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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Deuteronomy 26

Verses 1-11

The presentation of the firstfruits 26:1-11

When the Israelites entered the land they were to bring a special offering of firstfruits they harvested from the land to Yahweh at the tabernacle (cf. Deuteronomy 14:22-27). It was to be an expression of their gratitude to God for fulfilling His promise to bring them into the land. This was to be a combination of the feast of Firstfruits and a ceremony of covenant renewal. [Note: W. J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation, p. 116.] They were to remember their humble origins as well as express gratitude for their present blessings. The "father" referred to (Deuteronomy 26:5) was Jacob. Moses described him as an Aramean because he lived many years in Paddan-aram, and he married his wives and began his family there. Jacob was essentially simply a semi-nomad whom God had blessed (cf. Deuteronomy 18:4; Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:12-20).

It was common for Semites to regard a part of the whole as the whole (Deuteronomy 26:9; cf. Joshua 21:43-45; 2 Samuel 5:6-10; 1 Kings 13:32; Jeremiah 31:5). They did not think of the firstfruits that they offered to God as the only portion they owed God. They viewed it as representing all that God had given them, all of which belonged to Him. [Note: See A. J. Mattill Jr., "Representative Universalism and the Conquest of Canaan," Concordia Theological Monthly 35:1 (1967):8-17.]

God’s people should acknowledge God’s goodness to them publicly, not forgetting their former condition (cf. Hebrews 13:15; Ephesians 5:4; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 3:16; Colossians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 9:15).

Verses 1-15

1. Laws of covenant celebration and confirmation 26:1-15

The ordinances with which Moses concluded his second address (chs. 5-26) not only specified the Israelites’ actions in further respects but also focused their thinking on the goodness of God.

Verses 1-19

C. Covenant celebration, confirmation, and conclusion ch. 26

This chapter concludes the "purely legal material" [Note: Thompson, p. 253.] begun in chapter 5.

Verses 12-15

The presentation of the third year tithe 26:12-15

This offering and commitment to the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:1-11) was only part of the Israelites’ responsibility. They also needed to love their fellow dependent Israelites (Deuteronomy 26:12-15; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5).

"Every third year the tithe was kept in the villages for the relief of the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29) and was thus outside the control of the priests. To prevent irregularities in its distribution, and at the same time to preserve the religious character of the obligation, the man of Israel was required to make a solemn declaration at the central sanctuary that he had used the tithe according to the divine law." [Note: Thompson, p. 257.]

At least one commentator assumed that they made this declaration at the tabernacle, but the text seems to indicate that they did this wherever the Israelites lived.

Offering food to the dead (Deuteronomy 26:14) was a Canaanite religious practice, and putting food in a grave with a dead body was a common Egyptian and Canaanite practice. [Note: Kalland, p. 156.]

God’s people should continue to trust Him for the fulfillment of promised blessings yet unrealized (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10; 2 Peter 3:3-18).

Verses 16-19

2. Summary exhortation 26:16-19

"The presentation of the commandments and the statutes and ordinances that will guide Israel’s life in the land is over now. Deuteronomy 26:16 serves as a concluding bracket around chapters 5-26, matching Moses’ introduction to the whole in Deuteronomy 5:1 as well as his introduction to the section setting forth the statutes and ordinances in Deuteronomy 12:1 . . ." [Note: Miller, p. 184.]

"If we regard the long section Deuteronomy 5:1 to Deuteronomy 26:15 as containing the heart of the covenant law, both in terms of the general principles and of the specific stipulations (even allowing that in the present setting the material is ’law preached’ rather than ’codified law’), we may regard this small pericope as in the nature of an oath of allegiance (cf. Deuteronomy 29:10-15; Exodus 24:7). In form, the pericope looks like a contract in which the two parties bind themselves by means of a solemn declaration. Moses acts as a covenant mediator between Israel, who declares that she will be Yahweh’s people, and Yahweh, who declares that He will be Israel’s God (cf. Exodus 6:7; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:28). In fact the wording of the pericope makes it clear that both declarations refer to the obligations which must be fulfilled by Israel alone. Yahweh has no obligations to keep, but in grace He has blessings to bestow." [Note: Thompson, p. 258.]

"It is not difficult to see in this utterance the Lord’s missionary goal for Israel in a nutshell." [Note: Daniel I. Block, "The Privilege of Calling: The Mosaic Paradigm for Missions (Deuteronomy 26:16-19)," Bibliotheca Sacra 162:648 (October-December 2005):388.]

Obedience to the revealed will of God will result in maximum blessing for God’s people. Moses proceeded to develop this idea further in chapters 27-28. This, then, concludes Moses’ second address to the Israelites.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/deuteronomy-26.html. 2012.