This word occurs only in Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8, and 11:18. The meaning of the injunction to the Israelites, with regard to the statutes and precepts given them, that they should “bind them for a sign upon their hand, and have them as frontlets between their eyes,” was that they should keep them distinctly in view and carefully attend to them. But soon after their return from Babylon they began to interpret this injunction literally, and had accordingly portions of the law written out and worn about their person. These they called tephillin, i.e., “prayers.”
The passages so written out on strips of parchment were these, Exodus 12:2-10; 13:11-21; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:18-21. 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 cubit and a half long.
Those worn on the forehead were written on four strips of parchment, and put into four little cells within a square case, which had on it the Hebrew letter called shin, the three points of which were regarded as an emblem of God.” This case tied around the forehead in a particular way was called “the tephillah on the head.” (See PHYLACTERY.)