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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary
Deuteronomy 4



Verses 1-25


THE LESSONS OF SINAI (Deuteronomy 4)

What makes a nation wise and understanding (Deuteronomy 4:6)? What makes a nation great (Deuteronomy 4:7-8)? What obligation does one generation owe the next (Deuteronomy 4:9)? Of all the divine commandments, which are the most important (Deuteronomy 4:10-13)? Of these ten, which one is particularly emphasized (Deuteronomy 4:15-28)? How is God’s merciful character illustrated in one connection with these commandments (Deuteronomy 4:29-31)? What expression in verse 31 gives a peculiar interest to this promise just now? On what divine action does the hope of Israel rest (Deuteronomy 4:31, last clause)?

THE MOSAIC COVENANT (Deuteronomy 5-6)

By “all Israel” (Deuteronomy 5:1) may be meant a general assembly of the people, or possibly only the elders, as their representatives. “The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us” (Deuteronomy 5:3) means not with our fathers only, but also with us, their successors. “The Lord talketh with you face to face” (Deuteronomy 5:4) means not in a corporeal or visible form, but in a free and familiar manner.

What comment is added to the fourth commandment in this review (Deuteronomy 5:15) ? What expression of mingled desire and disappointment is attributed to God in connection with the original giving of the law (Deuteronomy 5:29)? What is the sum of the commandments (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)? How do these words testify specifically to the divine nature? How do Deuteronomy 6:6-9 amplify the thought in Deuteronomy 4:9 previously referred to? As suggested by the verses following, how were the people to keep their religion in mind through the avenue of their eye? What provision was made for its inculcation in the young?


With regard to Jewish phylacteries, Moses probably used the phraseology in Deuteronomy 6:7 in a figurative way, to signify earnest and frequent instruction; and perhaps the eighth verse is to be taken in the same sense also. But as the Israelites interpreted it literally, many suppose that a reference was made to a superstitious custom of the Egyptians, who wore jewels and trinkets on the forehead and arm, inscribed with 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 Exodus 13:2-10, the second with Exodus 13:11-16, the third with Deuteronomy 6:1-8, and the fourth with Deuteronomy 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, these 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 Egyptians had the lintels and imposts of their door and gates inscribed with sentences indicative of a favorable omen, which is still the case; the front doors of houses in Cairo, for instance are painted red, white and green, bearing inscribed upon them sentences from the Koran, the Mohammedan bible.

Moses designed to turn this custom to a better account, and ordered that, instead of the former superstitious inscriptions, should be written the words of God.


1. What three allusions are explained under the Mosaic Covenant?

2. What is the history of the Jewish phylacteries?

3. Describe the phylacteries.

4. What was the Mosaic design in their use?


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 25th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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