And you shall speak and say before the LORD your God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt…
Such was the confession required of every priest of Israel when he presented, before the altar, the offering of first-fruits. It was, therefore, in the midst of abundance, a memorial of former destitution, and an acknowledgment of utter unworthiness, under circumstances of peculiar obligation. The text is capable of divers renderings; but take whichever we may, the lesson is the same. It teaches us, that when the Divine promises are all fulfilled, and our salvation is complete, we are still to remember the past (Isaiah 51:1). The connection between acceptable thanksgiving and profound humiliation is a fact which none but a Pharisee would dare to disregard, and which it behoves the Christian to bear in mind in all his devout meditations and religious exercises. Should pride ever rise within his bosom — "Who maketh thee to differ?" is a consideration which may suffice to put it down: nor will he, if walking in the fear of God, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, when, by virtue of his "royal priesthood," he has "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus," forget to say there — "A Syrian ready to perish was my father." The natural philosopher may rejoice that he is not a brute, and a pagan may glory in the attributes peculiar to man, but the devout student learns some very humbling facts concerning the position of our race. Among the rest is this, that, of intelligent beings, man is probably the lowest in the scale. That angels excel us in strength is obvious from everything we know concerning them; and that devils have far greater intellectual power than belongs to man, none acquainted with their devices will be disposed to question. To boast of our mental superiority, then, is but to mingle ignorance with pride. The humiliation which these considerations may be supposed to engender is deepened by the recollection, that our case is not one of poverty alone, but of degradation. Whatever may have been man's original glory, that glory has long since departed. His boast of heraldry is vain; traced back to its earliest antiquity, it bespeaks his ruin. His crest is an inverted crown. And this is his motto — "Man that was in honour abode not." The grace of God works wonders. It copes with depravity, and subdues it. It rescues the sinner from his degradation, and renders him meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. But it also teaches him never to forget, even amidst the splendours of the heavenly temple, to which it ultimately introduces him, the ancient acknowledgment of the adoring Israelite — "A Syrian ready to perish was my father."
(D. E. Ford.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: You shall answer and say before Yahweh your God, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father; and he went down into Egypt, and lived there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.