Deuteronomy 26
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Presentation of Firstfruits

When settled in the land Israel shall take of the first of the fruit in a basket to the One Altar (Deuteronomy 26:1 f.); and coming to the priest shall declare to God their arrival in the land He sware to give them and the priest shall set the basket before the Altar (Deuteronomy 26:3 f.). In prayer Israel shall solemnly recall their history from their nomad Aramean origins, their descent to Egypt, their growth there and bitter bondage, their deliverance and guidance to this fertile land (Deuteronomy 26:5-9); and setting the firstfruits before God they shall worship and rejoice in the good He has given, along with their households, Levites and gçrîm (Deuteronomy 26:10 f.). Deuteronomy 26:1 f. show evidence of expansion (see on Deuteronomy 26:2). Deuteronomy 26:3 f. raise a more serious question. To the going to the sanctuary (Deuteronomy 26:2, as in Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 14:25) they add a coming to the priest, and assign to him a part of the procedure which Deuteronomy 26:10 assigns to the worshippers; also they partly anticipate the worshippers’ profession to God in Deuteronomy 26:5 ff.[148] It is possible that, like Deuteronomy 21:5 (q.v.), they are a later insertion from a time when the rights of the priests were more emphasised and elaborated. But whatever answer be given to this textual question, other problems remain: the relation of this first or reshîth (a) to the reshîth assigned by Deuteronomy 18:4 to the priests (cp. H, Leviticus 23:20 which assigns to the priests the bread of the bikkûrîm or firstfruits); and (b) to the tithes, Deuteronomy 14:22 ff.

[148] This point is not so clear as the others. The older commentators take the worshippers profession in Deuteronomy 26:3 as a natural introduction to that in 5 ff. So also Cullen, p. 81.

(a) Is all the reshîth intended here for the priests (Dillm., Dri., W. R. Smith, Rel. Sem. 220 f.), or is some or all of it to be consumed by the worshippers at the ritual meal which formed part of such pilgrimage-feasts (Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 14:26)? In favour of the former hypothesis are these:—(1) Deuteronomy 26:10 f. say that the reshîth is to be set down before God and do not even hint that the worshippers shall partake of it; (2) Deuteronomy 18:4 assigns the reshîth (of corn, wine, oil, fleece) to the priests. In that case the meal of the worshippers would be that of the pilgrimage-feast at which the reshîth was presented; some think the Feast of Weeks (Dri., Berth., etc.), but by its date the wine and oil were not ready.

(b) What was the relation of the reshîth to the tithes, presented at the sanctuary two years out of every three? The reasons for identifying them (Steuern., Nowack, Heb. Arch. ii. 126) are insufficient; those for distinguishing them are stronger but also not conclusive:—(1) If they were the same it is difficult to see why D should use two different terms for them without explanation; and even the LXX translators distinguish the two, tithes δεκάτη, reshîth ἀπαρχή. (2) The tithes were to be consumed by the worshippers; if they were too large to be carried to the sanctuary they might be converted into money, to be spent there on foods for the worshippers (Deuteronomy 14:23-27), the priest no doubt getting his share; but (as we have seen) the reshîth fell wholly to the priests (Deuteronomy 18:4). Ambiguity, however, rises from the direction in Deuteronomy 26:2, that it is part of the reshîth which is to be put into a basket and laid before God; for this renders it possible to argue that this was just part of the tithes. In the obscurity which rests upon the earlier history of the tithes in Israel (see Add. Note to Deuteronomy 14:22 ff.) the question cannot be dogmatically answered. It is possible that the reshîth is rather to be identified with the terumah, contribution (EVV. ‘heave-offering’) of the hand, Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 12:17 (Berth.).

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;
1. when thou art come in, etc.] As in Deuteronomy 17:14, but with these additions: and it shall be and for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 15:4). As Cullen (p. 88) points out the substance of the statement is already in Deuteronomy 8:1.

IV. Fourth Division of the Laws. Ideals of Ritual Procedure with Proper Prayers, Deuteronomy 26:1-15The Presentation of Firstfruits (Deuteronomy 26:1-11) and the Distribution of Tithes (Deuteronomy 26:12-15). Throughout in the style of D (with particular affinity to the Law of Tithes, Deuteronomy 14:22-29) and in the Sg. address; for additions, see below. These beautiful forms of service express fully D’s ideals of worship—that it shall be national, at the nation’s one sanctuary, but performed by the separate families with their local dependents; that it shall be historical, recounting the Providence of God from the beginnings of the nation till their settlement in the Promised Land, and therefore joyful and eucharistic; and further that it shall be equally mindful of God and His dues and of the poor and their dues. No two rites could have better summed up the ritual teaching of D in its essential features, nor, with the ethical supplement which follows, have formed a fitter close to the whole Code.

On the ground of the similarity between 26 and Deuteronomy 6-11 (esp. Deuteronomy 8:1-18) Cullen (Bk. of the Covt. in Moab, 79 ff.) refers the whole of 26 to his ‘Miṣwah’ or earlier deuteronomic Book published before the reforms of Josiah. He gives a detailed examination of the ch. well worthy of study. He points out the number of expressions in 26 not found in the Code but in 6–11. Others, however, common to 26 and the Code are not found in Deuteronomy 6-11, and the whole subject of Deuteronomy 26:1-15 is otherwise more suitable to the Code than to 6–11.

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.
2. of the first] Heb. of the reshîth. See introd. note; and observe that the Heb. particle for of implies that only some of the reshîth is signified.

all the fruit] Sam., LXX omit all; Deuteronomy 18:4 : of corn, wine, oil and fleece.

thou shalt bring in] Heb. tabi’; cp. tebu’ah, income, Deuteronomy 14:22; Deuteronomy 14:28, Deuteronomy 16:15, Deuteronomy 22:9.

that the Lord thy God is to give thee] Redundant after Deuteronomy 26:1. The two vv. are obviously expanded.

basket] Heb. ṭene’, only here, Deuteronomy 26:4, and Deuteronomy 28:5; Deuteronomy 28:17 (cp. Phoen. tana, ‘to erect,’ perhaps ‘present,’ hardly from nathan, ‘to give’). Baldensperger (PEFQ, 1904, 136) compares the modern ṭabaḳ, a round tray or basket.

unto the place, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 12:5.

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.
3. the priest … in those days] Deuteronomy 17:9, Deuteronomy 19:17. Priest probably collective (cp. prophet, Deuteronomy 18:15), not necessarily high-priest.

profess] or declare, solemnly, publicly proclaim.

my God] So LXX; Heb. thy is due to dittography.

that I am come] D gives to this as to other rites a historical meaning.

sware, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 1:8.

3, 4. Possibly a later interpolation, see introd. note.

And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God.
4. before the altar] In D only here.

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:
5. answer] testify, as in Deuteronomy 5:20, Deuteronomy 19:16; Deuteronomy 19:18, Deuteronomy 21:7, Deuteronomy 25:9.

A nomad Aramean was my father] Jacob-Israel, the son of an Aramean (Genesis 24:10, cp. Deuteronomy 24:4), himself a nomad shepherd in Aram (Hosea 12:12, Genesis 29-31), with Aramean mothers to his children. EVV. ready to perish and R.V. marg. wandering or lost are all possible transl. of the Heb. ’ôbed, used of lost or ‘wandered’ beasts, Deuteronomy 22:3, 1 Samuel 9:3; 1 Samuel 9:20, Ezekiel 34:4; Ezekiel 34:16, Psalm 119:176; and of men perishing, Deuteronomy 4:26, Deuteronomy 7:20, Deuteronomy 8:19 f., Deuteronomy 28:20, 2 Samuel 1:27, Job 6:18 and frequently. Here no doubt intended to mark the nomad origins of Israel in contrast to their present state as cultivators of their own land.

Dillm. ‘verlorner oder verkommender,’ Dri. ‘ready to perish,’ Steuern. ‘dem Untergang naher,’ Berth. ‘dem Untergang zugehend,’ Marti, ‘umherirrender.’ The LXX, at a time when Aramean = heathen, avoided such a reproach to Israel by differently dividing the two words (’Aram yo’bed) and producing the renderings ‘threw off’ or ‘lost’ and ‘forsook’ or ‘recovered (!) Syria’: Συρίαν ἀπέβαλεν (LXX B), ἀπέλιπεν (N, etc.), ἀπέλαβεν (A, F).

went down] So always from Palestine to Egypt, e.g. JE, Numbers 20:15.

sojourned] Was a gçr, cp. Deuteronomy 23:7 (8).

few in number] Deuteronomy 10:22.

great, and mighty, and populous] So Sam., Vulg., etc. J, Exodus 1:9, more and mightier than we (Egyptians), 12, 20, multiplied, waxed mighty.

And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
6. evil entreated us] JE, Numbers 20:15.

afflicted us] J, Exodus 1:11.

hard bondage] or service. P, Exodus 1:14; Exodus 6:9, 1 Kings 12:4, Isaiah 14:3.

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:
7. we cried, etc.] JE, Numbers 20:16, cp. E, Exodus 3:9.

saw our affliction, etc.] J, Exodus 4:31; oppression, E, Exodus 3:9; our toil added by D.

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:
8. with a mighty hand, etc.] Deuteronomy 4:34, Deuteronomy 8:14.

And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
9. hath brought us into this place] Deuteronomy 1:31, Deuteronomy 9:7. As Cullen remarks, this phrase is not used for the Promised Land in 12–25, in which place means the One Sanctuary, see Deuteronomy 12:5.

flowing with milk and honey] Deuteronomy 6:3. Once nomads, they are now settled cultivators of a fertile land, in token of which guidance and the blessings it has brought them to, he continues—

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:
10. I have brought the first, etc.] Heb. reshîth, as in Deuteronomy 26:2. Not the local Baalim but He who has guided them thither shall have this tribute.

And thou shalt set it down] But the priest has already done this, Deuteronomy 26:4. If Deuteronomy 26:3 f. are original we must read the clause to mean ‘thus (with the rites prescribed in 4–10 a) shalt thou set it down, etc.’ (Dillm., Dri.). But see on 3 f.

worship] Lit. prostrate thyself. Brooke and McLean retain this clause in their text of the LXX although it is omitted by B and some other authorities.

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.
11. and thou shalt rejoice, etc.] See Deuteronomy 12:6 f., 11 f., 17 f., Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14. It is not said that the worshippers shall eat the reshîth, for that has already been given to the Deity. See introd. note.

and unto thine house, thou] With Luc. read thou and thine house.

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;
12. in the third year … the year of tithing] See on Deuteronomy 14:28; the two phrases are in apposition. For the latter LXX reads the second tithing (τὸ δεύτερον ἐπιδέκατον), a reading which even after the vocalic changes which it involves in the Heb. results in an impossible construction. It is due to an attempt to accommodate D’s arrangement for the third year’s tithe to the later practice.

then thou shalt give it] Rather, and thou hast given it; the apodosis does not commence till the next v.

Levite, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 14:29.

12–15. The Triennial Distribution of Tithes

When the tithe of the third year is complete and given to the local poor then the giver shall attest before God that it has all been given and that he has not broken any of the relevant laws, and shall pray for a blessing on Israel. The apodosis of the sentence does not begin till Deuteronomy 26:13. For the contents see on Deuteronomy 14:28 f. and Add. Note there.

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:
13. then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God] That is (in accordance with Deuteronomy 26:5; Deuteronomy 26:10, Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 14:25 f., Deuteronomy 15:20, Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 19:17) at the sanctuary, and probably during the Feast of Booths (so all recent commentators).

I have put away] The same vb. as, in Deuteronomy 13:5 (6), q.v., Deuteronomy 17:7, etc., is used for putting away evil things. Equally with them the tithe is taboo, forbidden and dangerous for common use.

the hallowed things] Heb. the ḳodesh, lit. holiness or hallowedness (see above on Deuteronomy 7:6), but applied also to the concrete objects or persons set apart for the Deity or (as here) by His command, e.g. the Temple and its contents, the Holy City, sacrifices, etc.; in Deuteronomy 12:26 parallel to vows, here the tithes for the poor, an interesting extension of the idea of ceremonial sacredness; not without its ethical meaning for ourselves. ‘We are commanded to give alms of such things as we have; and then, and not otherwise, all things are clean to us’ (M. Henry).

out of mine house] where they had been stored, Deuteronomy 14:28.

all thy commandments] So Sam., LXX. The anxiety to keep these ritual laws, with a great ethical purpose behind them—viz. the relief of the poor—is very striking. The laws are now detailed:—

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.
14. I have not eaten thereof in my mourning] Heb. ‘awen, sorrow; so in Hosea 9:4, the bread of sorrows is unclean. If the mourner, unclean by contact with the dead, ate part of the tithe, he defiled it all.

neither have I put away thereof, being unclean] Same vb. as in Deuteronomy 26:13. While separating this tithe to its charitable ends, a ritual act, he has to take care to be ritually clean.

nor given thereof for the dead] or to the dead. The reference is obscure; either the custom of contributing to a mourning feast (2 Samuel 3:35, Jeremiah 16:7 f., Ezekiel 24:17); or that of offering food at the grave as if for consumption by the dead (Tob 4:17, Sir 30:18); or of sacrificing to the spirits of the dead, as is annually done by the Arabs, minshan el mawât, ‘for the sake of the dead,’ as the chief of the ‘Adwan once explained to the present writer.

I have hearkened, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 15:5; I have done, etc., cp. Deuteronomy 5:32, etc.

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.
15. Look down, etc.] Cp. Isaiah 63:15; thy holy habitation, Jeremiah 25:30, Zechariah 2:13.

and bless, etc.] with such care and gifts as are described in Deuteronomy 7:13 ff., Deuteronomy 11:12; Deuteronomy 11:14 ff.

as thou swarest, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 1:8, Deuteronomy 6:3.

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.
16. This day] Obviously the same as that emphasised, both in the Introd. Addresses Deuteronomy 4:8, Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:18, Deuteronomy 10:13, Deuteronomy 11:2; Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 11:26; Deuteronomy 11:32, and in the Code Deuteronomy 15:5; Deuteronomy 15:15, Deuteronomy 19:9 (cp. Deuteronomy 12:8), as the day when the laws, revealed to Moses in Ḥoreb were by him published to the people in Moab in the valley over against Beth-peor (Deuteronomy 3:29).

the Lord thy God is commanding thee] This is His part in the contract now to be formulated.

statutes and judgements] See on Deuteronomy 12:1.

keep and do them] See Deuteronomy 4:6, Deuteronomy 7:12, etc.; cp. observe to do, Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 8:1, Deuteronomy 12:1; Deuteronomy 12:32, etc. This is Israel’s part in the contract.

with all, etc.] Deuteronomy 6:5 f., Deuteronomy 10:12, cp. Deuteronomy 11:18.

16–19. Concluding Exhortation

The proclamation of these laws and the consequent duty of Israel to keep them (Deuteronomy 26:16) constitute a contract between Jehovah and Israel, by which He declares Himself their God, who shall exalt them above other nations, and they declare themselves His people, proper and holy to Him and obliged to obey His laws (Deuteronomy 26:17-19).—In D’s style and the Sg. address (LXX curiously diverges into the Pl. in the last clause of Deuteronomy 26:16). But the argument has been deranged (so all recent commentators; see esp. Cullen, p. 93) either by later additions inappropriately distributed through a misunderstanding of the legal form used, or through the fusion of different conclusions to the Code. See notes below. It is unnecessary to suppose that the passage originally followed Deuteronomy 27:9 f. or 28.

Though the term covenant is not used, the law-giving is regarded as such, as it is implicitly in Deuteronomy 27:9 f. and explicitly in Deuteronomy 29:1 (Deut 28:69). This idea is also implicit in the Code, and is stated explicitly in Deuteronomy 8:18, Deuteronomy 17:3. So far then, there is no reason for doubting the original character of the passage.

This is so far an answer to Steuern. who assigns the passage to a later deuteronomist. Wellh. indeed takes this day as that of the Covenant at Ḥoreb, and infers that chs. 12–26 were originally understood as delivered there. On the other hand Berth, finds it probable that we have here the formula under which Josiah bound Israel to observe the Law (2 Kings 23:3, cp. Jeremiah 11:2 ff.). For neither of these hypotheses is there any real evidence; and this day is ostensibly the same as that frequently mentioned in the Code and the Introd. Addresses (see on Deuteronomy 26:16).

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:
17. Thou hast avouched the Lord, etc.] i.e. acknowledged (see Wright’s Bible Word Book); lit. caused Jehovah to say that He will be thy God. This form of the Heb. vb. only here and Deuteronomy 26:18. It is probably a technical legal term, by which either of the two parties to a contract made the other utter a declaration of his obligation under it. Here it is figuratively applied to the contract between Jehovah and Israel. They did not actually cause Him to make this engagement, for His choice of them was an act of His free grace (Deuteronomy 7:8, etc.) and every covenant with Him was of His imposition (Deuteronomy 5:2, Deuteronomy 8:18). But by engaging to keep His laws Israel fulfilled the condition in which alone He could be their God. Therefore the formula, if not literally, is substantially, correct. The clever EVV. rendering avouched is unjustified by the Heb. form but has evidently been adopted to cover all the contradictory contents of the declaration; the text however is so deranged that it fails fully to do so.

and that thou shouldest walk in his ways, etc.] This belongs properly not to Jehovah’s, but to Israel’s, declaration, whereas the promise in Deuteronomy 26:19, and to make thee high above all nations, etc., which is attributed to them belongs, of course, to Him. There has been a displacement of the text.

The Syriac seeks to get rid of the difficulty by eliminating the conjunction at the beginning of the phrase here, so as to read by walking in his ways, etc.; but even so the difficulty is only partly removed.

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;
18. and Jehovah hath caused thee to say this day that thou wilt be unto him a peculiar people … and wilt keep all his commandments] Elsewhere in D the singular relation of Israel to Jehovah is stated as His promise and act, Deuteronomy 7:6, q.v., Deuteronomy 14:2; cp. Deuteronomy 27:9, Deuteronomy 29:13 (12). Here is the converse, the people’s engagement to be such, as in 2 Kings 11:17. Israel becomes His peculiar people by keeping all His commandments; that is the main thing! The phrase, as he hath said to thee, though unnecessary, is not the ‘senseless addition,’ which Steuern, alleges.

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.
19. and to make thee high above all nations, etc.] As remarked above on Deuteronomy 26:17, this belongs properly not to Israel’s but to Jehovah’s declaration. High or highest, cp. Deuteronomy 15:6, Deuteronomy 28:1.

which he hath made] Psalm 86:9. For a similar assertion in Deut. of Jehovah’s supreme providence, see Deuteronomy 4:19.

for a praise, and for a name, and for an honour] As in R.V. marg., cp. Jeremiah 13:11 b. That is a praise, etc., to Himself; Berth, prefers ‘to other nations,’ who must acknowledge Israel’s excellence and superiority.

and that thou wilt be an holy people] This continues naturally the people’s declaration in Deuteronomy 26:18. Holy people, Deuteronomy 7:6, Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 14:21, Deuteronomy 28:9; cp. J, Exodus 19:6, holy nation (gôi for ‘am), to which passage the phrase as he hath spoken (possibly editorial) refers.

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