8 hYou shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
What does it mean to have a sign on your hand or between your eyes? The answer for the Hebrew people was a small leather box that was strapped around the forehead. It was called a phylactery.
PHYLACTERY* Small prayer case containing Scripture passages worn at times of prayer by pious Jews. Orthodox Jewish males wear two small, black leather cubes or boxes, with Scripture inside, at the time of prayer.
In its original form the phylactery was probably not a box containing Scripture but a strip of parchment on which four passages from the OT were written in Hebrew. The passages were Exodus 13:1–10 and 11–16, Deuteronomy 6:4–9, and 11:13–21. The Deuteronomy 6:4–9 passage contains the “Shema”—the confession of God being one Lord. All four passages contain the idea that God commands his people to bind his ordinances and commandments upon their hands and have them as “frontlets” between their eyes. Some Jews took this figuratively or spiritually and did not actually wear them. Other Jews took the command literally and began wearing portions of their Scriptures on their foreheads and on their hands. Exactly when they began to do this is not agreed upon by scholars. There is an explicit mention of the practice as early as 100 bc in a Jewish nonbiblical document. It is thought by some to have begun as early as the fourth century bc, if not earlier.
In Matthew 23:5 Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for, among other things, making “broad their phylacteries.” The context of the passage is Jesus’ -condemnation of ostentation in religion. Apparently, the broad phylactery would impress others with how religious the wearer was. It was evidence of pride, pretense, and hypocrisy in religion.
See also Amulet; Frontlet.
The box was to be worn during prayer. So the focus of the box was to remind you of the key scriptures foundational to your faith. It was not to impress others with your faith. It was not used for converting non-believers.
Cathy and Danny Sartin
Deeper Still Missions
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h ch. 11:18; Prov. 3:3; 6:21; 7:3; See Ex. 13:9
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Dt 6:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (1042). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.