THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER AT THE PRESENTATION OF
FIRSTFRUITS AND TITHES.
As Moses began his exposition of the laws and rights
to the sanctuary as the place which the Lord should choose, and the place where religious
service was to be rendered (ch.12.), so here he follows up his address by a reference to
the same. Of the gifts which had to be presented at the sanctuary there were two specially
connected with the social and domestic life of the people, viz. the firstfruits and the second
tithe. To these, by a natural transition from the preceding discourse — occupied as that is
with injunctions regarding their social and domestic relations — Moses here refers for the
purpose of prescribing certain liturgical forms with which the presentation of the gift was
to be accompanied by the offerer.
Of the firstfruits the Israelite was to take a portion, and placing it in a basket, to bring it to
the place of the sanctuary, where it was to be received by the attendant priest. The offerer
was to accompany his presentation with the declaration, “I profess this day unto the
Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord swore unto our
fathers for to give us;” and the priest having set the basket down before the altar, the
offerer was to make confession and prayer, gratefully acknowledging the Divine
favor showed to
His bounty to the individual who now presented the firstfruits of his land unto the
1 “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; 2 That
thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth,” - (On the law of the
firstfruits, see Numbers 18:12; ch.18:4.) - “which thou shalt bring of thy land that
the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket,” - טֶנֶא, a basket of
wickerwork. “and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose
to place His name there.”
3 “And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days,” - not the high
priest, but the priests collectively, or the individual priest whose function it was to
officiate on the occasion. The fruit presented was the sensible proof that the land was
now in their possession, and the confession made along with the presentation was an
acknowledgment of their unworthiness, and of THE DIVINE FAVOR as that to
which alone they were indebted for the privileged position in which they were
placed - “and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I
am come unto the country which the LORD swear unto our fathers for to give
us. 4 And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down
before the altar of the LORD thy God.”
5 “And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian
ready to perish was my father,” - The reference is to Jacob, the stem-father
of the twelve tribes. He is here called a Syrian, or Aramaean, because of his long
come (Ibid. 11:31), and because there the family of which he was the head was
founded. The translation “ready to perish” fairly represents the Hebrew; the verb
אָבַד - means not merely to stray or wander, but also to lose one’s self, to perish,
to be in danger of perishing (ch.4:26; Job 29:13; Proverbs 31:6). The wandering,
nomadic life of the patriarch is not to be lost sight of - “and he went down into
Egypt, and sojourned there with a few,” - literally, in men of few; i.e. consisting
of few men, as a small company; the father and head of the tribe is named for those
belonging to him (Genesis 34:30; 46:27) - “and became there a nation,” –
(compare Exodus 1:7, 9) - “great, mighty, and populous:”
6 “And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon
us hard bondage:” (Ibid. vs.11-22; 2:23). 7 “And when we cried unto the
LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on
our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression: 8 And the LORD
brought us forth out of
arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
(ch. 4:34-35) 9 And He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this
land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. 10 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:” - either a general concluding remark, taking up the statement
of v. 4, or the offerer may have resumed hold of the basket, and after holding it in
his hand while offering prayer, would solemnly deposit it before the altar.
11 “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.” - i.e. with these bounties of God’s providence
make a feast for yourself and your household, and omit not to invite the Levite
and the stranger to partake of it with you. As with the yearly tithe (ch. 14:23)
and the firstlings (ch.15:20), so with this portion of the first-fruits, a festive meal
was to consummate the service. According to the Law, the firstfruits were the
perquisite of the priest (ch.18:4; Numbers 18:12); but of these a portion was to
be taken for this special service, and of that a feast was to be made.
Sanctification of Our Possessions to God
Gives a Holy Joy in the Use of Them (vs. 1-11)
The order of thought is this:
promised to give them.
be the proof and sign.
offered to God.
the Lord, and present them to the priest, who was to lay them before the
altar as offerings to the Lord.
pitying “the perishing Aramaean” from whom they were descended, in
watching over the growth of their nation, in delivering them from
giving them the good land, and in permitting it to yield them its fruit.
sacrificial meal which followed, in the companionship of friends invited to
share with them the joy of harvest, and in the after use of the bounties of
God’s providence. For they would be doubly blessed, as, over and above
the temporal mercies themselves, they would share the benediction of Him
who gave them all things richly to enjoy.
In Christian times we have an everyday application:
AUTHOR OF ALL OUR MERCIES. For such He is.
Ø Without Him no land would yield its increase, nor would man
have power or skill to cultivate the soil.
Ø Without Him no sun would shine nor rain descend.
Nor is it bare power that we have to recognize; but goodness, mercy,
loving-kindness. And all these kindnesses of God He would have us
Ø By a confession of our entire dependence upon Him.
Ø By grateful retrospect of the past; remembering and recalling
through what scenes God has brought us year by year.
Ø By grateful survey of the blessings which are around us now. Nor
should we ever lose account that which is the substratum of the
book of Deuteronomy and the Bible, that is that we are sinful
beings and as His dependent creatures have His mercy, except
through THE REDEMPTIVE GRACE OF OUR LORD AND
SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST! Our earnest query should be
“What shall we render to the Lord for all His benefits toward us?”
BUT PRACTICAL. There was to be the offering of the first-fruits to the
Lord (see ch.14:22-29). When God gave all, what precept could be more
appropriate? What can be more becoming than to let God have the first
of everything? There is no better guarantee of a wise and right use of our
substance than the conscientious dedication of first-fruits to our God.
God hath given us “all things richly to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17). And men
who know nothing of the Christian consecration of all things to God do not
know how to enjoy what they possess. If men rejoice in earthly good for its
own sake, it will soon cease to yield delight. “The world passeth away, and
the lust thereof” (I John 2:17). But when regarded, received, and spent
in the way we have already pointed out, it may yield a pure delight.
Ø It will be enjoyed, as the gift of One who is our redeeming God,
in covenant relation to us, and with whom we are at peace.
Ø It will be enjoyed, because such a man will bear about with him
the holy and blessed consciousness that he is fulfilling God’s
will and spreading God’s cause in the right use of His gifts.
Ø It will be enjoyed, because such a one knows that God’s blessing is
resting on him and on all he has, that, rich as may be his earthly good,
though he enjoys it while it lasts, yet he can afford to hold it with a
loose hand, for it is not his all, and that when he is called to part
with it, he will find richer treasure still laid up for him in heaven.
Thus and thus alone is it possible to extract from earthly good the
full delight it is calculated and intended to yield. If we make
worldly possessions the food of our souls, they will turn to ashes
in the mouth. They bring no blessing with them. They will
disappoint, and if they take their flight, as they so often do, we
shall be left miserably poor. But if through the grace and Spirit of
our God we are led first to choose God as our all, and then to use
our all for God, we shall enjoy the life that now is and enter on
a fullness of joy in that which is to come.
On the occasion of presenting the tithes, a special service was also to be made.
The tithe here referred to is the vegetable or predial tithe, which, at the end of each
third year, as here prescribed, was to be converted into a gift to the poor and needy.
This, properly the second tithe (Septuagint, τὸ δεύτερον ἐπιδέκατον – to
deuteron epidekaton ), but usually called the third tithe (Tobit 1:7, 8; Josephus, ‘
Antiq.,’ 4:8, 22), is quite distinct from the Levitical tithe prescribed in Leviticus
27:30-33 and Numbers 18:21- 32; and it is a mistake to suppose that the law here
was designed to contravene or supersede that in the earlier books). As this tithe
completed the triennial series of tithes which the Israelites had to offer, it was
fitting that in presenting it a solemn declaration should be made by the offerer to
the effect that he had honorably and conscientiously discharged all the obligations
in this respect which the Law laid upon him.
12 “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine
increase the third year, which is the year of tithing,” - As each week
ended with a Sabbath, so a sabbatical year ended each cycle or week of
years; and as on it no tithes were levied, “the year of tithing” here specified
would be the third and the sixth years in each septennial period - “and hast
given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow,
that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;”
13 “Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God,” - i.e. address Him as
present and ready to hear. The expression, “before the Lord,” does not necessarily
imply that it was in the sanctuary that the prayer was to be offered. Isaac proposed to
bless his son “before the Lord,” i.e. within his own house or tent (Genesis 27:7);
and so the Israelite here might in his own home make his prayer to the Omnipresent
Jehovah - “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,” - This is not a
self-righteous boast; it is rather a solemn profession of attention to duties which
might have been neglected, and refers, not to the keeping of every commandment,
but to the having faithfully done all that the Law required in respect of tithes - “neither
have I forgotten them.”
14 “I have not eaten thereof in my mourning,” - i.e. while ceremonially unclean
(compare Leviticus 7:20; 21:1) - “neither have I taken away ought thereof for
any unclean use,” - rather, Neither have I removed ought of it being unclean;
i.e. he had not only not eaten of it, but he had not removed any part of it from his
house (v. 13) while he was ceremonially unclean, in which state it was unlawful to
touch what was hallowed (Leviticus 22:23) - “nor given ought thereof for the
dead:” - i.e. on account of the dead; he had not sent any part of it to where there
was one dead, accordingto the custom for friends and relations to send to a house
of mourning provisions for the mourners (II Samuel 3:35; Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4).
Or the reference may be here to the expenses incurred by the death of one for
whose funeral the individual had to provide. This was the strongest possible
protestation that he had dealt faithfully in the matter of tithing and consecrated
things and in charities to the poor. He had not allowed himself to divert anything to
other uses, not even by the most pressing and unforeseen emergencies. It is
here assumed, or rather implied, that times of mourning for the dead were
expensive, and also that the stern law of custom obliged the bereaved to
defray those expenses, however onerous.... The temptation, therefore, to
devote a part of the tithes, hallowed things, and charities to defray these
enormous, unforeseen, and providential expenses would be very urgent,
and he who stood faithful at such times might safely be trusted on all other
occasions. The Septuagint rendering, τῷ τεθνήκοτι,– to tethnaekoti –
“to the dead,” has led some to suppose that the reference here is to the
placing of articles of food in the tomb along with the corpse; but though this
custom prevailed among the Jews in later times, as well as among other peoples,
there is no ground for supposing it to be referred to here. As all connected with
a dead body was held to be unclean, as well as the body itself, a house of
mourning with its inhabitants was held to be unclean, and into it, therefore, nothing
that had been hallowed might be lawfully carried -“but I have hearkened to the
voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that thou hast
15 “Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven,” - (Compare Isaiah
63:15; 66:1.) “and bless thy people
given us, as thou swearst unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk
Obedience and Prayer (vs. 12-15)
When the people will faithfully carry out the precepts and ordinances of God
with regard to the tithes, to the offerings, to the poor, the fatherless, and widow,
and the specific injunctions with respect to ceremonial purity, when this is done,
so that they can declare it before the Lord, (v.13) then they may also plead with
God for a blessing. They, having, with a clear conscience and an upright will,
fulfilled to the extent of their knowledge the requirements of their holy
religion, may then come and entreat their God for His benediction and smile,
according to His promise. Hence we have presented to us the idea of the
Integrity in the fulfillment of Divine commands a condition of acceptable prayer.
We propose to show how constantly this principle is recognized in the Word of
God, by a comparison of Scripture with Scripture.
Prayer is an inestimable privilege. That weak and sinful man should be
permitted to unburden his spirit to the Father of spirits is a mercy so great,
that no words can adequately express it. It is only on the ground of THE
ONE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST of which the Hebrew sacrifices were but
foreshadowings, that such fellowship between God and sinful man is
vouchsafed. We may pray, because we “are not under Law, but under
grace.” But though through the aboundings of mercy sinful men are
permitted to pray, yet it is on the understanding that they repent of their
sin. And true though it be that we are under grace and not under Law, yet
grace brings with it its own law; it is no license to lawlessness. Throughout
the Word of God this precious privilege is guarded from abuse. Prayer is
not thrown open promiscuously. The shriek of a terrified man or the query
of an inquisitive man is not prayer. “The fear of the wicked, it shall come
upon him; but the desire of the righteous shall be granted” (Proverbs 10:24).
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer
of the upright is His delight” (Ibid. ch. 15:8). Let us trace the recognition of
his cry when trouble cometh upon him?” (Job 27:9)
the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) He expects no answer to
his prayer if in his inmost soul there is any tolerance of sin.
dedication of the temple, he prays “If they pray towards this place, and
confess thy Name, and turn from their sin... then hear thou in heaven,”
I Kings 8:35-36. In Proverbs 11:20; 15:8, 29; 21:13, 27 the same truth is
repeatedly taught. True penitence and integrity of will are necessary
conditions of appropriate prayer.
are words of priceless worth, which may well be a comfort to every
penitent; but they are often quoted without sufficient prominence being
given to the words which precede: “Wash you, make you clean; put
away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
learn to do well,” (Ibid. vs. 16-17); then follow the words, “Come now,
and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like
crimson, they shall be as wool.” Past sin is forgiven when it is forsaken,
and only then.
Ezekiel 14:1-11). Ezekiel is bidden to tell them that it is useless to
inquire of God if they were cherishing any hidden sin; it would be a
stumbling-block of iniquity, that would prevent any answer coming from
God. How grievously the disheartened Saul found this out! (I Samuel
they have withholden the tithes from God, and that consequently God is
withholding the blessing from them (Malachi 3:1-12). Thus in the varied
ages of the Jewish Church this truth is uniformly taught, that
CHERISHED SIN WILL BLOCK UP THE WAY TO ANSWERED
TESTAMENT. Our Lord taught it. See Matthew 5:23-24, in which we
are forbidden to present any offering to God while anger towards a brother
is cherished in the heart. In (Ibid. 6:15), we are assured that he who
forgives not is not forgiven. In John 15:7, 16, our Lord shows His
disciples that the condition of their freedom and success in prayer is fruitful
obedience. The Apostle James also warns those to whom he is writing that
the non-success of their prayer is owing to impurity in the will, and if they
would that God should draw nigh to them, they must return unto Him
It may be said (Luke 18:11-12) in that passage the Pharisee, who had
been most punctilious in his discharge of sundry obligations, and most
austerely proper in his outward conduct, is yet rejected. How is this? The
reply is threefold.
o He did not pray at all. Not one petition did he offer.
o He thanked God he was so good! As if there were any
merit in simply doing one’s duty, or any cause for
o He looked down with scorn on others. He “exalted
himself.” His spirit was wrong, though his observances
might be right..
v In conclusion:
§ A man who tells lies over the counter cannot pray.
§ A man who bribes or who accepts a bribe cannot pray.
§ A man who forgives not, asks uselessly for forgiveness.
The only advice to be given to such is to repeat the apostolic
demand, “Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray.”
The possibility that any secret sin may be shutting off any answer
to our prayers should make us cry fervently, “Search me, O God,
and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if
there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way
everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Let none be disheartened at the stringency of the demands of God’s grace; rather
let the heart be unreservedly opened to God in gratitude for His holiness, and for
His desire for the absolute purity of His people; rather let us be supremely solicitous
to be “UPRIGHT IN HEART.”
Self-Examination (vs. 12-15)
Ø As to religious givings.
Ø As to our fulfillment of the duties of hospitality and charity.
Ø As to the condition in which these duties have been performed -
as to motive (regard to God’s commandment), and as a right state
before God (the state of sanctification).
o Self-examination, to be of service, should be:
§ Conscientious — as “before the Lord thy God”
(v. 13), who cannot be deceived.
§ Periodical, as:
v At the end of a year.
v The close of a financial year.
v Even the end of a week. A review of this,
a suitable Sabbath day’s employment.
Ø Prevents neglect. Things which we ought to do — which, at bottom,
we are willing to do — get frequently overlooked:
Ø Prevents procrastination.
Ø Prevents self-deception. When duty is known, it does not follow
that it is always done, or that we are always aware of the extent
of our shortcomings. We may be greatly deceiving ourselves in this
very particular. There may grow upon us the vicious habit of
comparing ourselves with others rather than with THE STANDARD
OF THE DIVINE LAW. And nowhere is self-deception more
common than in the matter of religious and charitable givings.
People often are heard expatiating on the vexatiousness of the calls
of this kind made on them, who, were they to put their givings all
together, would find that they did not amount to so much as they
have often spent on the gratification of some whim, perhaps on a
single dinner-party. Self-examination would counteract the tendency
to take our performances of duty so readily for granted. It would
require the rich man to measure his givings directly with his income,
and with the proportion of that income which he felt to be due to
Ø Makes hypocrisy more difficult. The withholder of the tithes would
scarcely venture to stand before God and make this solemn
declaration. His tongue might well cleave to the roof of his mouth
if he attempted it. He would feel that he must either go and do what
he ought or hold his peace.
Moses winds up his address by a solemn admonition to the people to keep
and observe the laws and commandments which the Lord by him had laid
upon them, reminding them that they had entered into covenant with God,
and had thereby pledged themselves to obedience to all that He had enjoined,
as He on His part had pledged Himself to be their Benefactor, WHO
WOULD FULFILL TO THEM ALL HIS GRACIOUS PROMISES
and would exalt them above all the nations of the earth.
16 “This day” - This refers generally to the time when this discourse was
Delivered - “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.”
17 “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:” Thou hast avouched;
literally, Thou hast caused Jehovah this day to say to be a God unto thee;
i.e. thou hast given occasion to Him to declare Himself to be thy God, and
(as a consequence of this) that thou shouldest walk in His ways and keep His
commandments. In declaring that He was their God, He virtually declared also
that they were to be wholly obedient to Him.
18 “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;” So, on the other hand, God had given
to say that they were His special people, His treasured possession (compare
Exodus 19:5-6), whose it was, as such, to keep all His commandments, and
to whom He would be faithful to fulfill all that He had promised. (Joshua’s later
testimony was “ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not
one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God
spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing
hath failed thereof!” - Joshua 23:14)
19 “And to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in
praise, and in name, and in honor; and that thou mayest be an holy
people unto the LORD thy God, as He hath spoken.” (Compare Jeremiah
13:11; 33:9; Zephaniah 3:19-20.) An holy people (Exodus 19:5-6). The
be accomplished in the glory to which the people of God were to be exalted
Israel and God Exchanging Pledges (vs. 16-19)
A wonderful sight! Israel and God exchanging pledges, plighting troth,
“avouching” fidelity each to the other. The people, by the heed they had
given to Moses’ exposition of the Law, perhaps by signs made as he
proceeded, had avouched their willingness to abide in the covenant. God,
in turn, had renewed his promises and pledges towards them. The covenant
thus renewed was the same in essentials as that made with believers.
OBEDIENCE. (v. 17.) It did so under the Law. It does so under the
gospel. The gospel exhibits grace, and involves at the outset the reception
of that grace. Nevertheless, obedience is required of us. It is the end of our
redemption. We die with Christ that we may rise with Him to newness of
life (Romans 6:4). Every real believer will seek to render obedience! It is a
condition when we have experienced true salvation (Romans 2:6-12).
· COVENANT WITH GOD INVOLVES A RELATION OF
PECULIAR NEARNESS. (v. 18,) This is borne out by all Scripture.
God chooses us, in Christ, to a relation of nearness so remarkable that it
has no counterpart, save in the Son’s relation to the Father (John 17:21).
The saints are his peculiar treasure (I Peter 2:9-10). He is their “SHIELD,”
and their “EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD” (Genesis 15:1). They are
nearer to Him than the angels;
“Near, near, so near,
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of His Son
I am as near as He.”
BLESSEDNESS. (v. 19.) Great distinction was in store for
should it prove obedient. God says He will make it high above all nations,
“in praise, and in name, and in honor.”
Ø Its honor would consist:
o In the proud distinction of being God’s people (ch. 4:7).
o In its high moral repute (Ibid. v.6).
o In the material preeminence to which obedience would be certain
to raise it (Ibid. ch.7:12-16). Obedience, honor, blessedness, are
three ideas ultimately inseparable. The “glory, honor, immortality”
of heaven are for those who persevere in well-doing (Romans 2:7),
for “an holy
people.” The honors in store for obedient
as they were, are not to be compared with the “EXCEEDING
AND ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY” now revealed as the
inheritance of believers (II Corinthians 4:17).
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