Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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;XXVI.
Deuteronomy 26:1-11. PRESENTATION OF THE FIRST FRUITS.
(1) When thou art come in.—Rashi says they were not bound to the discharge of this duty until they had conquered and divided the land. But the state of things described in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 21:43-45) would demand it. From the words of Deuteronomy 26:11, “thou shalt rejoice,” the Jews gather that the thanksgiving to be said over the firstfruits (in Deuteronomy 26:5-10) must be said at some time between the close of the feast of unleavened bread on the twenty-first day of the first month (the “solemn assembly” of Deuteronomy 16:8) and the Feast of Tabernacles. If firstfruits were presented between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Passover, this formula was not used (Rashi).
(3) The priest that shall be in those days.—No mention is made of the Levite here. The priest (though of the tribe of Levi) has an office distinct from the Levite in the Book of Deuteronomy as much as in the rest of the Old Testament.
I profess.—Literally, I declare. “To show that thou art not ungrateful for His goodness” (Rashi, from the Talmud).
This day.—The formula was only used once in the year.
(4) The priest shall take the basket.—“To wave it. The priest put his hand under the hand of the owner, and waved it.”
(5) A Syrian ready to perish.—The reference is to Jacob, more especially when pursued by Laban, who would have taken from him his all, except for the Divine mercy and protection. We may also recall his danger from Esau (Genesis 31, 32), from the Shechemites (34, 35), and from the famine, until he heard of Joseph.
(7) When we cried unto the Lord.—Samuel in his famous speech (1Samuel 12:8) takes up the language of this passage, “When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord . . . brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.
(10) And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God—i.e., take it up again after it was first waved by the priest, and hold it in the hand while making this confession, and then wave it once more. After this it would become the priest’s.
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;Deuteronomy 26:12-15. DECLARATION OF THE TITHE.
(12) When thou hast made an end.—The time fixed for making the confession prescribed in Deuteronomy 26:13-15, according to Jewish usage, was the Passover-eve of the fourth year, i.e., the first feast after the completion of the year of tithing. It would seem that something was still to be gathered from the trees after the Feast of Tabernacles, and thus there would still be some produce untithed at that feast in any given year. But the tithe of the third year must be separated to the very last item before the Passover of the fourth.
The third year, which is the year of tithing.—See Deuteronomy 14:28-29. In the third and sixth years, the second tithe, which in other years was eaten by the owners (in kind or value) at Jerusalem, was given to the poor, and was called the poor’s tithe. In Talmudical language, the Ma’aser ani took the place of Ma’aser shêni in these years.
Thus the words “and hast given it unto the Levite,” are applied to the first tithe, which was never omitted, and which is prescribed by Numbers 18. The words that follow, “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow,” are interpreted of the poor’s tithe. The prescribed confession is not to be made until all the tithe has been given, both first and second, i.e., the annual tithe to the Levites, and the second, which was in these years devoted to the poor.
That they may eat within thy gates, and be filled.—The quantity with which they were to be satisfied was duly prescribed by the Jewish scribes!
(13) Thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away.—Literally, I have consumed, or burned out. It is the same strong word used so frequently in this book for “putting away” evil, and from which the name Taberah, “burning,” is derived. It is taken by Jewish commentators to include everything that could possibly be required as holy under any law, whether tithe, or firstfruit of trees not yet made common, or anything that from any cause had not been brought to Jerusalem during the three previous years.
I . . . have given . . . unto the Levite (the first tithe), and unto the stranger. . . . (the poor’s tithe).—Rashi.
According to all thy commandments—i.e., “giving everything in its due order” (Rashi). The following words are also taken to refer to the details of the law respecting these matters.
(14) I have not eaten thereof in my mourning.—“When I was clean and they were unclean, or when they were clean and I was unclean” (Rashi). The tomb or presence of a dead body made both persons and things unclean (Numbers 19).
Neither have I taken away.—Literally, consumed any of them in uncleanness.
Nor given ought thereof for (or to) the dead.—Rashi explains, “to provide for him a coffin or grave-clothes.” Another explanation, which is certainly possible, is, “I have not made any offering to an idol from them.” “They joined themselves to Baal-peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead” (Psalm 106:28).
I have hearkened . . . and have done according to all that thou hast commanded me.—A claim which might be truly made as to outward observances and requirements. I am therefore the more disposed to take the confession in these verses in its most literal sense, and to limit it to the particular things with which it was connected—the tithes and offerings.
(15) Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven.—A phrase like this occurs frequently in Solomon’s prayer; but there is a difference there in the Hebrew, which is less beautiful than in this place. The exact phrase is found in 2Chronicles 30:27. And in 2Chronicles 36:15, we have “His dwelling-place” applied to Jerusalem and the Temple. This suggests that the thought here may be twofold. Look down from the dwelling-place of Thy holiness here below, and not only thence, but from thine own dwelling-place in heaven.
And bless thy people Israel, and the land (literally, the ground) which thou hast given us.—“We have done what Thou hast decreed for us. Do Thou that which it rests with Thee to do” (Rashi).
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.Deuteronomy 26:16-19. CLOSE OF THE EXHORTATION.
(16) This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.—These words are not to be taken as part of the service described in the previous verses, but as the words of Moses in bringing his exhortation to a close. Rashi says, “Every day these commandments shall be new before thine eyes, as though on that very day thou hadst received them.”
Thou shalt therefore keep and do them.—It is a beautiful thought that the form of this command (as of many others) makes it prophetic of its own fulfilment. “It is the voice from heaven blessing thee,” says Rashi. (See also Deuteronomy 30:6; Deuteronomy 30:8.)
(17, 18) Thou hast avouched . . . and the Lord hath avouched.—The Hebrew word is simply the ordinary word for “to say.” “Thou hast said,” and “He hath said.” There is no distinctive word for “to promise” in Hebrew. “To say” is sufficient. “Hath He said, and shall He not do it?” “Let your yea be yea, and your nay nay,” like His. But Rashi says there is no exact parallel to this use of the verb in the Old Testament, except, perhaps, in Psalm 94:4, where it means, “they boast themselves.” Let Israel boast in God, and God will boast Himself of them, as His peculiar people.
(19) And to make thee high.—Literally, most high; Heb., ‘Elyôn, a well-known name of God. Here, and in Deuteronomy 28:1, it is (prophetically and in the Divine purpose) applied to Israel. “Thou shalt put my Name upon the children of Israel” was the law of blessing for the priests (Numbers 6:27).
In praise, and in name, and in honour.—Perhaps, rather, to be a praise, and to be a name, and to be an honour, and to become a people of holiness to Jehovah. There is an allusion to this in Jeremiah 33:9, “And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise, and an honour before all the nations of the earth;” and in Isaiah 62:6-7, “Ye that make mention of the name of the Lord, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”
But if, as some would have us believe, the Book of Deuteronomy draws these things from the prophets, rather than the prophets from Moses, how is it that there is not the faintest allusion in Deuteronomy to Jerusalem, which in the days of the prophets had become the centre of all these hopes?