Deuteronomy 26 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Deuteronomy 26
Pulpit Commentary
And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein;
Verses 1-11. - Of the firstfruits the Israelite was to take a portion, and placing it in a basket, to bring it to the place of the sanctuary, where it was to be received by the attendant priest. The offerer was to accompany his presentation with the declaration, "I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord swore unto our fathers for to give us;" and the priest having set the basket down before the altar, the offerer was to make confession and prayer, gratefully acknowledging the Divine favor showed to Israel in choosing them to be a great nation, in delivering them out of Egypt, and bringing them into a rich and fertile land; and along with this his bounty to the individual who now presented the firstfruits of his land unto the Lord.
That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there.
Verse 2. - The first of all the fruit of the earth. (On the law of the firstfruits, see Numbers 18:12; Deuteronomy 18:4.) A basket; טֶנֶא, a basket of wickerwork.
And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us.
Verse 3. - The priest that shall be in those clays; not the high priest, but the priests collectively, or the individual priest whose function it was to officiate on the occasion. The fruit presented was the sensible proof that the land was now in their possession, and the confession made along with the presentation was an acknowledgment of their unworthiness, and of the Divine favor as that to which alone they were indebted for the privileged position in which they were placed.
And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God.
And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
Verse 5. - A Syrian ready to perish was my father. The reference is to Jacob, the stem-father of the twelve tribes, he is here called a Syrian, or Aramaean, because of his long residence in Mesopotamia (Genesis 29-31.), whence Abraham had originally come (Genesis 11:31), and because there the family of which he was the head was founded. The translation "ready to perish" fairly represents the Hebrew; the verb אָבַד means not merely to stray or wander, but also to lose one's self, to perish, to be in danger of perishing (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Job 29:13; Proverbs 31:6, etc.). Different renderings of this clause have been given. The Targum, Vulgate, Luther, etc., have, "The Aramaean (i.e. Laban) oppressed my father;" The LXX., Συρίαν ἀπέλιπεν ὁ πατήρ μου ("My father left Syria"); others, "To the Aramaean my father wandered." But these either follow another reading than that of the received text, or they are expedients to soften down the apparent ignominy of the description. The probable allusion to the wandering, nomadic life of the patriarch, however, is not to be lost sight cf. With a few; literally, in men of few; i.e. consisting of few men, as a small company; the father and head of the tribe is named for those belonging to him (cf. Genesis 34:30; Genesis 46:27). A great nation, etc. (cf. Exodus 1:7, 9).
And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
Verse 6. - The Egyptians evil entreated us (cf. Exodus 1:11-22; Exodus 2:23, etc.).
And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression:
And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
Verse 8. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:34.)
And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God:
Verse 10. - Thou shalt set it, etc.; either a general concluding remark, taking up the statement of ver. 4, or the offerer may have resumed hold of the basket, and after holding it in his hand while offering prayer, would solemnly deposit it before the altar.
And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.
Verse 11. - And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing, etc.; i.e. with these bounties of God's providence make a feast for yourself and your household, and omit not to invite the Levite and the stranger to partake of it with you. As with the yearly tithe (Deuteronomy 14:23) and the firstlings (Deuteronomy 15:20), so with this portion of the firstfruits, a festive meal was to consummate the service. According to the Law, the firstfruits were the perquisite of the priest (Deuteronomy 18:4; Numbers 18:12, etc.); but of these a portion was to be taken for this special service, and of that a feast was to be made.
When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;
Verses 12-15. - On the occasion of presenting the tithes, a special service was also to be made. The tithe here referred to is the vegetable or predial tithe, which, at the end of each third year, as here prescribed, was to be converted into a gift to the poor and needy. This, properly the second tithe (LXX., τὸ δεύτερον ἐπιδέκατον), but usually called the third tithe (Tobit 1:7, 8; Josephus, 'Antiq.,' 4:8, 22), is quite distinct from the Levitical tithe prescribed in Leviticus 27:30-33 and Numbers 18:21-32; and it is a mistake to suppose that the law here was designed to contravene or supersede that in the earlier books (see Kitto, 'Bibl. Cycl.,' 3:1010). As this tithe completed the triennial series of tithes which the Israelites had to offer, it was fitting that in presenting it a solemn declaration should be made by the offerer to the effect that he had honorably and conscientiously discharged all the obligations in this respect which the Law laid upon him. Verse 12. - The third year, which is the year of tithing. As each week ended with a Sabbath, so a sabbatical year ended each cycle or week of years; and as on it no tithes were levied, "the year of tithing" here specified would be the third and the sixth years in each septennial period.
Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:
Verse 13. - Say before the Lord; i.e. address him as present and ready to hear. The expression, "before the Lord," does not necessarily imply that it was in the sanctuary that the prayer was to be offered. Isaac proposed to bless his son "before the Lord," i.e. within his own house or tent (Genesis 27:7); and so the Israelite here might in his own home make his prayer to the Omnipresent Jehovah. I have not transgressed thy commandments, etc. This is not a self-righteous boast; it is rather a solemn profession of attention to duties which might have been neglected, and refers, not to the keeping of every commandment, but to the having faithfully done all that the Law required in respect of tithes.
I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use, nor given ought thereof for the dead: but I have hearkened to the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that thou hast commanded me.
Verse 14. - In my mourning; i.e. while ceremonially unclean (cf. Leviticus 7:20; Leviticus 21:1, etc.). Neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use; rather, Neither have I removed ought of it being unclean; i.e. he had not only not eaten of it, but he had not removed any part of it from his house (ver. 13) while he was ceremonially unclean, in which state it was unlawful to touch what was hallowed (Leviticus 22:23). Nor given ought thereof for the dead; i.e. on account of the dead; he had not sent any part of it to where there was one dead, according to the custom for friends and relations to send to a house of mourning provisions for the mourners (2 Samuel 3:35; Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4; Tobit 4:17). Or the reference may be here to the expenses incurred by the death of one for whose funeral the individual had to provide. This view is adopted by Dr. Thomson, who, remarking on this passage, says, "This was the strongest possible protestation that he had dealt faithfully in the matter of tithing and consecrated things and in charities to the poor. He had not allowed himself to divert anything to other uses, not even by the most pressing and unforeseen emergencies. It is here assumed, or rather implied, that times of mourning for the dead were expensive, and also that the stern law of custom obliged the bereaved to defray those expenses, however onerous.... The temptation, therefore, to devote a part of the tithes, hallowed things, and charities to defray these enormous, unforeseen, and providential expenses would be very urgent, and he who stood faithful at such times might safely be trusted on all other occasions" ('Land and the Book,' 1:149). The LXX. rendering, τῷ τεθνήκοτι, "to the dead," has led some to suppose that the reference here is to the placing of articles of food in the tomb along with the corpse; but though this custom prevailed among the Jews in later times, as well as among other peoples, there is no ground for supposing it to be referred to here. As all connected with a dead body was held to be unclean, as well as the body itself, a house of mourning with its inhabitants was held to he unclean, and into it, therefore, nothing that had been hallowed might be lawfully carried.
Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
Verse 15. - (Cf. Isaiah 63:15; Isaiah 66:1.) Vers. 16-19. - Moses winds up his address by a solemn admonition to the people to keep and observe the laws and commandments which the Lord by him had laid upon them, reminding them that they had entered into covenant with God, and had thereby pledged themselves to obedience to all that he had enjoined, as he on his part had pledged himself to be their Benefactor, who would fulfill to them all his gracious promises, and would exalt them above all the nations of the earth.
This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
Verse 16. - This day. This refers generally to the time when this discourse was delivered.
Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice:
Verse 17. - Thou hast avouched, etc.; literally, Thou hast caused Jehovah this day to say to be a God unto thee; i.e. thou hast given occasion to him to declare himself to be thy God, and (as a consequence of this) that thou shouldest walk in his ways and keep his commandments. In declaring that he was their God, he virtually declared also that they were to be wholly obedient to him.
And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;
Verse 18. - So, on the other hand, God had given Israel occasion to say that they were his special people, his treasured possession (cf. Exodus 19:5, 6), whose it was, as such, to keep all his commandments, and to whom he would be faithful to fulfill all that he had promised.
And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.
Verse 19. - (Cf. Jeremiah 13:11; Jeremiah 33:9; Zephaniah 3:19, 20.) An holy people (cf. Exodus 19:5, 6). "The sanctification of Israel was the design and end of its election of God, and would be accomplished in the glory to which the people of God were to be exalted" (Keil).

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