Deuteronomy 6:13
You shall fear the LORD your God, and serve him, and shall swear by his name.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him.—Literally, Jehovah thy God thou shalt fear, and him shalt thou serve: i.e., Him only, as translated by the LXX., and cited by our Lord in His temptation. It is remarkable that all His answers to the tempter were taken not only from Deuteronomy, but from one and the same portion of Deuteronomy—Deuteronomy 5-10 inclusive—the portion which applies the principles of the Decalogue to Israel’s life.

And shalt swear by his name.—Comp. Exodus 23:13. “Make no mention of the name of other gods.” The principle was not unknown to the patriarchs. Laban appealed to the “God of Nahor,” but “Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53). (Comp. Jeremiah 5:7 : “Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by . . . no-gods.”)

Deuteronomy 6:13. Shall swear by his name — Not by idols, or any creatures, but only by his name, when thou hast a call and just cause to swear. But some think, from comparing this with other passages, the words rather mean, that they were to be steadfast in the acknowledgment and worship of the true God, and in professing that religion which he had instituted. Thus, (Isaiah 19:18,) to swear to the Lord of hosts, is to profess the true religion. And God’s words, by the same prophet, (Isaiah 45:23,) Unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear, are interpreted by St. Paul to mean, Every tongue shall confess to God, Romans 14:11. Thus, (Psalm 63:11,) Every one that sweareth by him, signifies, every worshipper of the true God.6:6-16 Here are means for maintaining and keeping up religion in our hearts and houses. 1. Meditation. God's words must be laid up in our hearts, that our thoughts may be daily employed about them. 2. The religious education of children. Often repeat these things to them. Be careful and exact in teaching thy children. Teach these truths to all who are any way under thy care. 3. Pious discourse. Thou shalt talk of these things with due reverence and seriousness, for the benefit not only of thy children, but of thy servants, thy friends and companions. Take all occasions to discourse with those about thee, not of matters of doubtful disputation, but of the plain truths and laws of God, and the things that belong to our peace. 4. Frequent reading of the word. God appointed them to write sentences of the law upon their walls, and in scrolls of parchment to be worn about their wrists. This seems to have been binding in the letter of it to the Jews, as it is to us in the intent of it; which is, that we should by all means make the word of God familiar to us; that we may have it ready to use upon all occasions, to restrain us from sin, and direct us in duty. We must never be ashamed to own our religion, nor to own ourselves under its check and government. Here is a caution not to forget God in a day of prosperity and plenty. When they came easily by the gift, they would be apt to grow secure, and unmindful of the Giver. Therefore be careful, when thou liest safe and soft, lest thou forget the Lord. When the world smiles, we are apt to make court to it, and expect our happiness in it, and so we forget Him who is our only portion and rest. There is need of great care and caution at such a time. Then beware; being warned of your danger, stand upon your guard. Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God; neither by despairing of his power and goodness, while we keep in the way of our duty; nor by presuming upon it, when we turn aside out of that way.The command "to swear by His Name" is not inconsistent with the Lord's injunction Matthew 5:34, "Swear not at all." Moses refers to legal swearing, our Lord to swearing in common conversation. It is not the purpose of Moses to encourage the practice of taking oaths, but to forbid that, when taken, they should be taken in any other name than that of Israel's God. The oath involves an invocation of Deity, and so a solemn recognition of Him whose Name is made use of in it. Hence, it comes especially within the scope of the commandment Moses is enforcing.CHAPTER 6

De 6:1-25. Moses Exhorts Israel to Hear God and to Keep His Commandments.

1-9. Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them … whither ye go to possess it—The grand design of all the institutions prescribed to Israel was to form a religious people, whose national character should be distinguished by that fear of the Lord their God which would ensure their divine observance of His worship and their steadfast obedience to His will. The basis of their religion was an acknowledgment of the unity of God with the understanding and the love of God in the heart (De 6:4, 5). Compared with the religious creed of all their contemporaries, how sound in principle, how elevated in character, how unlimited in the extent of its moral influence on the heart and habits of the people! Indeed, it is precisely the same basis on which rests the purer and more spiritual form of it which Christianity exhibits (Mt 22:37; Mr 12:30; Lu 10:27). Moreover, to help in keeping a sense of religion in their minds, it was commanded that its great principles should be carried about with them wherever they went, as well as meet their eyes every time they entered their homes. A further provision was made for the earnest inculcation of them on the minds of the young by a system of parental training, which was designed to associate religion with all the most familiar and oft-recurring scenes of domestic life. It is probable that Moses used the phraseology in De 6:7 merely in a figurative way, to signify assiduous, earnest, and frequent instruction; and perhaps he meant the metaphorical language in De 6:8 to be taken in the same sense also. But as the Israelites interpreted it literally, many writers suppose that a reference was made to a superstitious custom borrowed from the Egyptians, who wore jewels and ornamental trinkets on the forehead and arm, inscribed with certain words and sentences, as amulets to protect them from danger. These, it has been conjectured, Moses intended to supersede by substituting sentences of the law; and so the Hebrews understood him, for they have always considered the wearing of the Tephilim, or frontlets, a permanent obligation. The form was as follows: Four pieces of parchment, inscribed, the first with Ex 13:2-10; the second with Ex 13:11-16; the third with De 6:1-8; and the fourth with De 11:18-21, were enclosed in a square case or box of tough skin, on the side of which was placed the Hebrew letter (shin), and bound round the forehead with a thong or ribbon. When designed for the arms, those four texts were written on one slip of parchment, which, as well as the ink, was carefully prepared for the purpose. With regard to the other usage supposed to be alluded to, the ancient Egyptians had the lintels and imposts of their doors and gates inscribed with sentences indicative of a favorable omen [Wilkinson]; and this is still the case, for in Egypt and other Mohammedan countries, the front doors of houses (in Cairo, for instance) are painted red, white, and green, bearing conspicuously inscribed upon them such sentences from the Koran, as "God is the Creator," "God is one, and Mohammed is his prophet." Moses designed to turn this ancient and favorite custom to a better account and ordered that, instead of the former superstitious inscriptions, there should be written the words of God, persuading and enjoining the people to hold the laws in perpetual remembrance.

When thou hast a call and just cause to swear. By his name, understand only, as Deu 5:2, not by idols, or any creatures. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him,.... Serve him through fear; not through slavish fear, a fear of hell and damnation; but through filial fear, a reverential affection for that God that had brought them out of a state of bondage into great and glorious liberty, out of Egypt into Canaan's land, out of a place of misery into a land of plenty; and therefore should fear the Lord and his goodness, and from such a fear of him serve him, in every part of worship, public and private, enjoined; this passage Christ refers to Matthew 4:10.

and shalt swear by his name; when they made a covenant with any, or were called to bear a testimony for the decision of any controversy which could not be otherwise finished; or whenever they took an oath on any account, which should never be taken rashly or on any trivial account, and much less falsely; it should be taken not in the name of any idol, or of any other but the true and living God; the Targum of Jonathan is,"in the name of the Word of the Lord, in truth ye shall swear.''

Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt {f} swear by his name.

(f) We must fear God, serve him only and confess his Name, which is done by swearing lawfully.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verses 13-18. - Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God. The fear of the Lord - that reverent awe which is akin to love - is the beginning of wisdom and the foundation of piety; where it is in the heart it will lead to serving of the Lord in holy obedience; and they in whom it dwells will swear by his Name, recognizing his presence and omniscience, and not daring to asseverate anything but what they know to be true. Thus, really believing in God and reverently worshipping him, the Israelites would be careful not to go after other gods, or to give to any object that homage which is due unto Jehovah alone, knowing that this he will not endure or suffer with impunity; for he is a jealous God, and them that thus dishonor him he will destroy (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24, etc.). Thus also they should be kept from murmuring against God, and thereby tempting him - putting him, as it were, to the proof, and calling in question his presence and his power, as they had done at Massah (Exodus 17:1-7). Without this genuine religious principle there will be no sincere worship, no true reverence, no real obedience, rendered unto God. But where this dwells in the heart it will influence the whole life, so that the commandments of God shall be diligently kept, and that which is good and right in his sight shall be done. But for the love of God to be of the right kind, the commandments of God must be laid to heart, and be the constant subject of thought and conversation. "Upon thine heart:" i.e., the commandments of God were to be an affair of the heart, and not merely of the memory (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18). They were to be enforced upon the children, talked of at home and by the way, in the evening on lying down and in the morning on rising up, i.e., everywhere and at all times; they were to be bound upon the hand for a sign, and worn as bands (frontlets) between the eyes (see at Exodus 13:16). As these words are figurative, and denote an undeviating observance of the divine commands, so also the commandment which follows, viz., to write the words upon the door-posts of the house, and also upon the gates, are to be understood spiritually; and the literal fulfilment of such a command could only be a praiseworthy custom or well-pleasing to God when resorted to as the means of keeping the commandments of God constantly before the eye. The precept itself, however, presupposes the existence of this custom, which is not only met with in the Mahometan countries of the East at the present day (cf. A. Russell, Naturgesch. v. Aleppo, i. p. 36; Lane, Sitten u. Gebr. i. pp. 6, 13, ii. p. 71), but was also a common custom in ancient Egypt (cf. Wilkinson, Manners and Customs, vol. ii. p. 102).

(Note: The Jewish custom of the Medusah is nothing but a formal and outward observance founded upon this command. It consists in writing the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13-20 upon a piece of parchment, which is then placed upon the top of the doorway of houses and rooms, enclosed in a wooden box; this box they touch with the finger and then kiss the finger on going either out or in. S. Buxtorf, Synag. Jud. pp. 582ff.; and Bodenschatz. Kirchl. Verfassung der Juden, iv. pp. 19ff.)

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