Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
as to offering the First Fruits
(Heading from the French
“Autre dependence d’offrir les premices.”)
1. And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein,
1. Quum autem ingressus fueris terram quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi in haereditatem, et possederis eam, et habitaveris in ca:
2. That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there.
2. Tunc accipies de primitiis omnium fructuum terrae, quas afteres e terra tua quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi, et pones in canistro: ibis. que ad locum quem elegerit Jehova Deus tuus, ut illic habitare faciat nomen suum.
3. And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us.
3. Et venies ad sacerdotem qui erit in diebus illis, dicesque illi, Annuntio hodie Jehovae Deo tuo quod ingressus sum terram quam juravit Jehova patribus nostris se daturum nobis.
4. And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord thy God.
4. Capietque sacerdos canistrum e manu tua, et ponet illud coram altari Jehovae Dei tui.
5. And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father; and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
5. Et loqueris, ac dices coram Jehova Deo tuo, Syrus ille inopia laborans pater meus descendit in Aegyptum, et peregrinatus est illic cum viris paucis, et evasit illic ingentem magnam, robustam et multam.
6. And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
6. Molestia autem nos affecerunt Aegyptii, et affiixerunt nos, imposueruntque nobis servitutem duram.
7. And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and on our labor, and our oppression:
7. Clamavimus itaque ad Jehovam Deum patrum nostrorum, et exaudivit Jehova vocem nostram, et aspexit afflietionem nostram, et laborem nostrum, et oppressionem nostram.
8. And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
8. Et eduxit nos ex Aegypto cum manu forti, ac brachio extento, et terrore magno, et signis, atque portentis.
9. And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
9. Et introduxit nos ad locum istum, deditque nobis terram istam, terram fiuentem lacte et melle.
10. And now, behold, I have brought the first-fruits of the land which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God.
10. Nunc igitur, ecce, attuli primitias fructus terrae quam dedisti mihi, O Jehova; et relinques illud coram Jehova Deo tuo, atque adorabis coram Jehova Deo tuo.
11. And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.
11. Et laetaberis in omni bono quod dederit tibi Jehova Deus tuus et domui tuae, tu et Levita, et peregrinus qui est in medio tui.
19. The first of the first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God.
19. Primitias frugum novarum terrae turn adduces in demure Jehovae Dei tui.
26. The first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
26. Principium primitiverum terrae tuae inferes in domum Jehovae Dei tui.
1. And it shall be when thou art come. The Israelites are commanded to offer their first-fruits, for the same reason that they were to pay the tribute for every soul; viz., that they might confess that they themselves, and all that they had, belonged to God. This was the only distinction, that the tribute was a symbol of their emancipation, that they might acknowledge themselves to be free, as having been redeemed by the special mercy of God; but by the firstfruits they testified that the land was tributary to God, and that they were masters of it by no other title than as tenants at will, so that the direct sovereignty and property of it remained with God alone. This, then, was the object of the first-fruits, that they might renew every year the recollection of their adoption; because the land of Canaan was given to them as their peculiar inheritance, in which they were to worship God in piety and holiness, and at the same time reflect that they were not fed promiscuously, like the Gentiles, by God, but like children; whence also their food was sacred. But we shall have to speak again elsewhere of the first-fruits, in as much as they were a part of the oblations; yet it was necessary to insert here their main object, that we might know that they were appointed to be offered by the people, in pious acknowledgment that their food was received from God, and to shew that, being separated from other nations, they were dependent upon the God of Israel alone.
2. That thou shalt take of the first. We know that in the first-fruits the whole produce of the year was consecrated to God. The people, 338 therefore, bore in them a testimony of their piety to Him, whom they daily experienced to be their preserver, and the giver of their food. This typical rite has now, indeed, ceased, but Paul tells us that the true observation of it still remains, where he exhorts us, whether we eat or drink, to do all to the glory of God. (1Co 10:31.) As to the place where the first-fruits were to be offered, and why God is said to have placed His name there, we shall hereafter consider, when we come to the sacrifices; I now only briefly touch upon what concerns the present subject.
I profess this day. In these words the Israelites confess that they had not gained dominion of the land either by their own strength or good fortune, but by the free gift of God, and that according to His promise. There are, therefore, two clauses in this sentence; first, that God had gratuitously promised to grant that land to Abraham as the inheritance of his descendants; and, secondly, that He had performed His promise, not only when He had brought the children of Abraham into possession, but by adding’ to His grace by their peaceful enjoyment of it. He pursues the same point more fully immediately afterwards, where the Israelites are commanded to declare how wretched was the condition of their fathers, before the Lord embraced them with His favor, and vouchsafed unto them His mercy. The original word in verse 5, meaning to answer, I translate simply, according to the Hebrew idiom, to speak or say; unless to testify be thought better, which would be very suitable; for the solemn profession is here described, whereby they bound themselves every year to God. They do not count their origin from Abraham, but from Jacob, in whose person God’s grace shone forth more brightly; for being compelled to fly from the land of Canaan, he had spent a good part of his life in Syria, (for he did not return home, till he was old,) and then, being again driven into Egypt by the famine, he had at length died there. The land had not, therefore, fallen to them by hereditary right, nor by their own efforts; their father Jacob not having been permitted even to sojourn there. They call him a Syrian, because when he had married Laban’s daughters, and had begotten children, and was stricken in years before he had returned home, he might seem to have renounced the land of Canaan. Since then he had been content for many years with the dwelling which he chose for himself in Syria, his descendants justly confessed that he was a pilgrim and stranger, because of his long exile; and for the same reason that they also might be counted foreigners. They add that their father Jacob again abandoned the land of Canaan when he was forced by the famine to go down into Egypt; and whilst they recount that he sojourned there with a few, and afterwards grew into a mighty nation, they thus acknowledge that they were Egyptians, since they had sprung from thence, where was the beginning of their name and race. In the rest of the passage they further confirm the fact that they were led into the land of Canaan by the hand of God; because when they were oppressed by tyranny, they cried unto Him, and were heard. They are commanded also to celebrate the signs and wonders whereby their redemption was more clearly manifested, in order that they should unhesitatingly give thanks to God, and contrast His pure worship with all the imaginations of the heathen: otherwise, this would have been but a cold exercise of piety. What follows in the last verse, “And thou shalt rejoice,” etc., seems indeed to have been a promise, as if God, by setting before them the assurance of His blessing, added a stimulus to arouse the people to more cheerful affection; but the sense would appear more clear and natural if the copula were changed into the temporal adverb then; for this is the main thing in the use of our meat and drink, with a glad and joyful conscience to accept it as a testimony of God’s paternal favor. Nothing is more wretched than doubt; and therefore Paul especially requires of us this confidence, bidding us eat not without faith. (Ro 14:23.) In order, then, to render the Israelites more prompt in their duty, Moses reminds them that they would only be able to rejoice freely in the use of God’s gifts, if they should have expressed their gratitude as He commanded.
17. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
17. Loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo,
18. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land whither I bring you;
18. Alloquere filios Israel, et dicas els: Quum ingressi fueritis terram ad quam ego introduco Vos.
19. Then it shall be, that, when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave-offering unto the Lord.
19. Tum fiet, quum incipietis comedere de pane terrae, offeretis in oblationem Jehovae.
20. Ye shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough for an heave-offering: as ye do the heave-offering of the thrashing-floor, so shall ye heave it.
20. De primitiis conspersionum vestrarum: placentam offeretis in oblationem: stout oblationem areae, sic offeretis illam.
21. Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the Lord an heave-offering in your generations.
21. De primitiis conspersionum vestrarum dabitis Jehovae, oblationem per generationes vestras.
20. Ye shall offer up a cake. Here another kind of first-fruits is required, to offer up sacred cakes of the first of their dough. First-fruits were offered of their fruits and ears of corn; but the representation was more lively in the bread itself; and, consequently, God would have them present tokens of their gratitude, not only from the barn, but from the mill, and the oven, so that whilst they eat their bread also, they might have Him before their eyes.
29. Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe-fruits, and of thy liquors.
29. Plenitudinem tuam et lachrymam tuam non differes.
29. Thou shalt not delay. We may gather from this passage that the first-fruits were offered, to the end that the Israelites should devote themselves and their possessions to God; for Moses enjoins these two things in conjunction, that they should not delay to consecrate to God of the abundance of their fresh fruits, and their first-born. But we know that, in offering the first-born, the recollection of their deliverance was revived, by the acknowledgment of the preservation of their race, and of their cattle. And there was, moreover, added to the grace of their redemption, the continual supply of food to them from day to day. I do not assent to their opinion who restrict the word fullness 339 to wine, because it flows more abundantly from the press, and take the word tear 340 to mean oil, because it runs less freely; nor do I approve of their notion who apply fullness only to dry fruits. It seems to me more proper to take fullness as the generic term, whilst tear is taken to denote liquids, as if Moses commanded them not only to offer grapes, and olive-berries, but the very drops which were expressed from the fruit. The other passages confirm this command, that they should not defraud God of the first-fruits, and so bury the remembrance of their redemption, and profane themselves in their very eating and drinking, but rather by this portion of the fruits sanctify the food of the whole year. Nor is it causelessly that Moses so often inculcates a point by no means obscure, since all these admonitions were despised and neglected by the Jews, as soon as they had returned from the Babylonish captivity, as Malachi complains in his third chapter.
“Ainsi les enfans d’Israel apportoyent en leur corbeille une protestation qu’ils se vouloyent ranger a Dieu comme enfans, selon qu’ils l’experimentoyent Pere nourissier;” thus the children of Israel bore in their basket a protestation that they desired to rank themselves as God’s children, since they daily experienced Him to be their nursing Father. — Fr.
Vide margin, — A. V.
Vide margin, — A. V.