Since we don’t exactly live in an agricultural society, it’s easy to skip over this Torah commandment on first fruits. This commandment of first fruits however also shows up in the New Testament. What does this mean for God’s Children (followers of Yeshua the Messiah) 4000 years after this command was given? Let’s see what we can learn in this week’s Torah portion? In Parashat Ki Tavo, we read about the command to bring the first fruits of the land to the Lord and to bring these things in the place that He establishes His Name according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:1-11
וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־תָב֣וֹא אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַחֲלָ֑ה וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֥בְתָּ בָּֽהּ׃ 26:1 When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it,וְלָקַחְתָּ֞ מֵרֵאשִׁ֣ית ׀ כָּל־פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר תָּבִ֧יא מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֛ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָ֖ךְ וְשַׂמְתָּ֣ בַטֶּ֑נֶא וְהָֽלַכְתָּ֙ אֶל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִבְחַר֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לְשַׁכֵּ֥ן שְׁמ֖וֹ שָֽׁם׃ 26:2 you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name.וּבָאתָ֙ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו הִגַּ֤דְתִּי הַיּוֹם֙ לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כִּי־בָ֙אתִי֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְהוָ֛ה לַאֲבֹתֵ֖ינוּ לָ֥תֶת לָֽנוּ׃ 26:3 You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before the LORD your God that I have entered the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to assign us.”לָקַ֧ח הַכֹּהֵ֛ן הַטֶּ֖נֶא מִיָּדֶ֑ךָ וְהִ֨נִּיח֔וֹ לִפְנֵ֕י מִזְבַּ֖ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃ 26:4 The priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God.וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ לִפְנֵ֣י ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י וַיֵּ֣רֶד מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וַיָּ֥גָר שָׁ֖ם בִּמְתֵ֣י מְעָ֑ט וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֕ם לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל עָצ֥וּם וָרָֽב׃ 26:5 You shall then recite as follows before the LORD your God: “My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation.וַיָּרֵ֧עוּ אֹתָ֛נוּ הַמִּצְרִ֖ים וַיְעַנּ֑וּנוּ וַיִּתְּנ֥וּ עָלֵ֖ינוּ עֲבֹדָ֥ה קָשָֽׁה׃ 26:6 The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us.וַנִּצְעַ֕ק אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע יְהוָה֙ אֶת־קֹלֵ֔נוּ וַיַּ֧רְא אֶת־עָנְיֵ֛נוּ וְאֶת־עֲמָלֵ֖נוּ וְאֶת־לַחֲצֵֽנוּ׃ 26:7 We cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression.וַיּוֹצִאֵ֤נוּ יְהוָה֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם בְּיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ וּבִזְרֹ֣עַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבְמֹרָ֖א גָּדֹ֑ל וּבְאֹת֖וֹת וּבְמֹפְתִֽים׃ 26:8 The LORD freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents.וַיְבִאֵ֖נוּ אֶל־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ׃ 26:9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.וְעַתָּ֗ה הִנֵּ֤ה הֵבֵ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־רֵאשִׁית֙ פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥תָּה לִּ֖י יְהוָ֑ה וְהִנַּחְתּ֗וֹ לִפְנֵי֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ וְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוִ֔יתָ לִפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃ 26:10 Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O LORD, have given me.” You shall leave it before the LORD your God and bow low before the LORD your God.וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֣ בְכָל־הַטּ֗וֹב אֲשֶׁ֧ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֛ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּלְבֵיתֶ֑ךָ אַתָּה֙ וְהַלֵּוִ֔י וְהַגֵּ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבֶּֽךָ׃ (ס) 26:11 And you shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that the LORD your God has bestowed upon you and your household.
The command to take the first from all of our fruit is a very significant command. (וְלָקַחְתָּ֞ מֵרֵאשִׁ֣ית ׀ כָּל־פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר תָּבִ֧יא מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֛ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָ֖ךְ וְשַׂמְתָּ֣ בַטֶּ֑נֶא וְהָֽלַכְתָּ֙ אֶל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִבְחַר֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לְשַׁכֵּ֥ן שְׁמ֖וֹ שָֽׁם׃ 26:2 you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name.) To understand this let’s read from a few commentaries such as Rashi, Chizkuni, and Sforno.
Rashi on Deuteronomy 26:2 Part 4
מראשית OF ITS FIRST FRUITS — but not all the first fruits (not even of the seven species mentioned above) but when a man goes into his field and sees for the first time that year a fig that has ripened he binds a piece of straw round it as an indication and says “Lo, this is בכורים” (and it suffices) (Sifrei Devarim 297:7; Mishnah Bikkurim 3:1).
Chizkuni, Deuteronomy 26:2 Part 1
ולקחת מראשית פרי האדמה, “you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground;” the reason why the Torah repeats this commandment which had appeared already in Exodus 23,19, is to list the commandments in a certain order.
Chizkuni, Deuteronomy 26:2 Part 2
מראשית, from the first,” Rashi emphasizes the importance of the letter מ i.e. “from,” as opposed to “all.”It is not even necessary to bring the entire fruit only part of it. [My version of Rashi, does not have this, but states that the farmer may designate the respective fruit before it has fully ripened. Ed.] An alternate interpretation: the word מראשית does not describe a time but describes quality, i.e. the best of these first fruit is to be brought to the Temple. The word ראשית appears in this sense of quality also in Jeremiah 2,3 ראשית תבואתו, “the best of His harvest;” [G-d comparing other nations to Israel whom He had chosen. Ed] The prophet Amos in Amos 6,6 also uses the word ראשית in that sense when he said: וראשית שמנים ימשחו, “and they anoint themselves with the choicest oils. Still another interpretation: the word מראשית means from the first in their respective category that have ripened, the very fact that they ripened earlier making those fruit superior.
Chizkuni, Deuteronomy 26:2 Part 5
והלכת אל המקום, “and you will go to the place, etc.;” the owner of the first ripened fruit is to do all this himself, not through someone whom he designated in his place. This refers both to collecting the fruit from the tree or cutting it from the ground. When a King employs a servant to tend to his fields, he also expects that tenant to bring him his share personally, not to delegate someone else with performing that duty.
Sforno on Deuteronomy 26:2 Part 1
מראשית כל פרי האדמה אשר תביא מארצך, the choicest of each category. [the word ראשית is not understood as “first.” Ed] We find the term ראשית used in this sense in Amos 6,6 וראשית שמנים ימשחו, “they anoint themselves with the choicest oils.” In verse 1 of the same chapter we read נקובי ראשית הגויים, “the ones known as the choicest of the nations. ” These “choicest” fruit are the seven types of produce for which the Land of Israel is famous, and this is why we have been commanded already in Exodus 23,19 to offer samples of these in the Temple. The gift known as ביכורים is not literally the fist ripe produce of each of these seven species, but the ones that grow on the best soil the farmer has so that it is truly also his choicest. The seven categorize of produce have been enumerated in Deut. 8,8-9.
Rashi states that not all of the fruit we are to bring to the Lord. He gives the example that when we go into the field, the first ripened fruit he intentionally sets apart (binding a string) with the intention of taking the very best to the Lord. Chizkuni states that this command has been repeated in Deuteronomy for the purpose of listing the commands in a certain order. This suggests there is a certain importance to the commandments, some being greater and others being lesser. He goes on to say that a farmer may designate which fruit to bring before it ripens. This is a form of intention or determining of the heart to bring to the Lord the choicest portions. He parallels this to the nations, the Lord chose Abraham as His people, where Israel is the choicest of all peoples to bear His testimonies. This is paralleled to those who anoint themselves with the choicest oils suggesting how important it is being called as a member of God’s family. Chizkuni also states that one is to bring these to God personally. A person is not to designate someone else to bring their fruit for them. This illustrates the importance of each of us bringing to God the first, choicest, and best fruit from our lives. This is related to how we live and serve the Lord. Serving the Lord is not the same as delegating the responsibility to someone else. We as God’s children cannot delegate away our responsibilities to others. Sforno states the same thing as Chizkuni agreeing with him on the high importance of bringing the best of the best to the Lord.
Let’s summarize the commands on the First Fruit Offering:
- The First Fruit Offering must be taken to the place God establishes His name (Shemot / Exodus 23:19, 34:26)
- The First Fruit Offering must be delivered to the Priest of the Nation (Vayekra / Leviticus 23:10, Bamidbar / Numbers 3:32, 18:42)
- The First Fruit Offering shall apply to all men (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:4)
- The giving of First Fruit Offering must be accompanied with worship and praise of the Lord God of Israel (Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:10)
- It must be offered once and during each cycle of harvest, which was yearly in biblical time (Nehemiah 10:35).
- The First Fruit Offering is also the responsibility of the one considered the Nation’s Man of God (2 Kings 4:42)
- When you KEEP FIRST THINGS FIRST through faith and obedience, you turn God’s promise into provision… ABUNDANT PROVISION! The giving of First Fruits must be done promptly along with payment of tithe (2 Chronicles 31:5).
The Tanach describe the significance of the First Fruit Offering in the overwhelming blessing of God in the following way:
- Givers of First Fruit Offering enjoy God’s blessing where Jeremiah 2:3 states God issues automatic judgment on whoever or whatsoever attempts to devour givers of First Fruits. Isaiah 61:7, “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”
- God can be called upon to specially favor the giver of First Fruit Offering (Nehemiah 13:31)
- King Solomon wrote in Mishley / Proverbs 3:9-10, in addition to God honoring the giver of First Fruit Offering, the giver also enjoys overflowing blessings from the Almighty God.
- The Tanach further states the honor rendered unto God by the giver of First Fruit Offering automatically attracts greater honor from GOD (1 Samuel 2:30).
- The First Fruit Offering in the Apostolic Writings is the giving of the first portion to GOD. Romans 11:16 says, “If the part of a dough offered as First Fruit is HOLY, then the whole batch is HOLY; if the root is HOLY, so are the branches.” Paul writes that giving the first portion of your finances to God will cause all of your finances for the rest of the year to be HOLY. Note that this is not just about our finances, but also the way in which we serve God. The First Fruit Offering causes God to treat the product of our hands as HOLY giving us favor with GOD because of our lives which are dedicated to Him as the First Fruit Offering.
- Ezekiel 44:30 “The first of all First Fruit of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests: you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house.” Ezekiel describes how the First Fruits impart a blessing on your home. Having a blessing on your home positions you to have healing in your physical, spiritual and emotional need for you and your family.
The greatest clue to the significance of the First Ftuits is found in the liturgy that was written to accompany the offering of the first fruits in Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:1-11. Every Israelite was commanded to take the first and best of their crops or produce, put them in a basket, and give them to the priest when they went to worship. And as they made their offering, certain statements were to be made. The first statement was to publicly declare that they had come into the land by the power and guidance of HaShem (The God of Israel). In other words, this offering was an expression of gratitude and an acknowledgement of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to us as His people. With this in mind, we should begin each day with this statement thanking the Lord for His deliverance and His giving us the faith to believe in His Messiah. The second statement according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 26 was a confession of faith that started with the words “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…” This statement outlines the story of being lost without God’s help, of being oppressed, of having deliverance, and then of God fulfilled His promise to us that is both historical and personal. The confession declares that despite our hard work of living our lives for the Lord (i.e. the crops, harvesting the oil, or shepherding the flocks, etc.) we are totally dependent upon God’s help in our lives. As a result of these things, we learn three basic principles about who we are as God’s people, (i) Giving isn’t optional, (ii) Giving happens first, and (iii) Giving anchors our faith. God’s intention is that each Man live his/her life under the sovereign rule of God giving Him all dominion over our lives. In doing this, we will live with comfort and overwhelming blessing in our souls. However, realizing this divine calling and blessing depends on our prompt, total and consistent obedience to God’s instructions according to the Torah!