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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Deuteronomy 26

Deuteronomy 26:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Law Inscribed on StoneThe Shechem CeremonyGod's Laws Written on StonesThe Writing of the Law and Religious Ceremonies
Deuteronomy 27:1-8Deuteronomy 27:1-8Deuteronomy 27:1-8Deuteronomy 27:1-3
Deuteronomy 27:4-8
Deuteronomy 27:9-10Deuteronomy 27:9-10Deuteronomy 27:9-10Deuteronomy 27:9-10
Curses Pronounced from Mount Ebal The Curses on Disobedience
Deuteronomy 27:11-13Deuteronomy 27:11-14Deuteronomy 2:11-14Deuteronomy 27:11-14
Deuteronomy 27:14-26
Deuteronomy 27:15Deuteronomy 27:1527;15
Deuteronomy 27:16Deuteronomy 27:16Deuteronomy 27:16
Deuteronomy 27:17Deuteronomy 27:17Deuteronomy 27:17
Deuteronomy 27:18Deuteronomy 27:18Deuteronomy 27:18
Deuteronomy 27:19Deuteronomy 27:19Deuteronomy 27:19
Deuteronomy 27:20Deuteronomy 27:20Deuteronomy 27:20
Deuteronomy 27:21Deuteronomy 27:21Deuteronomy 27:21
Deuteronomy 27:22Deuteronomy 27:22Deuteronomy 27:22
Deuteronomy 27:23Deuteronomy 27:23Deuteronomy 27:23
Deuteronomy 27:24Deuteronomy 27:24Deuteronomy 27:24
Deuteronomy 27:25Deuteronomy 27:25Deuteronomy 27:25
Deuteronomy 27:26Deuteronomy 27:26Deuteronomy 27:26

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 1”Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, 2that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the LORD your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name. 3You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, 'I declare this day to the LORD my God that I have entered the land which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.' 4Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God. 5You shall answer and say before the LORD your God, 'My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation. 6'And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. 7Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; 8and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; 9and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.' And you shall set it down before the Lord your God, and worship before the LORD your God; 11and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.”

Deuteronomy 26:1 “when you enter the land” This documents the fact that Israel was still on the plains of Moab on the eastern side of the Jordan when these words of Moses were given.

“the LORD your God” See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

“gives you as an inheritance” This is an idiom of Israel's election (cf. Exodus 6:4, Exodus 6:8; Exodus 15:17; Exodus 23:30; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 1:6-8; Deuteronomy 4:38, Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:31; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Deuteronomy 9:4-6; Deuteronomy 11:8-12, Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 26:1, Deuteronomy 26:9; Deuteronomy 32:49, Deuteronomy 32:52; Deuteronomy 34:4). The land (all land) belongs to YHWH (cf. Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 25:23). If Israel is not obedient to YHWH's covenant He will dispossess them (cf. Leviticus 26:14-33; Deuteronomy 4:25-28; Joshua 23:14-16), but still YHWH will have mercy (cf. Deuteronomy 4:29-31; Deuteronomy 30:1-3, Deuteronomy 30:10).

Deuteronomy 26:2 “you shall take some of the first of all the produce” The exact amount for the offering of the first fruits is not specified (but it could fit in one basket, cf. Deuteronomy 26:3, Deuteronomy 26:4). This account seems to be a one time event on the plains of Moab but it reflects a later regular harvest ritual (cf. Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:16, Exodus 23:19). This practice was a metaphorical way of showing God's ownership of the entire crop. The same ownership symbolism is exemplified in (1) the firstborn; (2) tithing; (3) the Sabbath; (4) the sabbath year; and (5) the Year of Jubilee.

“the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name” This refers to God's choice of the location of the central sanctuary, which is a distinctly Deuteronomic emphasis (cf. Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14, Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 12:21, Deuteronomy 12:26; Deuteronomy 14:23, Deuteronomy 14:24, Deuteronomy 14:25; Deuteronomy 15:20; Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:6, Deuteronomy 16:7, Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:15, Deuteronomy 16:16; Deuteronomy 17:8, Deuteronomy 17:10; Deuteronomy 18:6; Deuteronomy 26:2; Deuteronomy 31:11). It was originally at Gilgal, then Shechem, then Shiloh, then Mizpah, and later, after David's conquest of Jebus, Jerusalem (cf. 2 Samuel 5:6-7; 1 Chronicles 11:5, 1 Chronicles 11:7). The purpose of a central sanctuary was tribal and religious unity. It was also to keep the Israelites away from local Ba'al shrines.

Deuteronomy 26:3 “the priest who is in office at that time” At first this seems to refer to the High Priest of Aaron's line (cf. The Tyndale OT Commentary, “Deuteronomy,” p. 254), but the context demands that it refers to the different families of Aaronic priests who took turns ministering at the central altar.

“and say to him” All that follows is a liturgy to be repeated by those who obediently bring their first fruits to the Tabernacle or later the central sanctuary.

“the LORD my God” The MT has “your” God. This variation in PRONOUNS had no theological meaning. It was simply a Hebrew idiom of talking to someone of religious authority.

Deuteronomy 26:4 “priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar” Many compare Deuteronomy 26:10 and claim a contradiction. The problem is, we do not have a detailed account of the ritual.

Deuteronomy 26:5 “My father” This refers to the patriarch Jacob, later called Israel (cf. Genesis 32:28 and Special Topic: Israel at Deuteronomy 1:1). This was a theological statement about their being God's chosen people. This was a creedal affirmation.

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB“wandering” NKJV“about to perish” REB“homeless” JPSOA“fugitive”

This means “perishing” (BDB 1, KB 2, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE). Sometimes this term is used of a lost or wandering animal (1 Samuel 9:3; Jeremiah 50:6; Ezekiel 34:4, Ezekiel 34:16).

“Aramean” This refers to Padan-Aram or Syria (BDB 74, cf. Genesis 25:20; Genesis 28:5; Genesis 31:20, Genesis 31:24). Laban was from this area which included the city of Haran (cf. Genesis 31:40-42). Jacob lived there for several years and then fled from Laban.

“sojourned” This VERB (BDB 157, KB 184, Qal IMPERFECT) means to dwell as a newcomer or resident alien (cf. Genesis 47:4).

“few in number” In Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5 it says that they were originally only 70 persons. When they left Egypt their number was as high (cf. Deuteronomy 1:10; 20:22; Exodus 1:9) as 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 persons. The number depends on the proper interpretation of the Hebrew term “thousand.” It can mean (1) a literal 1,000; (2) a clan; or (3) a military unit (cf. Exodus 12:37). See Special Topic: Thousand (eleph).

Deuteronomy 26:7 “we cried to the LORD. . .heard our voice and saw our affliction” God had promised and foretold Abraham about this (cf. Genesis 15:12-21; Exodus 3:7, Exodus 3:9).

“the LORD, the God of our fathers” This identified the God of the Patriarch's, El Shaddai (cf. Exodus 6:2-9), with YHWH, who confronted Moses (cf. Exodus 3:14). See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

Deuteronomy 26:8 “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” This is expressed in anthropomorphic language of power and victory. See note at Deuteronomy 4:34. It is also possible that this particular idiom was chosen because it is used so often in Egyptian literature and art for Pharaoh's power

“with great terror and with signs and wonders” This relates to the ten plagues on Egypt (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 11:3; Deuteronomy 26:8; Deuteronomy 29:2; Deuteronomy 34:11).

Deuteronomy 26:9 “a land flowing with milk and honey” This was both a physical description and the legal designation for Palestine in the Assyrian documents. God gave them a wonderfully productive and beautiful inheritance (i.e., Canaan or Palestine, cf. Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 26:9; Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 31:20).

Deuteronomy 26:10 “You, O LORD have given me” This shows a true religious perspective on life (cf. Deuteronomy 26:2; Deuteronomy 8:11-20). This verse implies that one growing season has past or that the Israelites dedicated the produce they found growing.

“worship” This is literally “prostrate oneself” (BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtapael PERFECT). See Special Topic: Worship.

Deuteronomy 26:11 “you. . .shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household” Note the festival element in God's dealings with His covenant people (and others who lived with them, i.e., aliens). Worship should be joyful! Reverence cannot be defined as silence and somberness! The rabbis later used this verse to refer to rejoicing over the giving of the Law (cf. Deuteronomy 26:14).

Verses 12-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 26:12-15 12”When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13You shall say before the LORD your God, 'I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments. 14'I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. I have listened to the voice of the LORD my God; I have done according to all that You have commanded me. 15Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers.'“

Deuteronomy 26:12 “tithe” See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: TITHES IN THE MOSAIC LEGISLATION

“in the third year” This refers to the “poor tithe,” administered locally (cf. Deuteronomy 14:28-29) by the tither, but attested to at the central sanctuary (cf. Deuteronomy 26:13).

Deuteronomy 26:13 “the sacred portion The tithe belonged to the Lord and was, therefore, holy (cf. Leviticus 27:30).

Deuteronomy 26:14 “while mourning” Some mourning rites were pagan in origin. This Hebrew word is associated with idolatry (BDB 19, cf. Hosea 9:4 and Jeremiah 16:5-7), which includes some of these local pagan customs. Many scholars believe all of the procedures mentioned in Deuteronomy 26:14 relate to local Canaanite annual worship practices.

“while I was unclean” The Jerusalem Bible translates this as, “I have consumed nothing that was unclean”; the Septuagint has “for an unclean purpose” (cf. Haggai 2:13), but the MT is referring to the testimony of the individual offerer.

“nor offered any of it to the dead” Lamsa, in a footnote to The Peshitta, translated in English, has “not used to feed relatives after the funeral,” but in context, it probably refers to pagan ancestral worship practices.

“I have listened. . .I have done according to” The individual offerer is affirming his obedience and conformity (both VERBS are Qal PERFECTS) to YHWH's law revealed through Moses (“commanded” BDB 845, KB 1010, Piel PERFECT).

Deuteronomy 26:15 This describes YHWH in transcendent terms (cf. Deuteronomy 4:36; 1 Kings 8:27-30; Isaiah 66:1). He remained in heaven. He sent an angel to lead His people (cf. Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:23; Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2). One must balance God's holy otherness (transcendence) and His present intimate love (immanence).

The VERBS, “look down” (BDB 1054, KB 1645, Hiphil IMPERATIVE) and “bless” (BDB 138, KB 159, Piel IMPERATIVE), are imperatives or requests.

Verses 16-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 26:16-19 16”This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. 18The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; 19and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the LORD your God, as He has spoken.”

Deuteronomy 26:16 This is a summary conclusion and commitment (i.e., ratification) to the specific laws of chapters 12-26. This covenant affirmation was to be repeated by each new generation, individually.

“these statutes and ordinances” See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation.

“be careful to do them” Obedience is crucial!

“with all your heart and with all your soul” Obedience alone was inadequate. It must flow from a desire to honor, love, and serve YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12).

Deuteronomy 26:17

NASB“declared” NKJV“proclaimed” NRSV, NJB“obtained” TEV“acknowledged”

This is a rare Hebrew term (BDB 55, KB 65) in the Hiphil stem, used only here in Deuteronomy 26:17 and in Deuteronomy 26:18. The worshiper declared his obedience and allegiance to YHWH and YHWH declared back to the worshiper his election and call to be His unique people (i.e., covenant).

Deuteronomy 26:18

NASB“a treasured possession” NKJV“His special people” NRSV“His treasured people” TEV, NJB“his own people”

This is also a rare Hebrew term (BDB 688, cf. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalms 135:4).

Because the liturgy of this chapter does not specifically mention the Mt. Sinai/Horeb event, then some modern scholars reject the historicity of the event. However, the rare use of this term, both in Exodus 19:5 and Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; and here) suggests that by its very usage it is an allusion to the event!

This creed also does not mention creation. Is it then to also be rejected as a historical event?

Deuteronomy 26:19 “He will set you high above all nations” This is repeated in Deuteronomy 28:1, Deuteronomy 28:13, but note the tragedy of Deuteronomy 26:1 and 7:23-26! The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 1035, also sees this verse as Israel's obligation to reflect YHWH's praiseworthiness to the world! Therefore, this is a “Great Commission” verse! Israel had a “missionary” task (e.g., Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 4:2; Jeremiah 12:14-17; Jeremiah 16:19; Jeremiah 33:9)! See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan!

“a consecrated people” This is literally “holy” (BDB 872), which means “set apart for God's use.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How are the first fruits related to the tithe? How many tithes were there?

2. Why is Deuteronomy 26:5 so important?

3. Explain the historical background of Deuteronomy 26:14ff.

4. Why and how are the Jews chosen?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 26". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-26.html. 2021.