Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
To the exposition of the commandments and rights of Israel Moses adds, in closing, another ordinance respecting those gifts, which were most intimately connected with social and domestic life, viz., the first-fruits and second tithes, for the purpose of giving the proper consecration to the attitude of the nation towards its Lord and God.
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;Of the first of the fruit of the ground, which was presented from the land received from the Lord, the Israelites was to take a portion (מראשׁית with מן partitive), and bring it in a basket to the place of the sanctuary, and give it to the priest who should be there, with the words, "I have made known to-day to the Lord thy God, that I have come into the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us," upon which the priest should take the basket and put it down before the altar of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 26:1-4). From the partitive מראשׁית we cannot infer, as Schultz supposes, that the first-fruits were not to be all delivered at the sanctuary, any more than this can be inferred from Exodus 23:19 (see the explanation of this passage). All that is implied is, that, for the purpose described afterwards, it was not necessary to put all the offerings of first-fruits into a basket and set them down before the altar. טנא (Deuteronomy 26:2, Deuteronomy 26:4, and Deuteronomy 28:5, Deuteronomy 28:17) is a basket of wicker-work, and not, as Knobel maintains, the Deuteronomist's word for צנצנת rof (Exodus 16:33. "The priest" is not the high priest, but the priest who had to attend to the altar-service and receive the sacrificial gifts. - The words, "I have to-day made known to the Lord thy God," refer to the practical confession which was made by the presentation of the first-fruits. The fruit was the tangible proof that they were in possession of the land, and the presentation of the first of this fruit the practical confession that they were indebted to the Lord for the land. This confession the offerer was also to embody in a prayer of thanksgiving, after the basket had been received by the priest, in which he confessed that he and his people owed their existence and welfare to the grace of God, manifested in the miraculous redemption of Israel out of the oppression of Egypt and their guidance into Canaan.
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.
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.
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:אבי אבד ארמּי, "a lost (perishing) Aramaean was my father" (not the Aramaean, Laban, wanted to destroy my father, Jacob, as the Chald., Arab., Luther, and others render it). אבד signifies not only going astray, wandering, but perishing, in danger of perishing, as in Job 29:13; Proverbs 31:6, etc. Jacob is referred to, for it was he who went down to Egypt in few men. He is mentioned as the tribe-father of the nation, because the nation was directly descended from his sons, and also derived its name of Israel from him. Jacob is called in Aramaean, not only because of his long sojourn in Aramaea (Genesis 29-31), but also because he got his wives and children there (cf. Hosea 12:13); and the relatives of the patriarchs had accompanied Abraham from Chaldaea to Mesopotamia (Aram; see Genesis 11:30). מעט בּמתי, consisting of few men (בּ, the so-called beth essent., as in Deuteronomy 10:22; Exodus 6:3, etc.; vid., Ewald, 299, q.). Compare Genesis 34:30, where Jacob himself describes his family as "few in number." On the number in the family that migrated into Egypt, reckoned at seventy souls, see the explanation at Genesis 46:27. On the multiplication in Egypt into a great and strong people, see Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:9; and on the oppression endured there, Exodus 1:11-22, and Exodus 2:23. - The guidance out of Egypt amidst great signs (Deuteronomy 26:8), as in Deuteronomy 4:34.
And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
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:
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:"So shalt thou set it down (the basket with the first-fruits) before Jehovah." These words are not to be understood, as Clericus, Knobel, and others suppose, in direct opposition to Deuteronomy 26:4 and Deuteronomy 26:5, as implying that the offerer had held the basket in his hand during the prayer, but simply as a remark which closes the instructions.
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.Rejoicing in all the good, etc., points to the joy connected with the sacrificial meal, which followed the act of worship (as in Deuteronomy 12:12). The presentation of the first-fruits took place, no doubt, on their pilgrimages to the sanctuary at the three yearly festivals (ch. 16); but it is quite without ground that Riehm restricts these words to the sacrificial meals to be prepared from the tithes, as if they had been the only sacrificial meals (see at Deuteronomy 18:3).
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;The delivery of the tithes, like the presentation of the first-fruits, was also to be sanctified by prayer before the Lord. It is true that only a prayer after taking the second tithe in the third year is commanded here; but that is simply because this tithe was appropriated everywhere throughout the land to festal meals for the poor and destitute (Deuteronomy 14:28), when prayer before the Lord would not follow per analogiam from the previous injunction concerning the presentation of first-fruits, as it would in the case of the tithes with which sacrificial meals were prepared at the sanctuary (Deuteronomy 14:22.). לעשׂר is the infinitive Hiphil for להעשׂר, as in Nehemiah 10:39 (on this form, vid., Ges. 53, 3 Anm. 2 and 7, and Ew. 131, b. and 244, b.). "Saying before the Lord" does not denote prayer in the sanctuary (at the tabernacle), but, as in Genesis 27:7, simply prayer before God the omnipresent One, who is enthroned in heaven (Deuteronomy 26:15), and blesses His people from above from His holy habitation. The declaration of having fulfilled the commandments of God refers primarily to the directions concerning the tithes, and was such a rendering of an account as springs from the consciousness that a man very easily transgresses the commandments of God, and has nothing in common with the blindness of pharisaic self-righteousness "I have cleaned out the holy out of my house:" the holy is that which is sanctified to God, that which belongs to the Lord and His servants, as in Leviticus 21:22. בּער signifies not only to remove, but to clean out, wipe out. That which was sanctified to God appeared as a debt, which was to be wiped out of a man's house (Schultz).
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:
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."I have not eaten thereof in my sorrow." אני, from און, tribulation, distress, signifies here in all probability mourning, and judging from what follows, mourning for the dead, equivalent to "in a mourning condition," i.e., in a state of legal (Levitical) uncleanness; so that בּאני really corresponded to the בּטמא which follows, except that טמא includes every kind of legal uncleanness. "I have removed nothing thereof as unclean," i.e., while in the state of an unclean person. Not only not eaten of any, but not removed any of it from the house, carried it away in an unclean state, in which they were forbidden to touch the holy gifts (Leviticus 22:3). "And not given (any) of it on account of the dead." This most probably refers to the custom of sending provisions into a house of mourning, to prepare meals for the mourners (2 Samuel 3:25; Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4; Tobit 4:17). A house of mourning, with its inhabitants, was regarded as unclean; consequently nothing could be carried into it of that which was sanctified. There is no good ground for thinking of idolatrous customs, or of any special superstition attached to the bread of mourning; nor is there any ground for understanding the words as referring to the later Jewish custom of putting provisions into the grave along with the corpse, to which the Septuagint rendering, οὐκ ἔδωκα ἀπ αὐτῶν τῷ τεθνηκότι, points. (On Deuteronomy 26:15, see Isaiah 63:15.)
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.
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.At the close of his discourse, Moses sums up the whole in the earnest admonition that Israel would give the Lord its God occasion to fulfil the promised glorification of His people, by keeping His commandments with all their heart and soul.
On this day the Lord commanded Israel to keep these laws and rights with all the heart and all the soul (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12.). There are two important points contained in this (Deuteronomy 26:17.). The acceptance of the laws laid before them on the part of the Israelites involved a practical declaration that the nation would accept Jehovah as its God, and walk in His way (Deuteronomy 26:17); and the giving of the law on the part of the Lord was a practical confirmation of His promise that Israel should be His people of possession, which He would glorify above all nations (Deuteronomy 26:18, Deuteronomy 26:19). "Thou hast let the Lord say to-day to be thy God," i.e., hast given Him occasion to say to thee that He will be thy God, manifest Himself to thee as thy God. "And to walk in His ways, and to keep His laws," etc., for "and that thou wouldst walk in His ways, and keep His laws." The acceptance of Jehovah as its God involved eo ipso a willingness to walk in His ways.
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:
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;At the same time, Jehovah had caused the people to be told that they were His treasured people of possession, as He had said in Exodus 19:5-6; and that if they kept all His commandments, He would set them highest above all nations whom He had created, "for praise, and for a name, and for glory," i.e., make them an object of praise, and renown, and glorification of God, the Lord and Creator of Israel, among all nations (vid., Jeremiah 33:9 and Jeremiah 13:11; Jeremiah 3:19-20). "And that it should become a holy people unto the Lord," as He had already said in Exodus 19:6. The sanctification of Israel was the design and end of its divine election, and would be accomplished in the glory to which the people of God were to be exalted (see the commentary on Exodus 19:5-6). The Hiphil האמיר, which is only found here, has no other meaning than this, "to cause a person to say," or "give him occasion to say;" and this is perfectly appropriate here, whereas the other meaning suggested, "to exalt," has no tenable support either in the paraphrastic rendering of these verses in the ancient versions, or in the Hithpael in Psalm 94:4, and moreover is altogether unsuitable in Deuteronomy 26:17.
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.