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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
First-fruits must be offered to God, Deuteronomy 26:1, Deuteronomy 26:2. The form of confession to be used on the occasion, Deuteronomy 26:3-11. The third year's tithe to be given to the Levites and the poor, Deuteronomy 26:12, and the form of confession to be used on this occasion, Deuteronomy 26:13-15. The Israelites are to take Jehovah for their God, and to keep his testimonies, Deuteronomy 26:16, Deuteronomy 26:17. And Jehovah is to take them for his people, and make them high above all the nations of the earth, Deuteronomy 26:18, Deuteronomy 26:19.
1And 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;
2That 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.
Thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit, etc. - This was intended to keep them in continual remembrance of the kindness of God, in preserving them through so many difficulties and literally fulfilling the promises he had made to them. God being the author of all their blessings, the first-fruits of the land were consecrated to him, as the author of every good and perfect gift.
3And 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.
4And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God.
5And 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:
A Syrian ready to perish was my father - This passage has been variously understood, both by the ancient versions and by modern commentators. The Vulgate renders it thus: Syrus persequebatur patrem meum, "A Syrian persecuted my father." The Septuagint thus: Συριαν απεβαλεν ὁ πατηρ μου, "My father abandoned Syria." The Targum thus: לבן ארמאה בעא לאובדא ית אבא Laban arammaah bea leobada yath abba, "Laban the Syrian endeavored to destroy my father." The Syriac: "My father was led out of Syria into Egypt." The Arabic: "Surely, Laban the Syrian had almost destroyed my father." The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel: "Our father Jacob went at first into Syria of Mesopotamia, and Laban sought to destroy him."
Father Houbigant dissents from all, and renders the original thus: Fames urgebat patrem meum, qui in Aegyptum descendit, "Famine oppressed my father, who went down into Egypt." This interpretation Houbigant gives the text, by taking the י yod from the word ארמי arammi, which signifies an Aramite or Syrian, and joining it to יאבד yeabud, the future for the perfect, which is common enough in Hebrew, and which may signify constrained; and seeking for the meaning of ארם aram in the Arabic arama, which signifies famine, dearth, etc., he thus makes out his version, and this version he defends at large in his notes. It is pretty evident, from the text, that by a Syrian we are to understand Jacob, so called from his long residence in Syria with his father-in-law Laban. And his being ready to perish may signify the hard usage and severe labor he had in Laban's service, by which, as his health was much impaired, so his life might have often been in imminent danger.
6And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
7And 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:
8And 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:
With a mighty hand, etc. - See on Deuteronomy 4:34 (note).
9And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
10And 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:
11And 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.
Thou shalt rejoice - God intends that his followers shall be happy; that they shall eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, praising him. Those who eat their meat grudgingly, under the pretense of their unworthiness, etc., profane God's bounties and shall have no thanks for their voluntary humility.
Thou, and the Levite, and the stranger - They were to take care to share God's bounties among all those who were dependent on them. The Levite has no inheritance, let him rejoice with thee. The stranger has no home, let him feel thee to be his friend and his father.
12When 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;
The third year, which is the year of tithing - This is supposed to mean the third year of the seventh or Sabbatical year, in which the tenths were to be given to the poor. See the law, Deuteronomy 14:28. But from the letter in both these places it would appear that the tithe was for the Levites, and that this tithe was drawn only once in three years.
13Then 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:
14I 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.
I have not - given aught thereof for the dead - That is, I have not consecrated any of it to an idol which was generally a dead man whom superstition and ignorance had deified. From 1 Corinthians 10:27, 1 Corinthians 10:28, we learn that it was customary to offer that flesh to idols which was afterwards sold publicly in the shambles; probably the blood was poured out before the idol in imitation of the sacrifices offered to the true God. Perhaps the text here alludes to a similar custom.
15Look 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.
16This 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.
17Thou 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:
Thou hast avouched the Lord - The people avouch - publicly declare, that they have taken Jehovah to be their God.
18And 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;
And the Lord hath avouched - Publicly declared, by the blessings he pours down upon them, that he has taken them to be his peculiar people. Thus the covenant is made and ratified between God and his followers.
19And 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.
Make thee high above all nations - It is written, Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people, Proverbs 14:34. While Israel regarded God's word and kept his testimonies, they were the greatest and most respectable of all nations; but when they forsook God and his law, they became the most contemptible. O Britain, even more highly favored than ancient Israel! learn wisdom by what they have suffered. It is not thy fleets nor thine armies, howsoever excellent and well appointed, that can ultimately exalt and secure thy permanence among the nations. It is righteousness alone. Become irreligious, neglect God's ordinances, profane his Sabbath, despise his word, persecute his followers, and thou art lost. But fear, love, and serve him, and thy enemies shall be found liars, thou shalt defeat their projects, and trample on their high places.
The form of confession when bringing the first-fruits, related Deuteronomy 26:4-10, is both affecting and edifying. Even when brought into a state of affluence and rest, they were commanded to remember and publicly acknowledge their former degradation and wretchedness, that they might be ever kept humble and dependent; and they must bring their offering as a public acknowledgment to God that it was by his mercy their state was changed, and by his bounty their comforts were continued. If a man rise from poverty to affluence, and forget his former state, he becomes proud, insolent, and oppressive. If a Christian convert forget his former state, the rock whence he was hewn, and the hole of the pit whence he was digged, he soon becomes careless, unthankful, and unholy. The case of the ten lepers that were cleansed, of whom only one returned to give God thanks, is an awful lesson. How many are continually living on the bounty of God, who feel no gratitude for his mercies! Reader, Is this thy state? If so, then expect the just God to curse thy blessings.