New European Commentary


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Deu 26:1 When you come into the land which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance, and possess it and dwell in it-
"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.

Deu 26:2 take of the first of all the fruit of the ground which you bring in from your land that Yahweh your God gives you, and put it in a basket and go to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there-
It was therefore not impossible for God to accept non-blood sacrifices (Num. 15:17-21; 18:12,13; Dt. 26:1-4). Cain, the epitome of 'the devil' (Jn. 8:44), was characterized by the attitude that he was not his brother's keeper (Gen. 4:9). But the Lord Jesus perhaps offered a commentary on the incident when he said that our offering can only be accepted if we are first reconciled to our brother (Mt. 5:24). Cain's insistent lack of responsibility for his brother was the real sin, and therefore his sacrifice wasn't accepted by God. He wanted to serve God his own way, disregard his brother, justify his disagreement with him... to be a private person. But this was the basis of his rejection.

Deu 26:3 You shall come to the priest who will be in those days and tell him, I declare this day to Yahweh your God that I have come to the land which Yahweh swore to our fathers to give us-
There is both a collective and personal dimension to salvation. We are saved in the body of Christ, as Israel were saved in the body of Moses (1 Cor. 10:1,2). But each individual was to respond to this by personally visiting the sanctuary and declaring that the promises to Abraham were to him personally. And had been fulfilled. There is no evidence Israel ever did this. Whilst church membership and attendance is all good, the problem with membership of a denomination can lead to this vital individual dimension of salvation being overlooked. When it is of the essence.

Deu 26:4 The priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of Yahweh your God-
The cameraman of Divine inspiration is as it were zoomed in upon the individual setting down the basket out of his hand. This was to be a highly significant act; and yet there is no record Israel ever did so.

Like Paul in his time of dying, Moses in Deuteronomy saw the importance of obedience, the harder side of God; yet he also saw in real depth the surpassing love of God, and the grace that was to come, beyond Law. This appreciation reflected Moses' mature grasp of the Name / characteristics of God. He uses the name "Yahweh" in Deuteronomy over 530 times, often with some possessive adjective, e.g. "Yahweh thy God" [AV- i.e. you singular], or "Yahweh our God". He saw the personal relationship between a man and his God. Jacob reached a like realization at his peak.

Deu 26:5 You shall answer and say before Yahweh your God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father and he went down into Egypt and lived there, few in number, and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous-
The reference is to Gen. 20:13. Abraham's comment that God caused him to go astray from his father's house would likely have been understood by those who first heard it as a negative reference to God- for the word "gone astray" is used of a lost sheep (Jer. 50:6; Ez. 34:4,16; Ps. 119:176); and it was understood that "A bad shepherd causes a sheep to go astray from the flock because he is careless". Perhaps God recognized Abraham's failure by instructing His people to confess every year that "An Aramean gone astray was my father" (Dt. 26:5). I take this to be a reference to Abraham more than Jacob; for it seems that the people of Aram migrated to Ur, and that Abraham having settled in Padan Aram, Abraham could also for that reason be called an Aramean. So Israel were asked to remember that their forefather Abraham had gone astray both literally and spiritually; and thus Abraham's God was a God of grace, and was thereby their God too.

Israel were to recognize that their Arab brethren were in fact their cousins, and Abraham and Jacob their ancestors were at  times no more than starving, desperate, homeless, wandering Arabs. That they had been given a fruitful land was therefore a great grace to them.

The closer we look at the Pentateuch, the more we see the huge emphasis placed by Moses upon deconstructing the wrong views about Satan and presenting Yahweh as omnipotent, and the ultimate source of both good and evil in the lives of His people. Thus in the prayer of the first fruits recorded in Dt. 26:5-11 we have the Hebrew verb "to give" repeated seven times. The first and last three usages of it refer to what God has 'given' to Israel; but the centerpiece reference is to Israel being 'given hard bondage' in Egypt (Dt. 26:6). Thus Yahweh is presented as the ultimate giver- of both good and evil.

Deu 26:6 The Egyptians behaved badly with us, afflicted us and laid on us hard bondage-
Literally, 'gave us hard bondage'. The closer we look at the Pentateuch, the more we see the huge emphasis placed by Moses upon deconstructing the wrong views about Satan and presenting Yahweh as omnipotent, and the ultimate source of both good and evil in the lives of His people. Thus in the prayer of the first fruits recorded in Dt. 26:5-11 we have the Hebrew verb "to give" repeated seven times. The first and last three usages of it refer to what God has 'given' to Israel; but the centerpiece reference is to Israel being 'given hard bondage' in Egypt (Dt. 26:6). Thus Yahweh is presented as the ultimate giver- of both good and evil.

Deu 26:7 and we cried to Yahweh, the God of our fathers and Yahweh heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil and our oppression-
The individual Israelite was to perceive his absolute connection with God's historical deliverance of His people from Egypt. And to be appropriately awed by all the grace shown in that. In our world, human history is generally felt to be bunk, irrelevant to this generation, of merely passing cultural fascination to the hurrying man of modern society. And in some ways, that may indeed be a legitimate take on secular history. But Biblical history is to be seen quite otherwise by God's people. It is a living word spoken to us, and the salvation acts which are there recorded happened to us. We are to learn from history, not as a merely fascinating exercise. But the Bible is history, and yet it is a living word to us. Israel were supposed to reason back from the actions of Egypt towards them, and their weakness spiritually at that time. And to respond personally to that grace.

Deu 26:8 and Yahweh brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm and with great terror, with signs and wonders-
The might of Yahweh's hand was shown through His grace in as it were forcing Israel out of Egypt, when they actually wanted to remain there and He wished to destroy them (Ez. 20:8). They were idolatrous and had told Moses to leave them alone and let them serve the Egyptians. Yahweh's strength therefore refers to the power of His grace in continuing His program with them.  

Moses was to stretch forth his hand to cause the waters of the Red Sea to part and return, not his rod; because he was manifesting the hand of Yahweh which was to deliver Israel (s.w. Ex. 7:5). The repeated references to the stretched our arm or hand of Yahweh to save His people invite us to recall this incident, and to perceive that Yahweh's hand had been manifest through the hand of Moses (Dt. 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8). That stretched out, saving arm and hand of Yahweh was and is stretched out still, to save His people (1 Kings 8:42; Ez. 20:34; Dan. 9:15 "as at this day") and bring about a new creation in human lives (Is. 45:12). For the deliverance through the Red Sea is intended to be experienced by all God's people, and is now seen through His saving grace at baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2). What happened there was but the beginning of the work of God's outstretched arm (Dt. 3:24). Yet the stretched out arm / hand of God is also a figure for His judgment (1 Chron. 21:16; Is. 9:12; 10:4). His hand is at work in our lives- either to our condemnation or our salvation. And it is for us therefore to humble ourselves beneath that mighty hand (1 Pet. 5:6).

Deu 26:9 and He has brought us into this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey-
Israel came to describe the Egypt they had been called out from as the land flowing with milk and honey (Num. 16:12), and denied that the Kingdom was in fact like that. And so we have the same tendency to be deceived into thinking that the kingdoms of this world, the world around us, is effectively the Kingdom of God, the only thing worth striving after.

Deu 26:10 Now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which You, Yahweh, have given me. You shall set it down before Yahweh your God, and worship before Yahweh your God-
Again we lament that there was no record of their ever doing this. It was a redemption which went largely unappreciated by them. As noted on :4, the language is zoomed in upon the individual setting down the produce out of the basket in his hand.

Deu 26:11 You shall rejoice in all the good which Yahweh your God has given to you and to your house; you and the Levite and the foreigner who is in the midst of you-
So often, the Mosaic law associates rejoicing with giving, for truly it is more blessed or happy to give than to receive. The Lord's teaching about this was clearly reflective of this major Mosaic theme (Acts 20:35).

Deu 26:12 When you have made an end of tithing all your increase in the third year, which is the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the foreigner, to the fatherless and to the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled-
Israel were given manna in the wilderness, and they ate it and were full (Ex. 16:8,12). But they were promised that in the promised land of the Kingdom, they would likewise eat and be full, again from blessing given by God (s.w. Dt. 8:10; 11:15; 14:29; 26:12; 31:20). After our Red Sea baptism, we are now in the wilderness; but by feeding on the manna, the word of God in the Lord Jesus, we have a foretaste of the Kingdom experience. But the curse for disobedience was that they would eat and not be full / satisfied (Lev. 26:26). 

LXX "And when thou shalt have completed all the tithings of thy fruits in the third year, thou shalt give the second tenth to the Levite, and stranger, and fatherless, and widow; and they shall eat it in thy cities, and be merry". The stranger / foreigner may refer to those of the "mixed multitude" which were with them, or to those Canaanites who had accepted the message of Yahweh's Kingdom.

There were three separate tithes commanded under the Law of Moses. Yet the tithing churches have simply said: ‘There’s something about tithing in the Old Testament. So, hey, give us 10% of your money!’. The first was the Levitical tithe of 10% on 100% of the produce for the first six years and was destined for the Levites and priests (see too Dt. 12:19). The second tithe was the Festival tithe of 10% on the 90% remaining produce after the Levitical tithe. This tithe had to be eaten in the presence of the Lord and was collected on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years only. The third tithe was the tithe of the poor to be collected on the 3rd and 6th years only (Dt. 14:22-29; 26:12-15; Am. 4:4-5). No tithe was collected on the 7th year or Sabbatical year. The farmers were to let the land rest in that year. The tithe consisted of fruit, grain, wine and later animals that are treated as produce from the land. It never consisted of money. Tithes were conducted annually and were based upon one’s produce increase for the year. This just isn’t talking about putting paper money or cheques on an offering plate each week as demanded by the tithing churches.

Deu 26:13 You shall say before Yahweh your God, I have put away the holy things out of my house and have given them to the Levite and to the foreigner, to the fatherless and to the widow, according to all Your commandment which You have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of Your commandments, neither have I forgotten them-
So often the Mosaic law was designed to elicit introspection, and to convict of sin. For who could truly say "I have not transgressed any of Your commandments". These very words are placed by the Lord Jesus in the mouth of the hypocritical elder brother. and it is he who remains outside of the Father's fellowship, whereas the disobedient younger son is the one finally accepted. Likewise in the parable of the two sons, the one who says he will be totally obedient actually isn't. The whole structure of the law was to lead the spiritually minded Israelite to a conviction of sin, and a longing for a way to permanently resolve this. And that was to ultimately be in the Lord Jesus.

Deu 26:14 I have not eaten of it in mourning, neither have I put away any of it while unclean, nor given any of it for the dead. I have listened to the voice of Yahweh my God. I have done according to all that You have commanded me-
See on :13; these protestations of total obedience would have elicited a sense of sin and self examination in all spiritually minded people. GNB "I have not given any of it as an offering for the dead" suggests that there was in Israel the existence of false understandings of the death state. Yet still God loved His people and accepted them in covenant with Him.

Deu 26:15 Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel-
The "holy habitation" alludes to the most holy place, which is here presented as a figure of "heaven", just as Heb. 9:24  makes clear The temple and ark are sometimes referred to as the heavens (2 Sam. 15:25 cp. 1 Kings 8:30; Ps. 20:2,6; 11:4; Heb. 7:26). The church is the new temple, and is therefore at times referred to as the heavenlies in the New Testament.

And the ground which You have given us, as You swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey-
The land was only potentially one flowing with milk and honey; it required God's blessing upon the ground. And that blessing was predicated upon Israel's obedience, as Dt. 28 makes clear. And so it is with the promise of the Kingdom of God to us. It is not without any conditions, although the word of promise is absolutely certain.

Deu 26:16 This day Yahweh your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore keep and do them-
Because God saved them from Egypt by grace [cp. baptism- 1 Cor. 10:1,2], with they themselves so spiritually weak at the time, still taking idols of Egypt through the Red Sea with them- therefore they were to keep the law (Dt. 11:7,8). Because God gave them the land of Canaan, a land for which they did not labour, didn't do any 'work' to receive, but were given because "You did a favour unto them" (Ps. 44:3)- therefore they were to keep the law (Dt. 26:15,16; 29:8,9; Josh. 23:5,6). David said that he loved keeping the law because God's testimony to him was so miraculous (Ps. 119:129 Heb.). There is an awesomeness to God's grace in all this. Hence the paradox of Ex. 20:20: "Fear not... that the fear of God may be before your faces". We are not to fear Him, for such perfect love casts out fear... yet it is exactly because of the wonder of all this that we live life in some fear / awe of misusing and abusing that grace.

With all your heart and with all your soul-
Time and again, Moses speaks of the state of their heart. He warns them against allowing a bad state of heart to develop, he speaks often of how apostasy starts in the heart. Moses makes a total of 49 references to the heart / mind of Israel in Deuteronomy, compared to only 13 in the whole of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. This indicates the paramount importance which our Lord attaches to the state of our mind. This was perhaps his greatest wish as He faced death; that we should develop a spiritual mind and thereby manifest the Father and come to salvation. Moses likewise saw the state of our mind as the key to spiritual success. But do we share this perspective? Do we guard our minds against the media and influence of a mind-corrupting world? It's been observed that the phrase "The God of [somebody]", or similar, occurs 614 times in the Old Testament, of which 306 are in Deuteronomy. Our very personal relationship with God was therefore something else which Moses came to grasp in his spiritual maturity. Statistical analysis of the word "love" in the Pentateuch likewise reveals that "love" was a great theme of Moses at the end of his life (Moses uses it 16 times in Deuteronomy, and only four times in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers).

Deu 26:17 You have undertaken Yahweh this day to be your God and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances and listen to His voice-
See on :16. The Hebrew mishpat, "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. But the word also the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  

A covenant is a two way thing. This tie that binds applies to God too (:18); hence the wonderful, oft-repeated idea of His chesed, His covenant faithfulness to us His people. He likewise carries a kind of responsibility to us. The entry of Israel into covenant with God was a pattern of what we undertake at baptism. And afterwards there is a wonderful mutuality between God and man within that covenant.

Deu 26:18 And Yahweh has undertaken to you this day that you shall be a people for His own possession, as He has promised you, in order that you should keep all His commandments-
We are to live out in practice what we have been made in status by our gracious Father. The very fact He counts us as in Christ, as the spotless bride of His Son, must be both felt and lived up to by us. The way He counts us like this is a wonderful motivation to rise up to it all. Consider how God told Israel that if they kept His commandments, then they would be His “peculiar treasure” (Ex. 19:5). This conditional promise is then referred to by Moses as having been fulfilled- Israel became His “peculiar treasure” by status even though they did not keep His commandments (Dt. 7:6; 14:2 s.w.; Ps. 135:4). Moses concludes by saying that “the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people [s.w.]… that thou shouldest keep all his commandments” (Dt. 26:18). See what’s happening here. God said that if they were obedient, then they would be His special people. Yet He counted them as His special people even though they were not obedient. And He did this so that they would be so touched by this grace that they would be obedient.

The word so often used for "keeping" / "diligently observing" Yahweh's commandments is from the word meaning a thorn hedge; the idea originally was to hedge in. Taking this too literally led Judaism to all their endless fences around the law, i.e. forbidding this or that because it might lead to doing that or this, which in turn would then lead to breaking an actual commandment. And those various fences become elevated to the level of commandments. But this is not the idea. We are indeed to hedge ourselves in ("take heed to yourself", Dt. 11:16; 12:13,19,30,32 s.w.), so that we may keep / hedge ourselves in to keep the commandments of God (Lev. 18:4,5,26,30; 19:19,37; 20:8,22; 22:9,31; 25:18; 26:3; Num. 28:2;   Dt. 7:11,12; 8:1,11 [s.w. "beware"]; 10:13; 11:1,8,22,32; 12:1; 13:4,18; 15:5,9 ["beware"]; 17:19; 19:9; 23:9 ["keep yourself"]; 24:8; 26:16-18; 27:1; 28:1,9,13; 29:9; 30:10,16; 31:12; 32:46). And without falling into the legalism of Judaism, self discipline does require a degree of fencing ourselves in to the one way. Thus the man struggling with alcoholism avoids the supermarket where alcohol is pushed in front of the eyes of the shoppers; the married woman struggling with attraction to another man makes little laws for herself about avoiding his company. And if we do this, then the Lord will "keep" us, will hedge us in to keeping His way (s.w. Num. 6:24).

The Hebrew can mean "Today Yahweh has obtained your agreement". We see His efforts to win Israel and His joy that they gave even half hearted assent to the covenant.

Deu 26:19 so as to make you high above all nations that He has made, in praise, in name and in honour, and that you might be a holy people to Yahweh your God, as He has spoken-
The allusion is to the glory and beauty (s.w. "honour") of the priestly garments, which were all holy to Yahweh (Ex. 28:2). The idea is not that the clothes should be beautiful and glorious; they were "for" the manifestation of the glory and beauty of God's saving ways, once their significance was perceived. The naked flesh of man was to be covered over with a glory and beauty which was to come from God, looking forward to the idea of imputed righteousness which Paul explains in Romans. Glory and beauty were to be the features of all Israel in their role as priests / teachers of the Gentile world. Again we see repeated the ideal intention that all Israel were to be a nation of priests, and not just resign the work of witness to the priestly tribe.