And when you shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food…
There is much uncertainty as to the intention of the Lord in this prohibition. I regard it as a lesson concerning -
I. THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF THE TAINT OF SIN. The Israelites were to regard the very soil of Canaan as so polluted by the sins of its former inhabitants that the fruit which came from it must be treated "as uncircumcised" (verse 23). Idolatry and impurity - the two flagrant sins of the Canaanites - are evils which strike deep and last long in the taint which they confer. Their consequences are penetrating and far-spreading. So, in larger or lesser degree, is all sin. It leaves a taint behind; it pollutes the mind; it mars the life; it makes its fruit, its natural growth and outcome, to be "as uncircumcised," to be unholy and unclean. And this is to an extent beyond our human estimate. If the Israelites had concluded that the iniquities of the Canaanites were to be regarded as polluting the very soil, they would not have reckoned that three years would be required to free the land from the taint of evil. But God made the purifying process extend over this protracted time. He knows that the stain of sin goes deeper and lasts longer than we think it does. What an argument this for expelling the idolatrous and unclean from our heart and life, for cultivating and cherishing the holy and the pure!
II. THE RANGE OF GOD'S CLAIMS. (Verse 24.) Jehovah claimed the firstfruits of the land when the soil was cleansed: "all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord." It was to be given (probably) to the priests. Thus God reasserted and confirmed his claim to all the produce of the land. This law would remind them that the whole soil was his, and that he had sovereign right to dispose of it as lie willed, everything being of him and belonging to him. God claims all as his; and his claim is righteous. For we have nothing but that which we have received from him; we are nothing but that which he has created and preserved. "All our springs are in him," and all that we hold and occupy is his property. When we forget our derivation from him and our dependence upon him, he reminds us, by some providential privation, that we are failing from the spirit of reverence, gratitude, and submission which is the very life of our soul. And it is well for us voluntarily to set aside to his service the firstfruits of our labour, that we may be thus powerfully and practically reminded that we owe our very being and our whole substance to his bounty and his grace.
III. THE BENEFICENCE OF THE DIVINE RULE. By this provision God sought, as he is ever seeking,
(1) spiritual well-being and
(2) temporal prosperity.
By teaching them the truths which this abstinence suggested, and by requiring of them the patient waiting and the childlike obedience involved in the fulfillment of his will, he was disciplining and perfecting their spiritual nature. By giving them leave to pluck and partake for themselves after the fourth year, he provided for their bodily wants and appetites. These two ends God has continually in view in all his providential dealing with ourselves. He seeks our present satisfaction, and also - and far more - our spiritual well-being; our pleasure as children of time and sense, and our perfection as children of the Father of spirits, as followers of the righteous Leader, as temples of the Holy Ghost. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.