(only in the plur. טוֹטָפֹת totaphoth', prob. fillets, from an obsolete root טוּŠto bind about [Gesenius, Thes. Heb. page 548]; Sept. ἀσαλευτά [v.r. ἀσαλευτόν, apparently pointing טוֹטֶפֶת], i.e.m immovable; Vulg. vaguely appensum quid, movebuntur, and collocate) occurs only in three passages (Ex 13:16; De 6:8; De 11:18), and each time in the form of a proverbial similitude, "as frontlets between your eyes," and also coupled with another similar expression, "as a sign (or token) upon your hand" (comp. Ex 13:9; "as a memorial between your eyes"), in connection with a command to observe the Mosaic law. In Exodus the expression is used more immediately with reference to the ordinance respecting the consecration of the first-born and the Passover solemnity; but in the two passages of Deuteronomy it relates to the precepts and statutes of the old covenant generally. The meaning in charging the Israelites to "bind them for a sign upon their hand, and have them as frontlets between their eyes," evidently is, that they should keep them as distinctly in view, and as carefully attend to them, as if they had them legibly written on a tablet between their eyes, and bound in open characters upon their hands; so that, wherever they looked, and wbatever they did, they could not fail to have the statutes of the Lord before them. That no actual written memorial was intended to be enjoined upon the Israelites is clear from the nature of the case, since no writing to be worn either between the eyes or upon the hand could by possibility have served the purpose of legibly expressing all the statutes and ordinances of the law. It is clear, also, from the alternative phrases witg which those in question are associated such as, "That the Lord's law may be in thy mouth" (Ex 13:9); "That these words shall be in thine heart;" "That ye shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul" (De 6:6; De 11:18), as well as from the parallel sayings of a later day (Pr 6:21; comp.
3:3; 4:21). But the Jews, some time after their return from Babylon (it is not known exactly when), gave the direction about having the precepts of the law as frontlets a literal turn, and had portions of it written out and worn as badges upon their person. These are called by the modern Jews tephillin', תּפַילַּין (a word signifying prayers, but not found in the Bible; Buxtorf, Lez. Talm. col. 1743). These were strips of parchment, on which were written four passages of Scripture (Ex 13:2-17; De 6:4-9,13-22) in an ink prepared for the purpose. They were then rolled up in a case of black calfskin, which was attached to a stiffer piece of leather, having a thong one finger broad, and one and a half cubits long. Those worn on the forehead were written on four strips of parchment (which might not be of any hide except cow's hide — Nork, Bramm. und Rabb. page 211; comp. Hesych. s.v. Σκυτικὴ ἐπικουρία), and put into four little cells within a square case, on which the letter שׁ was written; the three points of the שׁ being "an emblem of the heavenly Fathers, Jehovah our Lord Jehovah" (Zohar, fol. 54, col. 2). The square had two thongs (רצַיעוֹה), on which Hebrew letters were inscribed; these were passed round the head, and after making a knot in the shape of ר, passed over the breast. This was called "the tephillah on the head," and was worn in the center of the forehead (Leo of Modena, Ceremonies of the Jews, 1:11, n. 4; Calmet, s.v. Phylactery; Otho, Lex. Rabbis. page 656). The Karaites, on the contrary, explained De 6:8; Ex 13:9, etc., as a figurative command to remember the law (Reland, Ant. page 132), as in similar passages (Pr 3:3; Pr 6:21; Pr 7:3; Song 8:6, etc.), and appealing to the fact that in Ex 13:9 the word is not טוֹטָפוֹת, but זַכָּרוֹן "a memorial" (Gerhardus on De 6:8; Edzardus on Berachoth. 1:209; Heidanus, De Orig. Erroris, 8, B. 6; Schbttgen, Hor. Hebr. 1:199; Rosenmuller, ad loc.; Hengstenberg, Pent. 1:458). Considering, too, the nature of the passages inscribed on the phylacteries (by no means the most important is the Pentateuch for the fathers are mistaken in saying that the Decalogue was used in this way, Jeremiah 1.c.; Chrysost. 1.c.; Theophyl. ad Matthew 23:5), and the fact that we have no trace whatever of their use before the exile (during which time the Jews probably learnt the practice of wearing them from the Babylonians), they were justified in claiming that the object of the precepts (De 6:8; Ex 12:9) was to impress on the minds of the people the necessity of remembering the law. But the figurative language in which this duty was urged supon the Jews was mistaken by the Talmusdists for a literal command. An additional argument against the literal interpretation of the direction is the dangerous abuse to which it was immediately liable. Indeed, such an observance would defeat the supposed intention of it, by substituting an outward ceremony for an inward remembrance. Accordingly, these badges were turned into instruments of religious vanity and display, and abused for selfish purposes by those who sought, by a great profession of legal ritualism, to hide their deficiency of inward principle. They even came eventually to be employed as charms or amulets, having a divine virtue in them to preserve the wearer from sin or from demoniacal agency; hence such sayings as these concerning them in the Talmudical writings: "Whosoever has tephilim upon his head ... is fortified against sin;" They are a bandage for cutting off," i.e., from various kimeds of danger or hostility (Spencer, 4, c. 5). Jerome (on Mt 23:5) speaks of them generally as worn by the Jews for guardianship and safety (ob custodiam et munimentum); "not considering that they were to be borne in the heart, not and the body." SEE PHYLACTERY.
⇒Bible concordance for FRONTLETS.
On the analogous practice alluded to in Re 13:16; Re 14:1, SEE FOREHEAD.