Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 3. Hear. The Jews have a particular respect for the seven following verses, which they write on vellum, and recite every day, as a preservative against the power of the devil. (Clarius.) — To do. It will not suffice to hear nor to learn the law, we must also put it in execution, chap. v. 1. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Whole heart….soul….and strength. God admits of no partner, nor will he suffer any rivulet to be drawn from the fountain of love, which is not ultimately referred to himself. Our neighbour we must love only for his sake, and by the observance of this two-fold precept, we shall fulfil the whole law and the prophets, Matthew xxii. 40. (Haydock) See St. Augustine, de Doct. i. 22. — We must love God disinterestedly for his own sake: we must sacrifice our soul and life for his honour, with all our strength, beginning every good work with fervour, and persevering in our undertakings. All our faculties and senses must be consecrated to the divine service, as well as all our goods; in which sense the Chaldean, &c., understand the word strength. Hebrew literally, ex toto valde tuo. By this singular expression, Moses seems to insinuate, that he cannot find words to specify how much we ought to love the Sovereign Good. (Calmet) — “The measure of loving God, is to love without measure.” (St. Bernard) (Haydock) — By many words, the same thing is more forcibly inculcated. (Tirinus) (Menochius) — In the gospel we find, with thy whole mind, (Luke x. 27,) added by the lawyer. (Haydock) — We must give God the preference before all, and thus have our heart perfect before him, like David, &c. (Tirinus)
Ver. 7. Tell. Hebrew, “thou shalt chew them” as nurses do bread for their little ones; or thou shalt “sharpen,” like a razor, “explain clearly and often,” these precepts, which are of the utmost importance. — Meditate; speak of them to others, (Calmet) and entertain thyself with them in thy own heart. The mouth of the just man shall meditate wisdom, and (that is) his tongue shall speak judgment, Psalm xxxvi. 30., and Exodus xiii. 9. — Sleeping. The spouse, in the canticle, (Canticle of Canticles v. 2,) says, I sleep, and my heart watcheth. If we carefully direct our intention, we may merit even when we are incapable of thinking. God will reward our good desires. Our last and first thoughts ought, in a particular manner, to be consecrated to God, (Haydock) when we go to rest and when we arise, (Menochius) as he is our first beginning, the source of all graces, and our last end, to whom we ought to refer every thing, even our ordinary actions of sleeping, labour, and diversion. If we make his divine perfections and his law the subject of our daily meditations, our soul will naturally be affected with the same sentiments during the night. Quicquid luce fuit tenebris agit. “The occurrences of the day have an influence upon our dreams;” (Petronius) and as we are accountable for many things by placing the cause, which in the hours of sleep or of drunkenness we are not able to prevent, so it cannot be doubted but that we shall increase in virtue, if we regulate our thoughts and actions in a proper manner, even when our soul is incapable of exerting her faculties. Hence we may perceive, of what vast importance it is to have a pure intention. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Sign, or seal, (Canticle of Canticles viii. 6.; Calmet) attached to the ring which the Jews wore on their fingers, (Haydock) to seal their letters, after they were enveloped and tied with linen. The Jews have bandages of vellum on their hand, with sentences of the law inscribed upon them, (Calmet) as well as others upon their forehead; while many get the whole law, particularly the Book of Deuteronomy, by heart: for which purpose, the Rabbins inform us, there were above 400 schools and synagogues at Jerusalem, where the law of God was learnt and explained. The design of this injunction was not, however, to enforce the wearing of such bandages, as the Pharisees imagined, (Matthew xxiii. 5,) but to put all in mind that they ought to meditate frequently upon the commandments, (Tirinus) and regulate their lives by their direction. — Shall move. Septuagint adds a negation, but to the same import, “it (the sign) shall not be removed from before thy eyes.” (Haydock) — Hebrew, “they shall be as totaphoth, frontlets,” ornaments hanging between the eyes. (Exodus xiii. 9.; Calmet) “Tephilim,” (Chaldean) or “spectacles.” (Grotius)
Ver. 12. Full. Our Saviour seems to apply this to his disciples, in a spiritual sense, remarking that Moses and the prophets had prepared the way for them. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours, John iv. 38. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Only. This is omitted in Hebrew; but the Septuagint and Jesus Christ retain it, (Matthew iv. 10,) as the sense requires. You cannot serve God and mammon, Luke xvi. 13. (Calmet) — Name, and not by that of idols, whenever you may be authorized to take an oath. (Haydock) — To swear by any other, is to acknowledge him in some sort for a god. When we take an oath on proper occasions, and with due respect and caution, we perform an act of religion. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Temptation. Hebrew, “in Massa,” where Moses gave the people water from Horeb, Exodus xvii. 7.
Ver. 25. Merciful. Hebrew, “he will justify us.” Chaldean, “reward us.” Justice often denotes the mercy which God shews to his people, and the punishment which he inflicts upon their enemies. (Calmet) (Matthew vi. 1.) — Past, present, and future benefits concur to make the Hebrews observe the commandments. God had rescued them from slavery; (ver. 21,) he had already given them great possessions, and would grant them still more if they would be faithful; as on the other hand, all will be lost if they prove rebellious, ver. 15. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
An exhortation to the love of God, and obedience to his law.
1 These* are the precepts, and ceremonies, and judgments, which the Lord your God commanded that I should teach you, and that you should do them in the land, into which you pass over to possess it:
2 That thou mayst fear the Lord thy God, and keep his commandments and precepts which I command thee, and thy sons, and thy grandsons, all the days of thy life, that thy days may be prolonged.
3 Hear, O Israel, and observe to do the things which the Lord hath commanded thee, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayst be greatly multiplied, as the Lord the God of thy fathers hath promised thee a land flowing with milk and honey.
4 Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.
5 *Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.
6 And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart.
7 And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them, sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising.
8 And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house.
10 And when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land, for which he swore to thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: and shall have given thee great and goodly cities, which thou didst not build,
11 Houses full of riches, which thou didst not set up, cisterns which thou didst not dig, vineyards and oliveyards, which thou didst not plant,
12 And thou shalt have eaten, and be full:
13 Take heed diligently, lest thou forget the Lord, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. *Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt serve him only, and thou shalt swear by his name.
14 You shall not go after the strange gods of all the nations, that are round about you:
15 Because the Lord thy God is a jealous God in the midst of thee: lest at any time the wrath of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and take thee away from the face of the earth.
16 *Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, as thou temptedst him in the place of temptation.
17 Keep the precepts of the Lord thy God, and the testimonies and ceremonies, which he hath commanded thee:
18 And do that which is pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with thee: and going in thou mayst possess the goodly land, concerning which the Lord swore to thy fathers,
19 That he would destroy all thy enemies before thee, as he hath spoken.
20 And when thy son shall ask thee to-morrow, saying: What mean these testimonies, and ceremonies, and judgments, which the Lord our God hath commanded us?
21 Thou shalt say to him: We were bondmen of Pharao in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand.
22 And he wrought signs and wonders, great and very grievous in Egypt, against Pharao, and all his house, in our sight,
23 And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in and give us the land, concerning which he swore to our fathers
24 And the Lord commanded that we should do all these ordinances, and should fear the Lord our God, that it might be well with us all the days of our life, as it is at this day.
25 And he will be merciful to us, if we keep and do all his precepts before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us.
1: Year of the World 2553.
5: Deuteronomy xi. 13.; Matthew xxii. 37.; Mark xii. 30.; Luke x. 27.
13: Deuteronomy x. 20.; Matthew iv. 10.; Luke iv. 8.
16: Matthew iv. 7.; Luke iv. 12.