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Deuteronomy 26:5 . A Syrian ready to perish. The whole Hebrew family came from Mesopotamia, and Jacob repassed the Euphrates with only a staff in his hand. It is good to remember that we rose from the dust, and return to it again.
Deuteronomy 26:12 . The year of tithing. In attempting to discuss the doctrine of tithes once for all, it may be proper to premise, that it was the universal custom of the whole patriarchal world, and of all the early gentile nations, to give the tenth of their fruits and the firstlings of their flocks to the Lord. This is obvious from Abraham’s giving the tenth of his captured spoil to Melchizedek, Genesis 14:20; and from Jacob, who vowed to give his tenths to the Lord, which were partly consumed on the altar, and chiefly eaten by himself and the poor as a religious festival. Genesis 28:22. The Persians also gave the tenths, as appears from many passages in Xenophon’s Cyropædia, which assert that Cyrus would never suffer his immense spoils to be divided, till the priests had taken their share. A multitude of quotations may be found in Critical Commentators from Greek writers, which prove that this was the universal practice and custom of all the east: consequently the spirit of the doctrine is of full force and everlasting obligation. This question, in our advanced state of agriculture, being very interesting; the following may be stated as the result of a careful examination of several critical writers on the principal passages which require the payment of tithes. It is agreed on all hands that the Jews gave the tithe as above to the Lord; out of which the priest took a tenth of the tithe, or a hundredth part of the increase of the whole land; and the levites had the nine parts. This the people gave besides all their sin-offerings, their peace-offerings, gifts, &c. If on account of the distance of the way to Shiloh, and afterwards to Jerusalem, a person turned his tithe into money, he was required to add a fifth part thereto; because a modus being in favour of the farmer, the Lord must have his full and perfect right. “Will a man rob God?” Now, besides this tithe, besides these freewill offerings, most of the christian divines contend, that there was a second general tithing throughout all Israel of the tenths, which for two years was eaten before the Lord in his holy place, and the third year it was eaten at home by the levites and the poor. They quote in favour of this second tithing, Exodus 23:19. Leviticus 27:30-31. But both these texts most evidently refer to the regular tithe of the priests and levites. Our Richard Ward, (anno 1640) quotes MOSES ROTSENS, fol. 199, Colossians 3:0, to say, that in doubtful things, as mint, anise, and cummin, the sanhedrim decreed, that a second tithe should be paid. Matthew 23:23. No proof appears however, of a second general tithing, so confidently asserted. And it may be asked, considering the small part of the Israelites who went up to the temple, and admitting them to stop in all fifteen days at the three feasts, how could they eat the tenth part of the produce, besides all their other offerings? It may also be enquired, whether the levites had double tithe; for in the third year they were to eat in the houses of the people, in common with the poor. Now these assertions concerning a double tithe eaten at home the third year, as in the two other years before the Lord, flatly contradict the letter of scripture, which says, that the people did eat the FIRSTLINGS of their herds before the Lord, and that the third year the tithe of their increase was set apart at home for the levites and the poor. Deuteronomy 14:22-28. Against this statement, it is farther objected, that Tobit, chap. Deuteronomy 1:7-8, gave the tenth of all his increase to the priests; that he sold the second tenth, and spent all the money at Jerusalem, and the third he gave to them to whom it was meet. But what is the third? The Vulgate, which is in general the standard of modern translations, reads, “But I went to the temple of the LORD: and worshipped there the Lord God of Israel, faithfully offering unto him all his firstfruits and his tenths: and the third year I distributed all the tenths to the proselytes and strangers.” Sed pergebat in Jerusalem ad templum Domini, et ibi adorabat Dominum Deum Israel, omnia primitiva, sua, et decimas suas fideliter offrens: Ita ut in tertin anno proselytis et advenis ministraret omnem decimationem. Thus the Vulgate perfectly agrees with Deuteronomy 14:22-28. Hence it appears plain, that the overplus of the tithe was eaten by the poor, and in a religious way.
No branch of the ceremonial code was more reasonable and instructive than the oblation of the firstfruits to God, who has every claim of gratitude from his creatures. The Israelite, dwelling in a climate the most salubrious, and on a soil the most fertile that can be conceived, would find his piety very much increased by the oblation of so small a tribute to his Maker: for reflection must accompany his gift. He must retrace the astonishing history of his Sires. He must recollect that Jacob was an Assyrian ready to perish; that he passed the brook simply with a staff in his hand, when fleeing from the wrath of Esau; that Laban after twenty years, pursued him to take away his life and his substance; that the Lord, conformably to his promise and oath, had preserved him unhurt from a thousand dangers, and now made him a great nation controlling all the east. Interesting recollections for the posterity of a patriarch. Surely this family was in covenant with God; surely providence had watched for its welfare; surely the strong arm of God had been their salvation, or they had never escaped from Egypt, and conquered Canaan. And that arm, that providence, the Hebrew would say, has been thy salvation too! Oh that my heart would melt like wax. Oh that my eyes might overflow with tears of grateful joy. Oh that my whole life might repay, were it possible, in homage and thanksgiving to my God! Christians, here are sentiments worthy of evangelical times, and here is piety pleasing to God. Here we have the gospel preached by the shadows of the law. Israel’s JEHOVAH, and messenger of the covenant, who required the earthly firstfruits to be brought into his sanctuary, as if he had been long in arrears with man, hath himself repaid in the firstfruits of paradise. On the day of pentecost, the festival when the Israelites offered their fruits, he shed down on the church the firstfruits of the Spirit. Romans 8:24. Three thousand were converted one day, and five thousand another, as a sort of firstfruits unto God. And all the saints, having once tasted of these celestial fruits, the indulgent returns of heaven, groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their bodies. Oh my soul, what wonders are couched in the divine law! The whole sanctuary of God is full of glory, full of grace; and if the whole Hebrew nation rejoiced when they saw the courts crowded with sheaves, how much more should we rejoice when all these temporal gifts are changed into spiritual blessings, and pregnant with all the hopes of the Messiah’s kingdom, and eternal glory.
But while the christian is endeavouring to present his body and soul to the church, as a sort of firstfruits unto God, let him remember that he also was an Assyrian, a poor dark sinner, ready to perish, being carried away with the vanities and vices of the age. But now the Lord has enlightened and converted his soul, and raised him up to the hope of all his saints; let him review the mercies and cares of an indulgent providence; let him review his provocations and sins, and the dangers through which he has passed. Oh the care and kindness of God: oh the weight of mercies crowding from all preseding years! Let his eyes overflow with grateful tears; let his vanquished heart say, what shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for all his wonderful works to the children of men.
On giving thanks for spiritual things, we must not forget our temporal mercies. These, so great in the Hebrew code, are less noticed in the christian scriptures. But in this commercial age, in a country abounding with smiling farms, towering factories, immense merchandise, and ports which seem the emporiums of the earth; in a country high above all nations, let us remember that our fathers once wandered in the English woods eating acorns, and clothed in skins, and that christianity has now made us the first of nations.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 26". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26