I've been studying lately about the commands given in Ex. 13:9, 16 and Deut. 6:8 and 11:18. The instructions found therein involve binding the Torah as a sign on your hand and letting the Torah be a symbol on your forehead. I have actually known about these verses for quite some years now, but over the last 3 months or so there has been an increased interest in this command in my mind and heart.
Interestingly enough there are archaeological findings of small leather pouches found in the same location as the Dead Sea Scrolls. These pouches reveal that there were those shortly before or during the 1st century A.D. that took the command literally, writing out texts in the Torah that dealt with the Shema or the Commandments and placing them in these leather pouches and then binding them upon the forehead and/or hand. Seeing that these particular pouches were found in the Qumran area they are most likely those worn by the ancient Essenes.
Yeshua makes note of these "pouches" in Matthew 23:5 where he chides the scribes and Pharisees for enlarging their phylacteries and lengthening their tassels. Yeshua is not rebuking these groups for wearing either item, he is merely rebuking the intent behind why they were wearing them as well as the size of each item being extremely big. Yeshua himself wore tassels as is evidenced by doing a word study on the "hem" of his garment. It stands to reason (logically) that he also wore phylacteries, a Greek word meaning a "safe-guard" or "preservative" in which text of Scripture were placed for safe-keeping.
I will soon be placing an article on this subject on my website for reading. While I have read authors who believe the command to be only metaphorical, the evidence suggest to me that there is a metaphorical understanding and a literal understanding. I will give much more information in the near future.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.