Deut 26:1-11

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                                                                             Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Background to the Book of Deuteronomy

Literary Features:

The Book of Deuteronomy stands as the fifth and final book in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and as the first book in the Deuteronomistic History (Deuteronomy, 1 & 11 Samuel, 1 & 11 Kings). Consequently, one must regard it as very important in the canon. Furthermore, this is affirmed in the number of scrolls or fragments of the Book of Deuteronomy found in the Qumran Caves in 1947 (25 copies of Deuteronomy). The Book of Deuteronomy reflects ethical, social and religious laws from an agrarian society. Some of the laws are part of very early Israelite traditions and they would have been part of the oral tradition before collected and arranged in the present Book.

The book begins at the point where the people of Israel are at the end of their wanderings and stand on the edge of the promised land looking in. There is quite a deliberate structure to the book in which the central section of laws in Chapters 12-26 are surrounded by other material. Deuteronomy 5-11 includes the Decalogue 5:1-21 and Shema 6:4-5 + teaching and a short historical section, 9:7b-10:11. Chapters 1-5 contain some historical retrospective together with some teaching material in Deuteronomy 4. The final chapters of the book reflect material from different periods: Deuteronomy 28, blessings/ curses, Deuteronomy 29-30, further address of Moses insisting upon faithfulness and covenant demands and Deuteronomy 31-34 a number of appendices which end with the record of the death of Moses.

Deuteronomy often refers to itself as the Law (29:21, 30:10, 31:26) and when the law is referred to in Joshua - 11 Kings, it means the book of Deuteronomy. It contains both APODICTIC (absolute- you shall) and CASUISTIC (conditional - if ... then ...). There are some very close similarities to the laws in Ex 20:23 - 23:19 (Book of the Covenant). Clements demonstrates how the early laws are changed, e.g., Ex 21:12-14 is expanded in Deuteronomy 19:1-13 (p.25). It is often called preached law because it has a teaching feel to it, and covers all areas of common life: debtors, poor 15:7-18, proper worship, care of animals 22:6, and women rate higher than in previous laws.

There is some similarity to the Hittite Treaty Form and it was not the first time an Israelite writer has used a form know within the surrounding culture and adapted it for his own theological purpose. Elements of Hittite Treaty form as depicted in Deuteronomy

1. Preamble 1:1-5
2. Historical prologue 1:6-4:44
3. Statement of General Principles 5-11
4. Detailed obligations on the people 12-26
5. Directions as to future reading and depositing of treaty 31-34
6. Witness of gods (this element is missing because there is only one God)
7. Curses and blessings 27-30

Once you have read the book of Deuteronomy you will know its distinctive style which is both eloquent and flowing, and very repetitive with familiar phrases. For example: Hear O Israel, who brought you out of the land, with a might hand, a land flowing with milk and honey, use of the verb 'to choose', to go after other gods, to obey the voice of God, to walk in God's ways, to do what is evil in the sight of God, fear the Lord your God, laws, testimonies and statutes.

Historical Background:

In 11 Kings 22-23 the Law Book is found in the temple during a clean up operation and taken to the prophet Huldah who reads it to King Josiah. The Law Book which probably consisted of chapters 5-26, confirm Josiah's religious reforms and is the Basis for his move to centralise worship in Jerusalem. It is much easier to eradicate wrong worship practices when they are in one centre rather than scattered across the countryside.

The laws reflect many situations of Israelite life but read as a whole book they have some distinct messages which reflect a situation in which there is a very real fear that the Israelite people and their leaders are so unfaithful in the extreme that there might be a total loss of Yahwistic worship. This is seen in emphases as the Call to ONE God, ONE people and ONE cult. Yahweh is the only God for Israel, no other gods, he chose them to be nation. They are unique because of what God has done; he has given them the land, he drives out people from the promised land, prophets are given and there is both a transcendent and imminent God. They are Holy nation because they were chosen by God and yet they were rebellious and stubborn Moses suffers because of the people's sin and is not allowed into the land. Obedience is called for and in response to obedience will receive a blessing and the land. If people are disobedient then land will be lost. People are to remember and pass on their experience of God to their children. It has includes caring requirements for people - a cloak taken for debt has to be returned at night for the person to sleep in.

The prose material in Jeremiah has close similarities to the theology and style of this writing in Deuteronomy. It was getting desperate in Jerusalem after the death of Josiah and the Babylonians were defeating all the countries so what remained of Judah and Jerusalem must have been living with some fear. This call to obedience was a last ditch call to avoid being over run by the Babylonians and indeed it reads as an explanation at times for why there went into exile. It was their own disobedience that lead them There

Context of Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 comes at the end of the central section (5-26) which has has laws governing worship, offices and institutions. Prior to Deuteronomy 26 there is a mixture of laws which name those people who are excluded from the community (23:1-25), those who are protected (24:1-22), and the maintenance of order and justice (25:1-19). It is worth reading some of the laws because they are very caring of people within the community. They are very different from the laws in the Book of Leviticus which deal with laws of sacrifice and priestly duties.

Chapter 26 deals with offering of thanksgiving because of all that God has given to them. Following the commands to offer thanksgiving to God are instructions for the people once they enter into the promised land (Deuteronomy 27). As part of the instructions there is a reminder that they have to be obedient and then half the tribes stand on one mountain while the other have stand on another and perform a ritual of curses and blessings. The initial curses are in short succinct statements (Deuteronomy 27:15-26), but the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28 are more in the form of short sermons. The constant repetition and proclamation about the need to be obedient and the benefits from obedience leaves one wondering how bad the situation must have been for such an unvarying message.

Insights/Message of Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Literary Insights:

Verses 1-11 which is the presentation of offerings is followed by an oath of innocence in vv.12-15 and a declaration of covenant commitments in vv.16-19 (Brueggemman: 246). It is worth noting that there is duplication which suggest a revision of an earlier tradition. For example, the man makes a declaration twice in vv.3 and 5 ff and the basket in v.4 is handed to the priest at the start of the ceremony and in v.10 at the end of the ceremony. If vv.3-4 were regarded as a later addition they clearly reflect the concerns of the priesthood and enforce the role of the priest in the ceremony. Verse 5 flows very easily from vv.1-2 which reinforces the suggestion of vv.3-4 as a later insertion because of a priestly agenda.

After the historical declaration of their past and God's saving actions the speech becomes quite personal in v.10 and the person takes 'his place in the story of salvation' (von Rad: 159). von Rad used the confession (credo) in vv. 5-9 as a major theme in discussing a Theology of the Old Testament.

The ritual 'offering of first fruits' is much older than appears in Deuteronomic Law and has its genesis in very early agrarian societies.

A very clear inclusion is present in Deuteronomy 12 and 26 which indicates a deliberate structuring of the Book in its final form. Deuteronomy 12 'provides the means and institutional structure for the religious dimension of Israel's life, chap. 26 fills the structure with content and ideas' (Clements. NIB: 479).

Message / Theology

The overwhelming message is one of deep thankfulness for what God has done for them. The Credo in vv.5-9 name the acts of salvation which God has provided: God heard their affliction and saved them by leading them out of Egypt and into the land which he had promised them. The response to God's acts is this act of thankfulness by giving back to God the first and best of the produce of the land. God acts first and the people respond to the gracious and loving acts of God. Similarly, the law is given at Mount Sinai after the people have been brought out of the land of Egypt to help them stay in the covenant relationship. The preface to the commandments in Deuteronomy 5 (v.6) is a very brief historical summary to remind them that God acted first.

Deuteronomy 26 is set out as instructions for them when they enter the land. It is set in a future time frame as a story being told to people many generations later. Although vv.12-15 are not part of the lectionary reading they provide care for those who are unable to fend for themselves (the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, the widow) and as such are an interesting window onto society of that time.

In this ritual the people are to remember where they came from and who brought them to this place. The Passover Festival is another time when they remember particularly how God brought them up from Egypt. Law and grace are linked together constantly in the Book of Deuteronomy. God acts and the people respond, however they find themselves constantly disobedient and unfaithful to God.

In our ritual of Holy Communion the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving should always have some elements of remembering what God has done for us and how he acted in sending his son Jesus Christ. Sometimes it begins with God as Creator, the prayer will name some of the people in whom God has worked through history in Old and New Testament times. We need to remember where God has been for us and we need to give thanks. This reading reminds us that God should not get our second best, but offer the finest, whether our gifts of self or goods. In v.11 we are reminded of those who might not be so well off and their need is addressed in vv.12ff. This reading is a timely reminder that we have much to rejoice about as we remember our God, his faithfulness, loving kindness and compassion for us.

Resources/Worship for Deuteronomy 26:1-11


I remember taking an old cherished toy animal which had belonged to one of my sons and using it as an example of what happens sometimes when we are asked to give gifts for Christmas or food parcels. We look for the nearly out of date cans and the things we don't like or want anymore. Both adults and children identified with the example.

People might be interested in knowing a bit more about the Festival of First Fruits. Inviting a Rabbi to speak can help with new understandings of each others rituals.

I have a small book called Celebrate the Feast of the Old Testament in your home or church. Martha Zimmerman. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship. 1981. It give the Jewish understanding of the Festival and then suggests way it which it can be celebrated within a Christian context. I am sure the Internet will have lots of sites giving information about the Jewish Festivals.

This reading is ideal for any harvest Festival occasion or stewardship programme. Deuteronomy 26 addresses those who have responded to the grace of God and stewardship programmes should do so as well, not those on the fringe.



The Old Testament Guides (OTG) by Sheffield Academic Press are an excellent small resource which give many suggestions for readings on particular aspects in the Book of Deuteronomy, the author is Ronald Clements, 1989 (Deuteronomy)

Brown, Raymond E. The Message of Deuteronomy: Not by Bread Alone. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993.
Brueggemann, Walter. Deuteronomy. Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, c2001.
Cairns, Ian. Word & Presence: A Commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans, 1992.
Clements. R E. "The Book of Deuteronomy: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections". In The New Interpreter's Bible. Vol. 2. Nashville: Abingdon, 1998.
*---. Deuteronomy, OTG. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989.
---. God's Chosen People: A Theological Interpretation of the Book of Deuteronomy. London: SCM, 1969.
Christensen, Duane L. Deuteronomy 21:10-34:12. Word Biblical Commentary, v. 6B
Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, c2002.
Mayes, A. D. H. Deuteronomy: Based on the Revised Standard Version. NCB. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1981, c1979.
[also published by: Greenwood, S. C.: Attic Press, 1979.]
Millar, J. Gary. Now Choose Life: Theology and Ethics in Deuteronomy. Leicester, England: Apollos, 1998.
*Miller, Patrick D. Deuteronomy. Int. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990.
*Olson, Dennis T. Deuteronomy and the Death of Moses: A Theological Reading. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 1994.
Rad, Gerhard von. Deuteronomy. OTL. London: SCM 1966.
Weinfeld, Moshe. Deuteronomy 1-11: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB, Doubleday, New York, 1991.

The Dramatised Bible: ed. Michael Perry. London: Marshall Pickering: Bible Society, 1989

Web sites with helpful lectionary resources: These links were updated 30/12/11