Obey God and live longer
- 1 Here are the laws, with the requirements and the instructions that the LORD your God told me to teach you. You need to live by these laws when you cross that river into the land where you’re going to live.
- 2 If you live by these laws, you’re going to enjoy a longer life. So will your law-abiding children and your grandchildren and generations of your family to come.
- 3 Listen closely, Israel. Be careful to obey the rules. If you do, the God of your ancestors makes this promise: life will go better for you in this land where milk and honey flow like rivers.
The LORD, Israel’s one and only God
- 4 Listen, Israel. The LORD is our God. No one but the LORD.1
- 5 Love the LORD your God with everything you’ve got in you. All your heart, soul, and might.
- 6 These laws and instructions are God’s commands. Take them seriously.
- 7 Teach them to your kids. Talk about these laws at home or traveling. Talk about them when you’re lying down or up and about.
- 8 Wear them like gloves on your hands and a hat on your head.2 Do it so you’ll remember them when you’re working with your hands or when you’re thinking.
- 9 Attach them to gates or doorways3 that lead into and out of your home. Do it so you’ll remember them when you’re coming and going.
Israel’s fully furnished country
- 10 The LORD your God promised your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would give you magnificent cities you didn’t build.
- 11 He promised to give you completely furnished homes that you didn’t furnish, stone water-storage cisterns you didn’t chisel, along with vineyards and olive orchards you didn’t plant.4 You’re going to eat all you want there.
- 12 When you get settled, don’t forget who brought you here—out of Egypt, and out of slavery.
- 13 Worship only the LORD your God. He’s the only one you should revere with worship. Pledge your allegiance5 to Him above anyone or anything else.
- 14 Your neighbors will worship other gods. Don’t follow that example. Don’t worship those gods.
- 15 The LORD your God lives among you, his people. He is passionately devoted to you. Stay devoted to him. You don’t want to make him angry. He has the power to blink you off the face of this green earth.
Don’t push God
- 16 Don’t test God to see how far you can push him. He’s no pushover. You tried that years ago. That’s when he gave you water from a rock at the site I named “Pushy Complainers.”6
- 17 Live your life focused on God’s laws. They’re called commandments on purpose.
- 18 You know what is good and right. Live that way. If you do, your life will go much better across the river, in the land that the LORD promised your ancestors.
- 19 And you’ll be able to clear the land of all your enemies, as the LORD promised.
- 20 In the years to come, your children may someday ask you, “What’s going on with all these laws and requirements and instructions the LORD gave you? What do they have to do with me?”7
Tell your story
- 21 That’s when you tell your children the story. Say, “We were slaves in Egypt, and ruled by Pharaoh. But the LORD reached out his strong arm, picked us up, and carried us away to freedom.
- 22 In Egypt, we saw the LORD’s power. He did incredible wonders. Some were terrifying. Those are the ones that targeted the Egyptians, and even the king and his household.
- 23 God brought us out of Egypt and will take us into this land he promised our ancestors.
- 24 The LORD our God gave us these laws for our own good. He told us to obey them, which we did, and we still do.
- 25 We stay on good terms with the LORD our God, as righteous people, when we live by these laws. That’s what he ordered us to do.”
Christians have creeds—short, bulleted statements that sum up their key beliefs. Like the Apostles Creed. Or the Nicene Creed. People in the Jewish faith don’t have that. But if they did, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 would be it. Jews call this section the Shema. That’s Hebrew for “hear,” or something similar: listen, pay attention, wake up. Jews often title sections in the Bible after the first word in the section. Not especially creative, but respectful.
More literally, “tie them” to your hands and forehead. Many Jews do just that. They take the passage literally and put Bible verses like the Shema and the Ten Commandments into small Bible boxes that they tie onto their forearms and foreheads. The Hebrew word for them is tefillin, “phylacteries” in English. Archaeological discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls show that Jews have been doing that since at least the 100s BC.
Many Jews put small Bible boxes near their front doors. These boxes, in Hebrew, are mezuzot. Some people brush their fingers across the box as they come and go, as a reminder of the laws God gave them to live by.
“Inheriting” mature vineyards and olive orchards was a huge deal. It took newly planted grape vines three to five years to produce a good crop. Olive trees in Bible times took a generation. They produced their best when they were over 40. (People can be like that, too. Spread the good news.)
More literally, “Swear only by His name.” That might refer to making a promise, such as swearing an oath on the Bible. But some scholars say it more likely points back to the contract God made with the people at Mount Sinai. He would protect them and make them successful at what they did. In return, they would obey his orders.
The story appears in Exodus 17:1-7. Moses gave the site a double-trouble name, in Hebrew: Massah and Meribah. Massah means “test,” as in getting pushy with God. Meribah means “complain,” “argue,” or “fight.” The Israelites continued their pattern of pushing against God. That got them sentenced to 40 years in the desert badlands, south of what is now Israel. The location of the site is unknown. Exodus 17 puts it somewhere between the Israelite campsite at Rephidim and Mount Sinai. Those two sites appear to have been within walking distance, as the Exodus story reports it. Numbers 32:51, however, seems to place it near the oasis of Kadesh in the Zin Desert.
Many Jewish people celebrating the Passover service (Haggadah in Hebrew) use this verse to launch into retelling the story of God delivering their ancestors from Egyptian slavery and taking them to freedom into the land God promised the descendants of Abraham. The land today is Israel and Palestinian Territories.