Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Deuteronomy 26:1–15

Deuteronomy 26:1–15: Firstfruits and Tithes


In this passage Moses hands down specific instructions for thanking the LORD for the first produce/crops the Israelites receive in the Promised Land, once they have arrived. In other words, once they go into the Promised Land, settle there, and begin farming, they are to remember who it was that provided the land and the food, and thank Him for it.

When they get to this point, they are to take some of the firstfruits from their crops/produce, put them in a basket, and bring them to the “priest in office at the time” (verse 3). (I’m not sure if this means the High Priest.) Interestingly, an amount is not specified, for produce the Israelites are to bring; it just says they are to bring “some.”

When they have brought the offering, they are to say to the priest, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us” (verse 3b). The priest is then to place the basket with the offering in front of the altar, and then the Israelites have another ceremony:
Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” (verses 5–10a)
The Israelites are then to rejoice in all of the good things the LORD has provided them.

This is for the first crops/produce the Israelites receive, once they take over the Promised Land. But then, in the third year, it will be the Year of the Tithe. So the Israelites are to set aside a tenth of all of their produce, to go to the Levites, and the aliens, fatherless, and widows. And again, the Israelites have a speech:
Then say to the LORD your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them. I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the LORD my God; I have done everything you commanded me. Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (verses 13–15)


This is sort of a good news/bad news chapter. It’s good because the ceremonies being introduced here are specifically geared towards thanking the LORD for what He has provided.

It’s bad news just in the sense that the human heart makes this necessary. In 21st Century North American churches, we don’t like too much ceremony—I think it’s partially a knee-jerk reaction to churches/religions/denominations that put too much emphasis on ceremony, instead of faith—but we see quite a bit of ceremony happening in the Old Testament. Every Year of the Tithe the Israelites are not just to set aside their offerings, they are also to recite a little speech, reminding them of what the LORD has done for them. That’s not a bad thing. (I think saying grace before meals is probably the equivalent to this.)

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