Deuteronomy 26:5
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:
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Deuteronomy 26:5. A Syrian was my father — That is, Jacob; for though born in Canaan, he was a Syrian by descent, his mother Rebecca, and his grandfather Abraham, being both of Chaldea or Mesopotamia, which in Scripture is comprehended under the name of Syria. His wives and children, by their mothers’ side, and his relations, were Syrians, and he himself had lived twenty years in Syria with Laban. Ready to perish — Through want and poverty, or through the rage of his brother Esau, and the treachery of his father-in-law Laban: see Genesis 28:11; Genesis 28:20; Genesis 32:10.

Or perhaps this refers to the state of Jacob a little before he went down into Egypt, when he and his family were in danger of perishing by famine, had he not been sustained by his son.

26:1-11 When God has made good his promises to us, he expects we should own it to the honour of his faithfulness. And our creature comforts are doubly sweet, when we see them flowing from the fountain of the promise. The person who offered his first-fruits, must remember and own the mean origin of that nation, of which he was a member. A Syrian ready to perish was my father. Jacob is here called a Syrian. Their nation in its infancy sojourned in Egypt as strangers, they served there as slaves. They were a poor, despised, oppressed people in Egypt; and though become rich and great, had no reason to be proud, secure, or forgetful of God. He must thankfully acknowledge God's great goodness to Israel. The comfort we have in our own enjoyments, should lead us to be thankful for our share in public peace and plenty; and with present mercies we should bless the Lord for the former mercies we remember, and the further mercies we expect and hope for. He must offer his basket of first-fruits. Whatever good thing God gives us, it is his will that we make the most comfortable use we can of it, tracing the streams to the Fountain of all consolation.A Syrian ready to perish was my father - The reference is shown by the context to be to Jacob, as the ancestor in whom particularly the family of Abraham began to develop into a nation (compare Isaiah 43:22, Isaiah 43:28, etc.). Jacob is called a Syrian (literally, Aramaean), not only because of his own long residence in Syria with Laban Genesis 29-31, as our Lord was called a Nazarene because of his residence at Nazareth Matthew 2:23, but because he there married and had his children (compare Hosea 12:12); and might be said accordingly to belong to that more than to any other land. 5. thou shalt say … A Syrian ready to perish was my father—rather, "a wandering Syrian." The ancestors of the Hebrews were nomad shepherds, either Syrians by birth as Abraham, or by long residence as Jacob. When they were established as a nation in the possession of the promised land, they were indebted to God's unmerited goodness for their distinguished privileges, and in token of gratitude they brought this basket of first-fruits. Jacob was a

Syrian, partly, by his original, as being born of Syrian parents, as were Abraham and Rebekah, both of Chaldea or Mesopotamia, which was a part of Syria largely so called, as is confessed by Strabo, b. 16. and by Pliny, b. 5. c. 12; partly, by his education and conversation, for which reason Christ is called a Nazarene, and a Capernaite; and partly, by his relations, his wives being such, and his children too by their mothers. Ready to perish; either through want and poverty; see Genesis 28:11,20 32:10; or through the rage of his brother Esau, and the treachery and cruelty of his father-in-law Laban.

And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God,.... Speak with a loud voice, lifting up the voice, as Jarchi interprets it; or "answer" (e), to the question the priest will ask, saying, what is this thou hast brought? as Aben Ezra remarks; and this being said in the tabernacle, and before the priest of the Lord, and as in the presence of the Lord, is represented as said before him, which is as follows:

a Syrian ready to perish was my father; meaning Jacob, who though born in Canaan, his mother was a Syrian, and his grandfather Abraham was of Chaldea, a part of Syria; and Jacob married two wives in Syria, and all his children were born there but Benjamin, and where he lived twenty years; and sometimes persons are denominated, as from the place of their birth, so from the place of their dwelling, as Christ was called a Nazarene from Nazareth, where he dwelt, though he was born at Bethlehem, Matthew 2:23; and Jether, though an Israelite, as Aben Ezra observes, is called an Ishmaelite, perhaps because he dwelt some time among that people, 1 Chronicles 2:17. Now Jacob might be said to be ready to perish when he fled for his life from his brother Esau, and was poor and penniless when he came to Laban; so the last mentioned writer interprets this phrase; to which may be added, that when in his service he was exposed to cold and heat, and had his wages frequently changed, and afterwards, when obliged to flee from Laban, was pursued by him with an intention to do him mischief, had not the Lord prevented him. The reason of this part of the confession was to show that it was not owing to the greatness of their ancestors from whence they sprung, whose condition was mean, but to the gift of God, and his goodness, that they enjoyed the land of Canaan. So every sensible soul, when he brings his sacrifice of praise to God for his mercies, especially spiritual ones, frankly acknowledges his lost perishing condition by nature, of which he is sensible; and that in order to magnify the riches of the grace of God in his salvation, to endear Christ as a Saviour the more, and to keep humble, and make thankful:

and he went down into Egypt; not directly, but some years after his former afflicted circumstances; so the Targum of Jonathan expresses it,"after these things he went down into Egypt;''after he had been in perishing circumstances in Syria, and when he was sore pressed with famine in Canaan:

and sojourned there with a few; with seventy souls, as Jarchi:

and became there a great nation, mighty and populous; insomuch that the king of Egypt was jealous of them, lest through their strength and numbers they should get away from them, when any favourable incident happened; they being when they came out from thence six hundred thousand men able to bear arms, besides women and children.

(e) "et respondebis", Montanus, Vatablus; "et respondens dices", Munster.

And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A {c} 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, {d} and populous:

(c) Meaning, Jacob, who served 20 years in Syria.

(d) Only by God's mercy, and not by their father's deserving.

5. answer] testify, as in Deuteronomy 5:20, Deuteronomy 19:16; Deuteronomy 19:18, Deuteronomy 21:7, Deuteronomy 25:9.

A nomad Aramean was my father] Jacob-Israel, the son of an Aramean (Genesis 24:10, cp. Deuteronomy 24:4), himself a nomad shepherd in Aram (Hosea 12:12, Genesis 29-31), with Aramean mothers to his children. EVV. ready to perish and R.V. marg. wandering or lost are all possible transl. of the Heb. ’ôbed, used of lost or ‘wandered’ beasts, Deuteronomy 22:3, 1 Samuel 9:3; 1 Samuel 9:20, Ezekiel 34:4; Ezekiel 34:16, Psalm 119:176; and of men perishing, Deuteronomy 4:26, Deuteronomy 7:20, Deuteronomy 8:19 f., Deuteronomy 28:20, 2 Samuel 1:27, Job 6:18 and frequently. Here no doubt intended to mark the nomad origins of Israel in contrast to their present state as cultivators of their own land.

Dillm. ‘verlorner oder verkommender,’ Dri. ‘ready to perish,’ Steuern. ‘dem Untergang naher,’ Berth. ‘dem Untergang zugehend,’ Marti, ‘umherirrender.’ The LXX, at a time when Aramean = heathen, avoided such a reproach to Israel by differently dividing the two words (’Aram yo’bed) and producing the renderings ‘threw off’ or ‘lost’ and ‘forsook’ or ‘recovered (!) Syria’: Συρίαν ἀπέβαλεν (LXX B), ἀπέλιπεν (N, etc.), ἀπέλαβεν (A, F).

went down] So always from Palestine to Egypt, e.g. JE, Numbers 20:15.

sojourned] Was a gçr, cp. Deuteronomy 23:7 (8).

few in number] Deuteronomy 10:22.

great, and mighty, and populous] So Sam., Vulg., etc. J, Exodus 1:9, more and mightier than we (Egyptians), 12, 20, multiplied, waxed mighty.

Verse 5. - A Syrian ready to perish was my father. The reference is to Jacob, the stem-father of the twelve tribes, he is here called a Syrian, or Aramaean, because of his long residence in Mesopotamia (Genesis 29-31.), whence Abraham had originally come (Genesis 11:31), and because there the family of which he was the head was founded. The translation "ready to perish" fairly represents the Hebrew; the verb אָבַד means not merely to stray or wander, but also to lose one's self, to perish, to be in danger of perishing (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Job 29:13; Proverbs 31:6, etc.). Different renderings of this clause have been given. The Targum, Vulgate, Luther, etc., have, "The Aramaean (i.e. Laban) oppressed my father;" The LXX., Συρίαν ἀπέλιπεν ὁ πατήρ μου ("My father left Syria"); others, "To the Aramaean my father wandered." But these either follow another reading than that of the received text, or they are expedients to soften down the apparent ignominy of the description. The probable allusion to the wandering, nomadic life of the patriarch, however, is not to be lost sight cf. With a few; literally, in men of few; i.e. consisting of few men, as a small company; the father and head of the tribe is named for those belonging to him (cf. Genesis 34:30; Genesis 46:27). A great nation, etc. (cf. Exodus 1:7, 9). Deuteronomy 26:5אבי אבד ארמּי, "a lost (perishing) Aramaean was my father" (not the Aramaean, Laban, wanted to destroy my father, Jacob, as the Chald., Arab., Luther, and others render it). אבד signifies not only going astray, wandering, but perishing, in danger of perishing, as in Job 29:13; Proverbs 31:6, etc. Jacob is referred to, for it was he who went down to Egypt in few men. He is mentioned as the tribe-father of the nation, because the nation was directly descended from his sons, and also derived its name of Israel from him. Jacob is called in Aramaean, not only because of his long sojourn in Aramaea (Genesis 29-31), but also because he got his wives and children there (cf. Hosea 12:13); and the relatives of the patriarchs had accompanied Abraham from Chaldaea to Mesopotamia (Aram; see Genesis 11:30). מעט בּמתי, consisting of few men (בּ, the so-called beth essent., as in Deuteronomy 10:22; Exodus 6:3, etc.; vid., Ewald, 299, q.). Compare Genesis 34:30, where Jacob himself describes his family as "few in number." On the number in the family that migrated into Egypt, reckoned at seventy souls, see the explanation at Genesis 46:27. On the multiplication in Egypt into a great and strong people, see Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:9; and on the oppression endured there, Exodus 1:11-22, and Exodus 2:23. - The guidance out of Egypt amidst great signs (Deuteronomy 26:8), as in Deuteronomy 4:34.
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