronomy 12:19; Deuteronomy 12:30, Deuteronomy 15:9, all Sg. and in the Pl. Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 9:16 (cp. Deuteronomy 4:15).
which brought thee, etc.] Once more an emphasis on the providence of Israel’s God.
house of bondmen] So in J, Exodus 13:3; Exodus 13:14; in Deut. only in Sg.: Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 13:10; the slaves’ quarter (ergastulum).
Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.13. him shalt thou fear … serve … swear by his name] Intended to cover the whole sphere of religion: the spiritual temper (on the frequent enforcement of the fear of God and its meaning see on Deuteronomy 4:10); acts of worship (the Hebrew term, though technically used of these, may cover other duties as well, see Driver, i. l. and cp. on Deuteronomy 10:12); and loyalty to God in all one’s intercourse by word and deed with one’s fellows. The reason for this last, which to our ears sounds strange in so brief a summary of religious duty, is clear. All the details of life are more explicitly connected with religion by primitive man than by ourselves. He naively and constantly appeals to his god for the truth of his statements and the honesty of his business transactions. So was it in the Israel of the deuteronomists’ time, Jeremiah 5:2. Thus a man’s oaths were in his everyday life the profession of his faith. If he swore by Baal, Baal was his god. Hence the need of the command to Israel here and in Jeremiah 4:2; Jeremiah 12:16. It is the duty of carrying out one’s religion into the momentary details of life. Hence, too, the definition of Jehovah’s true worshipper as he that sweareth by Jehovah, Psalm 63:11. But hence also the need for the presence among the Ten Commandments of one not to take Jehovah’s name in vain. For the practice, however sincere in its origins, was terribly open to abuse, and was (and is) abused among Semitic nations beyond all others. Of the modern Arabs Doughty says, ‘they all day take God’s name in vain (as it was perhaps in ancient Israel), confirming every light and laughing word with cheerful billahs,’ and ‘they will confirm any word with an oath’ (Ar. Des. i. 265, 269). So Christ commanded, swear not at all.
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;14. Ye shall not go after other gods, etc.] only states explicitly what is implicit in the preceding verses. As it is superfluous and introduces the Pl. form into a Sg. context, it may be confidently regarded as an editorial addition. Other gods, specially characteristic of D and deuteronomic passages in the Hexateuch, occurs some 20 times; for go after other gods see Deuteronomy 8:19, Deuteronomy 11:28, Deuteronomy 13:2, Deuteronomy 28:14, etc.
(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.15. in the midst of thee] So Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 23:14 (contr. Deuteronomy 1:42). Hosea has the same thought, Hosea 11:9, and Jeremiah, Jeremiah 14:9.
a jealous God] As in Deuteronomy 4:24, Deuteronomy 5:9; see note on Exodus 20:5.
lest the anger, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 7:4, Deuteronomy 11:17.
Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.16. Ye shall not tempt, etc.] Rather, try, or put to the proof. On Massah cp. Deuteronomy 9:22, Deuteronomy 33:8, and see on Exodus 17:2; Exodus 17:7.
16, 17. Another interruption by the Pl. Because of this; because the reference to Massah is hardly relevant to the context, and because the perfect, he hath commanded, is not yet true of the separate laws; these sentences seem to be a later editorial insertion. The return to the Sg. at their close is explicable by the attraction of the Sg. in Deuteronomy 6:18.
Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.
And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,18. do that which is right, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 12:25.
mayest go in and possess] See above on Deuteronomy 6:1.
18, 19. Resumption of the Sg. address; in spite of this the originality of these verses also has been doubted. It is at least curious that we have in them the divine name alone without the addition thy God, characteristic of D.
To cast out all thine enemies from before thee, as the LORD hath spoken.19. to thrust out, etc.] The Heb. is used of this event only here and Deuteronomy 9:4 (Sg.); also in the deuteronomic Joshua 23:5.
as Jehovah hath spoken] Exodus 23:27 ff.
And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?20. When, etc.] Read, with Sam. and LXX, And it shall be when, as in the opening of Deuteronomy 6:10 and in Exodus 13:14 (J), which the rest of this clause follows.
the testimonies … the statutes, and the judgements] as in Deuteronomy 4:45 q.v. With Sam. omit and before the statutes; the statutes and the judgements are the contents of the testimonies.
our God] For the reason of this instead of the usual Sg. thy God see on Deuteronomy 5:24.
hath commanded you] The perfect is natural to the time of the questioners’ generation, when the laws would already have been published. You (so Sam., but LXX us) is, of course, the older generations; this, therefore, is not an instance of the Pl. address.
20–25. These verses return to a favourite theme of Deut.: the close relation between Jehovah’s Laws and His Deeds. When a future generation shall ask the meaning of the Laws it shall be referred to the Lord’s deliverance of the nation from bondage in Egypt and His conduct of them to the land He promised. Having thus made them a nation, He would now preserve them as such by the Laws which He commands. These vv., throughout in the Sg., expand Deuteronomy 6:7 a, and contain nothing which leads us to doubt their originality. See on Deuteronomy 6:24.
Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand:21. bondmen] See on Deuteronomy 5:6.
mighty hand] See on Deuteronomy 4:34.
And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:22. signs and wonders … before our eyes] See on Deuteronomy 4:34.
And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.23. and he brought us out] This translation stifles the emphatic and even exultant note of the order in the original: But us He brought out from thence, cp. Deuteronomy 4:20.
that he might bring us in] See on Deuteronomy 6:10; some LXX codd. omit. which he sware] Deuteronomy 1:8.
And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.24. Jehovah commanded us to do all these statutes] This phrase is natural to the time and standpoint assumed throughout Deuteronomy 6:20-25, viz. those of the later generation before which the statutes will already have been published. Notice, too, how naturally Jehovah is used instead of the deuteronomic Jehovah thy God; for here we have, not Moses addressing Israel, but Moses quoting what Israel are to say to their children; so, too, Jehovah our God (thrice) is to be explained. Thus two of Steuernagel’s reasons for counting the passage as secondary (that Sg. does not elsewhere in the introductory discourses take the laws as already published and that Jehovah our God does not elsewhere occur in the Sg.) are disposed of. He has missed the standpoint of the speakers whom Moses quotes. Steuernagel’s third reason for the secondariness of the passage—that it interrupts by its emphasis on obedience the Sg. course of thought, which before and after it warns against the worship of other gods—is insufficient.
might preserve us alive] Sustain the national existence which He had begun by the redemption from Egypt (Deuteronomy 6:21). The Law is given to preserve the life born in that deed of grace. See above.
alive, as at this day] ‘It deserves attention that this points to the composition [of the passage] as pre-exilic, for the Exile was felt as death’ (Bertholet). This would be a good argument if the words were part of Moses’ direct address to Israel, but they are spoken from the standpoint of a generation settled in Palestine.
And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.25. it shall be righteousness unto us] The thought of the previous verse shows that righteousness here does not mean goodness, uprightness, but rather justification, vindication, the right to live, and by consequence their life itself. Cf. the post-exilic Isaiah 61:11, Isaiah 62:1-2, in which righteousness is parallel to renown, to salvation and to glory. (See the present writer’s Isaiah xl.–lxvi. 217 ff.) Contrast Deuteronomy 25:13.
before Jehovah our God] Cp. Deuteronomy 24:13, where this phrase (thy God) follows immediately on righteousness unto thee. That may, as some suggest, have been the order here, too, but the transposition is not necessary. ‘To fulfil the commandment before Jehovah means so to fulfil it that He sees it, and that is a speaking feature of legal piety (Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:14; Nehemiah 13:22; Nehemiah 13:31)’ (Bertholet).