Deuteronomy 26

The Word Made Fresh

1“When you settle the land the LORD has given you as an inheritance from your ancestors, 2gather some of the first produce of the land in a basket and carry it to the place the LORD your God chooses to dwell. 3Go to whichever priest is on duty and say, ‘Today I proclaim before the LORD your God that I have settled in the land the LORD swore to give us.’ 4The priest will take your basket and set it down before the LORD’s altar, 5and you will recite:

‘My father was a wandering Aramean; he went down to Egypt and lived there as a foreigner. There were only a few in his family then, but they became a great and strong nation of people. 6When the Egyptians mistreated us and put us to forced labor 7we cried out to the LORD, the God of our ancestors. The LORD heard us and saw how we were oppressed with hard labor and troubles. 8Then the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty, far-reaching hand and a frightening display of power accompanied by signs and wonders; 9and brought us to this place and gave us this land that is abundant and rich. 10So, I bring to you the first of the goodness from the ground that you have given me, LORD.’

“You shall set it down and bow before the LORD your God. 11Then all of you, including the Levites and foreigners who live among you will have a joyful celebration of the LORD’s generosity toward you.

12“In the third year, the year of tithing, when you have given a tenth of your produce to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows that they might eat their fill in your towns, 13you will say before the LORD your God, “I have taken your portion from my stores and have given it to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows in keeping with your will. I have not violated any of your commandments. 14I have not eaten any of it while grieving; I have not taken any of it while I was ‘unclean;’ I have not offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed all your laws. 15Look down from your heavenly throne and bless Israel and the land you have given us, a fertile land and prosperous, as you promised our ancestors.’

16“The LORD is ordering you now to keep these rules and regulations with all your heart and soul. 17Today you have been given the LORD’s promise to be your God if you obey all the rules and laws and commandments the LORD has given you. 18And today the LORD has been given your promise to be the faithful law-abiding people of the LORD. 19The LORD will make you rise in praise and fame and honor above all the nations, and you will be a people treasured by the LORD as the LORD promised.”

Commentary

1-11: When they come into the land and begin to harvest the crops already planted there, they are to take some of the first fruits to a designated worship site and offer it to the priest. When the offering is presented, they are to recite the confession of faith in verses 5-10. This was one of the ways in which the history of their relationship with God would always be preserved, through memorizing this short version of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Verse 11 implies that the first fruits were then to be eaten in celebration with the Levites and aliens “who reside among you.”

12-15: It seems that every third year the first fruits were to be presented for the poor – orphans and widows are added to Levites and aliens as recipients of the bounty. Once again, a recital was to be made before God, this time an affirmation of the fidelity to God’s Law by the one making the offering.

16-19: Moses reminds them of their covenant relationship with God: God will “set you high above all the nations … in praise and fame and honor.” In turn, they will “walk in God’s ways, and keep God’s statues and ordinances and commandments.”

Takeaway

“My father was a wandering Aramean” is a confession of faith for the people of Israel in much the same way the “Apostles’ Creed” is a confession of faith for Christians. It is a brief recital of their sacred history from the time of Abraham (who was an Aramean from Haran who ‘wandered’ to Canaan at God’s bidding), to their slavery in Egypt, to their wandering in the wilderness, to their finally having reached the promised land. The Creed is a brief recital of the history of the followers of Christ, from creation to the future resurrection and beyond.