In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the LORD.
I. THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF THE TAINT OF SIN. The Israelites were to regard the very soil of Canaan as so polluted by the sins of its former inhabitants that the fruit which came from it must be treated "as uncircumcised" (verse 23). Idolatry and impurity - the two flagrant sins of the Canaanites - are evils which strike deep and last long in the taint which they confer. Their consequences are penetrating and far-spreading. So, in larger or lesser degree, is all sin. It leaves a taint behind; it pollutes the mind; it mars the life; it makes its fruit, its natural growth and outcome, to be "as uncircumcised," to be unholy and unclean. And this is to an extent beyond our human estimate. If the Israelites had concluded that the iniquities of the Canaanites were to be regarded as polluting the very soil, they would not have reckoned that three years would be required to free the land from the taint of evil. But God made the purifying process extend over this protracted time. He knows that the stain of sin goes deeper and lasts longer than we think it does. What an argument this for expelling the idolatrous and unclean from our heart and life, for cultivating and cherishing the holy and the pure!
II. THE RANGE OF GOD'S CLAIMS. (Verse 24.) Jehovah claimed the firstfruits of the land when the soil was cleansed: "all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord." It was to be given (probably) to the priests. Thus God reasserted and confirmed his claim to all the produce of the land. This law would remind them that the whole soil was his, and that he had sovereign right to dispose of it as lie willed, everything being of him and belonging to him. God claims all as his; and his claim is righteous. For we have nothing but that which we have received from him; we are nothing but that which he has created and preserved. "All our springs are in him," and all that we hold and occupy is his property. When we forget our derivation from him and our dependence upon him, he reminds us, by some providential privation, that we are failing from the spirit of reverence, gratitude, and submission which is the very life of our soul. And it is well for us voluntarily to set aside to his service the firstfruits of our labour, that we may be thus powerfully and practically reminded that we owe our very being and our whole substance to his bounty and his grace.
III. THE BENEFICENCE OF THE DIVINE RULE. By this provision God sought, as he is ever seeking,
(1) spiritual well-being and
(2) temporal prosperity.
By teaching them the truths which this abstinence suggested, and by requiring of them the patient waiting and the childlike obedience involved in the fulfillment of his will, he was disciplining and perfecting their spiritual nature. By giving them leave to pluck and partake for themselves after the fourth year, he provided for their bodily wants and appetites. These two ends God has continually in view in all his providential dealing with ourselves. He seeks our present satisfaction, and also - and far more - our spiritual well-being; our pleasure as children of time and sense, and our perfection as children of the Father of spirits, as followers of the righteous Leader, as temples of the Holy Ghost. - C.
1. A merciful providence for posterity; for if a tree be suffered to bear too soon, as the first, second, or third year, it doth not usually endure long, but decayeth sooner than otherwise it would, the fruit draweth away the nourishment which should make the root and tree strong.
In the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy.i.e., they were to be regarded as in a condition analogous to that of the child who has not yet been consecrated, by the act of circumcision, to the Lord. In the fourth year, however, the trees were regarded as having now so grown as to yield fruit in perfection; hence the principle of the consecration of the firstfruit now applies, and all the fourth year's product is given to the Lord, as an offering of thankful .praise to Him whose power in nature is the secret of all growth, fruitfulness, and increase. The moral teaching of this law is very plain. It teaches, as in all analogous cases, that God is always to be served before ourselves; and that not grudgingly, as if an irksome tax were to be paid to the Majesty of Heaven, but in the spirit of thanksgiving and praise to Him, as the Giver of "every good and perfect gift." It further instructs us, in this particular instance, that the people of God are to recognise this as being true even of all those good things which come to us under the forms of products of nature.
(S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
2. It restrained covetousness in the Jews, and taught them how God hateth scraping all to man's self for his time, and nothing caring for posterity. Such are they that will take the heart out of the land before their term end, cut down the wood, fruit-trees, hedges, destroy the game, and do all the mischief they can and dare do. The Lord seeth them and thinketh of them, though they little think of themselves and of their malicious actions.
3. It shadowed how little worth the fruits of youth usually are, either to the Church or commonwealth, till years have bred strength of judgment, and made them both see and do what is profitable. Even as uncircumcised fruits, so are the actions of youth, and therefore David prayed for pardon in this case.
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